Friday, September 25, 2009

The WTANGISF Solution Series (Part 1)

While WTANGISF’s editors love to hear from its readers they have noticed here and there (in the comments to Sam’s posts) a sense of defeat. Hence, in the spirit of comradeship and positive thinking henceforth the editors will on occasion post (admittedly imperfect) solutions to the serial of problems identified by Sam. Such postings are really intended to be a forum for WTANGISF's readers to provide (through the comments section) any insights or topical/event-related suggestions that go to improving the SF singles scene. (Although the editors advise readers to be careful about providing ideas that by virtue of the conveyance of the idea ruins the idea (e.g., identifying specific bars that have a male friendly gender ratio).

With that in mind check below to find some suggestions, starting with WTANGISF's Editors Solution #1,
Foreign Girls:

A lesser known fact of the San Francisco scene is that there is a relatively large population of foreign girls (Eastern Europe, Russia, Turkey and Brazil are anecdotal stand-outs) and almost all of them are single and almost none have the stereotypical characteristics associated with SF women. These girls are fashionable, educated, uncommonly attractive, and - this is the crucial part - much, much, much more open to approach. In addition, as a kind of cool kick, foreign girls will often specifically comment - unsolicited - that SF American women have a curiously high opinion of themselves. This is an openly prejudicial belief that is not necessarily true but it nonetheless makes them, despite language and cultural barriers,

There’s a irony here to the willingness with which foreign girls will listen to your rap - since these women, especially those from the former Eastern Bloc, tend to be somewhat conservative in other regards. Foreign girls will give you a chance out of the gate but ultimately it’s tough to win them over, which feels, at least to WTANGISF’s editors, exactly how it’s supposed to be.

This demographic though passes under the radar unless you're a seasoned veteran. Thus, try to find someone who can get you into French Tuesdays, listen for accents and look for thin women in (sometimes bold) dresses when you’re out, be open to visiting clubs that have some kind of euro night, and check local listings for when European/unusually named DJs are spinning.

A final point: be nice to foreign girls, not for their benefit, since foreign girls can generally spot a bullsh*tter from 100 yards out, it’s part of what makes them awesome, but so you don’t ruin it for every one else. Don’t be that uncouth American.

Find ripostes/suggestions below.


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

#24 Hipsters

B.O. can sometimes be a Power Move, and this has led to the rise of the Hipster, whose relevance and fame has reached such great and dubiously deserving heights so as to 1) cannibalize the conceptual space that created him, 2) be a godsend for hobos with social ambition.

Not that the modern Hipster isn’t, like an elephant or buck-teeth, eye-catching. Things like Castro caps paired with BlueBlockers are easy to appreciate: they’re simple constructs with an obvious message - “Look at me, I’m at Dolores Park. I used to live in Williamsburg”. And yet, unlike most self-conscious displays of vanity, we don’t get indignant about it, because the underweight, unsymmetrical figure hiding behind the aesthetic had his a** handed to him every school week for twelve long years. We allow him his moment.

It’s in this allowance, however, that the Power Move, the predicate for the Hipsters’ very existence, has become underplayed and misinterpreted, sufficiently so as to merit a review of first principles, without which we cannot understand the Hipster’s effect on SF’s singles scene.

The general idea of the Power Move is that certain social maneuvers in life are so plainly marginalizing or handicapping to one’s social status that to brazenly pull them off suggests some extraordinary, counter-balancing greatness. Specifically, however, the Power Move is not a single thing but many things, since the context counts much more than the conduct in determining its affect, and this why Power Moves often go wrong.

For example, popping your collar at a bar, driving a white convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet as a girl, buying a Porsche ever, wearing a sleeveless shirt as Toby Keith are all Jackass Moves - plain, predictable and uninspired reaches for coolness, the precise opposite of the Power Move. BUT popping your collar at an interview, driving a white convertible Volkswagen Cabriolet as guy, renting a Porsche to pick up Janeane Garofalo on a date, and wearing a sleeveless shirt as Borat are totally Power Moves.

The Hipster movement started as a Power Move. The original goal of the Hipster was to pursue coolness by rejecting ALL coolness, which is meta enough to be sort of ingenious but, like 7-Up’s “The Uncola” ad campaign, not so sophisticated that dumb people can’t sort of get it, which is pretty much where you want to be if you’ve got designs on being cool. By the late 90s, however, the Hipster movement began to degenerate, largely due to its popularity, into a sloppy pastiche of punk, Euro and earthy styles totally claiming and totally lacking street cred, such that being a Hipster is now properly a Douche-Bag Move, which we can define as a Jackass Move masquerading as a Power Move (e.g., “How ironical that someone as cool as me wears a geeky t-shirt”).

Now the thing about D-Bag Moves, more than Jackass Moves and Power Moves, is that they work. They’re based on deceit and thus, like boob jobs, reality TV shows, and the film Rocky, they tend to neatly accessorize the delusions that shape most people’s self-awareness. They’re poseur bullsh*t but complicatedly so and, more importantly, they flatter and prey upon our most self-aggrandizing (and almost always false) pretensions. In the on-going conflict between our egos and our brains, D-Bag Move practitioners like Hipsters (or Swoopers and Bullsh*t Artists) always win.

Popcultural critic Chuck Klosterman describes the devolution of the Hipster from Power Move to D-Bag Move like this: “[It] used to be [difficult] to tell the difference between hipsters and homeless people. Now [the difficulty is distinguishing] between Hipsters and Retards. I mean, either that guy in the corner in orange safety pants holding a protest sign and wearing a top hat is mentally disabled or he is the coolest fucking guy you will ever know.”

The upshot is that the Hipster in modern incarnation can get tail. Against a societal backdrop of regular Joes with boring jobs, boring minds and boring lives the Hipster STANDS OUT as an emblem against the tyranny of ordinariness. He’s lazy and apathetic but he’s eccentric enough, at least aesthetically, to be special. So when girls find themselves choosing between a guy who is certainly ordinary and a guy who is probably retarded but possibly cool girls inevitably choose ... Matthew McConaughey. But the nerd in orange safety pants definitely gets the nod for brunch.

But not in San Francisco. Here EVERYONE sort of looks mentally disabled, either because they are dot com nerds with zero fashion sense, foreigners with the wrong fashion sense, American blue-bloods with sanctimoniously ethnic fashion sense, or homeless people with I can’t afford fashion sense. It’s really confusing. No one can tell who’s being sincere and who’s being ironic, which undermines all the leverage the Hipster has. He’s just one more dude girls don’t want anything to do with, just one more act of desperation on an increasingly desperate stage.

You think this would be enormously vexing since the whole point of the Hipster is giving beta guys the opportunity to get laid. But the Hipster persists in San Francisco for reasons not at all clear. It’s as if the Hipster’s stand for irony and against everything has evolved in Ouroboros fashion to include a stand against propagating their DNA. That is either supremely retarded or the biggest f*cking Power Move we will ever know.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

#23 The City-Wide 1:30 AM Shut-Down

When people worry over the public nuisances associated with San Francisco’s 2 AM alcohol closing hours - “yelling, urinating, vomiting - in some cases even stabbing or shooting one another” - the contributing causes get all mixed up. Effectively shutting down the city at 1:30 does cause civic disorder but not for the usual reasons.

If you’re a SF guy with a big buzz and 2 AM comes and you wander bleary eyed onto Broadway at Columbus or some godforsaken stretch of Folsom an emptiness descends upon you like Paris Hilton felt when the cold cell doors clicked shut and when that happens, at the moment of first relief from the noise, the emotional mayhem and visual blare, you have a sudden mind-clearing mini-epiphany: you’re surrounded by dudes. Louche, cretin-minded, groveling, d-baggy dudes. And this you realize is just part of a horrible historical continuum, the way it has been the whole night - from pregaming to cabbing to bar hopping it was dudes to start and dudes to end and dudes in between. Nothing else. There’s no girls in SF, you think, just you standing drunk on a dirty dark street peering into the red-shifting future of your lonely lonely life. There’s only two things that can happen after that thought: you’re going to tear up or you’re going to tear sh*t up.

It’s not a scenario without precedent. The issue is whether there’s a remedy. Closing hours for alcohol service vary across this once teetotaling country but there is a definite correlation between later closing hours and vigorous night life. Las Vegas and New Orleans never close, Miami closes at 5 AM, NYC, Atlanta, and Chicago close at 4 AM, Tampa and DC close at 3 AM (with most cities encouraging staggered closing hours depending on the venue).

But there are counter-examples. LA, long a Mecca for nightlife enthusiasts, and the party-town of Phoenix both close at 2 AM. So what gives?

There’s three problems. First, Phoenix and LA, unlike San Francisco, are driving cities, which facilitates flow. In Phoenix you can start downtown for happy hour, zip over to Scottsdale while your shirt’s still pressed then bomb across town to Tempe where your shirt comes off. You can hit a million places. LA is analogous.

By contrast San Francisco is all micro-climated and micro-cultured up, sort of like the Jeffersonian ideal and sort of like surviving federal prison. You have different neighborhoods - SOMA, Marina, Mission, Castro, Haight, the Broadway strip, etc. - and each neighborhood pretends it cannot imagine associating with the other. “Ugh, the Marina,” says a Caucasian Stanford grad who buys her clothes at high-end boutiques in the Haight, implying she wants to shiv the Caucasian Cal grad chicks who frequent Marina wine bars and shop at high-end Union Street boutiques. “Choose your side, ese,” she snarls at you as you make plans for the night.

So once you choose a neighborhood, you’ve chosen for good. Blood in, blood out. Whatever neighborhood you’re in at 10:30 PM is where you’ll be the rest of the night. The 1:30 AM last call doesn’t afford 45 minutes of effing around with impossible parking or non-existent taxis. In addition, the bullsh*t aesthetic, attitude as well as weather differences between the different neighborhoods are large enough that even if there was convenient transportation, you’d feel compelled to re-gear your psychology and apparel before going.

This, coupled with the fact people being people never have the wherewithal or foresight to start out the night somewhere new, means that in the end you’re stuck going to the exact same bars in the exact same neighborhood and never have the chance to meet the stranger you want to meet, who is in another totally different, far more enthralling neighborhood, surrounded, just like you, by unattractive, egomaniacal, slutty, stupid, etc. people she’s known forever.

Secondly, like the famously migratory cities of New York, Las Vegas and Atlanta, San Francisco doesn’t have a settled population, which means there’s no established infrastructure of informal socialization, which means, in turn, you depend on bars, clubs, coffee shops etc for meeting strangers and you need those venues to be open and busy as frequently as possible. A hip, ever so chic bistro serving wine at 3:00 AM means 1) that’s one more chance to meet a classy lady and 2) a 1:45 AM invitation to keep the night going suddenly seems way less creepy.

The third contributing factor is SF’s restaurant scene, which is popular, a good thing certainly, if this was New York, where the girls bounce to Hotel Gansevoort after sushi at Tao, or if this was Vienna or Paris or wherever it is that groups of straight men voluntarily go to restaurants. But this is San Francisco, where on a Friday at 10:45 PM all of SF’s females are at Umami and all the dudes are at sports bars, so what you have is first, a segregation situation like the boy’s side of the gym at a junior high dance, and second, a c*ck blocking confluence of cold wind, bad parking, no taxis, and a last call within shouting distance, which means the ladies “go out” but quit at exactly the wrong time, when they’re two and half mojitos deep. You might as well start putting up the barricades.

Monday, September 14, 2009

#22 I Want Everything Girls

Kurt Vonnegut said he was always amazed by the fervor with which women fought for the right to put themselves in impossible and sometimes dangerous situations. He meant by this things like “Take Back The Night” marches on college campuses where like 95% of the reported sexual assaults occurred at either the lacrosse and football fraternity house. If you’re lying alone in your fourth floor dorm bed, marcher shouts bouncing off your four dark walls, you can help but think, “Won’t it save everyone a lot of effort and emotion just to avoid those two fraternities?” and you also can’t help, like Vonnegut, but be impressed by how balsy a tactic it is, the basic message being: “Hey, you! I don’t want to hang out with you, you’re a dweeb, instead I want to hang out with Them - Them is SO dreamy - but Them often mistreats me, verbally and physically, so I want you - a person of no social significance - to force Them to be nice to me. Come on!”

For reasons that do not require much analysis the more educated and moneyed a girl gets - the more access or at least exposure she has to life’s myriad and multitudinous possibilities - the more likely she is to want Everything, in all its forms, together at once, and the more she demands that the world bend to her will. The more, in truth, the world WILL bend to her will. This is why Vonnegut thought female insistence for finding good even in evil astonishing or at least daring, since it’s essentially predicated on a borderline insane and sort of childish belief in the perfectabilty of man, a belief that in tiny increments in certain specific situations actually kind of works.

San Francisco has more I Want Everything Girls than anywhere on the planet. SF women say they don’t expect much, just a guy who is smart, funny, confident, humble, charming, brave, narcissistic and giving, such as the Rock if he was Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.

In San Francisco the I Want Everything Girls put special focus on a requirement that guys be cute around the edges. SF women want a Democrat who dresses well, who is sensitive to the needs of others. The guy with a trendy hair cut, tailored pants and two pockets of flattery.

And there ARE straight guys like that. It’s a perfectly plausible aspiration. Guys can drink green tea and take Jack Russell Terriers for walks. But having all those characteristics means lacking others. It means, for instance, they aren’t tough guys. It means they aren’t Humphrey Bogart grabbing you tightly and kissing you with cigarette breath. The human condition just happens to be that way. We have to make choices. A guy can choose to be a muscle-bound bouncer who takes notes on his reps or an i-banker who runs triathlons or a vegan artist who weighs 145 pounds, but if he is to be any good at what he does, he can only be one. The smooth talkers are lotharios and the charmless awkward men (that girls avoid at parties) are loyal. That’s how life works out - and, more importantly, the way it should work out - not just with respect to boyfriends but to jobs, vacations, pets, and dinners at a Vegas buffet. You can’t choose to have everything because, in the end, that’s choosing nothing. And this is what makes life interesting, it’s why there’s mystery and why it matters. As Epstein says in Biloxi Blues,You have to get in the middle of it. You have to take sides. [Pick your] fight. The one you believe in.”

Monday, September 7, 2009

#21 The Sixties

The most interesting and momentous decade of the twentieth century, at least with respect to culture, was the Sixties. Prior to the Sixties society by organization and ethos was very simple: you were either normal or you were a weirdo. If you tried to be something in between, like James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis or Martin Luther King did, you were labeled a “renegade”, and that meant two things. First it meant you were cool. Second, it meant you must die. It was a classic glass half-empty/ half-full situation.

Then came the Sixties and the rise of a secondary societal consciousness whereby all these young people protested that they wanted to be cool but, at the same time, not die. In retrospect this seems not an unreasonable position but the establishment of the time got REALLY PISSED and proceeded to ship them off to Vietnam or sniper their whiny a**es on college campuses.

Of course that strategy never really panned out. In the end the establishment waffled on shooting ALL of the young people and thus a long repressed alternative to the normal/weird dichotomy came out to mainstream society. We came to call it counterculture and its members we called Hippies and they were Cheech Marin, BIlly Jack, Jesus Christ Superstar and whole litany of others who moved to San Francisco, changed America forever and, all the while, got a ton of play.

Forty-five years later the ideological value of the Hippie movement has more or less been appropriated whole-sale into everyday politics, law, and social mores. The rejection of racism, open misogyny, corporate greed, and war-mongering is pretty standard, uncontroversial thinking everywhere outside rural Arkansas and the Palin household. Accordingly, being a Hippie in 2009 does not stand for much beyond a generalized lifestyle sensibility. It just sort of means you don’t own a TV or take showers.

Now here’s the thing: modernly, girls do not want to be in smelling distance of such guys, or for that matter, jam bands, the Haight and any other Sixties’ holdouts. Some guys get flummoxed here because the original Hippies, in rejoicing free love, nudity, and anti-materialism, scored one long, muddy, unprotected sex romp. This scenario, where you get to chase every skirt you see, go commando, and never pay for handbags, diamonds or deodorant, is so appealing to the male mind that some of us have overlooked the fact that time has passed it by. The progression was this: Hippies were like, “Yeah, free love man, stop getting all hung up on artificial, culturally contingent and totally oppressive conventions of hygiene and sexuality, man,” and the Man was like, “Hey stop that, that’s disgusting,” and Hippies were like, “Try and stop us” and then Nature was like, “AIDS.”

Now it’s true that participation in a group or movement that stands for a political philosophy (Go Obama!) still might win you female attention but old-school Hippie philosophies (environmentalism, gender equality, chocolate cherry ice cream) have gone mainstream, lost their verve, and dissipated into ordinariness. And without the eccentric philosophy the Hippie isn’t a renegade. He doesn’t have anything compelling to express. He’s just an anachronism with toe-nail fungus and bad B.O. He’s got (the sausage fest(ival) that is) Burning Man, pre-dawn Tai Chi and a bong shop down from Amoeba Records but he doesn’t have a prayer of getting laid, which is bad for him but worse for us, since we contract his girl-repelling Hippy funk by the property of propinquity. We’re complicit by geographical association. It’s like living with your dad - he's cool, you love him, but he's killing you.