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  • Writer's pictureAnanya

alive girl diaries: week 1

The Funky Bar Agenda

It’s week one of (Re)Cognition summer and I’ve started it feeling like my attention has never been more fragmented. If Week 0 was about setting expectations, Week 1 so far has been about failing. Spectacularly. My screen time has shot up, I’m feeling pulled in a million different directions a day and I’ve barely left my apartment. I’m tempted to write this off with a statement of disgust, something like “this is NOT natural.” But the truth is it is, kind of. Or it’s become so. 

Earlier this week I set the intention to be less on my phone and more outside. In the back of my mind, I kept thinking “it’s just week one, it’s okay to take it slow”. It’s so easy to slip into mindless consumption, and slip I certainly did. It wasn’t long before I found myself falling down a familiar rabbit hole and then somehow it was 2 a.m. and I was in bed comparing birth charts with an ex to figure out if we were soulmates or if I was delusional (maybe both). 

It helped a little when I had a friend from college, Abby, come to visit over the weekend. Very little time was spent in the digital ether. The day before she left, we went up to Strawberry Canyon in Berkeley. I remember turning to Abby and gushing about how good I felt. I kept pointing at rocks and promising, to no one in particular, that I’d return and write there at sunrise. I ended by saying “Ugh maybe it does help to go outside!” to which Abby replied “Well, what’s stopping you?”

Great question. As with most things in my life, it felt like a game of me vs. me. So when she left, I decided to burn time by doing what I do best; sitting in funky bars and brooding in a writerly fashion. This time, I headed over to Vesuvio Cafe in San Francisco, a 60s Beat-era bar. 

I was nervous walking into Vesuvio, though I’ve been on the funky bar wave for a while. I think it’s an essential part of my creative identity and confidence. It certainly helps that I constantly feel like I am performing for some imaginary voyeur.  

But despite my familiarity with the solo funky bar endeavor, the physical act of walking in alone has never gotten easier. I get very self-conscious about my clothes and my aura. Am I giving what I’m trying to give? In this case the goal was San Francisco Carrie Bradshaw but my dress is riding up my thighs and I fear it’s town whore — when I’m home the puritanical Desi voice in me grows loud. I considered parking outside the Mexican joint down the road and ordering takeout from the car, but I was there on official business. I had an article to write, a commitment to keep up. I was already struggling with the shame of extending my self-imposed Instagram time limit, repeatedly hitting '15 minutes more' in the car like a fiend.

I pre-gamed Vesuvio with the comfort of my favorite indie bookstore, City Lights, which sits nicely right next door. Thankfully for my bank account, I decided not to buy a new book this time and settled for the one on surrealism sitting in my tote bag. My intellectual side was thrilled at the thought of finishing the book. The imaginary voyeur was thrilled at the sight of me sitting at the bar with a book. 

I sat at the bar with open ears, prepared to begin eavesdropping on strangers’ conversations. No bartender yet. Okay. I pulled out my book. A man sitting to my right typing away on an iPad stopped moving his fingers, called over to me and complimented my dress. Then before the bartender had a chance to ask me what I wanted, he darted behind me and handed me a cup of water before leaving and wishing me a good day. A little bizarre. Kinda fun. You don’t get that on TikTok.

I didn’t drink the water, or what I hoped was water, but I did order a non-alcoholic cocktail from the bartender who also seemed a bit taken aback by the interaction and apologized for not being able to get his words out without mangling them. I told him not to worry about it and tipped him extra. I settled into my chair and began to read.

Everyone in the bar was friends and I was the youngest one there. I liked being the youngest. It made me feel visible and invisible at the same time, my preferred form of dual existence. Somewhere between the literary and revolutionary chapters of my book, another bartender with tattoos and an orange Giants hat materialized. I started scribing my version of her history in my journal. I loved the way her voice floated in the air, the way she squealed in appreciation every so often when someone she knew walked in, a regular I suppose. Bartender woman and the regulars laughed and jumped to the music for hours while they caught up. No phones. The ones who weren’t talking were reading, too. She offered everyone pizza at some point. 

It dawned on me that I am a regular, nowhere. I want to be a regular there, at Vesuvio, but I don’t even live in the neighborhood and I’m moving across the country by the end of the month so that’s that. I think I’ll have to carry the funky bar agenda there and find someplace to become a regular. I finished my drink and decided I was feeling emotional; a good thing. 

I wasn’t drunk, but I finished my drink and wrote a drunken letter that I will never send. Then I worked on a list of rules for you to find the perfect funky bar for your next offline exploration. Here they are: 

  • It’s old. 

  • Everyone in it is old. 

  • The drinks are mostly under $12. 

  • The decor is strange and may not all go together intuitively. Better if it doesn’t. 

  • When you tell your boujee friend about it, they make a face. 

The bar doesn’t need to meet all of these criteria at once. But if it meets all of these conditions except the pricing, it’s not a funky bar. It's a psy-op. If you’re having trouble identifying one, lean on your own imaginary voyeur and think about how they would feel about it. Picture the voyeur as an extension of you, you are performing for yourself. I think that’s beautiful even if a little vain. In a way, it’s like you’re your own muse, worshiping at your own altar

Or, if you’re in L.A. head over to Jurassic Magic in Mid City for a one-of-a-kind list of funky bars in L.A. put together by me, my friends and also Abby’s mo. Very top secret. First come first serve. I stuck it in a book about seeing things - write to us if you find it! 

I spent three and a half hours off my phone at Vesuvio, and I was better for it. I’ll be back next week. I also then spent [REDACTED] hours afterwards scrolling through Instagram and TikTok, and went back to fiending on the 15 minutes more option in the car. So not all is solved. 

But, again. All the information in the history of the world. How do you say no to that? It’s becoming clearer that starts by targeting the beast at the heart of this: social media. 

Find out next time. 

1 Comment

Jun 18

tile bar was my funky bar until they actually started staffing security lol

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