Where’s my babymama! I want my babymama!
That’s what I planned to shriek at the Be Nice Party. I was gonna strut myself right up to the bar at Catalyst, the party’s venue, and politely order a babymama cocktail (strawberry vodka, banana liqueur, and pineapple juice, spiked with a flash of grenadine claw, strained and served on the rocks. Britney Spears in a short glass, darling). Then, without warning, I would flip a total schizo switch and attempt a full-on, foaming Whitney-Houston-out-of-butane meltdown, exclaiming the above, appalling every pleasantry-spewing goody-two-socks within earshot. I even intended to strew a few glass pipe shards and fling stray weaves about during my one-queen crackhead kabuki act (visuals). And maybe toss around a couple stained toddler jumpers or a threadbare bib with a faded Little Mermaid on it (poignancy). Britney, Whitney, and Disney — that’ll teach ’em to try to “be nice” at me.
But intentionally getting 86’d from something called Be Nice was far too obvious a reaction, like snarking Madonna at Coachella or shooting Phish in an alley. Me? I’m all about subtlety. I try to keep my scars behind my ears, thank you. So I hit up Be Nice with an openish mind and, instead of babymamas, got soused on redheaded sluts (Jägermeister, peach schnapps, and an ample screech of cran, shaken and quickly poured out — Kathy Griffin in a shot glass, darling). If there’s one thing I’ve learned on life’s Naugahyde stool, it’s that liquor’s the best revenge. And sluts are fun. And Tyra Banks is an alien pterodactyl.
Wow, I sound super gay this week.
So what’s Be Nice about? Once a month, a diverse group of randoms meet in a space “where you can make eye contact without it being ‘cruisy,’” with “music just loud enough to hear, but quiet enough to easily talk over,” to “say hello to someone new (or old)” but not to “impress people with how cool you may want them to think you are.” (“And … it’s early!”) Somewhat contradictorily, this “low-key public event” aims to bring the spirit of Burning Man’s Black Rock City to the heart of San Francisco. But the promoters mean in the sense of BRC’s ethic of PLUR and kindness (BRC PLURK?) not in the sense of “Oh god, it sounds like Burning Man on a stalled elevator — why not just throw in Whoopi Goldberg and call it German expressionist mime kill me now?”
But yes, I expected a cult. What I found was about 40 hip-but-nonhuggy characters sprawled across Catalyst’s booths, nary a silver Nike among them. The first thing that hits you when you enter a club whose music is pitched to pin drop is the odd, nostalgic staccato of conversation. I’m usually surrounded by jibber-jabberers aplenty — hello, mirror — and music can make a great escape pod. Hell, half the time I’m not even sure what I’m saying myself at the club, but that could just be my thick Vicodinian accent. Seriously, though, when was the last time you walked into a roomful of people talking and could hear both sides? It was fuckin’ spooky, Scooby. Waves of mutual exchanges washed over me as I leapt in, latching on to a couple groovy goth chicks and a freelance programmer in golf pants. Soon I was gabbing away, natch. I must have had fun because here are my notes: “Internetz … herpes scarf … deep-fried diet pill.” Oh yes, and Ramsa Murtha Begwagewan is the Anointed One, all praise him.
That there can be a successful club whose hook is friendly conversation may say more about technology’s limits than it does about a possible resurgence of Moose Lodges or canasta parties — although bingo is definitely in. Nightlife, this business we call tipsy, took a sucker punch from its former friend the Interweb, of course. (Why go out when you can get drunk online?) And we’re pretty much used to thinking of clubs at this point as either struggling to imitate the ethernet with hyper-adverbial interactive “concepts” or fetishizing things that computers cannot touch yet. Face-to-face give-and-take now joins classic cruising, live performance, art exhibits, sculptural environments, oxygen bars, professional mixology, vinyl archaeology, sweaty bodies, and chocolate syrup wrestling (www.chocolatesyrupwrestling.com) in clubland’s Museum of the Mostly Mouse-Free.
Clubs. Is there no index they can’t gloss?
One other nightlife experience that can never be truly virtualized: that predawn abandoned bus ride home, muffled sounds of the club still ringing in your ears. I like to think of Muni in those moments as my personal stretch Hummer; the driver is my handsome Israeli chauffeur/bodyguard/secret paramour who will someday betray me, and I’m a (kind of smelly) target of salivating paparazzi. Then I start to feel a tad snobbish and base and also possibly paranoid. But then I have a Snickers and I’m OK. — Marke B. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Be Nice Party
Second Wednesdays, 6–11 p.m.
312 Harrison, SF