the mark of Specs

    12 ADLER PLACE    


Specs 12 Adler Museum Cafe
1984 thru 1998




Around 1996 I figured out that I had been working at Specs for more than a decade. This was longer than I had spent in one place in my entire life.

    This worried me.

me behind the bar
kristen wetterhahn, 2000




Napkin Drawing     K Wetterhahn, 2000
"Peter We miss your River flowing
through our Hearts."

Kayak Peter is not
    a Venereal Disease

We Reserve
the Right to
Serve Refuse
to Everyone.

the bar

I was worried because I was a kayaker; and the Journey was my thing. Now my journey had been interrupted. Like Odysseus I had been cast up on the beach. This Isle of both rational and irrational discourse kept me stranded and enchanted. The poetry, the music, the drama, all held me enthralled.

me at specs' 30th anniversary, anon, 1998 It all started one autumn day as I was sitting in the joint having a beer while Specs prepared to open. I had just finished swamping out the place. That's when Charlie the Swamper called in to say that he could not come in to work that day. The pressure of the job was to too much for him, all that mopping and stocking. The thought of ordering beer gave him an anxiety attack.

Needing a job I offered to fill in until the overwrought one returned. Specs agreed. Day followed day; week followed week. One day a couple of months later Specs turned to me and said "I guess he's not coming back, want the job?"

So began my tenure at a place that had already been a regular stop for me since I had first landed in North Beach in '70. While I lived in the Sierra I liked to come into town for Specs' anniversary party. "You can remember the date, it's when the clocks get set forward" Specs would say. It was also the day the fleet was blessed. I never got my kayak blessed. Priorities; everyone I knew in SF who was in town that day and many who were not in town would show up for that party.


the bar as stage

Specs himself presides over this most civilized and chaotic of anarchies called Specs. He is the inspiration, the master scene setter. He is the author, the chief story-teller of a host of story-tellers.

It is a perfect synthesis of high drama and low comedy. "The play's the thing" and Specs was the play. At one time William Saroyan's "The time of Your Life" was staged in the bar, but why? Who needed the play when the human comedy was nightly played out on this stage.

Across these boards, or because the bar was mostly below ground, across the damp concrete strode strutted staggered a varied array of characters. Those who performed the daily work of society: cab drivers, steel workers, barge men and bar tenders, topless dancers and actuaries, computer geeks and counter girls. There were those on the fringes of society: revolutionaries, con men, dopers, the mentally challenged and always the homeless. And there were those that tried to control and defend society: social workers, cops, lawyers, politicians and visionaries.

But always there are the artists. Besides being principles they act as the set designers and chorus of our show. There are painters, sculptors, ceramists There are poets, novelists, writers of every ilk and the actors and singers who give words life. Folk song and jazz accompany the antics.

Martini Time at Specs, Rodan. 1989 It was my fortune to be a part of this production. Shortly after becoming the regular swamper, career demands on rock musician TVZ allowed me to picked up a couple of week-end opening shifts, the least desirable. Soon I was working more hours than anyone. I quit a couple of other jobs just to make enough time.

I had become a bartender at Specs. My only qualifications for the job had been a couple of seasons behind the plank at the Wrenwood, a cowboy-indian bar and construction hiring hall in Arizona. Oh yes, I was there and available.

life size ceramic Elephant by Dancer


This is not an official site of the bar, but my own recollection, a remembrance of my time there. It is not fact. It is a story, a tale told by, if not an idiot, at least by a fallible old fart. Like all writings about bars, it is clouded by tobacco smoke, alcoholic fumes and faulty memory. But it is true.

Kathryn and I returned to the scene this last Christmas through New Year. Later the 36th anniversary of the bar and a money raiser for a movie about the joint by Specs's daughter, Ellie Simmons, stimulated my e-mail. Since I had always planned to write something of that time and the memories are currently circulating through my enfeebled brain I make this beginning.

Though the words on this page are mine, none of the images are. The originators retain all their copyright. I know who made some of them and so indicate, but some remain anonymous to me. Please let me know if anyone finds their work here that is not cited correctly or objects to its being displayed. I will correct all transgressions.

As always this is not definitive. I will add more as memory is stirred and time permits. see you on the set. Ciao!

Kayak PeterMay 21, 2004


The Lady is not interested
in your company.


The Gentleman prefers
to sulk in silence.


edited by Peter J Wait, 5/10/04 10:19:06 AM
copyright © 2004, by Peter J Wait,