The portico was beautifully decorated with lustrous woodwork, and artistic windows were all around. The glass had fine bevel work, and many cuts and interesting shapes. A stained glass picture of a Spanish Galleon hung over the ornate portico.
“Well… here goes.”
I pushed my way passed several men on the steps; grabbed the handle, and opened the large and ornate door to Graz Ella’s.
Interestingly enough, the large entry way was not very crowded.
The entry way was a beautiful artistic work, and a fine example of early San Francisco architecture. A large crystal chandelier hovered way above my head, and the tile work on the floor looked like something you would probably find at the White House. One wall had a large portrait on it of some royal looking gentlemen who were riding on horses, and chasing a fox. Under this portrait sat a well used piano, and a short man with a huge black beard sat there playing it.
I closed the door, and was immediately addressed by an Irish looking, middle-aged woman who was holding onto some menus and a couple of glasses. She was standing next to a small table in front of a winding stairway.
“Well, Hello, … can we offer you a seat, meal and a drink? What type of service is your pleasure?”
She handed me a very ornate business card, that said, “Olivia Alannah O‘Doherty, Seating Manager, Graz Ella’s Restaurant on the Wharf.”
I stared at the card for a few moments, and then put it in my back pocket.
The Hostess’ eyes looked me up and down as she gave the sales pitch, and her facial expression sure seemed to suggest she had a few suspicions. The woman seemed like one of those types who rather curtly, “cuts to the chase,” so to speak.
“Well… we don’t serve any troublemakers, so if you be having any business like that… (she was intensely staring at the side of my face).”
I pulled down the front of my hat.
“No, nothing like that at all. Really, I just slipped as I was loading some crates on a fishing keelboat; tried to find a doctor, but I believe I‘ll wait until morning. It really isn’t that bad.”
It didn’t seem like she bought into the story I was telling, but I don’t think she presumed I was a real troublemaker either. She just rolled her eyes; reached under the counter, and placed a menu under her arm. The woman then turned and motioned with her hand.
“Well… see if you can follow me down the hall without ‘slipping‘.”
The woman veered off to the left, and started pacing down the dim hallway.
I paused at the hallway entrance for a second, and stood there thinking… I wasn’t sure it was prudent to follow her yet. I really needed to make sure of something before I was stuck in some corner with a crowd of strangers.
“Wait! I really need a favor.”
“I have new born pup here that was… well, he needs some milk or food… I’ll pay you for it. I‘ll pay you whatever it takes; the little fellow just needs to be taken care of.”
I pulled out my small swag of gold, and showed her.
The woman turned; mumbled something under her breath, and motioned for me, “to just calm my seas down a bit.” We continued the process of making our way down the crowded hallway.
Graz Ella’s Restaurant was much bigger on the inside than it appeared, and turned out to be an exquisite example of old Victorian architecture.
From the vantage point of the long hallway, I could hear bottles and glasses clinking on various surfaces; both deliberate and accidental… laughter, heavy and diminutive; lifted its resonance against the foggy night ambience. Pipe and cigar smoke were billowing out of every possible crack and crevice, window and door. The hazy effects moderately seasoned much of the vulgar conversation.
Many hacking coughs were evident… of toothless, middle-aged women; whose fluttering eyes mesmerized the attention of the shiftless and rabble rousing crowd of males; yes, these nomadic vagrants and one-time honorary citizens were conspicuously present here, lurking in the corner shadows.
The temper of the lawless west and its various dens such as the Barbary Coast, often changed the way a fella’ acted and saw things.
Seedy, desperate individuals who were relegated to quest for their lot from one false promise to the next… bushwhackers of all colors, shapes and sizes.
Most of these men had taken up the practice of precariously attempting to “one-up” their rivals. Oh, you know… the usual type of scatological methodology… all while sitting, falling down, standing, and dancing in the open doorways and hallowed alcoves.
There was a profane and crude competition amongst the herd here at the so-called “watering hole,” but it hardly seemed appropriate that the Barbary Coast should ever declare an actual winner of such. Finding any resemblance of true profit here would be an anomaly.
I attempted my dead level best not to stare down any man or woman that looked over at us (and believe me, they all just about did as we walked past them).
When we got to the end of the hallway, there was a wooden sign that said, “Special Orders to Enter.” Standing below this sign was a large woman with no teeth (which hardly stopped a permanent grin that seemed to grace her expression).
She had on what appeared to be an old vest made out of rattlesnake and lizard skins; a tall black hat, and large pink and turquoise boots that accommodated her oversized feet. The toes of the boots had ruby studs for eyes, and looked like they were from the hide of a Gila monster.
Most noticeable of all her accessories, were two sawed-off double barreled shotguns with ornate pistol grips that were fitted into her waist band. The hat band had a small, custom fitted knife in it.