Barhopping and Hungry for Some Action

    A drunk wanderer at Tiki, a tavern in Pacific Beach, relaxes and listens to a band comprised of old men playing covers like Rod Stewart’s “Maggie May.” (Will Parson/Guardian)

    On Saturday nights a river flows through Pacific
    Beach
    . Fluid spirits and charged
    emotions churn in the local nightlife businesses, gaining momentum in whirlpool
    fashion before being released and stagnating on the sidewalks of Garnet
    Avenue
    . Like a basin, it collects people into a
    stretch of bars where, on a sunny day, they might otherwise flow directly to
    the beach and into the Pacific.

    It’s fueled by the many tributaries leading out into the
    neighborhood and greater San Diego.
    Five minutes after parking on a side street several blocks from Garnet
    Ave.
    , I could already feel the current pulling me
    in. It was silent, but I soon heard someone yelling. I got my camera out,
    sensing that I would need it earlier than I had planned. It was 11 p.m., and a young man was shouting at
    another, named Jordan,
    trying to get him to throw a punch. It was obvious why; a girl stood to the
    side, pleading in vain for them to stop.

    “You are the biggest fucking pussy that I’ve ever met!” said
    the first guy.

    “You’re my best friend,” said the other in a low voice.

    I had come upon them as they crashed out of an apartment.
    But they continued and matched my speed for two blocks, one man yelling, the
    other walking backward. I had put some distance between us when I heard the
    dull thud of fist on flesh.

    A block toward Garnet, I saw Jordan
    running toward me from a cross street. Winded from circling the block, he ran
    off just as his pursuer turned the corner, still yelling. I could hear him
    behind me, getting closer. When he told Jordan
    to stop walking away from him, I froze and turned around. We made eye contact
    and he realized he had mistaken my identity. He smiled and hissed a
    flabbergasted apology. As he walked back I heard his phone call: “Hey! I was
    chasing after Jordan
    and the strangest thing happened!”

    I was ready for the bars. I decided to go with Moondoggies:
    no lines, decent lights and a lot of people. Inside, most were dancing or
    talking. Those that were alone had blank expressions and searching eyes. With
    urgency, I myself was scanning the room.

    A blatantly drunk barhopper drinks an alcoholic beverage and shares a text message with her friend at Moondoggies, a popular bar and grill in Pacific Beach. (Will Parson/Guardian)

    I normally hate bars or any loud settings, but I was
    enjoying myself while taking photos alone. I was glad not to have to pay
    attention to a conversation, straining my ears and my voice just to be polite,
    having to focus on one person at a time rather than a whole room. I usually
    hate trying to cut through the cacophony but, with no one to speak to, the room
    seemed quieter.

    Two girls sat across from me and I asked for a picture. One
    of them stuck their tongue out, adding a cockeye and the finger to make it
    clear she was young, drunk and happy about it. I set my camera on the table
    with the lens still trained on them. I took 10 more photos without them
    noticing.

    Moondoggies’ lighting was worse than I had thought, but I
    did my best and an hour later I left to make sure my night’s transect was
    diversity.

    As I went into Tiki for a live Rod Stewart song, I
    recognized the flannel shirt and greasy hair of a guy who two bouncers were
    shoving into a taxi across the street. It was the angry man from the neighborhood,
    even drunker than he had been during the chase. The cab took him away as I
    walked West.

    With bars closed at 1:30 a.m.
    there was a drunken fervor in the air — the energy accounted for plenty of
    freshly lit cigarettes and slurred phone calls in the cool air. A grey-haired
    dealer named Eddie was waiting outside Moondoggies, selling weed with the
    fervor of an old snake oil salesman and punching numbers into his phone with
    inebriated enthusiasm.

    After pizza at Amore’s I started toward my car. Almost
    without noticing, I passed a couple lying on the sidewalk, making out in locked
    embrace. I thought about the fight I saw three hours before. Then I made a
    connection between everyone I had photographed. They were all hungry for
    something — whether it was sex, revenge, money, drugs or just Mexican food.
    Their desires were palpable and I wanted to record them in frames.

    I was there too, though, and hungry just the same. I had to
    want more than anyone else there, even, because I wanted to see everything at once.
    At 2 a.m. I reached my car and it was
    almost with an afterthought that I was able to keep the night with me through
    photographs. I was satisfied just to be able to witness such a great night.

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