Posted by: Tina M | 20 January , 2011

The Rhino’s Head

Tonight, my hubby treated me to a drink at a new*to*me bar, the Cafe Van Kleef. Having lived here for over 4 years I have yet to see most of it. My habit of sticking to a trusted handful of places paired with my general hermit-nature has prevented a lot of exploration.

Located in Downtown Oakland (17th & Telegraph) it’s tucked away like a shiny gemstone earring lost in a pile of leaves, glinting out of the corner of your eye as you pass it on your way somewhere else. The bar was immediately charming to me because it had an open-air portion at the front of the building. Inside there was a mix of several genres of decor from dead animals on the wall, to gold and crystal chandeliers; the most disturbing, however, were the several masks and faces that leered at me while I waited for my drink.


We had the house special (the name of which I can’t remember) which was a very refreshing mix of gin and ruby grapefruit juice. It was absolutely delicious, but helped me to learn quickly that gin is not my drink.

I started feeling anxious and down pretty immediately after we left the bar and things went down from there. It’s no surprise, the only ever time I imbibed gin was incidentally the first time I really “drank.” My friend and I decided that it was important to try drinking in order to make sure that we were making an informed decision in our sober (we were 19 or 20) lifestyle. So, we asked an older friend to get us something and to drink with us. She chose sapphire Gin. I think it might’ve been ok except we didn’t know what sort of mixer to use and for some reason we chose vanilla coke. I know if you’ve tried gin you’re gagging at the thought, as I did then. We were playing a drinking game and I was truly sorry when I began to lose. The real bummer was that it tasted so bad that I didn’t feel the effects, suffering the burn and gag of the fiery medicinal cocktail snapping me into sobriety after each sip or gulp.

I have been haunted by one particular piece of decor since suffering the downturn of the evening and reflecting on the preceding events, and that was this large rhino head. My first question of course was if the head were a real relic of a genuine beast or simply a convincing fake. . .

::fade to existential crisis::

So, I began to identify with this poor dissected creature and it’s place in this strange and distant land. This item of decor can be put anywhere to “lively” it up, but will never look natural once it has been separated from the living body. I’m feeling out of place, disconnected, powerless, guilty, like a bad friend/partner/boss/etc. and like I want to return to some safe haven-home that doesn’t exist.

I too am somewhat immobile, hung from the beams of my larger life plan, neatly stacked into stable squares of obligations and expectations.

Despite these somewhat dreary thoughts, I am trying to stay positive. I know that the path that has brought me here is a mix of chance and fate; my future travels will surely be the same.

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