A couple of weeks ago or so it was Davis Bear Week. I was really excited about this as a lover of bears (but not an “ursophile”, that means something else entirely), and was looking forward to it for weeks, months really, working on my bear-costume, eating nothing but honey, stealing picnic-baskets, pedantically telling people that no, a panda isn’t a bear, well ok they are related, fine, but no a koala definitely isn’t a bear, just making sure I knew all about bears ahead of Davis Bear Week. I watched all the different Bear shows – Paddington, Superted, Care Bears, the Sooty Show, the Berenstain Bears (which I don’t even like), re-runs of Children-In-Need (just for Pudsey), Rainbow (just for Bungle), I even watched “We Bare Bears”, even though it is the most boring cartoon in the history of television. Sharks have Shark Week, but down here it’s Bear Time.
So you can imagine my disappointment when I got downtown, dressed in fur with big claws and teeth and whatever else bears look like, and saw everyone else dressed as slightly drunk human beings. Did I get this wrong? I tried looking it up on my phone but my long bear-claws couldn’t work on the touch-screen, and my marmalade sandwiches had made everything in my bag sticky. So after a while I got up on my hind legs again, and popped into Woodstock’s Pizza of all places, humming “If you go down to the woods today” to myself, as I had heard they were having a bear-themed trivia night and special bear-promotions. It turned out to be nothing of the sort, the promotions were just for Anchor Brewing and the quiz was all about AAAAH I get it, “beer”. Not bear then. I got back on all fours, lowered my grizzly snout, and shuffled backwards outside again.
Now obviously, I didn’t really dress up as a bear and shuffle around town. This story is only partly true (you have to guess which bits), and I probably could have shaved about two-thirds of it away before telling it, many of you will have no idea about who Sooty or Bungle or any of them were (look up Superted on Youtube though, Superted was truly brilliant – makers of “We Bare Bears”, take note, take plenty of note) but it was Davis Beer Week, and that turned out to be just as disappointing as going to what you think is a big bear-party but turns out to be a drunk-human-party. Sure, there were some promotions and tastings and free glasses you have to pay for (the Anchor one, you buy a glass and from your second pint the already-quite-expensive beers were a bit cheaper and you get to keep a cheap glass you had no intention of carrying home). On the whole though it was not really any different than any other night in Davis, that’s how it seemed to me. I sat in Woodstock’s and listened to the beer trivia quiz, some very hard questions mixed with some very easy ones, while I read Jonathan Wilson’s book “Inverting the Pyramid” (a history of soccer tactics), not even bothering to draw, and I have never sketched inside of the Woodstocks bar area. I left and pondered where to go next, but everywhere was a little bit packed, so I chose City Hall Tavern ,as it was relatively quiet, and they at least had cheaper prices on local beers. I chose a Berryessa Plastic People Pale Ale, which was nice. I got a big table all to myself (it wasn’t that busy) and finally got to sketch the whole of the bar. If you have seen any of my previous sketches of City Hall Tavern I have usually been closer to the bar, and sketched only in pen, but this historic old building needed a bigger interior sketch. I’ve drawn it so many times from the outside. The problem is, looking around, the decor really is just too dark. Too much black paint, mixed with red curtains. The spinning wheels on the ceiling were a fun idea when it first opened, but the decor really seems to cater to the few hours on the few nights a week when the music goes up and people dance a bit. Most people sat outside. As I say, it wasn’t that busy. Except when I got up from my table to get another drink, when it seemed like about a million people piled into the bar, so I couldn’t see my stuff still on the table while I waited for my pint. When I got my pint, I was given a pitcher as well (charged for two beers), which yeah, not what I asked for (or even the right beer), but I don’t blame the barstaff as they were frantically trying to deal with the sudden rush of thirsty people (none of whom were in bear costumes). I gave the second beer to a guy who had started chatting to me (“you’re fr’m Lond’n? Aw cool, have a nice v’cation!”) and went back to finish my panorama sketch – better add a lot more people now, no problem, I like drawing people now after all. Within five or ten minutes of sitting down the place emptied again, just a few people once more. The Annihilation Wave had probably moved on to wherever the next place that the Davis Young move along to. The lighting changed around a lot, lots of purple, bit of blue, then yellows and reds, going with the music (which was rather eclectic – they played Jive Bunny!?! I recognized it immediately with a shudder, my Mum used to play that all the time at parties in the late 80s). I added all the paint there and then, including some of the old splatter technique, and was happy with the results; I think it reflects the place very well. I finished my second beer and was done, exiting (though not pursued by a bear) taking my sketchbook and my imaginary bear costume back home again. Another Davis Bar Sketch.