"Dinky Hocker Shoots Smack!" was published in 1972. "Happiness Is a Serious Problem: A Human Nature Repair Manual" came out in 1998. Both found their way onto the literary collage at Room 389, an Adams Point neighborhood bar where Pabst Blue Ribbon drinkers rub elbows with connoisseurs who discern between Angostura and Peychaud's bitters. The walls are dark wood. In the back is a lounge lined with pale green sofas and chocolate brown leather arm chairs. It's Hemingway with a reggae soundtrack.
"This is Room 389? How long have you been open?" a woman asks. She wandered in from Grand Avenue wearing her exercise clothes.
Ben Cukierman, one of three owners, tells her that the bar opened a few weeks ago but the grand opening is set for today. She is disappointed that they won't serve food.
"We're going to be a bar bar," he says.
They are working on the food issue -- maybe takeout from local restaurants.
"Oh. "... A bar bar. No appetizers, chips?" she says, moving toward the lounge. "How about dancing?" she asks, eyeing the open floor, a turntable and shelves filled with records.
That is the domain of Jamie Bernal. He is in charge of the sound, lighting and ambience. "Sound is my background," he says. But Room 389 is not a dive or a dance club. It's a neighborhood bar with a lounge, he explains. And skylights. And a patio overlooking Grand Avenue.
Ben, on the other hand, is a lawyer. He came on board
"But you are also the guts of it," Jamie tells him.
"Thank you for saying that," Ben says. "But maybe you should start with you and my brother."
Ben's brother is Daniel Cukierman, who opened the Shattuck Down Low in Berkeley.
The three men were standing at the bar on a Monday night.
"You're looking at the trinity right here," Jamie says. He was the one who actually spotted the site when it was a shuttered sports bar, called the Golden Bear for years and briefly the Dapper Lounge. Some of the old customers still come to watch a game. An A's fan, a woman, burst out in applause one night when the team scored. "They just want to see the game and sit at a clean bar and without getting high-browed by a bartender," Ben says. The TVs have been reduced to two screens, but they are prominent. The sound, however, is muted.
"We found our jewel," Jamie says.
Finding a name was another matter, Ben says. "We all thought our ideas were genius."
Meanwhile, they put Alex Conde ("Like Condé Nast," he says) in charge of the "cocktail program." He splits his time between Room 389 and Marzano and has the energy of a new convert. "The Oakland palate for cocktails and wine has evolved so much," Alex says. "Just because you have tattoos doesn't mean you don't wear Armani."
He's actually a true believer, but if he had been baptized it would have been in an Old-Fashioned made with Angostura bitters.
He begins to recite the recipe for an Alaska and loses me after chartreuse. But if someone prefers a shot of Bullet, he adds, "Cool. We have it."
A man sitting at the bar points to his greyhound cocktail made with grapefruit and high-end vodka. "Do you see the wedge?" he says. "That means it's fresh. You get pulp. There's going to be pulp in there."
Alex mixes up a cocktail for Dan: Pampero rum from Venezuela, vermouth, coffee liquor, egg white, Aztec chocolate bitters and Guinness.
"Oh my God, that tastes amazing," Dan says. The four men banter back and forth about what to name the invention. I feel like I should order something complex and worthy of Alex's skills. It will be my last drink until Oct. 3.
"I write about drinking so often, I would like to write about sobriety for a change," I explain and order a martini despite its simplicity.
He tells me my choice is a worthy one.
Every cocktail is a variation of the gin martini, he says. "It's the Adam and the Eve."
Jamie mentions that Room 389 will open at 10 a.m. on weekends; otherwise, at 4 p.m. There are a few details to work out before Room 389 hits its stride. But the martini goes down like silk.
Room 389: 389 Grand Ave. Info: www.facebook.com.