Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Two women quietly reading books in an SF bar started an introvert revolution (sfgate.com)
84 points by hodgesrm 9 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 74 comments

After spending the holidays in Hong Kong and Taipei I realized how annoying it is in the US to find anything to do at night or on weekends that doesn't involve going to a bar.

In your typical "big Asian city", you have night markets, restaurants, shopping areas, etc. that all "come alive", so to speak, at night. Young, old, families, etc. are all welcome and expected. Yes, there are bars, of course, but they aren't the sole focus of "nightlife."

In the US the only things open at night seem to be bars that cater to single adults, and anyone who wants to do anything but social drinking in crowded bars have few options.

Not just the US, most of western Europe has the same problem. Everything closes early. And almost everything is closed on sundays. Want to go to a library? They're barely open after business hours. Maybe on a saturday. Want to eat? Sure, plenty of restaurants. But if you want to eat after 22:00 or 23:00, you'll likely go hungry (though not in southern europe). I live in Belgium's second largest city, and even McDonald's closes at 22:30.

But ah, if you want to get a couple of beers, we've got you covered. You can literally find a place to drink 24/7. Which is nice, I like beer, but I feel like it's silly to only have that option.

It differs a lot per country. As you said southern Europe has a tradition to eat late, so things are open late. UK / Ireland has a tradition (although not really a law anymore) that bars close early.

Cities in at least North Western Europe that have the size of something like Hong Kong are just as 24x7 as Hong Kong, and the same for the major US cities.

The library here for example is open 24x7, cinemas usually until something like 2am etc. But in smaller cities everything is closed much earlier.

Which cities?

I think it is also different as well because of the climate. HK but definitely a city like Bangkok are a lot warmer and the warmth is more 24/7. In south of Spain or PT it is still warm and you can sit on the terras during the day now, but once the sun leaves it gets quite uncomfortably cold. Bangkok does not have that, so night is actually nice and comfortable to walk around it, shop, get streetfood etc.

Another difference is regulations and hygiene. In Cambodia and Thailand, even in villages you can get up 3 am and wake up someone in a stall (of which there are 20+ in a row, so you can pick) (sleeping in a hammock) to cook you food, get you a beer etc; you cannot do that in the EU.

The climate thing makes sense, but I was thinking about London, Paris and Amsterdam and those aren't very warm :-)

Amsterdam is far from 24/7. Besides clubs and some night shops it's dead as a doornail. London has some more, but compared to some Asian cities I cannot say it is lively at night. Probably really the climate! It is freezing outside in the streets at 3-4 am; in Bangkok that's actually nice as maybe you won't boil at that time (I like the humid hotness but people tend to complain about the heat a lot). Although my favorite EU city Berlin is 24/7 and that's cold too, so it is possible. Paris I have not been for a long time, so cannot comment on that one.

Remember when they used to have the big halloween celebration in the SF Castro? They cancelled it when gangsters from the east bay showed up and decided to start shooting each other.[1] This is why we can't have nice things in America. You have to charge an entrance fee or have a doorman checking ID and bouncing gangsters at any public nighttime event where you have a lot of gangsters around unfortunately. For example, whenever I go to clubs in bad parts of town they won't let me in if I am wearing a plain color t-shirt if it doesn't have some sort of writing on it.


No idea why you are being downvoted. I was at that last Halloween event and sad when it got cancelled hence. You can’t have nice things indeed because of the idiotic gun culture. SF lost a part of it’s heritage back then.

Maybe this has to do with the negative side of drug culture of the USA. In Hong Kong and Taipei there is hardly any drug use, and therefore crime is reduced a lot as well.

It's more america's history of intergenerational poverty, trauma and slavery. The drug laws incarcerating people are not helping either.

It takes 7 generations for that kind of stuff to clear out I've heard.

Asia has had tons of poverty and trauma for a lot longer than the USA even existed.

And if its slavery, then why are European cities the same way?

>It's more america's history of intergenerational poverty, trauma and slavery. The drug laws incarcerating people are not helping either.

You have overlooked the third and fourth option: intergenerational poverty and drug laws.

Southeast Asian drug laws are far more draconian than American drug laws and the only reason nobody talks about intergenerational poverty there is because single-generation poverty doesn't exist. Imperialistic powers took turns colonising the region for a century or so and then World War 2 happened. Everyone came from generations of having no wealth and no power.

Noticed this in Tokyo as well. I stayed in Shibuya and never felt scared walking alone at night. SF is a different beast entirely; I've never felt safe there full stop.

Hong Kong consumes very large amounts of Ketamine, MDMA and Cocaine. Admittedly, not so much meth or crack.

From what I can see online, there are only around 8000 reported drug users out of a population of 7 million or 0.1 %. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2018.0045...

The actual number is probably higher, but doesn't compare to the USA with 24 million drug abusers out of a population of 331 million or 7.25%. https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-...

Where are you getting your information from that it is a problem in Hong Kong?

Are plain colored T-Shirts some kind of gang symbol? Does it make it harder to ID you? I can't think of any other reason to not allow plain t-shirts in a club.

Gangs tend to have colors associated with them, and members sometimes wear a lot of that color to signal their affiliation.

Partly that's climate - going out shopping when it's cooler during the hot season makes sense - plus it's hard to do a viable year-round outdoor night market somewhere where they publish the wind chill numbers through part of the year.

In the west we do have movie theaters, cafes, but yeah, lots of bars

I don’t think it’s a weather thing...it’s cultural. Same in places warm year round like LA.

Cafes aren’t typically open late at all. And sure movie theaters are open but not really what I’m thinking about when I think of nightlife...

It definitely started as a weather thing--there's a reason they're called "night markets" in Taipei: after the sun sets is the only time its sensible to go outside in the summer. A lot of times the markets are actually closed during the middle of the day.. which is not that dissimilar to the situation in southern Spain, for example.

But you're right that it's mostly cultural, and I wish we in the west had a culture of keeping family activities open outside of normal business hours.

huh? cafes stay open late in LA. even most starbucks are open to 10 or 11pm. a number independent cafes stay open to 11pm or midnight, with some doing things like poetry/art/music/other events in the evenings. there are a bunch of independent theaters, resstaurants, and (outdoor) shopping areas that stay open late. even museums (e.g., the getty) have nightlife events going on.

it’s less “there are things that happen to be open late” vs things that are intentionally meant to be open late.

nightlife is still very much optimized for single adults who like to drink here, and just pointing out in Asia you have districts that only come alive at night and have a lot of things to do that don’t involve drinking at a bar.

Reading at a bar is like a “happy path” in some ways...people want other alternatives than just standing around a loud crowded bar on a weekend.

  The reason is cultural is because the weather forces you to do things at afternoon/night when it has cooled down. 
  I definitely believe that the culture has been influenced by the weather so ultimate it's the weather.

I see this in Northern Chinese cities as well, which has snow for part of the year. I think it’s just how dense the cities are and how safe everything feels.

You can wander the steets alone at 3am and still feel completely safe. It’s an extremely strange feeling when you’ve lived in more dangerous cities.

This could possibly contribute to the difference (alcohol flush reaction): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alcohol_flush_reaction

Doesn’t seem likely. According to your link, only a minority of Asians have this reaction.

Even if it was a larger percentage, with how dense Asian cities are, there would still be millions of people unaffected.

yes, but it is a size able minority, that could keep it from being the ubiquitous night-out option and bring more diversity in evening activities. A critical mass of stuff catering to non capable drinkers gives even people capable of heavy drinking other options.


As someone who travels alone a lot for work, few things would make me happier than if we could somehow normalize reading alone in a bar/pub. It's such an accepted practice in a coffee shop, but somehow in a bar you can still feel really out of place.

As discussed elsewhere in this thread, at night bars are often the only comfortable place open. Meanwhile hotel rooms can get depressing and, for people who drink, having a drink alongside a book can be incredibly relaxing. I also think we underestimate the value for introverted people of being out in a public setting, even in an asocial way.

Good on this group for using a bit of social engineering to help push this idea - wishing them all of the success in the world!

Lol I lived above a bar for years in St. Louis and did all sorts of things there. We ran wow raids from there. It was great, can get food and drinks brought to you. Also great if the place has 9billion TVs so you can watch other social events like sports, or if you know the people more oddball events like Aussie Rules finals, Rubgy, eSports Tournaments, etc. Those are conversation starters!

Fantasy football/baseball drafts, also great. Team meetings. You name it. It's a social meeting space.

My fav was about 2005 someone gave me shit for using my laptop at the bar during Sunday NFL day, because that wasn't that normal yet. I was a regular so others looked at him wierd. About 10 minutes later dude walks back up to me and asks if he can change his fantasy. "Didn't you just give me shit?". He apologized and bought me my standard 2 long islands for sunday.

Now a days, kindles or laptops at a bar is a good way to relax. I hate chilling in hotel rooms.

As regular reader I find the whole thing senseless, unless it is a way of promoting a local business in the Bay Area. Or it is just one more example of the typical anglosaxon‘s overselling culture.

The whole article could be summarized as “some bars are offering a Time Slot for readers in the evenings as a selling claim and they advertise it in HN where supposedly are many people in the same geographical area where such establishments are located. They also believe to have invented fire because it is fashionable to be innovator in the SF/SV/HN culture.”

You know I think they have this kind of a thing already, it’s called a library. I guess the Innovation here is that you can order drinks.

Except many libraries aren't open past 7pm on the weekends. Sometimes you just want a clean, well-lighted place to read into the night.

None of the bars that I've been to would qualify as clean or well-lit. Are they common?

> a clean, well-lighted place

This brings back fond and sad memories...


There's a strong cultural difference in how a library and a bar is viewed though. If you're going to a library it's meant more of a quiet affair, and trying to strike up conversations with others is more likely to annoy them.

Plus depending on where you're at, it's more likely that a bar is going to be open than your local public library. At least that's true for where I'm at.

If my library had a bar (it already has free parking, coworking desks, conference rooms, copy machines, and WiFi), I’d never leave. Just build condos above so I had someplace to sleep at night. Or just add showers, I can sleep in my car.

I wonder if universities still have 24 hour libraries. We used to live there. Slept there many times.

Many do. It's amazing having a big space to read, work, think, etc. at 1am on a weekday (this might not apply if you have a 9-5 job, are married or have kids, etc)

The (relatively new) Austin central library built a restaurant/cafe as part of it. I’ve long thought that if it turned into a bar in the evening it could generate substantial income for whatever administration runs the library.

But it doesn’t - though I’ve heard good things about the food, I’ve never actually been in...

Seattle public library has a cafe area that I thought could be turned into a bar/dance area at night also...

But most libraries are supposed to be quiet zones which discourage talking and socializing. No, that doesn’t necessarily mean libraries need to be #disrupted... they’re good at what they’ve for.

So this kind of thing seems like a nice idea in that it gives people more avenues for healthy behavior, while possibly making it more exciting.

You can order beverages and food in some libraries (self service). No idea about alcohol.

Actually, is there something for reading together on your computer or phone? KindleSync?

See what virtual groups are reading, join, socialize and discuss online with integration to existing online food delivery services.

Have you been to your local library? It's likely filled with mental ill and homeless.

While this is a rather crude way to describe the issue, the homeless are increasingly taking shelter in libraries during the day.


It's certainly a problem, but it's one of the (many) that no one wants to address and instead continually ignore.

While between jobs, I went to the local library near my spouse's work in Marina Del Rey, CA. They provided fast and free wifi along with power outlets so it worked for me but it also attracted a lot of homeless. They had portable DVD players and would just sit and watch movies all day. Sometimes the librarians would ask the homeless to leave b/c their aroma was so foul (especially when it rained), would burst out obscenities or bring in a lot of belongings. I eventually ended up paying for a co-working space.

On this article though, my spouse and I aren't into drinking but enjoy being out late so we find going to boba cafes to be ideal. The ones around us are open until 11pm, serve snacks & drinks and provide wifi. It even makes us feel young and hip because most of the patrons are high school and college kids who can't drink yet and spend time on their laptops too.

Bars in places you least expect them can feel like an oasis. I recently discovered many Nordstrom’s have bars, with rather tasty cocktails. I’m happy to oblige the occasional shopping trip now.

I was walking with my wife in the mall today and she said "Does Nordstrom have a restaurant in it?" I looked up, and ahove the entrance was a broad window with tables behind it. Surprised me. I had no idea.

The one at powell in SF is surprisingly good for the price. It's one of my sleeper hits.

Discovered this after being dragged along on a multi-hour shopping trip. Wife and daughter did their thing while I sat in the bar, drank scotch and watched a game.

What Nordstrom(s) have a bar ?

> many Nordstrom's

One no apostrophe(or if Nordstrom's Rack then apostrophe after the s). Two, I have never in my life been in a Nordstrom that had a bar, where are these?

Edit: Sorry for the grammar stuff, I just passed TOEFL.

> Sorry for the grammar stuff, I just passed TOEFL. [1]

Congratulations for passing that!

It is difficult to know when to offer a spelling or grammar correction and when to just let it go. Especially if you are new to the language and excited about what you have learned. Will you be helping someone who isn't sure of the right way to spell it, or was it just a simple typoe?

After all, pretty much every native English speaker has trouble with where to put the apostrophe's.

So my friend, welcome to our wild and funny and inconsistent language that we call "English" but draws from pretty much every other language in the world and inherits all of their quirks.

p.s. I also want to know which Nordstrom store has a bar!

[1] "Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL /ˈtoʊfəl/ TOH-fəl) is a standardized test to measure the English language ability of non-native speakers wishing to enroll in English-speaking universities."


He's right, though. "Norstroms" is valid. You didn't need to make such a condescending comment.

> "Norstroms" is valid.

Well, strictly speaking, that may not quite be the case, eh?

> You didn't need to make such a condescending comment.

Now you have me at a disadvantage. I honestly did not mean any condescension. I meant the comment as light-hearted, humorous, and supportive advice. The mention of "typoe" and "apostrophe's" was in that spirit: even those of us who grew up speaking English often get it wrong.

The wonderful thing about English is that even when you do get the "rules" wrong, it may still be cool as long as people understand what you meant.

If I said something that came across as condescending or mean-spirited, could you help me and share the specifics, so I can do better next time? Thanks!

> You didn't need to make such a condescending comment.

I didn't find anything in their comment condescending, it seemed quite helpful.

I know better, but auto correct on my phone doesn’t. I gave up fighting with it long ago. Latest iOS seems to correct things twice before giving up which really pisses me off!

My fingers are larger than average so it helps more than it hurts, for now.

Reading I understand. Going to bars, sure. Combining them? I've been doing that for decades now. But swarming in large groups on social spaces and behaving antisocially? I'd honestly never considered that for some reason.

What's next? Attend city council meetings just to play sudoku in large groups?

This is a rather mild version of being "antisocial". Maybe 'asocial'? From an external perspective, I don't see how these people doing what they feel like is any different from, say, a bunch of people going to a bar and paying attention to only the people they came with (which is very typical).

Well, these are spaces supposedly optimised for conversations and it's kinda expected by customers to have that chatty vibe.

What happens when someone hit them up "hey, what are you reading ?"

Anyway, it's only an hour or a chapter long.

Isn't book club an American thing though ? Never heard of one in Europe.

> What happens when someone hit them up "hey, what are you reading ?"

They probably reply, and depending on their mood, either engage in conversation or politely hint that they would like to keep reading. What normal people do in those situations.

I think some commenters misunderstand what these people are doing.

Nowhere in the article or the club's web site is any hint of expectation of silence and privacy. They won't go from table to table and ask the other patrons to please be quiet.

Yes, an hour is hardly going to be the End of Everything. And just from sheer practicality, it seems likely that these people would go to bars in the off hours, as it's not like they're going to enjoy reading on a bangin' Saturday night at 11PM or later... I would imagine.

It wouldn't be my thing, but hey, I used to go to a regular Friday evening bar 'blitz chess' session in Pittsburgh with a bunch of Russians who would get progressively more blitzed as the night progressed. As you can imagine this was viewed as a bit peculiar by fellow revelers. Though unlike the reading club, we were not... exactly... quiet.

That sounds really cool :).

> Isn't book club an American thing though ? Never heard of one in Europe.

Not really. They're quite popular in the UK; my village has one that meets once a fortnight or so.

I was going to tease you about the Brexit and how your village won't be in Europe for long now but I first googled if there was a reading club in my hometown (Belgium) and... there is a slow reading one :D. I may just go and see what it's like :).

> I was going to tease you about the Brexit and how your village won't be in Europe for long

Lol :)

I'm in Scotland so it'll not be long before we're independent and back again.

The article says that the gatherings start with a half-hour of conversation, then an hour of reading, then more conversation.

Seems quite social to me.

It is not antisocial to read a book in public space.

The fabulous “introvert” revolution of people loudly superior to the rest with all your fellow introverts.

Genuinely find this recent phenomenon of loudly proclaiming ones introversion bizarre.

I felt a bit awkward about bringing my kindle into a bookstore, but ultimately nobody cared. I've gone a couple of times (SF location), the drink selection is limited but not bad and it is a cozy spot to read for a while.

I do this from time to time with a portable chess set. Highly recommend it!

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact