The summer is going fast and i have not published this story in the rag i expected to -- because i have been too busy doing what is explained in said (somewhat fictionalized) story, and doing other summer things. So i publish it here, for all who wish to delight in it...
The Gas-is-Spendy Stroll
I’m thirsty. Gas is expensive. So what’s a decent Fopo girl to do? Beat a trail to the nearby taverns, and see what’s going on in her very own hood.
There’s a pair of sweet cowgirl boots in my closet that gets pulled out each time I get a hankering to hit a hipster bar. But tonight, the boots are getting busted out to hoof it to my hyper-local watering holes. I’m going on foot to the nearest places, to save the dough that I’d normally spend driving to the more fashionable spots in town.
My friend and I are in this together this particular Saturday night – mapping out our route, making plans for what we’ll do if we get separated. You know, what most people do when they’re plotting a traverse into the Felony-Flat Frontier. I decide my name should be (boots-wearing) Bitch Cassidy -- blazing a trail where no true hipster has dared to tread. And since my friend goes by the name Sunshine in musical circles – she’s naturally my Sundance Kid.
After taking 30 minutes to come up with the o-so-clever nicknames for our journey through the Flats, one thing is plain: we are in desperate need of a drink. But luckily for us, this part of southeast Portland is no high-born, Hail-Mary burg that drives booze joints out of business. There’s one on nearly every block -- so we don’t have to go far to experience the tavern couture. I’m just hoping the boots I normally wear to show off won’t have to be used for some ass-kickin’.
Blue and white vertical stripes
The distinct blue and white vertical-striped Mt. Scott Pub is the first stop. We make a pact before we go in that we’re going to have just one drink at each place – so that we pack the most local flavor as possible into one night.
A mammoth t.v. blaring a sports game nearly knocks me over when I walk in. It’s so loud I want to run back out. But we have whiskey within steps of us, and it’s just too good a prospect to pass up. Plus we have lots of questions to ask of the genteel bartenders we imagine we’re bound to have chatting us up. We’re sure they’ll be happy to finally have hipsters such as ourselves walk through the door, though we don’t say anything quite so pretentious out loud.
The bartender approaches, barely grunting a hello as she lays down a couple coasters. We order whiskey gingers, tall with a lemon. She tells us there’s lemon but no ginger. We settle for 7-Up. The bartender’s less-than-reverent speed gives us time to look around. It’s like we’re back at the YMCA activities room -- Flintstones cereal boxes hanging above the back door, Moe from The Simpsons painted on the wall, a couple tatty pool tables taking up about a fourth of the room. The mammoth t.v. takes up another sixth. The bartender shuffles back and I take a stab at conversation.
“So what’s the deal with the cereal boxes?” I ask.
“The owner loves that stuff” the bartender says, waving toward the back door. “Some of these paintings were done by one of his friends. He did it all freehand.” She scrawls a circle in the air with a delicate fake nail, eyes flashing a little bit of awe. “He did that Flintstones one over here, and that Simpsons one. He’s really talented. But I don’t know...” she says. “I prefer Beavis and Butthead.”
Now we’re getting somewhere. Before this I had no real idea how to relate to this bartender, approaching retirement age. But so what if she thinks a man who paints Flintstones characters “freehand” is talented. We like the same cartoon.
“My kids are in their 40’s,” she goes on, “they tell me I shouldn’t watch it, but I don’t care. They have their own kids to worry about, not me.” Sunshine and I nod in agreement. Then we nod at each other. We agree that the local flavor is starting to get spicy already. I suppose since I am so close to home, and not facing a drunk driving – or drunk biking ticket tonight – I can just go right ahead and let just one whiskey get to my head. So I do, and start to feel real nice.
But the first drink of the night is always the fastest – sipped in retribution for all the trials of a long work week. So before we have time to let the blaring sports game bother us, we are done slurping. We pay up and head out. The grandmotherly bartender is growing on me, but it’s really time to go.
Bikers on the Outside
We barely have time to process our journey into cartoon campiness before we’re at the next spot on our tour. The Queen of Hearts has caught my eye since I moved to this hood, but I’ve never gone in. It’s always abuzz with Harleys and choppers pulling in and out, and it is on this night too. It’s definitely got more charm than the last place. The bar goes back to Prohibition times, with its old school clasps and wooden ice boxes. But thankfully, liquor is legal these days, and we’re more than ready to try the Hearts’ wares.
We belly up to the bar, which at this early hour has as many people behind it as it does in front of it. Cool by this Bitch Cassidy, because among those behind the bar is a dark-haired cowboy with nice teeth. We tell him to feed us whiskey, with ginger and lemon.
“We don’t have ginger,” he drawls. With the boy’s good looks, it’s easier to accept.
A couple people are shooting stick on the other side of the bar. The mood is comfortable – as if all the people who come here are friends and one of them just happens to own a bar.
We start talking to the head “one of them” about the history of the place. The owner tells us it’s been a bar since the 1920’s. Before that it was a pharmacy and a funeral home. The current owner says the original owner used to climb a ladder next to the power pole on the corner, to turn off the lights at night.
The former pharmacy-turned-bar is looking like one of the coolest places in my hood to get my medicine. The owner knows we don’t quite fit in to the tight-knit group of bikers who frequent his bar -- I may be calling myself Bitch Cassidy, but it’s been a while since I was anybody’s bitch on the back of a motorcycle. But he also knows we’re Neighborhood, and so he makes us feel at home.
The owner and his friends tell us one bit of neighborhood news as we’re settling our one-drink tab. They say another group of bicyclists came in night before last and handed them a flyer. It was advertising their, (pardon my artistic license) Gas-Is-Spendy-Cycle. Workers at this biker bar had promptly thrown away the cyclist’s flyer, so we still don’t know how to find these people.
Missive to that group, from Bitch Cassidy and Sunshine: get in touch with us immediately, kindred fuck-gas group.
So far this walking thing isn’t half bad.
(there were other stops on this night, but i am lazy and i my inspiration went in a converse direction to my drunkeness... Yee Haw!)