When: Tuesday, 7pm.
I was kind of shocked when I was reminded how I used to refer to My Father’s Place as “Cum On the Grill.” Only slightly because of the crude moniker, and mostly because I had completely forgotten I’d even used to call this seedy slice of Old Portland that still exists, a nickname at all. Twenty years away can do that to a memory.
On my second visit for old time’s sake, two young men were sitting at the bar while Dune was playing on the TV. One remarked how Billy Idol was on-screen, when it was clearly Sting. I don’t think I’ve had my old-lady feathers ruffled as hard since a different gentleman at a different bar called Burt Reynolds Tom Selleck as Canonball Run aired.
Age Appropriate: Hypothetically, yes. There is a bartender who has been working there since the ’90s, so she has to be early 40s now. I only know this because I was with a friend whose boyfriend at the time cheated on her with the bartender, which is funnier in your 40s than your 20s.
If you’re even only casually aware of the “Metropolitan Diary,” you would have to share my sentiment. It’s just an accepted fact that section of the NYT needs to fuck off. Even very occasionally skimming it makes me scream out loud, sometimes in an empty house. This week’s was no exception.
My friend and I were waiting for two bar stools to open up at a cozy hotel restaurant on a crisp fall night.
There was a woman sitting alone at the end of the bar next to the only free chair. She was staring idly into the distance, an empty tumbler in front of her.
My friend got the bartender’s attention and asked if he knew how much longer the woman would be sitting there.
The bartender looked at the woman with a sense of recognition and then slowly turned to my friend.
“Indefinitely,” he said dryly.
The bartender looked at the woman again.
Two other seats eventually opened up and my friend and I had a great dinner. When we left, the woman was still sitting there with her finished drink, watching the wheels turn all around her.
— Geoffrey Rubin
Fuck off, Geoffrey. Why would a woman drinking alone need to move for a two men (or equally irksome, a couple)? I’ve lost my shit when I’ve been asked to move to accommodate others (unless there is an open seat next to me). And why would you ask the bartender about someone sitting right in front of you?
When: Saturday, 2:15pm
I may have found the lounge of my dreams, the bar-side of Hale’s, way out in Portland’s western suburbs. It was immediately apparent from the video lottery machines–everyone was talking about the new addition–comfy chairs on wheels, stained glass, and three out of five patrons (and both bartenders who overlapped shifts) women who weren’t terribly young. At least two were seniors.
As if right on cue, a tan woman in a tank top and fitted shorts, with long dark blonde hair, walked in, and people started wishing her a happy birthday. Ok, so I immediately tried to guess which birthday internally, as that is one of my only superpowers.
She had been taken out to P.F. Chang’s the night before and ate the best fried shrimp she ever had. Now, I’m curious about P.F. Chang’s fried shrimp. Oh, and she was turning 49. (I might’ve guessed a few years younger, but this type of woman is confusing because they tend to have grown kids but also at least one little one still at home.)
The bartender who served me got off and sat on the other side of the bar next to the birthday girl, another blonde woman joined them, and along with the new bartender started talking about back-to-school shopping and reminiscing about Jean Machine, which was a clear signal that they were townies, so to speak, roughly my age.
I am now old enough to remember shopping in popular, regional clothing stores from the early ’80s. I held my tongue. No one wants an interloper butting in. I did chat with the 60something sitting next to me because she commented on my winning streak. I cashed out at $90. More than enough for my bloody marys and french toast.
Age appropriate? Do I even have to answer?Honestly, I might question a young woman who chose to sit in the dark, drinking on a Saturday early afternoon when it was pure, hot sunshine outside. A couple of young men bumbled in as I was on my way out and they made me nervous.
When: Thursday, 4:15pm. This happy hour jaunt before a dental appointment wouldn’t be notable enough to mention if it weren’t for a regular who had at some point stopped being a regular stopping in to chat with the bartender. They were discussing a long-time bartender who was no longer at Jake’s.
He was now plying his trade at Puff’s Pub. What?! I hadn’t heard that name in easily 30 years. Puff’s was the favorite hangout of the hostess I used to work with at my first job in 1989 at Hunan Garden in Gresham. This woman whose name slips my mind (though I do recall she had a baby named Nina because my sister babysat her when the hostess would go to Puff’s at night) confounded me because her style was stuck in the ’70s–curled hair, feathered away from her face, plaid midi-skirts, cowl-neck sweaters, chunky zip-up boots–but she didn’t appear old enough to be frozen in time. Though, on second thought, the math might work. I guess it would be the equivalent of still having my teenage ’80s look in the late ’90s (which I did not) when I was mid-20s.
I’m now very curious about the 2019 Puff’s Pub.
Age Appropriate? On the surface, Jake’s, now owned by McCormick & Schmick, would seem like a classic middle-aged hang, but I was the only woman sitting inside the bar area at all.
When: Wednesday, 4:20pm
I rarely do these bar surveying posts anymore because I go out and drink far less in Portland than when I was in NYC. I’m not sure if it’s age (I hope not) but I have nearly no urge to drink ever, which is both physical and mental. It’s not exactly a problem–I can still drink like used to; I just don’t want to–though it’s strange.
In Glasgow, I stopped into Rogano, a wonderfully old-school deco bar where the dining room is modeled after a luxury liner, all sweaty and harried having just wasted hours running around trying to find a correct US to UK power adapter (the first two I bought didn’t work with my laptop) so that I could work on “vacation,” the most un-vacation-like vacation I’ve ever had–I’m still bitter and exhausted.
When you write for a living, it’s often possible to build a backlog before you take off, but my current gig presents new challenges daily and multiple ad hoc duties, which required me to spend hours in my hotel room and Airbnb every day, waking up at 7am to six-plus messages with assignments and grinding out daily 800-word articles on dry, technical subjects. So far in life, I’ve managed to avoid this type of relentless micro-managed work. I thought that was what being middle-aged was all about.
So, I snuck out for a French 75 while waiting for more urgent emails. I sat on a stool next to a woman with a brown bob who might’ve been early-to-mid-30s, conservatively dressed in a trenchcoat, slacks, and flats, making her seem like she must work in finance. I don’t know what people do for work in Glasgow. She was sitting with an older man in a suit who I took to be a regular. She complimented my order because it was her favorite drink, She said that she made a lot of French 75s when she lived in Pakistan. Ok.
She started talking to the super young bartender who was on his first week of employment about complicated drinks. Singapore Slings are apparently the most complex–or at least contain a lot of ingredients. I took this as my cue to mention that the ones served at Raffles in Singapore aren’t that good. “At Raffles?!” “Really?” She then asked if I was in London much, so I guess my weird stranger lady neg worked, and recommended some good bars.
I’m pretty sure I lost her attention when I mentioned out loud that I had been receiving emails and had to get back to work. An adult woman with no agency is a turnoff, I get it. I also used to be the type that could ignore emails and blow off work. Now it’s come to this. Working on vacation to pay my mortgage with 65% of my salary.
Yes, I realize the privilege to be able to pay for plane tickets, hotels, and Airbnbs, which were not insignificant costs. (I was on unemployment when I decided to tag along with my sister on this trip. I had free time but dwindling savings and thought why not?)
Then a dark-haired 60-ish woman dolled up in sequins and wearing vibrant makeup sat between the already present woman and the older gentleman, a far more interesting subject, so she turned her attention accordingly.
I left and bought a bottle of white wine at Aldi, contradicting my above statement about drinking losing its appeal, and continued to work in my hotel room for the next three hours.
Age appropriate? Most definitely. Any business taking design cues from the Queen Mary can’t be for youngsters.
When: Saturday, 4:47pm
A woman, even under 40, reading a book at the bar is usually a good sign. I also noticed a gray-hair at a picnic table outside and the female half of a couple sitting at the bar also had gray hair, which is definitely more of a common sight in Portland than in NYC.
Age Appropriate? Pretty much.
When: Saturday, 4pm
Pubs are almost cheating, particularly pubs outside the U.S. This pub happened to be in Glasgow, where at least half the bar was over 40, many over 60, but also with a sprinkling of youngsters.
Age Appropriate? Always.
When: Christmas Eve, 2:20pm
Well, I am old enough to remember when Muu-Muu’s was the new bar on 21st St. and I’m kind of shocked it hasn’t been turned into a coffee roaster or small-batch production liquor tasting room. Prices haven’t increased radically since the ’90s either ($6 happy hour martinis) and of course there is a hummus plate on the menu. At first glance, the clientele was also predominantly old-timers, but on closer inspection it was the men who were in their 40s and 50s. The women, a decade or two younger. I’m fairly certain one young woman was with her father not a romantic partner because they had very different styles and were not touchy-feely, but who’s to say?
Age appropriate? Yes, I’m of the mind that if a bar could be drinking age–and Muu-Muu’s was born in 1997–then it should be welcoming to the aged by default.
When: Thursday, 8:53pm
Poison’s Rainbow was the first bar where I witnessed a previously un-seen Portland phenomena that smart people complain about: lining up at the bar. Instead of crowding around the bar and trying to get the bartender’s attention, customers will create a single-file line, which I guess is civil but also inexplicably irritating, not to mention slow and tortuous.
Age appropriate? No. Old people shouldn’t have to line up like it’s the depression era to order and pay for a whisky sour.