When: Thursday, 8:15pm
Technically, the closest bar to my new house. I have been hesitant to visit because strip mall bars make me nervous, and East Portland bars where you can’t see inside make me even more nervous. If you’re drunk enough, none of this matters, though.
I was good when I saw the bartender, late-middle-aged, in a cropped tank top. The clientele was a mix of ages and races, also a good sign. A group was sitting at a round table and singing that Was (Not Was) dinosaur song, “Boom boom acka-lacka lacka boom,” for no reason in particular, which I couldn’t see any millennials doing even ironically.
Age appropriate? No question. A gentleman asked the year I was born for Chinese zodiac purposes, and as I often do, bet him that I was older than he was. I was not. So you know, 2020 is the year of the rat, my year, and I will not be stopped.
When: Saturday, 6pm
Age appropriate? I didn’t even take notes after I saw a couple with mylar balloons spelling out 4 and 0 across the street. I knew where they were going.
When: Wednesday, 5:30pm
Skyline Tavern is a faux roadhouse that used to be a real roadhouse and has a similar vibe to the Lighthouse in that it doesn’t attract a super young crowd, seems blue collar on the surface but is adjacent to very expensive properties in the woods.
Age appropriate? Yes.
On this visit, a blonde, tattooed woman who appeared to be in her 30s was wearing a t-shirt that said “grandma” in the cooper font and actually said aloud, “I’m 42” in a discussion with friends about New Portland and Old Portland. She also said, “Once you turn 40…” and did a raspberry (why do people call that a raspberry?) but I didn’t catch the end of the sentence.
On a subsequent visit, the band setting up had two members who were women around 50.
Also, the bartender said she had my tattoo that’s been on my upper right arm for 24 years. I’ve never encountered anyone with this tattoo of a stylized ‘60s (?) cat face that I saw in a book of logos in the early ‘90s and is now dated, faded and is probably mistaken for that “Glitter Kitty” that was ubiquitous on stickers around that same time even though no one has ever said that to me. I kind of didn’t believe it, but sure enough she had a smaller version of mine on her shoulder. She said it was a logo from a cafe in Bellevue, Washington and she got it around 1994 when she was a senior in high school. I graduated college that year, so that’s practically a different generation, but upon further reflection that would make her around 42.
As much as I want to resist it, I’m very much a product of Old Portland.
When: Thursday, 4:47pm
Sandy Hut is one of those dive bars that kept the name but in the last decade was revitalized into a “dive.” It does not make any sense that it lacks a website.
Even though I used to live one block from it, I never went because it was 1990 and I wasn’t drinking age yet. My mom and her 27-year-old boyfriend frequented it, however. In fact, the eventual drunk-driving step-dude totaled my high school VW that my mom seized under eminent domain right near the Sandy Hut. When she answered the phone after the accident, it was the first time I had ever heard her say “fuck.” The second and last time was when I managed to get her car towed in the middle of the night.
Age appropriate? Yes. Young creative types now frequent it but there are also plenty of older folks. In fact, I was meeting a co-worker who is probably somewhere in her late 50s and lives in San Francisco but has a house in Portland. At this early hour, at least half of the patrons were over 40 and one woman was easily 60s, super skinny in a black summer dress and fedora, giving off beach goth vibes.
When: Easter Sunday, 4:03pm
I walked the longer walk than anticipated from McCarren Park, down Metropolitan Ave., to Interboro, this brewery/distillery past the Grand St. stop along one of the last remaining gritty strips in Williamsburg. Fittingly, for my last few weeks in NYC, I saw the bank near Graham Ave. that was the source of the closest/only ATM when I first moved here (That doesn’t seem right–wouldn’t there be some in bodegas?) and the razed spot where the White Castle stood. Once when I was 26 after a debauched night with some very young British boys (young enough that they were shocked when I said my age) I met in the Charleston, which I can’t believe is still the Charleston, I walked on Metropolitan all the way home to Ridgewood at 5am (roughly 3.6 miles–I just checked). At 45, I only have minutely better judgment but in 2018 I would definitely spring for a Lyft.
I was meeting Karen, whom I hadn’t seen since I interviewed her, and has lived nearby for 20 years like a good old-school Williamsburger, hanging on, waiting for a payoff. I currently know three other women in this position. I’m impatient. I would just move, but I’ve never had a rent stabilized apartment.
Interboro is mildly confusing because they produce beers, nearly all IPAs, and spirits of all sorts. Most of the clientele were drinking beer, four 4oz tastings for $10, a bargain.
The bartenders switched from The Cars at one point to Operation Ivy. “I haven’t heard this in a long time,” the long-haired one one said to the short-haired. I hadn’t either, and it made me wonder when they became acquainted with this album since I listened to “Energy” in high school and these guys couldn’t have been older than kindergartners in 1989. Then again, I was only six when “Just What I Needed” came out and I’m perfectly familiar with the song. (Operation Ivy weren’t top 40 though…)
Age appropriate? Despite a mostly millennial clientele, I would say yes. There is an added layer to drinking at the same location where the beverages are produced that is nerdy in a way that could attract all ages. I did see a handsome white-haired man who could’ve been mid-40s or mid-50s with a woman of similar age and hair color. He looked like a British character actor who I couldn’t place until this morning. I forgot how in NYC when you see someone who might be someone, it’s not unreasonable that they are that person. This man was not Mark Bonnar, as it turned out, but I’m only mentioning this because I impressed myself that I even turned up this actor’s name with little to go on.
When: Wednesday, 7:20pm
Crackerjacks (no apostrophe) looks like it has been there for years. I don’t know, it might have been (and I don’t want to look it up). I don’t remember it from my youth, though it’s entirely possible that it has been on this corner at the edge of Northwest Portland since the ‘70s, more like a hold-out year-after-year. Ok, I looked it up–it’s been there since 1982.
Along with the Lighthouse, this has become one of my favorite Portland dives, discovered in middle age. Strangers give me compliments. There are marionberry jello shots. Also, $4 beer and wine at happy hour, plus something called “krispy kritters.”
An illuminating conversation started unfurling on the outdoor patio, between what I eventually gathered was a brother and sister. The woman, with her back to me, dressed in many shades of army green with a hooded, non-puffy vest, and a tuft of gold-blonde hair with dark brown roots,. appeared to be on the middle-age cusp so I paid particular attention to her for clues.
As if on cue, she said, “when we’re old farts…”
The brother, bald with a gray beard, the de facto look for 75% of men over 40 in the NW, countered, “I’m much more likely to die before you.“
“Part of being an adult is you care about your health,” said the sister, and I realized we were the only two not smoking at the mostly occupied picnic tables.
“Let’s be honest, I’m not going to have a baby.” Which I would rather have heard from the sister not the brother. Then, while lighting a cigarette, “I’m not trying to kill myself.”
“You’re not going to find a partner like that.”
“I’m not going to find a partner anyway.”
Age appropriate? There has been plenty of non-young women on several occasions. A woman by herself announced that she was 48, unprompted. Well, kind of prompted by the young woman sitting nearby who recognized all the ‘80s songs playing. “How old are you?” the 48-year-old asked. Almost 24.
When: Tuesday, 1:21pm
I had to be in Soho on the morning of my 45th birthday, then I ended up playing hooky the rest of the day, ultimately eating steak tartare at Balthazaar and a slice of ice cream cake at Parm, which a stranger paid for. But first I decided to stop into Fanelli, a neighborhood respite. The main vibe at that moment was European tourists drinking coffee and soda (and not tipping like cliches). I was ready for beer.
A gentleman from Latvia who traveled to Fanelli from Bay Ridge monthly, sat next to me and ordered vegetarian chili with sour cream and a glass of red wine. I determined he was 84 since he said he had been married to his second wife, 48 (and no kids) at the time of the wedding, for 28 years and he is eight years older than her.
The numbers mostly stood out because last year my boyfriend asked, “What’s wrong with being a 48-year-old bride?” Um, everything. I hate the idea irrationally. And now I’m one year closer to 48.
Otis, my new Latvian friend, bought me a birthday beer. He had a second glass of wine, and then was replaced by a loud advertising industry asshole who made me move down a seat and proceeded to hold court with rapt coworkers, yapping until the quiet man reading a book on my other side said, “You had to deal with that old guy. Now this guy.” I would take one hundred old guys over this 30something monster.
Age appropriate? Yes. One of those European tourists was a woman in her 60s with blonde dreads. I want to say she was Dutch but I have no idea. That screams Dutch, right?
When: Friday, 2:11pm
I came face to face with my evil twin seated at a picnic table at Rippers on a summer Friday during my annual trek to a New York beach. We were both wearing sunglasses, and I always think people are staring at me when I’m stoned, so maybe it was my imagination that this woman was locking eyes intently with me. She definitely was mouthing what I thought were songs playing, not actually singing aloud, though maybe she was trying to communicate with me. We were roughly the same age, height, body type, though she was blonde and I’m a graying brunette. She had a small faded Snoopy tattoo on her upper arm where I have a small faded Hello Kitty (that I re-energized and elaborated on the year before last). She was extremely tan with red sunburnt patches and I am pale. She was drinking wine out of a plastic cup while mine was filled with beer. She was a dog person based on her tote bag. I like cats.
Summer 2016 I got in a not-quite-fight on my annual beach trip and later ended up puking all over garbage bags on the sidewalk. I never talked to that friend again. So, beach trip 2017 sparked less drama, which had held true for the entire year to date.
Age appropriate? Most NYC beaches are, though the Rockaways are the most millennial-friendly.
When: Monday, 7:30pm
My points and miles mania only struck in middle-age and now I’m a proud member of a Chase Sapphire Reserve card (and Amex Platinum, which is way too much) so I thought it would be fitting to extend this dorky hobby and have a drink at the temporary Chase Sapphire Lounge at the Seaport despite the location not being convenient in the least.
It turned out that it was the opposite of exclusive and anyone could order a plastic cup filled with frosé. Also, the initial bartender was kind of a dick (he gave us a look when we asked for a menu and said there wasn’t one, though there was). But there was a blue bowl of free chapstick with the Chase logo, so it all balanced out.
Was I carded? No, neither based on age nor Chase Sapphire card-holder status.
Age appropriate? Corporately sponsored open-air bars in tourist zones aren’t exactly the province of the young. I spied one grown woman singing along with the ‘80s tunes that ran the gamut from Metallica’s “Master of Puppets” to Psychedelic Furs’ “Love My Way.”