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: 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.
Barred: Crackerjacks Pub
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: 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.
Barred: Bar Bar
When: Tuesday, 2:30pm
I only chose Bar Bar in part because I have anxiety about using an iPads with a keyboard (a laptop would be unthinkable) in public (even after vaping Sour Tsunami in my rental car) and it seemed chill with lots of outdoor tables that were awfully occupied for a weekday afternoon lending further credence to my no one works in Portland theory. (Don’t worry, I have the exact same theory about Brooklyn.)
Two tiny near newborns eventually showed up with their moms who were practically newborns (OK, plus 26 years) themselves. There were also young black-lipped goths in Birkenstocks, as well as a woman who looked barely 21 keeping the dream of the ‘90s alive by wearing a flannel and stocking cap in 90 degree weather and making me irritated and sweaty just looking at her.
Screen Time: Friends From College
I’ve seen detractors of this show, a few “it’s ok’s,” and one “love it” from a woman who suffers the most severe case of the Dunning-Kruger effect I’ve ever encountered. It’s not a great show–college-themed premises don’t work on me because I went to a weird, really small school–but I keep watching anyway. Keegan-Michael Key is turning 40 (the actor is 46) so these friends from college, I assume, are similarly aged.
In the second episode, Lisa, played by an actress who is only 35 which is specious since she’s married to an actor a decade older, both pretending be 40, drinks too much at a bar presumably in Manhattan and is boorish at her friend’s play.
In the third episode, all three lady friends go for drinks at Bemelmans, an uber-age appropriate venue. In fact, that’s the joke, played very broad, that the women glom onto a table of rich octogenarians and pretend to be models who also sing.
As an aside, the opening scene shows an affair between Keegan-Michael Key and Annie Parisse (42) where he runs out of condoms, wants to do it anyway, and asks if she’s in menopause, bolstering my theory that menopause will be a growing part of pop culture and eventually made cool.
Barred: The Ready Penny Take 2
When: Friday, 8:15
I’ve been threatening to crash the Jackson Heights Dads monthly meetup ever since I first found out about the event where neighborhood men with children can let off steam and bond. It rotates from Legends, Espresso 77, to Ready Penny. But it wasn’t until two of the five member Jackson Heights Ladies Cotillion (JHLC) a loose social club that has organically formed to primarily drink wine and watch Feud, also decided it was a good idea.
There was a foil tray of wings. There was a porkpie hat. There was also a bun/ponytail hybrid. The bulk of the dads were seemingly under 37 but there was one who looked like a short David Cross in a baseball cap. I did take creep shots and a non-middle-aged me would post them but now I’m mature and have good judgment.
The bartender, an Irish woman definitely over 40, took a shining to the JHLC, mostly I suspect because we brought our glasses back to the bar rather than leaving them strewn on tables, and gave us a free round of drinks. She also referred to the dads as “ladies” to insult them, which was funny instead of being offensive to real ladies.
LIke clockwork, by 11pm the dads had all but dispersed.
Age appropriate? There was a woman at least 50 by herself at the bar, yes.
Barred: The Astor Room
When: 6:32pm, Saturday
I’ve been to The Astor Room a surprising amount of times for someone who doesn’t live in Astoria (and used to live in Carroll Gardens). I’ve brought my mom and grandma there for happy hour when they’ve visited and I think we ended up drunk and teary. I honestly don’t remember–two-for-ones will do that–but I have a photo of my grandma and one of the bartenders.
This Saturday I took the only open seat and happened to sit next to the only other woman who was solo and appeared to be over 40. She read as a regular, drinking white wine and eating hummus, and ordering another glass declaring, “I’m not feeling it. It’s weak.” I thought she might be Middle Eastern, long chestnut hair, dark features, shades of Amal Clooney, but turned out to be French.
This was her break from her husband and kids. She was supposed to be detoxing and not drinking wine or eating hummus. Her husband is on her about her weight. She used to cry about being a size 6 and now she is trying to get back there. We were both 5′8″. I am on a size 14/16 cusp, she was no more than a 10. I told her about when I was an exchange student for a month in France my host family said, “We knew you were an American at the train station because you were so big.” I weighed 50 pounds less than I do now at 17. And how I’m about to head to Seoul where clothing sizes are one size because it’s assumed all women are like 0-4.
I couldn’t help but ask how old she was. 45. I told her my age in exchange. She said, “You don’t look 44. Never tell anyone that you are.” So French.
Was I carded? There is no gatekeeper, and I can’t imagine any yahoos wandering into this basement.
Age appropriate? Definitely.
When: 6:47pm, Wednesday
Keens’ bar room was filled with the expected after-work scrum, but I’d under-estimated the tourist factor, both seemingly Japanese and of the baggy denim and white tennis shoes persuasion. The primary benefit to so many out-of-towners is that their politeness and hesitancy can work in your favor: assertiveness and lack of respect for strangers’ personal space is practically required to get your $14 Manhattan during peak hours.
The crew of short, shouty men nearest to me included members who were recently married and recently celebrating 40th birthdays. One thought he was “more of a jerk” than when he was younger while another thought he’d mellowed out. “I don’t just jump on anybody for the fuck of it,” he declared, thoughtfully. The merits of Wolfgang’s vs. Empire Steak House were also discussed, but more importantly, Keens ranked highly because there were fewer women present than at other steakhouses.
Of course, there is the reclining nude over the bar, a.k.a Miss Keens, and a bun-less, fry-free burger named for her, yet I still wouldn’t lump Keens into the same category as Los Pollitos III and its gendered cocktails.
Age appropriate? Yes. Dark, woody bars that haven’t been fashioned to look dark in woody in the last five years, are usually safe bets.
Barred: St. Mazie
When: Thursday, 6:55pm
What did I drink? House white that was something Italian, not the rioja blanca on the menu ($9), gin and tonic (?)
After nine months living a block from St. Mazie, I finally paid a visit only after getting locked out of my apartment for the first time. I had been under the impression that the bar was Spanish (there’s flamenco, right?) which didn’t appear to be the case at all. There were some young men at the bar, one in a trucker hat, drinking bottles of Brooklyn lager. I frequently walk past a sign on the corner advertising $1 oysters. No evidence of this special was listed inside. I’m sure that St. Mazie has something going for it–live music appears to be their thing–I just wasn’t able to unearth it on this visit.
Age appropriate? Mostly in atmosphere, not clientele. By 7:40pm two middle-aged-ish men had appeared, both with women who looked to be a good decade younger. It’s also quite possible that the guys just hadn’t aged well.