At some point during the holidays, I suppose I must have realized that I was hitting bottom. I was working too damned much, I wasn’t sleeping, and only the sweet medicating nectar of distilled grains kept me grounded.
It’s been a particularly busy several months for me. While once I had aspired to be something, I found myself aspiring to be nothing. And judging from some of the drunken texts I deleted from my phone this week, I’ve succeeded admirably.
Last week I had off, for Thanksgiving and whatnot. My liver will never let me forgive it.
This was a very nice, small pub. Only a single tap, certainly one more for mixing drinks. I arrived wearing a leather motorcycle jacket and a beanie, and immediately sort of wished I was dressed like a Chicago gangster from the 1920s. But, alas, I was simply me.
I sat down and ordered a pint, the last in the keg. They had to change it, which meant cold beer was off the menu for a while. A charming, helpful staff that made me whiskey drinks and passed the time while I waited for company. I eventually had it, had a good night. This is an example of how one, I suppose, is supposed to drink. It was nice and in good company.
The next day, I had to meet someone from work. He likes to eat and drink, so we get along nicely. The BTU, my first time there, had a certain home-bar feel to it. It was nice being in a Chinese Restaurant Brewpub as I like all of those things.
I sat down and chatted with the friendly bartender while I had a local stout that was surprisingly alcoholic. My colleague came in and we moved to a table where we ate various rounds of some of the food selections. I won’t lie: I don’t remember that much. Moving pictures, a few tastes. Some topics of discussion. The beer, which was quite good.
That night there was a slumbering change of myself from colleague to friend; from friend to confidant; from confidant to slurring mess.
I do recommend the place. Though the next day, my colleague sat next to me and said, “Dude…When you drink, you get dark. I mean, you can be dark…But there is something dark inside of you that you need to be careful of.”
I have no Idea what he was on about…
223 SW Yamhill St, Portland, OR 97204
The Yamhill is an institution. In a town that brags of its dive bars, the Yamhill is one of the true actual dive bars. It has the kind of bathroom you’d never want to use, it’s mangy, there’s not a cocktail to be seen, and it’s cheap. During happy hour, $3 will get you a beer and a whiskey. It’s a shit beer and a shit whiskey, but what do you expect for $3? And sometimes, that’s all you need.
I had been nursing a bottle of Paddy’s all day while trying to get through my paperwork at home. I was wearing sweatpants and a shirt stained mustard in front of my computer, thinking about how I used to be someone and mouthing, “I love you,” to myself because Dr. Phil once said that you should do that whenever you think, “I hate myself.”
The Rogue called and asked if I was up for a beer. I was nearly out of whiskey and thought that it was probably be a good idea to go into public, so I consented. I went to my bedroom and found some pants that weren’t too dirty and and a shirt that smelled good enough from the pile of clothes on the floor. I had long since lost the will to put my clothes away in my dresser, or use a laundry basket. Or, you know, have female company over that may motivate me to do such a thing.
Anyway, I chose a leather jacket because…Well, look at the place…I and then hit the rails so that I could meet the Rogue on time.
Turns out that he was well late, but there was plenty to do at Yamhill. I watched a couple fight. I listened to a local talk about how he left some money in the pockets of his Marine Corps uniform. And I guess he didn’t get it back. I don’t know, do you have to give your pants back when you’re done with them in the Corps?
I also drank. The whiskey wasn’t as good as Paddy’s, but it gave some flavor to Pabst when had afterward.
Finally the Rogue entered and we sat across from each other and caught up. Something I like about the old rake is that he’s always good to compare stories with. He had quit his job at a local strip club when he found himself suddenly the middle man in a rather elaborate coke exchange.
He worked for a start up after that, but stormed off when he learned they might be disappointed by him going to brunch instead of working.
“I’m going to Japan,” the Rogue said.
“We’ve been in this town for nearly twenty years,” I pointed out, “If we do something, we need to strike now. The iron is already well cool to get anything done.”
“Maybe in Japan I’ll find an investor or something.”
I had just come back from Japan a little while ago and gave the Rogue what connections I could, which was precious little help. I explained how I would have liked to have gotten laid there, as someone in a bar once told me that it was profoundly easy for giant white men to get tail there. It turns out that it was a predictable lie. Who would have thought that a guy drinking cheap beer in a dingy pub wouldn’t be reliable?
The Rogue took a quick sip of his beer in the terrible light and I looked sadly at my empty glasses.
“Another round!” I said. And it was done. I explained to the Rogue what he already knew, being well travelled himself, and we exchanged hopes and dreams under the neon lights in the fading winter afternoon.
The bartenders were surely as always, but a good dive bar is going to have that. I’ve been there countless times, but was never a regular. The last time I had been at the Yamhill with the Rogue I had met a blond, a young thing, far too young for me. In fact, I found out later that she had a fake ID. The Rogue had just broken his heart and was chumming up to the blond’s friend—who was telling him how attractive she thought I was. I was trying too hard to fix my ego, and had the blond not been so drunk that I couldn’t ethically act, I think that me letting her insult me all night may have really gone somewhere.
Regardless, the Rogue and I decided that it was time to eat.
Egyptian Food Cart
The name of the food cart should probably tell you exactly what it is. I have no idea how authentic it is. But it is a pile of sheep and chicken on rice with a little bit of lettuce on the side so that you can pretend you’re being healthy. It’s pretty much exactly what a Goon and a Rogue needed at that point.
While waiting there for our food, we rehashed some of the last couple decades. We had both been born and raised in Oregon, but had both moved away for periods of time. Portland, the cultural capital, had been home for nearly the last two decades. We talked like most Portlanders do when coming across each other, remembering when it felt like you’d get stabbed for venturing to what is now one of the most ritzy areas of town. The downtown apartments we had dwelled in for around $500 a month, less if you had a roommate. The time we threw Kristine into a fountain, and our memories of throwing up in the old location of the VC and how the Roxy was much better when it was full of smoke. But they were conversations we had before, and conversations we would have again.
Part of my mind was back on the Yamhill, and the last time we had been there, and the girls with the fake IDs. “If there were a vote to lower the drinking age,” I said, “I would be absolutely against it.”
“Why?” The Rogue asked, his white breath slowly floating away into the night.
“I don’t really like hanging out with kids. If anything, I’d like to have bars with older people.”
“Yeah,” He agreed, though I followed his line to a young woman wearing a short cocktail dress and knee-high leather boots in the cold. “But the younger girls. They’re nice to look at.”
“They are,” I conceded, “But that’s not all of the attraction. There are a lot of very good looking women that are older than us.”
“Older women are hot. And they know what they like, and what we like,” The Rogue agreed. “I don’t know.”
A muse shuddered through me in the cold and I explained to both of us, “Young girls haven’t heard our lies that we thought were true. We haven’t broken their hearts and forced them to glue themselves back together with scar tissue. Older girls have forgiven us, even if they’re rightfully wary.”
The Rogue nodded, while reaching for the greasy white box being handed to him in the street, “Yeah, a young girl hasn’t been ruined by us yet.”
“They have the potential to allow us to atone for our past errors,” I said, getting my box from the vender, “When you’re with a young girl, you get to treat a nameless regret as she should have been treated; the girl can cure us of our guilt. An innocent can forgive us for the innocence we have taken.”
“But only an older girl can forgive us for the crimes that we’ve committed,” The Rogue said. “We get dark,” the Rogue said with a crooked grin.
“Don’t worry,” I replied with a wink, “I love myself more than anybody else could, and that’s all I need.”
By this time he was holding an identical greasy white box that was put into my hands. “Where are we going to eat this?”
“A bar,” I mused, “But we have to go somewhere that allows us to bring this in…”
213 SW Broadway, Portland, OR 97205
Bailey’s is, in many ways, the premier taproom. Situated on SW Broadway and Burnside, it’s well situated to hit Mary’s or the Schniz, depending on how you feel.
There was a good mix of regulars and tourists like ourselves as we came in and found a place in a corner. We ordered beer and ate the contents of the white boxes, watching as the meat and rice shrank and gave us more warmth.
The cold, the real cold, had just hit and people were happy to be inside and with each other. Thanksgiving was haunting us, and we all pretended it wasn’t as we drank and made merry.
There is nothing I’d rather do than drink with friends, and the Rogue is one of my best. Bailey’s ever rotating kegs of beer represent a good selection. There are a lot of beers advertised on the giant screens illustrated with kegs in various states of death. I chose a red and ended with something dark and deathly sweet with bitter alcohol.
The Rogue had to make his departure, and we talked about buying weed in stores now as we proceeded home.
“Listen,” The Rogue said, “You should come to Thanksgiving with my family. You’ve been there before, we’ll have some free food, some drinks…”
“I have a fine Thanksgiving planned,” I interrupted. “In Ireland we didn’t celebrate the arrival of the English Puritains. But I am an American, so I’d buy a bottle of Old Turkey 101. And that’s the dinner I’m making tomorrow for myself.”
“With all the trimmings?” the Rogue asked with excitement.
“Oh yes,” I said, “I have a red vermouth for Manhattans, and a glass for neat. I’m going to wake up by myself tomorrow. I’m going to make some hot toddies for breakfast until I have a nice buzz going. I’m going to play some music and work on things I need to do for work until I’m drunk, and then fall asleep in the glow of a whole bottle of whiskey racing through my system, sweating with a smile on my face not having talked to anyone all day.”
“Fuck,” The Rogue said, “I wish I were doing that for Thanksgiving.”
“I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Thanksgiving mostly went as I described it to the Rogue above. A few people called me and sincerely asked me to come over. But I had bigger and better plans.
I decided for my Hot Toddies in the morning I’d use Paddy’s, as that seemed better for a morning. I had a some toast, but recognized with some resignation after breakfast that the only thing that I had to eat for the entire day was a little bit of hummus and the heel from the loaf of bread.
“It’ll be fine,” I told myself, finishing off the bottle of Paddy’s, “The alcohol will get me through.”
The music got louder, the alcohol felt better. I went from sorting papers, to loudly singing songs while I scrawled upon the pages in front of me.
But, inevitably, the Old Turkey began to fade. I needed to get beer, at least, for my stomach and to pad things in case I ran out of the old 101.
I put on my coat and gloves, grabbed a walking stick as the mood struck me, and went out to get a nice meal.
Oh, that’s right. It’s Thanksgiving. Huh, I thought it seemed weird that it was closed.
The Wild Turkey still coursed through my blood. And it felt good.
I assured myself that the crummy non-union grocery store would have frozen pizzas and beer. It would pair well with the whiskey and stale bread I had earlier in the day.
Motherfucker is closed too?
Alright…7-11 is going to be open for sure…Hold up, what’s that open sign behind the 7-11…
I was saved. It’s difficult to describe Skinn, but I’ve heard it called, “The worst strip club I’ve ever been to.” So you can look forward to that if you want to go. It’s small, tacky, and the dancers aren’t the best. However, the service is nice and I generally have a good enough time.
Regardless of what other people say, I finally found a nice Thanksgiving establishment was open. I went stumbling into the bar, my stomach full of 101 and dutifully pumping it steadily through my veins, keeping me nice and high. Surprisingly, it was mostly lonely older men in the club.
I sat down and ordered some drinks, one eye closed tight so the room wouldn’t spin when the dancer moved.
Next to me was an old man reading a book. I spoke to him briefly. His son and grown up while he was away in jail and he wanted to make a go of it. He was making an attempt to read what his son read so that they could talk about it and get to know each other. It was a nice family oriented thing to do in the strip club on Thanksgiving.
I made friends with the bartender and we chatted a bit. She was having a hard time as, weirdly, most of the staff had suddenly become sick on Thanksgiving. Bad luck for her.
She basically asked me to do a little bouncing while she emptied the lotto machines that were being well stocked by a few gentlemen that seemed to be having a good time.
In exchange, or maybe I paid for it—it’s all a little foggy—I got a Thanksgiving dinner. Thanksgiving was looking up.
I stayed for a few more rounds, but thought it was time to be getting home in case I missed anything.
I knew that my neighbors were all gone. They were off with families, watching football with a wink while children stumbled across distant floors and everyone chatted with loved ones.
I was listening to The Irish Rovers as loud as I could, whiskey bottle in one hand, mouth half full of Rice Crispy treat; my shirt long since gone, leaving me in nothing but a silk robe and a beer bottle over my cock. I was thrusting my hips, pretending that I was ejaculating beer foam on to the floor while yelling, “Agus fagaimid suid mar ata se!” As loud as I could.
I woke up a little perplexed at first, then in a panic as I thought I might have to go to work, and as the afternoon light seeped through my blinds, I remembered that I wasn’t working at all.
I got out of my bed, stumbled to the bathroom, and then went to prepare myself a hangover cure before it caught up with me. The best thing you can get for a hangover, of course, is Phó. And there was one in walking distance.
But that meant walking.
The next best thing as a shower is hot as you can take it and a lot of tepid tea. Let the tea seep hot, take your shower, and then drink it at room temperature while prepping more.
I walked over to start the kettle so the tea could cool while I showered. Right there, next to the kettle, was a full glass of whiskey. It wasn’t 101, this was some of the good stuff that I got into after the 101 was gone.
It would be a shame to waste, so I threw it into the mug and then added the hot water. The alcohol coursed through me, shaking the cells that were slacking awake. It was another day to be wasted.
WaЯRen gave me a call. He was done with Thanksgiving and ready to really live it up. He dropped by and I offered him one of the beers that was left over while I tried to make a new kind of martini with whatever I had left at my bar.
“How as last night?” He asked.
“Great,” I said, sitting down and admiring my giant cup of gin and vermouth substitute.
“Jesus,” WaЯRen said, standing up, “Holy fuck…It reeks like someone spilled beer all over the floor. Look, it’s even wet right here…”
“Huh,” I said, taking a long disinterested sip. “This is a basement. It must be leaking.”
He was going to go off and see his lady-friend and I asked for a ride on his way there.
I arrived at Juke and V-Day’s house with a twelve pack in order to get started. When I arrived, Catch-Valve was already there looking through a magazine while Juke kept an eye on ESPN and while fiddling away at his computer. I distributed beer and then asked Juke if he wanted to have a smoke.
We had a long standing tradition of smoking tobacco like old people. He loved his cigars, and I smoked a pipe.
“I want in on this,” Catch Valve said. It was enough to get V-Day excited about it too.
So we blew our afternoon like it was 1956. V-Day and Catch Valve chain-smoked cigarettes inside while Juke and I filled the room with the thick smoke of unfiltered tobacco while we drank cans of beer and chewed the fat.
WaЯRen and his Lady-Friend, let’s call her, “Lady-Friend,” came by as we were finishing smoking. Really, smoking was partially the pretense for drinking, so I suppose I should say we were finishing drinking. And by that I mean, “we ran out of booze.”
Catch-Valve excused himself home while the rest of us decided to go find food/drink.
The County Cork is one of my favorite pubs. It’s one that I don’t go to as often as I should. On the one hand, it’s nostalgic for me. I have great memories of being in Cork, and I hope to return to visit this summer.
However, it’s a classy bar anyway. The barstaff is friendly, the food (especially the shepherd’s pie) is amazing, and they have Murphy’s on draft. Which goes a long way as it’s not something you find easily in this town. The place is also clean while retaining a bit of the Irish pub feeling.
To stay on theme a bit more than I have in recounting this bender, I should underline that I was the only singleton here. Juke and V-Day had each other’s backs, WaЯRen and Lady-Friend were tight with each other and cooing. I was eye-fucking the waitress and asking for more pints long after it had ceased to be fashionable at the table.
To advance the story a bit, we ended up leaving the pub eventually.
WaЯRen and I decided to break and go to a few different bars that I won’t worry too much about as they were standard haunts.
But what really happened was something of an emerging pattern. For the rest of that week I’d go to bars and close them out. Bars I can no longer name or remember.
And the next thing I know I’m waking up in my reeking room piecing the night together until I come to the part where I’m talking to someone at the bar. The lack of control, the inability to remember, and above all chemical in alcohol breaking down haunts me.
“I love myself,” I chanted to myself as pieces of the stinging memories came back in the shower.
But now the bender has ended. Work has returned. And now the bender will be nothing but memories on my beer stained carpet and the regrets I keep in the nameless bars.