Oregon Tavern Age: Birthday

I occupied my usual back table at Jake’s Place, and occasionally entertaining, occasionally desultory OTA joint in Portland.

Today, on my birthday, it was decidedly desultory.

Earlier in the day, I’d spent a pleasant time with my parents and talked on the phone to some great friends who wished me well.

In Jake’s Place I whipped out my journal, sipped a local IPA, and began to record my birthday thoughts.

I faced the bar. The pinball machines stood behind me. The Batman 60s television series game was making a holy racket, but at least part of the cacophony was the sound of Julie Newmar’s voice as Catwoman.

Four OTA men and one OTA woman sat at the bar. She was drunk and blonde and engaged in semi argument with a man who was massaging her shoulders. It was apparent they knew each other. Another man at the bar interceded and asked massage man to stop. He did not.

Things were beginning to ratchet up. Was I, after 25 years in OTA country, finally going to see my first fight? I didn’t want to. Everyone carries a firearm these days, and I didn’t want to have to hit the deck on my birthday. The carpet in here hasn’t been cleaned since Gerald Ford was president.

The woman calmed the situation and the two men backed away to play video slots and a pinball machine. The woman turned her attention to another OTA man at the bar, two stools down. He was reading a fat novel illuminated by a light contraption plugged into his phone. He was eating a chili dog and drinking a beer, too.

He and the woman got into an argument. I only caught whiffs of their conversation, but it was clear to me she soliciting him in some weird way to take her to his home where he would pay her for sex. They obviously had done this before. Perhaps she was the joint’s quasi hooker or sex worker as they’re called today.

They argued for several minutes and then he decamped for a table. The woman saw another OTA down the bar and slurred out to him. He didn’t answer and watched college basketball on TV.

All of this was going down while Nineties rock was playing, Collective Soul, Green Day, The Offspring. Etc.

The woman turned toward around and looked my direction. Sweet OTA Jesus! She wasn’t going to come over?

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw her seeing me writing in my journal.

This strange sight must have dissuaded her possible solicitation because she turned back around and began playing on her phone.

Seeing someone writing in public can threaten like that. It didn’t use to be that way.

I’ve lived long enough to see the transformation and I don’t like it at all, although it did come in handy on my birthday.