Not too long ago, I passed an Oregon Tavern Age joint in the big city. How did I know it was an OTA joint? The cheap plywood siding painted turd brown and the hand painted sign on the siding, that’s how.
At the time, I was too busy to stop, but made a mental note to return.
A couple weeks later, at four in the afternoon on a Sunday, I walked inside the joint and was greeted by a blast of air conditioning. The interior was spacious, one big room with tables in the middle and gambling machines and video games soldiering the walls.
I ordered a craft malt liquor at the bar. A hunched male bartender, classic OTA, amiable, with slicked back gray hair, served me. I took a seat and surveyed the room for clues. Clues to what? One never knows in OTA country. I whipped out my notebook and thought about writing.
“Detroit Rock City” by Kiss played on the jukebox.
Two OTAs, a man and woman, sat together at the bar and drank double screwdrivers. Their cozy demeanor suggested they were a couple. Cozy seemed an inadequate adjective. They had their hands all over each other! It unnerved me momentarily, then I got over it. They were going for it. Why not?
I caught a drift of their conversation. He had to go to work at 3:00 a.m. at a gas factory, so why not have another double screwdriver? His girlfriend, too. The bartender whipped them up in a jiffy and they continued their groping.
The joint’s decor was unforgettable except for a painting of Scooby Doo drinking a martini on the wood paneling. Whatever inspired this masterpiece of OTA art was lost to the Canadian mists of time.
I also noticed an old wall telephone, red in color. It was one of those ancient lines that used to connect directly to a cab company. I would have given anything to listen in to one of those call, say, from 1978.
The drink special was a tequila sunrise Jello shot. $1. The food special was a shrimp basket. $10.99. I imagined consuming that combination and my stomach rumbled.
An obscure Cure song came on.
I looked over at the bar and saw a monitor showing four different views of the parking lot and side streets. This being the summer of 2021, no doubt I’d soon see someone get shot. That wouldn’t go down to well with a craft malt liquor. Shit scotch would be more appropriate.
A poet was on her way to join me. That somehow didn’t seem poetic in OTA country, but sometimes strange things do happen, like when an OTA Trump supporter concedes that Joe Biden doesn’t have a secret weather machine in the basement of the White House that he can mastermind to the benefit of the liberal agenda on climate change.
A country song came on. I’d never heard it before. It had a lyric that went, “Sheila, pour me another tequila” and I liked the sound of that.
The OTA couple at the bar were sneaking kisses and copping feels. They were a goddamn country song themselves except they lived in a big city. Maybe the poet could write a poem about that!
I jotted some nonsense in my notebook. I looked at the couple again. They were kissing! I don’t want flagrant displays of public affection by OTAs in OTA country! I’d rather watch an OTA take a bowel movement.
Wait! Amend that. Why can’t they make out and flaunt it? Why just kiss? Why not bend her over the stool and really get it on? Why not give the son-of-bitch a hand job? The world is coming to the end, you know?
The bartender came out from behind the bar. He was fishing kimchi out of jar with his fingers and eating it. How do I know it was kimchi? It said so on the jar.
“Honky Tonk Women” by the Rolling Stones came on.
The bartender was eating kimchi with his hands, an OTA couple was making out at the bar and drinking double screwdrivers, and Mick Jaggar was singing about a gin-soaked barroom queen, snorting coke and getting laid.
Was I losing my mind?
The door to the joint opened. In walked a gnarled elderly man with a cane wearing a blue ball cap two sizes too large for his noggin. The bartender and the OTA couple greeted him with enthusiasm and called him Old Jack. I took a gander of him. He was 200 years past OTA.
He was told he was looking good.
“I’m always looking good,” he said.
He was asked why he hadn’t been around.
“I’ve been getting shitfaced at home,” he said.
He was told there had been concern for his welfare in his absence.
He grunted and sat on a stool at the bar.
The bartender asked if he wanted the usual.
Old Jack said, “Yes, the one and one.”
Seconds later Old Jack was drinking Jack Daniels Red on the rocks and chasing it with a pint of Budweiser.
“All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan came on.
The poet entered the bar. She was carrying a jar of flowers. The OTA couple were swapping tongues; Old Jack was sipping whiskey; the bartender was swigging pickle juice from the jar of kimchi.
And yes, I was losing my mind.