I sat exhausted inside an urban OTA joint. It was my first visit. I’d just finished an energetic shift volunteering at a food pantry, There, I witnessed almost indescribable human suffering and endurance.
What a joint! Cinder block construction. Old Trail Blazer photos. A photograph of a presumably dead former party animal and patron. High tables. Rock and roll playing. Dark, but not too dark to write, but I didn’t feel like writing.
A tattooed, scantily clad, female and borderline OTA bartender greeted my warmly and filled my order for a craft malt liquor. It came served in a chilled glass. This made me remark that I couldn’t remember the last time a bar served beer in chilled glass. She laughed and said, “We like to care a bit more.”
I made my way to the outdoor patio. The bartender warned me there were some real characters out there, but they didn’t bite.
The patio was clouded with cigarette smoke and I took a seat in the rear to avoid it. I overheard five OTA women discuss their various man travails while drinking doubles of something.
I tried imagining what their men looked like, but failed. According to the drunken women, they were all drunken losers but they loved them anyway. I think there’s a country song about that, and if there isn’t, there should be.
After a spell, it got too noisy, so I went back inside and sat at a table in a corner that afforded me a maximum vantage point for any OTA hi jinks that might occur. At the moment, they weren’t any going on, but there were two loud OTA women hitting the sauce hard at the bar, so the prospects seemed good.
I sipped my beer and my mind drifted to to all my recent encounters with the homeless people of Portland. They continue to astound me. I keep documenting them, but frequently wonder why. Why not try and write something commercial? Why not try and get rich? Why not put my ass in chair and go for broke?
A strangely shaped OTA man in a pointy stocking cap entered the joint and took a seat.
One of the OTA women at the bar, a dirty blonde, immediately gave him the business, calling him a pussy, because he wasn’t drunk yet. Then she bought him a double vodka and pineapple and told him to get on it.
A beer distributor entered the joint with his tablet and went to work. The dirty blonde immediately informed him that she was now working at a bisexual bar and that he should visit and see her make out with another woman. He said he thought she had a boyfriend. That was last week, she said.
The women ordered more drinks. I could tell they wanted to ratchet up the vibe. It was almost two in the afternoon on a week day so why not?
The next 15 minutes was classic OTA theater with the dirty blonde in the starring role. It was raw and it was raunchy and I loved every profane minute of it. Her utter debauchery delighted me and got my mind off the earlier human misery I’d witnessed at the food pantry. The whole crew made me laugh.
It was time to go. I got up and walked up to the bar to return my glass. I plopped down a $5 bill on the counter and thanked the bartender for the giddiness of the joint. It was a tip to the house. As I turned away the dirty blonde roared something toward me about buying her a drink. I just smiled and said next time. And I would be back.
I was nearly at my car when someone called to me. I turned around and it was the dirty blonde. She had followed me out of the joint! I walked up to her.
She said I should come back inside for another drink. She’d buy. I said that was a nice gesture but I had to go. She smiled and said okay. Then she drifted away.
Back in the car, I laughed some more. Had I just been asked out? By an OTA?