I sit down at Bailey’s for the first time in three weeks and order an old ale, chatting briefly with the owner who has to bow out to serve a rush of customers; girls and guys who ask about styles, kinds of beer available, where they should go next, can they try this or that or the other? Another person asks if they ever considered selling coffee here, and the owner replies yes, but someone else would have to do it as he doesn’t consider himself to be a barista. I cringe internally at the thought and focus on my drink.
Old Humbug II has a slightly sour nose, which resurrects itself about midway through the drink. Surrounded by the sour are roasted flavors of sugar; caramel and chocolate, but less sweet and more burnt.
It’s nice to be back where I started. I’m sitting at the bar, which I don’t get to do too often. I like sitting at the bar, though because I get to see the place in action, both patrons and bartender in their social dance. I miss sitting at the bar, having developed a taste for it at Europa in Spokane. When I was a young drinker my friend A.Ho and I became regulars there, frequent visitors who knew all the bartenders by name (there were only two) and fueling ourselves on cheap beer and cheesesticks during happy hour. Cheesesticks weren’t the typical kind; they were more like mini-pizzas without tomato sauce. We’d get red sauce and ranch dressing to dip them in, and drink Alaskan amber ales and tequila (for him) and Jager (for me) and do the guy talk thing. Europa was damn near perfect for this; no televisions to distract you, the music at a level low enough to allow conversation, loud enough to obscure the nearby tables. It was a place where I could be found, and bring friends to for a good time, but not quite popular enough to destroy your sense of quiet privacy.
When I moved to Portland, I tried to find a bar like that here but in vain. Some places just cannot be replicated. They exist in a certain space and time, and then some kind of glacial change comes along. I try to go back to Europa when I visit Spokane but it’s not quite the same for me now; most likely the glacial change has occurred within me, but it also feels different in a way I cannot quite pin down.
And Portland for all its charms and fantastic places, does not have that build in friendly group of people for me. I have friends now, but our interests spread out; going to a bar, sitting down, and spending a few hours doing nothing but chilling out and eating bread and cheese does not appeal to people the same way it once did.
Or so I think.
As I begin to wrap things up, the owner of Bailey’s comes back to our conversation. Eventually the subject turns to the Transformers movie, and he lets me rant about that a little bit. He tells me that because he went into the movie expecting it to suck, when it didn’t totally suck, he was at least happy about that.
OK, so there aren’t cheesesticks here. I’ll live.