The Local: 39th St Sports Pub

“Gonna walk around and drink some more”- the Hold Steady

You know, Terminal Gravity’s IPA has a crispness at the end that works for this beer. Still quite bitter but the finish is lightened by the crisp quality. 

The 39th Street Sports Pub. Or Tom’s Bar. The bartender just ran out after a customer she knew to ask him a favor and give him a hug. It’s a human moment in a bland space.

So I’ve gone local for the next series. After a year of needing transport coupled with some recent thoughts I’ve had on staying local, I decided that the thing to do next would be to go to bars that were within walking distance of my house. I’m quite fortunate in that I live near Portland’s infamous ‘stumble zone’ where there are ten places to get a drink in a three block area, not counting the liquor store. So that ought to keep me busy. 

In addition, walking distance for me isn’t quite walking distance for most other people. I like to walk, especially at night and so there are more bars within my walking range than what most people might consider walkable. Either way, I reckon this ought to keep me busy for a little while. I probably won’t have the range of beers to try as I did before because even in Portland, sports bars are dominated by more well known beers but I’ll do my best to mix the drinks up as much as the spaces I visit. 

Oh, and there will still be bad photos. 

Tom’s bar makes good use of its length, with the three pool tables at one end and four televisions around and above the bar, it’s the kind of place you could almost play catch in. Surprisingly, there doesn’t seem to be a scent here. Odd because it’s connected to a restaurant so I’d think there would be food cooking but perhaps everyone here is thirsty instead. 

It’s spacious though and I like that. There’s room to spread out and stretch your legs and you don’t have to worry about bumping into someone at a table while you’re shooting pool. 

Sadly, there isn’t much personality to this bar. It has that inoffensive lighting and all the traditional neon signs. One Ducks schedule up, Coors Light sports flags and lights emblazoned with the Camel logo hang around and on a night like tonight, where it isn’t crowded, there isn’t a motivation to sit near strangers to absorb how they give the bar some zing. The TVs encourage absorbsion into the sports world and  the only way someone could have a semi-private conversation would be if it was loud enough to cover the noise from the next table. At that point, though, it’s loud enough that you’re practically shouting anyway so that kind of defeats the purpose. 

I suppose that’s why I’m a bit down on this space; it is devoid of personality or a point of view. Why aren’t there awesome posters on the wall, memorabilia, or little statuettes of victory? Is there a team this place hopes to see win, hopes to see in crushing defeat? 

This is the problem with most sports bars, I find. I could be anywhere in this country once I’m inside this bar. Arizona, Ohio, Minnesota; it wouldn’t matter. I could be in the middle of butt fuck Egypt and it would have the exact same decorations. Sure, there’s some local color with the presence of some misfits at a nearby table, NW style outsiders in puzzle-piece layers and flannel but after that? Nothing. What’s the point of going to your local if it doesn’t give you that local buzz? 

I’m suddenly tired, in the ‘whoa I could use a nap’ way. At 7:30, it’s a little late for a nap so perhaps it’s just time to go home.

4 thoughts on “The Local: 39th St Sports Pub”

  1. I like the new feature. That’s the thing about alcohol, it’s not just the drink itself, but the culture that surrounds it – even if that is bland, strip-mall sports bar culture. Looking forward to the next post.

    1. Thanks.

      In Portland I’m lucky enough that both-the drink and the culture-are ingrained and interesting so hopefully this will give me some new topics to pontificate about.

  2. I put on the Hold Steady song (using and it made for good listening while reading your blog. It also was somewhat appropriate for my adventure last night that actually involved Bailey’s. Anyway, glad you are exploring the local watering holes and I hope you find some good ones, but I also hope you get out to Bailey’s sometime too.

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