When I first moved to Portland, the location that North now occupies was a trading card store. Sports cards, Magic the Gathering, Pokemon, the whole range. It was nearby and a welcome relief to have someplace that offered something familiar to me in a city where I didn’t know anyone.
It went out of business and eventually became a juggling supply store. The juggling supply store was in business for years. Really. Way to long, given the number of people who might need juggling supplies. I always thought that the store was a front for the mob during this time. No particular reason, except that it appeals to the imagination. A mob storefront that sells bowling pins. There’s an absurdist story in there somewhere.
That store went the way of all juggling, balls dropped and the whole storefront area underwent a transformation, a massive facelift, really. In it’s place came the North, which I was an early patron of….and which turned me off pretty quickly. Too dark, seating arrangements all kattywampus, and worst of all…reggae music.
I really hate reggae music. Yes, yes, Peter Tosh and Bob Marley were sonic innovators, they stood for something, their music was a force for social change amongst other things.
Don’t care. Every single reggae song uses the one-drop, with the same tempo, women singing backup/harmony, and is, to me, boring to the point of destruction. At least heavy metal is annoying, if you don’t like it. (It can only be boring to people who love heavy metal and recognize musicians halfassing it.)
I had to get outta there.
But places change and grow. Seats are changed and arranged. Lights are…still dark, but more are added to allow for pool and a luminescent forest animals. Reggae is removed from the jukebox and replaced with Portland style hipster selections; Duran Duran, Sleater-Kinney, Decemberists, Black Sabbath, Solomon Burke, and so on.
And I never had a problem with the beer selections. They’ve had a Ninkasi beer on tap for as long as I’ve been coming here, usually supported by Deschutes’ Mirror Pond and PBR, with a few random selections. I’m sipping on a Double Mountain kolsch right now and once again, they have knocked it out of the park.
As people wander in, usually in groups but even solo, I get it.
It’s a neighborhood bar. People seem to know each other, even when they don’t. They casually share tables if there’s not enough room. They’re here to shoot pool, watch the Blazers and hang out with each other. The TV is loud enough but can be easily ignored. An old guy drinking Hamm’s in the can steps outside, puts his hood up and lights a cigarette. It’s the way I like winter in Portland; steady rain but not ferocious, wet without soaking, night without gloom.
The bartender is delightfully awkward, someone who has found confidence in her Olive Oyl look and decided to totally rock it. A less confident woman would elicit pity but she is smiling and joyous to watch, beautiful in part because she has decided she is. A good lesson for anyone; we decide to be who we are, and it shows.