I’ve gone to Bailey’s because it’s the new year and I’d like to start things right. I don’t dedicate a great deal of attention to tradition, superstition but I still think that the rote activities I engage in can give me a stronger place to start from, mentally, and that can make all the difference.
I go in and sit down; the gentleman on my right is on the phone so the man on my left is the only option. He’s ordering as I come in and I overhear, “Caldera lager,” so I catch Geoff’s eye and signal for another. He smiles and then says “I thought you had to ask them,” and thus I explain to him and the man whom I’ve been eavesdropping on that I was going to explain but this was just too easy.
I shouldn’t have worried. The fellow next to me is loquacious. He’s a field engineer in the auto industry and he’s been to 49 of 50 states. At sixteen he had earned enough money from his own business to take a five month road trip around the U.S. and he saw Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington. He’s a Corvette guy. He got food poisoning in Egypt, like I did, only he didn’t get it as bad and it didn’t hit him until he went to Paris. He didn’t like Minnesota much and is amused but seems slightly rueful of a Midwest attitude where they just bury the bad things instead of trying to be more green.
He had good parents, who took him all over, instilled in him some wanderlust and made him an engineer’s guy. He remodeled his house and made space for them to move in when they were elderly, caring for them until they died, both of them in their eighties. I tell him that I feel like sympathizing for him is inadequate, because it seems like they had quite a life together and he nods and agrees: “They had a great life,” he says.
And not once does the gleam go out of his eye. It’s the first time he’s come back to Portland in 34 years-he can remember it exactly-and he talks with the relish of gratitude that someone who is truly grateful for the life she or he has had can bring. He’s back on business and seems to enjoy it as much as he would if he was on vacation.
He tells me about his wife and his dog, in that order. He tells me about living back east and doesn’t sugarcoat what he loves and doesn’t about Tennessee. He tells me a great story about attempting to teach his wife about the evils of gambling…and then hitting an $1,000 pot. “I still hear that one occasionally,” he says in the manner of someone remembering both the folly and wonder of being a couple, ” ‘you gonna teach me about the evils of gambling now’?”
He smiles a lot and I eventually ask him how long he’s in town for and he says about a week, so I give him a laundry list of places to try; Deschutes, Widmer’s Gasthaus, the Lucky Lab, Horse Brass, Hawthorne Hop House, Beermongers. It’s not exactly high culture but it’ll show him some of the great spots in the city. He may not get back for awhile and I want to suggest as many places as I can.