On The Rail: Watertrough Saloon

There’s hockey on the TV and country music on the juke; I should’ve brought my friend Janine here when she came to visit. She’d’ve felt right at home. Next time, I guess.

Damn, that Stone IPA tastes straight up good. I apologize for thinking a dive bar might not care much about the beer but this has been served to me like it came right out of the bottle. Pine nose on a slide right into similar foresty bitterness. The glass is served to me by a tall blonde in a babydoll Ramones T. She’s got no hips and a horsefish-looking tattoo I can’t entirely make out along her right ribcage. She asks me how my day is going and I lie to her; I ask about hers and she tells me she went to Sacajawea Park and could see Mt St Helens and Mt Hood because it’d been such a nice day.

A family of four walks by: I smile through the big new window at the little girl holding her father’s hand, not enough time to wave at the baby on her mother’s back. They hustle past the dive bar, not a place for families or little girls. I don’t blame ’em, I hope they have better things to do this evening.

I scope out the place; it’s changed since I was here last, notably the pool tables. They have a cool blue felt and polished wood finish-between that and the etched window with the bar’s logo on it, clearly some money has recently been dropped into this place. Sure, the carpet is frayed and lumpy and for some reason the clientele hasn’t increased but Hawthorne still needs bars like this.

Dive bars safeguard the soul of neighborhoods in ways that other institutions don’t. You can be anyone and so long as you’re civil and the money is green, you are welcome. Image doesn’t matter. Drinking goes way back in humanity and hiding out maybe even moreso. The fact that I have to endure a couple making out next to me on the rail is just a cherry on the sundae.

“Is it true,” a woman suddenly asks me, “is this one of the older parts of town? ‘Cause the house I’m staying in was built in 1911.” She seems to be in a black tracksuit, her hair pulled back into a ponytail and she tilts her chin up to give the wrinkles in her face her a touch of nobility. She’s here from Montana on a houseshare, her three kids having moved to Portland.

That’s about all I get out of her but it’s a dive bar, man. Small talk, then go your way.

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