I’m here for some chicken and jojos because when someone talks about this place, that’s the thing they talk about. And Division street, where the Inn is located, is changing; apartment complexes built on top of storefronts, every bar a pub, every pub a gastro-something. I’m not sure how much longer a place like this will last, given the way the street is going. It’s dark and divey and a little claustrophobic. You want to sit at a table? You’re going to brush elbows with a stranger. Dinner is going to take about 30 minutes to make, so I get a Rogers pilsner and I wait.
This is a smooth pils, absent any hop nose or real bitterness on the end. Maybe just a touch of bitter, so the beer isn’t one dimensional but it’s still a pretty light and overall sweet beer.
My drive down Division was filled with a bustling, extremely active street. It wasn’t like this when I moved here in the 90s; Division had a sleazy element that lent the neighborhood a vibrancy that the shiny apartments don’t provide-and a grime that gave home to some of the weirdos. There was a slow contrast at first: nicer spots finding a place amongst the car repair joint, divey Thai restaurants and porn theater.
Now there isn’t much grime at all and where do the weirdos go?
An older guy chats me up for a bit; he’s drinking a Coke so he’s here for different reasons than I am. His name is Darryl and he’s got a red cap with a crest on it I don’t recognize, glasses and some low level weathering on his face, high level weathering on the back of his head, and he’s sitting right beneath one of the vents cooling the place.
We start with the Germany/Brazil soccer game on tv-they’re playing for the Olympic gold, and we talk about how or why the game doesn’t have broad appeal to an American mentality. Conversation shifts into the general state of Portland and how it has changed. We don’t come to much in the way of conclusions but we’re hoping that things will improve for the greater cityfolk.
He tells me about a bar near Great Falls, Montana, where everyone gathered when he was a kid. It was so central to the community, it even served as a grocery store. He tells me that it closed shortly after the owner’s daughter died in a car accident. I wonder what happened to the community, once one of their central locations ceased. After awhile, he wanders off to play poker for a bit and I return to the keyboard.
At the Inn fills up, the community tendrils start to form; I can almost see them. Gossamer looping around packs of people. The old guy I’m talking to: He’s new, he’s here to make some gossamer of his own. It’s kind of amazing and speaks to the relevance a place a place like this has to a neighborhood. Someone who is new to the area? They can come in and, if their intent is good, can find a way to be less alone, to connect to everyone else and that’s pretty nice.
I hope we get to keep places like this.