“You know,” the bartender says, “it’s like the second biggest beer in Portland,” as he brings me over a Tecate, wedge of lime resting on top.
I drink some without the lime while the bartender, the fellow who ordered the original Tecate and I talk housing in the area. He lives nearby in one of the new complexes, but he tells me it’s built like shit, because everyone is expecting the bubble to burst and to have empty apartments within 15 years.
“So they cut corners,” he tells me. The Tecate tastes like low rent Bud and I hold the lime up.
“You use this?”
“Yeah. Like Corona.”
“You squeeze it or just drop it in?”
“Some people squeeze it but I just drop it in.” So I drop it in and take another sip. The lime and the sparkle of the beer give me the impression I’m drinking something with a little more flavor. The lime juice around the mouth of the can fills my nose and overrides any other flavors. Probably keeps the beer from tasting skunked too, as I sip it on down. On the downside, the wedge occasionally clogs the mouth and I can’t drink my beer.
“But they’re planning on turning this stretch of 11th and 12th in to the new Pearl (district),” he tells me, and that’s pretty disheartening. Nothing wrong with the Pearl but it isn’t exactly known for it’s livability. It’s a little San Fran: overcrowded, houses with zero daylight between them and an expense to match. I wonder if there are dive bars there to try. Maybe I should be exploring that area of town too; I have more in common with the dive bars than I do with any high end spaces.
“But yea,” he says, “they’re going to tear down those old houses-I used to live in one, just over there (he gestures) and put up apartments.”
“What’s the condition of the houses?” I ask.
“Eh, the one I lived in was built in 1900 and was on stilts. It’s not even attached to a foundation, you know? So the banks won’t let you renovate it-the cost is too much. Just put up a new building.”
Hearing this is a little discouraging. We’re all going broke trying to live here, and nobody with the power to do so seems to want to making living here feasible, either via wages or housing though truly both are needed. Which just feels like a smaller metaphor for the bigger one we’re all living in and that just makes me feel more discouraged than I did before.
I don’t object to new apartments or multi-use houses: cities NEED those things if they want people to live there. I just don’t want the city to turn into a place where people aren’t living together, instead separated into little fiefdoms where we try not to touch the ‘unclean’.
As I’m packing up my stuff, I hear the bartender say, “Oh, he’ll never make it to 2020,” and I can only hope the bartender’s wisdom holds…but I wonder if the rest of us will.
I’m walking back to my car when I have to stop. There’s a metal shop, closed for business but the gate is open, this couch on a flatbed on the street, a group of people cluttered around in the dimming day. Mad Max: Fury Road is being projected onto a small screen. There’s chairs and another couch and a table.
I am always going to stop to watch a little Fury Road.
I ask a man what’s going on, he says his friend, who owns the shop, does this every so often. After Fury Road they’ll play some vintage smut and cartoons, then some other film. There’s a cooler full of beer and soda and people are just hanging around.
“You’re welcome to stay as long as you’d like,” he says.
So I watch the end of the movie.