Tag Archives: alameda

New To Me: Starday Tavern

I thought I was going to Bob & Alice’s Tavern but one of the first things I learn upon entering is that I am not.  A message inside written on a neon whiteboard says ‘Welcome to the Starday tavern‘. So despite a huge sign still attached to the building telling the world otherwise, there has been a name change.

Of my possible selections of beer, only the Alameda Klickitat pale is appealing. With a tiny jolt, I realize that this place is the first place I’ve been to in a long time that has had a truly poor beer selection. Even Foster Gardens was better. Think about that for a second.

I’m not especially fond of my beer; it’s a basic pale bit there’s a bitter aftertaste that follows me all the way home. Pale ales should not do this.

As I ponder this beer in what is probably one of the narrower bars in Portland, I take in the scenery. Small groups of people chatting around tables; there’s a gap-toothed man being smooched on the temple by a white haired woman. At the round table behind me, a man in a black t gestures to his tablemates about something, his hands are filthy, the kind that exist when you’ve been shoveling asphalt all day.

And this is the most isolated I have felt so far at any bar in this series. It is possible that my presence is filed under ‘active indifference’ by everyone here. Hard to say but for a place where people seem to know each other, a stranger coming in might seem to be noteworthy. Not so.

I don’t mind this; getting too much attention is not my idea of a good time (mostly) but I have to admit that I’m sitting here and I’m bored. There doesn’t seem to be much in the way of distinction at the Starday. “Me and Bobbie McGee” was playing when I entered, now it’s just country music that could be sung by any white dude.  The TV shows baseball and NASCAR. Is this a country bar? I don’t know but I can tell you this: It is bland and dull.

Right up until I leave, when I overhear this conversation:
“When have you ever, ever, ever, seen a urinal with a door?”
“I think there should be one!”

Can’t help but agree.

New To Me: Spot 79

My first reaction upon entering the Spot was not a positive one.

There were televisions everywhere and I really do mean everywhere. I took a seat at a booth that had a television mounted on the wall, just like every other booth in the area, the faint sounds of  When the Levee Breaks in the background, Fox Sports Speed is on the TV.

Places like this are akin to foreign countries for me. I don’t know anyone who leaves their house in order to watch television at the table. Why would you DO that?

The background noise for my Alameda IPA includes some ‘redneck’ on Fox Sports Speed, close captioned, nattering on about how excited he is to see a Lotus and a Mustang race each other. I feel like I am through the damned looking glass here.

About this time, I look around; everyone else is smiling and engaged. There isn’t a smartphone diversion anywhere to be seen, except by me, taking notes. Everyone else is engaged in the sporting events and with the people at their table or along the rail. I see someone giving out hugs as she leaves the bar. They’re laughing and clearly having fun. It’s pretty easy to contrast this with Bailey’s, where the scene is also filled with people but those people are often letting the outside world tap into their table conversations.

I make no judgment on either scene: Televisions are their own intrusion on the world but by god, people here look happy. I’m going to tell you (or them) that the Spot is all messed up because I feel out of place?

My girlfriend reaches up to touch the power light on the TV; it suddenly turns off. We both go wide eyed in surprise and start looking for an actual power button. In the back of my mind, though, I’m also thinking: well at least you have the option to turn it off, if you want to.

She finds the sensor to get the TV back on. Whew. Always prefer to leave things as we found it.

“They’ll change the channel for you, if you like,” a man with a pepper-salt mustache, a trucker cap, and a navy blue tshirt says to us from a near table, leaning forward. He points to the top of the TV: “They have boxes for each one; you can set it to whatever you like, just let somebody know.”

We thank him but we were just trying to figure out how it worked. He smiles, keeping an eye on the television “The Mustang won, so we’re all good.” Everyone enjoys a brief chuckle.

And a few minutes later, a waitress (flagged down by our helpful patron) asks us if we want to change the channel. We politely tell her no, everything is fine.

And it pretty much is.

7pm The Suck

After the past two weeks of quiet nights, we are back to the regular crowded house, with reggae and house music dominating the atmosphere. It’s almost enough for me to request that the back corner get revamped into a tiny card and writing space just for me. I’m not here quite enough to justify that but a man has got to have a dream. I can only take so much unts-unts-unts before I start thinking I’m in eurodisco hell and comprehending why any music with guitar is better than better than non-guitar music.

Papa Noel ale

I’m sipping on Alameda’s Papa Noel, again two weeks after the fact. It’s remarkably easy to drink, with a loose chocolate-caramel vibe.

At the table to my left, three men are arguing about the myth of President Regan. Loudly.

Man, the 80’s fucking sucked. This is the loudest thought in my brain, as they deconstruct how brilliant a President Mr. Regan was, while also insisting Carter was an asshole and…ugh.

Man, the 80’s fucking sucked. Middle school, high school (which all good humans despise), the greediest greed ever starting up and some of the worst goddamn pop music known to man.The girlfriend even commented on this, listening to mix tapes I made during the era, because that was all we had to play while moving and organizing the house.

“Your taste was awful,” she told me while listening to a song whose lyrical content could be summed up with the statement: ‘We play rock on the radio’.

“Sometimes,” I replied. “I mean…it was the 80’s. Nearly everything that I liked that was really good wasn’t popular, or was popular 10 years ago. Everything else was just filler but I didn’t think I had much choice, then.”

“Man, the 80’s were awful for you,” She didn’t know the half of it.

Still, I made it. Most of us did and there’s always something good about surviving.

Half way through the Papa Noel and I’m reconsidering my position; this ale seems a little thin. It doesn’t taste bad but if it was bulked up just a hair in the mouthfeel, I’d probably promote this beer from decent to really good.

I was also tempted by Gilgamesh’s Vader because part of growing up in the 80’s is knowing who your villains are. Glad I dodged that one though: I got a sip from a friend and it smells and tastes like freshly used coffee grounds. To hell with that.

That’s a pretty dissatisfying beer sampling for the night. I think I may have to try another in order to recoup my losses. I have choices: something better is certainly out there. Wish me luck.

The Local: Whiskey Soda Lounge

Now this is a rarity; a bar in the area I’ve never been to and have no idea what to expect from. I’m at the Whiskey Soda Lounge, which as the name suggests, better versed in the realms of the spirit. It’s likely that I have chosen unwisely with my drink; maybe this place is meant to serve people tall, thin glasses of bloody marys. Still, I can get an Alameda Black Bear Stout so no complaints.

I must admit, I almost decided against beer when I saw there were house made drinking vinegars. That’s a novelty I’ve not experienced and more than I love beer, I quest for the new. There is something about this place that doesn’t quite gel though. ‘Vintage’ lampshades featuring asian stars from the 60s, with a run of music that feels more jarring than harmonious in a lounge prepares me more for the setting of a drug-induced haze and less for soothing drinks.

The place is very, very clean and equally uncomfortable. It serves food but doesn’t smell like food. Steel barstools, old chairs that saw their best days at a gradeschool, every table wrapped in vinyl tablecloth either to hide the inconsistency of the tables, or the damage done to them, though likely both. The large windows at the front let the light in, but the seat backs have been cut so low that I cannot both lean back and comfortably reach for my drink. Is this meant to improve my posture? Force me to lean in on the table and engage with the person across from me?

I don’t know. The WSL doesn’t offer much privacy for its patrons and there are small, tall, circular tables in the middle of the place that don’t have any chairs whatsoever. Which makes sense; the place would be too crowded otherwise but these lonely spots feel more disquieting than comfortable.

Now I wish I was facing the other direction; instead of looking at the wall-o-hol and into the kitchen, out, onto the street and looking into the night.

This place was spun off from the Pok Pok; the restaurant they had was so popular they put the lounge into a building across the street to make more room.

When I write that, I get it; the WSL is the younger sister, trying on the gleaming leather jacket that her brother has because that’s the identity that’s available. She’s still on her way to acquiring one of her own and while it’s not ugly she can’t be comfortable in it either.

So it is here. The people are nice. The reputation is there. But it doesn’t stand on it’s own two feet yet. Given the seating comfort, I wonder how the audience will be narrowed (or maybe increased?) and how long it might take for this lounge to step out from the shadow and have its own calling.

52 Weeks 35: Alameda Irvington Juniper Porter

It’s a pretty solid porter, but there isn’t much juniper to taste. 

Or is there?

Like so many things involving beer, patience is required. Put the hops in for 60 minutes, not 35. Wait three, four weeks while the beer ferments, wait one, two, three weeks while it’s in the bottle so it will carbonate. Sometimes, I wait for the beer to warm up before tasting it. It’ll probably take about as long as this post will to write before I can drink it, and that really doesn’t do anyone any good; I’ll be done writing, you’ll be done reading and neither of us will know how this beer is. 

It’s not as though I can force you to go away for five minutes. It’s 8:47 now; do you mind? Time becomes a much more fungible element online; you can trade your time for a window into my life, but while you’re waiting for the beer to warm up you can listen to a song, or read someone else’s post, enjoy comics or a short skit. The possibilities open up now, whereas before you were stuck until 8:52. 

It’s not easy filling up five minutes. You have to practice it. Waiting is usually not something we do well, and it’s something I do especially poorly without distractions. A book to read, paper and pen to write with, television, card games, videogames. Conversation, if there is someone to converse with. To sit and just wait becomes a kind of endurance that I’m not used to, nor welcoming of chances to practice. 

Five minutes have passed. The porter still tastes like a porter; drinkable, coffee, faint barista nose, but still no juniper. No pine. A faint dryness that wasn’t there before at the end of the mouthfeel. Is the beer flawed, or does it need more time? Do I have the qualities to give it ten minutes? Do you have the time to wade through this text to see what I experience? 

The Christmas in July  celebration at Bailey’s continues. I’m almost convinced now that this celebration has torqued the weather for my fair city, giving us a cooler month than we ought to have. Mayhap I’ll see snow before August is upon me. 

Ten minutes. There’s a space in the middle of my tongue that goes numb when I drink this beer now, as though there is a void of flavor there. The dryness of the beer, more pronounced? Juniper trying to peek out from under the porter? I’m nearly halfway though the beer now and it still remains veiled. Certainly a perfectly tasty beer for what it is but when one adds strange words together an expectation of the unusual arises. Juniper and porter ought to be wrestling here but juniper seems to be happy to let the porter take the stage, lazily working the ropes behind the curtain. I don’t have to show up, you know.

Fifteen minutes. Long enough for me to set aside the request that this beer be something that wears a bold costume with strange symbols on it. It merely sits at the table, jeans and black tshirt. Why be special, when you can just be solid? This is a porter, like the porters before it, and it doesn’t have to prove anything to me, right? I can drink it, wish for a double cheeseburger and be satisfied, damnit.


Now I really want a double cheeseburger too. Grrr. 

Twenty minutes. This is long enough; anything that should be there ought to be there. It is possible my palate is unwilling or unable to appreciate the nuances of this drink, just as it is possible that there is no juniper for me to take in. Hard to say, but at this point I think I’ll move on.