The man on the rail of La Merede is pretty much your classic hipster. Poorly color-coordinated clothes, shorts with a longsleeve, with thick black rim glasses and a mustache that he constantly twirls both ends of, like a nervous spy.
He’s drinking Rainier, which somehow makes sense. Could Raindogs be taking over as the cheap shit beer of choice? Rainier has a NW connection via the name, and who can forget those classic commercials?
So the bartender gives me a bottle and says “It’s two dollars, baby.”
I have this odd moment and ask “Did you just call me baby?”
He shrugs and gives me a ‘whatevererer’ look “Two dollars, baby,” he repeats and I chuckle so he knows I’m not mocking him.
The strange thing about Rainier is that it tastes like it’s from a can, even though I’ve got a bottle. A twist-off no less and my tongue is a little startled by the strange texture of the lip of this bottle; it’s been that long since I’ve drank from such a container.
The whole bar seems like Portland in a 15×35 area. What appears to be a rotary phone is on the wall next to a touchscreen for drink orders. MD 20/20 on the wall-o-hol next to expensive tequila. (Note, I remember the MD not the tequila so I suppose that says something too.) A woman in the corner, her leftover meal wrapped in foil shaped like a tropical island, smokes from an electric cigarette–when the tip glows with an almost halogen color, I feel like I’m in the future. The isolation is there but conversation can be eavesdropped on and even eased into, if you do it right.
And if you want, there’s even better beer. But you’d better ask for it.
After the first honest-to-god warm weekend in Portland, I have come to the Slammer on the first honest-to-god muggy as hell day of 2011.
I ask a dude with poor-hipster glasses what he’s drinking.
“Veneer,” he says again and I am certain something is wrong here. The bartender understands and she pours one for me and the patron says “It’s one of the lighter beers.”
That’s when I catch the R symbol on the tap handle and realize I’m drinking a Raindog–a beer I haven’t bought in nearly twenty years but also happened to be the first beer I bought when I came back to the States after a long college trip.
The patron goes outside to smoke, driven by a need for nicotine and a desire to get away from the music being played-he grumbles friendi-ly to the bartender something about En Vogue. Another couple obscured to me by the taps saunters up to the video juke and inserts credits. The first line from the speakers “I was a highwayman,” and I recognize Willie, even though I don’t think I ever really paid attention to the Highwaymen album.
The song isn’t all that great. What can you say, really; it was the 80’s and nobody had the strength to tell four legends of country music that Johnny Cash should never sing the line, “I was a starship captain.”
Still, the song is about endurance and for a moment, I get what is best about-and why people still listen to-country music. Beaten but never destroyed, defeated but never crushed, enduring beyond strength because that’s just what you have to do sometimes, yeah. I get that. Even when it’s not done very well, the hope that there is something noble in just continuing on is a nice thing to echo.