A Tale of Two Cities

At sometime around 4pm yesterday afternoon, Cascade Brewing announced that they were pouring the new vintage of kriek at the Raccoon Lodge; by six-thirty, Sally and I were asking the waiter for a pour. Fortunately, we were his first kriek customers of the day (we were, in fact, how he learned it had come on tap), and he blundered and brought us full imperial pints.

For those of you who haven't had the pleasure, this is a beer that generally sells for about $15 a bottle, so a five-dollar pint was a steal. (It's worth the fifteen, by the way.) The Blazer game started while we were there, and so we generally had a great time. Still, there were aspects to the experience that reminded me I was definitely not on the east side anymore.

Portland, Oregon is divided in half by the Willamette River (pr. wuh LAM it, for those of you from elsewhere). And when I say divided, I mean divided. It's essentially two cities that overlap, like a Venn diagram, in the downtown region. On the east side are the things Portland is most famous for--distinctive neighborhoods, bikes, good restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops. It is a very social, connected part of town. The west side is more like standard American cities, a hodgepodge of national chain stories and strip malls with indistinct neighborhoods tied together by a tangle of major roads--a place where houses form the nexus of social life.

After grad school, back in about '96, I drove a cab for a year. (Broadway, cab 133.) It was axiomatic that you were either a west-side driver or an east-sider. In that entire year, not a single fare ever asked to go from the east side to anyplace in the west. I have no doubt that the reverse was true, too.

So last night, there we are, settling in for a lovely pint of kriek, and my eye is drawn to the massive screen with Blazer pre-game activity. Sally is facing the other way, and she sees what's on a little TV in the corner: Fox News. Hannity or someone iconic. This is not alarming so much as mystifying. East Portland is that socialist hell about which Sarah Palin frets. Well, not really, but they'd like it to be. The only way Fox News would make it onto the television in an east-side pub is for irony. But hey, different strokes. In front of the bar, we're all brothers.

What really caught me by surprise was a quartet at the table next to us. One guy was drinking beer from a bottle, one woman had soda, and two others had pints of something pale. When they got up to leave, the woman with a pint had managed to drink about half, but the man's was almost completely full. They left and Sally and I wondered where they were going. Obviously, they weren't leaving, for they had left their beer. We held onto this misconception right until a woman cleared the table.

There's no moral to this story, but I am glad Cascade is putting a barrel house over on the east side, walking distance from my house. No one should ever stray a Ron Gansberg pint--and they won't on this side of the river.
Jeff Alworth20 Comments