tomorrow's the day

Eric and I descend the North Going Street hill towards Swan Island with our legs pumping and peddling until either twelve-speeds or legs can go no faster. We hang a left at the first light passing a Fed Ex building. A small white sign says trail, which piques my curiosity.

The trail follows a few yards before paralleling the Willamette River. Across the river is a rusted suspension bridge that spans nothing and to the south the Freemont Bridge leapfrogging over the water. We walk towards the sandy shore, following the lapping sound of water on beach. Here among the flotsam, boulders and garbage is an amazing beach. Despite the unrecycleables, cottage cheese containers and beer cans this beach pleasantly hospitable. There are no homes on Swan Island and during the late hours only the idle diesels, late shift dockworkers and this urban ashtray known as Garbage Beach.

Heading back, the trail goes on for another 100 yards before dead-ending. Neither Eric nor I want to climb back up the hill so we determined to find a land route back through this urban Darien Gap. Following the road we arrive at some signs. Breathing the creosote-laden air we try to decipher whether this path constitutes trespassing or not. We peddle on passing signs, sleeping trains and a busy forklift operator who looks like he’s spending all night stacking trainloads of wood. A security guard sends a sharp scowl our way but quickly goes back to his crossword puzzle.

The path is a concrete slab running between two sets of railroad tracks. “CRASH,” rumbles a train plowing into empty carts, reverberating through static air. We pass thickets of blackberry bushes to the soundtrack of squealing brakes and the crack of a train taking up the slack between carts. Telltale signs of homelessness can be found: damaged tarps, plastic, food wrappers and broken shopping carts littering the ground. This stretch of shoreline seems so far removed from the city. There is rawness, an industrial militant homelessness has not been seen since the Alberta Street of fifteen years ago or the bowels of northwest Portland when squatters ruled the roost. Now, hot yoga studios and upscale dog boutiques reside where junkies used to shoot up. I imagine northern Californians moving here into some lofts where homeless kids would fornicate and then leave their needles after shooting up. Across the river are new condos along NW Front Avenue so I guess I’m not too far off.

The path turns to gravel before turning back to concrete. Large pipes lay about amongst the railroad equipment and blackberry vines. Eric demonstrates his prowess by riding his red bike through a pipe. The path drops off at the bottom of the Interstate Hill at North Russell and we turn south onto Interstate. Having acquired a thirst, a debate rages over where to drink. We agree on the Lucky Lab in northwest. While this brewpub has been open for over a year now, it is the southeast Hawthorne and Capital Highway locations that are much more known. We cross over the Steel Bridge and ride along Front Avenue, making our way to the old Freightliner warehouse at 1945 NW Quimby Street.

The location is a bit hidden but well worth the trouble finding the place (it is one block north of the new Dove Lewis Animal Hospital). Once inside the Lab, a five-ton industrial crane still hangs from an I-beam but it looks to have been years since its last use. Long oak tables are joined end to end, making this a perfect place for large and small groups. Tightwad Tuesdays means $1 dollar off pints and $2.50 off pitchers. I order a pitcher of Hell-a-sarus Rex (normally $10 but $7.50 today), a refreshingly light beer that is reminiscent of a Stella Artois and compliments the warm sun outside. Adding a bowl of peanuts (1.25) we find a seat outside amongst the picnic tables. The cool air and sweet sounds compliment the salty peanuts.

Ever since Bridgeport Breweries went to the dogs, Portlanders in northwest have been craving a decent place to get a pint. And while the Lucky Lab does not serve hard alcohol, I enjoy that aspect, having waited too long in life behind some jerk ordering an Apple-tini and paying with his debit card while I sober up. Leave the pretentiousness at home because this NW place is where bicyclists, rabble-rousers and just about anyone else who has had enough of the M-Bars of the world-can be found drunk.

I was going to quick drinking today, sober up and review my standing in the world but as the pitcher got lower and lower, Eric got us another round. Well-played Eric. Darkness has fallen and even though I have no jacket or bike light, I plan to take the long way home, smelling the creosote convincing myself tomorrow’s the day I quit.
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