Former not latter

"Somebody was shot," explains the bartender at the River Corral. "I guess that would be the weirdest thing to happen here."

The River Corral is an unassuming strip club located at the eastern base of the Sellwood Bridge. The air is thick with humidity, which is refracting light and giving southeast Portland a soft glow. Luke and I walk across the Sellwood Bridge admiring the view as a VW Jetta rushes by with the scent of marijuana wafting out the windows. The city glow inspires awe and reaffirms why south Portland is such a beautiful place to live.

Luke jokes about whether he could survive the 75+-foot drop into the icy Willamette River below. “This is the time of year people do these things,” responses Luke. There is an odd seriousness in his tone and I quickly suggest we leave and walk back across the bridge.

Passing the River Corral, we debate whether or not to enter. There are only five cars parked in the parking lot on a Saturday night and, having passed the bar numerous times in my 2-year tenure in Sellwood, the desire to enter River Corral has never crossed my mind.

I was tentative but changed my mind once I heard the Misfits playing behind blue painted walls. We had no way of knowing or foreseeing what would transpire. A Coors Light sign saying "Hot Hot Dancers," which is a bit of a misnomer considering only one woman was dancing inside.

Strip clubs have two basic rules: 1) Do not touch the woman and 2) Do not take photographs; by nights end both of these rules were thrown by the wayside. We swagger inside passing the tinsel and oak decorations and sit at the bar. There is no cover charge.

Ordering a Sierra Nevada Pale Ale ($4) and a Pabst ($3) our pleasant bartender grabs our drinks. Two patrons slur orders for another round of beers but the bartender cuts them off. They storm out angrily but the bartender maintains her resolve. A stripper named “Lisa” begins talking with Luke and I, the only patrons left.

I ask the bartender if I can photograph Luke on the stripper pole and she says “No.” “We can,” she says, “take photographs not on the stage.” What turns into random snapshots spirals into a full-blown photo shoot. Apparently, clients cannot touch strippers but strippers can grope clientele. Lisa kisses Luke’s chest and tips him money.

I order two Marker Marks ($5 each) to keep the insanity going. We sip whiskey, as Lisa gets frisky. I lay on the .75-cent pool table as Lisa runs her fishnet arms forward with her fingers collapsing around my neck. Her ruby red lipstick adheres to my cheek as I pull her fishnet body suit closer into my arms. I consider ordering some food but the kitchen is closed and the bartender is telling us to leave.

Lisa gives me a Santa hat and Luke and I walk back into the drizzling rain laughing and glad we visited the River Corral. Whether it is feeling a strange woman’s breast or being shot, anything can happen at the River Corral. Lucky for me it was the former not the latter.