Only heroes

Chef called me with an unusual eagerness in his voice, “We should ride our bikes to all of the New Old Lompac bars…a Tour De Lompoc.” The idea instantly resonates and before long, we agree to meet on Thursday. We will start at Oaks Bottom Public House, the quasi-Lompoc establishment in south Portland. From there we will peddle northeast to the Hedge House. Then we are off to the Fifth Quadrant in north Portland and the Tour will end in northwest at New Old Lompoc. There are no losers in a race like this, only heroes.

The sun is high and the air is warm as we coast towards the Oak Bottom Public House. The waitress is bussing one of two tables outside and I ask “Are you cleaning that for me?” “Yes, I saw you coming,” she jokingly replies wiping off the last few crumbs with a bleach-water rag. We sit across from some hippie-types loudly talking about smoking dope. Our waitress does not return for some time and I peer inside, noticing only a few customers. Finally, the Chef angrily storms inside and just-this-side-of demands service. Generally, Brandon is tending bar and he has an uncanny knack for remembering names and never letting a beer reach that critical level of warm bubbles at the bottom of a pint glass. Our server comes outside and asks to see our ID, and then the Chef orders us each a C-Note, a light, double IPA beer whose 6.9% alcohol carries a punch. We sip our hoppy beverages and people watch Westmorelanders shuffling their feet down Bybee Boulevard. Finishing our drinks, we ask for the tab and our server returns. “Sorry about the wait, I charged you happy hour prices,” she says sympathetically, dropping off the tap. I give her my card and five dollars plus tip are deducted from my account.

We peddle assertively down Bybee Boulevard towards Reed College, diving between fissures in traffic and narrowly penetrate intersections on long yellows; neither one of us willing to yield or say uncle. A few near misses later and we are locking up our bikes at the Hedge House. Again, outside seating is available and we sit along an empty, wood picnic table. An attractive woman sits behind me, although she might be the mother to the little boy scampering about and so she gets only a thoughtful glance before the Chef and I return to our conversation. “Bar Tours of Portland…it’s a brilliant idea,” surmises the Chef. I concur and change the topic. “I hate being jealous of homeless people and children,” I say “they always seem to have a nicer cell phone than me…is that petty?” The question hangs in the air like a fart on a first date and we go back to an original conversation, culinary knives. Our waitress comes out and the Chef orders another C-Note and I request a Proletariat Red, which packs a 6.4% wallop. A woman in baggy brown pants stands up and knocks crumbs off her dustbin. The Chef’s girl, Marie, calls and we decide to make a side trip to a relatively new north Portland bar-Sagittarius. A few quick gulps, seven bucks (no happy hour), combined with some forceful peddles later and we are speeding down Division, outside of Ladd’s Addition. The Chef can certainly peddle and he makes the last light across the Hawthorne Bridge so I decide to cut right and head up SE Grand during heavy traffic. I ride atop a gravel fringe, and my well inflated tires occasionally spit a rock sideways inevitably hitting a late model Subaru.

Traffic is viscous and I peddle alongside cars, nearly avoiding a gun metal grey Volkswagon. The Chef calls, demanding to know my current location and I explain my detour. “I’ve been waiting for you,” he says. “I’ll see you there,” I say, suggesting an impromptu race. I send two text messages before leaving.

As Sagittarius comes into view I see the Chef dart out from a side street. “I knew I shouldn’t have sent those text messages. That was just getting cocky.” Once inside Sagittarius, the place is crawling with Salomon employees fresh off work and the Chef chooses a discreet table, close enough to gawk, yet outside of earshot of those around us. I order a Caldera Pale Ale for the Chef and an Amnesia Porter for myself. “We are out of pint glasses,” responds the red haired waitress as she hand me our beers in slightly smaller glasses, “these are on the house.” I tip my glass in her direction and sip a big gulp. I order some chips and salsa ($2.50) though the Chef is “not hungry.” No matter and a few minutes later and our pleasant waitress is handing us a piled plate of blue chips and pico de gallo salsa. Although un-hungry, the Chef eats a generous portion of my chips. The mirrors and bright red paint inside of Sagittarius are off-putting but the place has style, though unfortunately far too few ladies for my liking and I order another round of beers and pay eight dollars plus tip before leaving.

We backtrack south a bit towards N. Vancouver Street, to the latest Lompac, the Fifth Quadrant. Once inside, the Chef orders two well whiskeys, a C-Note and I playfully ask the bartender to be surprised. Shots are shot and I sip the 6.9% of a Lompoc Strong Draft (LSD). “Drink your f@#&ing beer you t^*%,” commands the Chef in that peer pressure way he is always wielding like a sword. My head hurts and I need water but the Chef is already to go and he pays $15.50 plus tip for our beers and shots. We peddle west towards Nob Hill, crossing the Willamette River.

Once inside of New Old Lompac, the Chef, Marie, and I sit in a booth and we get a firecracker waitress I have met before. A text message says a friend is going away tomorrow and to go out to North Portland at 9pm. I order a Dagda Red, while the Chef orders a C-Note and Marie gets something as well. “I think you bruised me where you punched me last night…there’s a sore spot,” Marie says to the Chef as she rubs her arm. “You punched me how many times?” retorts the Chef. “Did I bruise you?” she asks and the conversation ends there. I order a PABST sandwich (provolone, avocado, bacon, sprouts, tomato on sourdough) ($8.95) to quench my hunger. “They have some of the best pub food in town,” explains the Chef. I would agree and we eat and drink and enjoy the end of another Thursday.

After paying, I grab my things, readying myself to leave when the waitress turns and says “Please don’t get hit out there.” “I won’t,” I assert, “I need to get my motorcycle. I still have one more bar to visit tonight.”