Friday, September 5, 2014

Six years in the sunset

He said, “I don’t approve of this.”

He was looking at the fox head mounted on the wall above him, its tiny dark eyes fiercely looking down at us.

A lot of foxes, painted, drawn, photographed, can be found on the walls here at the Red Fox.

I agreed with the stranger, ahead of me in line for the single restroom in the bar, and added that I didn't think the owners hunted and stuffed this head themselves. They don’t seem like the types. It was probably gifted to them.

From across the bar I heard, “And this is white tea!”

A bartender, a big man, tall, tough but never threatening, showed a bag of tea to his boss. They held their noses to a bag of dried leaves.

During the summer almost everyone crams into the tiny patio to share their drinks. The booths extend down one side of the park. A tin roof protects the patrons from whatever rain there may be in a later season and what bright light it can shield from us now. We spend afternoons watching the sun patiently set behind the West Hills, beautiful sunsets painful in our squinting eyes.

When I first moved here, is this what I thought Portland would be like, almost pastoral as much as a city can be. Visitors sometimes complain about suburban Portland can be, and though I never think of it as suburban, it does have a completely different energy than other cities even here on the West Coast.

At six years, I don’t count the days until I have lived here another year.

When I moved here I could not imagine how much my life would change. Today I’m prone to worry how much my life would change. And it will. It all will.

When I moved into the neighborhood, Mississippi Avenue was a still a quaint street with some cool bars, a few coffeeshops, a restaurant or two. Today its blocks and blocks of boutiques and condos and construction. There are two new tea shops. The neighborhood made a store change its insensitive name. The patios at Bar Bar and Prost and Moloko brim every night with loud, drunk, young men and women, bridge and tunnel clientele I can only imagine.

There’s always Red Fox. Everyday I can drink on short patio at Red Fox where one bartender studied linguistics in college and that guy just finished building a banjo and this other one collects vintage detritus. He handed me a paper page torn from an old magazine, an advertisement for Columbia Music House promising me twelve free CDs. And we remembered and looked through the listings and said, Whoever bought this CD? and Wow, I remember when this was popular.

But if Ryan were to leave Portland, if Mikiel or I were to move out from our apartment building, would I hold office hours (those hours after work) at Red Fox as often? I might find a new bar. I buy cheap wine to eat with my meals instead, watching documentaries on Netflix before reading a little and turning out the light.

The nights are cold now this week and it smells like fall when I wake up, the windows open, the apartment a mixture of damp earth, fir trees, coffee, and the lilies Adam gave me. Soon enough it will be raining in Portland, Oregon again, but the patio is covered at Red Fox.

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