We have been living up here in Dockworker's Paradise since last August, and have come to know it quite well. St. John's is every bit the strange mix that I like in a place: this may very well be the most truly diverse neighborhood in Portland, and I mean that in the good and
bad senses. Kenton is not without its charms, though it does play home to one restaurant owned by someone I consider to be an awful human being
. The Kenton Club had some role in the 1972 roller derby movie/Racquel Welch vehicle "Kansas City Bomber"
But what of the weird stretch of town most immediately around our home? It's the zone that lies directly east of the railroad tracks (really) and west of...Chatauqua? I'm not actually sure.
It boasts Fishwife, which is one of the better names for a fish restaurant I've ever heard, and it's always packed. It boasts several seedy looking bars, only some that I've explored. On the Shell station's sign, there is always some sort of personal message to someone that has recently been born, married, or died, inevitably right under some other message like, "Shell Card Users Get Same As Cash!"
It contains Fortune Avenue and Lovely Street, as well as the intersection of Willis and Drummond, for any "Dif'rent Strokes" fans in the audience.
It is home to Encanto, which is one of yer better New Mexican joints, though I suggest sticking to one of perhaps three dishes on its menu: All the rest are basically you paying too much for a burrito. It is where the Red Bicycle is, which is to say; hipster owned, bike-loving, generally swamped by a million and one hip parents whose children are the most important beings in the world, and god help you if you interfere with someone's little miracle expressing their creativity. Good sandwiches, though.
But this is a strange neighborhood, in that it has no central location that defines it...No 'heart', if you will, unless you're talking about the aforementioned Shell station adjacent to the Eagles 'aerie'.
That Eagles' parking lot hosts a flea market every Sunday, and once a year hosts the most depressing looking carnival, right around the time it really
starts raining. This is that horrible moment where you're trying to be romantic about it-hey honey; let's go ride the Scrambler and get a hot dog
-and you remember that cheaper hot dogs are available right across the street, and if you want excitement, it's hard to beat the car wash.
The real story of any community though, I think we'd all agree, is to be found in its dive bars. Along the joyless stretch of Lombard that really is
the town's center, we have Jack n' Jerry's tavern, the Two Points Inn, the University Grill, Darcy's (All Lottery Games), Nicola's, and the Twilight Room.
Jack n' Jerry's recently was renamed the Sundown, actually, and I haven't set foot in it yet. Actually, I've only been to that place at all just the one time, and I'll say it: it's a friendly li'l beer bar, but it's so damn clear that a small group of perhaps five or six people wholesale carry that place. The dude in the wheelchair? Almost certainly he lives around the corner and goes there every day
. Everybody knows each other, and that's fine.
The Two Points is kind of the same thing, except it's not housed in what I'd call a proper building
, as such. More like a rail car/shack that is falling over, with attendant freakishly low ceilings, attached to a larger, more stable building.
Your only food choices are hot dogs n' chips. It's so damn small that privacy is impossible, but it also means that if someone wins big at video poker, the whole bar (generally five or seven people) gets a round. They do
have Tom T. Hall on the jukebox though; more places should have that.
Darcy's All Lottery Games is pretty much what it sounds like: mostly a place to lose money, with a somewhat emphasis on 'deli' foods. I can't say too much though; I've only stepped in- then walked right back out.
The Twilight is okay. It's kind of a second home to University of Portland students and thereby to be avoided, but that's just at night. Free popcorn. Nice bartendresses.
I haven't been into Nicola's at all, and The University Grill is like the bar at a Denny's.
Today, perhaps a bike ride out to Smith and Bybee lakes is in order. The other day, I had a bunny cross my path twice (which is either very good luck or very bad luck, depending on where you're coming from), and saw a family of turtles sitting on a log.
To reach this place, one must first endure a few minutes of riding past the Columbia Boulevard Sewage Treatment Plant (with its attendant Nuisance and Vector Control center), past some weird golf course, onto what-I-believe-is Marine Drive, wait to not get run over by a car, ride into an eerie section of rail yard, past sketchy Rest Area in the middle of nowhere...Then you're there!
It's pretty standard for Portland: you have your beautiful riparian area completely surrounded by industrial parks. But, I appreciate that they try.
After you pass the lakes, you now have a very long, flat, straight, joyless ride through the Rivergate section of the Peninsula, right past where thousands of Hyundais make landfall (for instance) each day, past Kelly Point park, and back, eventually, into St. Johns.
Along that section, I found a piece blue plastic with several different renderings of Barney The Annoying Purple Dinosaur. Each of the pictures may have been buttons, and the weird flanging up top may have been your earhole. This, perhaps, was your phone for communicating with the world of Barney, ca. 1996, and here it was laying forgotten under a bridge along the Columbia Slough.
I never know how to feel about toys laying in the middle of some vast area that hasn't seen kids in gawd-knows-how-long. Presumably you don't think about it at length, and that's a whole lot better now, isn't it? In some other ways, it feels nicely metaphorical about this part of town I call home.
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