“I’ll be in Portland around 5:00. The Multnomah Whiskey Library is closed on Sundays. Other bar suggestions?” I texted my sister after a two-day trek from Long Beach in a 12-foot Penske truck that stored everything I own.
I had one more short drive before becoming a Washington resident. Two years ago, I did this same trip, but it lasted five weeks, with a return to Southern California. This time, the drive was one-way—for at least 10 months. She suggested Clyde Common. I’d been there. I told her I wanted to try something new. She sent me a list. I settled on the Teardrop Lounge, but the second I walked in, I thought shit, I’ve already been here too.
I ordered a fancy cocktail and even fancier deviled eggs. The yolks were extra whipped with wispy toppings: a ribbon of pickle, diced green onions, and a sprig of something one might find on a Christmas tree. The guy three seats down asked about the gourmet eggs I was shoveling into my mouth.
He said he preferred the simple deviled eggs his “grandma used to make.”
“My grandma made good deviled eggs too,” I said.
He was unassuming, wearing a light-colored polo shirt and jeans, with an extra layer around his middle, like he might have played high school football and hadn’t exercised since. We determined he was a year younger than me, and his reaction was like the girl in Trader Joe’s who carded me for a bottle of wine last month.
“There’s no way you’re 45!”
He was sitting next to an older gentleman who had white hair and a friendly face. They’d met an hour earlier. Soon I moved a few seats down to join them. We were an unlikely trio of strangers who somehow managed to get on the topic of dead celebrities.
“I’m still sad about Chris Cornell,” I said.
“I know his family,” the 44-year-old said. “My mom is good friends with his mom.”
“I’m sorry,” I said. “I had no idea you knew him.”
I changed the subject to Robin Williams. The white-haired man replied, “He was one of my closest friends,” looking as if he might cry. I learned our new older pal had the perfect film career: a steady one that didn’t make him famous. He later told us he was partially responsible for Naomi Watts getting cast in The Ring because he told Gore Verbinski, “There’s no way J-Lo’s ass will fit in that well,” as they stared down into it.
Soon the younger guy declared we were going to dinner at his favorite Italian restaurant. The deviled eggs weren’t enough, so I was in.
By then he’d mentioned the tall building across the street. “I live there,” he said, pointing to the sky. He’d also pissed off the bartender when he said, “This is my favorite dive bar.” (It isn’t a dive bar.)
He paid the tab, and we were off.
Film Guy and I tagged behind the big spender as he explained, “I tried to buy that building,” nonchalantly indicating another towering structure, “but they wanted over $8 million for it, and I could only offer them three…”
What does this guy DO? I wondered.
“I started an app,” he said, after greeting the owners of the Italian restaurant on the corner. They grabbed us a table the second we walked in. “Lorne Michaels is on my board.”
Get the fuck out.
I asked about the app. The name was a glib one-word title with an apostrophe in place of missing letters to appeal to whatever comes after Millennials: Generation Z? The last generation before a manmade apocalypse? The kids who will never grasp complete sentences—or complete words?
As I googled his app, he ordered a nice bottle of prosecco and told us, “Order anything you want on the menu.”
We all ordered the same delectable seafood pasta dish. Then the celebrity name-dropping started again. George Clooney came up.
“I know him,” Film Guy said.
Of course you do.
“He just sent my son 30 grand. My son cut off his fingers on set.”
There were pictures. He held up his phone to show his son’s gruesome, mangled hand to App Dude, and since we weren’t eating yet, I said the three words I usually regret: “Let me see.”
I wish I hadn’t seen.
By the end of dinner, App Dude had invited me to a festival concert once I reached Seattle. He said he had pull for VIP all access passes. I checked the lineup.
“I want to go on Sunday,” I said. As a borderline old woman, festival lineups perplex me. I have no clue who any of the bands are anymore, but I recognized a couple on the last day, and backstage didn’t sound terrible.
He ordered another bottle of prosecco. After we each took about three sips, he suggested, “Let’s go to a strip club.”
Who IS this guy? I wondered.
Film guy and I both hesitated.
“I really want to go to Powell’s tonight,” I said. I fully intended to visit Portland’s best bookstore while I had a chance. It was walking distance.
“But it closes at 11:00,” I said, looking at the time on my iPhone. It was early, and I wasn’t worried. I didn’t think any remotely upscale strip club would let me in. I was wearing ripped jean shorts from yesterday’s sweaty voyage through the thick, smoke-filled skies of Redding and a worn LA Kings t-shirt.
But App Dude was convincing. He played down the strip club as if it wasn’t a real strip club.
“Have you been to Jumbo’s Clown Room?” I asked. (He hadn’t.) “Maybe it’s like that.”
The one time I went to Jumbo’s on Hollywood Boulevard, women in bikinis wore see-through stilettos, twirled around poles, but never actually got naked. My handsome, unofficial date hit on the sleeziest pseudo-stripper there, then walked me to my car like a gentleman and kissed me goodbye for the second time.
“I can’t wait to go to your reading,” he said. I never saw him again.
We left almost a full bottle of prosecco behind, as App Dude paid the bill and led us out onto the street, where a car appeared as if by magic. He waved it down and talked to the driver like he knew him. He seemed to know a lot of people in Portland.
A few minutes later, we were inside a strip club, and all I wanted to do was go to a bookstore.
Everyone greeted App Dude with a firm, familiar handshake. Film Guy and I were mystified. Based on my google search, his app didn’t seem that cool.
App Dude whispered something into a young man’s ear who had front row seats at the main stage. The young man and his friend got up and walked away, relinquishing their seats with zero prodding. Film Guy and I sat down as App Dude disappeared.
“Is this place only topless?” I asked, just as I craned my neck to see a fully nude, impeccable woman with perfect mocha skin dancing in the corner.
“This place isn’t like Jumbo’s,” I said.
Then I noticed every woman there was stunning, as if all their Victoria’s Secret runway wings had recently slid off their shoulders.
“Who the fuck is that guy?” my white-haired buddy asked, as we watched App Dude chat with people in the hallway.
“I don’t know,” I said.
“Usually guys like that are total bullshit,” he said.
“But I don’t think this guy is full of shit,” I said.
“Yeah, I don’t either.”
App Dude reappeared with three stacks of ones in 100-dollar bundles and threw them down on the table next to me. I was reminded of the months I spent sprawled on a bank vault floor in 1993, counting piles of green paper. As a teller at Wells Fargo, occasionally I would look at the money in front of me, remember it wasn’t fake, and think, “This would pay off my student loans.”
When App Dude fell into the cushy seat next to me, the dancer on stage leapt into his lap and threw her arms around his neck.
“Hiiiiiiii!” she cried.
He handed me a stack of ones and told me to have at it, leading the way by throwing a fistful into the air. The money fluttered down like giant, dirty confetti, and before I could stop my stupid mouth from spewing garbage, I yelled, “Make it rain!”
I will never not be ashamed by the dumb shit I say.
I tossed a wad into the air. The girl from his lap made her way toward me, so I could slide bills into the back of her g-string. I was new at this. I fretted over etiquette, afraid I would break a club rule if I accidentally touched her. I slipped three dollars over one butt cheek and three over the other because I wanted it to be even on both sides.
“This is fun!” I cried to no one in particular.
When the song was over, she crawled around the shiny floor scooping App Dude’s money into a bucket. I fought the urge to help her, feeling useless sitting on the sidelines watching.
Film Guy and I continued to distribute App Dude’s money. At one point, we discussed when we should leave.
“I still want to go to the bookstore!” I yelled over the music,” now a pro g-string stuffer. I put money in the front of one dancer’s g-string as she dropped it to the floor. I squealed.
“I’ll go with you whenever you want to leave,” Film Guy said.
App Dude returned with more cash and asked, “Are you having a good time?”
“Yeah!” I said. “But we’re leaving soon because I still want to go to the bookstore.”
“I’m not trying to fuck you,” he said.
The thought had never crossed my mind.
Another naked woman slid up to me, grabbed my calves, threw them over her shoulders, and pulled me toward her, my dirty black Converse dangling in the air behind her, my grimy road trip shorts close to her chest. I giggled.
“Scoot back,” she said.
I scooted forward, then laughed at my mistake.
“This is the most action I’ve had in months,” I said. I said “months” instead of the truth, which is “years,” because I didn’t want her to think I was a total weirdo in dire need of help, which I probably am.
“Well, we know she can grind,” she said, as she slithered away.
I threw more of App Dude’s money at her.
By the time Film Guy and I left the club in search of the bookstore, we’d dropped some $600 of another man’s money in the span of an hour, and I’d been hugged by a naked lady, who introduced herself with a handshake first.
“You’re beautiful and such a good dancer,” I said. Because it was true, and what else was I supposed to say?
When we left, App Dude hugged me goodbye and mentioned the festival concert again.
“I didn’t want to say anything, but it’s my concert. I can hook you up.”
What do you mean YOUR concert?
“I really want to go!” I said.
I haven’t heard from him, and I’m sure I won’t because that’s how these things go.
“What just happened?” I asked Film Guy when we were outside again.
We made it on foot to Powell’s by 10:57 PM, but the doors were already locked. We stared through the window, admiring the stacks for a few minutes before I accepted I wasn’t getting in.
Later, my Lyft driver asked, “How’s your night going?”
“I’m driving a moving truck from Long Beach to Washington, and I’m here for one night, and I just came from a strip club.”
I told him about the high roller who dragged us around town.
“We do that for everyone. Welcome to Portland?”
Other moving notes:
I nicknamed the Seattle-adjacent city I moved to “Atlanta-heim” because my cousin says it looks like Atlanta threw up on Los Angeles, and she’s not wrong. (My lease is for 10 months. I look forward to exploring the city and finding yet another new place to live at the end of June.)
In my first week as a Washington resident, I bought a Subaru and a North Face jacket. I feel like the lame guy who wears the band t-shirt to see the band.
I wake up every morning in a panic, wondering how I got here, thinking, “I know almost no one in this state,” which is a) scary as fuck, and b) cool, because I have more time to exercise and write.
I signed up for a one-day writing workshop, RSVPed for a literary event, bought tickets to two concerts, and started a Meetup account, so hopefully I won’t become a total hermit.
As of Saturday, I’ll have my own designated parking spot. Coming from Long Beach, where I often parked a mile from my apartment after circling for 45 minutes, that’s huge.
My roommate is better than your roommate. The first night he spent hours setting up our Internet and never complained once.