Warm Glow of Friendship

Happy Hour with my friends tonight. My four best friends could all make it, and that makes me happy.

We were meeting at Kay’s Lounge, in Sellwood. It’s a classic old-school lounge, with comfy leather booths and a nicely-stocked bar and bar food that’s got that little somethin’ extra that pushes a burger or a burrito into artisanal territory. I don’t have words to describe it right now, probably because I’m still a little buzzed, but it’s a cut above normal bar food, but not so expensive it’s a Portlandia type joke.

I mean, I can’t say a lot of bad things about a bar where I had a food item named after me, but believe me, the food is good. Even the burgers have that little extra bit of care.

The taps at this bar are constantly rotating but there’s always at least one cider on tap, and at least one dark beer (a stout or a porter) and also, always something “interesting”, like a spicy porter or a fruity IPA or something otherwise unusual. They do a good job at Kay’s, picking out good beers. Only eight taps but you’re sure to find something you like among the choices.

Happy Hour on a Friday night is pretty much peak time, and let me tell you, the bar isn’t as big as it is popular. There are maybe 15 bar stools, and 10 booths for 2-4 people each; if you get there late you have to stand around and wait, or move on to somewhere less popular. Oh, and 4 tables outside on the sidewalk, where you are encouraged to share, but Portland weather patterns make those dicy about 70% of the time.

And even at peak time, like tonight, there’s one bartender, one waitstaff, and one cook, so be prepared to wait a bit for attention. Unless you’re a regular, like me, and you get recognized. Or you’re just not shy and go right up and ask when the next table is ready. Or a bit of both. I’ve done both.

I’ve been coming here for years and years. I did mention the Lunar Burger, right? It was tasty, I’ll give the cook that. I’m not yet regular enough to be immortalized in the big painting on the wall, the picture with a lot of staff and regular faces included. Maybe someday.

Former Governor of Oregon Barbara Roberts is a regular here. I’ve sat with her and had a chat. She’s great! Very knowledgeable and down-to-brass-tacks. Her face is in the painting, because, well, of course she is.

Tracy showed up tonight first. Usually, I’m the first one to arrive, but I got waylaid by work, so I was a bit late. Tracy stationed herself by the door, under the mirror, on the sidebar, which is not a great place to be noticed by the waitstaff or bartender. She’s a good person, but she just isn’t in tune with the rhythms of a working bar. When I showed up, I talked to her, and then (after hitting the restroom—it was a long drive from Canby) I leaned against the bar under the aforementioned painting, which is right in the path between the kitchen window, the cash register, and the wait station, which ensures that the waiter for the night (on this night it was Krissi) had to talk to me. Tracy joined me shortly after.

We waited there, with a drink in hand each, for a while. Happy Hour ends at 6 PM, and it was 5:50 PM before a table finally opened up. By that time, Ken had joined us, where we stood around, looking conspicuous, getting in Krissi’s way sometimes, and making “are you leaving yet?” eyes at everyone hogging a table. But a table finally emptied, and we aggressively but politely nudged our way in, where the evening entered its second phase.

We ordered food and settled in, and then Terry joined us, fresh from his Han Solo haircut. He said his hairdresser was both surprised and impressed when he requested a Han Solo haircut. “70s haircuts are coming back in style,” he said she said. And it’s true; Terry looks great in that haircut. She did a great job.

We talked about baseball (I don’t want to talk about it). We talked about building houses (that’s Terry’s thing). We asked Tracy about hockey (she’s a giant Winterhawks fan). We argued about the feminism of the Joker, and we admired the diversity of Nike. I’m only scratching the surface of our winding, continuous, and sprawling conversation.

But it was a happy night for me. I love my friends, and any chance I get to spend with them, with all of them, is a good time. I’ve known these three humans for a long time. We have all of us been through a lot together. None of us are perfect, but we are all perfectly ourselves.

It was a good night.

I wish you had been there.