I was at the bar at Kelly’s Olympian in downtown Portland for three pints of Irish stout before I realized the leftist fundraiser in the next room was already in progress. Unaware of the live show annex next door, I had thought they were going to set up somewhere in the back of the bar. Why I didn’t take note of the muffled, loud, obviously live music coming through the wall is just my oblivious nature. I walk about in a bubble; my consciousness barely extends beyond arm’s reach even, or especially, when I’m out. But I still long to get out, even if only to trade escaping myself for escaping other people. Sometimes you long to be alone in the midst of the crowd, if only to fool yourself that you’re not really alone.
On the televisions at the bar it’s all sports, you wouldn’t even know it was Oscar night. I’m in that awkward limbo of waiting for someone and feeling as if I need to justify my presence to people who are barely taking notice of me. The bar is unpretentious enough. Occasionally I can’t help but look at the television in front of me showing professional basketball. The players look more alien than ever, radiating the same dull and sullen hostility I recall, and though I can’t hear it, I know the announcer’s repartee is an incongruous, oblivious counterpart of white earnest cluelessness. Baseball is available at the other end of the bar for a dignified alternative, but I’m intent on not sitting here watching television, so I keep looking around, looking to the door, smiling at the waitresses.
After figuring out the show was already in progress I waited through a few more songs before seeking it out. The show was almost over so the Nice White Lady at the door waved me in.
The angry refrain: “our town”, presumably intended for Donald Trump and reactionaries like me, makes the only discernible lyric. I imagine the song might as easily as not be something from their past initially intended to parody the territorialism of working class whites, now being repurposed to rage against the intrusion of Trump and his working class white support.
Territorialism is very much a feature of the politics and culture of the city now. I’m welcome as long as I keep my mouth, mostly, shut. But that’s okay. I’m not a proselyte. I’m a witness.
Tonight it’s a “live painting” at the Whiskey Bar. Should be interesting.