This is the second in our series of first-person stories set in bars around the country. Read the first one here.
The warm glow of neon pours out of the windows as well as the sign above the door, and I know the Mock Crest Tavern has something going on inside of it, like an operating microwave. Perhaps a similar exposure to radiation as well — I feel I might need sunglasses at the end of the bar, in between the silent flat screens on one side and the video lottery machines on the other. The HUB DOA pint on special also appears to glow as the light glints through the golden glass, and I open my book, reading the pages in its incandescence. Unlike other North Lombard Street dives, I could easily take in a tome in this bar.
I gladly read in bars, well lit or otherwise. I could read in a sunny park, beset on all sides by dogs and children. But my beer would be sipped from a paper sack, and I wouldn’t have the dark side entertainment of Tuesday night bar clientele, with their attempts to bargain over individual cigarettes, complaints about revoked driver’s licenses, and the curious rituals of habitual video gamblers. All of which are infinitely more interesting than the endless pealing screams of joy emanating from the critical density of families in the park.
It’s been difficult to find anything but cozy comfort from the Mock Crest on this particular evening, however. Classic soul and Motown plays on the stereo. A fellow at the corner table enjoys the dinner special of a plate of German sausages, onions, and red potatoes. The surveillance camera view of the back patio hanging above the bar is tempered by a photo screensaver of regulars displayed on the cash register, embracing each other and smiling in the same, continuous warm neon glow.
Down at the other end of the bar, two of those folks discuss books while drinking the cheap stuff. They talk about searching for mysteries and Thomas Pynchon at the Multnomah County Library used book store. But they aren’t hipsters — I swear on my own history of Los Angeles lying open before me — they aren’t. What is this place? Heaven?
“...it takes place in the time of the Garfield assassination, with Emma Goldberg...”
“You mean Goldman?”
“If I can’t dance, I’ll still be part of your revolution.”
Misquoted misquotes aside, I decide to have another pint. I suddenly notice the prominently placed fax machine on the counter behind the bar, with the incoming number proudly posted on the front, and I make a mental note to send the Mock Crest a facsimile letter of gratitude for their hospitality, jotting the number down on the margin of my book for the next time I’m... near a fax machine? I turn back to my page, reading about real estate booms, the Comstock lode and water rights. As dry as the San Fernando Valley before William Mulholland, perhaps — but no big deal. There are characters everywhere, and on the page and off, the warmth of books written and read.
Photo by Adam Rothstein
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