Young love

What was the first bar you ever fell in love with? Every Enthusiast has their first—for me, that place is now-renamed-and-under-new-ownership SE Portland dive bar, Grandma’s.

With walls adorned with Last Supper-esque, moderately religious wood reliefs and elderly woman-style purses, the decoration alone was reason enough to spend hours here every afternoon and evening and night. Add Turkey Hunter, three video poker machines, pool, a working fireplace, cheap-ass drinks and—I’m getting giddy just reminiscing about it—KARAOKE THREE NIGHTS A WEEK! WHERE YOUR PERFORMANCE WAS ACCOMPANIED BY A MAN PLAYING A BLUE BLOW-UP GUITAR! And suddenly we are catapulted into the awesome-dive-bar-stratosphere’s-stratosphere. Times infinity. Infinity times.

I smoothed wrinkled dollar after folded bill on the edge of that jukebox, with it’s most limited of selections—Best of and hit albums by Sublime, Van Morrison, and Bruce Springsteen spun on constant rotation. A former bartender had a crush on my friend and would let us stay for hours after hours downing free shots he’d poured with names like, “birthday layer cake.” Once he showed us the secret door to the under-street tunnel that lead to the house across the road.

We laughed, we consoled. We broke-up, we got drunk. We bitched about classes and assholes and regaled one another with songs, both poorly- and well-sung. We overheard a young man tell his pool buddies about the happiest day of his life: When he got his new set of teeth, which he’d lost to meth. Much of my thesis was composed in Grandma’s’ dark and smokey booths, a Jack and soda sweating against the heavy wood grain of the table.

When we graduated college and moved out of student housing, I scoured Craigslist for an inexpensive one bedroom that allowed cats, and was within crawling distance of Grandma’s bar. Nine months later it was the saddest farewell I’ve ever said to an apartment, as we packed dishes and posters and clothes into cars and struggled away towards 5, south.

When we returned to the neighborhood to visit, months later, Grandma’s had fully changed hands and added pizza to their menu.

R.I.P., Grandma’s on Holgate. You were my first, and you’ll never be forgotten.