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Tying One On
A dive- bar crawl for the new millennium

By Kent Lewis

I’ve covered a few oddities over the years, including my unreal experience involving a rental car as well as income-generating opportunities stemming from reciting all fifty states alphabetically. In early April, however, I was lucky enough to participate in a truly unusual event involving a yellow school bus and fifty people dressed to the nines.

It all started two years ago when a few friends planned a dive-bar bus tour in Portland. The event was a success in part because of its simplicity: Pick a few good bars and tip the bus driver enough to overlook shenanigans en route. This year, the four event planners, including myself, decided to up the ante. We discussed t-shirts and prizes and bars that nobody had ever spent time in.

After batting around various event names, we came up with an idea: What if everyone dressed in suits and formal gowns? To see fifty plus people waltz into one of Portland’s best dive bars in opera attire would be astounding. We agreed on a name, Tie One On, and even had a logo put together for the t-shirts. We also asked for a few prizes from our good friends at Pabst Blue Ribbon, who were more than willing to help.

Our starting point for the evening was The Matador on West Burnside. Sporting black velvet paintings of bullfighters, the bar is on the hip side, but the its central location was difficult to beat. Everyone put on their special “porn name” tags (first pet name and street name) and we jumped on the BlueBird school bus. I set the rules immediately with my first announcement to the crowd, “Have a great time, and keep your arms and legs inside the windows at all times.”

After giving away a few prizes for the best porn names (Smokey Chambers, Tight Bangston and Sadie Ketchum, among others), we landed at our first stop of the evening, Terry’s Inn. The locals were surprisingly friendly when we made our grand entrance. The bar, like many others we would visit that night, smelled of stale smoke and beer. Lighting was provided primarily by neon beer signs and décor included 20 year-old posters and the allowable State maximum of five video poker machines. After a brief warm-up period, we were off to our food stop at Mt. Hood Pizza on East Burnside. Pitchers of beer and fresh pizzas awaited us, not to mention a high capacity beer bong.

Now that the crowd had filled their stomachs, we headed out for our third stop, Sloan’s on North Russell. The semi on front and automaton (miniature mechanical) band above the jukebox gave this bar a comfy lounge feeling. The locals were also friendly, and forgiving as participants started to feel the effect of their consumption. The best was yet to come, however.

The fourth stop was our ace in the hole. The Wishing Well in St. Johns was not only a great bar, but had live entertainment in the form of Marlena Wray. Marlena could play the Fender like nobody’s business, but also backed herself on drums and horns via an elaborate keyboard setup. The crowd bounced on the dance floor to classic rock and dance hits. The locals joined into the festivities, which added additional flavor to the event (see the photo gallery for highlights).

The fifth and final stop was our only disappointment, due to overcrowding by the regulars. The Mallory Hotel is a Portland classic by any standard, but the bar is packed Friday evenings and we were left to fend for ourselves in the main lobby. Soon after arriving, half the Tie One On crowd disappeared to a nearby bar for food and drinks.

We rode out the rest of the evening in smaller groups, but managed to all make it home in one piece. Next year, we’ll go for the gold medal and tie our event into a local charity. Let me know if you have any ideas on that, besides alcoholics anonymous, of course.