The New Old Lompoc has closed.
The Filipina Fox – best wishes as you enter your fifth decade, love! – checked in on the Instagram at The New Old Lompoc up on Northwest 23rd Street last month with the caption that this was the last Miser Monday. I know that the Filipina Fox and her hubby aren’t moving away, so I figured maybe The New Old Lompoc was changing up their marketing and doing away with their popular $5 beer night.
Forever, it seemed.
This shiny new incarnation of one of my old haunts was shutting down. Overextended and unable to keep up with rising commercial costs in hipster Portland.
Sometimes I feel like life has passed so quickly, I can’t possibly be this old already. Others, like now, it’s as if I’ve lived through a couple of ice ages.
Back before the turn of the century, Trendy-Third, as it’s referred to, was kind of at the upper fringe of Portland’s Alphabet District. The Pearl District wasn’t even a real sub-neighborhood in Portland’s NW quadrant. Twenty-Third was a burgeoning street of retail shops and restaurants that ran from B – Burnside – down to about L – Lovejoy Streets. The hospital I was born in kind of broke things up from there with J – Johnson – to V – Vaughn – kind of becoming known as the ass-end of the street. There wasn’t much going on there other than the McMenamin’s Pub and a now relocated and replaced breakfast joint called Besaw’s that kind of helped start the idiotic Portland culture of standing in line for 45 minutes for a waffle.
But at Savior Street there was a dumpy old building that was home to my favorite dive bar, The Old Lompoc.
No new here.
My Black Sheep Bro and I used to hang out there on occasion. Other times, I’d take my best friend, Becky Boobalini…go ahead, guess how she got her nickname.
Still other times?
I’d go alone.
What made this dive bar so worth the near 30 block commute from my place on the waterfront?
The bartender, of course.
Richard was one of those guys that you look at and you can pretty much figure out: notba lot of words, no ambition, no plan, not a care in the fucking world.
I adored him.
Sometimes his motorcycle would break down and that was about the most emotion you ever got out of him. Then it was like his spouse of a half century was sick. They had quite a bond, this boy and his bike. I have no clue about motorcycles, aside from the time one of my college roommates tried to teach me to ride hers. But if he was talking about it while I was bellied up to the bar, I’d listen to his bad-ass boy talk about it all night.
He had shoulder length straight brown hair that never looked clean but was never on the verge of becoming dreads, either and a face that struggled to grow hair, but was always well beyond a simple stubble. He wore straight hipped, loose fitting blue jeans and biker boots every day. A mixture of black or white undershirts rounded out his uniform, and those shirts just never quite fit his frame perfectly. He was a little too tall for the shirt to cover his waist when he squatted or bent down. And when he raised his arms to brush his hair back I’d either get a peek at his stomach or a flash of underarm…sometimes both.
He was an Adonis from the wrong side of the tracks, to be sure.
Yeah, Richard was what the place had going for it. For me, anyway. Some of the other clientele looked like they were waiting for a fight or for a sucker to roll to walk in…which should have been me, but I’d already paid that toll at this point a half my life ago and wasn’t afraid of them. I’d wander in in my preppy work clothes after closing my store or meet Black Sheep Bro there to shoot some pool on my day off wearing a pastel polo that treated my waist like Richard’s tee shirt treated his.
I didn’t care.
Frankly, I think I established myself as both harmless and untouchable early on by being a much better tipper than the biker crowd. Back in the twilight of the 20th century, a buck a beer was a great tip. My party always did way better than that. So I personally thought that Richard had put the word out to leave me alone. It was either that or somehow Black Sheep Bro had put out the warning…but he’s not the type that can convincingly pull off menacing.
I think it was Richard.
Still another, more ridiculous than normal part of me is screaming at the back of my mind that Richard adored me back. Even as a young man, I had old man fantasies.
My early onset lech world came crumbling down when Richard mentioned one night that he was taking a job on the other side of the river. Turns out, that old bike of his was done for and he needed a place closer to home.
It’s called Bar of the Gods, over on Hawthorne.
“That tracks”, I’d said under my breath as I slowly nodded my head and pursed my lips at the impending loss of my Adonis of a bartender.
You’ll have to come over and check it out.
I convinced myself that he was – once again – hitting on me in that confusing low key manner of his. Pleats were still in, which was good, because when he talked like this…woo, sometimes I miss being in my mid 20s.
“I hang out at the Galaxy Room every now and then”, I told him. “I’ll definitely make a point of dropping in on you!”
But inside, I was dying…crying big pathetic sloppy tears of woe.
Yeah! That’s just up the street a ways. Come see me!
It was the end of an era. I still went to The Old Lompoc with friends, but never solo after that. I started going to Embers – a gay dance bar that happened to be the closest gay bar to my apartment – for my solo drinking. My friends weren’t that upset when they ended up tagging along, it was quite a fun place. It’s here that I met Sacha, so…thanks for that, Richard.
The Old Lompoc sold a while after Richard left. The new owners made some minor changes, including the yellow paint job shown above from its earlier neglected shade of white. They started brewing their own beer under The Old Lompoc label, and this was before small batch breweries took over as a legit industry in Oregon. I’m not sure if it was a brewing mishap or something else, but allegedly, The old Old Lompoc ended up burning down at one point. At least that’s the legend.
All I know is that when I moved back to town – heck…when work started bringing me down monthly in 2014, even – The Silver Fox and his then boyfriend, Casey Adler, would take me up there to the shiny new bar in the street space of a six floor apartment building for their Miser Monday. Same place in the block as the old clapboard building, but so different.
The old Old Lompoc never did Miser Monday. Then again, I doubt beer was more than $3.00 a pint back then, either.
It was nice, this new joint; good company and good beer…it just wasn’t the same as The original Old Lompoc. After Casey and The Silver Fox split up, the Filipina Fox and her hubby moved into the building that now housed the tavern and discovered it for themselves. My life was so horrible that the universe just wouldn’t let this place that was a source of comfort for me for so long fall out of my social orbit. And it kept putting important people in my life conveniently nearby so that I’d have company that mattered to me to share new experiences with there.
I can definitely muster some gratitude for my Foxes – who are both such important pieces of my life – being the tether that kept The Lompoc, in any incarnation, in my life. Alas, now, I’ll have to journey to Portland’s fifth quadrant of town to visit my Lompoc memories since that outpost is the closest I’ll be able to come to the real deal.