Rock/pop Clubs by Night
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Rock/Pop Bands in Town
Jazz Clubs by Night
Jazz Club Directory
Jazz Bands in Town
Portlandís biggest little dive bar, the Alehouse, has given us all new reason to feel dirty. In March, owner Russ Riseman completed some renovations on the bar, including work on the bathrooms to make them, as he says, more "sanitary." No more grimy, broken stall doors. The white walls are actually white again. Hell, Riseman even splurged on a couple of soap dispensers. But, lest you get too carried away with the bathroom decadence and forget you are in, ahem, one of the 20 best dives in America according to Stuff Magazine, Riseman left a curious little calling card.
Itís a window, about the size of mailbox, between the womenís bathroom and the menís bathroom. Thereís no glass in it, and no curtain that we could find. Oh yeah, and itís positioned at eye-level above the womenís sink and, on the guyís side, why, just above the urinal of course. Sadly for some, the angleís all wrong to catch a glimpse of anyoneís genitals. But it is positioned perfectly for those in search of a soulmate.
"This was meant to be a conversation piece," says Riseman of his window. "Youíre in a loud bar and you step away for a second and somebody from the opposite sex is right there in front of you and you can strike up any kind of conversation you want. Perhaps itís an ice breaker for when you leave the room. Itís designed to titillate the imagination, not the actual senses."
Reactions to the window have been mixed. Curiously, says Riseman, men seem more uncomfortable with the idea than women. He thought itíd be the other way around. But a little undercover work shows that Risemanís prediction was indeed wrong. Most men peering through the window were at a loss for words one recent Saturday night, save an awkward, "Um, this is kind of weird. Wow. Itís over the sink on your side? Are you kidding me? Um, yeah, Iím taking a leak on this side." Women, however, seemed to really enjoy the gag, if reaching their hands through the window and calling all their friends in to laugh and point means anything. But perhaps the strangest interaction the window forced was between people who tacitly agreed to ignore the situation altogether. After the excitable drunks left the bathroom that night, two women stood waiting for the stall, backs pressed against the wall, staring pointedly at anything that was not the window. Every minute or so a new pair of eyes gazed through the gap from the other side. No words were exchanged. Toilets flushed, hands were washed, but no one said anything.
These were intimate moments worthy of a Merchant Ivory film.
Riseman says he lifted the idea from the bathroom of a dive bar in Manhattanís East Village, where the windows were, predictably, positioned closer to peopleís goods. Luckily for good old-fashioned conversation, Riseman modified the original for Portland audiences (everyone knows friends before lovers works best anyway).
"Fancy meeting you here" has never been so apropos.
Issue Date: April 22 - 28, 2005
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