One of my first favorite clubs was a place called The Tin Quill in Portland, OR. It’s no longer in existence, but it was a tiny hole-in-the–wall place that was basically a bar-slash-stage running along most of the length of the long and narrow room. The rest of the room was taken up by two pool tables and the bathrooms, basically.
It folded in ’94, I believe, when the owners of the building it was in sold it, along with the porno theater next door, to some new owners, who turned the TQ into a pizza place and the theater into a music venue: the Aladin Theater at SE Milwaukie Ave. and Powell Blvd.
My friends and I became regulars there, and it got to the point where we would have guaranteed spots at the bar-slash-stage, and if the bartender noticed us coming in, would have “our” drinks waiting for us by the time we sat down. Except for Rodney because he was always changing his drink. Dork. It was like “Cheers” if it was on HBO.
Reason I’m reminiscing like this is because it’s the one and only place I ever saw a bar fight. The place was kind of a dive and it attracted a definite blue-collar clientele and dancer.
But one night, a new guy came in, dressed up in a fancy satiny cowboy shirt and pressed trousers with piping, and he had his own pool cue, in a shiny black case with bright silver metal corners.
When Sara, the bartender, pointed out the guy, we all knew that trouble was brewing. It’s not like the pool tables were very fancy – they were afterthoughts, something to fill the space up between the end of the bar and the doorway. Mostly guys talked the dancers into playing in between their turns on the bar-slash-stage. Felts were torn, the balls were chipped, the cues were crooked. Nothing special.
But this guy was obviously playing for money. What a dork.
I just sat at the bar and drank and watched the naked chicks in front of me and flirted with Sara (tall blonde with legs that when all the way up; she danced sometimes, too, but was an awesome bartender) and joked with my buddies. But after only a short time, I heard a shout from the pool tables, and I heard the “thump” of the guy with his own pool cue hitting the wall, having been pushed up there by a drunk guy in a leather biker jacket. I heard the sound before I turned to look, and sure enough, guys were squaring off against the guy with his own cue and his hapless partner.
My friends turned to look, too, and in the time it took us to turn our heads, Sara had quite literally leaped over the bar, grabbed a pool cue off the wall, and started laying into guys telling them all to back the fuck off.
My friend Terry had jumped off his bar stool and moved to the back door, away from the fight. Rodney’s eyesight hadn’t ever been all that great (a degenerative condition left him with Swiss-cheese retinas) and was about to follow Sara into the fight without really knowing what was going on, and I was just trying to finish my beer before we scrammed out of there. If I’d had longer arms I would have grabbed a bottle or two from behind the stage but sadly I’m kinda short and the bar-slash-stage was kinda wide.
It was all over very quickly. Sheepishly the regulars stopped fighting when they saw Sara threatening them with a pool cue, and everyone allowed the guy to pick up his now-broken cue and case and leave without any further fuss.
I remember Sara giving me and my friends hell for not helping her out, but I was honest with her – it looked like she’d had it all under control.