The sign is practically bigger than the actual bar. Inside it's indistinguishable from any other divey sports bar - a bit dark, a bit sticky, cheap beer, and a fair-to-middling juke box. It's certainly not the fairy-tale castle it looks to be from the outside. However, despite its slightly seedy interior, and questionable location, this place is a place where dreams come true. It's the place where I made the most important decision of my life.
In 1992 I moved to Portland from Eugene. It was my second attempt to get out of Eugene for good, both times I moved to Portland. (The first time I lived in northwest on 18th and Davis in "The Lawn" apartments - one of the oldest houses in Portland, built in the late 1800's - and in the '90's my third-floor studio apartment cost $125 a month!!!!! These days it's been renovated into expensive units costing $3000 a month. But I digress.)
This second time around I was living in inner northeast Portland. I'd never hung out in that neck of the woods before, and it felt a bit bleak. I had just moved from Eugene once again, said goodbye to my Oswald Five-O family and enrolled at PSU to get a teaching certificate. I was going to be a french teacher!!!!! I found a one-bedroom apartment in an old building, which I tried hard to like, although truthfully there were some FREAKS living there. I wrote the Oswald song #6 there - that was my apartment number.
Outside it's warm and beautiful
Clear like the Pines
Can't tell if it's gonna be alright
This time is mine
Trying hard to be what I wanna be
my conscience clean
Downstairs a man keeps yelling out
what does it mean
It's sitting down
It's all around
This time is mine
Here is where the story really gets interesting.
So there I am, in my new, weird apartment, in my new school, and trying to adapt to the "big city" and "grow up", and guess who knocks on my door? Greg Rios.
There he was - dressed to the nines, and holding a huge bouquet of red roses.
Now, I must tell you - Greg Rios in a crisp, black, classic suit with a fresh white shirt and a tie, is something to behold. I was a bit overwhelmed. Outside was his 1964 Belair that he had driven up from Eugene, to visit me, and take me on a date. To Club 21.
This became a reoccurring event - he'd drive up from Eugene on the weekends, and we'd walk over to Club 21, and then walk around the neighborhood, and spend the weekend at my pad. Saying goodbye to that handsome man on Sunday night was murder. He made it easier by leaving me with the most AMAZING mixed tapes he made for me - all kinds of love songs. Punk rock love songs, old country love songs, the best jazz love songs, our best friends' bands' love songs - you name it, it was all on those tapes.
And it was a masterful move, because all through the week after he'd left I would drive my little truck around Portland, to and from school, listening to those tapes. How could I resist their/his call?! They worked their powerful magic on me, along with the Belair, the flowers, and Club 21, and I eventually gave up my new life in Portland, and moved back to Eugene. It was a huge decision, and not an easy one. But I recognized love when I saw it, and I knew it would not come again in this way. So, I moved back to Eugene where I would be for the next 13 years, while I waited for Greg's son to grow up, and for us to be able to move back to Portland.
Now, his son is 27 years old. Our own child is nearly 19, and has moved out of the nest. We've been back in Portland for eleven years. We are finally living that dream we had so long ago when Greg showed up at the door of #6, in his suit and tie with roses filling his arms. The punk rock love tapes have moldered, and we don't have a cassette player to play them on, but Pandora plays a great mix, even if it doesn't have Crackerbash or Some Velvet Sidewalk. Greg still wears suits, but to work now (and still just as handsome, wow!), and we sold the Belair for a yuppy Subaru, but its stereo rocks, and we are even more in love than we were back then.
So goodbye Club 21. And thank you. You really were a fairy-tale castle after all. xoxoxoxo