Living Out Loud: : They Closed

Looking for food in all the wrong places

I get a phone call from my old buddy Roger, who's been living in Portland, Oregon for the past six months. He'll be in town for Thanksgiving this week, visiting his family, and he wants to know if we could get together the day before the holiday.

"Hell yes," I say. "It'll really be good to see you. Let's do something special, hang out downtown."

"Yeah! Hey, after you get off work on Wednesday, let's head over to The Cavern, have a few beers, listen to some music, maybe get some wings or something."

"The Cavern is closed," I reply.

"Oh yeah? Well, let's hit Moose on Main or Have a Nice Day or one of—"

"They closed," I say.

"You've got to be shitting me," Roger says, astounded. "Well damn, let's just do lunch or something on Wednesday. That new place over on Seventh Street, I really liked it when we went. What's it called? Nick & Tony's? Let's go there."

"They closed," I say.

"What? Are you kidding me? How about that vegetarian place a few doors up from it. What was it, Manna's Deli?"

"No longer there," I say, trying to shake my words up a bit, feeling like a broken record.

"Jesus Christ! Well, all right, let's just do Gretchen's. They got good sandwiches and I've been craving one of their cookies."

"Roger, I hate to tell you this."

"No, wait. Let me guess. They closed."

"Yes."

Roger doesn't say anything for a while, but I think I hear him strike a match and I'm guessing he's now smoking a cigarette. Roger always smokes when he's tense.

"I'm really afraid to ask the next question, I really am," he says.

I think I hear smoke being blown into the receiver.

"Mullane's is closed," I say, trying to beat him to the punch.

"No, no, no!"

I hear Roger sobbing into the telephone. I wait patiently as he tries to get a grip on himself. I take out my own cigarette, feeling tense myself. Roger is trying to talk through his tears.

"You guys don't even have a McDonald's downtown, do you?"

"Well, no, we haven't had one since Hustler opened a store next to it and — "

"Just shut up," he says, "just shut up. I can't stand it. Do you know how many fucking McDonald's we have in downtown Portland? Two million. Hell, you're sad, really sad, ya know? You don't even have movie theatres downtown, ya know? And the only kind of restaurant you can hold onto is something like Frisch's."

"Well, actually, they closed." I say.

"How about that Wendy's on Vine? Let's grab a burger."

"They closed."

"The Skyline on Fourth Street?"

"They closed."

"There was a new restaurant getting ready to open before I left town," Roger says, trying to restore calm to his voice. "It's over on Elm Street; I think it's called the Elm Street Café."

"Well, they never quite got around to opening," I say.

"This is all a joke," he says, his calmness starting to turn to nervous laughter. "You just want me to take you to the Maisonette, don't you? Spend a little money on you."

"Spending a little money on me would be nice," I say, feeling a bit ashamed that I live in a city where you don't know what restaurants are going to be open from one day to the next. "But actually, let me call the Maisonette and see if they're still open. The last I heard, they were going to be moving out of downtown to—"

"Fuck it!" Roger says, yelling into the receiver. "Let's just go to Newport on the Levee."

"Now you're talking."

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