There were no two ways about it, I had to take a shit. And I had to do it at the Jolly Roger.
There are lots of different lists for bars. Best sports bar, best pickup bar, best happy hour …..we at Uncharted Dives try to tell the stories of the less couth. The off-beat. The scooby doo. For years, Uncharted Dives kept a ranking of the worst bars to drop a bomb. It was a neck and neck race for the top spot. Now that Anjelos has closed its shower-curtained “stall” forever, there is no longer 1A or 1B. No MJ vs Lebron. There is only one. And I had to use it.
The Jolly Roger is a remnant from Old Portland. The pirate themed sports bar was around before the city got intentionally Weird and just was (it moved to its current flag-ship location on 12th and Madison in the early 90s). The establishment, with its enormous sail for a marquee, actually has many things going for it, the toilet just isn’t one of them. On the night in question, the bathroom’s extensive design flaws were stress tested in ways the author never dreamed they’d experience first hand. Though they’d shivered at the thought previously while at the urinal unsticking their feet like a kneading cat and looking down at the adjacent open-air jail-house squatter that faced the door.
The experience in question occurred during what should have been a glorious occasion: a Christmas tradition amongst good friends. It was in the fifth year of a decade-long Holly Jolly Christmas. During this era the author was a more skilled conductor of social interactions and helped orchestrate epic nights with a diverse group who unabashedly loved each other. A particular masterpiece was the Christmas-Night-Night-Cap.
The Jolly Roger embraces Christmas in all its tacky glory. They stash frosted Christmas trees behind booths and hang strands of old fashioned rainbow lights along the flat wooden molding. The place feels like decorated by an eccentric aunt — day drunk at the time.
As Friendsgiving would later take mainstream, our collective had discovered that a stiff drink with compadres was very soothing after being dip-sticked in family decorum for days on end. Those seeking a quick reprieve would sneak over to the bar for an hour and join the island of misfit toys assembled. Some were there for the long-haul because they couldn’t make it home or had to work or were awaiting a bargain flight or just hated the hell out of their relatives and were dutifully avoiding them. I usually came quick as I could after finishing my final responsibilities. It was an excellent downshift to look forward to after the all hoorah of the season.
There was no set time to arrive. Characters dropped in like airborne troopers behind enemy lines, entering one by one and taking territory at the bar. The first airmen, unawares of the others landing, would chat with staff or snag a back table. As others thudded to ground they’d find each other. Eventually the conversational pockets would merge and the party would expand to a bigger booth.
On this particular Christmas I’d ingested the traditional clown car of holiday food: nanaimo bars, monster cookies, cheese ball, hershey cookies, ham, no vegetables, fondue, and a second serving of cheese ball. Normally the excessive queso served as a reliable backstop to the bombardier squadron I’d shelled down my gullet from any toilet usage. This night was different.
There was only one restroom for guys and one for girls. They were right next to each other, with the mens door being first, and slightly shielded from the rest of the patrons by a slim partition. Instead of creating privacy, the divider funneled a captive audience into the waiting queue out front the loo. If the toilets were occupied, which they always were, the girls would be facing the wall to look at themselves in the big mirror hanging between the two bathroom doors. It was like a police lineup in reverse, where the usual suspect could be watched on his solitary seat by a row of Olympic judges awaiting the landing.
Given the Rogers hands-off approach to craftsmanship, the bathroom door didn’t lock. It had a lock, mind you, but one could tell instantly it would not withstand an inquisition from a full-sized human.
My stomach groaned soon after arriving and I attempted an excursion to the Big Buck Hunter game to let my innards congeal. All seemed to be settling down when in the midst of my return to the group, who were already giddily into the jello shots, I got coerced into impromptu dancing due to the reggae band performing near the entrance. While I bobbed gingerly our 290 pound friend Dover Tate arrived. Tate was built like Shrek with the temperament of an african hippo. He greeted me with the ‘camaraderie cup check’. The force of his massive paw to my nuts combined with my hair-trigger tummy turned the toilet into an immediate non-negotiable.
Most bars in town are located in commercial districts or corridors with nearby activity. There are other bars, restaurants, gas stations or SOMETHING around where, in a pinch, one might green-apple-quick-step to maintain their dignity. But this was Christmas. A day made famous in religious lore for its lack of available facilities for a miraculous occasion.
As I approached the bathroom, there was a line of girls all the way down the partition. The mens room, thankfully, looked available. Fighting the sweats, I walked in and stickily tried to maintain my cool. I sat down to quickly and felt the cold rude top of the toilet against my bare bum. The three sheets of paper thin TP I’d hastily placed atop the piss splattered seat blew away with the breeze from my rapid drawer-drop onto the lid. There was just the right amount of air in the restroom from an infirm ceiling vent. It didn’t do anything to circulate the odor, but it caused toilet paper to flutter off onto the wet floor where it attached to the bottom of my shoe.
And there I sat. Staring at the entryway like Bonhoeffer praying for a commutation from Hitler. Hoping against hope the door wouldn’t fly open and I’d be sitting there like a glassy eyed dog caught in a cross-walk street shit. Just as I started relaxing in barged Dover Tate, “awwww shit buddy” he laughed while he ushered his nose tackle physique of protesting organs through the door. His girth shot the door open so widely behind him that not only did the girls make contact with my wintery thighs but it even gave sightline to a table of drinkers by the front entrance. They couldn’t help but notice the Kool Aid guy commotion and look directly into a face still focused on attempting the land speed crap record.
“Ah yeah, been there before buddy been there before. Fack…..” Tate said. Laughing at the recollection of his own misfortune with the room He didn’t wait for a response. “Hey, you see “Cahtah’s heah? That fuckn kid. He missed his flight home.” Tate started to organize something on top of the paper towel dispenser that was likely illicit. “You dope, you eat something hea?” He laughed to himself again.
As I considered giving up and resorting to a night of digestive discomfort, more disaster struck — somebody else tried to enter the bathroom. “I thought I locked that!” roared Tate, with newfound concern for my privacy. The commotion brought additional girls into view. “Hey pal, gimme a minute here. My buddies, trying to take a shit”. Tate shouted. Not willing to be out-beligerented, the drunk guy caught the door with one arm and started trying to wedge himself in to plead his case.
With the door open, they settled into a negotiation on whether the guy could use the urinal next to me while I continued my business. “Buddy, take a fahckn chill-pill. As you can see, there’s no stall in here and he’s not done……….. Back of the line!” He looked over at me. “He’ll be done in a minute.” I had no recourse but to sit slack-jawed as I started unrolling the crispy single ply from the roll. “I’d like to buy a vowel” I finally yelled at Tate, who. despite his disposition, had surprising wit and deep knowledge of pop culture. The best way to get him to actually listen was to make an oblique reference. Pat Sajak brought him pause. “Can you close the fucking door?!” I pleaded.
The light bulb went off in Tates Knob Creek soaked holiday gourde. “Close the FACKING DOOR!” Tate repeated while Ray Bourking the skinny timber shut.
Eventually I abandoned my hostile acts with the toilet and vacated the bathroom arm and arm with Tate. The good news was, with friends like those, no one else’s opinion mattered. It didn’t matter I’d just been made a fool for all to see. It didn’t matter I’d be going home alone, or that other tables might find jolly in my folly. The only thing that mattered was the people I was with. There was no place I’d have rather been. Even if I had to take another shit.
When to go: Christmas.
What to order: Microbrews. Jell-o shots on holidays.
What to do: The Juke box. Buck Hunter. Monday Night Football.
What Not to Do: A number 2 (the bar that used to be Madisons is across the parking lot, use that!)