Shuffleboard makes for strange bedfellows. Tonight my teammate—drawn at random—is Don, a white-haired old-timer with a sunny disposition helped by a decent Pabst buzz. As this is my first shuffleboard tournament, I ask Don—who has been playing at Havana West, the bar formerly Hal's Tavern, for "quite a few years"—for a little advice. "I got one word for you," Don says, squeezing my shoulder. "Win."

There are at least a dozen serviceable places to play shuffleboard in Portland, but the beautiful table at Hal's, with its smooth wood and light-up scoreboard, is widely considered the finest. The bartender tells me she's deadly serious about keeping beers away from it. "The first time I give people a warning," she says. "And then the second time I might tickle them. But I'll throw people out if I have to."

The loose crew of players who gather here for informal tournaments on Friday and Saturday nights—mostly men, mostly past retirement age—like to say the table is "faster than snot." They disagree on the exact date this table landed at Hal's, but the bar opened in 1944 and they figure it has been here since near the beginning. "I'm not sure," one of them tells me. "I've only been playing here since '65. Ask Dan." Dan is Dan Dobbek, who played a season with the Washington Senators before they became the Minnesota Twins. A blown-up 1960 rookie card hangs on the wall not far from where Dobbek is sitting with the same constant smile plastered on his face. He's not sure on the date of the table, either, though he may well have misheard the question.

With help from the regulars ("Use the edge!" "Throw it like you mean it!"), a particularly lucky throw, a trashed young opponent and a bye-round draw, Don and I make our way to the finals, where we lose focus and drop the game to the tune of 16-3. "Hey, we did all right," Don says, shaking my hand firmly. Later I hear him telling his friends that "this was a real good one tonight." I couldn't agree more.


SEE IT: Players at Havana West, 1308 SE Morrison St., hold informal shuffleboard tournaments most Friday and Saturday nights at 7 pm. A five-week tournament begins Tuesday, March 6, and continues every Tuesday until April 3 (with $1.50 Pabst pints during tournament play). 

Headout Picks

WEDNESDAY FEB. 22

GARTH FAGAN DANCE
Griot New York
Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 SW Broadway, 248-4335. 7:30 pm. $26-$64. All ages.

SATURDAY FEB. 25

PORTLAND CELLO PROJECT PLAYS PANTERA
[MUSIC] Tonight PCP is performing, in full, one of the most ferocious metal records ever made: Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power. On the surface, it seems like an odd choice, but cello makes a perfect stand-in for Dimebag Darrell’s power-drill guitar. Wonder Ballroom, 128 NE Russell St. 9 pm. $10 advance, $12 day of show. 21+.

SUNDAY FEB. 26

THE ENVELOPE PLEASE: OREGON GOES TO THE OSCARS
[MOVIE HISTORY] Hours before the Academy Awards hit your TV (or the Bagdad, Hollywood and Mission theaters, if you feel like company), Oregon film historian Anne Richardson gives an illustrated primer on the state’s golden-statuette honorees. Hint: One of them rhymes with Mus Man Mant. Oregon Historical Society, 1200 SW Park Ave., 222-1741. 2 pm. Free with OHS admission and/or to Multnomah County residents.

ULTIMATE CHEESE CHALLENGE
Tabla Mediterranean Bistro, 200 NE 28th Ave. 238-3777, tabla-restaurant.com. $49.

MONDAY FEB. 27

CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF
[MOVIES] It’s Elizabeth Taylor’s 80th birthday and, as we can’t spend it in the heavenly tree house she shares with Michael Jackson, let us instead join her granddaughter Laela Wilding to watch Granny Liz take on Tennessee Williams. Hollywood Theatre, 4122 NE Sandy Blvd., 493-1128. 7 pm. $10 donation benefits Cascade AIDS Project and da Vinci Arts Middle School.