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).
WEDNESDAY FEB. 22
[DANCE] It's a jazzy two-for-one deal: Dance presenter White Bird has teamed up, for the first time, with the Portland Jazz Festival to bring us Garth Fagan's
, set to an original score by jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Choreographed in 1991 by Fagan, the piece tells the story—as an African griot might—of urban life, invoking its sights and sounds, dissonances and harmonies.
SATURDAY FEB. 25
SUNDAY FEB. 26
[FOOD] Cheese Bar's Steve Jones and Tabla Bistro team up for the Ultimate Cheese Challenge: Jones will select 36 cheeses (it's, like, the largest Steve's Cheese Plate ever!), and participants will get two hours to taste them all, along with cured meats from McMinnville's Fino in Fondo, wines from Matello Wine and Teutonic Wine Company, beer from the Commons Brewery and Gigantic Brewing and cider from Bushwhacker Cider and Wandering Aengus Ciderworks.
MONDAY FEB. 27