It was my friend Christian Gaston, as it so often is, who first noticed the omen: a retractable belt barrier on the sidewalk of Northwest 21st Avenue. It was outside the latest location of the sports-bar chain Blitz, containing the crowd lining up to grind away a winter Friday night. But it was also a bugle call in a short and one-sided war, one that could be measured in the flipped chairs outside M Bar.
Nob Hill has gone to the bros.
The bridge-and-tunnel crowd in Portland used to congregate only in Old Town, at clubs like Dixie, Barracuda and XV. But as the shopping district of "Trendy First and Trendy Third" faded in the recession, the only trend in the Alphabet District is Major League Soccer—turning Northwest into a de facto stadium district on game nights, and an outdoor frat house every weekend.
Venturing into this douchebag spring on a recent Saturday after a Timbers loss, I stopped first at the brand-new Kells location: a not even ostensibly Irish-themed brewpub-cum-meat market. The place still smelled of fresh paint; the large room with its private wooden nooks was sweltering. Men in striped shirts and ballcaps exchanged whispers with women in tight, ill-fitted striped dresses. In the dim light, it looked like a referee convention.
Outside, a twentysomething dude in a green scarf ran in circles in the street until one of his buddies put him in a headlock.
This scene was quiet compared with the Silver Dollar Saloon. The dive was standing-room only, and a man in the doorway made three boob grabs through a woman's red Adidas scarf before she slapped him away. The din of the crowd—much yelling about finding a strip club—was punctuated by intermittent, alarming thuds from a punching-bag machine.
In the men's room, someone was attacking the malfunctioning paper-towel dispenser. "Karate chop that," his friend suggested. "Punch that shit! Fucking punch that shit!â
It was an accidentally symbolic moment. The lads of the stadium district are going to attack Northwest 21st until it falls apart.