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Another Portland Blog

Sunday, April 10, 2005


The Dunes

The Dunes is a weird little bar with an even weirder mythology surrounding it. Supposedly, it sits a few doors down from a club once owned by the local chapter of the Russian mafia. According to rumor (I have yet to run a search on the internet), it closed its doors after a woman was shot and killed in the parking lot.

Despite the neighborhood and a complete lack of Kevlar, a few coworkers and I headed over there late on Friday night. We parked on a side street near the boarded-up Russian club and behind what looked like an abandoned moving truck. In the middle of the night, with no traffic on the streets, it looked like a scene from The Warriors.

The Dunes itself looks like it was cut and pasted from somewhere in Eastern Europe or, maybe more fittingly, The Matrix or a Blade sequel. Almost everything inside was either painted or covered in black. The place was packed and people were dancing on the booths underneath a green light display. I went up to the bar and, without saying a word, the bartender lifted two beers out of a freezer. Both were from China.

I don't dance but everyone I was with does. With nothing else to do, I hid in the back and watched the crowd. On the last stool at the bar was a guy that looked like Doc Brown reborn as a Eurotrash supervillian. I got the impression that he owned the place. Either strung out or bearing the weight of a heavy price on his head, he frantically stared at a cocktail napkin, rising every few minutes to push his way through the small crowd waiting for the bathroom.

I'd been drinking cheap beer all night and there was no getting around the fact that I had to take a leak. While waiting for the bathroom, I talked with a huge, drunk as hell hippie kid in a bright red t-shirt. After a line of girls rushed out looking like side characters from Bright Lights, Big City, I headed in. As I closed the door, the hippie kid burst through. "You take the toilet, I got the sink covered," he yelled, as if we now on some sort of spy mission. With my bladder bursting and not willing to wait another twenty minutes and/or get into a fistfight with this Sasquatch, I obliged. "This is the sound of progress," he yelled at everyone outside. "We're killing two birds with one stone. You should all do the same. It'll make things go faster. We got room for another. There's a trash can in here. C'mon in."

No one took him up on the offer.

Sometime later, while sitting at a booth, a guy that looked like a soccer hooligan ran over and started rifling through a jacket next me. His eyes were wide, he had no neck and he sort of looked like Bob Hoskins. "KEYS! JACKET," he yelled in a European accent through gritted teeth. Had I just been volunteered to baby-sit? Within seconds, "Craig" (a coworker that would no doubt take issue with this lame alias) headed over and grabbed the jacket. He waived goodbye and headed through the fray towards the door. I yelled at him to return- that I was under some sort of oath to protect this random stranger's crap. It was no use.

I did the math in my head:

Very loud, very dark bar + neighborhood with a history of mob violence + inadvertently turning over the car keys belonging to what may or may not be the PDX equivalent of Scarface = I'M ABOUT TO BE SHOT FIVE TIMES IN THE STOMACH.

But I could have been wrong. Maybe "KEYS! JACKET!" had been questions. "KEYS? JACKET?" Maybe the mob guy was wondering if they belong to me. Could that have been Craig's jacket? Was I wrong? Was this Bob Hoskins guy closer to the gruff, nice guy Bob Hoskins from Who Framed Roger Rabbit or the mean as hell Bob Hoskins from The Cotton Club? These questions kept me from running after him.

I turned to everybody and said something along the lines of: "OK, here's the deal. There's a pretty good chance that Craig just made off with the jacket of a coked-up mob guy. I think it's time we left."

We headed to car. Ten minutes later, a cell phone rang. It was Craig.

"Hey, where are you guys?"

Then the phone went dead.

To be continued? Yeah.

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