Beerchaser of the Quarter – Author and Wine Drinker, Brian Doyle

Author, editor and former basketball all-star

Author, editor and one-time basketball all-star

I knew that I had to meet and have a beer with Portland author and editor, Brian Doyle,  when I saw the Portland Tribune article“An Egghead Walks Into a Bar.”  It reports on his work with University of Portland alum and inventor, John Beckman, to create what has become the annual Brian Doyle Scholarships in Gentle & Sidelong Humor – $3,333.33 per student for one academic year, during which the multiple recipients must create and publicly share a project of some sort that “brings the community together in laughter…”

According to Brian, who is the Editor of the University’s award-winning magazine, The Humor Project” makes UP, the only university of its kind to have this type of project, and affirms a key personal philosophy – “Humor defeats fatuous pomposity and arrogance.”  Realizing that Doyle’s talents are creativity and marketing – not administration, one of Beckman’s stipulations was that Brian was to be integrally involved, but not in charge of the project!

Brian Doyle self portrait - Humor - What humor??

Brian Doyle self portrait – Humor – What humor??

Reinforcing my intent to have a brewski with him was the quote in the preface to Doyle’s book, Osama Bin Laden’s Bald Spot. After one of its short stories, “Hurtgen,” won a national award from the Catholic Press Association, he wrote, “(This) was pretty cool, although there was no beer in it for me…..”

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The Fulton - opened by the McMenamins in 1988 and reportedly the original home of Hammerhead Ale.

The Fulton – opened by the McMenamins in 1988 and reportedly the original home of Hammerhead Ale.

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So I wrote Brian and told him that I wanted to “honor” him in the Beerchaser blog.  I was pleased, if not somewhat surprised that he accepted this unusual request and we met in his favorite bar – The Fulton Brew Pub.  (To be reviewed in this blog in the next month or two along with Brian’s essay on the pub.)

In preparation, I read some of his essays, a bunch of short stories and watched videos of a few of his speeches.  His creativity, humor and well….his off-the-wall idiosyncrasy was impressive.  One does not know how many of these tales are based on his actual experience, embody some embellished conceptual truths or he just dreamed up when he was ruminating in his den.  But after chatting with him for ninety minutes at his favorite pub, I would suggest most are the former.

Chatting over drinks at The Fulton

Chatting over drinks at The Fulton

Let me give you a few examples:

One of his short stories  – “Three Basketball Stories,” chronicles:

“…. a basketball league once in Boston that was so tough that when guys drove to the hole, they lost fingers.  One time a guy….got hit so hard his right arm fell off, but he was a lefty and hit both free throws before going to the bench….

I heard that his team later had a funeral for the arm with everyone carrying the casket with only one arm as a goof but they all got so howling drunk that they lost the arm and had to bury the casket empty and then they spent the rest of the night trying to remember every lefty guy in the history of sports……”

(Brian was named to a city league all-star team in Boston in 1983 and has the jersey framed in his office.  (Fortunately, he did not appear to have a prosthetic device for his right (drinking) arm.)

Worth an arm and a leg....

An honor worth an arm but probably not a leg….

One of his short stories, “The Boyfriends Bus,” is about a guy who organized a field trip with nine of his wife’s former boyfriends – another example of the writer’s active imagination:

“….So we rented a bus for the day, a small bus, sort of half a bus….and we hired a guy to take us out in the wine country for the day….Anyway, we all got sizzled, the other nine boyfriends and me, and all day guys were ribbing me for having won her hand, I was elected president of the bus and got to make decisions about which wineries to stop at and all, and in the end it was kind of poignant…..

Each guy said with genuine affection and respect that my wife was a wonderful woman, absolutely, an unforgettable woman, that his time with her was really a highlight of his life.”

The look if you split and infinitive or misuse an adverb...

The look if you split and infinitive or misuse an adverb…but not if you like long sentences…

Speaking of bars…..there’s an essay – “On the Misuse of Adverbs” – in which he relates the hilarious account of his five brothers and him getting kicked out of a New York City bar based on an altercation.  It erupted when they were defending a young woman — and the English language:

“Finally there was a moment when the young man leaned toward the young woman and gently covered her exquisite digits with his offensive paws and said:

‘Hopefully, you and I… ‘ at which point my brother Thomas stood up suddenly, launched himself over the balcony rail, landed with a stupendous crash on their table, and said to the young man, ‘Never, and I mean never, begin a sentence with an adverb.”‘

Portland Magazine

Portland Magazine

While some of these tales may lead you to think that Brian is a total flake, that would be the wrong impression  – he’s mirthful and loves humor, but is a gifted writer and editor of the superb University of Portland magazine, Portland, and very serious about his craft.

Portland Magazine cover - Autumn 2013

Portland Magazine cover – Autumn 2013

Brian is the second editor of the quarterly journal – assuming the position in 1994 when he came to UP.  “The intent is not to have a glossy piece for alumni public relations.  The objectives are to make you laugh, cry, lose your temper or kneel in prayer while concurrently punching you in the gut.”

The first Portland article I read (and excerpted for this blog ) was Father Patrick Hannon’s wonderful essay about the Twilight Room – the fifth bar I reviewed on Thebeerchaser Tour of Portland Bars, Taverns and Pubs.

I am now a regular reader based on articles such as Brian’s profile of Portland swimmer and speaker, Karen Gaffney, who just received an honorary doctorate from UP for her achievements and work on Downs syndrome.

Profile of Portland's Karen Gaffney in the Winter 2014 edition of Portland

Profile of Portland’s Karen Gaffney in the Winter 2014 edition of Portland

Or read Brian’s 2009 essay, The Terrible Brilliance,” based on the art therapy work his wife does for young children with serious illnesses – a piece which both punched me in the gut and brought a tear to my eye because my daughter, Laura, works as a pediatric oncology nurse with these same children.     brilliance

Portland Magazine, won Newsweek Magazine’s “national championship” of college and university magazines, beating out the Harvards, Stanfords and the other powerhouses in the SEC and Pac 12 that have academic programs even their football players admire.  It has also won five Gold Medals.  Perhaps it’s because the magazine is, “addicted to silly humor, roaring anger and is deliberately provocative.”

Even though I had two outstanding pints of Nebraska Bitter (first brewed at The Fulton Pub in honor of Nebraska Street where it was first brewed) and Brian had two glasses of pinot, we ran out of time to talk about his ten books – his next novel (The Plover) will be published in April and Mink River was a finalist for an Oregon Book Award in 2012.

Brian Doyle's novels

Brian Doyle’s novels

If you do a Google search like I did to research Brian Doyle, you will get 3,230,000 potential hits and discover there are other famous Brian Doyles – a Canadian children’s author, a former New York Yankee who starred in the 1978 World Series (even though his career batting average was only 161) and even a former Deputy Press Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security – forced out after conviction of a felony.

In fact, Brian decided in 2002 to  write letters to the other 215 Brian Doyles he found in a national directory to learn more about them:

Tell me a little bit about yourself, I wrote us recently. How did you get your name? What do you do for work? What are your favorite pursuits? Hobbies? Avocations? Have any of us named our sons Brian? What Irish county were your forebears from? Where were you born? Where did you go to college? What’s your wife’s name?

He spoke to or corresponded with 111 and his essay, “Being Brian,” was published in Harper’s Magazine“Oddly, we were all neurotic about getting to airports early (at least two hours) and all had terrible handwriting.”  After talking to Brian, I have a feeling he would have undertaken this endeavor even if his name had been Jim Johnson or maybe even Alexi Fronkiwiecz……..

Being Brian....

Being Brian….

While there may be 215 or more Brian Doyles across the US – and who knows how many more in Australia, Asia, Africa and Antarctica –  we are fortunate to have our own right on the University of Portland campus.

In 2006, he wrote a book, The Grail  – a chronicle of  “A year ambling and shambling through an Oregon vineyard in pursuit of the best pinot noir wine in the whole wild world.”  Maybe that’s when he converted from drinking beer to wine although he admits he will still have a Hammerhead at the Fulton if it is really hot.  

The Grail - available at Amazon.

The Grail – available at Amazon.

Brian Doyle is a gifted story-teller with a great sense of humor and a good jump shot, albeit a slowing first step to the hole.  He’s also a man of strong faith and values and a good dad.

Doyle is humble and has the courage and conviction to castigate both institutions and individuals for hypocrisy or pomposity whether it’s the Catholic Church or a politician.  And his gift of language makes his criticism piercing and memorable.

The above reasons explain why a guy who now drinks wine instead of beer can still be the Beerchaser of the Quarter.

Read his stuff – you will admire and enjoy it!

Note: I was profoundly saddened at the passing of this great human being on May 27, 2017, at the age of 60, after being diagnosed with brain cancer the previous November. Brian is survived by his wife, Mary, his daughter, Lily and twin sons, Liam and Joseph.  His solid faith sustained him through surgery and treatment and he showed love, humor and the personality traits that endeared all who knew him until the end.   The family received tributes from all over the world lauding his literary career and his humanity.

Thebeerchaser’s tribute to him is at

https://thebeerchaser.com/2017/06/09/brian-doyle-beerchaser-eternal/

To honor his legacy, the University of Portland has set a goal to raise $1 million towards the cost of the new Brian Doyle Lecture Hall.

https://www.giving.up.edu/s/1797/home.aspx?sid=1797&gid=2&pgid=672

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Beer Chaser Miscellany V and The Davis Street Tavern

An Evening at the Davis Street Tavern

An Evening at the Davis Street Tavern

Thebeerchaser offers these tidbits and a quick commentary on the Davis Street Tavern – more of a restaurant than a pub, but worth a cursory review based on our visit.  However, first a few miscellaneous Beerchaser items:

This Beer Really Hops

Thebeerchaser’s youngest daughter, when she was in grade school, had a wonderful frog collection – ceramic amphibians, posters, stuffed frogs like teddy bears, etc.  Each time I had a business trip, I would seek out and bring home an addition to that collection, which grew to be almost 100 in number.

The remnants of a once great amphibian collection.....

The remnants of a once great amphibian collection…..

Frog Poster from Collection

Frog Poster from Collection

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As her aggregation grew larger, it became more challenging to find suitable new toady trinkets.  While at a conference in either St. Louis or Chicago, I was therefore quite proud of myself to find a unique amphibian addition – Bad Frog Beer!   A pub I discovered, featured this product which had interesting roots in Michigan. 

I consumed an excellent light-colored amber beer and decided that the empty bottle with the amazing Bad Frog logo would be a unique supplement to the group of polliwogs in my daughter’s room.  The bottle survived a suitcase ride home and my daughter liked it.  Thebeerchaser’s spouse, however, had better judgment – and you will probably understand and support why she did not accept my assertion that our young collector did not yet understand the underlying message conveyed by this rebel frog.

From the Bad Frog Brewery

From the Bad Frog Brewery –

The Bad Frog story is quite interesting and you should visit this link to their website to see their story and perhaps even purchase a sweatshirt.

Jim Wauldron, the founder, was not a brewer, but a graphic artist and t-shirt designer, who created the image and merchandise – but no beer – much to the consternation of people throughout the country who wanted both the t-shirt and the non-existent beer. According to their website:

Well we did learn about beer and started brewing in October 1995.  Then the whole thing went BESERK!  We’ve expanded to 25 states and overseas.  We were BANNED in 8 states. The banning of the Beer and the non-stop legal battles with each State prevented the expansion of the Beer, but BAD FROG fans all over the world still wanted the BAD FROG merchandise.  We’ve been featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC. BAD FROG was even featured in PLAYBOY Magazine TWICE.”

The legal challenges resulted because of the frog’s none-too-subtle extension of what is presumed to be its middle finger.  Liquor boards in multiple states banned the beer.  Eventually the US Second Court of Appeals overturned the New York State Liquor Authority‘s ban on selling Bad Frog Beer in an interesting and extremely entertaining  First Amendment case Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York State Liquor Authority 134 F.3d 87 (1998).

 Lawyers would love the language from the court opinion which has some great footnotes and includes,“…..(The logo) is patently offensive’ and presumably a suggestion to have intercourse with oneself.”

And a February Oriented Bar Joke……

Thomas Edison (born on February 11, 1847) walks into a bar.  The bartender says, “I’ll serve you, but don’t get any ideas.”             

The Ultimate Idea Man - Born in February
The Ultimate Idea Man – Born in February

                

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The Davis Street Tavern                          

Happy Hour at the Davis Street Tavern

Happy Hour at the Davis Street Tavern with Janet Williams and Kate and David Dickson

Several months ago, Thebeerchaser and spouse, Janet, were joined by our good friends, David and Kate Dickson, for a happy-hour repast at the Davis Street Tavern.  Dr. Kate is one of the most knowledgeable authorities on secondary education in Oregon, or for that matter in the US.  David, the retired VP of Development for Marylhurst University, is a Stanford University grad and earned his graduate degree at the U of O.

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He is one of the brightest and wittiest minds you can find – for example on backpacking trips he sings country-western tunes such as “She was only a bootlegger, but he loved her still…..”

This statement on his mental acuity begs the question, “Just how bright is he?”  Well, let’s use this example of dialogue from David’s sophomore linguistics class in Palo Alto:

Professor: “In English, a double negative forms a positive.  In some languages though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative.  However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.”

David: “Yeah. Right…..”

Our last Beerchaser Tour adventure with the Dicksons was at the delightful Muddy Rudder Public House in Sellwood.  (see review in this blog in April 2012)

The guidelines for Beerchaser’s Tour of Portland Bars and Tavern disdain taverns which are primarily restaurants and this establishment comes close.   An abbreviated review, however, is warranted since it does have a great Happy Hour (Mon. – Fri. –  4:00 pm to 6:00 pm and Saturday – 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm.)  There is also a nice late night menu from 9:00 until midnight.

Opened in 2008, it is still almost pristine and has very nice dark wood interior –  “It handsomely preserves a piece of Portland’s past, with sandblasted beams and pillars, original brick interior walls and acres of polished wood for a splendidly burnished effect.” (The Oregonian – April 2009)

Davis TV and BarThe bulk of the space is occupied by the restaurant in what Portland Magazine described as a “roomy pub atmosphere.”  The Bar is located by the front entrance.  It reminded me of Interurban on N. Mississippi Ave. – a nice place, but none of the character of a good neighborhood or dive bar.  One doesn’t patronize based on the ambiance.

This description from Portland Barfly in 2009 is an apt description: Don’t let the name fool you. This isn’t a tavern, but an upscale (fairly expensive) restaurant……The dining area is much bigger than it appears from street level with a front bar/dining area, a huge dining area in the back, and an upstairs. The atmosphere is cozy with dim lighting and the décor is rather rustic with the original brick walls and timber beams left over from when the building was constructed.”

Another nice touch as stated in their website: We proudly show artwork generously provided by Butters Gallery,”  as evidenced by the following work displayed in the bar when we were there.

                                Davis Art

 Davis Street Tavern   500 NW Davis Street

Portland Weather During the Winter Months

Yes, it gets frustrating living in The Rose City when daily cloudy skies and rain are the standard for the Northwest between October and April.  This old gem in Thebeerchaser’s newspaper files – it’s old enough that Phil Stanford was still writing a column in The Portland Tribune (2001-08) – summarizes it well.

“A guy gets off a plane at PDX and its raining…..He checks into his hotel and next morning it’s still raining……Next day, same thing.  And the next……A week later, he’s waiting for a cab to take him back to the airport and, would you believe it, it’s still raining……He spots a paperboy in the lobby. ‘Kid,’ he says, ‘Doesn’t it ever stop raining around here?’ ……’How should I know,’ says the kid, ‘I’m only 12.'”                  

The Rain Cycle - That means over and over and over.......

The Rain Cycle – That means over and over and over…….

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Now Get That Snack After Reading This Closing Note……..

In the November General Election, voters in Washington approved the sale of marijuana subject to State regulations.  Washington also privatized the sale of liquor, which has had an unintended consequence – the price has risen causing many people to flock to Jantzen Beach just over the Oregon border to buy their hooch.   This prompted one letter-to-the-editor which summarized the situation very succinctly:

“With the Washington marijuana initiative passing and the Oregon one failing, and the increase in Washington residents traveling to Oregon to buy cheaper liquor, building a new Bridge over the Columbia River is now an imperative.”                

The Columbia River Crossing ---- Now and Imperative!!

The Columbia River Crossing —- Now and Imperative!!

Gold Dust Meridian – A Nugget on SE Hawthorne

“Brady Bunch” – Mid-Century Modern Exterior

If you’re cruising along SE Hawthorne Blvd., you might not notice Gold Dust Meridian (GDM).  That’s because they “stuck a bar in a mid-century accountant’s office,” or as stated by The Portland Tribune, “If you hanker to party again in the basement of your parents’ suburban ranch house, GDM will joyfully recall those halcyon years.

According to co-owner, Marcus Archambeault, the 1955 office building formerly occupied by Gearhardt & Sons Accounting Firm, looked intriguing  – “mid century, modern style – kind of ‘cold war pristine with glass in front!”

“Perhaps a juke box would look good in place of this desk….”

So why should you want to frequent a bar where CPAs once calculated double-declining balance depreciation and bemoaned the impact of the alternative minimum tax?

???????

Well, it’s because GDM gets many superlative reviews, including that of thebeerchaser and his group – three lawyers from the Portland law firm of Whipple & Duyck P.C.  GDM has even received plaudits from Playboy Magazine as one of the Twelve Top Late Night Spots in the Nation in 2011:

Naomi affirms legacy of great servers at GDM …

After Midnight, compiled by the editors of Playboy, provides a coast-to-coast glimpse at some of the most coveted late-night watering holes in the nation.  At these legendary spots, after-hours thrill seekers will have no problem catching live music, enjoying generous cocktails, hobnobbing with eclectic crowds, savoring scrumptious late-night eats, and in some cases, learning a bit of local history.”

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The Portland Mercury has also named it one of the best happy-hours in Portland in multiple years.  (Seven days a week from 2 to 8 PM) Keeping in mind the insightful quote:  “You don’t love someone for their looks, or their clothes, or for their fancy car, but because they sing a sing only you can hear,” let’s discuss the melody emanating from GDM when you walk into the bar:

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Distinguishing Characteristics

Dan Duyck at the spacious bar – that’s native Oregon hardwood…

The Interior – While the exterior doesn’t beckon, walking in GDM reveals in their own words, “large comfortable booths, slanted teak ceilings, a custom bar built with reclaimed Oregon timber, and a dimly lit brick and wood façade.”

Another review summed it up well: The past and present rarely collide so nicely.”   Unlike a lot of bars, conversation is promoted because there are NO televisions, pool tables or video poker machines –  a very refreshing touch.  You can get a deck of Trivial Pursuit to tap your brain, however. They have live music on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and DJs on weekends.

The Art –  it is truly distinctive as evidenced by the two photos below.  A number  of pictures such as “Bird of Prey” are oils on canvas by local artist Hickory Mertsching (I set out to create a peaceful contemplative setting, paintings that illustrate the relationship between man and nature, a reminder of our state of being and the simple aspects of life.”)

Local Art by Hickory Mertsching

ASCII Art – Who is Mandroid?

There was also a large computer-generated “pop art” piece on the south wall, which was very unusual.

The Food and the Cocktails – Naomi said that management seeks ideas for cocktails from the bartenders and servers and Marcus affirmed, “We change our classic and champagne cocktail menu with the seasons to make it more dynamic.”  They have about ten classics ranging from a Marionberry Margarita to a Root Beer Cowboy (WL Weller Bourbon, Apple Jack, Fee’s Old Fashioned Bitters and Root Liqueur) and ten more champagne cocktails such as Death in the Afternoon (Champagne,Trillium and Absinthe). 

Scorpion Bowl – because it stings when you don’t expect it….

And there are the three Family Bowls – also known as “Scorpion Bowls described by one who imbibed as,“A sixty-ounce drink served in a huge bowl, garnished with fruit and hanging monkeys and enough straws to share with you friends – these things are dangerous – the zombie tastes just like punch.”

Being somewhat reserved, we ordered some very good Oregon Beers (GDM has ten bottled beers and eight on tap) – Apocalypse IPA from 10 Barrel Brewery in Bend and Double Mountain IPA from the brewery of the same name in Hood River. 

Oly Country….

The one exception was Dan Duyck who ordered a $1.50 Olympia.  When asked for an explanation, Dan, who hales from the rural area of Washington County stated, “It’s beer to bale hay by…..To this day, whenever I catch a whiff of beers such as Oly, Blitz, Rainier and Heidelberg, I am reminded of my youth and that beer is the true reward for hard work  no matter what your age.” 

They also have a number of “Whiskey Flights” where one get shots of three different whiskies ranging from $15 to the more rare at $28.

The food, ranging from appetizers to salads to sandwiches, is also very good and not traditional “pub grub.” –  “It’s 1950’s Trader Vic style with sharable plates”I had a superb oyster poor boy sandwich and one of the lawyers had macaroni and cheese which he described as, “with a wonderful crust and rich and creamy throughout…..”  We then talked about the trend where good Mac & Cheese seems to be ubiquitous on quality pub menus these days, which led one of us to ask:

Available in Fine Bars and Goes Well With Beer

Q: How prevalent is Mac ‘n Cheese on pub menus these days?

A: “Well, it’s more prevalent than Portland Mayoral Candidate Jefferson Smith’s license suspensions.”

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The Mac ‘n Cheese Candidate?

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The Patio – With the ban on indoor smoking, most bars have patios these days, but many are just stuck in surplus space.  While the outdoor tables in front of the GDM are right on Hawthorne and noisy, the patio areas in the back and at the side have nice vegetation and are spacious.

Marcus and his partner in the bar, Warren Boothby, have a philosophy that to compete and draw patrons, “a bar has to be more than just a bar.”  Even the name Gold Dust Meridian is different.  Marcus said it was developed five years ago, “After a few beers and the (Prime) Median was starting place, of sorts, just like our new venture….”

They recently opened a sister bar – The Club 21 – on NE Sandy and 21st. 

Gold Dust Meridian stands out as a quality bar that distinguishes itself in a number of ways.  Prime yourself for a visit.

Gold Dust Meridian         3267 SE Hawthorne