Dark Road Diary: Part 43, Portland, Oregon

The doors of the convenience store down the block from the concert hall are boarded up, evidence of riots that took place here in 2020, and they still have an old-school bell that jingles every time they are opened. We finished the soundcheck and I’m here to pick up something sweet. I was flirting with a sugar crash onstage in Seattle the night before and there never seems to be desert in the green room — beautiful meals, but rarely sweets — so it’s M&Ms I’m after (there will be some serious detoxing and rehabbing when this tour is done).

Someone is ahead of me at the check out, fishing out nickels and dimes and a dollar bill, enough for a super large slushie (for some reason) on a cold night. Maybe she needs the sugar, too. The cash register and its’ bald operator are behind plexiglass, and he looks over her shoulder at me.
“Stylin’,” he says.
The door bell jingles.
“Welcome. Your hair: it’s stylin’!” he clarifies. “Love it.”
My hand floats to my head in a slightly coquettish move: what, this plain old hair? “Oh…yeah. Thanks, uhh, man. It’s grey, though..”
The bell on the door tinkles.
“Welcome,” he says. “It’s stylin’, man!”

The woman in front of me moves off and the man reaches for the M&M’s, dragging them through the hole in the plexi.
Another jingle of the bell.

“Yeah… Welcome!…I used to use wax and stuff, when I had hair,” he said, running his hand over his bald head, “and it was stylin’. Now…” he trails off.

Another tinkle. Then again. Then again and again, the new customers filing in all look like they’ve weathered a lot of time on the street.

“Welcome. Welcome… welcome! Welcome!”

Everyone who enters gets a welcome. Everyone.

I pocket the candy, say goodbye to the storekeep, and make the bell on the door ring again as I leave. I feel warmer walking back up to the hall.

The day after the gig I get a message from someone asking if we felt welcomed in Portland. I know they mean welcomed by the people that gathered for the Night (they were great and it was a very good Night).

But I’m thinking about the convenience store.

Yes, I reply. Very.