Sunday, May 13, 2007

The Freemason Lodge that Serves Liquor and Culture

Tucked away on the east side of Portland on Stark Street you will find a small strip of businesses. One of the buildings occupying this block is a split level bar known as the Goodfoot (a James Brown reference no doubt). Upstairs you find a pool hall with classic pinball machines in the corner. After 8pm each evening the downstairs will open all days of the week, hosting local musical acts in a basement atmosphere, where the candlelight dances on the tables and the blue-lit bar serves drinks throughout the performances.

For me, Portland is a city of transformation. Bars with music acts alone are all well and good, but the unique aspect of the Goodfoot is its Last Thursdays, where local artists display their works around the red felt tables that stand on hardwood floors once the domain of an old Freemason Lodge. Still today the faint markings of the t-cross and sextant can be seen on these floors, the symbol of the Masons.

After a couple of pints, and tilting one of the pinball machines, I settle into a corner booth on the upper level to purvey a scene of locals that drift in between the pool players, drinks in hand, eyeing the paintings hung on the walls that surround the pool room.

A variety of people live in this neighborhood, many appear to be local. The First Thursday crowd of the modern Pearl District are nowhere to be seen. I find myself asking, is this a place where art imitates life, or life imitates the art? Music from a bass guitar riff rumbles against the wood floor as the band takes the stage below. In a bar full of people, I am left alone in my corner, at yet with no one at my table, I feel oddly at home. The Goodfoot represents all that is wonderful about Portland. This place doesn’t simply want to just cater alcohol to its customers; it offers a voice in Southeast Portland. Part art gallery, part social gathering place, part musical display.

The Goodfoot has its own personality. In my booth I hear its voice asking me, “What do you have to contribute?” And my response, is nothing more than to take a mental snapshot of a new breed of bar, and reply back with, “Do you think I have it in my soul to become a new breed of man?” The answer returned is silence intermixed with the sounds of cue balls, clinking glasses, and snare drums from below.

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