SMOKE UP, JOHNNY BOY
As always it's a banner fucking year at the Bender residence. In case your "dear old Dad" decides not to toss you a carton of cheap cigarettes anytime soon, you'll need to know where to get the cheapest ones. Trenchcoat, check. Fingerless gloves, check. Smokes, check. LC
Cheap Smokes To Go, 16227 NE Glisan Street, 262-8845; Cigarettes Plus, 2224 N Lombard Street, 735-2148 .
BETTIN' ON THE DOGS
What's better than nachos, beer that smells like old men and old men that smell like beer? Winning on "Greased Lightning" in the third, that's what! There's no need to drive all the way out to Multnomah Greyhound Park to bet on the dogs. McFadden's Betting Parlor has off-track betting and an atmosphere that's straight out of a scene from a '70s gangster flick. MB
McFadden's Betting Parlor, SW 4th and Alder, 228-7605
MUSIC STORE ROUNDUP
During the past couple of years, the climate of the Portland music store scene has completely changed. Stores have shut down, split up, and opened. Django's and the original Ozone may have closed, but they left holes that were quickly filled, as well as tossing some business back to the old standbys. Here's a quick round up of the music store scene.
For starters, Ozone U.K. opened just a few blocks away from the original Ozone and the husk of Django's on West Burnside. While concentrating on punk and rock, the selection is surprisingly large for such a small store, with lots of pop and indie selections.
A few blocks further down is Jackpot Records. This hipster music store sports a balance of new/used CDs and vinyl. Though a bit on the pretentious side, the staff are actually well-versed, knowledgeable, and good at helping you find smaller titles. Just expect those eyeballs behind those art-school glasses to start rolling if you ask about the new Jet album. But then again, you deserved that.
Then there's Ozone Phase 3, the illegitimate cousin of Ozone U.K. Oh, how I want to hump this place. Probably the best all-around music store in town. Price, selection, vinyl-to-CD ratio, magazines... everything seems to be handpicked. The staff is tops, too. (Once I had them call me three months after I requested an out-of-print album to tell me they finally located it.)
If you're looking for a CD for your mom's birthday, you can always go to one of the Music Millennium stores. They have a huge selection--including a lot of World Music and Bluegrass.
Speaking of huge selections, welcome to the world of Everyday Music. The difference with EM is that almost all the music is used, and decently priced. It's almost always worth it to wade through the mess to find what you're looking for, and a few things you weren't. Another bonus: they don't skimp on the vinyl. At all. It goes on forever. MB
Ozone UK, 10 NW 10th, 227-1981; Jackpot Records, 203 SW 9th, 222-0990 and 3736 SE Hawthorne, 239-7561; Ozone Phase 3, 701 E Burnside, 227-1975; Everyday Music, 1313 W Burnside, 274-0961; Music Millenium, 801 NW 23rd, 248-0163, and 3158 E Burnside, 231-8926.
BE A ROCK STAR
Sometimes you just need to grab the mic and drunkenly slur to the hits of yesteryear. It sure beats drunkenly slurring to your car radio.
An old Portland standby, Chopsticks is more suited for socializing than actually singing--of course, if you're willing to wait the two hours on weekends to make it through rotation, the audience will be that much larger to appreciate your off-key rendition of "Wild Horses." Despite the crowds, Chopsticks is much better than its Burnside cousin, Galaxy. That place is never busy, but you'll never get to sing anyway, because the Galaxy's KJs are jerks and only cater to their friends.
The Ambassador is another Chinese/ karaoke lounge. It has a dark, smoky atmosphere, the KJs and waitstaff are great, and the songbooks are huge. The drawback is that the regulars are nerdy opera students, and they have abysmal taste--sometimes it's just not worth sitting through three Dwight Yoakums just to hear one Led Zepplin.
The Paragon falls somewhere between a VIP lounge and death row--you have to be buzzed in through a steel gate just to get in. The scene is hit-or-miss as far as crowd goes. Sometimes it's packed, with no hope of getting a song in before you pass out, or it could be empty. It's a fun place that mostly caters to the neighbors, because it isn't always worth a long drive.
The Alibi claims to be "The Only Tiki-Bar in Portland." A great joint for beginning karaokeers, the place is absolutely surreal and fun and has a great (yet ever-revolving) staff. After a while, though, the reality sets in: the drinks are pricey and the atmosphere draws in the sorority girl crowd, which never tires of stumbling over "Brown-Eyed Girl."
Grandma's has to be one of the best kept karaoke secrets in Portland. Faux log cabin wood beams, alcove rooms, and stone hearths make it seem more like a hunting lodge than a karaoke joint. The youngest regulars are at least 50 years old, and the song selection reflects this. (Occasionally you get some Gresham-wad who tries to shock the poor old folks with "Slim Shady," but it's much more fun to croon out '50s and '60s oldies.) The best part of Grandma's is the KJ, Lady Kat, a feisty mamma who refers to me as "Sweet Back" on account of my ass being like plum candy. MB
Chopsticks, 2651 E Burnside, 234-6171; Galaxy, 909 E Burnside, 234-5003; Ambassador, 4744 NE Sandy, 280-0330; Paragon, 815 N Killingsworth, 289-0888; The Alibi, 4024 N Interstate, 287-5335; Grandma's, 4515 SE 41st and Holgate, 774-1822.