Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

"Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life."
-Brooke Shields

9:30 AM, Lotsa Luck

I've sat down in one of the cushy captain's chairs in the lovable dive known as the Lotsa Luck. I've got two packs of cigarettes in my car and one in my jacket pocket. I order a cup of coffee and light up. The first drag of my first cigarette of the day catches in my throat and I shudder a bit. It's not necessarily pleasant, but as I chase the second drag with a swig of joe everything coalesces and all is right with the world.

It's my plan today to tour the hazier dives in the downtown area and document the final day of the cities smoky dives. Consider it live blogging the smoking ban.

Here in the Lotsa Luck, a cast of regulars huddle at one end of the bar, laughing, drinking, smoking, and watching the Armed Forces Insurance Holiday Bowl (or whatever its called). I ask bartender Carol what she thinks of the impending ban. She grimaces.

"No one's looking forward to it," she says, "All of the bartenders here smoke." She tells me that the owners are worried about how it will affect the gambling business. Right now, there aren't any lottery machines in the Lotsa Luck, but they are coming back latter this month to line the walls. It's common to find all of the video crack machines full on any given night in the Lotsa Luck. Carol points out that most of the lottery players chain smoke, and wonders what will happen when that vice is disconnected from the other.

Carol used to live in Eugene and remembers when a city wide smoking ban went into affect there. She tells me that many small bars closed their doors because they lost business, or couldn't comply by building smoking sections.

More than that, though, Carol worries about policing her clientele. "No one's looking forward to being the enforcer for this," she says. But with every storm cloud there is a silver lining, "At least I wont have to clean out all these ashtrays," she says grudgingly. Cold comfort.

10 AM, Jolly Roger

Bridget, who has tended bar at the Jolly Roger for two years, has a different take. "It'll be nice," she says, "because when I get sick, I can't get better," on account of the smoke. She also notes that the Reggae nights on the weekends might just get a little more bearable. "It's full of hippies," she says,"With BO and smoke and the doors closed, it's hard."

She throws out a rhetorical question for all the whiny smokers, "How hard is it to walk your lazy ass outside to smoke a cigarette?"

Musician Jake Ray, who's sitting on a bar stool beside me enjoying a smoke with his breakfast, chimes in. "It's a slap in the face of basic freedom," he growls. He says it's all well and good to walk outside and smoke, but as a musician, when he's playing a set he doesn't get that luxury. He was considering a bit of rebellion. "I thought about seeing how many bars I could get kicked out of," for smoking.

Ray is hoping for smoke-easies. He remembers living in Cedarville California and patronizing its one bar, which was only open two days a week. "All of the regulars smoked there," he said, telling me that at least in one hard scrabble patch in California, the ban remained unenforced.

The view from Holman's and Beuhlahland, after the jump!

10:30 AM, Holman's

By far one of the smokiest bars in Portland, Holman's walls are hazed thick with nicotine. The paintings high up around the bar are almost indiscernible. It's as if each of the shellacked paintings were of some dreary midnight scene; all shadows and stains.

The bartender, Donna, adds a bit of weight to Ray's hope for some secret smoking joints. "I've heard a lot of places are going to let people smoke and just take the fine," she says.

Sure, folks can go outside, but Donna points out how ridiculous the "ten feet from the door" rule is, especially for places in smaller neighborhoods, like those lined up along SE 28th Ave. "If you move ten feet from one door, your in front of another door," she scoffs.

Where else is there to go, except the street? I for one, was always told not to smoke in traffic.

A gentleman named Jon is seated in a booth with a friend, both sipping coffee, both with packs of cigarettes placed neatly aside. He remembers the days when you could smoke in the hospital. Jon understands regulating shopping malls and health facilities, but is baffled by government stepping in and regulating smoking in bars. "People aren't stupid," he says. "The government has no right to dictate that decision."

He looks down at his smoke. "I'm gonna die from it and I'm well aware of it," he says. "Let me make that decision."

11 AM, Beulahland

When I lived in this hood, I made Beulahland my local. Before they expanded, it was one of the smokiest places I'd ever had the pleasure of enjoying a pint—which led to some problems trying to hide my late night shenanigans from my girlfriend at the time.

Now the place is twice the size and just a tad less smoke filled. Nevertheless, bartender Teresa is excited. "When I go home, my clothes make the entire apartment stink," she says, wrinkling her nose.

She's not that concerned that Beaulahland will lose business. In fact, yesterday she asked a couple of regulars if they'd stop coming in after the ban, and they told her "no." After all, "you can't drink at home forever," she says.

Teresa looks on the bright side. "People might smoke less and feel better," she says with a smile.

Next on the Last Day Smoky Dive Bar Tour: Club 21, Sandy Hut, Mary's Club, the Matador

Cigarettes smoked thus far: 7