Last Saturday was my 50th birthday – huzzah!! We have a birthday trip scheduled for mid-January (The Lodge at Whitefish Lake – probably won’t blog that one as I intend to be completely lazy), but I didn’t want to just ignore my actual birthday, so we had a plan.

A while back I had seen an ad that Denny’s offers a free Grand Slam breakfast on your birthday. Lis said “Neat” in a totally unenthused manner – I knew her plan was to just agree and expect me to forget all about it. An effective plan under normal circumstances, but in this case I actually put it on the calendar, so we seemed good to go. Luckily for Lis, even though Denny’s was on the calendar, her humor-me-and-hope-I-forget plan still worked, because I forgot to actually check out the details until the evening before my birthday. Turns out you have to sign up for their dang rewards program (back in the day, you could just show up on your birthday and show them your driver’s license), and even though I did so, I didn’t receive the acknowlegement until 2 days later (stupid Denny’s). After I signed up but failed to receive anything in response, Lis very sweetly said “We can still go to Denny’s if you want, but what if we go downtown to the Heathman for brunch instead?” Diabolically effective, that girl is.

So we went to the Heathman for their brunch, which was quite delicious, and which put us in prime position for part 2 of our plan, a trip to the Portland Art Museum. The current exhibition is called “The Body Beautiful in Ancient Greece,” a collection of sculpture, vessels and jewelery on loan from the British Museum’s collection of Greek and Roman art, with a focus on the nude athletic form so popular among the Greeks (and, really, among us all – am I right, people?)

We had been seeing the posters for this show around town, and kept planning to go and not making it. The show closes in early January, so we were worried we wouldn’t get there, but then I said “Let’s go on my birthday,” and so it was. (Lis did make a couple unsuccessful efforts to reschedule to the Friday preceding, but I wouldn’t let her. It can be hard for my travel planner extraordinaire girlfriend to just let go and let me do my own planning ordinaire – she is always coming up with improvements and refinements. I finally had to make her just stop and let things play out as they would – it was difficult for her, but she did it – brave sweetie!!)

In the first room of the exhibit there was a lifesize marble statue of a completely nude young male athlete. A little girl of about 11 had her phone up to take a picture, and I was very impressed that someone that young was enjoying an art show enough to take pictures, until I wandered close enough to see that she had zoomed completely in on the peepee and was frantically snapping away. I’ll bet hordes of 11 year old girls are still shrieking and giggling over those pictures.

I really enjoy sculpture, and so really enjoyed this show. Lis said she got a little bored after a while, especially since there was less sculpture and more vessels and vases than she had been expecting. Still, it’s always fun to go to the art museum. While we were there we checked out the modern art section (hit and miss, in my opinion – some stuff is interesting, some just weird and/or boring) and an exhibition of black and white photography of the human form that was running in concert with the “Body Beautiful” exhibit. We both really liked the photography – Lis said she would have been happy to just do the photography exhibit.

Originally this was the extent of my birthday plan – we figured we would just go out to dinner after the museum. But after the shooting at Clackamas Town Center (an aside – I cannot believe all the shootings over the last month – CRAZY and tragic and sad), Lis saw on Twitter that Crystal Bowersox was going to do a benefit concert for the victims’ families at Duke’s Country Bar. For the uninitiated, Crystal Bowersox was a finalist on American Idol the only year we watched it, the year that Ellen Degeneres was a judge (we are such lesbians). We knew that she (Crystal, not Ellen) had moved to Portland, and were interested to see her and also to help the families, so we bought tickets.

Lis was very worried that we wouldn’t get a seat, and wanted to get there at 3pm, which is when she had read the music started. I knew that Crystal would be the headliner and didn’t want to be there for 5 hours (the benefit ended at 8pm). I really had to work to get my way on this one, and then had to work harder still to get Lis to stop fretting about it, but eventually she gave in to my refrain of “we’ll get in or we won’t, and either way we donated to a good cause” and agreed to do it my way and see what happened.

So we went home and fed the cats and rested for a bit, and then headed out to Duke’s Country Bar (SE Division and 140th) around 5:30pm.

When we arrived, the parking lot was full to overflowing (with more pickup trucks than I have seen in one place since I left Idaho – Duke’s Country Bar made me feel very nostalgic) and we figured we wouldn’t get in, but we thought we’d take a pass through the lot and the surrounding streets just in case, and ended up finding a spot on a side street a couple blocks away. Then we showed our tickets at the door and were asked to show ID, which I found totally delightful, even though it looked like it was a matter-of-course thing that they were doing to everybody. Still, I can now say that I was carded on my 50th birthday – I was liking this Duke’s Country Bar more and more!

Once inside, the place was a total madhouse, and I wondered again whether we would be able to stay, as there was no place to sit. After a couple circuits of the bar (which is very large, with several rooms plus a dance floor and a stage), we found a tall table in a back room at which we could stand. This was progress – at least we’d have a place to put food – but I wasn’t sure I wanted to stand for a couple hours. There were about 5 booths along one wall, most of which contained 1 couple and 2 extra seats, which I regarded covetously and even toyed with the idea of seeing if anyone would be willing to let us join them. Just then Lis noticed that one of the couples looked like they were getting ready to leave – she went over to claim their booth, and DID end up sitting with the guy while he waited for his wife to come back from the bathroom. I couldn’t get myself to join their awkward little tete a tete, and let Lis sit there holding our spot until they left (it WAS my birthday, after all…).

After taking possession of our booth, I said “maybe we should ask someone to join us” (the sting of my previous booth longing was still strong). Lis said “Sure, why don’t you ask those two lesbians there.” I saw who she was indicating, and also at that moment noticed that there was a LOT of family at Duke’s Country Bar – hmmm, said I to myself.

The two women we invited were very happy to join us, and we chatted pretty comfortably during our time together, which was good as they didn’t seem terribly outgoing and we often aren’t either. I asked if they had been here before and they said “Never.” “You just came out for Crystal Bowersox, then?” “Yes.” So, apparently Ms. Bowersox has a sizable lesbo following – who knew?

It was very busy, and it took us two hours to get our food, primarily because our very cute, very friendly, very trying-really-hard waitress was also very incompetent – we kept having to be rescued by another waitress who would wander by and notice that we still didn’t have any food, or any drink, or the wrong food, etc. But we did eventually eat, and the food was pretty good.

There were several other country acts preceding Crystal Bowersox, which we missed while we were eating but didn’t really care about anyway. Crystal was just coming on as we were finishing up, but we hadn’t gotten our check yet. We were in the back room, where we couldn’t see the stage. Our rescue waitress came along and said “Go ahead and go up front – you can settle up later, I’ll find you.” She was so awesome – we gave her a big tip (we gave our actual waitress a tip, too, as she was trying really hard and we are softies).

Note from Lis: one of my favorite parts of the evening was as we were sitting, starving, at the table waiting for our food, or water, or… anything, and listening to the music from the stage two rooms away. We had all just disclosed that none of us really knew country music. Then a woman started singing and Mary said, “Is that so and so?” (one of the acts opening the show) to which one of our new friends replied, “No, that’s Lady Antebellum.” To which I replied, “See, I told you. We REALLY don’t know country music.”

The show was short, which was fine as we were standing on the dance floor in front of the stage, rather than sitting. And it was good – Crystal Bowersox has a good voice and a great range, from soft to belting and back again. She did some of her own material, including a couple duets with her husband, Brian Somebody, who came up on stage and bantered weirdly with her for a while, and an excellent cover of a Jewell song and a truly awesome version of ‘Me and Bobby McGee’ to close the show. It was really great – I’m glad we went.

As we were making our way out of the bar, suddenly the national anthem started playing and everyone stopped what they were doing and faced the giant flag behind the stage. Lis whispered to me, “Why are we doing this?” I said, “I don’t know, because we’re at Duke’s Country Bar?” But we both stood at attention like good girls – our mamas raised us up right!

And then it was home and to bed with a totally awesome 50th birthday in the books :)