Ever been in the room with a digital amputation? It’s rather like this.

Ever been in the room with a digital amputation? It’s rather like this.



(Note: Names have been changed for privacy)


I wasn’t planning to be in the Portland bar called Mad Hanna’s at 3:30pm on a Tuesday.


To be forthright — I was indeed planning to be in “a bar” at 3:30pm on a Tuesday (don’t judge), at the conclusion of my bike errand loop. Rite Aid for drugs and paper products for wiping objects and orifices; Autozone for a Throttle Position Sensor; and Gartner’s Meat Market for two pounds of suet and three pounds of franks and sausages that smelled so good raw that I wanted to eat them through the butcher paper.


The odds of me going to Mad Hanna’s on an errand bike loop are like 90-to-1. Much more likely to be in Spirits (3–1) or the Park City Pub (2–1) or Peter’s (3–1), or the Ace Tavern (6–1), maybe Rocky Butte Pub (10–1) or, depending on my mood, even the Crackerbox Tavern (15–1), which is right near Gartner’s and one of the most utterly filthy bars in Portland. It’s where hookers play video poker with cash they make giving handjobs in the parking lot (or at least it was when I was there and one girl was talking about how it’s the easiest money she ever made). They also have a super fun bouncy pool table and super cool ancient seafaring equipment hanging in every dusty (wow, so dusty) corner, and at times your cue will get snagged on the nets and other overhead flotsam & jetsam that hover around the 6’4” level. And there’s framed brown newspapers from 1952 or whenever some long-past notable event happened. And a bathroom that is startlingly clean. And it’s pretty much banda music playing nonstop, which is so fun to shoot pool to, and gives me flashbacks from my years in North Hollywood Billiards…


But I digress. The point being — the Crackerbox does not open until 4pm, which I learned because I went there first after Gartner’s.


So with the Crackerbox not yet open, I figured maybe I’d stop at Spirits for a nice tall $3.75 glass of their specialty rum punch, like the kind George Washington used to drink, and also the free pool table and the cheery daytime social club crowd of lackadaisical retired people who play good rhythm & blues on the jukebox. But on this day, as I pedal nearer, it doesn’t feel quite right.


Biking up and down the volcanic hills and ancient Columbia riverbanks of Cully while bundled for the Christmastime weather has me hot and sweaty now so Peter’s on Fremont makes even more sense because they always have some refreshing and unique fermented concoction on the beer list like a cucumber-ginger-pear fizzy wine or marionberry & clove cider. And also a free pool table which is situated in a roomful of cool plaid carpeting.


However a few blocks away from Peter’s, my pedal starts doing something weird. There’s the distinct feeling that it’s moving outside of my power, pulling downward on its own, the reflexive illusionary feeling that someone else is turning the crank. Immediately I think — coaster brake thing maybe (it’s an indestructible 1965 Sears Spaceliner). I turn my attention to it, doing slow and fast crank cycles, I begin to theorize that maybe it’s catching the gash in the bottom of my shoe which has devolved such that it now flaps and occasionally squeaks like a dog toy when I walk. This is because Converse Chuck’s are engineered to last precisely one year and then they self-destruct and I have to order another size 10 ? black pair from the World Wide Web.


But through the process of all the pedal observation and experimentation, I’m now gliding past Peter’s with momentum and so I instead declare that, “Jeez, I rarely go into Mad Hanna’s more than three times a year (literally) so I should stop in there.” It’s the next bar on Fremont, or the last depending on your perspective and orientation.


Despite being right on my street, which is Fremont, I rarely find myself in Mad Hanna’s more than three times a year (literally). Even though they have a good jukebox and people with good taste who play good songs. But the layout feels awkward, like the single pool table is in the way of everyone — the gambling machine players, the beer buyers, the beer drinkers and the pinballers. But mostly I think it’s the pergo floor that bugs me because of the bounce and the feeling of newness when I tap it with my cue.


When I coast into Mad Hanna’s — (first you pass the doorway of a vacant building where the bums have been shitting for three years and continue to do so, making it like a subliminal landmark for me and sometimes also a landmine field) — I’m happy to see they installed a cast iron pipe bike rack, so you don’t have to chain your bike anymore to the flimsy old picket fence that didn’t inspire confidence as a security device. I go in and get a beer and two bucks in quarters for the pool table from the bartender, a girl in her 30s with dark hair. There’s about eight people in the place. It’s quiet, not even the jukebox is playing, just some TV sound — looks like a cheesy 90’s movie with the guy from Jaws. The place is thick with that hazy serenity that bars have in the daytime… the peaceful eye of the hurricane where hangovers subside and future ones are cultivated…


I’m shooting some pool and drinking some beer for a double-handful of minutes, zoned into my practice routine, when my ears subliminally pick up the word “tourniquet”.


I look up and the foggy calm endures. On the far half of the room it’s just me at the pool table and two guys at the bar. On the other half, a scattering of folks reading, talking, discussing a project thing on a laptop… Everything seems no big deal to them.


So, okay, that’s cool, because I’d had some weird feeling of crisis activity, like an injury, and the big silver meat slicer on the bar back counter looks menacing. There’s a new woman behind the bar now who is moving with authority and swiftness of pace which does imply emergency, but I could be wrong, too, what with my weird pedal feelings ten minutes before. I mean — I should probably be grain-of-salt with my assumptions… and instead concentrate on pool.


So, then I shoot some pool, and… Okay, wait, no, there’s definitely rapid movement behind the bar and something going on…


The bartender is holding a towel around her finger and I think, shit, maybe she really did cut it with the meat slicer… and the other lady tells her to go to the bathroom and sit down and keep it elevated… the atmosphere is all still lugubrious.


The bartender kind of floats strangely in the direction of the bathroom and then stops by the walk-in refrigerator door, turns and says faintly, “Can you… get… the piece?” It’s a very eerie tone of voice, a kind of disconnected calm.


And the other lady reassures her firmly not to worry that she will get the piece and just go to the bathroom right now and sit down.


And I’m downgrading my previous dramatic theory and think now maybe a glass broke and she cut herself on it, nothing as severely meat slicer, and maybe by “piece” she means there’s a piece of glass someplace, like in a spot where it could be a hazard and she was being responsible and safe. Because everything is still so calm and quiet that no one else on the other side of the bar is even paying attention.


The other lady is the owner, Lisa, who wasn’t even supposed to be there that day, but just arrived five minutes earlier, right after me, only because she forgot her hat or something in the bar last night. Lucky and unlucky timing, based on your perspective and orientation.


“Oh. Oh-h. Kay…,” says the bartender in a creepy spectral way and drifts towards the bathroom.


And then I see Lisa reaching under the walk-in refrigerator with a pair of tongs to retrieve one-third of the bartender’s finger, because it’s been completely severed at the last knuckle and is on the floor. Swiftly, holding the fingertip vertically with tongs in one hand, she uses her other to scoop some ice from behind the bar, with a Ziploc rather than a highball glass, and drops in the piece.


Everything is still calm and quiet in the bar, except for the guy from Jaws who’s yelling at someone in a desert, so it’s probably not about a shark. Me and the other two guys on the action side of the room are wide-eyed watching this unspool, all ready to spring into action, but so far with no reason.


I step over to the two guys sitting at the bar to double-check that I’m not being crazy.


“Um, wait, what’s going on…?”


“She cut off her finger.”


We’re all speaking quietly, like in church.


“Yeah, that’s what I thought… holy shit.”


Lisa is on the phone to 911 while simultaneously checking on the bartender, whose name is Tammy. She’s telling 911 how there’s a cut-off finger so can they come and do what they do for that, still so calmly and quietly that the people on the other side have no idea. Back and forth and taking care of all the shit. And all discreetly professionally. She even calls another bartender to see if they can sub for Tammy and relates the finger issue.


Naturally, while the whole incident is in motion, a couple new patrons come in and without any reveal, Lisa would say, “I’ll be right with you in a second,” or “Sorry, we have a thing going on right now, I’ll be right with you,” or would even serve up a beer with the phone to her ear.


Me, I made a crazy cool airborne bank off the far rail into the side which I have started practicing to replicate.


When the paramedics arrived the oblivious half of the bar finally realized there was a thing happening, and the people who recently walked in expanded their definition of “thing happening.” The paramedics, a man and woman, moved swiftly and smoothly themselves with Lisa leading them to the bathroom, still maintaining the calm. I never even heard sirens outside, and there wasn’t the usual staticky walkie talkie chatter as they walked past with their big white and orange medic tackle boxes.


Their timing was excellent, because three minutes before they showed up, Tammy began to gradually come out of shock in the bathroom, with a sad and mournful moaning that drained the blood from my face in sympathy.


After a very short amount of time, Tammy leaves with the paramedics, one walking in front, one behind, while holding her finger up which is wrapped in white gauze as everyone watches silently. She appears to be in a more coherent state, no doubt morphine assisted. I suddenly remember it’s actually the second time in two weeks that I’ve been in a bar with paramedics.


The situation ends and you can almost hear the tension in everyone dissipate, muscles relaxing and joints popping and voices moving back to normal volume. Lisa grabs the bar with both hands and lets out an eyebrow-raised “whoooooooo…” sigh of relief and then takes a couple deep breaths.


“Please. Someone put on some music…” she says and a girl who’s obviously a regular jumps up and names off some singer that obviously Lisa likes because she says, “Yes!” (sorry, I can’t recall what song)


The music starts playing and Lisa says, “Well, I guess we’ll have to start calling her Nine Fingers Tammy now.” Then a pause and she says, “What, it’s not too soon to joke, right?”


She pours a beer for a someone who just walked in and perceives the place in a different time-space continuum than the rest of us, then jingles the plastic tip pitcher and calls out that “All the tips are for Tammy today!” and I reply that she really only needs the one. And also that she could probably join the Yakuza now.


Some other guy says, “Hey, how about ‘One-two-three, Tammy gave her finger away!’” And he must be a regular because people chuckle at that even though it doesn’t really make sense.


Things re-engage steadily, with every conversation about the incident and now, even a regular or two walking in and saying to Lisa, “Hey, what are you doing here, where’s Tammy?” which then sparks the first draft retelling of it. “You can’t believe what happened….”


I compliment her on the incredible and professional way she took control of everything, because I would be a spaz, and also if it wasn’t for the OLCC, I’d buy her a drink. Lisa says to me, still breathing heavily as the adrenaline subsides, “You know I had seven brothers and I have two sons. I’ve seen every injury you can think of. But that’s the first time I’ve ever seen a finger on the floor before…”


The exact mechanism of the finger removal was mysterious to everyone in the moment, but somehow the walk-in refrigerator door was to blame, which I can understand because there’s options for injury between the sheet metal and the heavy doors and the big unforgiving latches…


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