No doubt a good 98-99% of the general population is unaware that sex shops maintain the cleanest public restrooms of any municipal business.

It’s about 2am on a Saturday night and I’m driving home from Classic Billiards, down 122nd. I say “down” because even though compass-wise I’m traveling north, elevation-wise, I’m going downhill, heading closer to the Columbia River. For a couple million years – even before the Missoula Floods carved the Gorge like a chainsaw just 15,000 years ago – the Columbia River has been cutting / carving / flooding / sedimentizing / consolidating gravity – which ultimately means that most travel in a northerly direction is also “down” that particular avenue. Or – accounting for the many volcanic lumps that didn’t reach full volcano status before the crust slid again – first up and then down.


If you’ve never been to Classic Billiards, you really should, even if you’re not into pool. Just for the historical and cultural significance. It’s one of the last remaining old-time pool halls in Oregon, where $10,000 games were played in the smoky cavern all through the night. You can’t smoke anymore, but just breathing in proximity to the walls and carpet is pretty much the equivalent of a cigarette per hour. It’s holy ground, with dozens of the greats looking down on the room as if from Heaven. Some of the pen & ink prints even signed when they played here. 



It’s also the only real pool hall in Portland that I know of – and likely all of Oregon – that allows under-21 year olds inside, thanks to a separate walled off “family friendly” mini room.  And while the posted closing time at Classic is 2am, I’ve been shooting in there as late as 4am. It mostly depends who’s working that night and if they feel like closing or not.


Big surprise – I have to take a leak and wouldn’t argue against another beer, so as I come up to the Magic Inn, I turn fast into the parking lot, hoping they’re maybe dragging out last-call, which is not unusual. Some bars, you can slide in under the line and they’ll close up and count the register and collect glasses and let you drink that final beer until 2:30, depending on the place. And the Magic Inn is a truly down & dirty grungy-ass ghetto place. That is to say – I’m familiar with it but I’m not a frequenter. Once a year randomly? Regardless, the front door is locked.


However – next door to the Magic Inn is “Mister Peep’s (the) Peep Hole,” which is your basic sex shop that sells polyester lingerie and rubber novelties and DVDs, which in 2023 might as well be a rack of Edison cylinders, and then there’s the main attraction – a long hallway of glory holes and video booths with green and red lightbulbs over each door to communicate occupancy status and/or openness to company. Its logo is a lascivious Kilroy wearing a red cap (cliché Trump joke here) peeking over what is intended to be the edges of fence boards but which look, probably not accidentally, more like streamers of jizz.





No doubt a good 98-99% of the general population, God bless ‘em, is unaware that sex shops maintain the cleanest public restrooms of any municipal business. I’ve seen turds in urinals at Denny’s… I’ve stepped tentatively through piss puddles at McDonald’s… but if you pick any sex shop restroom – that thing will be spotless, brightly illuminated (wheelchair accessible) and smell like bleach. Likely it’s stocked with not only toilet paper but also Kleenex along with condom and Kotex machines. Sometimes, even the rubbers are free, though the tampons ain’t. Sexism!


Speaking of other things I remember – due to it being impossible to ever forget – is that the bathroom door code at the Magic Inn is “6969.” (Wocka-wocka!) Perhaps they’ve changed it by now, because as I say – I’m rarely at the Magic Inn more than once or twice a year – but I don’t recall ever asking the bartender for it again after my first visit… I think the odds are good that 6969 (brown chicken-brown cow!) is probably the bathroom code for like 25% of taverns and maybe even gas station restrooms. Point of fact – 6969 was the lockbox code for a New Orleans Airbnb I stayed at, and I know for sure I didn’t just end up on a roulette wheel random week that he freshly programmed it. Due to its enduring tradition, I never again kept the key in the lockbox.


The other neighbor to the Magic Inn is a set of low-ceiling 1960’s apartments, those depressing motel-style kind with front doors that open directly into the parking lot. It has been vacant and overrun by not-anymore-homeless people for a few years now. Any time I’ve been there, it’s the typical scene – cars being chopped, bottles & cans being sorted, piles of garbage undulating with rats. Tonight though, it looks… downright orderly! Instead of the usual jumble of wrecks, there’s only one car on jackstands and a guy working on it with a hook light in a way that seems nostalgically Middle America on this warm Spring Portlandistan night. Not a single person screaming or unconscious.


Pondering the scene, I pull out my dugout to take a puff. If you’re unfamiliar, a dugout is a clever wooden box in which you store your weed and your “bat” which is a metal tube that looks like a filter cigarette so you can surreptitiously smoke said weed. It’s an artifact of a different time and place of course, because now in Portland you can buy 1-gram pre-rolled joints for about $2 each and no one cares one bit where you smoke them. Or, really, where you smoke or inject pretty much anything.


But anyway, as I stand there enjoying the Springtime air, a tweaker girl materializes out of nowhere. Despite its white paint and ersatz beige filter tip, the bat reflects light making it look more glass than camouflaged metal at night. It’s been more than once that someone mistook it for a meth or crack pipe. Those are all stories for another time, Dear Reader.


“Hi, hi! Are you sharing?”

“Oh, it’s just weed,” I tell her apologetically.


“Oh, okay. Man, I really want to smoke meth and fuck!” If one could change approximately 92% of the variables about her, this would be my lucky night.  “Um… Can I have some of that anyway?” she asks.


Due to Karma, I’m never one to turn down a request for weed or a cigarette, so I say, “Sure, in a second,” while I finish the load and then rap the metal bat against the dugout to clear the ashes. I pack another and hand it to her with a lighter.


“So what’s up with this place?” I gesture to the apartment building.

“It’s just a squat.”

“Yeah, I know, but it seems really organized.”

She looks at me kind of funny, and shrugs, “Nah, it gets pretty crazy. The owner died or something so they took it over.”

“Huh, weird. I mean – it looks really clean. I know it’s been here a long time and seen it before but it looks really clean. Like, this is the best camp I’ve ever seen.”


She shrugs and hands me the bat after sucking it all down in one hit, the way hard drug smokers typically do with their calloused lungs. Instead of putting it back in my dugout, I drop the bat in my pants pocket to be sure I don’t inadvertently use it and can soak it in alcohol later.


“Man, I really want to get some meth and fuck,” she repeats, in the hopes that I will buy us some meth which is certainly easy to get any place in this parking lot, assuming one has a few dollars, which she most likely does not have, judging by her ask.


“Yeah, sorry, my only plan is to go in there and take a leak and then get going,” I say, pointing at Mister Peep’s Peep Hole. “Sex shops always have the cleanest bathrooms,” I say all enlightened. She agrees with me about that.


Since we’re on the subject of meth, I decide to ask an expert.


“Oh, hey, so what’s with the new meth?”


She frowns, shakes her head and says, “Oh yeah, it’s bad. But you have to change your frame of mind then it’s okay.”


“What does that mean?”


“It fucks with your head, so you have to be clear and stay happy, and then it’s okay to smoke. You can’t let it pull you down. Just do that. Some people don’t.”

I can’t imagine that practice would work and doesn’t seem like a healthy strategy to me. On the other hand, that’s the most Buddhist discussion of hardcore 21st Century designer drug use I’ve heard.


She’s exuding nervous energy and dancing left foot to right foot and spinning around to get a 360-view of the parking lot, and says to me a third time, “Yeah, I just want to smoke some meth and fuck. Damn!”


“For sure. Good luck with that whole thing. Thanks for talking, I gotta take a leak like crazy,” I say and head into the Peep Hole.


And yes, the bathroom was just as clean as expected.  


And as for the seemingly spotless squat – I checked PortlandMaps later (I’m a fiend for research) and learned it had been reported weeks earlier, with an inspection the day before I got there. About a week later, I slowed my drive along 122nd to take a gander for my own curiosity. It was no longer unusually clean.



What is P2P Meth?


In all seriousness – if you’re unaware of the “new meth” then you are disconnected from the reality that is driving Portland’s rapid decline. One big factor, part of a system, anyway.  It’s called “P2P meth” which is short for phenyl-2-propanone.


You should read this story in the Atlantic, titled “I Don’t Know That I Would Call it Meth Anymore.


To summarize – once upon a time there was a drug called methamphetamine, which was invented all the way back in 1893, by a Japanese scientist named Nagai Nagayoshi who had a great interest in herbal medicines, including the shrub ephedra, and who even hosted Albert Einstein and his wife on a visit. In 1919, another scientist, Akira Ogata, turned it into crystal form. Welcome to the Twentieth Century.


A bit later, it was sold in German drugstores under the brand name Pervitin and it fueled Blitzkrieging Nazi soldiers while keeping German civilians from not giving a shit if there were food rations or not.


U.S. pilots talked about a mythological “miracle vitamin” that could give a soldier days of energy. And then when Nazi soldiers got paranoid and started shooting each other instead, the promise of magic energy pills faded faster than Sigmund Freud’s and Sherlock Holmes’ cocaine habits.


But typical meth is synthesized from ephedrine, which the U.S. government and other nations have tightly regulated, removing it from easy over-the-counter access, and for awhile, putting a significant dent in the illicit production of methamphetamine. Then the newer P2P process came to light which uses an array of industrial chemicals that are so essential that they could never be regulated – and things changed, big time.


What were called “super labs” producing 10-15 lbs. of ephedrine meth in 24 hours, became “super labs” producing 250 lbs of P2P meth.


What that means in modern day Portland is that when previously a “homeless person” might mean a person down on their luck and oppressed by the forces of capitalism, and who would benefit from treatment and psychiatric help and care – it more likely now means someone who has had a permanent break with reality and will likely never recover their sanity or escape the violent hallucinations looping through their brain synapses. Big difference.


Where before, as bad as it is, a person could do “old meth” (Meth Classic™) for years – gradually performing worse at work and traveling a steady – but not instantaneous – decline in their residential and occupational status. Instead now P2P meth users basically end up homeless and permanently mentally ill within six months to a year. And owing to its long-established interest in meth and opiates, Portland has become ground-zero for P2P meth which started showing up around 2013.


Until public policy’s and citizens’ shared understanding become that today’s tweaker is nothing like yesterday’s tweaker… and that the vast majority of homeless people are on the street due to falling victim to the most evil drug in human history turned eviler… then there will never be a solution.


We don’t need government sponsored free tents or unregulated camping or even safe rest spots. That doesn’t address the chemical and the violent psychosis. We also don’t need endless sweeps of the people from one area to another. What we need are billions of dollars worth of residential mental health facilities and even involuntary commitment.


Am I exaggerating? Well, in 2020, Portland’s primary NE sobering facility, Central City Concern, closed down after 25 years of operation. Why? Because even those highly experienced experts could not deal with the extreme violence that results from P2P meth. And what’s even more frustrating is – two years after its closure – nowhere in this OPB article is P2P meth mentioned! The scope of the problem is staring right at us, but neither the city, people nor media have caught up to reality, or they prefer to not address it.


There are endless personal interviews with longtime meth users who will say the new meth is nothing like the old meth. There are multitude of statistics that are easy to track and visualize on a chart.


I hope we listen to them soon.




# # #

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *