Made my first trip out to a bar in this new age of non-smoking last night.

It was, to say the least, odd. It was like having to look your dog in the eye after you’ve had him neutered. You still love him, but he’s just not quite the same.

Portland has always been proud of its outlaw spirit. The common myth is that the city has more bars and strip clubs per capita than any other place in the country. And I don’t care if that’s true or not. The mere fact that it could be is enough for me. And now suddenly this hometown of ours has become just a tad bit more tame…one step closer to being just like any other pedestrian town.

It’s not that I’m a smoker (although I’m not above lighting up occasionally when I’m curled up next to a beer). I get it: it makes for a healthier climate for patrons and servers alike. But when the mandate is handed down at the end of a bullwhip, it’s tough to swallow. Besides, there are some places that just aren’t meant to be smelled in their natural state. A bar is among them. In fact, I’d venture to say I rather prefer the dirty ashtray smell of the pre-ban bar as opposed to the scent of bleach, urine, and puke that exists there now.

What’s worse is the feeling that the whiners won. I love my friends but I’ve always found it obnoxious when they would get persnickety about wanting to go to a smoking bar. "Please don’t pollute my lungs while I’m turning my liver into a bowling ball." You don’t go the bar for your health. There are no vitamins in scotch…if there were I’d have a six pack by now.

It should be interesting to see if, against all odds, Portland regains its outlaw edge. I was living in New York City when they enacted their smoking ban. It worked…for awhile. But within a few months a few of the better, off-the-beaten-path dives were closing the blinds ’round midnight and inviting patrons to light up.

Here’s hoping the light at the end of the tunnel is a flickering Bic.