"There's one city that I've been to in the United States, Jesse Thorn, where people line up at bars. They form an orderly line without being asked, and the line is sacrosanct. Can you guess what city in the United States that I've been to where this is part of the culture of the bar."
[Jesse guesses Walla Walla.]
Hodgman is principally a liquor man (he jokes that rather than a sweet tooth, he has an "alcohol molar"), so he may be talking about upscale bars in the Pearl for all I know. But I throw it out to you, Portland bar-goers: does this make a lick of sense to you? I don't recall ever encountering a line in a bar. I think it's even more unlikely that his interpretation about the meaning of these (possibly apocryphal) lines is accurate. In my experience, Portland bars are communal and unfussy. I'd say interaction is one of the key elements of Portland bar culture.
"You are not far off; it is a Pacific Northwestern city known as Portland, Oregon... In Portland, you'd think, 'oh, it's because people are very polite.' But in fact, it's because people in Portland who go to bars, especially cool bars, don't actually feel comfortable dealing with one another--in my opinion. So, they line up in order to adhere to a social code that will make outsiders feel unwelcome and will make them feel sanctimonious and self-righteous. And, with the added benefit of, they never have to deal with the messy human interactions like, 'oh sorry, I was here first.' Or, 'hey, do you mind if I just get this before you because I gotta go out, or do whatever.' Do you know what I mean? Those minor, tiny, little negotiations that humans make with each other all the time in order to get their alcohol and do other things in life. It feels like when people line up at a bar in Portland, that's to my mind what they're avoiding. If there are people from Portland, Oregon who disagree with me, who feel that I am unfair, write me a letter and I'll engage with you. Maybe I broke your rule and you're rolling your eyes. But that's how I feel."
But it's also the case that locals are sometimes blind to manifestations of their own culture--culture that smacks visitors across the face with its weirdness. So I'm reluctant to dismiss it out of hand; maybe I'm just missing it. I'd love your feedback in comments. We can pass along our collective opinion to him.
Finally, a couple of notes in terms of tone. Hodgman's comic style is sardonic, which doesn't come across so well in print. He's also not only very familiar with Portland, but seems to consider it a dwelling of his immediate tribe (he currently lives in Brooklyn). He therefore kids Portlanders like you do a sibling. There's been tons of Portland content on the podcast over the years, including probably the best episode ever, Rashomom, which gave birth to the quantum "Gray House Universe" theory. There are others like this transportation dispute (of course), and inevitably, one involving a food cart. I guess what I'm saying is, don't spend a lot of time analyzing him. (But do listen to a podcast if you're intrigued.) I'm much more interested in getting to the bottom of this lining-up question. Do Portlanders form lines in bars? Where have you seen it? And, if we do line up, any theories as to what's going on?