The Regulars

photo/Jessie Banhazl

Hafid Lalaoui
Age: 75
Bar of Choice: LFK
Regular Since: 2012
Favorite Drink: Narragansett in a glass

Located in a former bookstore behind a square named after a poet, the mysteriously monikered LFK pays homage to its history and neighborhood with stacks of books set among antique typewriters. Cool staff sling creative cocktails, tap craft drafts and serve delicious comfort food to an eclectic mix of artists, students, tourists and barstool philosophers. Among them you’ll find the ever-gregarious photographer and bon vivant Hafid Lalaoui.

What brought you to LFK and why do you keep coming back?

I was one of the first when they opened. It was me, Steve Luttrell, and Katie Benedict [both editors with The Café Review]. We love the place, we love the energy, the ambiance, location. The owner, John Welliver, was our friend. [LFK] began to attract writers, poets, artists, musicians, bohemians, and that’s how it began. I met some wonderful people, some characters, some souls. 

Where are you from originally?

I’m from Morocco, but I’ve lived in New York City, Vermont, and now Portland for 27 years. I was lucky I started my life in America in New York City. I was a photography major at the School of Visual Arts. I’ve had a couple art shows here in Portland and some shows in Brussels, New York, and Morocco. Travelling is one of the luckiest things I’ve had in my life. It questions your upbringing, your roots, opens you up to the world, allows you to understand people and how to talk to them regardless of religion, gender, and that is a wonderful thing. 

Tell us about your experience in New York City

I got involved in the squatting movement in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I met some incredible people. That’s where I met Allen Ginsberg. I asked him for money to buy a cup of coffee. I think he was fascinated by me — how did this fuckin’ Moroccan guy end up in the squatter movement? 

This is where I got into anarchism ideologies. I don’t mean I’m trying to destroy the world; I mean to be self-sufficient. The government likes to control, and they don’t like this idea. There were blocks of abandoned buildings and we came and kicked the drug dealers out, so the police liked us. We moved in and cleaned up the places and made it livable. We learned electrical, plumbing, carpentry. That’s where I learned plaster work! All these Mainers now ask, “Oh, can you come fix my plaster?” Yeah, well I learned that shit as a squatter. Ha! I’ve been very well known as a plaster restorer. I did that job in Portland for many, many years. I restored up to two-hundred-year-old plaster. 

How has Portland changed in the time you’ve been here?

I remember Congress Street [in the ’90s], and it was very quiet. We liked it that way because we were doing our own shit. Then fuckin’ Starbucks sent in their people and we became discovered. Capitalism sees some soul and they want it and they come and take over. We’re not stupid. Maybe we’re bohemian, crazy, or radicals, but I’m very proud to be part of it. There’s a part of me that misses that Portland, and there’s a part of me that’s like, “that’s what Portland wanted.” We cannot fight big corporations like that, but we don’t need them — they need us. I’m telling you, if we sank into the ocean, they would follow us. 

What’s next?

I really have a bright vision of my future. I was able to quit smoking — it’s been two years. I really would like some day to be able to fight the tobacco corporations and expose them for who they are. I really just want to be grateful. Without gratitude, it would be a miserable rest of your life. I just live life and let her take me wherever she wants. 

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