Liquored in Astoria

“Well isn’t everything more fun with a crazy bitch!?” flies out of the mouth of Mark the merchant marine, as a drunk couple finally stopped quarreling and left in a cab.

“Why yes it is!” laughed Erica the bartender.

***

Earlier I had taken a nap to put a break between a long day and a social experiment.  More than the rest, I wanted to look through the lens of not really feeling like going out, but doing it anyway.  Walking in the rain, across the street to the Workers Tavern, washed my face and cleared my head.

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The creaking door and wet stained wooden floor greeted me.  I eyed and claimed a stool at the bar.  Moments later a guy (who could be Neil Diamond’s son) sat down next to me and said, “You a fisherman?”

“No”

“Oh, I’m a merchant marine.  Anything exciting going on in here?”

As a quarreling couple brought their issues back inside from an herbal smoke break, she plopped down on the vacant stool between me and Mark.

“Really…Really!  You’re really going to do this – Now?!” barked the guy. “The cab is here.”

Silently she stared forward while I ignore them.  He moved closer toward me while pounding her with various forms of “Really!”  As suddenly she pushed back from the bar and marched outside, followed by her guy.

In the following silence I sat and watched drops slide off my beer and run into carvings on the bar.  As the words ‘Toys for Tots’ filled I noticed a sign behind the bar, “Those caught carving on the bar will be fined $100 – funds to be donated to Toys for Tots.”

Three guys rushed in like waves and landed on empty stools on the other side of the bar.  The older one seemed to lead, whether by blood or air he acted like their father.  After about an hour of noisy conversation with other locals the muscular one who’d been staring at me walked over and put a heavy hand on my shoulder.

“We’ve gotta stop all of this shit…” and something about “..Paris” was all that I could understand.

Father figure grabbed him and the other guy by the shirt and ushered them toward the backdoor.  He growled at them, “If we can get out of here without a fight – I can go snuggle with my wife.”

Through the evening I made eye contact with a couple of senior locals, a smiling logger and a silent disheveled Santa.  Their eyes reflected a weathered ‘Seen it all before’ look, quietly they sat and sipped.

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Four hours, four beers and a shot of Crown later – I’d lived in another dive bar story.

***

I enjoyed the experience of another writing workshop “Dive Bars and Dark Stories” on Friday the 13th November 2015.

Matt Love lives and teaches in Astoria, Oregon.

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B&B Write

Patiently held in time.

A Bed and Breakfast lives nestled against guardian trees – near a water’s edge.

Agelessly creaking as feet move through and pause.

Themed rooms reflect different light, casting moments.

Old world escapes the kitchen, changing fireplace air.

Refining pieces and capturing thoughts; quietly the compulsion unfolds.

Writer’s escape.

Walking – Writing Workshop

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August 22, 2015 I attended another Writing Workshop taught by Matt Love at the Fort George Brewery in Astoria, Oregon.

This was my second time in the former car dealership showroom turned brewery conference room, sitting amongst some kegs of aging beer and learning more about writing.

From the various prompts, discussion, breaks to walk around Astoria and a strong beer – I ended up with this:

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Ranger Bombed

I usually walk with purpose (I have a dog) and out of necessity (my back chronically reminds me) – I do this daily.  Often I simply wish to walk for no reason, to range about.  Today my purpose was to unwind my mind and let my feet range.

When walking I typically try not to think – it is my escape.  I am however easily distracted by people (not today) and architecture (Astoria has plenty worthy of noticing).  While glancing at older buildings (more refreshened since my last visit) and ruins of pilings wobbling in the river, I noticed something new.  Colorful bits of random display, knitted patches of several different people’s artwork twisted, wrapped and tied around posts, benches and a gate.  Public displays of an orchestrated effort to grab attention and brighten the day for those who notice.

Today my mind was bombed by yarn.

Beach House

Sarrah delighted in all aspects of going to the Peninsula.  She usually sat up and looked out the windows the entire way there, to watch the world as it went on by.  The journey from where we live starts with on average an hour of ‘freeway hell’, racing with the self absorbed rats on the paved necessary ugliness, known as Interstate 5.  Then off onto Highway 101 where it gradually devolves from too much civilization and overpopulation into a sort of peaceful time travel back through the woods and near a few old small towns, too tough to die.  This leg of the journey is packed with many little things that busy people miss or find “boring”.  These things like mountains, forested land, rivers, cattle, wildlife; deer, coyotes, porcupines, elk, eagles, hawks and even bears were all noticed and points of interest mentally noted by my road wise companion.

Another perk around this area is the constant salted air and its medicinal affects.  We knew it when we first explored Ocean Park and what remains of the historic town of Oysterville at the north end of the Long Beach Peninsula, this was the place.  We came back a couple of times and narrowed the search to a community named Surfside Estates with a few rules (Covenants, Codes & Restrictions) to protect values from individual expressions.  This little development of Two Thousand Eight Hundred subdivided lots is comprised of; about one-third with houses (mostly vacation, several retirement), one-quarter “seasonal camper lots” and the rest vacant, overgrown with dune grass and coastal pines.  The community has approximately three miles of beachfront and a small lake (pond) with long canals that run the length of it.  There are walking trails running East to West with foot bridges over the canals, creating easy access for all “members and guests” to the beach which extends as far as the eye can see… to the South and North.

We quickly found the one, close enough to the ocean to hear its methodical constant mumbling and an easy walk away.  It was new enough to not only become a dreaded nest of repair projects.  A cozy little two-bedroom house that would be greatly appreciated as-is, customized over time into “our place” and enjoyed along the journey through time.

September Two Thousand Five Nissa closed the deal, and we came out for our first three-day weekend and camped with Sarrah, in the empty one-year-old house.  On this stay we personalized it by painting the garage floor, making it into more of a warm multipurpose room.  This tan coating also has its share of the ever-present small black and white hairs permanently sealed into it.

Sarrah instantly liked the new little house and it quickly became her preferred home.  She was delighted with being able to roam the whole place and sleep closer to me.  Upon each arrival and inspection of the Beach House, her toys and the yard she would relax on her overstuffed bed and smile.

As a group we decided that the best spot for Sarrah’s bed was next to the sliding glass door, on the east end of the Great room.  This gave a comfortable vantage point to guard the front door, see all that went on in the house and watch out for wildlife trespassers as they regularly strolled through ‘her yard’.  One of the best perks of this spot was the morning sunshine, perfect for soaking up a little bright warmth.

Time = Money

As Albert Einstein is said to have deduced, “Time = Money”.  I had a growing accumulation of funds in the traditional retirement accounts and contributed regularly, a nice chunk in an investment club that I founded and presided over, as well as other unconventional small hoards of cash for rainy days and holy crap moments.  Altogether, these investments brought a hedged, strong sense of a secure fourth quarter, in the game of my life.

Having more than enough money and the assumed promise of a financially comfortable future brings many things; the best being the most important resource, Time.  More time to do what you want and how you want, became the winner in my balance of the scales.

My favorite part of how I earned a living was the lack of time structure.  If properly managed, I was in control of it.  This control (or illusion of) my time combined with more money than was required, created opportunities to take some off, the easiest and often best escapes coming in the form of long weekends, sneaking away for mini-vacations in which to escape normal life.

Our little family took many weekend trips to explore new areas.  These short getaway escapes to smaller, quieter places, reaped big rewards and brought us closer together.  Sarrah, well, as you can imagine loved the jaunts into the unknown.  Packing the car (even) was full of pacing and squeaks of excitement.  Sarrah knew when we were loading the car for a road trip.  She would pace, pant, bark, twirl, howl and run around the yard with overflowing exuberance like a happy kid at Christmas time.

Nissa and I began to daydream, out loud.  We began to wonder about having a little place of our own, for more personal escapes.  So we tailored our long weekends toward a search for a vacation property.  We pondered over the idea of a second home for many months and found the mental exercise to be a daily life sweetener.  If nothing else, the experience of looking and dreaming was a set of nice excuses to explore our state’s rural areas.  Despite spending most of my life in Washington, there are many interesting places I do not recall hearing about, let alone visiting.  Several I had been to in my youth, some of these favorites deserved another look.

Our part-time explorations came in many forms.  Some treks were one-day whirlwinds: Lake Cushman (100 year leasehold only), Twisp (too far away), Leavenworth (a possibility) and Roslyn (recently too popular).  Others were simple stopovers’ along our way: Leavenworth (still a possibility), Astoria (more populated), Ocean Shores (too quickly populated, without a sense of soul).

The best of our adventure trips being long weekends, three to four day getaways’.  We stayed at Pacific Beach (remote possibility), Leavenworth (yet still a possibility), Moses Lake (too far East) and a few other unmemorable places.  Sarrah wasn’t really much help, as she loved going anywhere; any road trip (except over the bridge to the vet) was good and fraught with potential for greatness!  As with many worthwhile life experiences, the exploration and pursuit is valuable to setting the stage for the goal.  Our adventures were enjoyed, by all of us.