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.

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.

Spring

While all caught up in moments, season’s change.  We watch them through the windows of our homes, cars and places of work, but until you get outside and walk in them frequently you don’t really experience what all of the seasonal days have to offer.

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Hello!  Spring was aptly named-all of a sudden, one day, there it is!  Plants awaken with… birds singing the praises of its arrival.  Some years our spring sneaks in early, at the mercy of winter.  Bulbs defiantly peak up in various yard borders, returning the favor of past work, giving a hint of color and brighter days to come.  If looked at closely enough, buds appear on dormant trees showing signs of waking up, some flashing peaks of pink and white flowers.  Soon these trees will make a scented canopy over some sidewalks.  Lawns begin to wake up and grow erratically, with some darker green fertilized spots.  Unfortunately this growth brings about the noisy season of the obnoxious grass cutting and mechanized yard maintenance machines.

Unwanted Gifts

Sarrah, Nissa and I explored the roads, trails, miles of beach and rolling dunes.  We never tired of these journeys and the ever-changing collection of treasure discovered along the way.  The ocean constantly changes the beach and gives back an endless amount of debris from the land.  Some storms take away sand, others bring it back and then some.  Those that come in the winter pile up logs and other assorted remains washed down streams.

Sadly, not all is wonderful. The ocean is always giving back the unwanted gifts of the human experience, garbage.  I began to collect these ugly bits of proof and pieces of disrespect.  The more we looked, the more we found and brought back with us.  I began to take ownership, understanding what is called “stewardship” and feel like this was ‘our beach’ and wondered why so many other people were just walking past these ‘treasures’, do they not see the garbage?  All of this reminds of when I was a kid in the early seventies, there was a television commercial with a stoic, once proud American Indian, standing with a tear in his eye watching garbage come to shore in the waves.  Perhaps time has come to replay it for those who missed the message and do not recall pride.  Or maybe a newer version to make us more aware of the long term affects of mishandling things like plastic.  Regardless of the cause of garbage turned into litter in the wild, it belongs to all of us and it is not ok for me to walk on by.

Fog

August 2012 I attended a writing workshop titled “Making a Personal Metaphor from the Natural World” by the writer Matt Love at the Alder Creek Farm Conservation Site in Manzanita, Oregon.  This one-day experience was packed with many memorable moments, but the last couple of days keep bringing me back to one of the last writing prompt lessons of that day.

From Matt’s “Nature Metaphor Inventory List” prompts – we were to write down what first came to mind (and a bit why it was chosen):

Animal –

Bird – Eagle (don’t flock)

Water Creature –

Tree – Cedar (stay consistent)

Season – Autumn (cooling time)

Landform – Mountain (largely impenetrable)

Form of Precipitation – Fog (hard to see thru)

Astrological –Comet (flash & go away)

Element (gold, copper, etc.) –

Some I didn’t have a strong answer for in the short time given for each, so I skipped them.

Then we were to choose the one that best describes our individual writing style and expand on it, I chose Fog.

Here’s my list of why, because I:

–      Use a lot of questions (many go unanswered)

–      Don’t follow a linear path

–      Use punctuation… approved and Not, to affect! Cadence

–      Confuse those not paying attention

–      Like to intrigue and cause readers to wander and wonder

–      Find mischievous pleasure in drawing a reader in (once you start walking in fog, you have to keep going)

–      Hide small treasures for those who think

I’m not certain how accurate this was/is but it has been very foggy here for a few days and I kinda like it.

Dalmatian!

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Sarrah usually even enjoyed the attention from hoards of kids who are in excess when the weather is nice (Kids instantly forget everything they’ve ever been told in regards to “strangers”, let alone running toward me and Sarrah).  Thanks to Sarrah’s typical patience and our many visits to parks, beaches, trails and sidewalks many kids of all ages got to meet a real life “Dalmatian!”   I couldn’t even guess how many hundreds of these people enjoyed their gift of meeting Sarrah.  She was the most popular and often photographed dog, every time.