“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.
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?”
“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.
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.
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:
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.
Sometimes you need to walk over a bridge
Another of Matt’s prompts that day – was to use different blue crayons and draw a body of water resembling self.
My crude picture was a side view of a river meeting the ocean (I was thinking about the mouth of the Columbia River colliding with the Pacific Ocean between Washington and Oregon).
– Then name it
I came up with “Change of Flow”
– The next step was to write some thoughts about our sketch.
I am at a point in my life where, like the mouth of a river meeting the ocean, flow has changed.
No longer going in a predictable direction, now part of a more random, changing… Freedom.
The largely wilder side of uncertainty is both calming and stressful, at the same time.
This change of flow is unique in its position of looking into the future, while looking backward.
The gravitational nature of this place in uncontrolled.
– Next we were to go back and underline the top three words.
– Then write a sentence summarizing our thoughts.
“I am at a point in my life where, like the mouth of a river meeting the ocean… Flow has Changed”
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.