I set my notebook down on a lacquered table top fashioned from an enormous slab of wood. Ten people could sit around it, but I was the only one sitting there on a June afternoon in the Salty Dawg, in Port Orford, a town where Jack London once stayed in a hotel, got drunk, laid, and wrote part of a novel, The Valley of the Moon.
Jack London got laid in Port Orford! I do love writing that sentence!
I was bushed after a hot day on a construction job where I sanded, painted, and wrote another chapter of a kink modern Western in my mind.
A tidbit of talk behind me drilled into my ear. An old man who lived up a nearby creek said descendants of Ken Kesey’s band of Merry Pranksters lived on 140 acres near him. He named a few names and they corresponded with Kesey lore.
The man was trying to explain the Pranksters, the Acid Test, Ken Kesey and Further.
“Never heard of him,” said the old man’s drinking buddy.
The table top’s wood intrigued me and I asked a regular if he knew its type. Spruce? Doug fir? Cedar? He did not. But he did explain the thick, black steel pole spiked through the middle of the table and bolted to the ceiling beam. He told me it held up the roof and occasionally served as a handy-dandy stripper pole when shit got crazy in the joint. A woman would hop on the table, work the pole, and well…
I didn’t know if I wanted to see that craziness, but certainly not late at night. If it occurred in the afternoon, then yes, I might watch and throw down some bills. It might depend on the music the stripper chose. Tom Petty yes. Def Leppard no.
A raised conversation at the bar interrupted my stripper pole ruminations. I turned toward it. The female bartender, wearing a white top over a black undergarment of some kind arrested my attention. She was explaining to some regulars the federal sanctuary law that invited people from Central America to make their way to America for political asylum. Well, people took up that invitation and now were being held in detention centers (concentration camps) run by private contractors for a considerable profit, and the American government was separating small children from their parents and dosing them with pills.
At one point, the bartender gave up, said she was done, and walked into the kitchen to check on a chicken wings order.
I admired her for the attempt at explanation. That took energy and pluck.
If we quit talking to one another as Americans, and that time is getting close, we are done as a nation.
She was a hero for trying and I told her exactly that as I left the bar.