My cousin and I hadn’t seen each other in ten years. He lived in Los Angeles and worked in advertising. He worked hard, moved fast, and made a lot of money. He drank fine liquors and ate in fancy restaurants, surrounded by beautiful and glamorous people with perfect smiles of real teeth. He hadn’t been on the Oregon Coast in 30 years but here he was, soul searching like me, and thus our reunion was on.
I suggested we meet at the beach, perhaps build a driftwood fort, and then head to Oregon Tavern Age country, the South Jetty in Hammond for lunch. Everything would slow down in there for my cousin; it was a physical law he was powerless to resist. He would see unforgettable toothless OTA smiles. He might even order a frosty Hamm’s and shovel into his Oregon roots.
We talked for almost three hours on the beach and saw two other people on a sunny day in August. He couldn’t believe the absence of people. I gave him the short history of Astoria’s pathology, fake fish in the Columbia River, and hubris of building the South Jetty. We laughed, cried and went deep into reminiscence, not for nostalgia’s whitewashed sake, but to relearn important matters pertaining to ourselves. We both knew that if we can’t learn anything new at our age, it’s over.
The parking lot of the South Jetty was jammed and that mystified me. I have never seen an OTA parking lot full in my life. Something inebriated was afoot. Could be a wedding. Could be a wake. Could be a firearm exhibit. Could be a caucus to politic against your own economic interest and hate the people who staff nursing homes you will die in. Could be a charity toy drive that doesn’t have to involve drinking, but somehow it does.
My cousin and I repaired to the lounge side and found it practically empty. The dining room side was packed with octogenarian men and women. It was obviously some kind of party and the din being thrown up augured good elderly mischief.
We ordered lunch and beers and dove back into our conversation. I sat facing the dining room party and secured an excellent vantage point for Maximum Storytelling Potential (MSP). There was tremendous bustle in the dining room, servers and busboys moving with serious purpose. A big meal was about to commence. Let there be rubber chicken. Let the mashed potatoes and gravy flow like milk and honey.
What the hell were these Hammond old timers drinking? They seemed like a Canadian whiskey crowd. I had to know.
A figure came into view. My cousin was saying something but I stopped listening. The figure was large, very large, and dressed in a brown robe with a white rope tied around his waist. There was enough fabric and rope to outfit a sail, for a boat sailing on a perilous missionary mission.
I picked up my beer and sipped a sip. My cousin was still talking.
The brown robe and rotund body reminded me of Friar Tuck from Robin Hood lore (the Errol Flynn classic, not the Kevin Costner atrocity.) Was I looking at a friar? A monk? A priest? What the hell is the difference anyway? I thought about ordering a double Benedictine on the rocks and perhaps the answer would divinely arise. They had a bottle behind the bar. A couple of doubles and I’d soon be finding images of the Virgin everywhere in the South Jetty, maybe even in the lines of an OTA face talking about how he missed reeling in a sturgeon.
The Friar called for quiet, uttered a few pleasantries, and then began blessing the meal. Goddammit! I couldn’t hear the blessing because of the accursed noise generated by a drag race on television.
I motioned for my cousin to turn around and take a look at the sight of a Friar blessing deep fried food in a dive bar on the Oregon Coast. I reached out to his shoulder in preparation to steady him
He turned around. He watched the blessing. Then he turned back to me. We looked at each other in awe, gesticulating, throwing crude hand signs that harked back to anthropology’s golden age. Wispy halos circled above our heads as we silently nodded. We both got it: we were in the humble presence of god, the OTA god who walks and drinks Hamm’s among us all, and loves lapping gravy at noon.
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