The door to the outdoor smoking area opened and a black Lab puppy bolted into the Sea Star Lounge. He had a rope attached to his collar.
I sat at a table in the rear of the joint, next to the karaoke stage. I put down the finest cup of coffee I’d ever tasted in Oregon Tavern Age country. Actually it wasn’t a coffee, but an espresso concoction of some kind. I had ordered a regular drip coffee but the bartender had inexplicably whipped me up the drink. On my first sip, I thought about inquiring, but held off. She was busy serving $1 candy corn jello shots to a patron.
This was not my preferred table by the front window, but I had to relocate because the sound of a Sylvester Stallone action film playing on television made reading an anthology of poetry opposed to the Vietnam War impossible. Not half an hour earlier I had discovered the book on a sidewalk. It was a marvelous find and reminded me of what poetry used to mean when strife, racial division, violence, matters of morality and protests in the street tore this country apart. The result of that tearing was the election of Richard Nixon.
History always repeats itself and here we are today. But where is the anthology of protest poetry? Where is the great protest of rock and roll? Parodies on Saturday Night Live and talk show monologues aren’t cutting it. Social media protests just sell advertising and enrich massive corporations.
Funny how you can stimulate your mind and sense of history by finding a 50-year-old book on a sidewalk that cost 50 cents. Funny how reading this book in a dive bar on the Oregon Coast makes you want to write a protest poem for our times.
So I grabbed a Keno card and golf pencil and went to work.
The puppy has made his way around the lounge and by this time his owner emerged from the smoking area holding a bottle of Budweiser. He was an OTA giant with red and gray beard. The puppy ran over to him and he grabbed the rope and hitched the dog to a table near mine.
I watched all of this desperately wanting a dog.
The man went up to the bar and the bartender produced a bowl of water for the dog. The man came back over to the table with the bowl and another Budweiser and set the bowl on the carpet. The dog lapped up the water and then flopped down.
You go yourself a puppy,” I said
“What’s his name?”
I called to Milo and he romped over and we horsed around. I was using my goofy dog voice with him. It felt good to use it again.
We struck up a conversation and I learned the man was living in a RV down by the river. He and Milo had walked a couple miles to the Sea Star. He had another dog, 18 years old, back in the RV. The man had recently reacquired Milo because Milo’s mother, the man’s other dog, had been struck and killed by an automobile. The man had seen it happen and took back the runt of the litter and here it was in the lounge lounging, in training to become an expert OTA dog., which entails quietly hanging out in taverns for hours on end and gobbling up any french fries dropped on the floor in stealth.
I commented how well-behaved Milo was for a puppy.
“He likes it in here. We have our routine.”
The man asked me if I owned a dog.
No. I had lost my beloved husky of almost 17 years a couple of years ago and still wasn’t ready. I might never be ready.
“I need this dog for therapy. Dogs, man, they are best therapy,” he said.
I knew something about that.
Milo’s master excused himself and got up from his chair to play the slots. Milo whizzed on the carpet and then fell asleep. I sipped my espresso, reopened the anthology, and started reading a poem about Norman Morrison, the Quaker who self-immolated in front of the Pentagon. It was bracing reading in OTA country but I needed the bracing. I read a few more poems and then picked up the pencil and went back to work. But I was writing about dogs instead.
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