Oregon Tavern Age: Sea Star Motion

Sea stars range in speed from 0.3 millimeters per second to 50 millimeters per second.

I clocked the recent winter daytime speed inside the Sea Star Lounge at .7 millimeters per second. Here’s what I observed:

There is an ocean view from the western end of the bar. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone looking at it. I want to see the sun set over the ocean from the farthermost stool while writing a Western set near the ocean, where they are never set. I want that yellow and orange to shoot right through the window and light up my whiskey.

Men talked of gutters. Then they segued to roofing. “Roofing is fun,” a man said. “You get to see things from up there.” He told a story about a rich homeowner who wanted his roof roofed in the snow. He told the homeowner, “You can lick my nuts.” The other man had a story about building a barn by himself. I wish I was a man who could build a barn by himself. Perhaps I got the wrong education in my youth.

There was talk of hand drumming and lucrative boat hatches. There was talk of jagged edges at free pool Sunday. There was talk of Prince’s genius and rock and roll moms. There was talk of purchasing Elvis collectibles and paper routes. I wondered if there was a single kid left in America with a paper route? I recalled a time in Astoria when an OTA man walked into a downtown dive bar wearing an ancient newspaper-carrying bag with a double pocket, ordered a shot of well whiskey, drank it, and left to go deliver the rest of his papers.

I sat next to a man who looked like Ernest Hemingway toward the end of his life. His name is Gary. Gary told me an original Ernest Hemingway story that I had never read before in any of the biographies. He used to live in Ketchum, Idaho (where Hemingway committed suicide with a firearm in 1961) and he knew a man who told him Hemingway didn’t use a shotgun to kill himself, as was universally reported. Hemingway had used his elephant gun. Gary’s friend knew this because he owned a welding shop and Hemingway’s family brought the prodigious rifle in and wanted him to dismantle it—right in front of them, right now. He did but hated doing so. Where are the remains of that rifle? Someone has a part of it displayed somewhere.

Gary has a Mariel Hemingway story, too. He wired her cabin deep in the Idaho woods. This got me thinking about Mariel Hemingway in Personal Best, the obscure and unjustly reviled movie about female track athletes and their romantic entanglements, filmed in Eugene in the early 80s. Reportedly, the Nike brass hated the film because of the lesbianism. We’ve come a long way baby.

There was a looming showdown between a cook and his boss of another joint in town. His friend offered to buy him a shot of tequila and beer before the showdown. “I can’t have a shot and beer. I have to work in half an hour.” A few seconds passed. “Fuck it!” the cook said and the shot and beer appeared with alacrity. “I can drink a lot of booze in half an hour,” he said, “especially if someone else is paying.”

Gary was in the other day and wearing pressed black Levi’s and a righteous and resplendent black, white and gray Western shirt unbuttoned three buttonholes down. He was also sporting a gold chain with a medallion and sporting them well. It occurred to me that Gary’s look in this outfit should adorn a unit of currency for OTA country.

A white bulldog bolted into the lounge and was introduced by his owner. “I’d like you to meet the dog that drank all my Jameson’s.”

Dreaming” by Blondie came on the jukebox, loud. The lounge wriggled a bit. Dreaming is free,the song goes. Two beautiful tipsy women played pool in the afternoon and I could tell they were dreaming.

The door opened. There was nobody there. A man at the bar said, “There’s my date. She’s attractive. She might have sex with me.”

Glorie the bartender narrated a story about a tip of canned deer for the cable guy and bear tacos she ate with a hangover. Someone mentioned they’d eaten roadkill squirrel tacos before. Canned Deer and Bear Tacos are great rock band names.

I told Glorie to steal a jar of canned deer from her boyfriend. I simply had to have it. A few days later, she handed me a Mason jar of deer. The meet was purple and stringy and veiny and moved like the bottled aliens in the Alien franchise. To hold the can in your hand is to almost vomit.

The new 78-inch televisions were giving me vertigo and whiplash. I know of the last tavern in Oregon without a television. The last time I visited, everyone was asleep, including the 83-year owner and sole employee. I took a nap, too. I woke up and had a fresh draft of Rainier waiting for me.

I drank the best cup of coffee of my Oregon Tavern Age life in the Sea Star.

A man tried fixing Glorie’s belt, right on the bar. He said: “I can’t believe I’m trying to fix your belt. I’ve been trying to get in your pants for years.”

There is a window at the back of the lounge that affords a downward view of the smallest skate park in America and certainly the only one next to a bar. You can pull up a stool and watch the skating while drinking a beer.

Art joined in our conversation about vegetarianism: “I eat meat and beat my meat.” Art relayed a story about being 86’d from a local bar and he had no idea why.

A transient brisked in off the street selling bogus mistletoe for $5. He suckered Glorie into a sprig and she hung it up over the bar. But no French kissing allowed was the general rule.

Glorie told me an Oregon story: A while back she was having her styled in a Brookings salon when her boyfriend texted and asked if she wanted to come see him run a log yarder in a clearcut somewhere way up the Chetco River. He had a friend who would pick her up outside the salon in an empty log truck and taxi her way to the show. She was game and looking good for the clearcut and her man. She said she had a wonderful time. Don’t get no more Sometimes a Great Notion than that!

A woman walked in wearing an orange top that was mostly black bra.

I have always wondered about people who walk in the lounge and go straight over to the video slots, play for a few minutes, then leave without buying a drink or saying a word.

Three women blew into the lounge, three loud women in smart non-OTA attire. They were from Crescent City and on a holiday drinking and shopping run to Gold Beach. They had Crown Royal in the car, Crown Royal back in the room, and they ordered Crown and sodas at the bar. We all got up and moved away from them.

I had a long conversation with Tara the bartender who wants to open a small business in Gold Beach and do something unique with it. Unique can work here, but it has to be subtle. Exuberance draws suspicion.

An overly loud tourist rang the bell over the bar that tolled “drinks on the house.” He said he just wanted to hear how it sounded. Tara braced him and held him accountable. I got a free porter!

I heard that Miranda the bartender sketches Sea Star characters! I must see them. I must sit for a napkin portrait. I want to frame a napkin portrait of Gary and Linda! I want Miranda to stage a napkin portrait gallery show in the Sea Star! I’ll handle the publicity.

Goddammit! I am supposed to be writing an erotic novella about tennis in the 1970s when I sit at my table in the corner with the ocean view. But I keep writing about what’s happening around me here in the Sea Star! How can I not? I’m being magnetized.

An ad for Amazon’s Alexa came on television. It begged the question: could it one day replace Glorie? Could all the bartenders in OTA country be replaced by Alexa-like robot devices? Can you imagine Alexa responding to a question like: “Alexa, can I have the bear tacos and Hamm’s special?” There will never be an algorithm for that. There will never be an algorithm for OTA country. Everything is utterly random except for the consistency of the regulars and their stories and the utter unpredictability of the bartenders. If I want an algorithm, I’ll go to a brew pub and hear babies bawl.

I remarked to Terry that I liked his new haircut. “I did it myself,” he said.

A man said he once was a server in the Sea Star when it wasn’t called the Sea Star—for one night. There was a Chippendale’s-like all male revue staged here back in the 1980s. The joint was packed like sardines and dolled-up ladies waited in a long line to get in! The man said he made $700 in tips! He said he plans to bring a similar program back to Gold Beach in the near future, but not in the Sea Star. He also mentioned that he was recently in a Coos Bay bar after a midget wrestling event in town. The midgets came into the joint after the gig, got roaring drunk and hurled themselves off the bar in some kind of contest. He said he was going to try and bring the midget wrestlers to Gold Beach, too, and most likely into the Sea Star. Someone remarked that France banned midget tossing. Glorie said she wanted to throw a midget off the bar. She drinks wine so I asked: “What wine goes with midget tossing?”

Gary, Linda and I had a long conversation about tatting. I had never heard of the word until Linda mentioned it in connection to the handmade lace doilies that decorated practically every white middle class home in America a half century ago. “I wished we still had doilies in our lives,” she said. Amen.

Linda and I had a deep discussion about the classic 1975 film documentary Grey Gardens. It’s her favorite film and she told me she used to host screenings of the documentary in her home and everyone had to dress up in the exceedingly eccentric style of the the exceedingly odd mother and daughter who were profiled.

The trivia question was: “What is the name of the runt rabbit in Watership Down? No one at the Sea Star had heard of it. I couldn’t believe it! I had read the book twice, taught it once, and seen the animated classic, but the name was….escaping me. This was my chance to win a free beer, a dark beer, a porter and my porter was gone and I was cashless. I waited and thought. It wasn’t coming to me. Think! Put some of those book smarts to decent use for a change. Our discussion turned to books, particularly Stephen King books. Glorie was a big fan. She had read them all except King’s book On Writing. “Fiver!” I exclaimed. “The runt’s name was Fiver!” My porter gloriously materialized within seconds. It felt somewhat satisfying that being somewhat highly literate could produce such a delicious creamy result.

I’ve never been here at night. I really don’t want to see what goes down. All the best coastal dive bar stories and storytelling occur in the daytime, some of them even before noon. I just wrote this at 11:50 while Terry was watching a Stallone action film and drinking his Budweiser long neck.

Glorie set me up with a free shot of Goldschlager Cinnamon Schnapps because we were talking about shots. I hadn’t downed a shot of booze in OTA country in 15 years and my gullet winced at the thought. Tiny gold flakes fluttered in the glass. My hand trembled. It was like a shaken (not stirred) snow globe of a shot. There I was in Gold Beach drinking gimcrack Goldschlager mouthwash on a golden afternoon and I was thinking if only Barry Goldwater was alive to restore honor to the fool’s gold Republican Party. I sipped the Goldschlager, rinsed my mouth, and shuddered. Did you know the Romans used to execute traitors by pouring molten gold down their throats?

The Sea Star trivia question for Saturday: who sang the the 1962 hit “Runaround Sue”? I answered Dion and won a free porter. I thought about the Runaround Sue I used to know, a drunk country singer who dumped me for a drunker rock and roller. I wrote a country song about her, “I Had to Put My Dog Down Today, Wish It Had Been My Ex-Girlfriend.” It is surely the only country song about euthanizing a dog in the history of country music and I damn well need to play it in the Sea Star!

Glorie told me a story about a customer who didn’t know what the equator was, let alone where it was.

I heard a legend about a wild and lithe Sea Star beauty from days gone by. Virtually every OTA joint has a similar tale. These beauties fade like a cedar-shingled roof in OTA country after 20 years of rain.

Gary and I somehow struck up a conversation about gizzards. He had his own recipe that involved cooking them in a pot with chicken broth, rolling them in flour, then frying them up in egg and bread crumb batter in a cast iron skillet. It had to be a cast iron skillet or don’t even bother. Gary often brought his gizzards to the local OTA potlucks, mostly wakes or big football games. “They’re always gone in minutes,” he said. I somehow took great comfort in knowing that I was sitting next to a man who had his own gizzard recipe and had secret knowledge about Ernest Hemingway.