Oregon Tavern Age: A Strawberry Mind

A Wednesday in Gold Beach and drizzle fell, if drizzle can fall. More like hover. It was either 10:00 in the morning or 2:00 in the afternoon. Who cared? It was Oregon Tavern Age time and in between these hours, life slows down, tick, tock, way down, a breakfast Hamm’s and eggs crawl, a brunch screwdriver and Hot Mama sleepwalk.

I pulled into the parking lot of the Sea Star Lounge. I noticed only one other vehicle. One glance and I knew it was an OTA vehicle, a classic.

It was easily the second greatest OTA vehicle I’d ever seen. No vehicle can ever top the station wagon with trees growing from its rusted crevices.

Okay, maybe the old Suburban rigged up to haul pigs around. Oh wait, maybe the truck missing a windshield where the driver turned on the wipers when it rained.

I pegged the Sea Star car as a Toyota Corolla from the late 1970s, formerly the singular color known as white, now the plural color of gray, mold and rust. The latter color has to be factory ordered from the Oregon Coast and takes 30 years to be delivered.

The Corolla begged for a closer inspection. I looked inside and saw an interior stripped of everything except the driver’s seat. Where the back seat should have been rested a half dozen oxygen tanks and dozens of empty cigarette packs.

I walked inside in the lounge and stashed my writing supplies on my favorite table near the window and lending library of magazines, books and CDs. It’s a good table and affords decent natural light for writing a love letter to someone who will never read it.

Sitting at the bar rigged up with an oxygen tank slung from his hip was an OTA man. He was drinking a long neck Bud and had two other empties neatly lined up.

A tennis tournament played on television. The man was watching. He had requested it, I assumed, because no one ever watches tennis in OTA country. I wondered if the man had ever played tennis? Then I conjured the absurd idea of OTA tennis! Maybe a charity tournament for Jerry’s kids, like the chainsaw art event in Reedsport or the hippie toss in Coos Bay. All the players would have to use wooden rackets, of course, and drink Rainier the entire tournament.

I went to the bar and ordered a local beer. While I waited, I listened to couple of female tourists, quite possibly Californians (their tans a clue), talking on their cell phones to friends or boyfriends back home, explaining why they didn’t hook a ling cod from their charter boat earlier that morning because they were too hungover and too drunk. They were both on their second bloody mary and the bartender was mixing a third round.

The OTA man ordered another Bud.

A woman came over from the video slots and and cashed in a win—57 bucks. She announced to the bar that she had recently retired from the city and her first pension check had arrived in the mail earlier that morning. She was celebrating by pumping all of it into the machines and giving back to the taxpayers.

Another woman, OTA, entered the Sea Star on crutches, sat down at the bar, and ordered a double whiskey sour. While she waited, the tennis captured her attention. Now at least two people on the Oregon Coast were watching tennis in a bar.

My beer materialized. I left the Californians swigging their drinks and went back to my table. I looked outside. The drizzle was burning away and insinuating that I had to actually do something to help reinvent myself. Is reinvention a possibility for a man like me in Oregon Tavern Age country? That is the existential question of my life at the moment. Reinvention seems highly unlikely, but I will soon find out for sure, one way or the other. Writing may have everything or nothing to do with it.

I browsed the library’s offerings. Some decent crime fiction, gardening magazines, a few Bibles, the usual bodice rippers, a CD of INXS’ Kick and Shelia E’s In Romance 1600. I pulled Shelia E off the shelf and checked the CD out because there was no conceivable way it could be here.

Produced by Prince and released in 1985 on his Paisley Park label. Track 3, “A Love Bizarre” 12:18, the only song on the album co-written by Prince. I vaguely recalled hearing it back in the Purple Rain era. It was a minor hit, I think.

I wrote my love letter and finished my beer. I took Sheila E with me and popped it into my car’s CD player. I cued up track 3 and listened…listened…and heard the most perfectly obvious or oblique expression of authentic primal desire that I had ever heard in a song and that included “Little Red Corvette.” One line goes: A strawberry mind / a body that’s built for two.

A strawberry mind. I want to meet someone with a strawberry mind because I know that person can help me reinvent myself. I know I can’t do it alone.

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