I have written many, many words about taverns and bars on the Oregon Coast because I have found some of my greatest stories in them. I recently put out an e-book on the subject called Oregon Tavern Age (OTA): Sketches from Coastal Drinking Life. (You can purchase it from the web site.) Below is an excerpt from the book, a piece called “Shipwreck Tuesday.” By the way, Oregon Tavern Age is defined as “anyone appearing from 40 to 70 years old.” I coined that phrase years ago to describe the appearance of the many men and women I encountered in Oregon Tavern Age country. Readers can expect more pieces about OTA life in future blogs and I hope to publish an updated print magazine version of the book in the fall that will only be distributed in OTA bars and taverns from Astoria to Brookings.
Rain fell in Warrenton on a Tuesday afternoon. It was some Tuesday afternoon in October. I walked into the Iredale Inn, named for the Peter Iredale, the four-masted barque that wrecked on Clatsop Spit just south of the Columbia River on October 25, 1906.
Incredibly, none of the crew died. Remains of the wreck are still visible at Fort Stevens State Park. Over the years, about 10,000 local high school students have had their senior portraits framed through the rusted steel ribs of the ship’s derelict hull. It became an instantly clichéd shot, but a beautiful Oregon Coast one at that, and soon to go extinct. Give the ocean about another decade and the wreck will disintegrate into salt. Give the ocean another millennium and the same could be said for humanity.
I ordered the $3 social service draft special. The joint was trying to empty an unpopular keg and raise a few bucks for the kids.
The beer tasted good. I was saving sick children by drinking beer. That felt good on a weekday in October with absolutely nothing to do but try to figure out my entire life.
I looked around:
A businessman sat at the bar by himself and sipped a Jameson neat. An OTA man gave the bartender some homemade sausage. A game show aired on television. Two feral young men played pool and fiddled on their phones. They were dressed in the most curious fashion: one wore a black leather jacket straight from Starsky and Hutch while the other had on a black baseball cap turned sideways and a silver pendant swinging across his wife-beater tank top. Bud Light football shoulder pads dangled overhead. A female OTA clerk from the gas station across the street was on a break and losing at video slots. She was swearing at the machines. Memorial photo collages and black and white images of the Iredale decorated the walls. About a half-dozen autographed life preservers hung near the roof. In a booth, an obvious assignation was underway. Who would ever see them in here? An injured OTA woman sat a table and discussed with another regular how the joint could improve the Inn’s multiple charity drives. She finagled a contribution from him right there, and another one from a total stranger!
They could do a lot better, she said. Let’s get it together and raise more money!
We all could. Many of the OTAs inside the Iredale Inn were trying, this particular Tuesday. Others were not. I guess I was doing my part with the beer. I ordered another one, for the kids, you know?
Somewhere else in America, people were making money, killing this and that, lying, playing golf and shipwrecking spaceship Mother Earth.
But not in here.
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