Pondering the Pandemic – No. 2

The historic New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana – notice the albino mule deer

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking on the title above so the post is not clipped or shortened.)

As I’ve mentioned in my last few posts – probably self-evident – visits to new watering holes whether bars or breweries are temporarily on hold for Thebeerchaser.  That said, I have a lot of old memories and thoughts about my favorite topic which can still provide grist to loyal followers – at least for awhile.

That was true reminiscing about our road trip through Montana last year in the recent post (see link below)  and that narrative was about just five of the 49 new establishments we visited on that 3,700 mile trip — like the historic New Atlas Bar in Columbus, Montana.

Joan Melcher, who wrote two books on Montana bars described the New Atlas  – one of her favorites below – and the second paragraph is a little curious.  The New Atlas, indeed, was one of the most curious of the forty-nine bars we hit on the trip:

“Hulking throughout the room are bald eagles, an albino mule deer fawn, a coyote howling to the moon, young bobcats fighting an Audak (African mountain sheep), a Canadian lynx, raccoon or two, a fox, a snow owl. moose heads, elk heads – buffalo, antelope, mountain sheep – all kinds of heads…

Amused acceptance?!  What’s the other option??

…..There’s a queer sensation that goes with drinking sur-rounded by dead, stuffed animals.  The first reaction is one of nonchalance – ah some nice stuffed animals. 

After a few drinks, you feel countless pairs of eyes bearing down.  You have another beer to relax under their scrutiny, look around again, and you’re among friends, the animals’ glares having softened to amused acceptance.”

The last post with the five other Montana bar descriptions (Trapper’s Saloon in Eureka, the Saw Mill Saloon in Darby – a town with a legendary Town Marshal, the Wise River Club in Wise River, the Antler Saloon in Wisdom and the Dewey Tavern also in Wise River – all Montana classics is at the link below:

https://thebeerchaser.com/2020/08/19/pondering-during-the-pandemic-1/

A Return to the Central Oregon Coast

Right now, however, I’m coming back to Oregon – some of my favorite spots – dive bars on the Oregon Coast. These institutions are in jeopardy especially since the pandemic and be protected as should any endangered species such as the Washington golden mantel ground squirrel…..

The Sportsman in Pacific City

One of the great resources in the earlier days of this blog (2011-14) was a similar blog I came upon in doing research for my posts.  Matt Love, a prolific and talented author and now owner of a small Astoria publishing house he founded in 2003 – The Nestucca Spit Press

His blog, “Let it Pour”, originated as a popular column in Hipfish Monthly, an alternative magazine in Astoria. He no longer maintains the site and unfortunately a number of the watering holes are no longer in business..

Matt in his younger days sans beard…

Matt is a keen observer of both the ambiance of dive bars and the interactions that take place among the patrons – and is an expert in describing those in entertaining style.  Take this one from LetItPour.net that made me check out the Old Oregon as one of my first Coast dives.

“(It’s) a damn fine gritty place to drink beer – a lot of beer….The regulars call it The Old O and after spending time there over the years, I feel it is not too outrageous to suggest the nickname stands not only for The Old Oregon Tavern in Lincoln City — which it does — but really some of the patrons’ last long ago orgasm.  Maybe in the Johnson Administration.”

The interior of the Old O reflects the taste of the owners and its rich history as a tavern.  According to one patron who smoked cigarettes (Matt wrote this before the 2009 law banning smoking) and drank beer while attached to a portable oxygen tank, the joint dates to World War II, but maybe earlier.”

So with some curiosity, but no expectations, I hunkered into the Old O – right on Highway 101 in the heart of Lincoln City with my brother-in-law, Dave Booher and our friend, Steve Larson for a few beers and to observe. 

As per my usual Beerchaser process, I was sitting at the bar drinking draft PBR’s, asking the bartender questions and taking photos around the quaint place.  As per Matt’s observation about the family character of Coast dives, we noted  there was going to be a wake for a recently deceased regular – “Rod.”  We did not take the sign literally and assumed that when it stated, “Have a drink on Rod,” that his casket was not going to be in the Old O for the celebration.

A wake – but no casket….

Then, in walks a very stocky middle-aged guy in a motorcycle jacket and hat and purposefully strides towards a seat at the back of the bar where he could observe everything going on.   The bartender said softly, “That’s Irish Mike – our local ambassador.”   I took a few more pictures and rejoined my companions at the bar.

At that point Irish Mike pointed and motioned me to come to his chair.  With some trepidation, but also curiosity, I headed back to him and as I approached, he reached into his wallet and pulled out two one-dollar bills.  He stared at me and said:

“It’s your turn to plug the juke box. Don’t screw it up!”

Irish Mike and Thebeerchaser

Fortunately, he liked my selections of Van Morrison and the Eagles.  We had a great chat and I found out that he is a retired exec from San Francisco and rides his Harley up to Oregon a few times a year and the Old O is always one of his stops.

That stop after three years of Beerchasing, affirmed that there were many more yarns in the future. My stories, however, pale to Matt’s Love’s.  So take a look at his newspaper-tabloid publication Oregon Tavern Age – a bargain at $10 or three copies for $20 at his Nestucca Spit Press website where you will also find other wonderful books on Oregon he has written.

Before we get to OTA, the picture above gives me reason to momentarily digress.   I asked Matt what spurred his fascination with beavers – pervasive and tactically placed throughout the almost eighty different bar tails… (sorry – I couldn’t resist) tales throughout the 58-page OTA publication.

I thought it might be because he, like I, was an OSU grad but he got his degrees at Portland State and Lewis and Clark.  His captivation with the flat-tailed, semi-aquatic rodent was a product of observing them in the woods during his walks on the Oregon coast and his collection of beaver wood – an obsession, of sorts, for the last ten years – and an amazing sight adjacent to his RV.

Beaverwood – ten years worth…

The topic of Beavers then provides a convenient segue to my next topic – Oregon State Football and whether the Beavs under Coach Jonathan Smith will exceed expectations this fall.

However, not only will the Beaver quarterbacks, lineman and defensive backs, etc. be occupied otherwise on Saturday afternoons, but so will the midfielders on the soccer team and the setter and outside hitter on the volleyball team.

The Pac 12, as did some of the other NCAA conferences made the wise decision to protect athletes and fans by either suspending or delaying fall and winter sports.

So instead of being on the gridiron, the Beaver football players will have a chance to spend time in the library until at least next spring and help bolster the academic standing of OSU – possibly to a scholastic peak that the football team can be proud of. Thus, any current discussion of football would be strictly academic……

Oregon Tavern Age

Don’t bother Googling Oregon Tavern Preservation Society. That’s Matt’s imagination…

Matt describes how the phrase was coined based on an experience thirty-four years ago when he and some friends were sitting in Seaside’s The Beach Club, drinking 50-cent drafts:

“A man blasted through the door and obliterated the tavern’s somnolent mood.  His hair was feathered….and perfect.  He appeared anywhere from 40 to 70 years old.  Many years later, I coined the phrase ‘Oregon Tavern Age’ or ‘OTA’ to describe the condition….*1

The man’s name was Larry or Wayne, both solid OTA names.  He sat down with us at the bar.  He was loud.  I struck up a conversation with him and learned he had $10,000 in cash stuffed into his pants pocket…..*2

He had cashed a check the previous afternoon – a settlement from an injury suffered in an automobile accident and was ready to party down – hard.  He bought the house a round, screamed an encouraging profanity, and then bolted out the door.”

*1 I am appalled now that I’m 72, Matt doesn’t consider me part of OTA.  Through my lawyer, I will consider notifying federal and state agencies (such as the Oregon Liquor Control Commission) and WCTU (?) on possible sanctions for age discrimination.

*2  Wayne or Larry probably only had about 70% of that amount of cash on him as his lawyer would have taken the other 30% as his or her contingency fee.

This was clearly not the last or even a tiny slice of the stories and observations Love makes in this treatise that was so interesting and enjoyable to me that I used a yellow highlighter so I could come back and savor parts of it again later.

Matt published OTA in 2019, but these stories go back years to:

“…the halcyon days of Oregon tavern life:  no liquor, no craft beers, no meth, no video poker or  slots, smoke-filled and the classic cheap Pacific Northwest lagers brewing in the Pacific Northwest by union men reigned supreme.”

Now based on the 375 watering holes I have visited, I have a lot of stories, but Matt is a master of observation not only of the human interaction, but the trappings and character of these dives.  He converts the notes he took “jotting down observations with a pencil on a golf score card” and his conversations with the regulars into a captivating collection of stories and anecdotes with great graphic illustrations – courtesy of his ex-wife.

It will make you want to drive down to Pacific City and have a draft Budweiser at the Sportsman Pub and Grub where for years, Matt served as the bar’s Writer in Residence (Thebeerchaser reviewed this great dive in October 2014.)

“I like Old!”

For example, his observation upon getting a recommendation to check out the Crow’s Nest Lounge in Gold Beach – although being warned it’s regulars were an older crowd:

“’Good,’ I thought. I like old.”   That’s where the real OTA action unfolds like so much frozen molasses locked inside a glacier.  I hate fast bars with loud, dumb kids throwing down jello shots while fiddiling on their fancy phones.  They need a little Black Velvet to calm then down…..We all do.”

And I can just visualize Matt, sitting at a dark red booth with cracked vinyl, enveloped in second-hand smoke and nursing a cheap Hamm’s – this as he observed a guy drinking white wine:

“The white wine hailed from a black box.  The man sat next to another OTA man drinking Budweiser from a tall can.  In the wings, a female bartender fiddled on her phone.  The Stanley Cup Final highlights played quietly on a flatscreen.

At a nearby table, an OTA woman drank coffee and ate clam chowder and dunked a peanut butter bar, in both, while reading a firearms magazine.  She hacked an ex-smoker’s hack between dunks and turning the pages.”

Now there have been about eight dives on the coast that have either closed permanently or indefinitely suspended operations   It’s not possible for someone to open a new dive bar – it’s somewhat of a contradiction of terms. And Matt is the cerebral vault in which many of the stories are maintained and only unlocked on special occasions.  For example:

“One day, many years ago, a woman sat in Pitch’s Tavern in Port Orford.   She saw a horse drinking beer from a saucer on the counter.  On another visit, she saw a live boxer crab holding an unlit cigarette in one claw and a glass of beer in the other.”

The author is sometimes maudlin and philosophical in his musings and I will leave you with his rhetorical question and the recommendation that you order the Oregon Tavern Age and join Thebeerchaser in reveling at the stories of a gifted writer:

“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 brewpub.”

Savor the story of the Deep Fried Miller High Life at the Mad Dog Country Tavern just out of Newport (that and The Triangle Tavern under the Megler Bridge in Astoria are two of his favorites )

Or check out the one on the blue parrot playing video poker (and winning) at the historic Bay Haven Inn in the heart of Newport, by ordering Matt’s OTA.  And take a look at some of the other great offerings at the Nestucca Spit Press while you’re at it.

And Finally…

Courtesy of Molly Larson Cook

With two daughters who are both nurses, I’ve stated before, my plea for everyone to wear masks.   And here’s a great place to get one plus a bonus from Patty Voldbaeck – a former excellent legal secretary at the Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt firm. 

Patty’s masks are made of 100%cotton fabric with ultralight fusible interfacing (if requested) and a pocket insert protector of your personal preference.  She also has a piece of N-95 fabric available with instructions for care.

Designer Masks

The bonus is that one of Patty’s Famous Molasses Cookies comes with each mask order or if you would like more (based on my experience, you will….) they are available at $12 a dozen. 
 
GP   Grandma Patty’s Famous Creations
Masks, Molasses Cookies & Scrubbys
Notary-Oregon
503-476-2216

Beerchasing Miscellany – Lockdown Version II

We can still enjoy a pint a home – Ryan Keene exemplifies…

(Welcome back to Thebeerchaser.  If you are seeing this through an e-mail, please visit the blog to see all of the photos and read the story by clicking on the title above so the post is not clipped.)

In the last post, I covered a number of miscellaneous categories – most of which were not related to bars or breweries, but since my Beerchasing expeditions to new venues are temporarily on hold, please pardon my editorial license

But

As I mentioned in the last post, rummaging through some of my old files has uncovered some “treasures” and elicited some laughs when I harken back.  Consequently, I have reviewed some older Beerchaser posts in light of current events.

The First Tuesday After the First Monday……

One of my first jobs out of the Navy was in the Clackamas County Elections Department where we administered not only the Primary and General Elections, but hundreds of school and special district measures.   Understandably, most citizens have no comprehension on the amount of detail, technology and legal compliance required to manage an election.

On election nights, I still have some empathy for election officials who are trying to maintain the integrity of their systems while concurrently being pressed by print and broadcast media and candidates to give them immediate returns.

While the initial data are always qualified as preliminary and un-audited, that disclaimer is often forgotten.

Back in 1976, when my hair was almost as long as it is now (No  haircut for 4.5 months. ) Norma Paulus then served two terms as SOS.

Oregon Law (ORS 254.056) states the General Election is held as stated on the day in the caption above in even numbered years – and that, my friends is only 109 days away.

Since this is a blog about bars and beer, I typically refrain from political topics, but unless one has been living under a rock for the last 18 months, it’s difficult to stay above the fray.

A Precursor to the “Digital” Age  (Excerpted, in part, from Thebeerchaser May 18, 2017)

And we know from the 2020 Primary, campaign divisive politics will be unceasing and brutal going forward.  It causes wishful thinking about the civility and at least reasonably bipartisanship approach of leaders from past decades that characterized Oregon politics e.g. Tom McCall, Norma Paulus, Hector MacPherson, Vera Katz and the US Congress e.g. Senator Mark Hatfield, Speakers of the House Sam Rayburn and Tip O’Neill.

Senator Mark Hatfield in his DC office in our visit in 1993

Wendell Wyatt – Statesman and Lawyer

And don’t forget my late friend and law firm colleague, Wendell Wyatt, who served from 1964 to 1975 and was an effective Congressman, a wonderful person and skilled attorney at Schwabe Williamson & Wyatt.

 

Yet, based on the nature of the beast, there were times years ago – even in a more refined era (without 24-hour cable news coverage) when emotions overcame propriety – something which lent some humor and excitement to the news.

Such was the case on September 16, 1976, when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller was campaigning with Sen. Bob Dole, who had been selected to be President Gerald Ford’s running mate.

A student in a group of hecklers gave the finger to the VP and he immediately reciprocated the gesture — with gusto!  I’ve kept the picture below from the newspaper for all these years thinking I could use it at some point and the excerpt below describes the incident: 

At the time, Rockefeller’s finger flashing was scandalous and the gesture was referred to thereafter as ‘The Rockefeller Salute.’  Rockefeller refused to apologize for his outburst. ‘I was just responding in kind’ he said, neatly avoiding the point that the apology was not expected to go to the hecklers but to the general public.”

Statesman and war hero with a dry sense of humor

Bob Dole was asked by a reporter why he didn’t join Rockefeller in “the salute”.  “I have trouble with my right arm,” the wounded WW II veteran replied. (Rarehistorical photos.com October 16,2016)

This Beer Really Hops….

And since limited activity during the pandemic results in time to free-associate, seeing that image brought back the memory of one of my business trips in the late ’80’s which I recounted in Thebeerchaser on February 8, 2013. (Excerpted below)

Laura loved frogs in 1990

Thebeerchaser’s youngest daughter, when she was in grade school, had a wonderful frog collection – ceramic amphibians, posters, stuffed frogs, etc.

Each time I had a business trip, I would seek out and bring home an addition to that collection, which grew to be almost 100 in number.

The remnants of a once great amphibian collection…..

On a business trip to Chicago, I consumed an excellent light-colored amber beer from a brewery in Michigan and decided that the empty bottle with the amazing Bad Frog Logo would be a unique supplement to the group of cold-blooded amphibians in my daughter’s room.  The bottle survived a suitcase ride home and my daughter liked it.

Now married and a pediatric ER nurse

Thebeerchaser’s spouse, however, had better judgment – much better! – and you will probably understand why.  She refused to accept my assertion that our young collector did not yet understand the underlying message conveyed by this rebellious frog. 

Jim Wauldron, the founder, was not a brewer, but a graphic artist and t-shirt designer, who created the image and merchandise – but initially – no beer.

The Bad Frog story is quite interesting and you should visit this link to their website to see their story and perhaps even purchase a sweatshirt:

“Well we did learn about beer and started brewing in October 1995.  Then the whole thing went BESERK!  We’ve expanded to 25 states and overseas.  We were BANNED in 8 states.

The banning of the Beer and the non-stop legal battles with each State prevented the expansion of the Beer, but BAD FROG fans all over the world still wanted the BAD FROG merchandise.  We’ve been featured on CNN, CBS, NBC, FOX, and ABC. BAD FROG was even featured in PLAYBOY Magazine TWICE.”

From the Bad Frog Brewery

The legal challenges resulted because of the frog’s none-too-subtle extension of its middle digit.  Liquor Commissions in multiple states banned the beer.  Eventually the US Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the New York State Liquor Authority‘s ban on selling Bad Frog Beer in an interesting and extremely entertaining  First Amendment case Bad Frog Brewery, Inc. v. New York State Liquor Authority 134 F.3d 87 (1998).

Lawyers would love the language from the court opinion which has some great footnotes and includes,“…..(The logo) is patently offensive’ and presumably a suggestion to have intercourse with oneself.”

It appears that one can still purchase Bad Frog merchandise, but the beer disappeared a number of years ago, in part, because of the problems associated with all the legal issues.

The Pandemic

While current headlines are shattering, we can also view many wonderful acts of kindness, sacrifice and charity to help those who have been affected by the virus and these unselfish deeds continue to occur.

A novel of suspense (and spice….)

And though all of this, we need to maintain a sense of humor and optimism and realize that life is filled with joy and tragedy.  I thought a good quote to reflect the ups and downs, was from Joe Lansdale’s novel Bad Chili which I mention in my post entitled Books and Brew published in November, 2018.

The action is innovative e.g. an early encounter with a “vicious, angry, bloodthirsty, rabid squirrel.”  The author’s dialogue is unique and rich with quotes such as this one from Jim Bob Luke, a primary character:

Texas Chili – tasty and spicy ….

“Life’s like a bowl of chili in a strange café.  Sometimes it’s pretty tasty and spicy.  Other times, it tastes like shit.”

Now while the next quote has nothing to do with the pandemic, it always causes me to smile and at least it’s related to bars.   I originally covered it in a 2011 post about one of my first Beerchasers-of-the-Quarter.

James Crumley was a Montana author who taught at both the University of Montana and Portland’s Reed College.  Some critics describe his final book The Last Good Kiss as “the most influential crime novel of the last 50 years.”

Crime Novelist James Crumley

Others maintain that initial sentence of the book is the best first-line ever written in an American crime novel.

“When I finally caught up with Abraham Trahearne, he was drinking beer with an alcoholic bulldog named Fireball Roberts in a ramshackle joint just outside of Sonoma, California, drinking the heart right out of a fine spring afternoon.”

Fireball Roberts ??

At the time, I suggested that you could toast Fireball Roberts with a pint of In-Heat Wheat Hefeweizen from Flying Dog Brewery in Denver.

It appears that this beer is no longer available but they certainly have some of which Fireball would approve.  (For example, Raging Bitch Belgian IPA at a robust 8.3% ABV – strong enough for any mongrel….)

Cutting to the Chase

With the lockdown, many of us have transformed wardrobes to sweats or “quarantine casual wear” especially when working at home. Even when one has a Zoom meeting, there’s always the tactic of using a landscape or photo as background rather than a live shot.

Second from left in 1968 in Washington DC with then Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird

But it is entertaining to see the impact that the absence of haircuts or styling for about four months has wrought.   From the requirement to have “stunted” hair during high school basketball and then during NROTC all during college, my locks have undergone a number of transformations over the ensuing years.

I even tried the beard and mustache route in the late ’70’s because of a misguided belief that it was cool.

Last week, I was scheduled for a haircut and as I pulled into my guy’s parking lot, he called my cellphone with this information:

“Don, I have a story for you.   I got a call one hour ago from a couple whose hair I cut last week.  They have Covid, so I’ve been exposed.   I get tested tomorrow.”

I thanked him for the call and reflected on the good timing and decided to let things stand for awhile.  This sentiment was reinforced after I saw some former male colleagues in a Zoom meeting this week who are of about the same demographic.  One looked like a Mountain Man and the other essentially had bangs, but both looked good.

Go for five months??

My daughters are urging me to continue to let it grow, but for both time management and economic purposes, I’m seriously contemplating returning (maybe regressing) to the crew cut and black Chuck Taylor Converse All-Star High Tops.

According to the Converse website the Chuck ’70 has:

“More cushioning, tougher canvas, same versatility…..is built off of the original 1970’s design, with premium materials and an extraordinary attention to detail…… No reason not to wear them all day, every day.” 

And Finally…..

Even before all of us are able to frequent bars and breweries again when it is safe and permitted, we can still support these establishments by buying their products and using takeout options – many of which are innovative.

A friend with strong knowledge of the hospitality industry stated in an e-mail about watering holes on the Oregon coast:

“The joints are teetering. It really is dire.”

The Old Oregon Tavern in Lincoln City – a classic dive bar

And even in Portland, one of my favorite breweries Old Town Brewing, which I reviewed last year, was forced to temporarily close their Old Town location since many people are not traveling downtown because of the violence occurring with the continuing protests.

Entrepreneur Adam Milne

Owner Adam Milne showed innovation and collaboration with other breweries early on in the pandemic by hosting a Brewers Market  at their second location and brewing headquarters on NE Martin Luther King Blvd.

It’s a weekly assembly of booths offering various breweries’ beers to-go in a drive-thru meets farmers-market setting.  Adam turned the parking lot there into a mashup of a drive-thru and a brewer safari.However, as reported in a July 12th Willamette Week article:

“‘The moment of a temporary closure became, sadly, clear on Thursday when our revenue for the day was $18.75,’ he says. ‘I spent the last week trying to get a rent reduction from our landlord, but was unsuccessful. We really need help from the city. Downtown businesses have been hit especially hard with the high density, vandalism and tents in front of our business.'”

This is just one example and all of us can help support OTB and other small businesses.

Cheers and Be Safe!