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Either sitting, standing or leaning, from the bar at the Schooner Restaurant and Lounge in Netarts, a patron can stare out big windows, float over the only bay in Oregon that doesn't qualify under federal guidelines as "water quality impaired," and gradually scale the forested slopes of Cape Lookout--if it's not shrouded in fog. It might be, and I feel expert in saying this, the finest view from any drinking hole on the Oregon Coast--worth three belts at least. It's also a view that thankfully soulless developers can't blight with condos and the Oregon State University-bred, clearcut loving lackeys from the Oregon Department of Forestry can't "improve" on or "make more natural." A recession may be on but the Schooner's proprietor, Steve, isn't waiting for Bush's tax cuts for the gilded sleaze to trickle down a little gruel to finance his improvements. This guy is remaking his establishment right now and I salute his pluck. The master remodeling plan is still in progress and so far the changes look good. But I fear the general lightening of the interior may render the Schooner inadequately dark enough for assignations or self-loathing. There's always the woods and sand dunes though. Yet with the view and beer and whiskey, this is still a great place to ponder the dilemma many of us here face on the Oregon Coast--how can I earn enough money to stay here and write my novel? "You can't even get in here when the tides hit extreme lows," said Steve about the clamming popularity of Netarts Bay and his bar's excellent strategic location--across the parking lot from the boat launch. As for the clamming crowd, "Sometimes we like em' and sometimes we throw em' out," Steve said. He quickly added something about the Schooner being a family-oriented place, which keenly disappointed me, but the man is trying to generate a profit. The Schooner was built in the early 50s and has naturally been a trusted part of the local drinking (and community) culture for half a century. That sort of feeling continues today and is reflected in a story Steve told me. Back in the late 90s, on a Thanksgiving, 112 mph winds slammed the bay and knocked out the power. Luckily, the Schooner's ovens cooked by propane and within minutes Steve supervised a half-dozen birds roasting in the kitchen. Not long after an impromptu feast ensued and no doubt they spilled the wine--or more likely Bud. That's my definition of family values and Jerry Falwell can teetotal in hell. Seafood is the specialty in the Schooner, even for breakfast, and the fish supper I consumed in the bar blew me away for its taste and low price. I cannot however, ever recommend an oyster omelet or seafood benedict for anyone suffering from a hangover. Talking alcohol, Steve summed it up: "This is a vodka bar." Apparently they go through cases, tsunamis of the stuff, and this was hinted at when I observed what appeared to be the first quadruple seabreeze in the history of North American liquor consumption. I mean the drink came practically in a mug! This isn't surprising. In my ongoing "investigation" of the Oregon Coast drinking life, I hear the "vodka bar" refrain a lot, which is fine, and certainly would have pleased Jack Kerouac, who once summed up his life goals as: "vodka, love, glory." I prefer whiskey however, and especially if distilled in former Confederate states. But perhaps it's better that vodka is the spirit of choice around here. If it were cheap whiskey, occasional martial law might have to be imposed. As for the clientele, I've been in the Schooner three or four times and typically it's a comfortable mix of locals and tourists that discuss the usual topics about the usual suspects. One curveball to this routine however, was when I once walked in on a conversation about the relative merits of the terrible Canadian rock bands Loverboy and April Wine. There was also lot of talk about getting really fucked up at the Oregon Jam. And on that point, to think Ted Nugent once routinely headlined outdoor shows with 50,000 cracker stoners in attendance is truly amazing. On my most recent visit however, talk took a backseat to a spectacular live performance. It was my distinct pleasure to watch two local women of undetermined age clad in tight jeans, play pool, curse, writhe, rub, complain about insufficient quantities of sex, kick booths after bad shots, scald men, drink beer, and generally party down in their own private corner of the world on a Friday afternoon. They also happened to discharge enough pheromone firepower to send musky blast waves all the way to the Vatican thereby making old grown men cry and dead men come. If these two women could play pool in front of the College of Cardinals, I can predict a certain result--priesthood celibacy is undone for all time. I took it all in, drinking dark beer, eating excellent fish, sometimes turning to watch the fog abruptly shift directions on Cape Lookout. What a show! As Keith Richards sang on Tattoo You, "Tits and ass with soul."
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