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After a hard day's night waging war against developers, the Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF), or North Coast political hacks, there is one place to lick the wounds of usual defeat or toast the rare victory. That place is the Sea Shack in a quaint North Tillamook County village called Wheeler. It wasn't too long ago, after one especially brutal defeat, I entered this rustic, wood-sided, two-story bar, which stands adjacent to beautiful Nehalem Bay. I needed instant resurrection in the form of a stiff and expertly mixed cocktail--something difficult to find at noon on a weekday in a coastal town with a population of 300 or so. The Stones "Let it Bleed" blasted through the speakers so naturally I ordered a double bloody Mary. It came spilling over the top but I preserved nearly every drop as I sat down at table with a view. The tide was going out and waterfowl danced above the estuary. A kayaker cruised by. Within seconds after the first salty sip, I was off life support and my political blood flowed again. No wonder frontier doctors always eased their patients' pain with medicinal alcohol. Of course if CEO Bush keeps up his corporate assault on the environment I may have to try laudanum. We all need some coke and sympathy. The Sea Shack has a full service bar, video poker, a restaurant that serves quality seafood, is across 101 from a liquor store, and comes with an upstairs music hall that is undoubtedly the best Rock and Roll venue between Mount Neahkahnie and Cascade Head. Often on weekend nights a lively crowd shows up, so the bartender told me, and in general the Sea Shack exhibits a friendly feel. The real draw to the bar though, is the huge deck and boat dock right outside the back door. Sitting out there with any drink perfectly explains what Otis Redding sang about. Nehalem Bay is so scenic, so full of wildlife, so apparently pristine, it makes one wonder how insane PGE must have been to consider this estuary as a potential site for a nuclear power plant in the early 70's. It also is a wonder how any self-respecting Oregonian could allow their livestock to shit near tributaries that drain into Nehalem Bay, thereby causing it to be federally listed as an "impaired water body" because of excessive bacteria. And it makes one wonder why ODF cut old, naturally-seeded trees in a section of the Tillamook State Forest called God's Valley a few miles from here in order to "enhance wildlife habitat" and "mimic nature." Unfortunately another double bloody Mary won't answer these questions. You have to leave the Sea Shack for that information, get organized, turn on the spigot to release a rush of piss and vinegar, and understand the meaning of the word indefatigable. The idea is then, to later return to the Sea Shack a winner and celebrate Oregon Coast environmental victories harder than Keith Richards lives.
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