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location:pacific city

When I drink in a bar or tavern I often play a parlor game where I imagine which dead alcoholic American writer would feel most comfortable there. For example, Dorothy Parker might prefer a big city hotel lounge. Or how about the two Jacks, London and Kerouac, favoring a dank hole near a train station? You get the idea. As for our rustic Pacific Northwest brewpubs, I doubt any great novelist would enjoy a smoke free ambiance where patrons chew with all their teeth, discuss responsible investing, and speculate which hand-picked native herb accents which hand-crafted beer. I mention all this because recently I played one of my most creative games at the Sportsman in Pacific City. There, on a packed weekend night, I speculated that a sodden mutation of John Steinbeck, Charles Bukowski and Raymond Carver might fall in love with this joint and crank out a masterpiece chronicling the desperate but poignant antics of working class heroes in rural America who live near the sea. There's no liquor in the Sportsman and almost zero chance of being seduced by an admiring reader, but I'm confident any debauched author would dig the Sportsman on account of its cheap beer and dialogue machine. ("I get reeeeal close when I watch Baywatch" and "I spread the table like I spread her last night.") In addition to the beer and banter there is usually live blues or Rock and Roll on the weekends played with a boozy yet competent abandon that provokes fat, goateed middle aged men to grind on tourist girls they just asked to dance. If a band isn't playing, the CD jukebox can be pumped up to tarmac levels and if you want to see surplus weirdness, just play "Gimme Shelter" by the Rolling Stones three times in a row like I did one Friday night. I now understand what Freud described as the "hideous subconscious." At the Sportsman, rarely is any urge repressed, and this is especially true at an annual event called the Hooker's Ball, where both women and blue collar men dress up as prostitutes. It has to be seen to be believed. Located near the only traffic signal in Pacific City, the Sportsman is the sort of American hangout that must make effete Frenchmen shudder: pool, video poker, darts, ESPN, ESPN 2, an ATM machine, cheap Midwest lagers, cheaper Pacific Northwest lagers formerly brewed in the Pacific Northwest, expensive micro brews, and hearty, delicious menu items, including some rugged pizzas that undoubtedly fuel bodies for launching the local dory fleet or clearcutting the nearby hills. Furthermore, I've been served free oysters and also ordered fish most likely caught a few miles from the tavern and quite possibly within the hour, which if were true, could be illegal but in keeping with the libertarian leanings of the Sportsman's clientele. When Tillamook County voters recently passed a restaurant and tavern/bar 'no smoking' ordinance, Sportsman patrons and management completely ignored it. Democratic elections don't dictate personal behavior in this joint During the tourist season the Sportsman attracts a few brave foreign souls but mainly this tavern flows local, friendly blood oblivious to the finer trends of single malts, cigars or sobriety. Once I heard a loud banging on the front door, as if someone struggled to gain entrance. What? Immediately several burly guys jumped up, went outside, pulled a man from a wheelchair, and deposited him in a booth. With his buddies, the man proceeded to pound several pitchers of beer in 30 minutes. His buddies then picked him up, took him outside, deposited him in the wheelchair, and he rolled on down the road in total darkness as it rained sideways--with a can of beer in his lap. To me this scene symbolizes what makes the Sportsman special for any aspiring or renowned writer or just plain curious person--the stories, or potential stories that live there. Like the W.C. Fields poster, the framed shark's teeth, the bi-plane made from beer cans hanging over the bar, the plaque commemorating some deceased Air Force flyer, the elderly woman reading novels at the bar while drinking Heidelberg, the friendly ex-Marine who used to run the Sportsman and can tell you how he helped thwart an invasion of methamphetamine in Pacific City during the 1980s, or the mysterious huge photo over the video poker machines of a young man holding a beer. Who is he? This is a great drunk writer's hangout, plastered with the proletariat, and a management eager to spill the wine (from a box). The Sportsman doesn't have a web site, neat tourist trinkets, ringing cell phones, or any notion of upholding Ken Starr values. But I've seen regulars exchange Christmas gifts, bring in surplus garden vegetables, and a bartender lend a pool cue to a rich second homeowner who came down for the weekend to play on his posh table but forgot his stick. It's rough and sweaty and smoky and the patrons hate both political parties and all displays of urban pretension. If you come in here with colored hair, a face full of piercings and order a Pabst while the economy's cooking, no one will beat you up. They'll just think you're a fool. The Sportsman a clean well-lighted place? Forget it. All you need to know about the Sportsman are five things: its beautifully carved back bar was shipped around Cape Horn, a pint really is 16 ounces here, its daytime bartender is named Keith, the Shriners' marching band once gigged here for 60 seconds, and it fulfilled the last wish of a dying man. So the story goes, a veteran patron requested that upon his death, he wanted his wake held in the tavern. Well, the old timer died, he was cremated, and of course the management obliged him. So his drinking buddies crowded in the men's bathroom, hoisted their pints for a second...and flushed his ashes down the toilet. Top that drug testing, antiseptic, bottom line, unfunky, God fearing, screaming baby, corporate brewpubs!
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