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location:tillamook

To my left at the long, lacquered, parquet bar of the Timeout Tavern on Highway 101 in downtown Tillamook lean three men. They all wear the bowling shirt-style uniform of a local automotive industry business. They are sodden at six p.m. on a weekday. No doubt they own the three bicycles parked out front, unlocked. Bicycles in front of any coastal tavern indicate good citizenshipdrinkers without drivers licensees and insurance are not getting behind the wheel. Behind handlebars they can inflict minimal damage. We started at breakfast, says the bearded one, apparently to no one in particular. He remains at the bar and orders another can of cheap Pacific Northwest lager of a brand formerly brewed in the Pacific Northwest. His buddy peels off to lose at video poker and support state services. The other man sways. He probably knows falling down means being 86d. He probably also knows that should he fall down, he can expect a permanent exile from the Timeout since a sign over the bar reads, 86d is forever. Its festive herein a corporate shilling sort of waybusty babe promos for piss beers, mobiles for gimmick malt-based drinks, and placards exalting dead or alive NASCAR heroes decorate almost every available wall and ceiling space. It all brings to mind a line from a Nabokov short story titled, The Fight: The tavern was of the usual typea couple of posters advertising drinks, some deer antlers, and a low, dark ceiling festooned with paper flaglets, remnants of some festival or other. No antlers hang in the Timeout and the place is refreshingly light for an Oregon Coast tavern, but Nabokov pretty much nails it. Munich, Moscow, Tillamook--its all really the same when it comes to a place where people congregate to drink beer and get drunk. Suddenly the Timeouts door swings open and in walks a bearded, suspendered man with a KFC box under his left arm. In his right hand is a drumstick and he shreds it like a hyena on a downed wildebeest. Theres a roar in the joint when the regulars notice the man. Everyone slams it into fifth gear for the upcoming malt-slicked straightaway that finally dead-ends when the tavern closes. I take all this in from the Timeout as I sit at the bar facing north. About 10 miles west is Bayocean Spit. Two blocks east the Tillamook County Commissioners convene to rule on local land-use matters. One day, perhaps after this book goes to print, the three-man board of the county commissioners, will decide if development returns to Bayocean Spit, a stretch of sand that forms the precarious western edge of Tillamook Bay all the way to the Tillamook bar. I say returns because once there was considerable development out on the spit. It was called Bayocean Park and its impresario claimed it would be the Atlantic City of the West. There was a hotel, a natatorium, a post office, a school, a newspaper called The Surf, vacation homes, hell maybe even a tavern. In 1912 there was a Grand Opening complete with a brass band and fireworks. Its all gone now. It took about a score. It all slid into the sea because the planet obeyed physical laws. Waves make sand move. Buildings on moving sand collapse. The last home on Bayocean Spit got swallowed in 1960. Theres a black on white billboard at the south entrance of the spit recounting the drama in shades of gray. It doesnt instruct. Now there are schemes afoot to redevelop Bayocean Spit again. That the spit is not already a state park seized under the power of eminent domain is a failure on every conceivable level of Oregon representative government. But it is not and thus multiple landowner interests, including the countys, have commenced drooling over another go at Bayocean Spit: maybe some vacation homes, maybe a road to the end, maybe a golf course, maybe a fucking espresso stand. Whatever madness is proposed, the Tillamook County Commissioners most likely will weigh in on whether it all goes down, meaning whether or not concrete gets poured into footings on a dune. For those unacquainted with the antics of the current (2003) majority makeup of the board, all you need to know is this: they prove without any doubt the following American political maximthe only two groups left in the nation where you get to be dumb, an asshole, be publicly visible, lick the boots of your cronies, spend taxpayers money and get paid by taxpayers arerural county commissioners and big-time coaches at major universities. As I said, I am in the Timeout and the pace to the heart of darkness is getting rammed into full speed. Still, I believe a majority of the three bicycle owners would make a wiser decision about any proposed redevelopment of Bayocean Spit than the current majority of Tillamook County Commissioners. Its not even close. Once the Timeout board sobers up, I would assign them four books to read before any ruling. The first is Maimed by the Sea: Erosion Along the Coasts of Oregon and WashingtonA Documentary by Bert and Margie Webber. Published in 1983, this charming yet bracing study devotes most of its pages to the Bayocean debacle. (An attack by Old King Neptune is how the Webbers describe what happened.) The photographs and drawings are superb and shocking and one would think Maimed by the Sea would be legally required reading for any prospective coastal homebuyer or developer or county commissioner. Its simply astounding how many suckers Bayoceans impresario lined up to buy into this ecological fraud that went well beyond hubris. It was willful insanity. Of course if you study the history of developments on other sand spits down Oregons coastline, then you know this state has a disproportionate share of suckers when it comes to craving a home with a close-up ocean viewincluding a former governor and US Senator. The second book is Paul D. Komar's concise and scholarly The Pacific Northwest Coast: Living with the Shores of Oregon and Washington. In this definitive account, he documents the inevitable history of inevitable erosion on Oregons beaches. Its all there: Bayocean (1930-40s), Jump-Off Joe in Newport (1942 and early 1980s), Gleneden Beach (1965-71), Siletz Spit (1972-73), Nestucca Spit (1978), Alsea Spit (1982-83), and other Oregon Coast beach areas ad nauseam. Komars book came out in 1998 or otherwise he could have added Cape Lookout State Park in Netarts, The Capes development fiasco in Oceanside and Oregon Governor John Kitzhabers riprapped vacation home in Neskowin. Yes, an Oregon governor riprapped his beachfront vacation home. It may have been the nadir for the office in the last fifty years, or at least since Tom McCall ended his second term. The third book assigned is an elementary science textbook. A semi-thorough reading of it might dispel some of the beliefs that pass for science in Tillamook County among the cabal who want to develop land on dunes or in floodplains and then have taxpayers bail them out when it all turns to shit. Yes, the big fat bold print, monosyllable words, and pictures might challenge a few beliefs. Beliefs like the proof of phrenology, that Galileo was wrong about the revolution of the planets, that the world started in 4004 BC, that bloodletting and arsenic doses are remedies for the common cold, that trepanning, the medical practice of drilling a hole in your skull to relieve pressure, cures headaches, that lobotomies are great to treat mental illness and juvenile delinquency, that excessive masturbation causes warts and hair on the palms. The Timeout board orders another round of cans. Even in their current drunken state, even without reading the first three assigned books, I still would prefer their majority decision over a majority decision by the Tillamook County Commissioners on a plan to redevelop Bayocean Spit. No checking of the palms for hair with these citizens. Common sense can still prevail in rural America. Rural Americans can still absorb wisdom. Speaking of wisdom, theres a heaping portion of it offered in the fourth book. The Timeout board doesnt even need to read the whole book, just one paragraph, the last paragraph of Jesus Sermon on the Mount, (Matthew 7:24-27: Every one then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon the rock; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat upon that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And every one who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand; and the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell and great was the fall of it.
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