writer in residence
A spy recently forwarded me a communiqué from Clear Cut Press Publisher and Portland literary impresario Matthew Stadler explaining his new position as Writer in Residence for Ripe’s restaurant empire, which includes Family Supper, clarklewis, and the new swank Gotham Building Tavern. According to Stadler, it is his charge to “engage the culture and society of the restaurants.” He apparently receives free food in exchange for writing “modest card-sized essays distributed through the restaurants” and helping “program public discourse into the life of the restaurants.” Stadler’s arrangement looks to be awesome perfection, but I’m not envious because for years I’ve had a similar gig as the Writer in Residence for the Sportsman Pub and Grub in Pacific City on the Oregon Coast. Well, sort of similar. If I was to “engage the culture and society” of the Sportsman I might get beat up or contract a venereal disease. If I was to “program public discourse,” that might dangerously require turning off the video poker machines or NASCAR races on television. So I don’t do what Stadler does, but I don’t believe my efforts are any less writerly, and I can assure you our coastal liveliness will be “irrigated” by drink, but not by mediocre-tasting $7.50 pints of Belgian lager or liquorless $10 blackberry Long Island iced teas. We much prefer oceans of cheap beer and swill booze consumed in a hurried an excessive manner that would probably appall the visitors to the Ripe empire. Of course, the Sportsman, or Sporty as it is locally known, doesn’t boast the aesthetic or culinary cachet or sexually desirable employees like clarklewis or Gotham Building Tavern. The latter even charges customers an extra $50 if they want to sit in a privately enclosed area called a “pod,” that’s not private enough for sex, let alone a hand job. So why bother? For absolutely free I can sit in my special corner in the Sporty and use the U.S. Grant to buy a round or perform my civic duty by playing video poker and keeping Oregon immorally afloat. I could even spend the 50 smackers on a meth slut and get fucked in such a way that people who want to ‘kill restaurants’ can only imagine in masturbation. Okay, the Ripe empire looks great, gorgeous superstars abound, but it will never generate the kind of stories the Sporty does with nonchalant regularity. Nor will the Sporty ever charge $14 for four ravioli. I could almost write a novel on the carbohydrates provided by $14 worth of canned ravioli, or feed a homeless family for a few days, but I guess that’s not the point. The point is my long-time attempt at bringing a literary sensibility to a rural Oregon tavern is a different endeavor than Stadler’s. It means using proper grammar in drunken conversations, tactfully correcting usages of quadruple negatives, and sitting in a corner and writing to show people who never read that someone actually writes for virtually no pay. It also entails soliciting customers’ stories (read: by straight shots), or overhearing bizarre verbal exchanges and somehow finding places in print for both these tasty slices of Americana: Like the time a long-time Sporty regular wanted the management to fulfill a final request after his death. They did. As the deceased’s buddies crowded into the tiny men’s restroom hoisting their pints in his honor, someone sprinkled his ashes into the toilet and flushed them into eternity, or at least made them available for the next water cycle. Top that Ripe. I am sure Stadler will write his usual elegant prose and make excellent literary contributions to what he calls the “new civic intelligence” in Portland. He’ll get fed and might even get laid too. Which I think is very important. The Sporty’s clientele possesses its own unique “reactionary rural intelligence” and I’m not sure anything I write in the corner near the pool table under the bras hanging from the ceiling contributes to its demise. Moreover, I could sit in the joint for a thousand years and never get laid. But once an elderly woman who always drank Heidelberg in a can knitted me a stocking cap and embroidered my name on it. And here and there, a patron shows some appreciation for something I’ve written. Usually this comes after the patron’s taken a dump and left one of my columns behind. Top that Matthew Stadler. A good review is always a good review, but I find ways to decline shaking hands. I almost forgot to mention my payment in trade as Writer in Residence at the Sporty--a free pint of Hamm’s a week.