The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco,” Mark Twain said. Apparently he hadn’t been to Newport, Oregon in June. Waiting for the delayed start of the “Surf and Turf Poetry Slam” yesterday in the tree-shaded patio outside the Café Mundo restaurant, one after another of us ran to the car or home to get a coat. It was just after noon in late June, but it was overcast and cold. When I called California to wish my dad a happy Father’s Day, he said it was cooler there, too—down to the low 90s. Oh, brrr.
But being Oregonians, most of us wrapped up and stuck it out.
Only in Newport, specifically in the Nye Beach neighborhood, would you have a weekend of surf and turf poetry and art. In this case, Surf and Turf does not refer to dinner but to surfing and skateboarding. It was the brainstorm of Tom Webb, director of the Newport Visual Arts Center where we hold the Nye Beach Writers’ Series. Relatively new to the area, he thought: beach=surfing. He added skateboarding to the mix. Apparently, in addition to Father’s Day and summer solstice, June 21 was Surfing Day and Go Skateboarding Day in some alternate universe. So, the featured exhibit in the main gallery was Surf and Turf, presenting painted and decorated boards of all sorts along with sculptures and paintings about surfing ocean or concrete.
Upstairs on Saturday night, we welcomed two old favorites to Nye Beach Writers, Matt Love, author/publisher of countless books, and wildman poet Andrew Rodman. The room was packed, the readings drew smiles, laughter and applause, and fans swarmed the book sales table. I emceed the open mic, and the list was full. Poems, stories, locals and visitors, reading off phones, tablets and sheets of paper that shook with their nerves.
On Sunday, as if some people just can’t get enough, the party moved to Cafe Mundo at 2nd and Coast streets. I had had two hours sleep. My head was buzzing so fast after Saturday’s festivities that I couldn’t go to sleep despite a 6 a.m. wakeup call to go play piano and lead the choirs at church. With a visiting priest from Tanzania. Thick accent. Long sermon. God bless caffeine.
I reported to Mundo in my church clothes, climbed the steep stairs to get lunch and ran into three friends from my weekly music jam in Waldport—hammered dulcimer, pennywhistle, ukulele. They invited me to join them. Everybody knows everybody in this town. Later they joined me for the poetry.
Café Mundo restaurant used to be outside, which would be warm enough maybe 10 days out of the year. So they built a place that looks like a treehouse. You walk in, there’s a stage to the right, a counter straight ahead and stairs to the left that lead to the dining room proper. The room circles around a big opening so you can see the festivities downstairs.
Service is a little spacy, so it’s not a place to be in a hurry. The food, which leans toward healthy and natural ingredients, comes up from the bottom floor via dumbwaiter. It is unlike any other restaurant’s grub, at least in our area. My friends ordered eggs, bacon and toast, pretty normal, but their eggs were cooked with pesto and feta cheese, and their slabs of bacon were huge. You could roof a house with them. The toast carried on the Paul Bunyan theme. I ordered the “Cheeses of the World” sandwich, three kinds of cheese with tomatoes on the same mega bread, served with garden salad with a fruity poppy seed dressing.
Downstairs, the poets gathered. The event was supposed to start at 1:00, but it was more like 1:30. Coastal time. We bought raffle tickets. I won a tee shirt with surfboards on it—wearing it now. Perfect under fleece or over thermal underwear. The poets and their fans gathered. We huddled on polished stone perches, patio chairs, and weathered benches as Scott Rosin, Andrew Rodman, Mike Kloeck, Catherine Rickbone and others proclaimed poetry on the outdoor stage, a giant fishing net and shark in the background. I could hear them several blocks away as I finally gave in to cold and weariness and headed for the car. People reciting poetry outdoors on a Sunday afternoon a block from the beach? It’s so Newport—and one of the reasons we moved here. You won’t find this in San Jose.