Musicians meet again in South Beach

This spring, the Rhodies are reborn, and so is our South Beach open mic

When I got the call from Sky that she and her partner Renee were bringing our South Beach open mic back to life on Mother’s Day, I tossed all other plans to be there.

For several years, a bunch of us gathered in the boxy little building known as the South Beach Community Center to sing and play for each other. It was a loving group that quickly bonded through our shared love of music. In 2007, we made a CD of our songs. But eventually people got sick and busy, and the open mics faded away.

Renee Richmond, a local woodworker and fabulous flute player, ran the open mics with her musical partners Scott Paterson and Kate Scanlon. Together they played and recorded as Sea Changes. But Scott was sick. The last time I saw Renee and Sky was at Scott’s funeral, attended by a fascinating blend of musicians, veterans, recovering alcoholics and family. They gave away pictures of us that had been taken at the open mics. I have one of me playing classical guitar stuck on my refrigerator.

Yesterday, instead of formal 15-minute sets on stage, we sat in a circle taking turns singing and playing whatever we felt moved to share. Everyone sang and played along. There were only five of us, but we hope this monthly gathering will grow into something much bigger.

The room was the same. Same striped folding chairs. Same wood floor. Same mirrors on the wall, same old kitchen, same old bulletin board. Same great acoustics. But life has thrashed all of us around a bit over the years. We’re thinner, heavier, balder, more wrinkled. My husband has been gone for three years. I have been directing choirs at church all that time and become more of a keyboard player than a guitar player. Renee has learned how to play flute and guitar as well as ever despite losing the ends of several fingers on her left hand to a woodworking accident. Sky and Renee share a last name and are wearing wedding rings now. They moved from South Beach to Beaver Creek, where they are neighbors with Randy and Debbie. Randy, whose ponytail is gone, had a heart attack a few years ago. Debbie, who has a new tattoo on her leg, has gone from struggling through easy mandolin songs to being able to play just about anything smoothly and beautifully. We all have learned new songs, changed styles, and taken new paths in our lives. And of course, Scott is gone. I could feel his spirit hovering over us, thumping his guitar and smiling with those big crooked teeth.

If you’re on or near the Oregon Coast, consider joining us on the second Sundays of the month from 5 to 7 p.m. at the South Beach Community Center. Bring your instruments and your songs. We’ll welcome you with a hug.

Buzzing at Cafe Mundo

I went to Café Mundo alone last week. I had been anxious to check out the Thursday night open mic. Now that all the TV finales were over, I decided to go. Events at the care home with Fred had been so upsetting, I just couldn’t stay home alone. In short, suddenly the owners were suggesting I take him home, a complete 180 from previous discussions in which they said I could not possibly take care of him by myself. Apparently some of his behavior is becoming a problem. But aren’t they being paid to deal with it? Just when you think you have your ducks in a row . . .

I got just buzzed enough on Great White ale to almost forget what was bothering me. That’s good, but that’s how you make an alcoholic. So I started making phone calls about the nursing home dilemma the next day. Stay tuned for how that turns out.

Anyway, back to Café Mundo. It’s a fascinating place hidden behind thick trees and shrubs right in the middle of Nye Beach. The restaurant used to be all outside, with quirky statues, hay bales and all different kinds of chairs and tables, like somebody’s backyard, except with a stage decorated in multi-colored fishing nets. But it was too cold most of the year, and eventually the owners built the new place to serve their fans year-round. It’s two stories, with most of the seating upstairs. You can look over the railing and see the kitchen and a few chairs downstairs. The food is a quirky blend of sushi, hamburgers and vegan/vegetarian cuisine. Food is pulled up to the second story on a dumbwaiter behind the bar.

The décor is eclectic, bits and pieces patched together, with steel beams and wooden ones, Japanese lanterns, photos, prints, hanging lengths of cloth blowing in the breeze from an open window. Each table and chair is different.

That night the clientele was young adults, many wearing knit caps. Everyone seemed to know each other, except me. I had envisioned that a lot of boomers, the same people who come to Nye Beach Writers, would take over the stage, but no. I drowned my depression with a Great White ale all alone, glad that I hadn’t planned on performing. Ironically, my table was painted cerulean blue with a big old yellow happy-face sunshine painted on it. It offered the perfect message: cheer up and join the fun.

At the next table, a dozen young adults celebrated a birthday. They brought in a homemade cake lit with candles, and everyone sang to the birthday girl. They were all so fresh, attractive and happy. I enjoyed watching them. I wished I could have had some of that cake with its thick white frosting and sprinkles.

Across the street out the window beside me, I watched this giant cream-colored dog, who looked like a blend of Airedale, poodle and wolfhound. For ages, he sat with his butt on the steps and his feet on the sidewalk of the funky little house where he lived. He just stayed there, like a statue, until the man of the house drove his red pickup into the driveway. Even then the dog moved just enough to avoid getting hit, greeted the man, and resumed his spot as a yard decoration.

As an open mic venue, I wouldn’t enjoy playing Mundo. My folky music doesn’t fit in with the youthful trend, and the roar of voices almost drowns out the songs, just as that Great White drowned out my blues.

When I reached the bottom of my tall glass of ale, I knew it was time to go. One more and I wouldn’t be able to drive. Easing down the stairs and pushing through the double doors into the fresh air and comparative quiet, I sat on a cushioned chair outside for a minute, looking around at the trees in the twilight. I could almost pretend it was my back yard—except for the faint whiff of marijuana in the air.

Time to walk off my buzz and drive home to the puppies.