Coastal Fourth: Halibut, elk and la de da


Ah, Fourth of July on the Oregon Coast.

We started with the La De Da parade in Yachats. It’s a parade unlike any other. No marching bands, no floats, just ordinary folks in their most outrageous get-ups marching in a big circle from the Commons to the park that overlooks the waves crashing off the rocks and around the bend and down the street overlooking the bay. You’ve got your umbrella drill team twirling umbrellas in unison, your tree huggers decked out in ivy crowns, your folks from the pizza place dressed like giant pepperoni slices, your dogs in patriotic sweaters, George and Martha Washington taking a stroll, a rock and roll band playing blow-up plastic guitars, and the local ambulance and fire truck drivers rumbling through, honking their horns. The onlookers are as colorful as the marchers. In a half hour, it’s over and folks are gathering to eat barbecue and homemade pie.

I brought two young friends, Ashley, who just moved down here from Alaska, and her friend Matt, who lives in Davis, California. This was their first introduction to Yachats. They were appropriately delighted with both the parade and the sunny but not too hot weather.
For lunch, we joined the noisy crowd at the Drift Inn. As we ate and talked, this guy came in, shouting, “Fresh halibut!” He carried a gigantic dripping fish over his shoulder as he walked between the tables where tourists ate nachos and clam chowder. They put down their forks and spoons and applauded. He brought in two more halibut. I wonder where he put them in the small kitchen at the back. It would be like trying to fit a Buick into a Barbie garage.
After lunch, my guests headed north while Annie and I took our usual walk, then relaxed with a bit of the “Sex and City” marathon happening on TV. Still to come were the Newport fireworks.
Most years I decide I’m not going to go. Too crowded, too late, I don’t need it. But then I start hearing the popping of the aerial displays. I can’t see anything because of the trees that surround my house. I can’t stand it. I get in my car and drive until I can see some of the fireworks from some illegal parking spot on a hill. This year I decided to go see them on purpose.
By 9:00, it seemed everyone in Newport and a few thousands tourists had gathered on both sides of Yaquina bay with their folding chairs, their glow-in-the-dark necklaces and their boxes of do-it-yourself fireworks. In every direction, Roman candles shot up into the air, little kids swirled sparklers, and big kids lit up things that went boom. The smoke grew thick like fog. The air over the bridge and over the hills lit up with starbursts of color. Dogs barked, kids screamed, and mosquitoes went crazy with so many people to bite.
The official fireworks started at 10:00, lit from a barge in the middle of Yaquina Bay. All around me, people raised their Smart Phones and iPads, trying to take pictures. Me too, until I realized I could either take pictures or actually see the fireworks. Pop, bang, ooh, wow, ahh. I’ve seen bigger displays, coordinated with patriotic music, but this one was good and the company was great.
Then came the applause and the traffic jam, but nothing like I remember back in San Jose when it might take two hours to get home. When I drove into my neighborhood in the woods at 10:45, my headlights picked up a young male elk standing in the street. As I paused, he ambled over to the neighbor’s yard and calmly stared at me as I drove to my house at the end of the block.
And people wonder why I moved to Oregon.
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Folks get crafty on the Oregon Coast

The 17th annual Spring Arts & Crafts Festival took place Saturday and Sunday in Yachats at a former school now known as the Commons and used for just about everything.

Yachats, about 20 miles south of Newport, is the kind of place where you find people in tie-die shirts or long skirts selling everything from flavored vinegar and scented soaps to carved walking sticks and jewelry made out of shells and rocks. Walking down the aisles looking for Father’s Day and birthday presents, I saw racks made out of animal parts (including horns and feet), a ukelele made out of a tin can, and a woman spinning wool into yarn. The displays included lots of jewelry, photography, paintings, teas, chocolates, herbal remedies, crocheted items, books, glass, and wood. And oh yes, my friend Ruth whipped out her violin to play a duet of “You are My Sunshine” with the ukelele guy.

The big festivals in Yachats only happen a couple times a year. The fall event is perfect for Christmas presents. But we have weekly farmer’s markets in Yachats (Sundays, Fourth Street next to the Commons, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.), Waldport (Wednesdays, Community Center, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.), Lincoln City (Sundays, Lincoln City Cultural Center, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and Newport (Saturdays at City Hall, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.), where you can find many of the same items, plus locally grown produce and other great stuff to eat. People on the Oregon Coast are crafty, always making something out of whatever materials are at hand, especially when it’s raining outside. I wonder: Did they come here because they liked to do arts and crafts, or did they start doing arts and crafts because that’s what people do here? All I know is there’s nothing like it back in San Jose.


Hugging the open mic in Yachats

Sometimes I think to myself that Yachats, population 688, is where all the old hippies from California have gone. Here you still find people with long hair, long skirts, tie-dye shirts and flowers in their hair. They gather for peace rallies and palm readings, craft festivals and Celtic festivals. They also gather for open mics. (Some say open “mike.” I disagree. Deal with it.)
I had had the note on my refrigerator for six months or so before I finally headed south on Friday night. Most of my music time these days centers around church music, but the new song circle in Yachats spurred me to check out the open mic. There, I could sing anything I wanted.
I have been to so many open mics. Bars, restaurants, coffee shops with loud espresso machines, community halls. Drunks, rockers, stoners, Bob Dylan soundalikes, kids just learning to play an instrument, pros reliving their glory days. Good microphones, bad microphones, no microphones. But I’ve been missing the open mic we used to have here in South Beach and my friend and former bandmate Stacy was involved in this one, so I thought I’d give it a try.
The usual venue, the Green Salmon coffeehouse, was not available, so we met at Ona, a restaurant on the west side of the highway. When I arrived a little before 7, not late, there was no parking to be had anywhere around the building. Parking at the grocery store down the road apiece, I lugged my guitar to the restaurant, arriving just as another woman was opening the door, and walked into a noisy, steamy-windowed, orange-walled room loaded with Yachatsians clustered on a variety of chairs and sofas. Stacy beckoned me to the last empty chair, right in the front row, just in time for the festivities to begin. We could barely hear each other talk over the roar coming from this room and the bar/dining room behind us.
You’d think I wouldn’t get stage fright after 30 years of performing, but I do. I get anxious, and I start thinking I’ve had enough of the music business. Why do I keep doing this to myself? I’m too old. These are not my people. Why drive all the way down here when I’m not getting paid? Yada yada yada. I have learned not to take these thoughts seriously because as soon I get behind the microphone, I will change my mind and want to perform every minute of every day until I die.
Our hosts started us with some guitar and mandolin with vocal harmony. Nice. Then “Rambling Ruth” played “Three Coins in the Fountain” on her violin, along with a couple of other oldies. Stacy performed with her brother and a friend. Delicious music. A brand new quartet of women got up and sang gorgeous a capella harmony about peace, love and . . . harmony.
I was number five, thirsty, and nervous as hell. I had been clutching my guitar between my knees for an hour. I had expected to plug my guitar into an amp, but there was just one microphone that nobody seemed to be using. I had pictured us at a white-tablecloth restaurant where we sat at tables and ordered food and drinks. I had thought I’d have dessert. But no, we were just packed in this hot room and told we’d have a break around 8.
The break came after number 4. I bolted to the bar and waited in line while the bartender with the braided beard served actual drinks to paying customers. He gave me a glass of ice water. Ah. That helped.
Then Stacy read a poem written by her mom, and I was up. “Sue Lick?” The MC looked around. Me. I hugged onto the mic, wanting to be heard. I started singing and playing. By the end of the first tune, some people were singing along. They laughed at my jokes, applauded, and made me feel like a star. They also quieted down for my second song, a new one. I couldn’t hear well enough to do the fancy guitar licks I had practiced, but I sang as well as I ever have. And the last song went over big. I said thank you about a hundred times and went back to my chair, feeling happy, wanting to do this forever.
Every act after that was genius. The poets, the woman who sang “Look to the Rainbow” a capella, Ian playing originals on guitar, the woman in the red velvet mini-dress and leg-warmers who fumbled through a song she just wrote on the ukulele, the guy reading from his memoir, the mayor leading us in Roger Miller’s “You Can’t Rollerskate in a Buffalo Herd.” Loved them all. Promised to come back next month.
I’m aging into an exact copy of my mom, but inside, I’m an old hippie from California, too.
Next open mic: April 19, 7 p.m., Green Salmon. Check the City of Yachats page online for details.

Well, La De Da

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A parade, pies and pups filled the streets of Yachats (pop. 749) yesterday for the annual La De Da parade. With temperatures in the high 60s and a sweet breeze, hundreds of people from all over hunkered along the sides of the roads for the annual parade that is like no other.
Instead of precision marching bands, we had the umbrella drill team with actual umbrellas, a little girl in a wagon celebrating her fourth birthday, seniors doing tai chi, a string quintet playing in the back of a pickup, dachshunds wearing hot dog buns, belly dancers, ecologists dressed as trees, fire trucks, tractors and more. Marchers tossed candy and passed out cartoons and real estate ads.
Poodles, labradoodles, spaniels, greyhounds and every other kind of dog marched or panted on the sidelines, dressed, like their owners, in red, white and blue or tie-dye.
Once the parade had made its circuit from the Yachats Commons—a former school that is now city hall, community center, concert venue and everything else—down past the Lion’s Club and around the bend to where the road overlooks the rocks and crashing surf and back, the crowd dispersed to eat barbecue at the fire department or pie at the commons and shop at booths set up all around. Then they went home to rest up for Fourth of July fireworks over the bay at dusk.
My friends and I adjourned to the Salty Dawg Saloon in nearby Waldport: great burgers, sports on the TV, sea shells embedded in the tables, and a giant photo of James Dean in the ladies’ restroom.
This does not happen in Silicon Valley.
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