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by Michele Christopher
It's hard to figure out what to write for this. It's something that has to be experienced and the experiences are sometimes hard to put on paper.
So I asked my Smart Half what I should write for the next one, and he immediately said "the Tavern".
The tavern was 12 miles up a winding road on the banks of the Coos-Millicoma river. It was the gathering spot for the local community, and every Wednesday the place would fill up, packed wall to wall with the locals, and everyone who could play was packed into a corner. The floors were plank, it was heated by a woodstove. It was built in the late 1920s. People would spill out onto the highway and drink and smoke. The only ventilation was "open the doors and windows and maybe we can catch a breeze". Some folks would arrive on their boats, and tie up at the dock. You'd be dripping sweat after one or two songs, in the middle of December, with all the doors and windows open just to let the smoke and steam out.
I was invited up to play a few times, and near the end of the night I was playing "A Pirate Looks at 50" with the Wall o'Guitars and caught a sniff. I looked at one of the guitar players and yelled, "Damn, someone has some good weed outside!". He yelled back, "It ain't outside!" and nodded toward the bar. There was one of the patrons with a tampon-sized joint, taking it to each of the people playing, holding it for them as they took a hit, and going on to the next one. I decided right then that this was a place I would probably frequent pretty often.
And I did. Every Wednesday for two years, I cut my teeth on my bass there. I learned how to play with other people, and I learned how to jam. Jam in the manner of "I've never heard that song. What key is it in? Ok, let's rip". It changed owners at one point, and the party kept rolling. And when it finally closed down, when we played til far past closing time, it was a real bummer to lose it. The Tavern had been in existence under one owner or another for sixty-some years.
No more drunken canoe races on the river. No more falling down the embankment. No more Spike and the Nubtones. No more cramming 120 people into a space with a posted seating capacity of 50. No more riverdawgs (beer simmered sausages served with whatever was in the fridge as toppings). No more Wednesday night musical anarchy with people who's musical tastes ranged from Jimmy Buffet to the Misfits to Deep Purple.
Everything falls apart eventually, and you just move on to the next period of weirdness that comes along. At least you do when the city you live in is 150 miles from the nearest interstate.