The Big “O” Goes Hollywood

25 04 2011

I’m a huge fan of non-linear story telling.  So in the spirit of Tarantino and Christopher Nolan, I give you the final chapter in my journey home last year.

This picture cracks me up, try to find the one beverage that doesn’t belong.  Here’s a hint:  It’s not Rainier.

The Olney Store has been around ever since I can remember.  Over the years there have been many incarnations.  It’s been a general store combined with a bait and tackle shop, a movie rental store and of course currently a General Store slash Bar. 

I have fond memories of this little store going all the way back to being a small child.  In the summer as little kids my cousins and I would walk there from the farm-house with only a couple of bucks each.  We’d load up on Jolly Rancher sticks, candy cigarettes, a can of the beef jerky that looked like chewing tobacco,  and of course a Sioux City Sarsaparilla.  Half of you are thinking, “ahh the good ol days”, right out of a country time lemonade commercial.  The other half are deeply concerned that three out of the four items purchased were child versions of beer and tobacco. 

Visually it was like any country store you’d see in a movie: dusty wood plank floors with ruts worn in them from years of foot traffic (the type of wear that can only happen from close to a century of people dragging their feet while wearing work boots); coolers that are so dated they’re advertising RC Cola, 7 up and Crush; all around the door there are Polaroids of fisherman holding that prized Steelhead.  (each picture with the name and date written in black magic market at the bottom)… 

To put things in perspective it’s been 25 years since I’ve seen a Polaroid or RC have ad space over Coke and Pepsi.  For years it was the owner and his wife working the register.  Always in the standard work attire; overalls.  That’s all I ever saw him wear, the shirt would be different but always the same faded blue denim Carhart overalls. 

Now that I think about it the denim overall or coverall is a staple in just about everyone’s wardrobe in the region.  I even had a pair that I would wear when I visit my dad.  It’s basically a blue-collar leisure suit or the swiss army knife of work attire.  You’ve got all those fancy pockets on the bib, for things like cigarettes, eye glasses, and of course my personal favorite: The carpenter’s pencil.  You know, the really flat pencil that only gets sharpened with a pocket knife.  Oh yeah pocket knife, that’s another great fit for the bib.  Then of course you have the standard loop on the outer thigh for a hammer.  Try not to be jealous but did I mention my coveralls were pin stripped?   

Anyway enough fashionista talk and back to the story.  If there were a global apocalypse, two things would survive.  Cockroaches and the Olney store.  Not only is it recession proof it appears to be finding its stride in the 21st century.  Like a fine wine it only gets better with age.  If it had a theme song it would be, “In the year 2525,” by Zager & Evans.

Flash forward to 2010…  The Olney Store has since re-invented itself as “The Big O Saloon & Olney Store”.  Not only is it a happening place, it has an almost cult type following.  They even have their own Facebook page, 742 likes as of writing this story.  That blows me away, 742 likes for a place that seats 20.  Someone is a marketing genius!

 Meanwhile…. while the Big O was redefining the Clatsop County bar scene as we know it.  I was throwing a swanky little shindig of my own not more than a mile away.  On the menu was Smoked Salmon, garlic cheese bread, Oysters and Beer.  Now from an earlier story you know I got sidetracked on the beach and in my rush to get supplies I left off hotdogs and marshmallows.  I mean it was an outdoor party with a bon fire, what was I thinking?  Not to worry, one of the other dynamic innovations the Big O offers is once the general store side closes, you can still buy those items through the bar.  Marketing genius I say! 

One of my oldest friends Joel came to the outing with his wife and two young boys.  The boys weren’t really feeling the “seafood” vibe, and who can blame them.  I wasn’t initially thrilled about the oysters until a few beers into the evening.  Once I reached the tipping point — known as the blood alcohol level to hunger ratio — they were the best thing ever!  The kids didn’t have the benefit of alcohol.  So we thought we’d head down and buy some hotdogs and buns from the “O”. 

Now I’m not sure if it was the time of day we showed up, or what we were wearing, but when we walked into that bar we could not have been less well received.  I may as well of had a pink sweater tied around my shoulders and Joel a Chihuahua on a diamond studded leash.  In unison a bar full of wannabe tough guys and lumberjacks looked over their shoulders — no doubt wondering who in the hell these outsiders were.

The actual bar where you “belly up” was full.  Now what I wanted to do was wedge my way in and order shots of whiskey for myself and all these hard-working men.  Letting them know I’m one of them. Afterall, I grew up in these woods!  Instead I have to order a pack of hot dogs and hope that nobody hears me.  It’s not my first rodeo; drunken blue-collar dudes are not going to let a guy wearing a sweater vest order a pack of weenies, without saying something.

So we make our way to the corner of the bar.  “Um excuse me, could I get a pack of hotdogs?”, I said.  The bartender looked at me like I was ordering some bizarre fetish shot for me and my boyfriend.  With a confused look on her face she responded, “What do you want?  I can’t hear you!”  This time I was going to use my god given Italian talent of talking with my hands “Um Just a pack a pack of hotdogs,” I said as I made a small square with my hands, like two giant C’s facing each other.  Then it all made sense to her “Oh ok give me just a second.”  Success, I was going to get out of here sans any smartass comments from the peanut gallery!

Now for all of the “Big O’s” innovation, they really dropped the ball on what happened next.  I could see the bartender walking towards me with said pack of hot dogs and they were not in a bag!  It was at this moment that everything went into slow motion as she handed them across the bar… Joel screamed, “Nooooooooo!”.  I had a confused look on my face.. Abraham Zapruder continues to roll film from across the grassy knoll.   As soon as those tube-steaks were in my hands, things returned to normal speed.  Just in time for a very loud, “Looks like you boys are gonna go play hide the Weiner!” then there was a round of “LOL-ing” and chaos.   The bar is situated in a triangulated pattern and just like JFK, I never even saw where it came from.  Kill shot, lights out, to the back and left, to the back and left… 

Now normally in these situations I won’t even hesitate with some sort of smartass comeback.  Similar to Deep Blue playing chess against Kasparov I instantly ran 10 million scenarios, all of which end badly if I say anything.  So I did what you do in these situations, I took the hit.  It sucked, but like Kevin Bacon in Animal House, sometimes the best course of action is to just smile and say, “Thank you sir may I have another!”  In my mind, I thought, “You haven’t seen the last of me Big O… I’ll be back!”  but I decided to stop short of telling them they’d “rue the day” while shaking my fist.

So anyway three hours go by and “I’m back”.  This time it’s after the party and I’m with a good friend Bryan who had flown in from Des Moines, Iowa.  We were on our way to the Labor Temple when we decided to stop less than a mile into our journey for a drink.  I know I come off looking like a total booze hound but to be honest I really don’t drink that often.  I like to get all of my drinking done in about 5 to 7 days, then I shut it down for the rest of the year.   

It must have been close to 10 or 10:30 and by this time the crowd had thinned out.  There were just a few people, including a few of the world-famous stars of “Ax Men”.  (Earlier Bryan was star struck when we ran into some of the Dangerous Catch crew at buoy nine, now this.  You just don’t see this type of celebrity unless you’re at a Lakers game.)  So we sat at the bar and got an immediate pissy attitude from the bartender.  “It’s last call!” she snarked. 

Well hello to you too, clearly daddy didn’t pay enough attention to someone.  Just get some more tattoos, and sleep around, that’ll make it all better.  Without too much thought we ordered, “Two shots of Jäger”… at which point I asked random ax man guy if he knows what Jägermeister means in German.  He grunts and looks at me like he crapped his pants an hour ago and isn’t interested in conversation.  I went ahead and gave him the answer, “It’s Master Hunter”  Just then our shots show up, we came up with some funny toast in regards to being Master Hunters and threw em down.  By the way, the one thing that both of us seem to notice is that other people are still ordering drinks as if the “last call” was some sort of lie.

Just as I was going to call out the quench wench for obvious bias towards the deep end of the gene pool, Axe Man chimes in with, “Shot of Jäger”.  Bryan and I looked at each other and both thought, “Hey maybe he’s coming around and he’s going to join in.”  Just as we both started to say something along the lines of, “see there you go,” we were immediately cut off with, “no no no… I do  Jäger all the time”.  I should also mention he refused to actually look at us when he spoke.  As if possibly he invented it or his family brought it to America from the old country.  

Now if there’s one thing I’ve never been good at its holding in a laugh.  I’m the last person anyone wants with them at the following: (library, wedding, funeral, hospital, church or anywhere else laughing could be seen as inappropriate).  It usually goes like this, something funny happens and then I happen to make eye contact with the only person who also thinks it’s funny.  Bryan actually learned this the hard way by looking at me during his wedding.  Now granted I was one of his groomsmen, but not directly in the line of sight.  Somewhere in the vows, talking about for ever and ever, he made the mistake of looking at me.  At which point I gave him my best Robert DeNiro shoulder shrug and face, “lil bit, you insulted him a lil bit.”

The combination of false bravado and arrogance was too much for either of us to handle.  Besides I’d had about all I was going to take of the “hillbilly chic” attitude.  As usual it took but one glance, and we both started laughing.  The quieter we tried to be, the worse it was.  When Bryan dropped the phrase, “what an ax hole” under his breath, that was it.  I had to do the standup into a big laugh signaling that our time was up.       

“This place is dead lets hit the Temple, I hear they have karaoke that will blow your mind.” I said just loud enough for the bartender to hear.

 “Man I’m hungry, breakfast sounds so good”, Bryan replied. 

 “Yeah good luck finding breakfast around here this time of night.” 

 As we drove off into the night I moved our custom-made CD to track 5, Big Bad JohnThis one’s for you ax man, enjoy that  Jäger as the sweet sounds of Jimmy Dean rain down on you.

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