We spent last weekend in Astoria, Oregon for the Fisher Poets gathering and got to know the town a little better. The place is currently my favorite Oregon Coast town for a variety of reasons:
Number One: The city is being watched over by the cynical, satirical eye of Astoria Rust. I had my first celebrity blogger summit last weekend (ahem… wink wink, prod prod BugThumper) and had an awesome real world coffee with “Guy”. Guy calls me his blog hero because I get to fish and travel a lot. But from my side of the interweb, I envy Guy’s farm. I want to raise livestock and Guy wants to raise some trout on a fly. Hopefully a continued correspondence will influence us both. We’ll get Guy out on the Upper Willamette this summer and I may start raising chickens on my 1/3 of an acre. Maybe I can combine the two and raise chickens for hackles and eggs!
Number Two: The Fisher Poets ruled — the last of the hunter gatherers. We didn’t spend much time in the “official” venues, like the Wet Dog and the Astoria Events Center. We spent most of our time in the Voodoo Room, where the open mic ran all night, all weekend. It was a dark, tight little bar full of fishermen and women — it was more participatory than the NPR broadcast, standing room only venues.
We had literally drank the bar out Terminal Gravity IPA by beginning of the second night. Crazed Cordovans literally gargled their way through Coast Guard rescue sagas in rhyme. My personal favorite poem of the night was from Steve Schoonmaker of Kasilof Alaska — I don’t know what the poem was called, but it featured a noisy crow calling to Steve to throw a dollar in the sea. Schoonmaker also shamed the companies behind the proposed Alaska Pebble Mine which threatens to destroy the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
I’d summarize the event as a gathering of bearded men and even tougher fisherwomen, telling stories of the place and work they love. These folks were primarily Alaskan and their stories were amazing. They told of plane-wrecking moose on airport runways, smoking dope with the mayor of Cordova, shifting sandbars and deteriorating boats sloughing off into unprofitability. They knew how long it would take a leak to sink their boat. They told stories about mending nets and XTRATUF boots, the price of fish going up and down, and the “tension” of being out fishing.
Number Three: Independent book stores rock — Lucy’s Bookstore is case in point. The main thing I love about independent books stores is their tendency to help me find new writers. For example, I stumbled onto Robert Michael Pyle’s Sky Time in Gray’s Riverand picked that up. I also found Upstream: Sons, Fathers and Rivers by Robin Carey which is part family narrative, part adventure whitewater trip rowing upstream on the Klamath River.
Number Four:The Columbian Restaurant is one of the finest eateries in Oregon. Chef Uriah Hulsey doesn’t need my blessing — he’s been written up in the NY Times, amongst other publications more prestigious than Upstream in Oregon. But this guy churns out awesome and ambitious food — we stopped in for lunch and had amazing clam chowder and spinach crepes. We came back for dinner and had pork bellies seared in duck fat and Willapa Bay oyster shooters — and the prices were very reasonable. The guy works behind an open counter and you see the magic happening, he talks to you about the food. The guy obviously loves to feed people.
Number Five:Astoria has great architecture and history. It is one of the older, industrial towns in the Pacific Northwest and the rusty infrastructure and gingerbread houses lend a gritty charm to the place — definitely a photographer’s kind of town. We really liked The Rosebriar Inn where we stayed the weekend — a former convent with great river views and comfortable rooms.