City by the Sea

West of Corvalis, Oregon, the Yaquina River drops from the temperate rainforest of the coastal mountains and broadens into a wide estuary before flowing into the Pacific Ocean. On Yaquina Bay sits the fishing village of Newport, home to 10,000 people and hundreds of trawlers and seiner boats. The town is a salty mix of watermen who eke out a living pulling crabs and tuna from the sea and tourist-laden taverns, restaurants, and art galleries. Local roads are clogged with motorhomes and rental cars with out-of-state license plates, like our convertible.

Fat sea lions lounge on the docks and bark in loud chorus. It's a lazy life they live, thanks to an endless supply of scraps from the commercial fish houses. They sit half-asleep with their backs arched, foam bubbling from their whiskered mouths. All of a sudden, often without reason, a lion will begin to yelp orrt orrt orrt. His buddies will join in song for several minutes until they grow bored of the noise and silence returns. But not for long. As soon as an unpopular lion swims by or worse, jumps on the dock, the cacophony begins again.

Of all the places to stay in Newport, the most interesting is the Sylvia Beach Hotel. Perched on a high bluff overlooking the ocean, the hotel is a haven for book readers. On the top floor sits a comfortable library with easy chairs positioned in front of a million dollar view. Each of the seventeen rooms have been decorated in honor of a famous author. In the Edgar Allen Poe room, a pendulum blade swings from the ceiling and a false door opens to brick wall and the dangling tip of a jester's cap, homage to The Pit and the Pendulum and The Cask of Amontillado. We stayed in the F. Scott Fitzgerald ("show me a hero and I will write you a tragedy") room and were greeted by three bottles of gin on the wall mantle. Gin, eh? Makes perfect sense. Other rooms included the Hemingway room, the Mark Twain room, the Melville room, and the Tennessee Williams room.

Back on the Newport waterfront, the Barge Inn proudly boasts their customer base: wino's, dingbat's, and riff raff. Gotta love the place for being honest. Unlike the pretentious Ann Arbor establishments, with their unearned air of elitism and entitlement, the Barge Inn knows the exact place in the universe their customers come from. In a world full of posers and placaters, romeos and robots, the Barge Inn is a port in a storm.

Over on the docks, after one of the sea lions jumped on his buddy, the crowd goes nuts:

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