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Saturday, March 13th, 2004

Time Event
10:48a
"!"
Waiting for drarwenchicken to wake up Saturday had the electric anticipation of Christmas morning; Today is the Crab Races! Oh sure, the official raison d'pâté is drarwenchicken's Birthday, but it's no coincidence that we're but a few miles from Garibaldi on Race day. I know it will make everyone at home jealous, but who could blame us?

I managed to control my anticipation until drarwenchicken was out of bed, but first we HAD to go for breakfast. I mean, my god. After yesterday's odyssey, it was imperative that we actually have breakfast when we went out for breakfast. Thinking ourselves wise to choose something close, we went to the Fireside Inn in beautiful, downtown Manzanita. Staffed by two women, one older, one much younger, probably related, and very cute. Imagine a busty teenage Renée Zellweger. We chose a table by the window, which unfortunately was served by the older woman. Now, I'm not saying this for solely glandular reasons; Probably-Mom's short-term memory was worn a bit smooth by the sea, if you know what I mean. She took a while to get around to us. Later, after I reminded her about cream for my coffee, she made a scary noise, which likely meant "My forgetfulness brings shame to my ancestors!", but drarwenchicken could barely keep me from hiding under the table. Of course, that's nothing compared to The Surreal Moment. I'm eating my sausages. They're rather tasty. Probably-Mom approaches.

Probably-Mom: "Aren't those good sausages? You know the Pig and Pancake? I went there one time, and they had bad sausages. I couldn't believe it! That's like going to Denny's and getting bad sausages!"

drarwenchicken: "!"
(There isn't a good word for the quiet noise someone makes when suddenly surprised by a crashingly bizarre statement and desperately tries not to laugh out loud, but that's exactly the noise she made.)

After Probably-Mom returned to the kitchen, we wondered, "Can one get good sausage at Denny's?" I always thought the reasons eats at Denny's are 1) They're open all night, and 2) the food's inexpensive. I suppose I've never had bad food there; it's always been the predictable, mass-produced fare of a major chain restaurant. The food is designed to not frighten their primary customers: Old People and Partyers transitioning from Party Buzz to Morning Hangover. drarwenchicken was stage manager for a touring shows a couple years, she's probably eaten in more restaurants than most people see in a lifetime. She knows well that which is Denny's.

After our meal, it took some effort to flag down Probably-Mom to get our check. She was apologetic, and offered this peculiar explanation: "I don't know why, but I hardly noticed you there. Next time you need to say something when you come in so I'll remember you!"

Therefore, when you go to Manzanita's Fireside Inn and you want good service, let the first thing out of your mouth be a loud "Hey! Is your daughter eighteen?" That's what I'm going to do.

Current Mood: weird
11:58a
An Hour At The Races
Once nourished, we were off to the Races! This time we brought TWO maps, although we didn't know exactly where the races were. Fortunately, you can stand in the center of Garibaldi and pretty much see the whole town, so we were confident. When we drove into town, we were delighted to see that there's at least one literate Garibaldi resident, because signs directed us right to the races! The only hard part was pressing through the crowd milling about the front door to get our admission button. That's right; admission not only allowed entry, but got us each a souvenir Crab Race button. Those locals may be sharper than you'd expect for people who race crabs.

After two nights of a quiet beach house, the commotion inside was brutal. There was serious thronging going on, but no races. We'd somehow arrived at intermission, and the multitude was standing around, talking, and eating (mostly crab). We considered parking ourselves at a table and waiting, but the schedule said the next event was at 12:00, a half-hour away. We decided to cross the highway and check out one of the local shops.

The shop was a charming example of how simple, small-town folks sell their wares to big-city folks who lose the ability to recognize fair-market value for overpriced crudités (that's French for "artsy knick-knacks"). We had fun browsing, but wisely escaped without buying. We returned to the Races about 11:45, and the next event was in full swing (lending credence to my suspicions about the local illiteracy rate).

If you've never been to a Crab Race, here's the quick 411: The track is a tilted panel with 2x6's nailed edge-on to make six slots across the width. The boards are notched to allow the starting gate (another notched board) to slide in about a foot from the top, making the starting boxes for the crabs. Entrants wrestle their crabs into the starting boxes and hold them in place until the starting gun. The gate is flung upward, and the crabs released to make their way down all five feet of track into the net below. It's simple (amazing how many times that word shows up when I talk about the local inhabitants and their ways), but entertaining in a Coastal Hillbilly way.

We watched as many races as we could take; about five, I think. After the first two or three, they all look about the same. Professional crab wranglers put the racers in the box. Unlike dog or horse races, crabs have no interest at all in racing, so the entrants have to hold the crab down to prevent them from wandering off before the race. Once the gate is lifted, the entrants aren't allowed to touch their crabs, so they pound the track in front of or behind the crab. I suspect that has absolutely no effect on the crabs, but it makes the person feel like they're participating. About half of the crabs promptly flip over on their backs, which is not really a winning strategy. Eventually, one or more crabs scuttle or slide far enough to fall into the net and someone is declared the winner.

The most exciting race was the most controversial. As the gate flew up, the #5 crab rocketed down the chute into the net on his belly; a flagrant violation of the "No Shoving Your Crab Down The Track" Rule. The judge threw a yellow flag, disqualifying Crab #5 and his racer from the semifinals; a crushing elimination for a championship hopeful. The crowd didn't react any differently, but one could imagine a wave of sympathy for the dedicated athlete's minutes of preparation for this event gone up in smoke. Not to worry; I'm sure by next year they'll all have forgotten this violation, and he'll be back in competition again.

Our yearning for Crab Races well sated, we left for the second-most-exciting Local Festival we would attend that day: The Taste of Tillamook!

Current Mood: giddy
1:23p
What's this taste in my mouth?
Portlanders know about The Bite, the annual food festival in Waterfront Park. Its success spawned other festivals, like the worst-named food festival I know: The Taste of Beaverton. I've seen Beaverton, so when I hear this, I think "Eww! I've got the taste of Beaverton in my mouth!" I've never been drawn to go, but the Taste of Tillamook somehow sounds much better. I think of cheese. I like cheese. So we went.

The parking lot of the local fair grounds was packed, so I was a bit surprised when we walked into the building and the whole event appeared to be in one medium-sized room. I hadn't seen the doorway to the side, which revealed that it was actually spread over two medium-sized rooms. The $5 admission seemed a bit steep for the event, and I had a brief but meaningful discussion with the admissions woman about whether we got a discount for going to both the Crab Races and the Taste of Tillamook. We did not. But she turned out to be Mrs. Tillamook 2004, and she held my hand afterward (briefly, while she put a fish stamp on the back of my hand, but that's the most action I've gotten from a beauty queen in a long time and I'll treasure it).

The best part of the Taste of Tillamook was the samples. Many free samples. There was cheese, naturally, and meat sticks, but the best part was the wine. Now, I don't think of wine when I think Tillamook; I think cows and cow products. Apparently there are many vintners in the county, and they make some right tasty wine. One of the first we sampled was a raspberry, which tasted too much like cough syrup (which I politely didn't announce in a loud voice; some wine makers get testy from such a comparison), but most of what we sampled were quite good. Wine samples were supposed to be 50¢ each, but several of the merchants were none too picky about charging, so we could have easily gotten ripped for the price of admission, but that seemed a bad idea. Instead, we did one circuit around both rooms, and ate some crab salad and chicken-on-a-stick. DrArwenChicken bought a souvenir Taste of Tillamook wine glass, because it had a blue guitar-playing fish on it, which will be mentioned again later. Then we left, only slightly queasy from food-based reaction, so overall it was a success. Go Mooks!
3:05p
One Phase ends, another Begins...
The logical thing to do upon returning to the Sea Cliff was to take a nap or go for a walk. We'd passed a garage sale sign on the way out to the highway, and I thought I'd mosey (I'm from Arizona originally, so I can mosey) on over and check it out. I realized that the odds of finding a hidden treasure at a Manzanita garage sale is comparable to finding a sober celibate attending a Republican National Convention, but I'm willing to look. And it would do me good to walk for a bit. drarwenchicken decided to go with me, on the condition that we walk slowly up the hill.

The only reason the sale wasn't disappointing was because I had very low expectations. Let's just say that we didn't buy anything, but we had a pleasant stroll. One of the most annoying things about the previous two years was how drarwenchicken and I had the same primary address, but we were hardly there at the same time. It was great to have her attention all to myself for such a sustained Solitary Phase of this trip. She is my favorite sister, and I'm not just saying that.

About 100 yards away from the intersection of College and Third, we saw a dark compact wagon turn the corner toward the Sea Cliff. We speculated that it might be K and D (all Beach Weekend attendees will be referred to by code names, for no particular reason), who were expected to arrive at any moment. As we passed 3rd heading for Elm, a black muscle car turned the corner behind us. I didn't expect it to be any of our group (who do we know drives anything with a V8?), but we waved as it passed, because we're from Arizona and we're polite. The car slowed, and it was indeed D and K! We stood in the middle of the street and chatted for a minute (polite people can get away with that in small towns, rude people will just annoy those who are lined up waiting), and then they headed over to park the car and unload. Thus ended the Solitary Phase of the Beach Weekend, and we entered the Party Phase.

Current Mood: calm
11:58p
The Party Phase
Of course, before things got really rolling, K and D went for a walk on the beach, so DrArwenChicken and I went to check our email at the Internet Café. Only part of this was obsessive e-mail compulsion; I was running several auctions on eBay, and I wanted to be able to respond to any questions. Of course, nobody should have to go more than 24 hours without email, but that's for humanitarian reasons.

Soon after we returned to the Sea Cliff, another car drove up, with J, B, and, um, J (Damn! This is going to get confusing). The next thing was to assess food supply, and make a grocery run. L and T weren't going to arrive for a while, so we figured we'd start on dinner.

Now, I've been sworn to secrecy never to reveal anything that happened during the Party Phase, and much of that is just a blur, which helps, but I do have a few memories clear enough to relate:


  • Despite the plethora of bottles, the group decided that we STILL did not have enough alcohol, so a team was dispatched to fetch more. They were wildly successful.


  • There was some confusion as B was cooking. The plan was to grill burgers and veggie kabobs, but he started prepping the meat for the skewers. When this was noticed, I tried to diplomatically point out that he was given carte blanche (Fr. for "jungle weasel") for cooking, which started J off in a giggle fit. B's embarrassment only made J giggle more, but we plunged ahead with the skewer plan, and the kabobs were delicious.


  • When you have eight people in a hot tub, there's not much room left for the water. Nobody seemed to mind.


  • After the eating and drinking and hot-tubbing, I wasn't allowed to go to bed until we competed a game of Cranium. Despite being moderately sober, I flailed helplessly with the word-oriented questions; a tad humiliating for someone who considers himself a writer. We stuck to the factoid questions, and still came in last place.


Somewhere around midnight I was given clearance to go to bed, and I promptly did so. Reflecting on the day during the few minutes between retiring and sleep, I could only rate it as yet another great vacation day.

Current Mood: exanimate

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