I'm on a bus headed east, from the coast back to Portland. I've made my cup of coffee last from Astoria all the way to Cannon Beach, where the bus is currently pulling in so the driver can let a few people off. Yesterday I left Sebastien at home with my husband and a bunch of milk, and the first thing I decided to do when I got to Astoria was drink as much coffee as I wanted. I asked the girl who ran the the hotel/hostel if she could recommend a good coffee place.
"Well," she started, her big green eyes lighting up, "the coffee at 14th Street Coffee makes my heart sing!" She gave me directions and then finished checking me in. She handed me two keys on a ring. One, she said, was for the front door of the hotel. "I like to lock the door at about seven, to keep the crazies out, because that's important to me," she said in a cheerful voice, with her wide-eyed sincerity. She reminded me of a red-haired Zooey Deschanel. I took the keys, dropped off my bags in my room, and then headed out to find this coffee place she had touted. As I passed the front desk again I heard her telling another guest, in her bubbly voice, "Yeah, I'm almost finished with my funeral services degree and then I'm totally going to be embalming people." I ended up coming and going all day, and, every time I passed this lady, she flashed me a huge smile, but I kept envisioning her working on corpses.
I got a cafe au lait at 14th Street and the girl was right: it was damn fine coffee. I spilled a little bit on my dress. I hadn't brought another dress, just some boring clothes to wear home on the bus. I had thought, I'm not bringing the kid! I don't need to bring anything extra! Oh well. This was a great excuse to go shopping. I wandered into a place called Lola's and found a nice, maroon dress that wasn't very expensive. I took it back to the hotel so I could change and then practice my songs.
Even though I had a private room, it was a shared bathroom kind of situation. I took a break from practicing guitar and headed to the nearest bathroom. The door was closed but it said vacant on it, so I turned the knob. First I saw a pregnancy test on the floor, then a woman sitting on the floor, and then I saw the man sitting on the floor behind her, just for a second before he slammed the door shut. I couldn't believe my bad timing!
I decided to head out to the Fort George Brewery to work on my set list and have a beer. I had been to Astoria twice before, as a tourist, and I always like to go this brewery. Then at about seven, I walked over to the venue I was going to perform at. The owner was there and he was the person who had booked me as well, so I was glad to get to meet him and thank him in person. His wife was working there, too, and they really took care of me, giving me a large meal and copious amounts of booze. I started my first set with a beer, then started in on a pina colada during my second set. The crowd was great. They were mostly middle aged so I modified my set list on the fly in the hope of keeping them entertained. Bump up Fleetwood Mac, scratch Lady Gaga, add Johnny Cash. They seemed to dig it. I played some originals too. I guess it was the booze but I was feeling overly honest. Whenever I started telling a story between songs I'd think, Why am I sharing this? I played "Wear You Well", and then said, "Last year when I got pregnant I was playing songs like that one on the road, songs that were kinda racy, and I thought, 'Well, I'll have to stop singing some of these songs because I'm gonna be a mom.'" The crowd laughed. I went on. "Then I realized I was still gonna be a person, I'm still a woman." The audience applauded this, and one table of guys started saying things like, "And you're sexy, too!" Uh-oh, steer clear of those guys after the show.
I went up to the bar after my last set, intending to have one more drink. The owner was pouring for the guys at the table I was avoiding. It was a yellow liquor that didn't look familiar to me. I asked the bartender what it was. "Moonshine," he said, and then he poured a fourth shot and passed it to me. "Alright!" I said at first. "I've never tried this stuff!" But then I began to get nervous.
Another guy who worked there, Steve, was sitting at the bar with the owner's wife. He said to me, "It's good stuff!"
I admitted I was kind of scared. "I have seen this stuff really mess people up."
"Don't be scared," Steve said. "You'll be fine, I promise. Just do it!"
I threw it back. It was surprisingly sweet. Steve told me how he'd invented a drink at this bar, called the Fuck You Steve. "It's moonshine and tequila. I told the boss to mix them together and drink it, so he does it and then he goes, 'Fuck you, Steve, that's really good!'" We all laughed at this.
I told Steve, "I can't drink tequila. I did it once and it made me black out. Before that I just felt like I was high, not drunk."
The owner came back after serving the table full of men. "Well, half your songs sounded like they were about getting high! You must actually drink a lot of tequila," he teased. "What'll you have now?" he asked me.
I looked around the bar and noticed that they had fireball. I asked for a little bit of that. He poured me a shot in a tumbler glass. We stood there extolling the greatness of fireball whiskey. Then the owner stopped talking and asked the table full of guys, "Do I have something on my face? Why do you keep looking over here?"
"No, man," one of them responded, "we weren't looking at you, we were just looking at the fireball."
Steve leaned over to me and said, "I don't think they were talking about your drink." Maybe I am a fireball, I thought, but not in anyway that they'll ever know.
I waited a while, let the creepers drive off first before leaving. Then I said goodnight to all the staff and grabbed my instruments, teetered back to the hotel in my heels. I unlocked the front door to the hotel. Some guy was asking me for help getting in, but at first I didn't realize that he was talking to me, as he'd addressed me as ma'am. My name isn't ma'am: it's Miss Fireball to you.