vintage myrtlewood bird, $2 thrifted

When I was a teen, I had periodic longings to see the Pacific, as if the tides themselves were pulling me the five hours' drive west over the Cascades to the gray sand, slate sky, and blank horizon beyond which was another, older and more vibrant, world. By that point, the remarriages of both parents had increased our family fortunes, meaning a) I now had my very own black-and-white Samsung divorce-guilt TV in my bedroom on which to watch Saturday-morning cartoons, and b) occasionally my step-father's boss handed him the company credit card and said, "Take your family to the coast for the weekend." And so I ate lobster for the first time in a restaurant with cloth napkins and chilled butter in little white dishes. This was the life! Let them eat complimentary sourdough bread!

For souvenirs on the southern Oregon coast, one can buy myrtlewood objects, such as salad bowls and jewelry boxes. I often see myrtlewood pieces at Goodwill, usually chipped and tired.* So the modernist bird above, probably from the '80s and around the time I ate my first lobster, is a rare find, the wood and finish intact. The bottom label reads "Myrtlewood Chalet."

I'd been away from the Oregon coast for many years, having crossed the Atlantic and Pacific, so after moving to Portland, I took a few northern Oregon coast trips, ranging from Newport up to Astoria. One weekend, walking on the beach in Manzanita with a now-ex, we kept finding what looked like Japanese laundry detergent bottles that the currents had carried across the Pacific. Plus, I even found my own plastic bag on the beach in which to gather and then dispose of this foreign trash—convenient! There's nothing that says romantic-getaway weekend like collecting garbage. (Note: While I do possess some rather nice photos of said Japanese plastic laundry bottles, the photo credits would go to the ex, and I don't feel like contacting him for copyright permission—my apologies.)

Over Labor Day weekend last September, I stayed with friends at a beach house in Gearhart. I have some travel pictures to share, but again, forgive me: I was walking on the beach on a shockingly warm day (since I usually freeze at the Oregon coast, no matter the time of year) around noon, so the lighting was bright, directly overhead, and all wrong.

First, to set the scene, note the coastal range in the distance shorn like sheep, but in chunks. Doesn't clear-cutting make for pretty background shots? Second, note that Oregon beaches are public roads and parking lots, i.e., legal highway. Inhaling car exhaust and dodging SUVs make for a pleasant stroll on the sand, I assure you.

Oregon highway and mohawked mountains, September 2011

Third, note that not all trash on Oregon beaches comes from Japan. The plastic bag below looks a little like a dead jellyfish, no? So cute and gelatinous!

plastic bag on the Oregon beach, September 2011

The following picture shows what not to do with office e-mails: print them, partially burn them, and dump them in the ocean.

the Oregon coast, where confidential e-mails go to die, September 2011

Fortunately, you, too, can have a romantic, garbage-collecting beach weekend in Oregon. Just contact our tourism office. Or you could join SOLV's Spring Beach Cleanup day on March 31st. However, be aware that sometime in the next year or so, we doing beach cleanup in Oregon may be picking up body parts and radioactive trash from Japan's 2011 earthquake, tsunami, and subsequent nuclear-plant meltdown—a step up from plastic laundry bottles to feet.

proof of purchase, Oregon coast, September 2011

*Note: Here's a helpful tutorial for refurbishing wooden kitchen items with spoon oil, which I have yet to try.

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