I’m head to toe in black—trousers, long sleeve button up shirt, and shiny dress shoes, all purchased from a Goodwill in Astoria—save for a maroon red vest. My wife is similarly attired, a brilliant red gown, purchased from the very same Goodwill.
It’s prom night in Manzanita. Well, there’s a theme party at the Lighthouse, and the theme is the prom. Two old friends are in town as well, and we’re all dressed to kill this night as dead as we can. One of my oldest friends, from high school, who goes by the name Flood, has come in an actual suit he owns, and thereby is looking a little more dapper than us in our second hand setups. He’s driven in from Portland just for the occasion. Another, almost as old, friend, Shawn, is visiting the coast from Austin, Texas. He made the trip to the thrift store with us, where before I could spot it, he managed to snag what will surely go down as the most dapper outfit of the night, a completely sky blue suit that leaves him looking like he could easily fill in for the main character in those old Leisure Suit Larry computer games.
None of us managed to get up the gumption to wear a cummerbund, though truth be told, in my case it’s only because I couldn’t find one to accent this ode to teenage vampires I’m calling my outfit for the night.
The Lighthouse rolls heavy when it comes to theme parties. A Halloween party where half the crowd laughed so hard and long I was sure they were on mushrooms. A Cowboy and Western shindig where costume pieces were exchanged beyond recognition. Space parties, pirate parties, they’ve all been had at this roadside bar hanging from the southbound side of US 101 between Manzanita and Nehalem. Prom Night has got to be one of the better themes, though, and as we nervously make our way into the establishment—actually making your premier is the hardest part of a theme party, where you just hope to god that at least someone else has participated in the dress up aspect—the bartending couple that doesn’t own, but certainly seems to run the place, Janet and Justin, are to the nines. He’s got the full on suit, complete with ruffly tuxedo shirt and bowtie. She always looks good, but tonight, in her full gown regalia, she’s sure to be leaving a few of the local patrons with their socks knocked off.
We went all in and purchased a corsage and everything for the event, which Janet hand delivers us as Justin pours a couple of Ninkasis and slides them our way. Across from the bar, where the light through the french doors can pour ever so slowly into the bar, they’ve staged an area with balloons, tin foil stars and streamers, so all of the not so young as we used to be lovers can have our photos taken.
I’ve never gone to prom before, having missed my own opportunities in high school due to the idea that I thought I was too cool for formal school style events, and I don’t regret it one bit after having attended this party.
Non-participants in the night’s costuming play pool at one of two tables in the corner and get loud over jokes and Bud Lights. Old local ladies pour in and out of the back room, where various Oregon Lottery games are setup for your playing pleasure, if only to order a fresh beverage before heading back in. There is no smoking in any bars in Oregon these days, but I can imagine a past life where, while this place still had a reputation for being a trouble ridden biker bar, smoke swmimming over wrinkled, spotted old hands and pour out of the gambling room into the bar. The front deck is packed with sunshine and the smokers of today, some showing their appreciation for a good theme party, others simply sporting their every day going out drinking attire.
The karaoke machine fires up and an old Texan belts out some Johnny Cash, and sounds good doing it. A few other people take their turn, and let’s just say the results don’t sit quite as easily in the ear. A girl with long black hair is introduced as Angelique, and as she begins pouring on some Stevie Nicks rendition, the whole bar turns their attention her way. This is easily one of the best sounding karoake nights I’ve ever participated in, and I say so out loud. Just then a couple, hammered on life, I suppose, but also quite likely a heavy bar tab, gets up and does “Love Shack” by the B-52’s. She sounds okay, but it’s when he starts wailing out the male vocals portion that the likeness his voice shares with Fred Schneider can’t be denied. The crowd goes wild, the line to get a beer is two deep, and my friends just look at me like “What have you gotten us into?”
I think the night began winding down sometime after they broke out the Twister mat.
If I mention the Lighthouse more than occasionally throughout this issue, it’s simply because it is one of the best times I’ve ever had in my long career as a bar patron. The place was apparently formerly handed over several times and lived out various reincarnations such as a family restaurant and the aforementioned Roadhouse-esque roughneck joint, before it was purchased by it’s namesake, Ron LASTNAME. He should certainly be credited with getting the bar into it’s current shape: the restaurant half is closed, while they focus on making the bar all it can be, replete with various barfood type dinners, a selection of beer that ranges from Budweiser to Stella Artois to local Fort George’s Vortex, and somehow the best pizza in a town full of pretty good pizza. That said, it’s the people behind the bar who seem to have really made this place shine. It only took two visits for them to remember our beverage of choice, and we rarely had to ask for our first beers; they were typically sitting on the bar by the time we took a seat. While the theme nights get incredibly packed, the Lighthouse being the biggest party in town on those occasions, on an average night it’s a rather laid back place where you can easily hear your companions’ conversation. Karoake every weekend. The porch has at least a couple of smokers hanging out every day and well into the night.
There are certainly other options to imbibe in a cold one in the area. The Bayway in Nehalem seems to be where the old timer, hearty working class types gather. The San Dune in Manzanita proper has a great atmosphere and will no doubt be where you’ll find your tourists in from Portland on any given weekend. There’s a wine bar, Vino, that packs live music most nights and a finer dining experience into a very small space. But if you’re just looking for a good time, something like what Cheers would have us believe your ideal bar was like, there is nowhere you’re going to find that better than at Ron’s Lighthouse.
Oh, and feel free to tell them Wand’rly sent you! At the very least, you’ll get a roll of the eyes and maybe an “Oh, those guys…”