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"Sometimes they would all play the same tune at the same time, but more often they would all play whatever occurred to them individually, using every imaginable key and chord and time change...."

the boom boom room
by brian doyle


Pretty much everyone has a pub or bar where they feel welcome even if you weren't much of a drinker or a regular, and mine was the back room of a hotel on the coast of Oregon, which was called the Boom Boom Room until it ceased to reverberate and was converted into Romantic Suites With Ocean Views and tiny porches on which you could theoretically stand together and contemplate the glittering ocean and the prospect of married life although mostly the ocean is grim and surly and the rain is furious and horizontal and you would have to be skinny as saints to edge out onto the deck together, not to mention that I know who built those decks and between you and me I bet they are spitballs painted to look like old growth cedar which they most certainly are not.

Anyway we were talking about the Boom Boom Room which was a great bar for the same reason that all great bars are great, the ten million storied hatched there, which in the case of the Boom Boom Room include the time a horse was led to water and was made to drink, a young couple being married by a minister on the huge wooden bar (the minister clambered up there too), a golf tournament held annually in the bar with drivers and irons and everything (guys wore helmets), the governor of the state of Oregon getting so edified one night that he accepted a challenge to play a game of strip chess (which he won with his pawn play), and lots of other things like that.

But the best thing about the Boom Boom Room was the jazz band that would come out to the coast once a year to play in the Independence Day Parade. The first couple of years the band came and performed brilliantly, marching in formation, dashing uniforms, the whole nine yards. The third year the cornet player discovered that the Boom Boom Room opened at seven in the morning on Independence Day, on patriotic principle, and the next year he persuaded his friends in the band to stop in for pops, on patriotic principles, and after that the deluge. It got so the band was waiting by the door of the Boom Boom Room at seven, anxious for their axle grease, as the cornet player said, and then they would clamber up on a flatbed truck for the duration of the parade, and play whatever entered their minds. Sometimes they would all play the same tune at the same time, but more often they would all play whatever occurred to them individually, using every imaginable key and chord and time change. You would think this would lead to chaos and hubbub and yelling but amazingly that did not happen, and even more amazingly the music they made when they were not playing together in the same key turned out to be the most amazing music ever, people started coming for miles around to hear it, supposedly it could heal the sick, and calm troubled souls, and led to epiphanies, and heal goiters and cysts, and things like that, and finally reporters and music scholars and record producers started coming to the parade and waving contracts at the band as they teetered along on the flatbed truck. It was a most amazing sight, gaggles of scholars and producers running alongside the truck, waving contracts. Not something you see every day, scholars and waving contracts. But then the Boom Boom Room closed and the band was never the same, and today there are the Romantic Suites with Ocean Views exactly where the young couple got married on the bar. The minister indeed did clamber up on the bar to preside but he was not exactly a supple and pliable man and the guy who later built the tiny Ocean View decks built a little ladder for the minister to use that night, which I still have. He was a Lutheran minister, and believe it or not his name was Martin. Isn't that amazing?

(illustration: kurt eisenlohr)


Brian Doyle is the author of books about otters, sea-wrack, tiny rhinoceroses, and the later and more incomprehensible work of William Blake, the part where he invented a vast and mysterious mythology of his own, and even he didn't understand it, but by God he wasn't going to admit that to a soul, was he, the poor moist British sot, probably driven insane by the incessant weeping of the sky, not to mention the poor personal hygiene and awful teeth of his fellow islanders, huddled in the mist and terrified of a corporal the size of a fecking fire hydrant across the way, was that guy a first draft of Hitler or what, I mean, who wants to conquer Egypt? What's the point? Did his pecker not work or what? Isn't that the only reason you would issue such a nonsensical statement, let's conquer Egypt! Jesus, two shoeless frogs with asthma could conquer Egypt in an afternoon, if it was a weekday. And why would anyone in his right mind want to conquer Russia? I mean, really? Do you need more snow and ice and mud and iconography in your life? Isn't there just about enough of that in any normal day? Am I right? It's not like we get up in the morning and think I need to read some elephantine murk that may or may not be about murder and czarinas and etc., isn't that so? Because if you do wake up and think that, I have a country for you to conquer. Doyle is also an essayist, which no one is exactly sure what that means, we think it may have something to do with hermeneutics, and he is the author of two collections of something that even he is loathe to call poetry. Now there's a great word, loathe, which you can, as you know, also spell loath, one of those rare words you can spell either way whenever you want, in bed, or on the road, or in your hotel room with a pencil and a nickel and a girl with few if any inhibitions. I am loathe to go further. Let's conquer Egypt! Also he has committed a novel. As for the part of the biographical note where the author preens and boasts of his previous blue-collar jobs, from some weird itch to prove that he is not merely an effete intellectual artiste, Doyle had some of those jobs, but he never liked them much, and over the long years since he has very often, like right now for example, considered that he is one lucky toy boy not to be digging ditches, driving a bus, logging, fishing, plumbing, carpentering, and etc. along those lines, but instead he sits around telling roaring lies for fun, and slightly true stories for a living, which the phrase living is something of a joke, isn't it, because by god these kids are going to eat me out of house and home, and you never saw such a snarling ravenous pack of surly sneering supercilious spawn in your born days, what in god's name we were thinking when we airily said let's have children I do not now know, could I not have listened to my gramp's advice and been leery of the whole process from proposal on, wary of tossing tea? But no. Also Doyle has a dog. More from Brian Doyle can be found in the Smokebox Archives.

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