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…”
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 was the author of many books, including the sea novel The Plover, which has, no kidding, music printed in it, not to mention Mink River, Martin Marten, The Wet Engine, and more than we can recall. He won the 2017 John Burroughs Medal for distinguished nature writing for Martin Marten, which was plenty cool and much deserved. Brian passed away peacefully at his Lake Oswego home on May 27, 2017.
More, much more, from Brian Doyle can be found in the Vault of Smoke.