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Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Comfort and the joys of summer


Like a lot of Oregon flatlanders, I try to make a habit of escaping to the coast on a semi-regular basis – especially when the temperature’s dancing around the mid-90s in the city and it’s 20 or 25 degrees lower at the beach. I tend to head down Newport way, which takes me through the edge of wine country, past the slot machines and blackjack tables of Grand Ronde, through the Van Duzer Corridor, on through Lincoln City, south past Depoe Bay and that jut of ragged rock known dubiously but often accurately as Cape Foulweather. For probably 30 years this drive has usually included a stop just a few miles inland at the tiny junction of Otis, whose shining star is a little red pointy-roofed shack called the Otis Café.

ln all those years the Otis hasn’t changed much: same short row of funky counter stools, same wooden booths around the edges and crammed-in pair of two-tops in the center, same clear jars of homemade salsa, same wander through the tiny kitchen past the pantry and bread-and-pie ovens to the little latched-door bathroom if you want to wash your hands or otherwise ease your travel pains. Sometimes, even the same waitresses as a decade or two ago, who don’t look any older than you do. Same German potatoes or hangtown fry or prodigiously proportioned omelette. Same loaf of thick molasses bread to go. The whole place is as snug and organic and well-fitted as the insides of a nicely packed turtle shell.

There are likely better places to eat along this drive, but not necessarily better places to stop. Hitting the Otis is a ritual, a comfort, a touchstone, a fleetingly borrowed home away from home. And it strikes me, having just made my most recent stop there, that this sort of ritual and comfort is important in our cultural lives, too. Art thrives and grows on its daring leaps into the unknown. But it’s nurtured by the familiar, by the repetition of experiences that somehow along the way have accumulated meaning.

This seems especially true in the lazier days of summer. So on our summer stages, for instance, we can find the veteran comic troupers Gary Brickner-Schulz and Jay Randall Horenstein opening Fridayin that rollicking good ol’ boy farce “Greater Tuna” at Lakewood Theatre, and the Portland Shakespeare Project opening thatsomewhat divisive old reliable “The Taming of the Shrew” (to be followed soon by John Webster’s reply, “The Tamer Tamed”) on the same night. Clackamas Rep is revisiting the gentle inebriations of “Harvey” and its six-foot-tall rabbit, while Broadway Rose prefers the proven prowlings of “Cats.” We’ll have the molasses bread with each of these comfortable chestnuts, please.

On the other hand, the adventurous contemporary-dance center Conduit takes one of those leaps of braveness with its Dance+ Performance Festival openingThursday, and we expect it to prod us right out of our comfort zone. Barry Johnson will have a lot more to say about Dance+ in the next day or two on theArtsWatch Web site.

Let’s also, this week, make an appreciative nod to some good news from Salem, where the Oregon Legislature approved more funding for the Oregon Cultural Trust, the Oregon Arts Commission, the Oregon Historical Society, Oregon film incentives, and other key cultural institutions. Yes, art is art. But it’s also industry, and industry is jobs, and jobs put food on the table and create economic recovery. It’s good to know that, even in tight times, an otherwise divided Legislature agreed that some modest investments in our cultural industries was a smart long-term move.

Now, that’s a comforting thought.

Photos: A busy day at the Otis Cafe; Horenstein and Brickner-Schulz in “Tuna.”

ArtsWatch links

Mozart in the Kit Kat Club? The Queen of the Night prowled the stage in black leather and fishnet stockings. Whoa: This was “The Magic Flute”? Brett Campbell reports from the scene of Classical Revolution’s latest provocation, and what it might mean to the future of the way we experience music.

From the New World to the Old World. Dutch-born Portland painter Henk Pander went back to Amsterdam for the grand reopening of the great Rijksmuseum, where one of his own watercolors – 1997’s “New World” – was being honored as one of the “Top 100” in the museum’s formidable collection of works on paper. Henk kept a journal, and shared excerpts from it with our readers.

There oughtta be a law. And there is. A.L. Adams sat down with a gaggle of volunteer Oregon art lawyers and found out about the rarely seen but vitally important territory of arts legal advocacy.

PHOTO: Pander’s 60 x 40-inch watercolor “New World.”



And finally…

We end with a couple of requests. First, if you have friends or family members who you think would enjoy our newsletter and our cultural writing online, could you please forward this letter to them? The bigger our circle of friends, the more we can accomplish. Second, if you’re not already a member of ArtsWatch, may we ask you to please take a moment and sign on? What you give (and your donation is tax-deductible) makes it possible for us to continue and expand our reporting and commenting on our shared culture in Oregon. Thanks, and welcome! Becoming a member is SO easy:

Become a member now!

Thank you!

Bob Hicks
Writer and editor,
Oregon ArtsWatch

Oregon ArtsWatch Archives