An anniversary

On this day 42 years ago, a yellow Volkswagen Beetle with New Jersey plates cruised up I-5 to the exit for Oregon 217. There were traffic lights on 217 in those days, and so the little car probably made a few stops. At the end of the road, the Bug took a left and headed west on the Sunset Highway, a couple of exits to the very edge of the Portland metropolitan area. The car pulled up to a house on a cul-de-sac at the Rock Creek Country Club. Unincorporated Washington County. West of there was nothing. It was so quiet.

The driver who got out of the car was me. In the car was everything I owned, and a female passenger whom I definitely did not own. She stayed a couple of days, then flew home to the East Coast. 

The Volkswagen stayed in front of the Rock Creek house. I stayed inside that house. I knew the owners' son. When the value hit $100,000, they were going to sell. But at that point the place was still worth only about $95,000.

My plan was to work in Portland for a year, then head back down to California, and be a lawyer in L.A.

Within a few months, the plan changed. I don't remember exactly when the decision was made. Maybe some October night at the Rock Creek Tavern. Or maybe one evening in the booth at KBOO. Or the morning of the solar eclipse, experienced in the cupola at the Pioneer Courthouse. Or during happy hour listening to Jim Pepper, playing his heart out on a stage set up in the middle of the intersection of Sixth and Alder. Or in a tent at Silver Falls. 

It wasn't a hard choice. I looked around, and there was more here for me than anywhere else. And in those days, there was always time to change your mind again.

So here's to the yellow VW, the lights on 217, and the $95,000 house at Rock Creek. It's been good.


  1. Jack, It's interesting that the Rock Creek Tavern played a role in your life back in the day as well as mine. When my band moved here the harp player's older brother was in a group called the Muddy Bottom Boys so we went to the Rock Creek Tavern to check them out. It was bluegrass and we were more of a blues/rock outfit but the scene out there was spectacular. Their group had an actual album out called "Slaughter on the Highway" and they had a robust following. The dance floor was bouncing up and down and any new pitchers of beer on the tables were splashing from the pulse. There were mysterious stories of how the place was founded - where the money came from - but I have no idea. Let's just say the owners had a nose for business. It was genuine Portland before everything got McMenamized. I go back so far in Portland I used to drink with one of the original McMenamin's executives when he was just a dude named Wilbur in a Hawaiian shirt at a place called the Barley Mill. If memory serves he wound up with the ultimate honor: a burger named after him on their menu. I saw him after it took off and I said, "Wow, did you hit it big with this." He said, "I drank my way to the top."

    1. The old Rock Creek Tavern burned down. It was perfect, a real roadhouse. During the week it was all locals. Logger guys from Cornelius and maybe a couple of ladies from Bethany. Always some music, though. On Friday and Saturday nights, it was a suburban kid pickup scene. I witnessed a few memorable fistfights when the crowds intermingled.

      They'd have shows on weekend afternoons sometimes, too. My favorite was a day gig by an old vaudeville guy, Monte Ballou, who lived on Belmont around 28th. Great old guy who I got to know a little.


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