Petunia and the Pronto Pup


Pardon me while this space veers dangerously close to travelogue territory; maybe even closer to the dreaded memoir zone.

A friend invited me to her family’s beach house on the northern Oregon coast—an area mostly unfamiliar to me, having grown up farther south, in Newport.

For years, I’ve avoided Newport because it’s so loaded with memories, most of them terrible. However, I did a drive-through last summer and came out emotionally unscathed. As I approached from the south, heart pounding, I felt like one of the terrified Munchkins, slowly emerging from hiding after the house lands on Wicked Witch. It felt fine to be there for the same reason the munchkins were relieved: all of the bad characters from the past are dead and gone. The few ghosts who remain are weak, spindly things—not a threat to anyone anymore.

So, I was sure the unfamiliar north coast would be safe and memory-free.

The original Pronto Pup in Rockaway Beach, Oregon

Obviously, it was not so unfamiliar since I knew this icon from half a mile away.

When I moved to New York City, I remember telling someone about “pronto pups,” a childhood favorite. After lots of hand talking and describing of ingredients, the final detail—the stick—made everything clear: “Do you mean a corn dog???”

Yes, except made with pancake batter.

Mini hoodoos on the beach

Turns out the Oregon coast is the Oregon coast from top to bottom; there are unexpected memories at every turn. I shared a few of the happier ones with my hostess who had sort of an oh, uh huh reaction to my tales. To be fair, she was right behind me in the Covid-Go-’Round, so might not have been in the mood to hear old stories of Oregon coast life. However, the more time that passes, and the farther away I get from writing the Great American Memoir, I wonder who is, really?

Pretty sure this old couple has a story or two, though I have no idea who they are or where they’re from. All I know is this man used a walker to get across the sand, and out into the water—leaving tracks for half a mile—while the woman lugged his fishing tackle. My mind immediately made up a story that he, too, had recently taken a ride on the Covid-Go-’Round and that he was so happy to be alive, all he wanted to do was fish in the great Pacific Ocean on the beautiful Oregon coast one more time.

I get it, as I was pretty psyched to do this: