9.15 Gazette editor’s note: meditations on the strange science of idle chatter

On Sept. 10, my fellow Cannon Beach History Center & Museum board members and I welcomed a swarm of visitors to town for the ninth annual Cannon Beach Cottage Tour.

This year’s tourgoers “Oohed” and “Ahhed” their ways through 11 homes and cottages around the Tolovana Park area, and as the designated event photographer, I ended up spending most of the day shuffling along in their footsteps.

I followed them down well-worn hallways and up narrow staircases, along graveled, little-traversed side streets and across the busy midtown intersection. Of course, I couldn’t help but do a bit of eavesdropping as I made my way from home to home.

I heard the terms “quaint” and “precious” used to describe everything from tchotchkes to table settings to toilet seat covers. I also gathered a few more substantial bits of information.

It is a well-worn adage that small towns breed very big gossip. I’m here to tell you that city folk, too, are prone to idle chatter, especially when they’re on vacation in said small towns and are attempting to gauge the value of various shopping, dining and sleeping options.

Like dogs down on the beach or toddlers in the city park, tourists have a knack for spotting and gravitating toward their own kind to say “Hello” and to trade useful information. Pooches communicate by way of sniffs and snarls, babies by head pats and hair pulls, and out-of-towners with this timeworn trinity:

“Where are you from?”

“Where are you staying?”

And the wild card: “Have you ever eaten at/heard of/seen …” Fill in the blank.

In one low-slung attic, I listened to two women discuss a wonderful experience they’d had at one of our hotels and a disappointing meal they’d eaten at of our restaurants. At the edge of a well-tended garden, I heard a man describe the Stormy Weather Arts Festival to a couple he’d just met and then entreat them to come check it out.

On more than one occasional, I’ve used this space to ponder what it is that compels people to come to Cannon Beach. I’ve heard many different answers, including, recently, the following two.

It’s a love of art and beauty that lures them, says the Cannon Beach Arts Assocation’s outgoing president, Prudence Farrell. This month, CBAA is celebrating its 25th anniversary, and festivities include a silver-themed party Sept. 17 and a month of great shows. (See more on page 12.)

It’s also the spirited undercurrent of creativity that colors many local endeavors, says new North Coast resident William Wagener, Jr., the Arch Cape Inn & Retreat’s current sous chef. Wagener took up the post last spring and he’s finding himself inspired by the original approaches his new coworkers and neighbors take to cooking and living. (Get to know Wagener by turning to our Lunch With The Chef column on page 13.)

Perhaps, however, a better question to ask is what it takes to entice them back a second or third or tenth time. Based on what I heard Sept. 10, I’d say it’s one of those cumulative things, the decision to come back or to not come back made based on a sum total feeling culled from a dozen small interactions throughout the day.

Science refers to the interdependence of all things as The Butterfly Effect – change one little, seemingly inconsequential thing for better or worse, and you may well alter the course of very big things you’d never considered or intended. Think: a butterfly flaps its wings on Tillamook Head, which creates a breeze that gathers speed as it swirls into downtown Cannon Beach, where it causes a scoop of vanilla ice cream to fall out of a cone and land on the foot of a surprised visitor, who is in such a good mood from the wonderful morning he’s had that instead of stamping his feet and crying, he simply darts into the nearest retail store to purchase a new pair of shoes, which bumps the store owner’s numbers into the black, which allows her to keep her summer hire on through Christmas … Or something like that. Don’t quote me.

The Internet abounds with complex graphs describing with far more accuracy how The Butterfly Effect theoretically works, but for our purposes, we need know simply this: Everything matters. And people, whether they’re from the big city or the boondocks, they have an innate tendency to seek and dispense advice at every occasion and any location. Feed, shelter and entertain them well, and all that positive momentum can kick up some big, great things.


Gluten-free breakfast pizella at Arch Cape Inn & Retreat


What do you think, writer-readers? Your comment gets mine!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s