I remember the first time I contacted John Fraser. As a second homeowner at the time, I didnt know him; I knew only that he drove a funny car that he had glued all kinds of wacky toys and plastic sculptures to.
I think he may have been in his lizard period at that time because his car had many lizards attached to it.
I called him from my Portland house because I was working on a freelance story for the Cannon Beach Gazette about the quirky winter weather in 2006. I knew Fraser also had an interactive website called Cannonbeachweather.com
Thats all I knew about it then. It seemed reasonable that someone who had a website with the word weather in it would be able to comment on the weather. But he declined to predict the next snowfall or highway flood.
His website was actually a chat room about and for the community of Cannon Beach. As its administrator, Fraser called himself God. Every now and then, when the conversation among locals and visitors on the website got way out of control, God stepped in. Otherwise, we didnt hear much from him.
After several years, however, as cancer began to seep into Frasers bones, the website was discontinued; God went on permanent leave.
When I moved to Cannon Beach in 2007, I came to know John and Lisa Fraser my neighbors and their cat, Bart, who became a close friend to my cat, Bozo.
They own the kite shop, Once Upon a Breeze, downtown, and Fraser had just bought another car to decorate.
In one of his previous lives, Fraser had been a street performer, an editor of a newsletter that spoofed all things serious and a jokester.
I heard from more than one person about how he would roll a bowling ball down the middle of Hemlock Street on Labor Day when all the tourists were finally gone. Nowadays, of course, September is among the most crowded months of the year in town.
Fraser is also a musician, and he played regularly in the jam sessions during burger nights on Mondays at the Cannon Beach American Legion.
But in the past few months, Fraser hasnt been playing much. He hasnt been driving much, either. He doesnt get out much.
After a brief remission, the cancer is back. The medicine to control it is wildly expensive: about $800 a week. He has been on it for a month, and, Lisa tells me, it seems to be working. But how long can they afford it?
If it hadnt been for an anonymous contribution that would pay for nearly two months of medication, the Frasers probably would have had to go without. An account has been set up at the Bank of Astoria to help.
It had been a long time since I saw Fraser, and it must have been for a lot of others, too, because we all started clapping and cheering when he walked through the doors of the American Legion Saturday night.
Some of Frasers friends had decided to take matters in their own hands and organized a fundraiser for him. They supplied yummy hors doeuvres, and local singer Maggie Kitson and her band performed. Proceeds from the $5 admission, from a donation jar and from silent auction items donated by local businesses went to the Frasers.
But the best part of the night was that entrance by Fraser, who smiled and acknowledged our applause. Well, it was close to being the best part. When Fraser sat down and played his harmonica with the friends he had jammed with for so long on burger nights now that was really the best part of the night.
It was like old times again. The jammers were together, and we had the privilege of listening to them, knowing it might never be the same.
For a moment, we celebrated a member of our community. Some have known Fraser a lot longer than I have, but Im glad to have become acquainted with him and Lisa over the years.
What I came away with from the celebration was not only thankfulness that I could see Fraser once again and enjoy his music and his presence, but that there were so many in town who wanted, somehow, to help out.
Thats what we do here, when we hear about someone in trouble. In Seaside, theres a fund established at Wells Fargo for Dustin Rhodes, a local woodland firefighter who was injured after fighting a fire in Eastern Oregon. He was heading home on his motorcycle when a deer jumped in front of him and knocked him off the bike. His injuries are extensive.
It seems like there are always fundraisers for people who are suddenly struck down and wont make it without a lot of help from their friends. And those friends are ready; all they need is to be asked.
There have been benefits for seriously ill children, for mothers with cancer. A couple of years ago, Seaside residents helped out Richard Bailey, former recreation director at the Sunset pool, who fell and hurt himself badly.
And who can forget the huge turnout for a benefit dinner at the Seaside Civic and Çonvention Center to assist John Chapman who, at the time, was struggling to survive a serious illness?
When one of our own in the community needs help, people rally to their aid. Through benefits, special funds, dinners, auctions you name it, and someone will plan it.
Thats what this community does. Just as simple as that.
Nancy McCarthy is editor of the Seaside Signal and Cannon Beach Gazette and also writes for The Daily Astorian. Her column runs on alternate weeks.