Good watering holes are hard to find, and losing the Twisted Oak in Agoura Hills is a serious bummer. I’ve spent a fair number of evenings in this joint over the years, and here it is, the final weekend. The tastefully funky restaurant and sports bar is closing for good tomorrow night, Sunday Jan. 16, 2022. It’s another unspeakable horror, a fine venue lost to the COVID era.
I showed up tonight to watch the Raiders-Bengals Wild Card Playoff Game, hoping the Raiders would entertain me with some post season magic. Since I go back a long way with the team I’m willing to forgive them for stiffing the Oakland fans twice, something that to my knowledge has never been done. I mean twice? Twice? Really?
The Raiders in Las Vegas makes a weird kind of sense, but only if they win. Right now, as I type, the Raiders are down ten points in the second quarter, with 10:20 left in the half. But suddenly a fine kick return and some nifty running plays get the Silver and Black into the Cincy red zone. They settle for a field goal to pull within a touchdown. Hm. OK.
I left the Bay Area in 1982 to take radio broadcasting classes at Santa Monica College. I had a great teacher and, as the Raiders had just moved to L.A., I was able to use my knowledge of the team to wrangle up a radio reporting job. What a rush for a longtime fan! Suddenly I’m interviewing Jim Plunkett, Lyle Alzado, Rod Martin, Ted Hendricks, Cliff Branch, Marcus Allen… Players who were in the middle of a 3-Super Bowl winning dynasty.
Well, the Raiders haven’t won a Super Bowl since that amazing 1983 season, when they brought the NFL championship to Los Angeles, the only time that has occurred to date, January 2022. Nope, the Rams haven’t done it, much less the Chargers, the latest carpetbaggers to show up in L.A. The Los Angeles Chargers… man, that really sounds wrong.
One minute left in the half. Raider Quarterback Derek Carr runs the ball nearly into field goal range. They need a score to get some momentum going into the second half, now being down by two touchdowns. Ugh. I sip cautiously at my Bloody Mary, look up, and am gratified by QB Carr heaving a well-thrown touchdown pass. It’s 20-13. We got a game.
Another sip. Never was much of a drinker, coming as I do from the psychedelic 60s. This drink is strong, and spicy to boot, which makes my pate sweat. Halftime features “highlights” Raider mistakes, including Carr’s fumble and several dropped balls by the Vegas Raiders receivers. Oh, and that stupid move on the Cincy kickoff that buried the Raiders on the three.
I flash back to El Segundo, then the 80s training camp headquarters of the L.A. Raiders, at a converted school. Heady times for the rookie reporter me. I was able to parlay those beginning broadcasting experiences into some grand radio jobs in Hawaii and Acapulco, but I was done with sports. I figured it couldn’t get better than that first year with the Raiders, and moved on to news reporting, morning drive deejay work, and commercial production. Then, abruptly, the string of lucky radio jobs ran out after a decade of bliss. Well, mostly bliss. There was a nasty firing I’m still not over. Workin’ on it. crusty memories of a now-distant era.
Oop, Cincy field goal, and they are back up by ten. Still, lotta time left. I order a veggie burger. The betting line was 6 points against the Raiders, and I probably would have wagered that the Raiders could have covered that spread, if I lived in Vegas with easy access to sports betting. But my record isn’t so good, betting on sporting contests. Betting the line is a skill I haven’t mastered in this life. Nor the stock market, for that matter, which is a somewhat similar beast.
No, for me money and sports don’t mix. I’m a fan with a mixed up affection for the Raiders and 49ers, my other Bay Area football club. Between them, they have won eight Super Bowls. Not bad, though none lately. Still. All is well. Even if the Raiders lose. I haven’t really followed them since that terrible day in Oakland when Carr was injured. Fractured tibia, wasn’t it? I was in the stands, watching in numb disbelief. The Raiders won the game, but we fans filed out in horror. Deep, abiding horror. I’ve never heard such silence from fans after a victory. Sure enough, the Raiders lost in the playoffs with Carr’s unworthy rookie quarterback replacement. What was his name? Ugly stuff, and felt like an alternate reality.
4th quarter, Bengals moving downfield. Raiders need a stop. They don’t get it until the ten yard line. 4th down. Game on the line here. 4th and inches. The Bengals try to draw ‘em offsides, fail to, and kick the field goal. Ten point lead with seven minutes in regulation to play.
Raider ball. A short pass. Raider penalty. Bengal penalty. Ok, first down pass. Some bad stuff. 4th and 5. Season in this next play. Fans in Cincy going nuts. Raiders throw it, first down. A couple plays later, a pass hits a Cincy players’ head. 4th down, the Raiders kick the field goal. Raiders are seven points down with 3 and a half minutes to play.
Phew! Raider defense needs to get the ball back. They stuff two runs. 3rd down, Raiders call a timeout. 2 and a half minutes left. 3rd down and 11 yards. Getting real interesting. Bengals call time out. Raiders stop a short pass. 4th and 4 on the 30. I assume the Bengals will try a 50 yard field goal. 2 minute warning. Phew again! Cincy FG all but seals the win. A miss, and the Raiders get decent field position with two minutes.
Arg. Raider Ball. Raiders move it to the ten. Third and goal, nope.
4th and goal. Interception. Season over.
Too many dropped balls, and numerous penalties, killed ‘em.
But the Raiders kept it interesting to the last play, at least. Worth noting, they didn’t beat the spread.
Glad I didn’t bet on it.
Postscript: The Cincinnati Bengals went on to represent the American Football Conference in the Super Bowl as the official NFL Cinderella Team.
The Niners Dump Dallas
OK, it’s the next day, and I’m back at the Twisted Oak. The Last Day! I can’t believe it. I’ve loved this place for years, and even played music here with my pals in Tin Drum, Mary Harris and Burleigh Drummond… I hate that this is the last time I’m coming in here.
Rowdy crowd. Some football fans, some just here as Twisted Oak patrons. Mary and Burleigh’s kids, Sierra and Burleigh the Younger, are expected to show up as former employees. Jimmy G the S.F. quarterback comes out throwing, and Deebo Samuels is running it. Mitchel runs it in for an easy touchdown. Wow, Niners strike first, quieting the Dallas home crowd and cheering me up. This is unlikely to be an easy game for the Niners, but they looked great on that first drive, throwing the ball and running for first down.
Niners fans here are pumped. Several tables here are whooping it up. Cool! I’m at the bar, unwilling to drink booze this early. Yup for me this is early. So I’m not into ethanol just yet. Dallas goes three and out. Niners drive for a field goal. Hey its 10-0 Niners. This is starting to look good!
This running back Mitchell for the Niners is fast. When he turns on the jets he makes other players look slow. Then there is Deebo, who can do it all running, receiving and even throwing the ball like he did last weekend against the Rams. Back to now. As a Niners fan, I could hardly ask for a better first quarter. On their second possession, the Cowboys try a lateral and the guy throws it away. Looking lame! The Cowboys coach isn’t happy.
End of the first quarter. Gonna order a Pina Colada, since they are out of Bloody Mary mix. Oooooh, they are out of Pina Colada fixins. Oop, well… Ok I’m down to gin and Seven-up. Sheesh, they are running out their stocks.
Gonna miss this place, dammit. I refuse to have cable teevee, and I’m not good at streaming. Something about giving my personal info online. So this is how I watch sports. At bars. Gotta find a new one, I guess. Hate that. L.A. County says I can’t go into bars without proof of vaccination. Fuck ‘em, I am close enough to Ventura County so that it doesn’t matter. Which brings up the whole Vax Thing. Let’s not.
I look up. Argghhh. Amari Cooper of the Cowboys gathers in a well-thrown pass for a touchdown. Niners are up but now it’s 13-7. We got a game. Five minutes left in the half. Big pass from Jimmy G. to number 11. Close to field goal range… and sure enough, another 52 yard field goal. 16-7 Niners. That took two minutes of game time, so there are three left in the half. Can the Niner defense show some gumption? Wow.
Two and a half minutes. A Niner is down, cant tell who. Gin starting to take effect. Two minute warning. I’m smiling here at the bar. Third down, ouch, good toss there Cowboys. They’re pulling off a good 2 minute drill. Yikes, Niner defensive star Nick Bosa is down. Terrible, he was hit by a fellow Niner. Damn, is he OK? No word. Long commercial break. That could mean he’s being carted if the field.
Dallas punts. It’s 16-7 Niners at the half.
Not bad. I’ll take nine point lead and love it.
Gin is different than vodka. Seems to hit different neurorecptors. Ok, neurotransmitter receptors, my computer is telling me. Whatever. I’m feeling this shit.
Halftime analysis. Can’t hear over the crowd. I’ve just been brought my order of flourless chocolate cake. It’s close to frosting, but not quite. I’m trying to soak up the booze so I can drive home safely.
Cowboy’s receive to start the second half. Their drive stalls after they are gifted with a dubious roughing the kicker call on the Niners that gave the Cowboys new life. Niners are pinned back. Standout defensive player Nick Bosa is out of the game, head injury. Damn. 3rd down, Jimmy tosses it, first down. But the drive stalls, and the Niners punt it. Ok, Cowboys have it back at their 22.
Still looking good. Miller Light ad, ugh.
Niners interception! They score a TD. For the first time I feel confident. And Burleigh the Younger and his two girls are here. I don’t see Sierra yet. I’m in a damn good mood, and it ain’t just the gin. Chocolate makes me feel good too, that phenethylamine really works.
End of the third quarter. Niners up 23-7. Sierra’s here! She’s just back from her first transcontinental music gig. Great hug! Cowboy’s score a field goal, amid all the hubbub. 23-10, 13 minutes left. That’s still a lot of time. I’m not as confident, but still smiling. Need a long time-consuming drive with a Niners score. Yikes, I want Deebo and dont get him. But its a pass to Kittle, the Tight End. First Down… ok. Ten minutes left.
Interception Dallas. This is what I was afraid of. First and goal from the nine. Incomplete. Second and goal. I’m sweating this out. Jeep commercial. Liberty Mutual. They know they have a captive audience. Paramount Pictures, my former employers. Screw ‘em. Short run, third down. Prescott runs it in. Six point game. Eight minutes left.
Man I’m tense. Brutal game now. 3rd and 4. Pass complete! Who caught that? First down Niners. Argghhh. Interception! No. Incomplete pass to Kittle. Niner first down. On penalty. Towels waving in stands. Niners have to punt with less than three minutes. Dallas has it. Fourth down pass fail. One minute left. Run under review. 4th and inches
[At that point the iPad battery died. Sierra helped me plug it in, and I sat yelling at the top of my lungs as the San FrancIsco 49ers held on to beat the Dallas Cowboys and move deeper into the the NFL Playoffs. Well after the game was over, I retrieved my pad and resumed tapping away.]
Some hours later. I’m drunk and loving it. Not too drunk. I can still type, and fix my typos. Feeling good. Sierra, exhausted by her flight back from Florida, fell asleep in a booth leaning on trusted boyfriend Danny. I had to help her get on her feet. She was like a baby. I felt like a dad. Good stuff. I will never be a dad in this life, but it was good to be dad, if only for a minute. Danny got her safely out the door to the car.
Damn. I still can’t believe this venue is toast. Fuck it sucks. Well we gotta move on. No choice. Niners to Green Bay to take on the Packers, me back to Topanga. Post this shit. Keep the Gonzo flame alive. Kick ass as possible. Be grateful. Life is good. Lucky lucky old bunny.
Age 70. Wtf. Ok. Keep on truckin’.
Niners, a symbol of childhood, of humor. Remember John Brodie? No? Bwahhaha. Glad I’m me. No he didn’t win the Super Bowl. But he was great. Great! Quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers in the early 70’s, beaten repeatedly by the goddamn Cowboys in the playoffs. Retired in 1973. In his 80s these days. He’s laughing somewhere right now. Cowboys in the dumpster. Karmic justice! Man I’m pumped.
Still writing, loving life, all is good. I’m dancing at intervals with diehard fans of the Twisted Oak. Dancing! I so wish my lovable pals Mary Harris and Burleigh Drummond were in the room. They played many a great gig here with Tin Drum, and I was fortunate enough to blast away on blues harmonica on a number of occaisions. Now it’s the very last night, and party time. Sore throat from yelling. I‘m fried from the booze. What a game.
What a game.
Postscript: After a dramatic playoff victory in Green Bay over the Packers, the Niners went on to lose to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game, and the Twisted Oak Tavern has been closed for good. Damn.
Kyle K. Mann
Agoura Hills, CA
Jan. 15 and 16, 2022