Kesey Square Can Wait, Bishoff Baggage Can’t

Eugene City Council told the Friends of Ken Kesey Square they will have to wait a little longer. And so, Jerry Diethelm and others in support remain Friends of something that does not yet officially exist. Kesey would have liked that.

I was on this wagon before it had a band on it. I wrote a column almost exactly 13 years ago, just days after Peter Helzer’s statue had been dedicated, asking that the center of Eugene be renamed Ken Kesey Square. Just two sentences from that essay bear repeating: “Ken Kesey Square deserves to be at the center of Eugene for its oxymoronic value alone. Was there ever a man who more refused to be a square than Ken Kesey?”

The Council prudently decided to wait. They want to hear first from the Project for Public Spaces about how best to invest up to $5.2 million in urban renewal funds on improvements to make our downtown public spaces safer and more welcoming.

Circle a day on your calendar and let’s hope Valentines Day 2017 brings us some downtown solutions that everyone will love.

Meanwhile, there’s another naming opportunity that doesn’t need to wait. This is another tune I’ve trumpeted before. This one was published exactly eight years ago. (What is it about the third week of November that focuses the mind on naming things?)

The town should name something — anything! — after retired newspaperman Don Bishoff. Again, I’ll reprint only a sentence of what I wrote in 2008, for those who need their memory refreshed: “I think every traffic circle should be called ‘a bish’ — commemorating all the runarounds that Bishoff chronicled for all those years.”

William Tugman and Alton Baker both have parks named after them, befitting their enduring contributions as community leaders and editors of our daily newspaper. But as of yet, Bishoff has received no such recognition. The city has put in place some rules about not using people’s names before they die, but those rules have been bent before.

First names are used all the time, in case you wondered about Chad or Charnelton. One developer reversed his name, giving us Neslo Lane. We’ll be remembering Suzanne Arlie for generations, so why not Don Bishoff?

Celebrating Bishoff would be for the role he played in community conversations for decades. It would not be for his upstanding citizenry or his tidy desk, as he or anyone who knows him well would insist.

Here’s an opportunity. The Eugene Airport is finishing a remodeling and expansion effort that includes two brand new baggage carousels. They have numbers, not names, because what city names its luggage retrieval machinery? That could be us.

We’ll keep fighting for David Joyce’s “Flight Patterns” (a.k.a. Flying People) to be returned to the airport, but we don’t have to limit our whimsy to one beloved art installation. Naming the carousel for Bishoff hurts no one and benefits everyone who didn’t check their curiosity at the gate. They will feel at home here, even if their luggage gets lost, as Bishoff’s often did.

Bishoff himself might very well object if the city names anything but a 24/7 public bathroom after him, which was his stated preference when I asked him years ago. He might even lead a protest or two, shouting into a bullhorn that public funds were wasted on the plaque or that unionized labor should have installed it.

It used to not take much to get a rise out of the man, but those days are mostly over and many of us miss them. Except for reliable rants on Facebook, his opinions are heard now only by those who play golf or poker with him. Kids in his neighborhood may have heard how he feels about his lawn, but I cannot confirm that.

I can promise you it’s not because the Bishoff opinion factory has shut down — only that the loading dock for distribution no longer meets city code.

If we wait until after Bishoff dies, we won’t get to hear him grouse about it. Who among us would want to be denied his delicious denigrations?

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs