I’ve been thinking lately about Robb Hankins. During his brief tenure as the city of Eugene’s cultural services director, he coined for Eugene a slogan that hardly anybody likes, even though it should have brought all sides of the city together. “The world’s greatest city for the arts and the outdoors” finishes strong — too bad it loses almost everyone but the most urbane by the fourth word.
He should have given the city a mascot instead. Mascots rally people better than slogans, if only because they don’t ask to be taken seriously. Ask the failed Nike RoboDuck. Our beloved fluffy duck’s macho Harley Davidson entrances only make the silliness of it all plainer to see.
A mascot for the city of Eugene would bring everybody together. Even if everybody hated the mascot, that hating could still be done altogether, with a wink or a grin. Mascots are good for that.
You may have a better idea, but I propose loggerheads. Loggers and heads; timber workers and college professors; flannel shirts and elbow patches; drinkers and thinkers — forced to share the same land and forced to share the same word. Auto workers in Flint, Michigan are known as “rivetheads.” Endlessly arguing Eugeneans could likewise embrace how they spend their days as “loggerheads.”
Don’t like loggerheads? How about a big, squishy, orange Umbrage? Whoever leaves as the most aggrieved party could take Umbrage with them, but they’d then be responsible for its care of feeding, until somebody else took Umbrage.
We all know loggerheads when we see them. Welcome to Loggerheads Land. Shakespeare used “loggerhead” for what we might call a “blockhead,” but the word can also refer to a very large, slow, sea turtle. A loggerhead was also a red-hot, bulbous stick, used in 17th century England either to melt tar or heat beer. Take your pick.
The spiced lager brings us back to the drinkers and thinkers. Tonight, you won’t want to miss a very important yet unpretentious event at Cozmic Pizza (8th & Charnelton, 5:30 p.m.) “Think and Drink” started in Portland as “a happy-hour series that sparks provocative conversations about big ideas.” The series is sponsored by Oregon Humanities, and this is its first stop in Eugene.
Robert Melnick, a former dean of the University of Oregon’s School of Architecture and Allied Arts, can be thanked for taking “Think and Drink” beyond Portland. As the chair of Oregon Humanities, he instigated the road show, moving board meetings around the state. It made sense to bring “Think and Drink” along with them.
“These events bring together a wide range of viewpoints to discuss very difficult subjects,” Melnick told me. “They can play an important role in the larger civic conversation.”
University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere and Eugene Mayor Kitty Piercy will be joined by University of Oregon Athletic Director Mike Bellotti and former Iowa Congressman Jim Leach, who is now the Chair of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
They will discuss with the audience the economic and cultural benefits of collegiate sports, but that’s only a starting point. Nobody really knows where it might lead, and that’s why it’s important. It will be a joy to watch a Left Coast liberal and a Midwest Republican, a football coach and a Sanskrit scholar, mixing it up for all to see.
Let the fur fly!
Last weekend Washington D.C., a town at least as fractious as ours, got walloped with “Snowmageddon,” dumping two feet of fluff on a paralyzed city. How did the hipsters who hang out at Dupont Circle respond? They announced a citywide snowball fight, via Facebook and Twitter. Thousands showed up and pilloried anything that moved, making news across the country with their three-hour-long happy riot.
Once they dig out, will they find that something more than the snow has melted? Maybe, maybe not. But plenty of people will return to work saying “you had to be there.”
Wouldn’t it be great if that’s what people tonight are saying, as they walk away from “Think and Drink?” Melting tar or warming beer — pouring the civic elixir that can bind us together and cheer us, as the loggerheads that we are.
You may wish later that you had been there to see it begin.
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Details about “Think and Drink” programs can be found at www.oregonhumanities.org.