They blindfolded me and drove around for an hour before taking me someplace that seemed far under ground. They didn’t actually do this, but told me afterwards that they would have done that when they were younger. Catching up to the Rickies is easier than it used to be.
“Can you be weird when you’re near 70?” It’s not exactly clear to whom “Ricketeer” is posing her question — if anyone. She’s well aware that the Rickies and their fabled Eugene Celebration parade entries predate any campaigns to “Keep Seattle Weird” or to promote “Portlandia.”
The Rickies began as a whim, grew into a movement, collapsed from exhaustion, and now promise (or threaten) to return “to inspire the next generation.” Decades ago, a handful of friends — mostly lawyers and graphic designers — decided to enter a small event in Coburg.
“The group had no name, because that would have required a plan,” recounts unofficial historian “Professor Rickie Reflux.” The event application required a name. “‘The Rickies’ seemed like a good enough name.” Much to their surprise, the newly named group won third place. Even more surprising, they were hooked.
“Parades are intoxicating,” Ricketeer admits. “Everybody’s looking at you, but none of it matters. You can do anything you want, but it’s over before you know it.”
The professor chimes in. “You can tell people to do anything, and they’ll just ignore you. It’s very liberating.”
A third member, “Rickie Ryder,” works with students at the university when he’s not being a Rickie. He’d like to see some students come to Sunday’s parade and get inspired. After the group retired a decade ago, it seemed time to get the old band back together. “This year was the year,” he proclaims. In fact, the short notice helped. “We found the old spark was there.” (pause) “A little beer helps.”
As Rickies have aged, they’ve become more selective about what they’re willing to be caught doing. Perhaps to preserve the legacy of their younger selves, this year’s parade entry will be entered under their modified name: “The Ricketies.”
The professor is proud of their process. “It’s always just an idea. Then comes the invitation, ‘Wanna be a part of it?’ This year, some stomped off. We did what we thought was impossible. We offended ourselves!”
Age brings reflection. Rickie Rider starts. “We all love this town…”
Ricketeer finishes the sentence. “… except when I hate it.” Both nod in agreement.
Professor digs deeper. “Whenever I hear about ‘micro-aggressions,’ I get confused. If they’re micro-anything, you shouldn’t be able to see them without special equipment. How hard can it be to get over anything that’s so small that it’s called micro?”
“Fear of failure has become so debilitating for people! We march together, proclaiming, ‘What’s the worst that’ll happen?’” An additional moment of reflection follows. “And if the worst happens, it might be fun to watch.”
And so, here it comes. The Ricketies will participate in the EUG Parade this Sunday morning at 10:30, beginning at Monroe Park and ending at the Park Blocks. Their modest effort will continue a long and wide tradition of self-deprecation that offers to save us from our sanctimonious selves.
Parades have always been good for that. Who can forget the politicians who grab the pooper scoopers behind parade horses? Or the Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropods? (If you can’t beat the slugs, crown them.) The Rickies, and the Lucies, and the Harlequins made fun of themselves, reminding us to do the same.
Dig a little deeper and you’re faced with the underground beginnings of the Beatniks and Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters.
Some look back on the 1960s and believe that hallucinogens made rebellion inevitable. There’s no authority without agreement. Seeing things differently, young people couldn’t help but giggle. The powerful could not control the giggling masses — not when the people couldn’t control themselves.
Will young people get inspired to giggle at themselves and whatever agreements they’ve made? Or will they be impeded by micro-aggressions? The answers will be paraded before us soon enough. Or Sunday morning, if we’re lucky.
Don Kahle (firstname.lastname@example.org) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at www.dksez.com. Details about this weekend’s EUG Parade are at https://www.eugene-or.gov/2047/The-EUG-Parade