Welcome, Sarah

Welcome, Sarah.

You know you’ve arrived when a first name only will suffice. We’re fond of first names here in Eugene. Otherwise, you’d be arriving in Skinnerville for your speech tonight. We’re glad you’re coming to Eugene, and we hope you can stick around for a while.

Conan O’Brien was here just over a week ago and the place went nuts, same as for you. What can I say? We love Big Hair celebrities. Lyle Lovett returns every summer and always sells out. Enough said.

I don’t mean to suggest you’ve sold out. You’re following your bliss and we’re all about that here. Who among us hasn’t been given a four-year assignment and walked away from it halfway through, because something else looked more fun or more profitable? We’ve all been there, Sarah.

Your speech sold out, almost immediately. They’re selling tickets for an overflow room at $100 a pop, which is good money to pay for watching TV. The 750 ticket holders in the Hilton ballroom will have paid $250 each, but they’ll be able to tell their grandkids what the room smelled like, and that’s worth real money. Heck, that’s almost as much as they paid to see Conan.

First things first. Pronounce place names correctly. Even top-flight sportscasters occasionally trip up, though we’ve got a shoe guy working to make sure that stops happening. “Oregon” doesn’t rhyme with “paragon” and Eugene rhymes with “blue jean.”

You’ll need a local joke to start your speech and instantly bond with the audience, reassuring them that your comments have been crafted exclusively for them. Make fun of the University of Oregon. Everybody’s doing it these days. Tell the crowd you’re in town to interview for a coaching job with Pat Kilkenny (rhymes with “kill Kenny”), but when you checked your contract, you discovered (pause for effect) there was no contract! The audience will eat it up.

You’ve long been interested in “death panels.” Oregon voters were the first in the nation to approve physician-assisted suicide, and most of the nation’s paneling comes from our lumber mills, so there might be a photo-op in that connection.

I hope you know you’re showing up during the High Holidays of Hippydom. Yesterday was Earth Day (rhymes with “birthday”) and last Tuesday was “420 Day” when people celebrate marijuana’s miscellaneous magics. Where else will people who love gardening smile when they use the term “weed?”

If you need to grab a hearty breakfast tomorrow morning, may I suggest Keystone Cafe? You’ll meet some really colorful people. Just ordering caffeine — you probably prefer tea — could add to your foreign policy resume. Some of those dudes are really “out there.” (They named it “Keystone” to scare away self-respecting cops. No joke.)

You’ll be talking about politics, so remember that ballot initiatives are important to us. We invented them. We’ve never attracted quite as much attention as California. We’re OK with that. But be careful. What Californians call a “proposition,” Oregonians call a “measure.” A proposition is a measure — unless you’re in the wrong part of Springfield after dark, where a proposition is still a proposition.

Your references to lipstick might mystify a Eugene audience. You won’t see many of us devoted to glamor and fashion, strutting in high heels and wearing lots of make-up — at least not many of our women.

We hope you enjoy your stay and return soon to Eugene. You’re a runner and you love the outdoors. Those are two things we’re known for here. Eugene Skinner settled here because of its beauty and bounty, and downtown got plotted between two buttes (rhymes with “disputes”).

We have a downtown that only a maternal-figure-living-with-the-remaining-legal-guardian-while-the-mother-is-doing-time-because-of-trumped-up-drug-charges could love. But we still have our buttes. Skinner Butte rises over downtown’s north edge. Spencer’s Butte marks the south of town.

We have magnificent running trails and we love to watch the great ones glide, barely touching the ground, rhythmically kissing and teasing the earth. Come back in July for our Butte-to-Butte road race, because everybody’s wondering whether you have plans to run. And there are some among us who would love for you to kiss our buttes.

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