Amid the daffodils and the strange beer, a college campus that offers everything.
EUGENE, Oregon – If ever a state got diaper rash, it would be Oregon, a land of Christmas tree farms and insurrections and great gobs of moss up and down the tree limbs.
Like a needy college kid, the moss here at the University of Oregon clings to nearly everything, and if you pause at a stoplight, or to consider the rising moon, the moss might get you too.
Best to keep moving is my point.
Like me, Eugene never dries out, though that may be where the similarity ends. Our very first morning, we discover our breakfast diner doesn’t serve bacon. I almost fled screaming, but with Smartacus and Rapunzel there, I didn’t want to seem closed minded, the way fathers often are.
My reward? A green omelet that looked like something our pet wolf couldn’t digest. I just smiled and overtipped, because, you know, it can’t be easy running a breakfast diner that serves soyage instead of sausage.
Not sure this is Smartacus’ future college, though there is much to attract him. The buildings seem built to last, and there were many of them. Lots of tall trees and rows and rows of daffodils.
The school mascot is the duck, and I tried to stir up some daffodil/duck joke — daffy duck! – though I couldn’t quite land it.
Yet, pretty sure that if the moss doesn’t overtake Oregon, the daffodils will. Leave it to a place like Oregon to be conquered by pretty yellow flowers. This is the kind of place where Judy Garland falls asleep from too much pollen.
We had a good trip, obviously. Minutes after landing, our hair became bed springs, thanks to so much moisture. The word Oregon, from the Klamath Tribe, apparently means “showers likely.” After the second day of constant mist, I was pretty sure the sun had completely flamed out.
That doesn’t mean it’d be a bad place to go to college. There’s a very authentic vibe here, a trippy hippy thing, mixed with lumberjack testosterone.
Naturally, craft beers are very big. Even the drinking water has a fruity flavor and a tiny head of foam.
At one such emporium, Rapunzel invested in a beer called “Dumpster Fire” (not kidding), and it confessed on the label to containing smoked chocolate and cayenne. I suspect, little flecks of rusted dumpster were in there too, for it was so hideous that even my Millennial wouldn’t drink it, and they’ll drink about anything.
Rapunzel almost spewed it – “Whew! Gross! Yuck!” was her immediate review, followed by convulsions. Curious, I tried it too, and I will confirm that it was grosser than gross. Far grosser. So I suspect “Dumpster Fire” will be a big hit with the young-’uns.
Difficult to discern what will be popular anymore, isn’t it? I find the young-’uns’ music to be unlistenable and their non-bacon diet to be kind of bland, though it’s funny how they have a thing for pork belly and fried chicken, in spite of their frequent organic tendencies.
Despite appearances, I’m pretty old school, so we found this oasis called The Excelsior, an old inn that serves rib-eyes and prawns wrapped in bacon, which I’m sure violated some sort of local anti-bacon ordinance.
It was there, at this Victorian inn, that we met the university’s Dean of Cocktails, a dude named Matt, and we warmed our hands on extra-dry martinis, a little dirty, mostly because I like growling to strangers: “A little dirty, please.”
We had fun though; Rapunzel travels well and always makes trips like this a blast. I will acknowledge that a whole different trip apparently takes place after I conk out at night. When I wake up, I find empty cans of White Claw and boxes half full of Insomnia Cookies, the all-night bakers that deliver warm cookies at ungodly hours, at ungodly prices, to college kids bundled in their daddy’s money.
I will say the University of Oregon makes a very nice first impression, even with a small contingent of students on campus — maybe 20%. It was a pleasure to see their smiles and their cartoonish teen postures.
One afternoon, we peeked through the fence as the university’s softball team prepped before game, and the players were all wiggly, like first-graders, and couldn’t keep their hands off their own pony tails. Everything about playing softball again was new and exciting.
In short, I think this is the college for me, even if Smartacus chooses someplace else. It’s the Versailles of the Pacific Northwest, a symbol of beauty and prestige, with the faint scent of running shoes. If you’re wondering about the athletic facilities, yes, they have a few and they’re pretty nice.
Wonder if the football team needs an option quarterback like me? Or the marching band an old guy with a tarnished horn (I also sing)? Or if the iconic Voodoo Doughnuts needs a yeast man?
See, I really am a Renaissance man.
Famously, this was the campus where they shot “Animal House,” the best recruitment poster college has ever had. I didn’t spot Dean Wormer, but it wouldn’t be such a longshot to see him come around a corner arguing with Donald Sutherland about Bluto’s latest stunt.
At fictional Faber College, the motto was “Knowledge Is Good,” and though that’s a little over my head, I find it tough to argue with.
“If Friday Night Lights is a parable of internal migration, Animal House is the tale of the immigrant’s first year in the New World,” one critic of the movie explained.
I don’t get that either.
Yet, I know that college – like knowledge — is good. That much I know for sure, for I attended one long ago on a snowy prairie campus in Iowa, and still had the time of my life (at least up till then).
Learned a lot too – how to shoot craps, how to find your socks in a strange bed at 4 a.m., the best way to heat chili without a stove… all life skills that I would use later.
And that was just first semester.
For, college is as good as life gets, really.
And I think we’ve found a keeper.
Our St. Patrick’s gin & tonic bash has been pushed back to March 18, a Thursday. Sorry for the change. Responders from our original date will get first dibs (I’ll send RSVPs by Friday). If we wind up with extra openings, I’ll let you know in Saturday’s column. Thanks for your patience. Meanwhile, taking suggestions for more hikes, preferably on wide, uncongested trails with adjacent picnic areas that would allow a post-hike Happy Hour. Please send suggestions to letters@ChrisErskineLA.com. Cheers!