EUGENE, Oregon – I have a giggly teenage crush on this place. If it gave good back rubs, I might run off with it, have a short and inappropriate relationship, make a few memories.
As it is, I must leave Eugene behind, along with this cheeky son I love. Does life need to be so damn complicated?
I knew I was smitten in the second quarter of the Ducks game, way up high in this jazzy-spaceship stadium — technically the nosebleeds, where the real people sit.
There’s a guy who thinks he’s the Tony Soprano of football — a fat, self-loving Italian dancing the Watusi (you know the type).
Then a bunch of young alums pour in and the party is on, led by a bossy, button-nosed blonde with lots of attitude, yet a real ringleader and an eager host.
There is no energy quite like football energy. Baseball is rich and resonant and touches the corners of my beat-up old heart.
Baseball is Brahms; football is the Rolling Stones, and we already know I’m of pagan values. According to my mom, I was singing bar songs at the age of 14 months, mostly polkas. Football just fits me.
We’d pre-gamed with our new pals, Caroline and Muffin (that’s his name, Muffin, though sometimes he goes by Mick).
Their tailgate was great, and there were Bloody Mary’s (my favorite vegetable) and snacks and sandwiches everywhere you looked.
The Oregon mascot, Puddles, waddled by with a small pep band playing Earth, Wind & Fire. No doubt, Puddles is America’s greatest mascot. Football fits him like a two-beer buzz.
Year in and year out, Puddles is the real rock star of this entire operation. Must be his edgy joie de vivre, his insouciance. Or is he a her? How do you tell with Ducks? Do you just come right out and ask?
In any case, at the next family wedding, I’m hiring the University of Oregon pep band to play nothing but Earth, Wind & Fire, just after Puddles performs the ceremony (hopefully working in that schtick with the trash can).
So now we’re way up here in the nosebleeds of Section 25. I can smell God’s socks, no kidding, but the best part is that you get such an overview of this enormous stadium and the surrounding forests primeval. Crimson and butterscotch trees off in the distance.
This whole place feels like a Peanuts holiday special.
And there you have it, 54,000 people having the time of their lives. Down on the field, the Oregon football team is consistently good for a change.
At the end of the third quarter, by tradition, they play “Shout,” as covered by Otis Day & the Knights from “Animal House,” a piece of cinema that stands the test of time and is valuable in the sense that, what was once considered innocent and snarky and sexy, is now criminalized by the Victorian scolds who have taken over social media.
At least that’s how I view it. Obviously, I’m kind of a dope when it comes to the moral sciences. Besides, I’ve been on the road so long, my body might actually be 10% Ethanol.
Point is, when “Shout” comes on — as visceral a song as there ever was, as representative of youthiness and glee as you’ll ever find — the entire stadium begins a cultish mass polka.
So, sneer all you want at this bit if hedonism, but what is missing from the current debates over our kids’ mental health and social isolation is the value of public displays of affection like this … primarily mass dancing and laughter.
That’s my view, anyway.
“A little bit lower now, a little bit lower now…”
Such a Halloween weekend. We didn’t have a bad meal, though the service took forever. Who cares? Our servers were overworked and apologetic over the long waits.
I explained that there was either one guy in the kitchen, working frantically to get the food out. Or 12 dudes standing around smoking a lot of weed.
We overtipped anyway.
One server, a rock climber, insisted I feel her calluses to prove she was actually a rock climber.
Yeah, right there, can you feel those ridges…?
At Sunday brunch, we ate at a cozy little joint, Agate Alley, perhaps the best find of the weekend (thanks, Smartacus!). Salmon Benedict. Veggie Benedict. Brisket smothered in yolk.
“And a stack of the pancakes for the table, please,” Rapunzel tells the server.
Who orders pancakes “for the table?” My kids do, and for once I think I might’ve raised them right.
The pancakes were perhaps the most-decadent things I’ve ever seen, bathed in blueberries, rum sauce and crumbled cheese. Seemed to whisper-breathe your name.
Flounder, come here. Otter, over here…
In three days, I put on the notorious “Freshman 15.”
Then we packed and fled while we still had our original livers.
A friend warned: “Once you leave them, you’ll get the blah’s all over again.”
Naaaaa, no way. I don’t get the blahs, except when football season ends.
I’m not the only one either. The day after Super Bowl, my buddy Miller actually cries.
Yet, this long Parents’ Weekend is definitely over. I know this because I’m drinking motel room coffee from a Best Western cup that smells faintly of clams, at a frantic truck stop that passes for a town.
Santa Nella (near Merced) might be the most bizarre place I’ve ever been, though I did take some comfort from the famed Andersen’s pea soup, inside the biggest piece of kitschy windmill architecture I’ve ever seen.
We scratch that off the bucket list and move on down the highway.
Sit back, White Fang, we’re going home, baby. Back to the too-quiet house in the too-quiet ’burbs … going home.