After returning to Florence in 1996, I spent the next 20 years living in Old Town across from the Port of Siuslaw boardwalk. We grew accustomed to the arrival of the Davis Carnival during the annual Rhododendron Festival and living so close that we could practically high-five riders on the Tilt-o-Whirl without leaving the couch.
The banging together of carnival rides late Wednesday night signaled the beginning of four days of craziness that transforms our quiet community of about 8,000 into a beautiful example of controlled chaos shared by upwards of 20,000 diverse visitors.
Since becoming editor at Siuslaw News in September (Yes, I’m still the editor), one of my goals has been to make a more personal connection as a newspaper with our community. In Wednesday’s issue, I took the opportunity to open up a bit to our readers about one of the things I’m most thankful for and why…
Though it’s been 35 years since I arrived in Oregon as a high school sophomore, when people ask where I moved from, I still whisper when I say, “California.”
I do so in jest (mostly), secure in the knowledge that revealing my California roots — however withered — won’t suddenly bring nearby conversations to an embarrassing halt, leaving cricket chirps in its place.
Part of the reason is because, more often than not, those around me are also originally from California.
Seriously, folks. I’ve heard you whispering.
But recently, I’ve come to realize there’s a different reason I whisper when it comes to explaining where I was in relation to where I am now.
Yesterday, I wrote about the obligation we all share in pursuing our weirdness, and how the city of Portland in my home state of Oregon has an unofficial slogan I feel is a noble pursuit: Keep Portland Weird. For those of you who have read my last few posts, you’ve probably figured out I actually spent some time in the City of Weirdness last week. If you haven’t read them, I’m sorry — but it’s too late to issue a spoiler alert.
That being said, during my stay I encountered what was easily the most annoying door in the history of hotel rooms. And as someone who actually read “The History of Hotel Room Doors” by Robert Hookey, you can trust my judgement.
While it would’ve been easy to react by demanding the hotel to bring a can of WD-40 to my room (for the door hinges, jeez…), or move me to a different room, I decided to take my own advice and utilize my inner weirdness to keep things in perspective and deal with the situation with a laugh instead of a grumble. Continue reading That time an elephant gave birth in my hotel room
As an Oregonian who spent several years living in Portlandia, I feel the city’s unofficial mantra “Keep Portland Weird” is a noble pursuit. The world needs weird. Not the Donald Trump kind of weird, which is like a Stephen-King-horror-novel-with-a-terrifying-evil-clown-kind-of-weird.
No, I’m talking about a less volatile, better coiffed and more enjoyable kind of weirdness that helps us keep a fresh perspective on daily life.
Albert Einstein, Edgar Alan Poe, Leonardo da Vinci, Lucille Ball — all were geniuses in their own way who reminded us to see the world with wonderment by unapologetically pursuing their weirdness.
I’m no genius. I’m reminded of this every time I spend 5 minutes getting frustrated with the TV remote, then realize it’s the garage door opener — usually after the neighbor calls to tell me our Labrador is repeatedly being knocked unconscious. Though I’m no genius, I do consider myself weird. And so do others. Particularly my teenagers, who avoid eye contact whenever we’re in public because they’re afraid I’ll do something weird that will embarrass them.
After more than a decade of working in the high-pressure environment of our newsroom, where at any given moment you could find yourself surrounded by as many as two other journalists all typing at once, it takes a lot to get our adrenaline pumping.
In fact, we have been at the epi-center of the national spotlight three times here in Florence. Sure, two occasions came after being singled out as having the nation’s highest rate of … (yawn) … retirees.
But the third time involved REAL explosives.
And a dead whale.
And quite possibly an unlicensed demolitions expert going through a divorce. This would explain using half a ton of dynamite to dispose of a rotting whale carcass that washed ashore, and how one onlooker literally chewed the fat after being struck by a piece if flying whale blubber.
Hey, it was 1970! Whales didn’t have the safety features they have today! Even experts, with their fancy calculations for trajectory, explosive force, velocity, alcohol content, etc., couldn’t have anticipated a piece of whale fat, roughly the size of a Volkswagen Beetle, taking out an actual Volkswagen Beetle.
Because we are subjected to this kind of tension-filled atmosphere on a regular basis, last week, when a 27-foot-long Wienermobile rolled into town, we met it with the kind objectivity you’d expect from seasoned journalists who laugh in the face of high-velocity whale fat:
We immediately leaped from our chairs and simultaneously wedged ourselves in the doorway so tightly we had to be dislodge with a copy machine.
This left our editor with the difficult task of deciding who would cover this assignment. After taking into account experience, dedication and overall proximity to the door, she chose me to cover the giant Oscar Mayer Wienermobile. I have to admit, after seeing the size and scope of this story, I began to feel a little inadequate.
However, Wienermobile driver “Lots-of-Ketchup” Lisa assured me this reaction was very common.
She then took me on a tour of the Wienermobile, which can seat eight comfortably, or as many as 26 uncomfortably, depending on how strictly the seatbelt law is enforced in your area, particularly when it involves people riding on top of a 27-foot-long hot dog.
I know what you’re thinking:
How can I get a job like THAT?!?
OK, maybe it was just me.
But according to the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile website (www.hotdoggerblog.com), any college graduate who is “outgoing, creative, friendly, and who has an appetite for adventure” can be a candidate.
Having a good driving record also helps because, according to Lisa, in spite of its naturally aerodynamic design, handling a Wienermobile on the open road, and even proper waxing and buffing, takes practice, which is why drivers must attend special classes at “Hot Dog High,” and why, coincidentally, I am moving on to the next paragraph as quickly as possible, while this is still a family-friendly column.
I would like to thank Lisa and the folks at Oscar Mayer for including us on their national tour. I’d also like to thank them for avoiding fatty fillers in their hot dogs; the last time something 27 feet long and full of fat came to Florence, the results were explosive.
(You can write to Ned Hickson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or at the Siuslaw News at P.O. Box 10, Florence, OR, 97439, or visit his blog at nedhickson.wordpress.com)