Friday, January 1, 2010

Oregon my Alma Mater

[Not a writing blog, but rather an appreciation of my favorite place on the day the Ducks play in the ROSE BOWL (against the team I hate most in the whole US, no less, though I can conjure pretty nasty venom for USC—the anti-Oregon)]

I grew up in northern Idaho, which seems a funny place to start a blog about Oregon, but there it is. Idaho only has a handful of Universities, and since I'm not Mormon, that limits the four year options to about 4, or did in 1984 when I graduated high school. Boise State is a city college—city colleges serve a fabulous function for certain things—they inevitably have great business programs, and a few others, but they are rarely what a Freshman is really seeking for 'going to college' (that's a gross stereotype—I know college students who've LOVED Portland State (where I got my master's degree) or Wayne State (the Detroit city college we sometimes collaborate with through my job), and even Boise State... but think like a 17 year old choosing colleges—Boise State did NOT make my list). Neither did Idaho State (were there only three 4-year schools back then besides the Mormon options? I guess those were the only two I actually bothered to cancel out)... And then the University of Idaho... in my home town...

The University of Idaho is a great school for engineering. It is a strong land grant university, so nearly all of the earth sciences are strong. But I wanted to major in Psychology. Psychology at Idaho is human factors. *gags* -- not the PART of psychology I like. But worse than that... something in me knew that to BECOME ME, I had to get away and start fresh.

So my mother and I began the careful dance of where I would be permitted to go. She wanted me within driving distance. I wanted to go someplace FUN.

I seems like University of Washington may have been canceled out, though I don't remember if it was because it was in Seattle (which scared my mother—all cities did) or if it is because Washington drivers are the worst in the world. *coughs* (joking. Sort of—I've lived on two Washington borders and still hold the stereotype, so there you go). Washington State had the same 'too close to home' as UI, but with out of state tuition tacked on.

I also wanted a good school, with a strong program in my major (oddly—I was always sort of forward thinking, in spite of my ability to play hard). We got a list of schools and the ranking of psychology programs (I remember begging for Cornell about this time—no go) and there, at number seven, was a school only 350 miles away. The University of Oregon.

Now I was already an Oregon fan—we'd taken trips to the Oregon Coast half a dozen times, still a favorite place—Cannon Beach in particular. The Columbia River Gorge with its water falls tumbling down out of the Cascades where the Columbia River has carved its way through is the prettiest place in existence in most seasons. So I knew I loved the STATE.

My mother suggested Willamette University—an option very popular with my friend Sharyl, but I think that was only because she was going to Mt. Holyoke so was thinking the small private thing was in some way superior... I was game to look. It was after all, in Oregon.

So I applied... University of Oregon, Willamette, and as back up, University of Idaho. All three sent acceptance. In April I got a letter from Oregon offering a scholarship that would apply to my 'Out of State' tuition for as long as I maintained a 3.25. That seemed doable and made me feel even fuzzier toward them... and in May we went to look at the Oregon schools.

It's possible my mother made a tactical error. She REALLY wanted me to go to Willamette, I think because it was tiny and Salem is mellow (fall asleep mellow). But in May, they were out of school. It was pretty and quaint, and the faculty we talked to were nice. But the squirrels just weren't the level of excitement I was thinking of.

We drove the 30 miles farther south to Eugene.

They were having a festival of some sort on their Student Union lawn. There was live music, food booths, dancing (including the half naked men I've mentioned—it was spring, after all), tie-dyes... the campus is closed off to cars and on the main street was a graph depicting the spending of the Reagan Administration. The defense budget ran the entire block. Education was about 3 feet long. My liberal brain that had never found footing in Idaho was IN HEAVEN. There was never another doubt in my mind as to where I would head in September.

Eugene is known as 'Track Town' for good reason. Nike was invented there (in a garage with a waffle iron for runner Steve Prefontaine in the early 70s) and it's true that there are runners everywhere—I was one the whole time I lived there.  But best, I found people I loved, who let me be me (or possibly among whom I found the bravery to be me), and more importantly, who shared my values.

[Adams Hall, I will do the Bird for you at half time--join me, will you?]

Oregon is GREEN in every way. The rain keeps it lush—at least everywhere west of the Cascades, but besides that, Oregon had the first ever bottle bill, and an attitude... here's an example. My husband the curmudgeon... every time we went to the coast, would take a baggie in case we found litter so we could pick it up... there is a pride to the state that causes people to want to keep in beautiful. When we moved to Michigan and made our first visit to Lake Michigan I was SHOCKED that people could let a beach have litter like that. I'd always taken for granted that beaches were 'above that baseness'.

The Pacific Northwest is also anti-material... when I lived in Oregon people were 'looked DOWN on' for caring too much about 'stuff'. Things like nature and other people took precedence. Man, I miss it.

When I was a college student, Oregon didn't have particularly successful sports teams. I had hopes for basketball, because Don Munson had done FABULOUS things with the Idaho Vandals (in fact I went to high school with his daughter) and he moved to Oregon when I did (I was accused of following him, but I'm sure it was the other way around). I got the impression though, that he didn't have the resources to make a go in the PAC 10.

Football (for me) was always about the tail gaters... I know. I'm bad. But that was the deal. My Autzen Stadium memories really center on the two Grateful Dead shows I saw there...

But in the last decade Oregon has put forward a couple of GREAT Football teams. And living 3 blocks from Michigan Stadium (the largest college stadium in the country with a capacity of greater than half the city size107,000 and growing), I have gained a little appreciation for college football—so when MY TEAM is in the ROSE BOWL it is a BIG DEAL! [for the record, when the Ducks have played Michigan, I am ALWAYS a DUCK]

I confess to only knowing the dirty lyrics to the Oregon Fight song... I've always been a Tart, I suppose. But I will be cheering for my Ducks today, and missing Oregon... the place, and the many friends I still have there.

[And Jeff, I will be drinking my Oakshire Espresso Stout brewed in Eugene while I watch—full Oakshire Brew review tomorrow or Sunday...]

What does Ohio have? So far as I can tell, a pretty good Zoo in Toledo is all they've got to recommend them. GO DUCKS! Ohio... you are NO Oregon.


Liz said...

sorry Tart--we pulled for your Ducks but it was not their day for a victory.....You have a lot of company in the "Ohio State Sucks" club around here I'd say.

Watery Tart said...

So sad... *sniffs*

Appreciate the support from Chez Wench, though!