If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in northern Oregon, you’ve probably seen a car with a bumper sticker saying “Keep Portland Weird.” It may have been accompanied by a “Coexist” sticker, something related to biking, or maybe even a Kerry/Edwards sticker.
Yesterday, I saw a sticker saying “Keep Salem Lame.” And I looked at that car and sighed and agreed with it one hundred percent.
Salem is pretty lame.
We have some department stores, but they’re kinda small, and they overshadow any boutique shops that happen to be downtown. We have a couple good restaurants (or so I’ve heard – we haven’t really gotten out much), but they’re outnumbered by the fast food and the Olive Gardens and the IHOPs of the dining world. It has a very nice riverfront park and walk. It has the capitol building, which is pretty neat in a Soviet-minimalist sort of way. But for the most part, it’s just a conglomeration of chains and franchises and government employees. Salem is the city you visit if you’re in McMinnville or Corvallis and need new jeans. Salem is where you go on Black Friday because the entire city will be on sale. Salem is cafeteria cheese pizza – not very tasty, but if you’re craving pizza, it’ll suffice.
(The cat can’t sleep in my lap while I’m typing, so she’s settled down on my tax papers. Sigh.)
Luckily, Salem is within range of KUFO 101.1, Portland’s rock station. I don’t know any of the DJs and I’m embarrassed to call in to request anything, but they sure bring a healthy dose of awesome to the area. They play a good mix of current stuff, like the new 3 Days Grace songs, and older stuff like “Iron Man” and old-school Metallica. I particularly enjoy it because I usually recognize everything they play, which makes me feel Hip and In and Culturally Attuned and other such things.
Plus it’s kind of a cultural experience. Being a rock station, it’s very heavily male-oriented – January was their “Manuary” contest, and the prize was a toolbox. The DJs talk like Bill and Ted, and the callers are usually either stoned or bored at work. One morning the hosts played back the prank calls they used to make to people like Ted Turner. They are those guys you wouldn’t want your daughter to date, but it’s okay, because they’re just a voice on the radio.
But I’m learning what to say when I call in. It’ll happen. They will think I’m one of them, because I will have the lingo down. The DJs address callers with a variety of terms: “brother” is common, sometimes shortened to “brah;” I’ve heard “champ” several times, and even “championship.” Guys are generally referred to as “my man” and girls (if any happen to call) are “baby girl,” shortened to something like “babygur.” You have to talk like you’re a surfer, and you must be prepared to take a joke. If you wanted to, though, you could probably debate with them over the musical merits of Hinder or Creed, and no matter how strongly you disagreed with them, they would probably thank you for calling and tell you to have a nice life, brother. So it shouldn’t be too scary.
Now I just need their number.