Forgive me for taking a little detour from baking and other domestic adventures, but today I have to stand up for my proud, pasty, liberal-leaning, Birkenstock-wearing, Pacific Northwest Heritage.
I absolutely could not ignore the front-page below-the-fold article in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal about my hometown’s yearly beauty pageant: where women (and sometimes men) come together to compete for the glorious title of Slug Queen (i.e., the Queen of the “Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod“).
Yes, that’s right, the Slug Queen — that goodwill ambassador that just about perfectly sums up the off-beat Northwest charm of my beloved hometown, Eugene Oregon — was actually featured in Journal. I bet Eugenians everywhere are gagging at the thought of their quirky Queen appearing in the same pages as the uber-conservative musings Karl Rove, but I personally think this is a great day for Eugenians everywhere!
I can’t remember the first time I saw the Slug Queen, probably because I was too young to remember. But she was always the highlight of the yearly Eugene Celebration Parade, usually sporting a slug-colored green gown that would be right at home in a Renaissance festival and/or 1980s Madonna video.
Slug Queen style usually walked the line between elegant foppery and ugly-yet-strangely-attractive-librarian; I seem to remember lots of frills, furbelows, and rhinestone studded cat-eyed glasses appearing in the mix. The year that my sewing teacher, Liz Deck, was crowned Queen Zinnia, was an especially proud year for me, and I watched with glee as she paraded down Eugene’s downtown streets, attended by the Slug Court.
The Slug Queen and accompanying giant slug float always trail lots of iridescent green paper “slime” during the parade. So thank goodness for Eugene’s Rep. Peter Defazio, who always follows the Slugs pushing a big wheelbarrow and shoveling up the “slime.” The Journal has a great photo of Defazio on “slime scooper” duty.
Of course, when I was in high school I was “too cool” for the Celebration’s Parade, and thought that The Slug Queen was, horror of horrors, “really dumb.” But now I miss it. The Slug Queen sums up everything that’s great (and, okay, sometimes a bit aggravating) about the Pacific Northwest—the odd, fabricated yet cherished rituals; the abundant creativity; the “we really don’t care if other people think it’s cool, because we like it” attitude.
Check out the photos in the Journal slideshow. Pure Eugene, pure Pacific Northwest, pure oddness.