We got back yesterday from six days in Kentucky—the annual reunion of Laurel’s family at her sister’s home outside of Lexington. Lynn and Randy were great hosts, as always, managing to keep many children, adults, dogs, and cats fed, entertained, and under enough control so nobody got seriously hurt. I did get scratched by the “good kitty,” which is a smidgen of what I would have gotten if I had ever met up with the “bad kitty” (never could get their real names straight; all that mattered was keeping their personalities straight).
As soon as we arrived in our rental car at the motel where we were staying, some Kentuckians came over and asked us what we thought of the new license plate, which apparently had just been released, and wasn’t on many cars yet (we had a late model Dodge). These guys looked like they were on a Memorial Day golfing outing, minus the wives, and seemed harmless enough, but “Deliverance” memories always pop up in my brain when I hear a southern accent in a semi-deserted parking lot.
So I tried to say something nice about the license plate, even though it clearly was the most bizarre and freaky plate I’d ever seen. Here’s a press release about it, which includes a photo. However, with a few beers under their belt, these guys weren’t shy about expressing their own hugely negative opinions, which fits with the general reaction of Kentuckians. Oregon may have lots of problems, and our license plate isn’t the greatest, but we sure are lucky we don’t have to drive around with a smiley face on our bumpers.
In the same neighborhood, Laurel had an ego-building experience when she got honked at by some good ol’ boys as she was crossing the road on her way to a convenience store. She figured that with her back turned, and her long blond hair, they might have taken her for one of the dancers at the nude nightclub (“Solid Gold”, if I recall the name correctly) next door to our motel. Regardless, it’s nice to get some wolf-whistles and wolf-honks when you’re, um, older than you used to be when you got such attention more regularly. I didn’t do as well, though the guy who was missing some of his front teeth in the Subway shop we stopped at on our way from the Cincinatti/Northern Kentucky airport did look at me with a little more interest than I would have liked (there goes that “Deliverance” banjo music in my mind again).
It was nice to see Kentucky, a beautiful state in its own right, but Oregon really is something special. Flying home on Delta Tuesday evening, we passed by Mt. Hood right at summit level, with Mt. Rainier, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Saint Helens standing proud on the right side of the plane. Oregon mountains put Kentucky mountains to shame, no doubt about that. And the benefit of Oregon land use laws are equally evident when you compare flying into Cincinnati with flying into Portland. Much less suburban sprawl here, compared to there. So its crazy that so many people in Oregon want to trash our greatest asset, this state’s natural environment, just to build more crap that could be built anywhere. Oregon should be founding its economic recovery on our greatest assets: nature, beauty, wilderness, conservation, a sustainable ethic. Unfortunately, few people here have the breadth and scope of internal vision to match the external vision we saw from 12,000 feet up.