Welcome aboard the S.S. Salem Strange, Statesman Journal newspaper. You're late to the cruise, but it's good to see the paper finally sailing along with me and the many others who want to see this town set a course for Cool.
Embedded in a story by Tom Rastrelli, "What are Salem residents called? Governor, do you know?," we learned that Rastrelli will be writing regularly on a Keep Salem Weirder theme.
Download What are Salem residents called? Governor, do you know?
"Keep Salem Weirder" will explore the unique culture of Salem and the Mid-Valley. If you know of a quirky group or little-known subculture, let me know. It's time to celebrate our community's idiosyncrasies.
I've got a couple of reactions. First, I agree with an online commenter:
Did this article just say that we shouldn't be compared to Portland, then straight up copy Portland's slogan?...
By contrast, Strange Up Salem uniquely sprouted from my fertile brain while I was on a dog walk in rural south Salem.
Which led me to start a campaign to strange up this town way back in April 2011 -- starting with some blog posts, evolving into a Salem Weekly Strange Up Salem column that had a 2013-15 run, and continues as a marvelous Facebook page.
(Give it a Like; I love likes; I live for likes!)
Second, I think Rastrelli went over-the-top when he wrote these words:
Forget big sister Portlandia and Portlanders' claim on weird. It's time for little brother to rebel and claim a place at the table. Salem has culture. Salem is just as weird. Salem is weirder!
No, Salem isn't. At least, not in a good weird way.
Compared to Portland, Corvallis, Eugene, Ashland, Bend, and some other Oregon towns, Salem suffers from the dearth of a community culture of free-spirited energetic creativity, even though we have many individuals who manifest these desirable qualities.
So I hope Rastrelli doesn't limit himself to praising pleasingly weird/strange people in this town. He, and the Statesman Journal in general, also should advocate for a community-wide environment that fosters open-mindedness, experimentation, and enhancement of Salem's human, natural, and cultural resources.
Stu Templeman, another commenter on his story, had something similar in mind.
Salem's culture is limited by the City Councils lack of forward thinking. Culture would be having food trucks or carts through out the area without cumbersome resrictions. Culture would be having at least one parade (remember the "Rainmakers Day" parade?)
Culture would be closing down one block of High St between State St and Ferry St and filling the block with outdoor seating on Friday or Saturday nights or when events occur at the Elsinore and having stores stay open late. Culture would be inviting musicians or bands to play at River Front Park more often.
Culture would be having a good looking "Welcome to Salem" sign or flower bed like the one you see entering Keizer. Salem is the capital city but you would not know it because, well because, it lacks culture.
Being a citizen activist (the Mayor and some city councilors would prefer the term "pain in the butt"), I can confidently say that many City of Salem officials and corporate types in this town -- Salem Hospital/Salem Health, for example -- are excessively rigid, up tight, and fearful of citizen involvement.
It's tough to have a culture of creativity in a town where the civic leaders discourage free speech and independent thinking.
Lastly, I took Rastrelli to task in my own comment on his story, which focused on coming up with a name for residents of Salem to call themselves.
I am astounded that the Statesman Journal failed to do a bit of Googling (or reading of Salem Weekly) and realize that the obviously correct name is "Salemian." I made this clear in a 2014 "Strange Up Salem column, "We are Salemians, not Salemites."
Which started out with:
"I have a dream. A cause. Something offering meaning to my life. A goal that proclaims, 'This man fights for what is right.'
I hereby proclaim that I devote myself to…
Making 'Salemian' the word used to describe the people of Salem, not the horrible, distasteful, disgusting, so-wrong 'Salemite.' Why am I obsessed about doing this? Ah, let us count the persuasive ways."
(Read my piece for the ways.)
Yet this marvelous term, which echoes the oh-so-familiar "Oregonian" (adding "ian" to the name of a locale) somehow was omitted from the survey. Shame! No more... Shame, shame, shame!
But, ah, no matter. "Salemian" shall rise from the ashes of the Statesman Journal's disregard and, one glorious day, become the recognized way of referring to residents of this town.
As I said in my column:
"I am not out to rewrite the history books, though this sure would be a cool thing to do if I ever develop magical powers. I recognize that Salemite is part of our city’s heritage. From now on the word can be regarded as we look upon a phrase like 'ladies suffering from the vapours' —an archaic reference meriting a smile."
Now, after many years of daily meditation, Tai Chi practice, and other forms of spiritual development, I am hugely proud of how egoless and humble I've become.
Don't be deceived by the fact that this blog has my last name in the title, and I have another churchless blog where I also talk about myself all the time, a personal Facebook page, and a Strange Up Salem Facebook page where I plug my blog posts, plus a Twitter account.
My chastising of Rastrelli for failing to mention my published call to arms for "Salemian" to be the nickname of Salem residents rather than "Salemite," which is the second freaking highest Google search result for "Salem Oregon denonym" arose from pure selfless motivations.
Anyway, I'm sincerely glad that Tom Rastrelli and the Statesman Journal are doing their Keep Salem Weirder thing. I just had to keep it real and share my initial reactions to this.