Mrs. G. recently talked to an old college friend, a fellow University of Oregon Duck. When Mrs. G's friend graduated, she never left Eugene. She was captivated by the sleepy, liberal, creative little city that smells of reefer, ylang ylang smothered sweat and a yeasty brewery. Her friend teaches modern dance for pleasure and waits tables for cash. Eugene is in this woman's blood.
Mrs. G. loved her time in Eugene, but she never intended to stay. Her sophomore year, she unfastened the top button of her oxford cloth shirt and had a brief affair with hippiedom. She quit shaving, tie dyed nearly all of her white cotton clothing and pretended to like Greek Retsina wine even though she actually thought it tasted like full strength Pine-Sol. She would gag it down to appear sophisticated when she rapped with other intellectuals and purported to absolutely know George Eliot was not a man. I mean, who didn't know that. And yes, of course, she venerated Samual Becket. Waiting for Godot...what the FRICK? a masterpiece! In 365 days, she had barely choked down four cubes of tofu. She refused to shove her white ass into a dashiki. She slunk off campus to eat bacon in shame.
Mrs. G. was a bogus hippie, a less than so so wannabe.
The defining moment that laid bare her Bohemian pretense took place at a cast party off campus. The party was thrown by a graduate student, and Mrs. G. remembers the thrill of entering what at the time felt dangerously like adult territory. The party took place in a rickety, white bungalow with red Christmas lights around the front door and a Jamaican flag in the window. Mrs. G. poured herself a plastic cup of Retsina and drummed her fingers to Bob Marley. She be jammin'.
Maybe an hour into the party, the host, Leo, suggested that everyone gather around the room and sit in a circle to talk, really talk. Mrs. G. struck a serious pose (chin leaning on hand, knitted eyebrows) and took her place on the hardwood floor. Leo asked his guests to share their future dreams, their, Mrs. G. can hardly bear to write this, castles in the air. When you have a room of young, eager theater students, they will throw down to discuss their favorite subject: themselves. But Leo, a cool cat to be sure, had a solid plan to keep the conversation on track. From behind his back he pulled out a talking stick.
For anyone who grew up east of Oregon, a talking stick is simply a stick often decorated with beads and feathers that were probably purchased at Michaels. The deal with a talking stick is that you can only talk when the talking stick is in your hands. Get it? Talking. Stick. A Native American Tradition, the talking stick was originally used by some tribes in council meetings to keep the chief from being interrupted.
It was not lost on Mrs. G. that there was not a chief in this group of privileged, pale faced kids, nary a Native American to be found. She was embarrassed to be part of this scene. She was concerned about being smited by a Native American god. This was her first encounter with a talking stick. Her only prior experience with any stick involved daring her grandmother to "make her" rake the leaves and being soundly whipped with one in the backyard.
There is no way to put this kindly—Mrs. G. thought the talking stick was a crock, a deep dished crock. She struggled to keep her eye rolling and snorting in check. She left the party before Leo blessed the crowd with a smudge stick.
Mrs. G. suspects that we've all had moments in our lives, snapshot crossroads when we know full well it's time to quit faking, time to shake our heads and say, "Uh uh...I think I'll pass."
The talking stick was a line she could not cross. It was just too much.
Two days later, she shaved her legs and, determined to have no reliable, bankable skill set, changed her major from theater to English.