Sign o' the Times

Oh sweet heavenly relief! An amicable solution has been found to Portland’s most pressing question of the day: What to do with the “Made in Oregon" sign – that quintessential symbol woven into the very fabric of our collective urban experience?

According to news reports, Commissioner Randy Leonard and University President Dave Frohnmayer have reached a rapprochement. Let me put that in a more folksy patois: After having laid their male appendages on the table to be measured for relative length, said members have been tucked back into the respective pants of those to whom they are attached.

Background: Having completed an admirable renovation of the building that serves to prop the beloved sign within our view, the University of Oregon wanted to change its text to read "University of Oregon." (I imagine they would have liked to include the Nike swoosh as well). Randy Leonard was taken aback by the affrontery of it. He made it his personal business-- and our civic business--to fight against the proposed blemish on our urban vista. To ensure the status quo, Leonard was prepared to declare eminent domain, condemn the sign as civic blight, and pay the University upwards of $500,000 -- all in the face of a huge economic crisis and promises to scratch up another $15 million so we can have Major League Soccer in this town.

The solution upon which the parties agreed today is that the sign will simply read “Oregon.” Of course, I’m disappointed that it’s not going to read “Oh, Oregon!” But I'm hugely relieved that the City of Portland isn’t going to spend half a million dollars just to preserve the text that has adorned the beloved landmark since the last century (by which I mean 1995, when it was changed from "White Stag").

5 comments:

Allison Harris said...

"Oh, Oregon!" would be so ambigous, though. Think about it. It could be wistful or exclamatory or startled or like a woman being seduced in the breakroom at work. Then again, I guess all of those things would be better than if you left the exclamation point off so it read like, "Oh...Oregon."

Lastly, I think "Oh, Oregon!" would give everyone one more reason to call us California's Canada.

Anonymous said...

I think a more Ed Ruscha ultra obvious but poetic take like, "That's Oregon" would have been better.... but poetry is a rare thing in neon signs.

Now it seems like a remedial geography/cartography lesson.

I think Randy Leonard needs a neon sign above his house with his outine surrounding the words "Political Grandstanding."

MightyToyCannon said...

I like the image of "Oh, Oregon!" being accompanied with a swoon. But I also like, "Oh...Oregon." The beat in there leaves room for a shrug and/or an eye roll. "That's Oregon" could also be accompanied by a shrug to imply the next line, "Eh, whatcha gonna do?"

The Ed Ruscha-esque idea is fabulous. Wouldn't it have been very cool (and Portlandish) to turn the sign into a public art installation in which the outline of the state and the leaping stag would be preserved, but the text could change from time to time? Not with slogans or boosterisms (e.g., "Green is Good!"), mind you, but with cryptic/poetic non sequiturs -- an exercise in semiotics within the urban landscape. I'll bet someone like Tad Savinar would have jumped on a project like that.

Bob said...

I sorta like it, but couldn't it be in red and black, with maybe a big pumpkin instead of a deer? And maybe the words could say, "Leave it to the Beavers."

MightyToyCannon said...

Bob, now you're just trying to turn the fight into a three way competition for sign superiority.