Mad Dog: Slugging It Out in Oregon

Slugs aren't pretty. Politics isn't pretty. Therefore electing a Slug Queen must be one of the unprettiest sights us higher order mammals can conjure up in our imagination, which as we all know is the only thing that separates us from other animals. Well, that and the desire to watch Baywatch Nights. I'm here to tell you that it's all true.Actually, I can't vouch for Baywatch Nights, since the truth is I've only watched a half hour of it one time. That's how long it took me to realize that they were more interested in ghosts and demons and spooky stuff like that than they were in wholesome entertainment like beaches, surfing and lots of well-filled bikinis. Hell, the demon who was possessing the 14 year-old girl on the episode I saw never once ran down the beach in slow motion. On the other hand, I can attest to the glory of the 15th Annual Competition and Coronation of the Slug Queen because -- yes! -- I saw it with my own eyes.[NOTE: To be technically correct, it's actually the S.L.U.G. Queen. It stands for Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod, though I'm convinced they made that up after the fact. But to save periods -- which are reportedly about to be placed on the endangered punctuation list along with semi-colons, hyphens, and those curly brackets nobody knows what to do with -- I'm going to stick with the vernacular, "Slug".] The Slug Queen is to Eugene, Oregon what Miss America is to the United States. Except luckily none of the Slug contestants wore two-piece bathing suits like they're letting them do in the Miss America contest this year. It shouldn't surprise you that there's a Slug Queen. After all, somewhere in this fine country of ours there's a Miss [Fill in the blank] to meet every need. There's Miss Better Boy Tomato, Little Miss Oilwell, Miss Hot Tub De-scaler, and probably even Miss E. Coli. There used to be a Tobacco Festival Queen in Richmond, Virginia but everyone stopped entering the contest when word got around that the winner couldn't get a date afterwards because guys were afraid of getting cancer from her, and that was in the days before we were aware of the dangers of second-hand dating.It's fitting that the Slug Queen reigns in Eugene. This is, after all, the city that has a Saturday Market filled with genuine hippies coming in from surrounding communes who haven't seen a calendar or a hairdresser since 1970. It's a city where more people believe Jerry Garcia's still alive than think Elvis is. It's a city that places stickers near the crosswalks explaining that when the "man walking" lights up you can cross and when the "orange palm" lights up you should stop, yet has the presence of mind not to do it in Braille. And it's the city that's home to Oregon Yurtworks, a company dedicated to making modern versions of the circular Mongolian home, hopefully without the yak skins.Five people vied for the title of Slug Queen this year, and two of them were men. This shouldn't come as a shock since a recent survey by Carvel (the people who make ice cream whales but -- gasp! -- not slugs) found that when making a wish before blowing out the candles on their birthday cake, 61 percent of all boys younger than age 10 who wished to become superheroes wanted to be Catwoman. Really.The contestants for this year's Slug Queen included Slugareina (who did a slimy variation of the Macarena), Birtha (the token pregnant contestant), Princess Paulina (a guy in a wheelchair), Visca and Gastropia Nudibranchia (Siamese slugs attached at the dress), and Slugmistress Bagonda, a 6'4" guy in drag who won the crown this year after having failed in two previous attempts.Lest you think this is all fun and games, the Slug Queen does much more than strut around downtown Eugene one night in August wearing a short skirt made of duct tape (as Bagonda did). No, official duties include appearing at the opening reception of the Mayor's Art Show, riding in the Eugene Celebration parade, appearing at the Parade Awards Ceremony, presiding over next year's competition (as the previous winners, called Old Queens, did this year), and spending the rest of his/her life living it down.The competition itself is short and sweet. They're judged in three categories: costume, question, and talent. It's over in about 90 minutes. If only the Federal Election Committee had been there they would have seen what a clean, simple system this is. Contrast this with the 2000 presidential campaign (only three years to Election Day, mark it on your calendars!) which was unofficially launched in Indianapolis recently when 1,200 people showed up at the Midwest Republican Leadership Conference and every one of them declared their candidacy. Just kidding. Actually it was only such exciting prospects as Dan Quayle, Steve Forbes, Lamar Alexander, and Alan Keyes that did. But at least they agreed on a campaign theme: "Deja Vu Into The 20th Century".Here's my proposal. I say we have the presidential candidates go to Eugene on Election Day, dress up in silly costumes, put on 3-minute talent skits, and answer one off-the-wall question posed to them by an old Slug Queen. Then we can all go to the polls -- or even better, raise our hands and scream -- and vote for the slimy candidate of our choice. Personally, I can't wait to see how Steve Forbes looks in a duct tape dress.

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