You Have to Serve Somebody

Rename Kesey Square

Ken Kesey statue in kesey square

You have to ask yourself: Why such extreme prudence by our Eugene City Council when it comes to the official renaming of what everyone now calls Kesey Square?

And what was it that occasioned the flurry of letters to the City Council from the business community urging delay?

Was there something incipiently territorial perceived in that renaming, some slippery slope toward the official acceptance of public ownership, a perceived barrier to those still hoping to build over the square? Would the mere act of changing the name from Broadway Plaza to Kesey Square actually have such power? Some must have thought so.

They say naming is like a handle on a pan. In the old West, the saying went: “What’s your handle, partner?” In other words, what grabs that pan full of you and pulls it into mind?

Such naming turns out to be a natural part of thinking and shows up everywhere.

I remember my ninth-grade Spanish teacher asking me, “Como se llama usted, Geronimo?” What do you call yourself, Jerry? And I would answer dutifully, “Me llamo Geronimo, señora.” I call myself Jerry.

It was the same in French: “Je m’appelle?” And the good student would respond: I call myself, Jerome.

And so it became clear that a name was an appellation, meaning that something was being “called,” and that the act was a profound process of bringing that thing into presence and into mind.

A good test for the authenticity of that calling is when a name sticks, like Pig Pen in Peanuts or Kesey Square. George Bush, with no doubt special insight, called Karl Rove “Turd Blossom.” Let’s just take his word for it.

Bob Dylan won’t be going to Sweden this year, but if he stopped by Kesey Square, this is what he might sing:

“You can call me Wheezy, you can call me Deezy and you can call me Freezy,

If you want to make it easy, you can call me Kesey.

But, o’naza, don’t call me Broadway Plaza,

My name is Kesey Square.”

And then his chorus [where he takes it from the bridge]:

“But no matter what you say,

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed,

 You’re gonna have to serve somebody

 Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord

 But you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

The large roomful of people that attended the city’s public forum on downtown open spaces this past Dec. 2, now almost a year ago, made it very clear that they wanted to keep and improve Kesey. They wanted to see it activated, not sold. They wanted to see investment in our downtown commons, not their closing.

They didn’t want to trade off one space for some improvements to another. Obviously, there’s still some foot-dragging going on here. But as Dylan says, “You’re going to have to serve somebody,”

City Council: You’re going to have to serve somebody.