by Gethin A. Lynes
Like the infamous and dire coupling of Danny DeVito and The Governator, one of a pair of twins always seems to suffer by comparison with the other—though for posterity’s sake I would like to register my preference for the little guy in that particular example. But the argument, nevertheless, holds up… I think.
Now, Esau was a stand-up guy, but Jacob a deceitful little fuck; He-Man was a walnut-stuffed condom of awesomeness, She-Ra a blatant and unsuccessful attempt to get girls to buy Mattel products1; Tweed Heads is South of the border, Coolangatta in Queensland; and Fremantle’s all brew-pubs, artists and hippies, where Perth is … well … Perth. See what I’m getting at?
And then there’s Eugene and Springfield. The Springfield.
While Perth and Fremantle are separated by a (nearly) subtle, yet discernible, ideological difference—characterised by fisherman’s pants, beards and IPAs on the one hand, and expensive suits, police presence and Emu Bitter on the other—the gulf betwixt Eugene and Springfield is more akin to that between a 1990 Grange Hermitage2 and a 40oz of malt liquor. Anyway, regardless of Groening’s claim to the contrary, I know that Springfield, Oregon is that Springfield. As I said, I’ve been there.
Thankfully the Willamette River separates the place from Eugene—though it’s a shame it’s just a river, and not a sixty-foot wall, topped with broken glass, barbed wire and snipers. Springfield is the dark twin, the ageing shopping mall, wife-beater who sits at home all day in his underwear drinking beer and eating potato-chip crumbs and ketchup from his belly button.
The moment you cross the bridge from Eugene, it’s clear you’ve entered a new world … Or an old one … Either way it’s a god-forsaken (though, typically, not God-forsaken) place. Gone are the bicycles, the sock/sandal combinations and the mandolins – even the banjos are noticeably scarce, robbing the place of some of the charm of its easterly compatriots. Gone are the “alternative” thinkers (and dare I say it, the thinkers), the viticulture and the proclivity for bartering – which as a general rule involves the swapping of handicrafts and edible delights baked with the assistance of illegal vegetable matter, or, for the less dough-inclined, just handfuls of said vegetable matter.
Founded some twenty-odd years after Eugene – which in the life-cycle of a city, is the equivalent of being squeezed out of the womb three and a half minutes after your twin – Springfield is the brother3 forever living in the shadow of his slightly elder sibling, both eager to be close, and striving to be different from, the talented, beautiful other child, ashamed of his slightly oversized, misshapen head, and endlessly smarting from the sting of scorn heaped upon him by the others’ adoring friends.
Still, Springfield has managed to carve a niche for itself as a major supplier of its siblings’ prodigious appetite for dope, and the home of shopping malls and one-dollar cinemas, to which attractions, Eugeneans guiltily slink across the river, later returning under cover of darkness, and pretending they watched, instead, some low-budget Canne fare at the arthouse cinema – without, of course, feeding that venue’s resident cat that’s the size of a small truck, because, being the enlightened folk that they are, they refuse to pander to the rampant consumer culture that plagues the cultural wasteland across the river.
1 – And here Mattel’s androcentrism is cleary displayed in the gross failure to understand that simply giving a well-loved male character hips and a pair of anatomical uncertainties that one can only assume are meant to be breasts, does not a sensation among the young ladies make. And let’s not even begin to examine their assumption that any diminutive owner of a vagina will love this bastion of feminine strength because, instead of having as a companion a green tiger with a saddle! (which, let’s be honest, even little girls acknowledge is cool as fuck), she rides a (ho-hum) Unicorn, clad in pink barding. Really? Pink armour? Hello, McFly, unlike grown men, not all little girls are in love with pink, for fuck’s sake.
2 – Yes, yes, I know that’s about when they dropped the Hermitage, so technically it would be a 1990 Grange, but at $36,000 a case, you can call it whatever the fuck you like.
3 – I am not unsympathetic to the gross prevalence of the use of the masculine, particularly when it comes to pronouns, paying no mind to the fact that we don’t all have a cock – or for that matter consider ourselves male even if we do – but in this case I think it’s a fitting eschewal of the feminine comparison. So, it is both intentional, and meant with the utmost respect.