For decades, hundreds of creative souls have gathered once a year along the Long Tom River in Veneta, 13 miles from Eugene, to celebrate art, life, and music in the woods. The delightful patrons of High Street slowly become more witchy and interesting as the time of the Fair approaches.
Right to left: Mike and Brian McMenamin share libations inside the dragon with High Street manager Jenny Gomez and her right hand, April Highsmith, then manager of McMenamins East 19th Pub. Beneath the shade of the apple tree, Dan Schmid of the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies plays his bass, which he did many times on the back porch during the 20 years he worked on and off at High Street. To Dan's right sits Joe Cotter and Kolieha Bush, excellent and accomplished artists whose work enriches both the Fair and McMenamins’ many properties. They are watched over by Lyle Hehn's High Street “Eye,” resurrected from the fire. Down underground the black rabbit relaxes between current High Street brewmaster Hanns Anderson and longtime brewer from the past, Steve van Rossem.
The spiritual experience of drink, music, a warm fire and good friends on the back patio of High Street Brewery & Cafe, a McMenamins’ retreat for 35 years in Eugene. Left to right: Dan Schmid, musician, all-around nice guy, bass player for the Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, and employee at High Street for many years, coming and going between gigs. Trumpet in hand, sits Dana Heitman and next to him the expressive lead singer of the Daddies, Steve Perry. Idly strumming his guitar sits Black Francis aka Frank Black, former Eugene resident, Pixies front man and friend of Dan’s, who played bass with Frank on and off stage. Enjoying glasses of Black Rabbit Red sits Jenny Gomez, beloved longtime manager of High Street and supporter of the rock-and-roll life of Dan and other musicians, and April Highsmith her support and friend.
Ruby dons a skull mask to dance with her skeletal friends as the Grateful Dead ride the Furthur Bus into psychedelic oblivion.
In 1972, Springfield’s own Ken Kesey asked the Grateful Dead to play a benefit show for his brother’s dairy, the Springfield Creamery (now nationally known for Nancy’s Yogurt). With Merry Pranksters Kesey and Ken Babbs as emcees, the show rocked what would become the grounds for the Oregon Country Fair in Veneta. Because a long-unreleased documentary about the show was named Sunshine Daydream, the sun from the High Street Pub’s logo peers at the scene from the upper right-hand corner of the painting. Cleo Hehn’s father, Paul Hehn, designed this original logo.
Over the following years, the Dead returned to the area several times, playing Autzen Stadium into the early 1990s, when thousands of fans would flood Eugene and the High Street Pub.
Speaking of floods, every year, Veneta’s fairgrounds flood, and the original Furthur bus was recently excavated from a swamp. Thus, the Springfield Dairy and two pyramids from McMenamins Elks Temple in Tacoma, Washington, float in magenta-soaked subconscious waters. The pyramids also refer to The Egyptian Book of the Dead, where the Grateful Dead take their name. Steal Your Face looms in the starry sky above the band as their music makes metallic electricity that resurrects the dancing dead.
Hanns Anderson, current brewer at High Street, and former brewer Steve van Rossem smile proudly beside a giant pint of McMenamins beer. Inside the brew, Jen Kent, brewer from the Thompson Pub in Salem, reenacts the belly dance she performed at the memorial service for beloved High Street manager Jenny Gomez. Hanns and Steve wear T-shirts bearing portraits of Jenny.
Two hoses from painted fermenters twist hops-snakes into Celtic knots. Behind Hanns, a subtle quilt pattern references his Grandma Betty’s Quilted IPA; behind Steve, a recreation of J.R.R. Tolkein’s map of Middle Earth alludes to Steve’s Hobbit’s Habit Brown Ale. High Street’s brewery is located in the basement, so all this magic swirls at the bottom of the stairs and below the bricks.
At the culmination of Jen’s magical dance, she blows stardust into the scene—or are these Jenny’s ashes? (Aren’t we all made of stardust, anyway?)
Robert Kyr is a gifted and prolific composer and music professor at the University of Oregon School of Music. For a long period, he came to High Street Café in the evenings and stayed until closing at 1am, transcribing and transforming his vision into music. He has written over one hundred compositions including symphonies inspired by the themes of world peace, human rights and harmony including On the Nature of Peace, Songs of the Soul, Waging Peace, and Ah Nagasaki: Ashes into Light (a choral symphony commissioned by the Nagasaki Peace Museum in Japan). In this painting by artist Ripley, Kyr has the world in his hands as music swirls in the air, brought from a messenger white dove – world peace almost within grasp.
Apples fall. Thanks to gravity, this is an inherent trait of our reality and thanks to Newton this is well understood. Additionally, God himself warned of the apple! (At least according to medieval monks and other biblical illuminators.) And yet despite echoed warnings across time, there were still those patrons that sat beneath the apple tree at High Street and cried to the Heavens (and complained to their waiters) that apples fell upon them. Because there are no surviving images of those apple struck patrons, the artist has substituted their visages with that of Steve Perry of Cherry Poppin’ Daddies. “He seems to be a man of good humor and his face is excellently expressive,” said the artist.
Wally was a regular customer at the High Street Cafe in the 1990s. He also lived upstairs when it was a rental house in the 1960s. He described the times in the old house in his own peculiar way: “Once every hour, there was a music eruption.”
Here is a music eruption that occurred about two thirds of the way through the 1960s, an era that many experienced mainly through their black-and-white television sets. In between all the handsome cowboys, tough cops and doctor dramas, a number of programs simply showed neatly dressed teenagers dancing to whatever 40 songs were allowed onto their transistor radios at the time.
But the advent of color television took us all to the cusp of a major cultural transition, and serpentine sounds went out over the AM radios and exposed the kids to their own outdated fashion sense. The strange new music encouraged them to eat of the forbidden pharmaceutical fruits, exposing them to their own unhipness. Their eyes lit up with revelation. Soon our televisions showed people dancing in space, singing “We’ve got to get ourselves back to the Garden.”
The voice on the radio said to leave your cares behind. But now the wallpaper in your brain is getting wavy and small animals are dancing in circles. White birds appear more and more frequently in repeating patterns, until they create an opening into another Universe. A sentient White Bird House rides in on clouds of serenity, offering assistance. And just as when you are talking with other people or with animals, you may address either eye.
When McMenamins started out there were just a handful of pubs. When there were employee parties, there would only be about 75 to 100 people and everyone knew everyone. Jenny’s era began in those times. She started by managing the Lighthouse Brewpub in Lincoln City and then moved to be the first manager at High Street in Eugene. She would be the manager there until 2014, when she passed away.
My journey painting for McMenamins started in 1991, so I was part of the company early on. My then boyfriend managed the Lighthouse and the Thompson in Salem. Eugene was close so I saw a lot of Jenny. I have very fond memories of her, as it seems, does everyone.
My main objective when creating this painting was to capture the essence of who Jenny was, how she made people feel and how she is in my memories.
In the painting she sits in the back of High Street on a sunny day surrounded by her favorite flowers, drinking a glass of Black Rabbit Red, and yes, having a cigarette. On the roof behind her Charles Mingus plays songs from his album Mingus, Mingus, Mingus (one of her favorite albums to play while getting ready to open the pub in the morning.)
Jenny, we miss you, but we know your spirit still has an influence on the High Street Pub.
The people make the place. The regulars and the employees are the real heart of the High Street Pub.
There have been so many people that have become part of the legacy of that old home. They have been the ones to make the place truly a place to gather with family and friends. I tried to capture in spirit, that special thing that happens when people come together in this special place. While I have based the portraits on real people from a group of friends that have been meeting together at High Street for many years, they really are, for me, representations of all those who have come and spent time communing with each other at McMenamins.
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