After the Grouch and Del show, we walked back to Jesse’s apartment. Well, we started to walk, but it was cold and we had been on our feet all night, so we ended up calling a cab. Jesse was kind enough to let me crash for a couple of nights, leaving me the next day to explore Eugene. I have been to Eugene many times, but never with enough time to take one of my traditional city walks, so I was glad to have a whole day. Jesse had some school work to do, so it was good for me to leave him in peace for the day.
The following morning I started off at Sundance Natural Foods, a co-op that I’d been to before, and which I was happy to learn was right around the corner. I got myself a sandwich, eating half for breakfast and saving the other half for later in the day. I knew I would be hungry, with lots of walking ahead of me. Jesse lives close to downtown, but my route would be taking me all over. I wanted to walk around the University of Oregon campus, and check out a park that was on the other side of the river. I also found a natural history museum that I wanted to visit, if there was time.
Eugene is an interesting city. Being a college town, we find the usual mix of town and gown, with obvious areas populated by mostly students, and lots of pedestrians. Eugene is also something of a hippy town, with plenty of colorful characters out and about, and prayer flags on numerous porches. I enjoyed seeing a wide variety of street art, from murals to Banksy-esque paintings. Eugene’s population is just under 200,000, making it a fairly large city, though the downtown doesn’t really give this impression. There are few tall buildings, and traffic was minimal.
I cruised around downtown for a while, attempting to get to the top floor of some of the taller buildings, but it was a Sunday and nothing was open. Instead I settled for a parking garage. It was December, so the sky was not clear, but I was lucky that it wasn’t raining and it wasn't even all that cold. I was wearing my coat all the same, but on several occasions I had to take it off and carry it.
I wanted to find some gifts for my kids, so I looked for a toy store and ended up finding a great one called the Elephant’s Trunk, which happened to be close to where I was.
After picking out some balsa wood rubberband-powered airplanes, I crossed the river and started walking through Alton Baker Park. It was a large park, with both forest and open fields. Everything was so green, and I liked that it wasn’t very developed. I smoked some herb down by the river and contemplated my life. I had been away from my family for a long time, and I was eager to be going home. Admittedly, I had conflicting feelings about where home was. I really love Oregon, and though I love Asheville too, I couldn’t deny that I felt fairly strongly that I wasn’t completely done with Oregon yet.
Could it be possible for me to build a life and career that would involve both places? Ashland to Asheville….ashes to ashes. This was what I wanted, though I couldn’t quite see how it could work.
It started raining as I walked through the park, but I didn’t mind. Parts of the sky were still totally clear, and at one point a beautiful rainbow appeared over a large field, with the U of O stadium in the background.
I came across a neat gardening site, which appeared to be some sort of educational campus. Several signs indicated that no one who wasn’t enrolled in the program was supposed to be there, but I took the liberty of giving myself a tour, sticking to the pathways and doing no harm. I very much appreciated the obvious care that had been taken to tend this small patch of the earth, and I took several pictures of what I consider to be excellent permaculture in practice.
I wandered further east until I came to a foot bridge, which took me back across the river to the university. The U of O campus is beautiful, and it made me envy Jesse a bit, buried in books on Nordic history and culture, surrounded by academic people whose whole lives revolve around research and talking about ideas, history, philosophy, and such. I have given much thought to going back to school, not so I can obtain a degree, but only so that I can once again swim in the sea of collaborative human intellectual pursuits. Plus, college campuses always have nice big trees and lots of spaces for reading and contemplating.
But at the same time, what an overpriced thrill. I love academia, but I’ve never enjoyed my academic studies so much as when I’ve undertaken them on my own, without homework or grades or thirty grand a year bills.
I had already walked some five or six miles and I was getting hungry. Before I went to the natural and cultural history museum I finished my sandwich, which was quite tasty.
The museum was great. It was cheap to get in, and there was enough to see there to merit more than the hour that I had before they closed. One whole wing was dedicated to cultural history, with focus on the Native American peoples of the region, as well as some more modern history of the Willamette Valley, and the other wing covered the natural history, with geology, botany, and wildlife. My favorite part was the rhetorical questions embedded into several of the exhibits that more or less implied that for all the advances humanity thinks it has made, we are no longer able to do the most basic things that used to be quite normal, such as survive in a natural environment, find food, and make the things we need.
By the time I left the museum the sun was sinking low in the sky (or so I assumed… I couldn’t see the sun for all the clouds) and I figured it was time to head back to Jesse’s place. He recommended another local health food store that was also not too far from his place, so I stopped by there on my walk back to pick up some dinner. It was dark by the time I got back, and we all enjoyed a nice meal and watched Dr. Strange, which I had seen once before, but it was on an airplane that had overhead screens which I could barely see. I must say, it was much better to watch it on a real screen with high resolution. I am not generally much of a fan of comic book movies (of which there are a great many these days), but this was really quite a good flick.
The following morning would be an early one. My flight out of Portland was in the afternoon, but I had to catch a Greyhound up to Portland at seven a.m. The station was within walking distance, but I had all my bags and I didn’t want to bother with such a trek, so I took a cab. I bid Jesse goodbye and thanked him for the hospitality, and soon I was on my way. Back to North Carolina, back to my family, and back to the question of what would come next. I had made some good money while in Oregon, but it would only last so long, and then what? I’m pretty used to just letting these things work themselves out, and I’ve gone through many stages in life where I have little money and no clue as to what my next adventure will be, but with a family, the pressure is much greater. Still, no sense in stressing it. Life was good, and I always manage to happen upon good opportunities.
Thus concludes my Oregon adventure for 2017. Though it was only two months, it felt like quite a bit longer, with so many new people, so much happening, and so many mini-adventures in the midst of all the working. Though it was sad to leave Oregon behind, I knew that somewhere down the line, perhaps sooner than later, I’d be back.