I owe a debt of gratitude to a past coworker for hiring me for a two week job in Eugene, Oregon. Not exactly a vacation but a chance to experience somewhere else. That’s usually worth the price of admission. In this case there was no admission fee. I got a visit to Eugene and a paycheck. I didn’t know much about the place. I had spent one evening years ago biking around the campus after attending a concert at Autzen Stadium. It was a place of mystery. My recent visit had me focused on a job involving the World Athletic Commission Championship, that’s a fancy title for a two week track meet held at Hayward Field. To reveal more of my duties and obligations, well, it seems neither relevant nor necessary. I didn’t sign a nondisclosure agreement if that’s what you’re thinking but I’m not willing to jeopardize any possibility of working with these folks again should the opportunity arise.
My focus here is mostly on Eugene but I have to point out what anyone from the area knows, it’s hard not to include the neighboring town of Springfield. I was surprised to learn I was staying in Springfield just over the border from the edge of the University of Oregon campus. The police and fire departments use the two town’s names so it’s kind of a metropolitan area now. This post includes both areas despite leaving Springfield out of the title. Not as much rhymes with Springfield. I did spend the majority of my time in a small section of Eugene spotting numerous examples of my favorite fixations, pole art, arrows, signs, murals, museums, letters to the editors and more. I only scratched the surface of these categories. More examples of these topics would have been discovered had I spent more time in the area.
Painting With Hydrants
My fascination with campaigns to beautify fire hydrants goes back to memories of the Bicentennial in 1976. Then, hydrants were gussied up where I lived for the national celebration in red, white and blue, of course. In Eugene, I spotted the one above and a few more. This isn’t the most skillful paint job but who cares? It’s a colorful offering that’s a far cry from the usual, standard paint job.
On The Road To The Mannequin Fever
It took a while, then, in a restaurant close to the stadium, I realized there was a mannequin in the corner. She’d been watching the whole time. An added bonus: She’s got a knife! The dark corner, the hat, hoodie, shades and a hand, barely able to clutch that blade–all fantastic!! Especially for an Italian place that was running a half off special on bottles of wine.
We Get Letters!
I waited for the next issue of the Eugene Weekly to arrive, disappointed when it failed to materialize despite my being in the area for two weeks. Old hippies meet rural right wingers to duke it out in the Letters to the Editor section. They never fail to provide entertaining ideas and perspectives on how the world should be run.
Top It Off With An Antenna Topper
Despite their inability to be photographed by my iPhone camera, I can never get enough of antenna toppers. I even had a quick chat with the owner of this one. She laughed as I snapped away, hoping for some focus. The duck imagery never ends at a college with a duck mascot. Ducks everywhere! Souvenirs, t-shirts, silhouetted on athletic department buildings; webbed duck prints even appear in crosswalks. This duck topper made perfect sense. I was equally amused by the black duct tape that fastened this tub toy topper to the antenna.
This sidewalk stamp is part of the campaign to remind and/or educate people that what they put down the drain may head straight back to the local rivers. I was impressed, maybe that’s a stretch of a pun, by the details left by this impression. The salmon practically appears to be flopping off the sidewalk.
Pole Art, No Pun Intended
It feels like an advanced technique when pole art is placed directly to the pole. The standard is usually affixing an object. This image has the unsuspecting asking, “Hey, who’s humping that pole?” The mustachioed man in green underwear is creatively and humorously detailed, a life sized cartoon bringing art to life.
I was more curious about this art. What’s the meaning behind a bagged photo nailed to a pole? Is it a lost and found situation or a spontaneous pole art gallery? How could this matter? Here’s a random, yet interesting photo, possibly taken on the other side of the world, in a novel frame. I enjoyed it for a few seconds but I’ll be pondering the meaning of my picture of that picture for many more.
Point Me In The Direction Of Arrows
I don’t understand my love of arrows. I just like them. This spray painted version decorating the sidewalk with possible practical applications was inspirational to me.
To spend any time in Tracktown USA, Eugene’s nickname, is to be surrounded by the legends of University’s past. There’s Steve Prefontaine or “Pre” for short, Coach Bowerman, Hayward, the guy they named the stadium after, Phil Knight and Bowerman’s wife’s waffle iron that helped create the early Nike shoes. The old Hayward Stadium is relegated to the history books now while a striking update stands in its place.
I’m always struck by bathrooms that are stylishly decorated with murals and the soles of track shoes planted into the floor. This was the only stadium bathroom I used but I couldn’t resist taking pictures. It’s not a good look to be snapping away in this type of facility but the art was too bold.
I needed to make the pilgrimage to Pre’s Rock if only to tell myself I did more than just work in Eugene. It was closer than I realized and easier to find with sign markers with arrows pointing the way. I followed the winding road that led to the spot of Prefontaine’s doom. The roadside memorial, with all the track gear that’s been left behind, struck a chord of loss and shared grief. I had to shoot around the other visitor feeling bad that I really wanted to take it in alone.
Signs Of Any Life
Signs were everywhere in Eugene. Sometimes they addressed mundane issues about where to wash or not wash things. The colorful sign above was spotted on the way to the Pre’s Rock. And I shopped a whole lot better knowing Dale’s surgery went well.
Most nights my job had me waiting outside the gate waiting to take on one of my duties. Cloud set up her cube PA system and guitar and played music with a bucket percussionist. The highlight to her groves that rang in my ears was a guy in the street who one night doing an improvisational scat directing people to Cloud’s tip jar. I learned more about Cloud through a business card that was left behind. Heck, us poets have to stick together.
On The Oregon Trail And The Oregon Film Trail
The infamous movie Animal House was filmed on the University of Oregon campus in the 70’s. Surely there are Oregon Film Trail signs noting specific film locations there. I didn’t get a chance to see them but when I noticed this sign on the grounds of a fire station I had to investigate. The old Hayward Field was used in multiple movies, even getting a visit from Mariel Hemmingway. It may not get better than that.
Down the road and through an industrial section of the town, you’ll find Springfield, Oregon. I visited the business district in search of something to eat settling on a food cart. This is the namesake of the setting for the Simpson’s cartoon. The town embraced this distinction adding multiple murals inspired by the show. I joked with the cart operator about when he’d get his mural on the red wall of his cart that seemed to be begging for one.
The Hippie Museum looked even more interesting especially with a member of one of the iconic psychedelic bands from the 60’s making an appearance. It’s a bit tricky to say what kind of happenings may be happening in a Hippie Museum. There’s only one way to find out. Enter at your own risk.
I learned Ken Kesey spent his formative years in Springfield. He did all his wrestling and letter jacket wearing there before things got really weird. Much is made about his Eugene connection. I suppose it’s more about him attending the university and working there. He was a Springfield guy eventually settling outside of the area in Pleasant Hill. The mural, touting his book collection, feels like the right touch.
Into the Sunset
Eugene and Springfield seemed weirdly peaceful. Of course school wasn’t much in session so student havoc wasn’t exactly raging. The sunsets on the Willamette River were nice way to end long days.