Oh, Eugene. We love you, we really do. For as much as we criticize, cajole and complain, this town of ours is near and dear to our hearts. EW considers Best of Eugene a giant shout-out to our Emerald City, and this year, we’re taking it a step further by using our staff picks to highlight some examples of what we think Eugene is doing right. It isn’t a comprehensive list by any means, and we could fill pages extolling the accomplishments that Eugeneans have made this year: We banned neonicotinoids to help save the bees, opened a one-of-a-kind skatepark in the Whit and added another gem to our crown of award-winning breweries with Elk Horn Brewery, voted Best New Business and Best New Restaurant this year. The Eug life is a pretty good one, and we’re happy to present your top picks for 2014.
Emblazened on the wall of the University of Oregon Moshofsky Center — the first indoor practice facility on the West Coast — this mantra calling for the complete abandonment of tradition could have been written about the Ducks uniforms.
The Nike-Ducks partnership has revolutionized the cycle of change for uniforms in college athletics. During the 2013 season, Oregon wore seven unique jerseys and six unique helmet and pant designs — compare this to the one home jersey and one away jersey from the pre-Nike games of the early ’90s.
Ballots have started to arrive in Lane County mailboxes by now. No ballot? Check your voting status at oregonvotes.com or call Lane County Elections at 682-4234. The deadline for ballots to arrive at Lane County Elections is 8 pm Tuesday, Nov. 4. The last day to mail ballots and assure their arrival is Thursday, Oct. 30. Ballots can also be dropped off at any of the white ballot boxes around town. Here are our endorsements in selected contested races along with state and local ballot measures.
As pretty as it gets around town when the leaves start to turn, for many of us the signs of our impending cold and rainy season are the hints it’s time to start planning to hit the road. Here in Oregon you don’t actually have to go far in your wanderings to see some beautiful places (and escape the rain, whether that be in the high desert or inside a museum). And thanks to Amtrak, Greyhound, Porter Stage lines, BoltBus, good old carpooling and more, there are mass transit options from Burns to Bandon — if you aren’t traveling by bike or motorcycle, that is.
With what felt like 100 mph winds slamming into us, my parents and I stood on a rocky outcropping overlooking the thundering waves and sandy beach of Bandon, Oregon. We’d visited Bandon many times over the years, usually in summer, when glorious sunsets silhouette iconic Face Rock and fat harbor seals bask on rocks.
Last spring at the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge birdwatcher Tim Blount saw a bird that brought him back to his childhood in Nebraska. Up in a cottonwood tree was a black and white warbler, a small songbird with a high, piercing call (“weesy, weesy, weesy”) stopping on its way to northern Canada.
Of the many patches strewn across Billy Scannell’s black leather motorcycle vest, it’s certainly the one saying “Dr. Asshole” that demands immediate explanation.
“The doctor part is because I have a Ph.D. in physics,” Scannell says. “The other part should be self-evident.” Here is a man who could easily be mistaken for one of The Black Widows accosting Clint Eastwood in Every Which Way but Loose.
Instead of scouring national park gift shops on your next vacation, try wandering into a small-town art museum. Local Eugene painter Jon Jay Cruson has stumbled upon several museums during his frequent jaunts through the Oregon and Washington countryside searching for images for his works. Check out his suggestions for hidden Northwest museum treasures.
After enlisting in the Navy at 19, actor Ben Buchanan, now 26, first trained in the stifling summer heat outside of Chicago. Later, crossing the equator, he experienced the traditional “shellback” ceremony, a 400-year-old naval ritual in which mere “pollywogs” are transformed into sturdy shellbacks. For Buchanan, this rite of passage included being shot at with fire hoses and crawling through garbage.
“It was pretty fun,” he says.
Buchanan served in Iraq and Afghanistan as a mechanical aviation egress specialist — the mechanic responsible for making sure the pilot can safely eject from the plane. For a kid who moved a lot growing up and never took much interest in school, it was a role he took seriously and played well.
In case you haven’t noticed, the students are back in town, and EW has been out on the streets talking with them. We asked them how they feel about marijuana legalization (“a political farce”) and about their favorite and least favorite things about their school (depending on who you ask, “sports culture” qualifies for both). Our papers are in boxes at LCC and Corvallis as well as Eugene, so we ventured to all three campuses this year with stories about student homelessness, video game development, campus sustainability and how recycling is an awesome way to furnish your dorm. So welcome back, students, and because we know how ridiculously exorbitant your tuition is, don’t worry: This issue is on us.
Andrea Norris of OSU’s Campus Recycling says the weirdest thing she’s ever tried to sell at the OSUsed Store is an entire pallet of 20-year-old unused jock straps. Although they didn’t exactly fly off the shelves in the campus second-hand store, Norris put the jock straps on eBay, and they started selling fast. “It turns out there are antique jock strap collectors,” she says.
Fronting Franklin Boulevard and cozied up like a cat against the much larger University of Oregon, the campus of Northwest Christian University has sat for well nigh 125 years as a curiosity to some and a beacon to others. What, after all, is a Christian university all about? Jesus himself was a peripatetic teacher, opting to wander the wilderness with his radical message of universal love and liberation from the false knowledge of the Pharisees.
In the days before the snowstorm last December, Cory*, a Lane Community College student, was having trouble getting words down on the page.
“I’ve always been a troubled writer,” Cory says. “Just too meticulous and apprehensive, I guess.” He wasn’t accustomed to using a computer and spent days writing out paragraphs of his classwork by hand. For one class, though, it was never good enough. Intimidated by his classmates’ “beautiful” work, Cory chose not to turn in his final project, and he failed the class. That weekend, the Willamette Valley froze and filled with snow. At that point, failing wasn’t his biggest problem. Cory was, and is, homeless.
The expansive atrium of Oregon State University’s Kelley Engineering Building fills with the mid-morning chatter of students. Light streams in through the immense glass windows of this certified Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold building, reducing the need for electric lighting as it illuminates half-built solar vehicles that look like Mars rovers in a nearby classroom, complete with solar panels and heavy duty wheels.
In an upstairs conference room overlooking the bustling marketplace at 5th and Pearl, men in colorful, graphics-splattered T-shirts are deep in conversation. “Eugene can be slow,” says Ted Brown, gesturing broadly to the group. “People here only make safe investments. Economies aren’t about selling lumber anymore, and we’ve got an explosion of creativity happening right here. Eugeneans don’t recognize that yet.”
In 2013, EW debuted ArtsHound, our first-ever special issue devoted solely to the visual arts. In my letter last year, I outlined an ongoing problem I’d seen in Eugene and Springfield — artphobia. Oh how far we’ve come: Art walks are bustling and sprouting up all over the city, local arts orgs and schools have received hundreds of thousands in grant funds and new murals seem to pop up every week. EW even got into the game with our ArtsHound box series now on display downtown through the end of September.
The Stag Queen emerges from the icy blue abyss. Sword in hand, she hovers over a huddled little girl. Bruised and beaten, scared and forgotten, no one will ever be able to lay a finger on her again. The queen has returned for answers, for retribution, and will forever guard this child in the recesses of one woman’s mind. Every time artist Tracy Sydor recalls her childhood, this guardian also returns, protecting her younger self from the residual pain of childhood abuse.
Cortney Grim, like her artist alias suggests (“Grimmdiana Bones,” a Beetlejuice reference), sees art as a way to make people laugh and improve lives. For her box, Grim created a whimsical old dude named Abe who embodies the uniqueness of the people of Eugene: a mix of unconventionality and humor with a twist of craziness.
With his gold-rimmed glasses and striped tank top, this grandpa is playing with a balloon — a reminder for people to stay playful with childlike wonder. “We’re definitely a quirky town,” Grim says.
Eugene may no longer be deemed the world’s greatestcity of the arts and outdoors (in 2010, the city tagline shifted to “a great city for the arts and outdoors”), but more than ever our town is gilded with murals, sculptures, mosaics and other public art, which can mostly be enjoyed en plein air. EW reached out to local leaders in arts and culture and asked them to pick one must-see piece in the city.
At first glance, someone simply piled junk in a corner: burned furniture, broken picture frames, shattered glass — debris from a house fire or human detritus stumbled upon in an abandoned home.
Upon closer inspection, there’s method in the flow of objects; the process of devastation and decay is rendered in stark and arresting three dimensions and symmetry among the chaos. This is “Mourning the Ephemeral,” a 2011 installation from Eugene artist and UO MFA printmaking graduate Allison Hyde.
The female squash bee rises from her nest at dawn, earlier than any honeybee or bumblebee buzzes awake. She leaves her young in a nest tunneled about a foot beneath the ground to attend to her daily tasks of sipping nectar and gathering pollen grains. She only has eyes for golden pumpkin and butternut squash blossoms flush with nectar reaching from sprawling, hairy plants.
The solitary male squash bee lives on his own; he spends his time wooing female squash bees and filling up on nectar. When the industrious lady bee buzzes up to a sun-yellow blossom unfurling from the cool night before, she hears a tiny buzzing sound — a little male squash bee that passed out in the flower after his last meal.
The sixth annual Next Big Thing contest proved once again that small-town Eugene is home to an incredibly talented and prolific music scene — so prolific that the competition has been divided into three categories for the first time: single/duo, band/group and youth (18 and under).
After a raging competition of 16 finalists, the best band category was conquered by the funk machine that is Soul Vibrator.In the youth section, Bailee Jordyn won by engaging her audience with a stripped-down vocals and guitar arrangement. Acoustic guitar virtuoso Will Brown nabbed the top single/duo spot.