My friend kungfuramone once said that Eugene is like a nap, in town form, and compared to some of the other places he’s lived, his assessment is pretty much spot on. If you aren’t married with kids, and long for a vibrant night-life, then Eugene is not the town for you. You’d be better off living in your nap-induced dreams, really.
I lived in Eugene from 1994 – 2000, and haven’t been back to visit in a number of years, primarily because I don’t know anyone else that lives there anymore. The initial impulse for this particular trip – to visit with Lyra Cyst during the brief window that she will be in the United States – was enough to get me to visit, but behind all of that was also this idea of retracing old footsteps, and experiencing the unique form of Deja Vu that you experience when things that are strangely familiar are covered in 10 year of cruft and development.
One thing became apparent very quickly: without a core group of friends to spend time with, Eugene is pretty lame. If you ignore the campus, and the people there because of the UofO, what you have left are disaffected locals, a very small batch of people on the fringes attracted by The Country Fair and the left-over drug scene brought by Ken Keasy, and the Saturn driving ex-hippies who now have some of the few corporate jobs that fuel the non-resale-or-drug-related economies. I have to say that, while I did have fun while I was visiting last week, all of it was dependent on who we were with, not by what we were doing.
However, nostalgia is a pretty powerful drive for me, and as I tried to find landmarks and sights that triggered old memories, I did find myself smiling here and there. So what if Icky’s Teahouse is closed, or if The Bookstore I used to work at is now a used Children’s Clothing store? Perhaps it is a good thing that some respectable people now live in The Blitzhäus. All we ever did was stain the carpet and piss off the landlord, anyway. Perhaps it is a good thing to touch on these memories briefly, before moving on?
Regardless, I can’t say that I wasn’t extremely happy to see the Portland skyline again as the train made it back into Multnomah County. While I might have lived in Eugene for six years of my adult life, the last decade has been in Portland, and I’m light-years away from that drunk and irresponsible kid who used to look up into the night sky and wonder what the future might hold.
Who knew it would all lead to this?