Best of Eugene 2016-2017 Staff Picks

Best Quiet Bassist at Kesey Square

Heads swivel almost all the way around when people first see the rainbow-colored rock god shredding quietly at Kesey Square. Paunchy office workers on their way to the Broadway Starbucks don’t seem to be able to process what their eyes are taking in.

They don’t get it. And so maybe they chalk the strange vision up to Eugene quirk.

Nonetheless, Karen Dalyea is doing something very important.

Bass guitar slung around her neck and headphones blasting ’60s rock hits, Dalyea lugs her heavy backpack all the way from her west Eugene apartment to the middle of town nearly every day, weather permitting, and sometimes not.

Wedged in one of the pockets of her straining rucksack is a live mini wireless Roland guitar amplifier.

What powers that thing?

“I have no fucking idea,” she says.

Her musical influences include Elvis Presley — “I thought he was a lesbian when I was a little girl,” Dalyea says — and The Beatles; “I always loved Ringo, but at 16 I couldn’t identify any stronger with John Lennon,” she adds.

For three months following Lennon’s assassination in December 1980, the shaggy pop music icon visited Dalyea in dreams. Every night the two of them sat peacefully across from one another at a long table somewhere deep in her mind, sipping coffee, smoking cigarettes and talking about art till sunrise.

Poet, painter, freedom fighter and musician, Dalyea moved here from L.A. 12 years ago, “just to get away.”

When she arrived in Eugene, Dalyea looked around and said to herself: “This is gonna be just like L.A. in 30 years.”

Sellouts call it good after covering their Toyota Priuses in bumper stickers that read “Keep Eugene Weird.” Dalyea, however, takes the fight to the streets.

Dalyea, who calls herself “h2o UFO,” trucks along, oblivious to the heft of her luggage, because she’s on a mission of grave personal significance. Eugene needs Dalyea now more than ever to keep it real and protect it from those who wish to buy it up cheap and sell it away for parts.

She may be tilting at windmills or she may be the only thing preventing Eugene’s own personal Ragnarök. Nobody knows.

She says the cops don’t hassle her much, but the Red Caps give her a hard time about the noise, which, frankly, is barely audible on a busy day in downtown Eugene.

Hey, Red Caps, leave Karen Dalyea alone!

 

Best Eugene Stereotype

You see him everywhere in Eugene: a lizardy, milquetoast cross between Ned Flanders and Smeagol, he is most commonly sighted in liberal strongholds like Market of Choice or Saturday Market, where he saunters among crowds of like-minded progressives with his placid, smug smile and vapid eyes, surveying all that he approves. A senior citizen of the indubitably Caucasian persuasion, his prototypical garb runs in earth tones (khaki pants, open-toed sandals, Patagonia fleece) but his defining plumage is the Greek fisherman’s cap he wears at a jaunty tilt atop his balding head (sometimes with graying wisp of a ponytail protruding behind).

This is “The Skipper” (Homo flaccidus), a version of aging hippie endemic to Eugene. Despite his benevolent, avuncular appearance, this wily creature is not to be trusted: He is the bourgeois ancestor of the evil slummers that invaded Haight-Ashbury in ’69, and his intentions are dishonest and purely vampiric. A classic poseur, The Skipper rides the vibe of progressive causes like a shark, seeking his advantage in a manner that would shame God himself.

Peer long enough into the seasick visage of this boatless captain, and you will see the kind of pornographic, cowardly egotism that drives all peddlers of spiritual snake oil. Forever avoiding confrontations of any kind, what allows The Skipper to thrive in a touchy-feely place like Eugene is his facade of niceness, which is commonly mistaken for good intentions. The Skipper does not have good intentions: He is a hypocrite through and through, a rich man in poor man’s garb, and his appetites are venal (many skippers are also swingers) and driven by good-old greed and selfish advancement.

From a singularly Darwinist perspective, it’s hard not to admire The Skipper’s chameleon-like (or perhaps cockroach-like) genius for making do: In his faux-adherence to progressive politics, he has melded the Age of Aquarius to the Age of Trump, and his long-term prospects for survival are as high as his tax-status bracket and the mileage on his Prius.

 

Best Experimental Forest

Home to old-growth forests of cedar and hemlock, ancient Douglas firs and even more ancient yews, the H.J. Andrews is a blend of science, nature and art. It’s a beautiful spot to go get muddy and roll around in the wild or to sit and meditate. Oregon State University scientists research climate change and carbon storage in the woods and waters of the Andrews, and on the humanities end, The Spring Creek Project brings together philosophy, writing and the sciences and Long-Term Ecological Reflections “supports writers and humanists in their efforts to explore human/nature relationships as they evolve over many lifetimes.” To get there, head east out Hwy. 126, and about 35 minutes outside of Springfield turn left at the Blue River Reservoir sign onto Forest Road 15. First time visitors should head to the display board at the junction of Forest Roads 15 and 1506. The display has a map of the Andrews Forest and a brochure and directions to the 3.5-mile Lookout Creek Old-Growth Trail. Check it out at andrewsforest.oregonstate.edu.

 

Best Running Scavenger Hunt

Five riddled clues were given to a group of about 40 runners on a hot summer afternoon. After taking off down High Street, we darted across town making our way to Sam Bond’s Brewery, the downtown farmers market blocks and the island in the middle of the Alton Baker Park duck pond, where a group of Pokémon-hunting teens asked, “Why are you running?” We didn’t quite make it through our list of destinations, but we stuck around for the raffle and beers that followed our hour-long running adventure.

Run Hub Northwest put together the event that was totally free. Almost everyone won something, and the grand prize was a pair of running shoes. Run Hub does running scavenger hunts right — walkers and all paces are welcome to all of their events, and the staff can answer any of your running questions. After their events, join them for a meal; they usually have an informal dinner at a local spot following runs.

Lauren Moe with Run Hub says, “We want to be a hub for running events.” Around 50 people have been showing up for Wednesday Night runs, she adds. The idea behind the scavenger hunt events came from a couple of running stores in Salem, Portland and Seattle, where a few hundred people show up to those events. The Run Hub crew wants to provide more of a social connection for people in the running and walking community. The store hosts all levels of running groups, destination runs and stroller runs. “We want to provide something fun for people to come out to do,”

Moe says. Run Hub will host a few holiday runs and people are encouraged to dress up. Run Hub is located at 515 High Street; see runhubnw.com.

 

Best Divorce

Most times divorce, that great American pastime, turns out to be sort of a good thing for everyone involved; witness the historic splitsville between Charlemagne and Desiderata, which set the stage for the eventual founding of the Holy Roman Empire. Victory civilization!

Similarly, when the Bijou Arts Cinema and Broadway Metro called it quits earlier this year  (bit.ly/2e5TF1c), ending a somewhat strained business partnership, both theaters were suddenly free to go their own way like a couple of gay divorcees. What the split means for Eugene movie-lovers is that we now have two distinct theaters no longer tied down by fiscal concerns and programming conflicts, and how that’s panned out over the past year for both theaters is the emergence of separate identities that are distinct but not mutually exclusive.

True to its name, Broadway Metro has become a pragmatic purveyor of a kind of cinematic metropolitanism, offering a mixture of tasteful mainstream-ish products along with its continuing adherence to independent and offbeat cinema.

At the Bijou Art Cinemas, the focus has been more keen on bolstering its status as classic college-town arthouse, providing a strong selection of foreign films and off-Hollywood stuff, along with the offerings of modern auteurs and sharp political content, including cutting-edge documentaries.

Self-actualization is such a lovely thing when the bonds of co-dependence are broken, as is evidenced by the relative financial and aesthetic health both the Metro and the Bijou now enjoy.

“Before the separation, we happily carried the burden of trying to bring every good indie film to Eugene,” says Metro co-owner Ed Schiessl, adding that “being a stand-alone operation has freed our programming up enough to be able to include some high-end commercial product,” along with METROarts screenings of stage performances and the new “Baby & Me” screenings for parents with infants.

At the Bijou, owner Julie Blonshteyn says she’s “committed to bringing the finest offering in independent cinema to the Eugene community,” calling the theater a “quasi-clubhouse” where discussions on film often break out in the lobby. “There are plenty of other choices for mass-market films,” Blonshteyn adds, “but true film-lovers know the best in arthouse fare can be found at the Bijou.”

 

Best Philosophical Crisis Brought on by a Hirons Tchotchke

Hirons pharmacy is where you go for cheap novelties: slogany coffee mugs, retro lunch boxes and odd Ducks paraphernalia. It’s the humble retail equivalent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the growing clot of refuse that swirls in the Pacific Ocean current.

Hirons’ baffling array of chintzy trinkets serves as a visceral lesson in what to expect from late-stage consumerism. Maybe you go there not to shop, but to bask in the nonsense of it all. Maybe you bring out-of-town visitors there to prove that Eugene is still kinda weird. On just such a visit, your gaze falls on an antiqued wooden block with a message scrawled on it that reads: “Technology bring us closer to those far away, far away from those who are close.” You suddenly feel a little sick: Do I have any real friends? you wonder.

The smartphone in your pocket suddenly feels heavy. Your social media accounts prove you’ve got hundreds of happy, healthy well-wishers, but you realize you dislike most of them. And deep down, they probably dislike you equally as much. If your too-short life is really only a blip on the timeline of human history, then the point probably has nothing to do with Twitter or Snapchat. Your life is a waste.

Think of how rich you’d feel if you quit Facebook and spent more time surrounded by the people you love most. Oh, hey, look, an ugly pair of socks designed to look like Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Existential crisis averted.

The cold sweat on your brow dries, leaving the skin near your hairline feeling itchy and tight.

 

Best Reading Spot for Kids

Archie, Little Lulu, Muppets, Charlie Brown, Calvin & Hobbes — they’re all here, in one spot at the Eugene Public Library: Comic Island, a refuge for discerning children who just happen to appreciate that the finer things in life include graphic novels and comic books. Accessible, with comfy benches and a bright window, Comic Island is a quiet place of contemplation, even on a crowded day. The library could consider affording space and funding for a Comic Archipelago, and it would probably be just as popular. Comic Island keeps kids into comics, and that keeps them reading. Bravo!

 

 

Best Eugene Myth

As with people, cities tend over time to acquire particular reputations that belie their true nature. Prevailing mythology says that Eugene, former stomping grounds of Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, is frozen in place as a kind of progressive hippie utopia — a throwback to the peace-loving ’60s, where personal freedom and lefty politics reached their American apotheosis. Reality, unfortunately, says otherwise. Beneath Eugene’s faux-gressive veneer of eccentricity and liberalism — more Halloween than hallowed — lurks an alarming undercurrent of intolerance, inertia and the kind of crony political system that is more nepotistic and autocratic than truly democratic.

Our mayor plays figurehead to the city manager, and the city government operates with a disturbing lack of transparency. Our most famous icon and benefactor, Nike founder Phil Knight, donated exclusively to Republican campaigns this year. The city is not exempt from Oregon’s long history of racism, and though we give lip service to diversity, we are more white utopia than anything else. It’s not unusual to see Confederate flags flying from the back of jacked-up trucks these days, and let’s not forget that, in 2010, Republican VP candidate Sarah Palin came to Eugene — not Springfield, not Redmond — for a big-money campaign fundraiser. Right-wing money hides in the hills here, as does a lot of the kind of aggressive, retrograde bigotry that we conveniently associate with Appalachia.

None of this is good or bad but thinking makes it such, but let’s stop pretending we’re anything more than a small college town (go Ducks!) with the kind of half-assed Libertarian leanings that spring from white disenfranchisement and despair. We are more Twin Peaks than Berkeley, more Aberdeen than Austin.

 

Best Professional Dog Runners

In the doldrums of winter, we stare bleakly out the window, watching rain drip down the windowpane for the 30th day in a row. Our dogs, on the other hand, stare fixedly at us, eyes wide and hopeful that any second, we’ll jump up and go for that coveted walk. Or, even better, the all-exalted run.

While we mere mortals aren’t always up to the challenge, we know who can help us: the Oregon Ruff Runners.

Josh and Samara Kramer, a husband-and-wife team, took the concept of dog walking and amped it up a few notches to provide a service that dogs crave.

“Running gives a higher level of exercise for the dogs, and with most dogs we’re getting through two and a half to three miles per 30-minute outing,” Josh Kramer explains. In other words, when your dog gets more mileage, she’s burning more energy at a faster rate. And as we all know, a tired dog is a good dog.

Why hire a dog runner? Josh Kramer ticks off a few reasons. Some dog owners are elderly or have medical conditions that prevent them from running with their dog. Others have busy schedules and want to give their dog a special treat in the form of a romp.

Since the Kramers run with two to three dogs at a time, the dogs also benefit from socialization. Josh Kramer says when they pair dogs up with canine running buddies, they fall into pack mentality and gallop together.

On a typical running day, Josh Kramer can log 10 miles of running. The Kramers pick the dogs up at their houses and run in their neighborhoods, and they volunteer their time to run adoptable dogs at Greenhill Humane Society and Northwest Dog Project.

When your clients are dogs who love to run, work becomes a joy.

“Over and over again, we hear how excited the dogs get on the day they know they’re getting a run,” Josh Kramer says. “It’s just immediate feedback, and I think it’s very rare to find a supervisor or a boss who gets as excited as these dogs do to see us. It’s a great motivator.”

Check out the Ruff Runners at oregonruffrunners.com. They’re also encouraging dog runners on Instagram to post pics of their dogs out on a run: Use #irunmydog.

 

Best Concert Venue We’ve Never Been To

We’ve never been to a concert at the Ant House.

But we hear it’s good.

We hear it’s got all the blood and guts of a real basement punk venue, which is great because Eugene badly needs a place like that.

We hear it’s tiny.

We hear it’s dark.

We hear it’s shitty — that’s what makes it so good.

We hear they do metal shows, too.

And maybe even rap.

We hear Ant House shows are louder than anything.

We imagine it smells like stale piss and B.O. in there.

The neighbors probably hate the Ant House.

We imagine the cops want to shut it down.

We bet it’s, like, fire-hazard crowded sometimes.

Most people we know have never heard of it.

Maybe the Ant House wants to keep it that way.

We hear it’s near the Taco Bell on 7th.

Taco Bell is the best place to eat when you’re drunk at 3 in the morning after a good punk show.

Otherwise stay the hell away from Taco Bell.

 

Best Public Art

What’s not to love about the hulking concrete ellipse with whimsical Swiss cheese-inspired peep holes that graces College Hill’s Washington Park? And who even calls it “Washington Park”? It’s The Cheese Park — or just Cheese Park — and there’s no finer place to eat a snack, play with bark mulch or hide from your parents than the ubiquitous cheese. Generations have grown up in its loopy confines, which provide respite from summer sun, and shelter from winter rain. Also, this park has an extraordinary number of bees, and yet they can’t seem to get you inside this staggering work of artistic genius. The cheese stands alone.

 

Best Downtown Stalwart

Glamour Girls and Guys Hair has been doing business at its downtown Broadway location for 27 years. While downtown is relatively pleasant now, for a long time, with the inception of the closed-street mall, it was a shitty, violent, racist place to be — according to some longtime residents of downtown — but Glamour Girls and Guys Hair stuck it out. “We don’t run,” says owner Betty Snowden, of The Betty Snowden Show — and fabulous hat — fame.

That in itself is enough to earn this title, but the beauty shop is so much more. The business originally opened decades ago for a very simple reason: There was nowhere in Eugene to buy beauty and hair care products that catered to African-Americans.

“We had to drive all the way to Portland to buy hair-care products,” Snowden recalls. Then, Snowden noticed a pattern in the ’90s — people with cancer kept coming to the store asking for wigs. So, Glamour Girls started selling them. They now have an incredible collection of 600-plus wigs for sale, anything from flowing turquoise mermaid locks to frothy pink afros to regular old bobs in blonde, brunette and gray.

Cassandra Snowden, Betty Snowden’s daughter, showcases perhaps the best customer service in a town where hipster or pothead indifference seems to be the norm. If you want to try on a wig, you purchase a $3 hair net, and then Cassandra will sit you down in a salon chair and gingerly show you how to situate all the styles you want on your noggin.

There’s no rush and no pressure to buy. The business has a regular clientele including men as well as women; some families have come in for generations, especially for Betty’s hair design.

While hanging out in the shop, a regular comes in. She tries on a voluminous blonde wig that flows down her back and says she comes back for the customer service and the prices. She tells the story of how she came to be a return customer: Years ago, a head injury from a car accident stopped some of her hair from growing back. She came to the shop and they treated her so well, she remembers, gently helping her try on wigs. Since the accident, “It was the first time I felt normal,” she says. “To get that back…” she trails off, tearing up.

“Women really do feel transformed,” Cassandra Snowden says. And that’s the goal.

“We want people to leave inspired,” Betty Snowden says.

 

Best Tibetan Gift Shop

While waiting for the bus one day, we noticed a long row of colorful Buddhas in a storefront window. We followed the reds, blues, yellows and purple around the room stocked with clothing, scarves, Buddhist gods painted on scrolls, journals printed on recycled paper made by Tibetan refugees living in northern India. We’ve been back to buy jewelry, cards and fragrances for birthdays, housewarmings and the holidays.

Potala Gate is an amazing place to browse. Centered in downtown Eugene, the name may not sound familiar, but the store isn’t new. Kyizom Wangmo and her husband Lama Jigme opened Potala Gate 15 years ago. The couple sold Tibetan Buddhist meditation items like prayer beads and bells to their friends at private events. Opening a store seemed like the next step and Wangmo says she and her husband did a lot of research by visiting similar shops in New York, Los Angeles and Seattle to get an idea of what to sell. At first, they began by carrying the basics — Tibetan prayer flags and books. After a few years in business, they began to grow.

“We try to buy things from local people, people who make things, people who sell things on the street, so that it goes to them rather than going to buy from a big warehouse,” Wangmo says. Taiwan, Brazil, Nepal and India are some of the countries they’ve visited when searching for items to sell, although it’s still possible to acquire a few items from Tibet. Overall, the process is arduous. “In Tibet they make a really beautiful silk prayer scarf,” she says. “We get those and incense we get from monasteries, so it has to be a connection with people that we are friends of friends with because we don’t have a direct connection.” And money can’t be sent to Tibet; it has to be routed through Nepal.

Wangmo and her husband have felt the pangs of being small business owners over the years and through the recession. She says she’s watched their business go up and down and credits their online store with making it possible for them to afford their current store space. “Without that, I would think that one of us would have to go find a job.” They run the store together, which is open seven days a week. Wangmo takes Sundays off. She laughs, “I only do six days; that’s enough for me.”

Wangmo and Lama Jigme, a former Buddhist teacher, have seen the Dalai Lama in India and in Florida, Arizona and Canada. “A few years ago when he was here we were able to get a blessing from him directly,” she says. “[We’re] very lucky.”

The store name is taken from Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region. “Potala Palace is the palace of his Holiness the Dalai Lama. Potala means the pure land,” Wangmo says. Jigme took a tour of the palace, which is more like a museum now, she says.

An original plan included opening the store in Los Angeles instead, but Wangmo says her husband suggested Eugene. If you’ve never experienced the soothing incense, the meditation music or effects of the “hippie shop,” as Wangmo has heard others call it, if nothing else she says just walk in. “Anytime that people come, they always say the environment here, the vibes that they get, it’s very peaceful, it’s very meditative. And so that’s what I want to be remembered in the store. They don’t have to come buy stuff.”

Potala Gate is located at 1030 Willamette Street; see potalagate.com.

 

Best Parks That Used to Be Dumps

You might think of riverfront land as valuable, but in Eugene’s early days, the flood-prone banks of the Willamette were not where you wanted to build your house or business. In the post “dam all the rivers” era we have a much more stable riverfront (and fewer salmon), but our riversides bear the legacy of the bad decisions of the past. You know like, “Hey, let’s turn the riverside into a dump! Because it’s not like we are going to drink the water, right?” Once known as the “Day Island Landfill,” part of what is now Alton Baker Park between the Willamette and the canoe canal was home to “putrescible wastes” and chemical and liquid wastes. Closed in 1974 it was covered in sandy loam and grass, according to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality. Voila! A park is born! Away from the river in South Eugene, Tugman Park (named for a former Register-Guard editor) used to be a municipal burning site before it was closed in the 1950s after it was overrun by rates. The DEQ remediated it in the 1990s and now? Play ball!

 

Best Women’s Mountain Bike Adventure Team

Michelle Emmons has advice for women learning to mountain bike: “Stop apologizing,” she says. “You’re enjoying life, and you’re out on your bike. You don’t need to apologize every time you put your foot down on the trail.”

No Apologies!, a local “women’s mountain bike adventure team,” pedals freely to the blissed-out notion that women can embrace the outdoors and learn to mountain bike in the company of peers who encourage and support them. Learning to mountain bike is hard enough without fearing the judgment of your fellow bikers, and No Apologies! seeks to kick that “not good enough” notion to the curb.

The team started a few years ago and consists of five women: Emmons, Stephanie “Zimzam” Zamora, Kerstin Holster, Sarah “Soso” Blount and Rheannon “Rua” Arvidson. Emmons is Eugene-based, but the other members are sprinkled throughout the Willamette Valley.

“There’s a lot of camaraderie in women’s groups when you’re with a group of women with skills and similar interests,” Emmons explains. “It inspires you and encourages you to think, ‘If she can do it, I can do it.’”

Emmons teaches mountain biking classes for REI, and she says she’s noticed that women tend to learn by processing and practicing a skill several times in order to figure it out. “If you want to try something out two or three times, it’s important to feel comfortable doing that and not having to feel like you’re holding the group up,” she adds.

In addition to hosting skill clinics and tours, No Apologies leads group rides throughout the Willamette Valley, where women can practice their mountain biking skills in a safe, supportive environment.

Emmons says she enjoys taking fellow mountain bikers to Oakridge, Goodman Creek and Lorane Valley. One of her favorites is Alsea Falls, a trail she describes as suited to every skill level.

“It offers that easy climb uphill, and it doesn’t matter if you’re an advanced rider or a beginner rider — you’re always coming down with a smile on your face,” she says.

No Apologies! also hosts trail maintenance work parties, giving back to the riding and hiking community by helping to preserve the quality of the trails they use.

“It all goes back to that essence of no apologies,” Emmons says. “You don’t have to apologize because we’re all doing it together.”

Check out No Apologies! at noapologiesmtb.com.

 

Best Guitarist

If Jake Pavlak didn’t exist it would be necessary for Eugene’s music scene to invent him. As a guitarist with classic local bands like Buckhorn, Yeltsin and Ferns, Pavlak has proven himself a world-class stylist with unique chord voicings, a highly personal ear for melody and impeccable taste level. Guitar wizardry à la Eddie Van Halen isn’t normally Pavlak’s game (he can shred with the best of them, as anyone who’s seen him in the house band for Sam Bond’s Garage’s popular Guilty Pleasures Night can attest). But Eugene’s favorite red-bearded musician with a trucker cap is just as good as Johnny Marr, Tommy Iommi or Peter Buck — formidable guitarists who are also amazing songwriters.

 

Best Art to See on a Rainy Day

On an afternoon when the rain falls in sheets, the federal Wayne L. Morse Courthouse is a beautiful place for a moment of reflection. Hear me out: Once through the metal detector (no cameras, weapons or trampolines, please), the modern white interior envelops you like a labyrinthian womb with natural light filtering in from huge expanses of windows, creating a lovely glowing effect.

But it’s the building’s third floor that is truly magical. Hung in three groups is British artist Matthew Ritchie’s “Life, Liberty and Pursuit” light-box panels, loosely depicting the history of law and man’s entanglement with it, in ink scribbles that look like they were written by a giant’s hand, stating “The end of the frontier,” “Pursuit of Happiness” and years such as 1215, 1776 and 1954. The artist calls them illuminated murals, but I would say the work is more like a holographic watercolor painting — as you stroll by, the images shift, disappear and reappear. It’s almost as if the art is reacting to your presence.

The light these beautiful panels emit on a rainy day — filtered through sage green, gray-blue and soft-brown washes depicting Oregon’s mountains, coastline, railroad tracks and logged forests — is nothing short of heavenly. And because of the dark, flat light coming from outdoors when it’s overcast, the shimmering artwork reflects brightly off the glass windows, creating the illusion that the art is also hovering in the adjacent courtyard, like ghostly apparitions of Oregon’s past. It is a sight to be seen.

 

Best Mustache

While some mustaches stand tall on the promontory of a man’s upper lip, Stephen Buettler (also known as Pancho of Eugene band Pancho + The Factory) has a mustache that reclines atop his mouth like a Rubenesque portrait, like Burt Reynolds on a bear skin rug, like Bill Murray behind the bar. Buettler’s lip fur is sensual, full of promise and intrigue, unconcerned with other mustaches — confident in its own game. Like a Reggie Miller three-pointer or LeBron in the lane, Buettler’s mouth-warmer is simply untouchable.

 

Best Epic Milkshake

It’s a Tuesday afternoon and we’re hankering for something sweet. Rather than reach for the bag of carrots so conveniently stashed beside us, we instead take to fantasizing about chocolate.

Then, as if through some magical twist of fate brought about by the social media gods, a chocolate-loaded confection of utter magnificence appears on our Facebook feed. Is it a brownie? Is it a milkshake? Is it both?

We note that the majestic confection hails from Sundial Café and make arrangements to convene there at once.

“I’m all about flair and garnishes, and I like things to be big and beautiful,” says Alex Moon, owner of Sundial Café, a gluten-free restaurant that opened in May.

Sundial’s signature milkshakes start with Tillamook ice cream for the gluten-tolerant among us and Coconut Bliss for those living dairy-free. The ice cream is whipped into a sweet froth, poured into a Mason jar and adorned with chocolate syrup along the rim, topped with more chocolate and marshmallows sure to send you into a paroxysm of sugary bliss.

Moon says her personal favorite is the “Pink Cloud,” a strawberry shake bedecked with fresh strawberries, marshmallows and, best of all, a rainbow sugar rim.

“We hit it hard with the toppings,” Moon laughs.

To sample this wonder of desserts or partake in Sundial Café’s popular breakfast and brunch menu, head to 2435 Hilyard Street; the restaurant is open 11 am to 9 pm Tuesday through Friday and 8 am to 3 pm Saturday through Sunday.

 

Best Businesses under a Jesus Sign

Tricycle races and whiskey drinks. Harleys. Discount RV goods. Guns and exploding targets. What could go wrong? Hop off I-5 at the 30th Avenue exit and instead of heading into Eugene, head east towards Springfield. College View, the little spur road there, is home to an odd cluster of businesses that don’t really lend themselves to a mall-like experience, and that’s why we love it. Don’t be put off by an exterior that one Yelp reviewer likened to “the parking lot of the crime scene of my own murder.” McShanes Bar and Grill has good food and friendly people once you venture inside. And Tuesday night tricycle races. And on that note, the businesses along College View Drive are kind of set up for someone to commit a perfect crime. Ammo at the Tannerite Outlet Store, guns at the Baron’s Den, RV parts and a Harley-Davidson getaway vehicle a little further down, and if you are at all confused about your ethics, a big Jesus billboard looms over the whole thing reminding you to avoid the mark of the Antichrist.

 

Best Neighborhood Watchdog

Car crashes. Gun shots. Break-ins. House fires. Criminal suspects. Stolen goods. Lost pets. There is very little in the way of suspicious activity in these parts that isn’t immediately posted and infinitely commented upon at Lane County Mugshots Uncensored (LCMU), a Facebook page whose watchdog activities run the gamut from philanthropic and altruistic to nosy and neurotic, sometimes tipping the scales into outright calls for vigilante justice.

The page is by turns fascinating, alarming and queasily addictive, thanks in large part to its brand of unhinged populism in which the community is encouraged to play cop and journalist at once (and sometimes judge, jury and executioner).

Founder and administrator Mike Weber, a Lane Community College graduate who also co-founded Lane Today, says he considers LCMU an “alternative news source” that works in real time and is largely unfiltered and collaborative.

“LCMU brings out both the best and the worst in people,” Weber says. “Oddly enough, I believe that is part of what makes LCMU work … The members have helped solve local crimes, identify crime suspects, locate stolen vehicles and items. My hopes are that members of LCMU can keep helping our community, keep crimes in check here by networking and help local law enforcement with real-time tips.”

Aside from this utilitarian aspect, LCMU also serves, for the casual observer, as a raw portrait of the surrounding community; the page is a perfect example of what writer Andrew Sullivan recently called “hyperdemocracy,” a kind of anti-elitist and unregulated and hyperbolic clamoring (and trolling) of any and all voices, again for better or for worse.

You want to see where you really live, take a scroll through the neighborhood. You may not like what you hear at LCMU, but it’s as real as cyberspace gets.

 

Best Calendar Submissions

There’s something beautiful about simplicity. And that holds true when it comes to our calendar. Two people who always send in their event information before the calendar deadline and in perfect form are Max Leek and Hugh O’Haire. We first appreciated the weekly, 18-word emails from Leek when they were pointed out to us. O’Haire’s emails are comparable, on time, direct and he always says, “thank you.”

Part of the job of the calendar editor involves sorting through roughly 700 emails per week. It can be daunting, but we enjoy learning about the events, organizations and other happenings in the community and truly appreciate people who take time to email or call to thank the calendar editor. Emails can be sorted into varying degrees of niceness or lack thereof. For example, some emails come from people who apologize for missing the deadline, others totally ignore the deadline and then there are always a few insulting emails. Some provide specific instructions on how to do the calendar editor job — several are often copied to the editor. An author once called our calendar editor uneducated and uncivilized because the author had failed to fill out an event form correctly, and before he could return a call to clarify his misinformation, he left a voicemail threatening to sue.

Here are the two winning calendar event submissions:

SOCIAL DANCE

English & Scottish Country Dancing, 7:00 Thursdays. Vet’s Memorial Ballroom, 1620 Willamette St. $7, first time FREE.

GATHERINGS

Refuge Recovery Meeting, Buddha Eye Temple, 2190 Garfield St., Mondays and Wednesdays, 7-8:30pm. FREE.

We appreciate the wide range of events that are sent to us every day. Thanks for your submissions, and before you send your emails, just remember what most of us were taught as small children: manners.

 

Best New Eyesore

An obnoxious design fad is rearing its head in Eugene: structures that look like boxy Nike gear. No new building epitomizes that more than the Hilton Home2 Suites going up at 11th and Olive downtown. The hotel looms ominously close over The Kiva grocery like a “Just Do It” storm cloud (sidenote: Do Eugene city planners understand what a decent setback from the street looks like? The sidewalk along 11th feels like a tightrope except instead of a net, there’s lots of traffic to break your fall).

Take the front exterior’s slate gray stonework (actually, the Hilton gets points for using a material other than stucco — Eugene’s go-to) dashed with a lemon-lime green strip of — you guessed it — stucco. Of course, in line with the cost-cutting ways of contemporary construction, the Hilton only used stone on the front façade, opting for army-green ridged tin and white stucco for the rest of the exterior. We imagine it this way: The front is a slick but quickly out of fashion Nike shoe, while the back is an old gym sock, waiting to yellow. And we dare you to go knock on that green tin siding — it’s hollow as fuck. There is, however, a silver lining here: The Home2 Suites have been plunked down next to Crapstone’s sickly cardboard excuse for student housing, which means: We’re developing an eyesore hub! Let’s put all the crummy, cheap, soulless buildings in one spot and soon we can charge for tours of the mecca where design went to die.

 

Best Gallery Cat

Have you seen that bronze, no, Creamsicle Adonis, strutting down Broadway, making all the passersby swoon? Some even pat his head or ruffle his belly. His name is Tonto, and he’s the king of downtown. Three humans — Jason Pancoast, Elizabeth Fraser-Paul and Taylor Jones — ostensibly own and run the fantastic Shadowfox art gallery and newly relocated Perk coffeehouse, but it’s pretty clear that Tonto is in charge. Unlike many galleries that feel cold and standoffish, he is a warm host, welcoming gallery-goers with a soft nudge or a meow of approval, making Tonto the absolute best gallery cat.

“He likes to be around people and see what’s going on,” Pancoast says.

Tonto is a Flame Point Siamese, adorably cross-eyed and armed with a sweet backstory: Years ago, when Pancoast was leaving Market of Choice in South Eugene, he encountered this kitty. “I just looked at him, touched his head and walked away,” Pancoast says. He looked back in wonder as the kitty followed him the many blocks home. “I opened the door and he sat upon the bed and was like, ‘I live here now.’”

That was seven years ago and, after Pancoast did his due diligence to make sure he wasn’t someone else’s pet, the duo have grown to be inseparable best buds. When Pancoast opened the gallery in 2015, it became Tonto’s new home because “I’m here, so he’s here,” Pancoast says.

And boy, is Tonto ever-present. At a recent Tuesday Talks — one of many new community series that Shadowfox has started recently with help from the city of Eugene — Tonto casually sashayed around as 30-plus people spoke in a circle, occasionally sauntering into the center to take a bath or climbing atop a 5-foot speaker to nap.

Pancoast says it’s just swell to pet Tonto — he especially likes it on his head and shoulders — and even pick him up, as long as you don’t disturb his butt; he doesn’t like that. Pancoast says Tonto will let you know on the rare occasion he isn’t DTC (down to cuddle).

“He’s a very chill cat unless a big dog walks by,” Pancoast adds. Small dogs don’t bother him, but if Tonto sees a big dog, he becomes a dog bouncer, shoo-ing them away from the gallery.

The gallery also recently started “Art Bar” every Wednesday night where the public is encouraged to come get creative together, working on individual art or collaborating with others.

“He’ll sit by people working on a project,” Pancoast says of Tonto.

While interviewing Pancoast about Tonto, the big cat walks up knowingly, slinking around, occasionally letting out little chirping meows, before heading out the door to the street. “He’s very independent,” Pancoast says, explaining that sometimes Tonto will seat himself on the bench of one of the Davis Restaurant’s outdoor tables as if he’s out to lunch.

As an art lover, Tonto intimated that his favorite artist is Jackson Pollock because of his use of color and the dribbles of paint that look like yarn, although Pancoast wonders outloud if his little buddy understands Pollock’s intended metaphors. The pussycat looks up at his sidekick nonplussed.

Lately, Tonto has spent more time in the basement, where Pancoast and company are building four artist studios that are slated to open in early 2017. Pancoast wants Shadowfox to be a home for artists and creatives, “a place to be.”

If it’s true what Jean Cocteau said — that cats become the visible soul of a home — then Shadowfox is in luck with the come-one, come-all spirit of Tonto.

Visit the Shadowfox gallery at 76 W. Broadway downtown or find its page on Facebook.

 

Best Fish in a Veterinary Office

Westmoreland Animal Hospital on West 11th took the concept of a cute office fish tank and ran away with it, building an enormous wall of glass prominently displayed in their main office. Giant, glossy fish inhabit the tank, swimming placidly from one side of their domicile to the other. In a vet’s office, where worried owners wait with sick pets, the tank serves a therapeutic purpose, slowly lulling visitors into uninhibited calm. Plus, it’s fun to watch the office staff try to feed the fish — it involves standing on a chair and carefully distributing the fish food to discourage greedy swimmers from getting too much.

 

Best (unintentional) dance happening/performance art

Performers don green and yellow, and fly flags as they move about their busy mornings, gathering momentum in their sheer magnitude. Nonverbal cues signal the impetus to swirl towards the stage, as movers walk gingerly along curvy pathways, careening optimistically towards their connected, collaborative vision. Small groups randomly stop to root and chant, sing and swill, even eating, they gather in groupings with one common goal. Inside the performance hall, movers dazzle with this week’s costume, and win or lose, the band plays on.

 

Best Downtown convenience

Nestled into the warm armpit of The Horsehead Bar on Broadway downtown, Thunderbird Market deserves a big fat pat on the back. The locally owned convenience store (co-owned by the owners of Horsehead and Jameson’s Bar) has had some hits over the eight years it’s been open.

Namely, it’s on Eugene’s tiny version of The Corner, a hotbed — according to many downtown businesses and denizens, as well as crime statistics from a website the EPD directed EW to check out — for meth and heroin deals, prostitution and public defecation.

In spite of this, the staff is always welcoming, chatty and helpful, jamming out to great tunes from heavy metal to ’80s pop. While the store carries all your favorite munchies, they also feature local grub, like delicious fresh-made sandwiches from the Horsehead.

“We stay for that,” manager Jeff Keim says of customer service and Thunderbird’s regulars. “We care about the community.”

Keim says they have tons of neighborhood regulars who keep the job rewarding. “I like the people,” he says. “You get to meet a lot of interesting people, 90 percent of whom are nice.”

It hasn’t been easy for the Thunderbird crew to stay positive, however, as Keim says the illegal activity going down on the corner of Broadway and Olive can scare off customers.

“It’s worse than I’ve ever seen it,” he says. Keim says he wants to make it clear he has no interest in blaming the homeless — explaining that many of them are polite, regular valued customers — but he is concerned that no action is taken against the people committing obvious crimes outside the shop, many of which involve minors.

“It would be nice if they would enforce the law,” Keim says of city leaders and law enforcement.

As far as keeping its community happy, Keim adds that Thunderbird encourages customers to dictate what products are on the shelf, instead of vice versa.

“We do try to do things our own way,” he says. Well, Thunderbird, keep on keeping on. And thank you.

 

Best Art Project

In a city that completes projects at a snail’s pace, it’s exciting and refreshing to see the 20X21 Eugene Mural Project take off so fast. The goal: “20 world-class murals in our community by 2021.” The mural effort kicked off in the spring and three murals have already been painted — a colorful, figurative dreamscape by Brazilian art collective Acidum Project in the alley between Cowfish and Killer Burger downtown (pictured); L.A. artist Beau Stanton’s epic stylized portrait filling an L-shaped strip of wall at the downtown bus station; the glowing honeycombs and apple blossoms surrounding a fuzzy bee at WildCraft Cider Works storage space in the Whiteaker by Eugene-turned-L.A. artist Steven Lopez.

Murals are something that, for relatively cheap, can transform a city into a tourist attraction and an inspiration hub for other artists. Not only that, but the act of painting a mural is the act of creating community. Local artists have already pitched in to help paint, and passersby often stop to chat with the artist.

Isaac Marquez, the city’s public art manager as well as 20X21 committee member, tells EW: “All of us in this community have an interest in public spaces. If we create the opportunities for the public to shape their own public space, we become a more resilient city.”

Eugene will absolutely sparkle when this project is complete.

 

So no qualms, right? Of course there are qualms; this is Eugene after all.

“The local artist issue comes up pretty consistently,” Marquez says. “People don’t understand why we aren’t commissioning local artists for this work.” OK, let’s clear something up. The project is commissioning both internationally renowned artists and local artists for the 20 murals, Marquez says. There is a good reason for hiring outside artists: International artists expose Eugene to new ideas, and in return, those artists act as ambassadors, putting Eugene on the map as a city that welcomes high-profile artists and promotes the arts, making the local arts scene even stronger.

Author: admin