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U-gene Oh-ay-sis

Came to Eugene and had a lovely visit. It felt a bit weird for different reasons, hard to pin down. Obviously the town is home to Zerzan and the Green Anarchy crowd, and their bizarre enthusiasm for apocalyptic catastrophe as a “political critique” of modern capitalism. But we didn’t meet any of those folks, who either didn’t know I was passing through, didn’t care, or didn’t want to engage publicly…

I did a reading to a small, much older crowd than usual at Tsunami Books, a cool shop somewhat away from the town center. Here’s a photo, and also Scott, the proprietor who graciously hosted me on the local university’s commencement day, and has his own beautiful garden on the side of the bookstore.

I enjoyed presenting at Tsunami though did find it a bit weird how the crowd of 11 people consisted of 10 men, 1 female, and at least 8 or 9 over 45… quite a contrast to other appearances. But anyway, Kathy Ging was the most loquacious of the audience members and she told a couple of interesting stories: first about helping start a Community Skill Bank in Ashland a couple of dozen years ago and how it functioned; and secondly she started a concept (and website) called Liberated Salad. It’s pretty cool!

Kathy also set us up with Sue Supriano (host of Steppin’ Out of Babylon radio show), who kindly gave us a place to sleep and the following morning a walking tour of Maitrea, a nearby ecovillage and intentional community.


Sue has a beautiful garden herself, and in it is this big rain catchment basin she had installed:

I thought it curious when she explained that she’d moved to Eugene from Berkeley because of global warming and peak oil. I guess there’s a sense that people will take better care of themselves in Eugene than in the metropolitan Bay Area, but I actually imagine the opposite. I think we’ll do pretty well at reinventing urban life and cohabitation as we need to in the Bay Area… but of course I’m quite optimistic!

Eugene feels like an oasis in many respects. The streets are very wooded, there are lovely gardens both private and public, lots of parkland, the river runs through the city and is graced with parks and bikeways on both sides and several bike/ped bridges connecting the two sides. We bombed around town on our bikes, and came upon this odd sign, implying a level of social monitoring I haven’t encountered elsewhere!

We especially enjoyed the walk over to Maitrea, a real Nowtopian outpost, with Sue. Here’s a bunch of photos:

A lot of the architecture was really interesting around the half block site. There are various dome structures made of wood and cardboard, several straw bale houses and benches, and as we were leaving we passed this important resource, “Waste Stream Alley”.

I spoke with a guy strumming his guitar about the work and the community and he spoke well of it. Apparently it’s gotten a lot more tightly organized in the past year, one report indicating it is through the assertion of more direction from the titular land owners who are part of the community. I don’t know if I would enjoy being part of such a place, but in terms of the physical “plant” it was really beautiful and inspiring!

From Eugene we made our way to Portland, and made it in time to join the Zoobombers, crowds of bicyclists who take the train to the Zoo at the top of the hill and then “bomb” downhill into central Portland in about 10 minutes. It’s a lot like an amusement park ride, but you can do it on your own bike (I did!) and you’re in a crowd of cyclists, much like a Critical Mass, but too precarious to talk or share the experience much, having to focus on navigating the crowds and the curves and the speed to make it down. Once down, most of the group immediately entered the tram station to take the train back to the top, but we headed home to the northeast of Portland.

Now that we’ve been here a few days, there are lot more stories to tell, but I’ll put them in the next post.

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