Eugene Coffee Company

Eugene, Oregon

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If one were to divide the United States into quadrants beginning at the disputed Cartesian origin of the country (I do quite like the original method of deduction using a balancing point and a cardboard cut-out of the country, though I might have attempted some sort of catenary string model that also accounted for the psychological sinking feeling accompanying the relative locale) near Lebanon, Kansas, I am fortunate as of the past year to have now lived in each. Though I settled nearly as far from the shared vertex of each quadrant as possible, I know for a fact that within another year I will sure enough be living within a couple hundred miles, a pittance, from the susurrus of that sinkhole (strangely near the crossing of the two axes of my own Trefrian coordinate system), perhaps completing my geographic and biological destiny.

Eugene Coffee Company

Until I have had the opportunity to stick a more prolonged visual pin in that singularly central terrain I can safely say that Eugene, of the -x, +y quadrant, has the most diverse avian life I have ever encountered in one city. It must certainly be related to its position, halfway between sea-level and ski-level I read somewhere, but also to its culture. Of those whom the culture has enabled to take up residence are a rafter of wild turkeys whom I see all over town, including one midmorning at Broadway and Pearl with a perimeter of Eugene Weekly waving crunchies attempting to herd them back west, and copious chicken broods scratching about the median strips in front of their home bases. Woe unto those who attempt to trek up the west side of Polk to Cornbread. You need to end up on the east side anyway, you may as well start off there lest you be chased like a fool back to the four-way-stop by fluttering egg factories. The wilderness, high desert, and mountain are represented, at least aesthetically in my mind, by the enormous crows, who coincidentally conspire against the turkey rafter and follow them around town, buzzards, though there is nothing really special about them, and the Bald Eagles, of which I have seen two examples, or the same bird twice. I also heard, but have not seen, a Western Screech Owl in the back forty of our block. Savvy readers may recall the Great Horned Owl that lived in that woods behind our Decatur house as described in the Method tableau. There are all sorts of new songbirds that I am not familiar with as well but won’t go into more detail than simply confirming that they seem more varied than those I recall from Atlanta, Los Angeles, or Boston. Of the sea-level ilk are herons, egrets, and other brackish water birds though the seagulls are most representative. When we first moved here I felt a sad affinity for the gulls in particular, waddling and wheeling around the ubiquitous rock doves, too enormous to blend in, too stately and salty. I have experienced gulls being nearly as ubiquitous in some inland urban settings, like Rome, which is only twenty-five miles from the coast. I wanted to believe, for my own sullen purposes, that these gulls sixty miles from the Pacific in Eugene were lost. Even upon passing over a bit of Chatwin in ‘On the Black Hill’ noting the gulls’ inland migration in Wales occurred just after the HARVEST FESTIVAL didn’t disrupt my projection for no point in Wales is as far inland as Eugene.

Eugene Coffee Company

None of these are particularly representative or singular to Eugene. However having them all roaming around one city seems special. What Eugene would have you believe is an endemic, or at least native, species, is the duck. Yeah, whatever kind of duck, it doesn’t matter. Thanks to the university’s sports team mascot the word duck and the cartoon presence of ducks is almost as common as the living waterfowl who seem to fare less favorably, in a tiny pond at the start of Pre’s Trail on the godforsaken north bank of town and forgotten in a floodprone creek (as much a creek as the L.A. River is a river) running through town. Of all the birds in town, except for maybe the mercurial owl, I feel the most affinity for the little common ducks. I have been analogized to them with their peaceful coasting silence on the surface and the nonstop effort and motion of their webbed paddles unseen in the murky water. Whether it is accurate or not I have taken it to heart and taken them under my preferring wing.

cup

Having somehow burned through two loaves of bread at the same time I was left with four fermenting ‘hills.’ I believe people more typically refer to the end pieces as ‘heels.’ However in our household, due to my wife’s north Georgia mountain heritage, where they likely referred to them as ‘heels’ as well, though in that accent ‘heel’ is a homophone of ‘hill,’ she just ran with ‘hill.’ It seems the more gentle term to me and I end up preferring it. These hills could have gone into the neighbor’s compost, but rather than climb their fence yet again I decided to break a standard natural law and go down to feed the ducks in the creek. It was something that I doubtlessly would privately curse someone else for doing but that is the paradox of social distaste.

Eugene Coffee Company

I made my way down the ‘banks’ of the creek. Bleached pages from a dirty magazine withered in the tall grass inflected the already suspicious and unsavory tableau of a middle-aged man feeding ducks on a weekday afternoon by recalling more the first twenty seconds or so of ‘Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer’ than a peaceful nature lover on his day off. I cast it from my mind and sat on a culvert standing out from the steep banks and started crumbling out the sour bread into the creek. A few male and female ducks trolled about snapping them up. Then the gulls descended, their titanic wings arching to stall them in the ballistic trajectory of my crumb tosses. As an underdog myself, my above-noted empathy for the wayward seafarers was easily trumped by the comparably diminutive ducks, their more awkward attempts at flight, and of course the peaceful composure of their bodies as they swam. Within the duck paddling I soon settled on a preference for the homely females who were intimidated by all others from taking the crumbs. They being more intelligent did not follow the diversionary crumbs I tossed downstream and remained right there with me to be fed proper. Two even made their way up the bank toward the culvert and ate crumbs that I tossed into the reeds, their brazen proximity a clear demonstration of why one doesn’t feed wild animals. But were these wild? I sensed that their domestication occurred long before my late arrival on the Eugene scene. It was only a few weeks prior had I seen two mothers with walking strollers in tow loosing a flurry of Cheerios from the little bridge that led over to Albertsons. At that point, prior to my election to do similarly, I, of course, privately condemned their actions.

Eugene Coffee Company

Mid afternoon conditions in Eugene are unpredictable. My own were even more so. The time difference from my home base of operations usually meant that after about three o’clock my responsibilities dwindled, but not always, and I was ever vigilant to the perception that I was loafing, not carrying my weight, or on permanent vacation. Checking my messages I felt the confidence, stepping up out of the creek, to bet against the threatening clouds and prolong my peaceful ramble with a coffee. I never ‘need’ coffee. Those who flex their addiction never seem anything but preposterous to me. I in fact take pride in my coffeeshop visitation practices which are rarely ever in a state of rote distraction, always a choice, an indulgence in a black celebration. However, invested as I was in the immersion and mindfulness of another narrative my cup from Eugene Coffee Company accompanied me back to the creek bed. After sampling a number of different ersatz seats, on curbs, embankments, the patio of the coffeeshop, a tree in the Frisbee golf park, I had settled upstream from the culvert atop a standpipe covered with rusty checker plate. A brown tabby harlequin (I will save the study of cats in Eugene for another tableau, perhaps Wandering Goats) stalked the tall grass at the water’s edge. He sat back on his haunches amidst cries, crows, clucks, quacks, screeches, titters, chirps, caws, and warbles, at peace with the plenty.


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Eugene Coffee Company

1840 Chambers
Eugene, Oregon 97405



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CAFE TABLEAUX
is a compendium of literary, anecdotal musings on coffeeshop and cafe culture.
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