Goodbye, Eugene: A Series of Stories About Things I’ll Remember Fondly

This past Monday, I told my friends that I’m leaving Eugene for good in a couple of months. 

They were gracious and kind about it, though they admitted that they saw it coming. I sometimes forget that my friends know me better than I do. Or maybe I’m not as clever as I like to believe.

Later, nerds! (Courtesy of Robert Scherle)

My friends were the first people among my loved ones to hear the news from me, but they were not the first people I told. It took me several weeks to finally work up the courage to tell them. In the meantime, I practiced breaking the news to acquaintances whenever I came across them. I even told a complete stranger that sat down next to me at the bar, who listened patiently as I worked through all the complex emotions that come with uprooting one’s life for a change of scenery. Everyone I talked to was kind and supportive, if only in a polite, “just follow your heart” way.

Unfortunately, unloading on strangers in bars didn’t make my plans feel real. I was saying the words out loud, hoping to manifest a sense of urgency, but they still felt theoretical. What I needed was praxis, and that wouldn’t come until I started telling the people I actually care about in my life – though, as of this writing, I still haven’t told my parents. But that would mean that, soon, I’ll be saying goodbye one last time. 

And saying goodbye–a real, tearful, honest, final goodbye–is one of the hardest things to do.

I’m a person who burns bridges. It’s my default method of ending things. Once something is over–a friendship, a romantic relationship, a lease on an apartment, a job, whatever–I just find it easier to sever all ties. Usually, I do it quietly, cleverly undermining whatever relationship I’m in until it’s no longer tenable, then slinking away right before it all falls apart. I’ve also been known, on occasion, to make the bridge burning far more dramatic, with screaming and explosions and emotional wreckage left in my wake.

None of this is healthy, I know, but you can’t tell me anything I haven’t already paid a therapist to say to me.

I do this because it’s easier to sneak away in the night than it is to face the light of a clear blue morning. If I never say goodbye, nothing will ever end. If I never say goodbye, no one will miss me, because no one will know that I’m gone until it’s too late. And if I never say goodbye, I won’t miss them, either. This has been the case for all my adult life, bouncing from city to city and job to job, never feeling anchored anywhere and therefore never feeling a need to say goodbye.

I can’t do that anymore. I’m not going to make the same mistake when I leave Eugene, this wonderful little city that I’ve come to love. This weird little hamlet, and all the weird people that live inside it, has given me everything I could’ve ever asked of it and so much more. 

The least I can do is give the city–and all of you–a proper goodbye.

What follows is a bunch of stories about all the things I’ll remember fondly about Eugene: its people, its culture, its beauty, and especially its idiosyncrasies. I know there’s plenty of bad things to say about Eugene, but I don’t want to spend my last few weeks here thinking about everything I dislike about my adopted hometown. I’ve spent the last few years flailing around in the muck; for once, I think it’d be healthy to write about what I do like about Eugene, and how important a role this place has played in my journey so far and how I’m going to miss this place so fucking much.

Not that it’s going to be all sentimental reflection on the last five years. I still have a job to get fired from, some city officials to annoy, and just a couple more fascists to piss off – and the writing I have planned for my final stories will do at least two of those things.

But if nothing else, I just want to write a long goodbye letter to the city of Eugene. That’s it – one final series of too-long paragraphs hosted on this scrappy little website. Maybe no one will ever read it. Maybe they’ll never even click the link. Maybe I’m the only one who feels the way I do about this place, and maybe I’m reading too much into how it feels about me. 

All that is okay. If there’s one thing I know to be absolutely true, it’s that taking the time to write something honest is never a waste.

I really want to be honest with you, Dear Reader. And I will be, because I’ve got nothing left to lose.

I’ve got a lot more to say over the next few weeks, so you can expect a whole bunch of writing from me between now and October. But for now, I’ll leave you with this anecdote about baseball, cops, and baseball cops.

The day after I told my friends I’ll soon be moving away, I went to a Eugene Emeralds game with Double Sided Media’s editor-in-chief, David. 

It was a hot and muggy Tuesday, the only kind that seems to exist anymore. Our seats were right behind home plate, three rows up, which became only two rows up when we found that the entire second row was empty. The tickets were only 11 dollars, because minor league baseball rules. A twenty-ounce pour of Ninkasi Total Domination cost the same as our seats; a twenty-four ounce pour of Bud Light cost just fifty cents less.

I was hoping for a distraction. After finally breaking the news of my move, I felt relieved, but I’d just endured a week’s worth of anxiety about the conversation, and I felt that a night at the ball game with my homie was a wholesome way to blow off some steam. We could heckle the other team and yell at the umpires, who I like to call “baseball cops.” Baseball, as a sport, is predicated on chaos, and having a fallible human being in charge of judging which part of the chaos is legal within the parameters of the sport is no better than having a civic official in charge of judging what sort of human interaction is technically “legal.”

Then I saw the actual cops – and I mean all of the actual cops.

(MG Belka // Double Sided Media)

Unknowingly, we bought our tickets for the same night as the so-called National Night Out, which is some sort of made-up copaganda holiday. This meant that roughly half of the Eugene Police Department was at PK Park, either in attendance or doing valuable PR work outside the stadium. Not only were they there, they were part of the program. Chief Skinner gave a speech before the game, right before a K-9 unit demonstrated how German Shepherds take down their targets about 5 feet from first base. Cops rode tiny tricycles around the outfield between innings and took pictures with everyone’s kids. One officer, during a between-innings mini-game, was tasked with catching a baseball thrown from the stands with oversized inflated gloves, which of course smacked the cop right in the face.

Now picture me, based on what you might know about me. Then, imagine me approaching a ballpark, already half-drunk, only to be greeted by a literal squadron of cops on either side of the approach to the stadium, and being seated amongst hundreds of cops, their families, and their staunchest supporters. 

Now, add in the fact that I have the anarchist circle-A tattooed on my calf, right next to an upside-down cross. On this night, I was wearing shorts.

Are you laughing yet? Because you should be.

But the cops didn’t prevent us from having a raucous good time. I eventually got too drunk to care about them being around, which I suppose is at least part of the point of attending a baseball game. We drunkenly heckled the shit out of the visiting Tri-City Dust Devils. One of the stadium ushers had to tell David to stop yelling “FUCK!” because there were children around. We became extremely invested in the plight of a praying mantis trying to climb the protective net behind home plate; when a foul tip knocked the bug to the turf, we became visibly and audibly worried.

The mantis survived. The home team won by a score of 11–4. I got home safe and without any controversy. As I collapsed in bed, sweaty, drunk, my head spinning, I felt happy – just plain, old, regular happiness that doesn’t seem to come around too often anymore. I don’t think I’ve felt happy in at least a couple of months, not since the middle of June. 

I was happy because, in about two months time, I’ll never have to think about the Eugene Police Department again. I’ll never again have to see Chris Skinner’s face, and I’ll never again have to hear him make a corny joke into a microphone. I’ll never read another press release, another tweet, or anything else relating to the Eugene Police. There are cops everywhere, I know, and my new home will certainly have the same problems, and probably much worse ones. 

But in two months, I’ll be able to wash my hands of EPD for good.

It was nice. It was liberating. And right as my head hit the pillow, I knew–really, truly, fully knew deep in my heart–that it’s time to get the fuck out of Eugene. 

Play me out, Dolly!

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