The Place


As mentioned a few days ago in this space, I went with Thom, who’s going to be a sophomore at the University of Oregon this year, up to Eugene in search of a house to rent for him and a couple of friends. One part of the job was easy. Unlike Berkeley, where there are comparatively few rental houses on the market, Eugene seems to be full of places to let.

We got to town Tuesday evening with a list of four places to check out before dark. None was just right — either a little far from campus or a little sketchy looking (in one of these places, the tenants had changed the locks and the landlord couldn’t get in for an apparently unannounced showing). Wednesday morning, we checked Craigslist and the local paper, the Register-Guard, which had about 80 houses listed for rent and about half a dozen that were big enough and close enough to campus to look at.

One of those was the house above, on Potter Street, about a mile south of campus. It’s on the plain side but looks like it has been well taken care of; it’s got wood floors, a big, largely junk-free backyard and a full basement with a washer and dryer. That’s what we could tell from the outside. We called the agent from the street in front, found out there were no applications in for the house yet and that we could see the inside the next day if we were still interested. To apply, we needed to get paperwork not only for Thom and his roommates but on a cosigner for each.

“Paperwork” meant giving Social Security numbers, driver’s license info, two pieces of ID (including one with a picture), and agreeing to a credit check for each applicant and cosigner. The challenge was that of the three roommates, only Thom was in Eugene at the moment. One was in suburban Portland and the other was on a family road trip to Utah and Colorado from his home in Wyoming. But having a deadline — we wanted to be back in Berkeley on Thursday night — helped. Using email, cellphones, faxes, and the walk-in printing setup at Kinko’s, we managed to put together complete applications for everyone by the time we met the agent back at the Potter Street house at 11 a.m. Thursday.

The house looked like it would be a good place for the three guys. We drove to the agent’s office and dropped off the applications, checked out a couple other houses just in case Choice A didn’t come through, then hit I-5 and drove home. Friday morning, we got a call from the agent: Thom and his buddies got the place. I didn’t expect it to feel like an accomplishment, but it does.

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Eugene, Late

Up Interstate 5 again today for our unofficial first visit of the 2006-07 University of Oregon school year. Gas is three bucks and up everywhere you go, and if there are fewer people on the road than during the late cheap gas days, or if the ones who are out there are really driving smaller cars than they were before, I still need convincing (I’m the one to talk, driving a ’98 Dodge Grand Caravan — Grand, mind you — that at its most economical got about 26 miles to the gallon. One hundred and forty thousand miles into its career, it does well to get 23 miles per gallon, though the way we tend to drive on I-5 and like roads — 75 or 80 if people will let us by — doesn’t help matters).

Anyway. Thom and I are up here for a couple nights. Our mission: Find an off-campus place for him and two of his buddies to stay for the coming year. So tomorrow and Thursday, we’ll be looking at places and saying to each other, “Can’t believe they think they can get $1,500 a month for that dump.” Hopefully, we won’t be the payers of that $1,500. Wish us luck, wherever you are.

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Snow in Eugene

Thom called this morning to report that he woke up to a snowy landscape outside his dorm in Eugene, Tingle Hall (one of the best dorm names ever). The proof:

Snow in Eugene

Eugene’s pretty far north; something like 44 or 45 degrees, so well above the latitude of Chicago. But it’s low, only about 400 to 500 feet above sea level. And like the rest of the climate west of the big western mountain ranges (up there the Cascades, down here the Sierra), the proximity to the Pacific is a dominant factor. So: Snow is unusual up there. Not an extraordinary rarity, as it is in the Bay Area (though it does snow up in the hills here, and the same storm that’s making winter up in Oregon is supposed to drop snow here at elevations above 1,000 feet today and tonight).

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Tingle Hall


The new room — in Tingle Hall in the Hamilton residence complex at the U of O. Thom checks out his half of the space and charts his plan of attack. To me, it seemed like he got everything taken care of in about an hour.

Thirty-one years ago this month, John and Lydell and I all moved into our rooms in Wilkins Hall at Illinois State (our one-time home was recently in the news — it just got renovated). Thirty years ago, so my memory isn’t as clear. But: It seemed like we had a little more room. Or maybe not: I think it didn’t matter too much to me when I got there what the room and the food and my roommate and hall neighbors were like. I was just kind of happy to be going to school. My semi-wide-eyed pleasure with the new experience didn’t last long, and I fell into bad school habits and traded new roommates at the first opportunity. But in ways that I couldn’t have imagined, moving into that room started me on the path that led me here to Oregon right now.

Road Blog: Eugene

Cimg2617We made it to Eugene. Got up early, but not super-early, and drove up Interstate 5 from Yreka to Eugene. It’s different up north: They actually have an autumn with trees turning color and frost in the air and the whole bit. The country along the way starts out mountainous — you have to cross the Siskiyous (SISK-yoos, to you auslanders) to cross into southern Oregon. Then you travel through the valley towns of Ashland (lovely unto annoyance) and Medford (annoyingly ordinary), then begin crossing a series of divides into the watersheds of the Rogue and Umpqua rivers, their various branches, and lesser streams. North of Roseburg, about 130 miles north of the California border, the road begins flattening out some as you pass towns like Oakland, Rice Hill, and Drain. Eventually, you enter the watershed of the Willamette (wa-LAMB-it) and soon get to Eugene.

Cimg2634 We wanted to attend a 1 p.m. orientation session, and we got there in plenty of time to park and get to the Erb Memorial Union (Emu for us auslanders). Since it was a holiday, Veteran’s Day, the session was packed (about 40 or 50 people). We spent an hour hearing how much the University of Oregon cost, what sort of grades and test scores you need to get in, and many, many other aspects of campus life. At 2 p.m., a sophomore business student named Matt Plumb gamely took the whole group on a tour: of the union, a dormitory, a future dormitory (now a hole in the ground), the student rec center, the library, the new Lillis business building, the journalism building, a new science building, and much more.

Quick impressions of campus: Smaller than expected, on a much more humane scale than any of the Big Ten campuses I’ve seen or the UC-Berkeley campus in its present incarnation — maybe more the way Berkeley was through the ’60s (the scale probably reflects enrollment; Oregon’s got a total of about 20,000 students, including graduates; Berkeley’s got about 34,000; several of the Big 10 schools have long since been at or above 50,000 for years). The tallest buildings at Oregon seem to top out at about five or six stories, and there are only a handful of those; there’s just one big lecture hall, and it seats about 500 or so; that’s mid-size by Berkeley standards. The campus is beautifully landscaped; lots of trees, lots of green, lots of open space, still, so it doesn’t have the overbuilt feel you get in some areas of Berkeley. You can’t judge much from a single afternoon, but overall the place felt quieter and less rushed and crowded than Berkeley.

The tour lasted an hour. We decided to drive around Eugene a little to see what flavor we could get. Well — not much from driving, aside from confirming the fact that drive-through espresso is huge north of the California border. Afterward, with no real plan, we decided to drive back south to Ashland to spend the night. But by the time we got there, about 7 p.m. or so, we were in driving mode and after a walk up and down the main street looking for something to eat and deciding we weren’t hungry, we decided to drive all the way home (another 340 miles or so). After stopping for bad Mexican food in Mount Shasta (note: Stay away from Lalo’s, except maybe if you just want a beer), we split the driving (me to Mount Shasta, Tom the next 165 miles or so to Williams — site of the phantom Dairy Queen — and me the last 100 miles) and got back to Berkeley a little before 1 in the morning.

(Pictures: Top: Tom listens to University of Oregon tour-leader guy. Bottom: People, trees, and autumn colors abound on Eugene campus.)