Diversity is Something You Can Do

Published Friday, July 11, 2008 in The Register-Guard.

We talk plenty about celebrating diversity. Too much maybe. Talking is no substitute for doing. But this weekend can be different. With a little planning, you can practice what we preach and then regale others with everything you saw and heard in the span of a single day.

I hereby declare each second Sunday in July “Doing Diversity Day” and offer this step-by-step guide to celebrating it.

Dress comfortably, and for the weather. You’ll be walking more than you may be used to, but you won’t ever have to hurry. You’ll be outside during the heat of the day and again as the shadows lengthen in the early evening. Sensible shoes and a light jacket are recommended.

If you start most Sundays with a worship service, try to get to an early one. The cultural brunch afterwards will be all-you-can-eat, so starting with some stillness is never a bad idea. If you’re more into natural wonder and you feel feisty, hike Mt. Pisgah or Spencer’s Butte to start the day.

Arrive at the Safeway on 18th Avenue before 10 AM. Stand in line for tickets to the Oregon Country Fair. Notice the people in front and behind you. They may have nothing in common, except their connection to you for the moment. Ponder that.

Lane Transit District runs free shuttles from their downtown station to the Fair every few minutes. Resist the temptation to drive to Veneta. Diversity is experienced best in close quarters. Notice strangers chatting during the 20-minute bus ride.

The bus will spill you out onto the grounds of the Fair. Don’t worry about feeling lost. Many of the hard-core “Fair Family” will have slept very little since Friday and they’ll seem a little lost themselves. You’ll fit right in.

Drink in the ambiance, sipping from a firehose of people-watching. Eat something. You can find tofu prepared a dozen different ways, but there are also burgers and pizza and elephant ears. Pick a knoll and watch a concert. Watch the people watching. You may wish you could stay longer, but this field trip has two more stops before dinner.

Take the free shuttle back to Eugene. This ride may sound about the same, but smell a little different. The Fair can sometimes stick to you. Make sure you have allowed enough time to arrive downtown well before 3 PM. Walk six blocks north from the LTD station to the Hult Center, for the finale of this year’s Oregon Bach Festival, the “St. Matthew Passion” performed in Silva Hall.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to get tickets, it’s worth your effort to mill about the lobby with ticket-holders and notice that you don’t look out of place. Dress codes barely exist in Eugene. Shake a little of the Oregon Country Fair dust from your shoes onto the Hult Center carpeting. You’re doing a good thing.

Next stop: Civic Stadium, a few blocks south of the Safeway where you began. Sunday’s baseball game against the Boise Hawks starts at 4:05 and the Eugene Emeralds will be giving away San Diego Padres swag to the first 1000 fans. So you’ll have to choose whether to leave the Hult Center early or arrive at the Ems game late. In any case, you should be there in time for the seventh inning stretch.

Eat a hot dog; have a beer. Or if you prefer, find a cuisine that suits you better, but cheer for the home team with people who eat or clap or cheer differently from you. As choral directors at the Bach Festival often remind us, harmonies require people singing different notes, but all at the same time.

The baseball game will finish well before dark, leaving plenty of time to contemplate everything you saw in a single day — a cornucopia of people and pastimes. Do-it-yourself diversity.

Where else can you do so much so closely so easily? You may even have time to share some of the stories you’ve collected with others. They may want to try it themselves next year, when we will again celebrate “Doing Diversity Day.”

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) has actually done all these things in a single day, more than once. He lives in south Eugene with his large dog. He blogs right here and welcomes comments from readers.