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Full Eugene is Fun Eugene

January 31st, 2011 by dk

Photographer Chris Jordan opened his art exhibit entitled “Running the Numbers” at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art this week. Each work in this series arranges thousands of tiny images to form a larger picture addressing the same topic.

For example, 32,000 Barbie dolls are photographed and arranged into a mosaic to depict a female breast. The number of tiny images corresponds to the number of women who have elective breast augmentation surgery each month. You get the idea — a pictoral (in this case, pectoral) argument that “the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Numbers frighten us in Eugene. (Corvallis got the state’s math prowess.) So without changing the subject, consider with me a Eugene-friendly, non-numeric number: “all,” and its geometric equivalent: “full.”

“All” is a good measure for Eugene, because it signifies no remainder, nothing wasted, efficiency maximized. We literally did “more with less.”

Now let me tell you what I did last weekend.

Friday evening, I met a friend for dinner at The Humble Beagle. All the seats were taken shortly after we arrived. There was a line out the door. A neighborhood watering hole was operating at full capacity, hitting on all cylinders.

After dinner, we walked to the Very Little Theater. We snatched the last two seats for James Aday’s interpretation of “An Enemy of the People.” We sat in the last row against the lovingly crafted, curved wood wall. If the Hult Center’s Silva Hall feels like a view from beneath a lawn chair, VLT offers the view from inside half a barrel.

Saturday morning I ambled downtown for the “Celebrating Champions” parade. I found the last parking spot inside the Parcade. Those who marched in the parade told me almost every inch of the route was at least two people deep.

News reports didn’t attempt to measure the size of the crowd, but let’s run some numbers. A person is approximately two feet wide, and the parade route was exactly one mile long. If two-deep was the average lining both sides, that’s 21,120 people, give or take. Every one of those 20,000 people looked to be full of pride.

The program afterwards drew a similar throng. I can’t think of a time when the Park Blocks has been more full of people. Or joy.

That evening I caught the closing performance of South Eugene High School’s student production of “Up,” a show about work and/or ambition. Every seat was taken.

I interrupt this conversation about quantity for a word about quality. Our city’s culture allows ample opportunity for the old to learn from the young. Reading the liner notes for “Up,” I learned that the new word for rapt approval is “nift.” Each of the young actors found a way to exclaim how the work and/or the ambition of mounting this impressive show and working with student director Annika Bennett had been nift for them.

The next day, my sons and I were among the 12,320 who cheered our Duck women’s basketball team. What joy comes from being inside when something’s full.

Over less than 48 hours, I took in six different live events. Each fulfilled its potential and filled its capacity. Full and fun feed each other.

Full requires that some may be turned away. We don’t like that part, but it’s inevitable. Five drivers behind me in the Parcade had to find parking elsewhere. Very Little Theater would have turned away a party of three. Some still have only heard stories about the inside of the Matthew Knight Arena.

But anyone who wants will get their turn. (The Ducks’ “Fill the Matt” campaign will continue. General admission seats for each of the team’s remaining Saturday games are two dollars.)

Full venues will bring even more new options. We’re growing up without having to grow old. That’s very good news for this place and all the lives being lived inside it.

Jordan’s art demonstrates that the whole is not only greater than its component parts. The whole also can produce something completely different. The whole then gives meaning back to each of those parts.

Everybody else — the whole — made my weekend more than full. It was nift.


Don Kahle ( writes a weekly column for The Register-Guard and blogs.

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