dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog

Quips, queries, and querulous quibbles from the quirky mind of Don Kahle

dkSez : : : : : : Don Kahle's blog random header image

Gifts This President Could Give Us

January 3rd, 2019 by dk

We’re a diverse nation. We don’t agree on much. We celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or solstice. Seinfeld fans are somewhere celebrating “Festivus, the holiday for the rest of us.” Our December traditions do share one organizing feature — gift-giving.

Voters recently gave themselves the gift of divided government, but they didn’t agree exactly what that gift should look like. Some would like to see impeachment papers in their stocking. Others will be happy with more coal. The largest majority did make one thing clear. They don’t want nothing. Governmental gridlock pleases no one.

We have a president who fancies himself a builder and an all-around rich guy. There are gifts his government could us that affirms what he believes about himself, while also pleasing his citizenry. I’ll list three. You’ll think of others.

Starting with the basics, everybody needs a bathroom once in a while. Our builder-in-chief should insist that public buildings include them.

Every police and fire station should have a bathroom that’s accessible to the public 24 hours a day — post offices, libraries and larger government buildings, when they are open. Encourage and reward businesses to provide facilities, especially those that stay open all night.

Monitoring the bathrooms to prevent bad hygiene and illicit behavior creates complexity, but the federal government is best suited to meet complex needs. We need government to solve problems that seem both intractable and ubiquitous. Sewers never could have been built by compassionate citizens without government resources.

Second, let’s bury every utility wire. Telephone poles are so 1955! They create hazards and outages during every major storm. These “shovel-ready” public works projects would bring jobs to every acre of America.

The jobs will be temporary, but the beauty will be permanent. Earlier in my life, I was a professional photographer (as was my father.) I married an artist because her landscape paintings could do what my photographs couldn’t — eliminate the wires that we’ve trained ourselves to overlook. (Our marriage ended around the time Photoshop was introduced, but I’m sure that was a coincidence.)

Beauty benefits all of us, almost always in ways we do not understand. That’s why my last request of Washington politicians is also the simplest. It would help arts organizations immensely. Use the Oregon Cultural Trust as the template for a federal tax credit program.

If you don’t know about the Oregon Cultural Trust, you should. Here’s how it works. If you donate up to $500 to any (or many) of the hundreds of cultural non-profits registered with in Oregon, you can then donate the same amount to the Oregon Cultural Trust, which then gives grants to arts organizations across the state.

Your OCT donation earns you an equivalent state income tax credit, so your second donation costs you nothing. The state is essentially doubling your donation’s impact on behalf of the arts in Oregon. It’s a program that is unique to Oregon, but we’d be more than happy to share the concept with the rest of the nation.

This is, after all, the season of giving.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at Learn more about the Oregon Cultural Trust at

Tags: No Comments.

There’s Something Miraculous Inside You

January 3rd, 2019 by dk

December is our month for contemplating miracles. A small amount of oil lasted an impossibly long time. God became a person, born on to a virgin mother. Kwanzaa’s focus falls between the Christianity’s cosmic claim and Judaism’s tactile tradition. Kwanzaa celebrates the first fruits of the annual harvest.

Some miracles hide in plain sight. Because they occur all the time, we see them as normal, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t miraculous. The growing season’s reliability is the miracle. Every marriage that succeeds is a testament to the improbable. Every snowflake — solid and soft at the same time — should provoke wonder. Emerson once remarked that if the stars appeared only once each year, no one would sleep that night.

Let me describe an everyday miracle you may not have seen. As I set the stage to describe it, I ask only that you trust your gut.

Our Milky Way galaxy has at least 100 billion stars. The Hubble space telescope has detected no fewer than 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. There are approximately a trillion trillion stars and planets — and that’s a low estimate.

There are approximately 130 billion mammals walking the earth right now. You and I are among them. Inside each animal is another galaxy. Inside every human gut, there are approximately 300 billion bacteria. They are the worker bees our digestive system work. We cannot digest food, expel waste, and replenish our cells without their assistance.

Every human life relies on a nearly infinite number of tasks performed by micro-organisms. We’ve outsourced all the basic processes the keep us alive. The work they do collectively results in what we call “life.” Just as the sun supports life on earth, you support these bacteria. You are the star of their show. From each bacterium’s point of view, “you” are Gaia. You are the end which justifies all their means.

The more we learn about the human microbiome, the more we marvel at its complexity. Studies have shown that animals with less diverse microbiomes are more likely to become obese. Scientists speculate that a diverse microbiome allows each of its “inhabitants” to specialize, making the system more efficient. It takes a village to digest a cookie.

There’s no reason to doubt that inside every cell in every bacterium, we’ll someday see another galaxy of activity, and then inside every atom another. It’s worth contemplating this every time we see another person or look in the mirror and see our “self.”

You and I represent midpoints between infinite complexities. The worlds beyond us number beyond 100 billion, and the worlds beyond those do too. But the world within us is also on that scale — for you and me and 100 billion others.

Whatever force created self-awareness in humans, that force — whether by chance or intent — put us in a spot somewhere near the middle of unending layers of complexity. The universe doesn’t revolve around us, but we certainly have the best seat in town.

Simply stated, mathematically, you’re awesome. Before you’ve done anything at all, the fact that you’re alive is nothing less than a miracle.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Neighborhood Holiday Singalong 2018

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Nathan Showers and Tracy Joscelyn are concerned about an epidemic that is plaguing American society. They’re not the type to sit on their hands and hope somebody else addresses the problem. Nathan learned survivalist skills as a Boy Scout near Salem. Tracy got her degree in Recreation Management, with a focus on wilderness leadership.

Add resourcefulness to their generous spirits, and you can see why their work is gaining such respect. This weekend, during one of the shortest days of the year, they and their closest neighbors are hosting a holiday singalong. You’re invited.

This Saturday evening from 5 until 7 p.m., we’ll sing and enjoy each other’s company with hot chocolate and corn chowder around a blazing fire pit in the parking lot beside Good Samaritan Society at 34th & Hilyard in south Eugene.

For Tracy and Nathan and 10 other residents, this parking lot is their home. They live in Conestoga Hut micro-shelters built by Community Supported Shelters. Except for the warmth they generate themselves, they have no heat. And yet, they will be the ones inviting others in from the cold.

Homelessness is not the problem that is damaging us most. Our society is being decimated by loneliness. This scourge has infected the housed worst of all, because we can run inside and draw the curtains, keeping others away. We should have recognized that subdivisions might lead to loneliness.

Campers are less likely to be lonely. If you’ve ever exited a tent after a rainstorm, you know how adversity can bring strangers together. Tracy and Nathan estimate they’ve had 300 temporary neighbors over the past five years, 130 of them moved into stable housing situations.

“That’s definitely the weirdest part,” Tracy told me. “People cycle through, but some become lifelong friends. We want everyone to be comfortable, but they also have to always be ready to move on.”

Each person’s needs are different, and they aren’t easily hidden. One was between jobs and fell through the crack. Another is waiting for his girlfriend to relocate. Another is “a marshmallow pile of sadness,” who just needs people around him. In other words, Tracy’s closest neighbors are a lot like yours and mine — even if we’re less likely to know it.

That’s the point of the party. Everyone has needs and nobody has nothing to give. Whether it’s woolen socks or an understanding smile, sharing creates warmth. Music draws people together, divided only into sopranos and altos — not the housed and the unhoused.

About 50 people came to the party last year. Neighbors exchanged cookies and stories. Residents gave micro-home tours. Bi-Mart ran out of wool socks. We don’t need to be divided, much less subdivided. Relying on others is a skill worth relearning. Being tutored will cost you nothing. You can have it for a song. Let’s beat back loneliness, one stanza at a time. Please join us.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at The 2nd Annual South Neighborhood Holiday Singalong will be Saturday, Dec. 15 from 5-7 p.m. Parking will be available at Good Samaritan Society’s Eugene Village. The event will be canceled only if there’s a cold rain.

Tags: No Comments.

Exactly How Much is Our Attention Worth? (Four Dollars)

December 17th, 2018 by dk

I don’t know about you, but December is just about the only time I feel any urge to splurge on myself. Once I’m in a gift-buying mindset, I consider things that I’d like but don’t actually need. I’ve had my knives sharpened. I bought an annual parking pass for Mt. Pisgah. I picked up a mushroom-growing kit.

Only in that context did Hulu Plus make any sense to (and for) me. For less than $50, I treated myself to a year of commercial-free television. Hulu is one of many services that caters to the so-called “cord-cutters” — those without extended cable TV packages. Hulu is owned by ABC, NBC, and Fox. It packages those networks’ shows, plus more than a dozen smaller cable networks.

Four dollars isn’t much to pay if you want to avoid commercials for a month. For a one-hour show, my four dollar investment allowed me to skip about 20 minutes of commercials. I save one third of my screen-viewing entertainment time for an entire month and it costs me less than a deli sandwich I might have made during one of those commercial breaks.

I tell that story not to promote Hulu Plus or any other commercial (or, in this case, commercial-free) product. It served as a stark reminder of how much commercials have become a part of our lives. Advertisers count on it. Or they would, if anyone could actually count to five million, which is how many dollars a 30-second Super Bowl ad costs.

This is no longer the Information Age, if it ever was. Information has certainly become super-abundant, but it was always a means to an end. The shows we watched were there to make us see the commercials that paid for them. We’re now calling this the Attention Economy, because that’s really what’s being bought and sold.

The measurement of our attention has been sometimes crude and unflattering. “Click-bait” hasn’t gotten a bad name — it’s given a name to something bad that always existed.

Media companies always had to approximate what value they brought to their advertisers, based on (independently audited) circulation/viewership/listenership numbers, time-spent and user profile surveys, along with plenty of anecdotal testimonies. Online businesses measure all those same things, but with much greater precision. Ads can now be targeted to tiny subsets of the overall audience. Prices are often set by auction.

How much is our attention worth? To be honest, that’s not a question I ever contemplated before this week. Hulu (and its three television network owners) believes it’s worth four dollars a month. That’s almost insulting, when you stop to think about it.

If Hulu’s accountants are accurate — and why wouldn’t they be? — we could have had commercial-free living rooms for the past 70 years, for one measly (inflation-adjusted) dollar each week. For 13 cents a day, we could have saved all the time we’ve spent watching TV ads? If that’s true, the American public has been selling itself short for a very long time.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Let Trump Sell “Made in America” to Americans

December 17th, 2018 by dk

We’ve been debating for years now the meaning of “Make America Great Again.” As the campaign slogan has begun shaping presidential policy, industry leaders and accountants are worrying that their balance sheets could start looking ball-cap red.

Economists warn that trade wars are not “easy to win,” as President Trump claims. Every country suffers when trade is restricted — if we suffer less than the others, that will be a cold comfort. There will be casualties, unless we change course.

Unfortunately, what our current leader lacks in adaptability he makes up for in confidence. As economic conditions worsen, he will double down on his original strategy, escalate his demands, and always be ready to blame others for the outcome.

Trump is bound and determined to bring manufacturing jobs back to America. That is to say, unless Trump is somehow bound, he will remain determined. We must find a way to give the president what he wants. But it would be even better if we could use his unique skills to fulfill his promise to his devoted believers.

Trump calls himself a builder, but there has been just one thing that he has undeniably built — his brand. Our brander-in-chief could revive “Made in America” as a label that conveys American self-sufficiency, even if it comes at a price.

Could President Trump convince Americans that the extra cost of locally sourced goods is worth the prestige that the consumer’s choice carries? Luxury brands have been built on less, and successfully so. Will Americans pay more to keep their neighbors employed? They may, or they may not, but there’s no better time than now to find out.

How can this or any other president get more Americans making more things? President Obama reportedly asked Apple’s Steve Jobs exactly that. The president got a rebuke more than an answer: “Those jobs are not coming back!”

Economic pressures to use inexpensive labor are simply too great for any political force to counteract. Faced with that reality, Trump has threatened tariffs and other penalties against companies that refuse his overtures.

Let’s try shaking the other end of the rattle. It might sound better. What if there was a way to entice manufacturers without bribing them or threatening to punish them? We may have an opportunity here that no one could have predicted, using Trump’s unique skills.

Rather than asking Apple to make their iPhones in America, Trump could ask that they make some of their iPhones here, but with two significant differences. The locally made phones would have an American flag embossed into the case, and the price would reflect its higher labor costs.

Other industries would likewise offer locally produced products, side-by-side with their less expensive, foreign-sourced version. The difference in price would show consumers exactly what “made in America” costs.

Can our president persuade people to pay extra for patriotism? Americans have begun to think of themselves as citizens second and customers first. This could reverse that trend. If Americans become convinced that shopping can contribute to civic solidarity, America’s greatness will take care of itself.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Uncle Phil Should Adopt the Eugene Airport

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Phil Knight has always been an innovator. He and his coach Bill Bowerman recognized that competitive athletes were underdressed. His Stanford studies reimagined how international trade drives American consumer goods. He pioneered branding on merchandise that others considered disposable.

As his philanthropy matured, his business acumen identified spots where incremental improvement couldn’t compete with a surge of investment. Indoor practice facilities cannot grow a little bit at a time. You have to build it all at once. It’s better to completely reinvent athletes’ conditioning facilities than to make a few improvements here and there — likewise with their academic assistance center.

After each leap forward, Knight has watched in his rearview mirror how other companies and other schools scurry to avoid being left behind. Knight is more than ahead — his moves often define the curve that follows. Knight’s imitators outnumber his company’s sneaker styles.

His latest and largest local investment boldly inserts its strategy into its name. The Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact will confirm what all of the earlier experiments hypothesized. Some changes occur quickly or they don’t occur at all. A large investment, quickly implemented, can make the impossible possible.

But “Uncle Phil” has a problem. His remaining years are diminishing faster than the largesse he seems determined to distribute. As the richest Oregonian ever, he wants to do what others cannot.

Where else can he exert that singular impact that has satisfied him so well for decades? His vision has widened in recent years from improving Duck athletics. His current vision is a billion-dollar bet on remaking the University of Oregon, and you would be well advised not to wager against it. Knight’s investments have produced an impressive track record. Or, in the case of athletes who benefited, many impressive track records.

As his vision widens, Knight should focus on the Eugene Airport. A large cash infusion would make a qualitative difference for the airport’s trajectory — something more than what time and attention will naturally produce. Growing the airport would benefit everything around it, including the Ducks.

Twice the airport has pursued a contractor to build an adjacent conference hotel. It doesn’t pencil out. We can be confident that it will eventually, except there are dozens of other mid-sized urban centers running in the same lane, jockeying for advantage when the next curve in the economy resets the competitive field.

Airport officials speculate that we could have direct flights to Chicago by 2025, but nobody wants to guess any growth beyond that. Our future would be brighter if we didn’t have to wait for it.

For those who object that air transportation is too regulated for an entrepreneur’s flair, I would remind them that we used to think that about a state’s flagship research university.

Knight’s philanthropic passion seldom strays far from his beloved Ducks, but an improved airport would help the teams and fans in unexpected ways. Women’s Basketball Coach Kelly Graves told supporters this week how hard it is to schedule non-conference home games. “It’s just hard to get here,” he said with a shrug, as if nothing can be done about that.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Festive Fripperies

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Fifth Friday footnotes, follow-ups and far-flung fripperies:

  • Tautology should be the study of knots.
  • Liberalism has never found an appropriate response to cruelty.
  • An economist has shown that income between brothers has a stronger correlation than height. In other words, if you are rich and tall, your brother is more likely rich than tall.
  • When a speaker reads aloud their PowerPoint presentation, I miss the singalong “bouncing ball” from my youth.
  • As your life becomes less full, add more intention.
  • Our social contract relies on imprecision and opacity. “The freeloader problem” was always there, but mostly hidden. As we cede tabulation to non-human devices, how can we add back the inefficiencies that made things humane?
  • Life is short. The world is wide.
  • I don’t believe in bucket lists, except to keep moving until you kick it.
  • When you’re not fluent in the language, quick casual dining becomes neither.
  • Live-work spaces haven’t succeeded in America like they do in France. We don’t live or work in the same ways, so maybe that’s why.
  • Time zone shifting is good for more than jet lag. When everything around you is happening eight hours ahead of time, it’s hard to feel behind on anything.
  • American escalators all run at the same speed. Not so, elsewhere.
  • The French still have color choices for toilet paper. Their pursuit of beauty has no end.
  • I walked Paris from end to end and here’s what I learned about America: It’s not the food. It can’t be. There’s a butter-rich temptation on every corner in France, yet very little obesity. The food is not the problem. Our relationship to food is the problem.
  • Only Starbucks offers to-go cups in France. The French don’t want to drink while they walk. (They’d rather smoke.)
  • I didn’t wash my vegetables while cooking in France, hoping I’d get whatever it is they’ve got.
  • We have 350 billion bacteria in our gut — our microbiome. We’re more like a galaxy of tiny beings than a chunk of fleshy matter. Now think about this: What if one of those bugs is or becomes or considers itself central to that galaxy that is you?
  • “Entertain” shifted from an active verb to a passive one in the last 50 years. We no longer entertain from our homes. Now we stay home and expect to be entertained.
  • Looking back, now with the wisdom of years, do you regret the waterbed?
  • How many times do I have to tell you? I don’t like repeating myself.
  • If something is retractable, I retract it at every opportunity.
  • Petting = fur envy.
  • Our leaders avoid politics and our politicians avoid leadership.
  • It’s myopia — not your opia!
  • I went inside on a warm rainy day to take a shower. That’s a metaphor for something, but I don’t know for what.
  • Parades are almost always in the morning and I don’t know why.
  • An urgent meeting is an oxymoron. If it was really urgent, there’d be no time for a meeting.
  • Why does almost every kitchen appliance beep at the same frequency?
  • I have a hunch that magnanimity is like baldness — a trait that skips generations. That generous habit of mind is passed on to us most effectively by our grandparents.
  • Here’s a word we should all learn, so we can recognize its occurrence: paralipsis. (Look it up.)
  • It’s strange how many people who are my age suddenly seem old.
  • When you turn 40 or 50, you gain permission to do things you never did. When you turn 60 or 70, you’re permitted to stop doing things you always did.
  • I wish there was a TSA Pre express lane program for grocery stores. I’d pay $75 every few years for that.
  • “Fear is temporary. Regret is permanent.”
  • I wish I had learned the verb “catastrophize” much earlier in life.
  • Best bumper sticker: “Respect existence or expect resistance.”
  • It doesn’t make sense, but when I wear sunglasses, hot weather bothers me less.
  • What if schoolchildren’s overstuffed backpacks contribute to childhood obesity? After lugging that load every day, bulking up makes good sense.
  • If it wasn’t for deferred gratification, I’d have no gratification at all.
  • “Bartenders make pour decisions.”
  • When you do it right, hard work is its own reward.
  • Oregon Shakespeare Festival has commissioned modernizations for every one of Shakespeare’s plays. Somebody should do the same for the Federalist Papers.
  • How can I learn to replace my sponges sooner?
  • Whenever change happens, the news has done its job.
  • Beauty shared is beauty squared.
  • Restaurant manager to confused wait staff: “Push the pulled pork.”
  • Does anyone else use their stairs as a vertical filing system?
  • It says something about you, but I don’t know what: You never cook less than an entire package of pasta.
  • Avocado toast is a chronological necessity. What do you do with an avocado that was rock hard at dinnertime last night, but will turn to brown mush before dinner tonight?
  • An alien analysis of our planet’s hierarchy would assume our ruling class has hard metal shells and round rubber feet. They sit, unbothered, for hours every day, while bipeds scurry around like servants.
  • Pretzels are crust without bread.
  • Burlesque dancers are just barely performing.
  • Cliches are truths better known than understood.
  • Storytellers are liars.
  • Bitly codes show that concision is good, but clarity is better. Would you rather type or
  • No sailor dreams of docking on the North Star. Direction and destination are different.
  • I’d like to be the first to suggest that quantum computing be called “quomputing.”
  • Was there ever a better name for a reunion group than The Ricketies?
  • Height displays ambition. Girth reveals satisfaction.
  • Somebody could sell broken umbrellas as parasols at summer festivals.
  • Some loves don’t require falling, you know.
  • Is it fair to call it depression when the only viable alternative is delusion? Sometimes things really are as bad as you feel.
  • “Nobody lends money to a man with a sense of humor.”
  • Not everyone gets to grow old.
  • So much is on-demand now. We used to shower, shop, and watch TV until it stopped being fun. It’s demanding to be so demanding.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Eugene Needs a Downtown Light Show

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Eugene should use the Parisian strategy for welcoming strangers. It requires height and light.

When Eiffel’s Tower was erected in 1889, most Parisians hated it. History confirms the structure’s lack of stature because it was known simply by its architect’s name. Gustave Eiffel’s design was chosen from over 100 entrants to mark the opening of the World’s Fair and the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The original plan was to disassemble it after 20 years.

The year 1909 couldn’t come soon enough for hundreds of prominent Parisian artists and intellectuals. They took out an ad in the Le Temps newspaper on Valentine’s Day to deride the “gigantic black factory chimney.” Legend has it that novelist Guy de Maupassant hated the tower so much that he often ate lunch in its restaurant. He wanted the best view of his beloved city — from only vantage point that completely avoided Eiffel’s creation.

Electricity saved the tower. As World War I loomed, city officials repurposed it as a radio transmission tower. The public learned to love the structure only after it was festooned with electric lights for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. It became a billboard for French automaker Citroen from 1925 until 1936. Its 250,000 colored bulbs could be seen for 20 miles in three directions.

The Eiffel Tower’s current light show delights tourists for a few minutes every hour after dusk. Residents liked the temporary light show celebrating the new millennium so much that city officials rewired the structure to make it permanent in 2003. Eiffel’s ancestors can be glad for two things. Nothing about the monument is any longer considered temporary, and it’s too late to change its name.

Eugene is preparing for its own moment on the world stage. The World Championships in 2021 has everybody buzzing. We have murals going up all over town. The new Hayward Field will be one of several projects on campus that must be completed before 30,000 athletes and fans converge here. U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio is demanding assurances that federally funded road projects will be completed in time.

But, as far as I know, nobody has given sufficient thought to a light show that will entertain visitors after dark. We won’t be commissioning any new towers, excepting the faux Olympic torch that will be erected (pun intended) in Hayward Field’s northeast corner.

What can we do that will direct people’s eyes upward, and tell visitors that Eugene’s aspirations extend far beyond being Tracktown USA? I have a suggestion. Let’s work with Ya-Po-Ah Terrace to make its holiday PEACE ON EARTH rooftop display a permanent feature of Eugene’s skyline year-round.

We already have the world’s only public park display celebrating every recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize. We can heighten (again, pun intended) attention to our sign and its sentiment by following the Eiffel model. Add a glittery light display for a few minutes each hour.

Wishing for peace on earth deserves more than a month each year. The rooftop display endears Eugene’s tallest tower to its residents. It should also tell visitors that we’re not afraid of big dreams here.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Eugene’s Doppelgänger: Paris

December 17th, 2018 by dk

Eugene residents and visitors love to debate what other towns compare favorably with us. Over the years, I’ve written about eerie similarities I’ve noticed when visiting Anchorage, Alaska and Portland, Maine. I’ve also written — more than once — debunking the comparison with Boulder, Colorado or Austin, Texas.

But suddenly I’m finding myself fascinated with our similarities to a different place altogether. It will seem ludicrous and it is, but so what? Ludicrous is something both towns do extremely well. Let’s consider some of the ways that Eugene can aspire to resemble Paris.

I’m not the first to make this suggestion, or one very similar to it. When Ed King first came to Oregon, he saw immediately that our climate is similar to France’s, so he decided there’s no reason wines from here couldn’t grow to be as good. King Estate Winery is rooted in a belief that our terroir is reminiscent of France’s.

King knew his wine would be appreciated best when paired with exquisite cuisine, so he recruited Eugene’s most decorated chef, Stephanie Pearl Kimmel, to run the restaurant beside his tasting room. Kimmel might have been content to stay there, except another of Eugene’s most successful entrepreneurs came with another Francophile offer.

Former Eugene Mayor Brian Obie was preparing to sell his lucrative media company, so he could focus more intently on building the 5th Street Public Market into a destination location. Its eclectic crafts bazaar needed more food options, reminiscent of a French marketplace.

Marché was born from that vision and has been growing into it for more than 20 years. Slowly but surely, the first floor of the 5th Street Public Market has come to resemble a marketplace that grew popular before Europe had refrigeration. It hasn’t died out since.

Look at a map of Paris and then look at a map of Eugene. Each has a curving blue stripe running through it. The Willamette River runs from the West and curves north. The Seine River enters from the Southeast, then curves to exit southwest. Each river slices a quarter of the city from the rest.

Both rivers separate different civic cultures — the Bohemia of the Left Bank being kept safely apart from the aristocracy’s lawns on the other side of the river. Eugene’s riverfront trail offers peace and quiet. Parisians walk their cobblestone quay to evade the city bustle.

Each skyline is marred by a tower near downtown that residents immediately despised. Ya Po Ah Terrace opened in 1968. Tour Montparnasse opened a few years later. Both cities responded with near immediate height restrictions on all new construction.

The Eiffel Tower offers a light show every evening that visitors admire and residents enjoy. Eugene basks beneath “Peace On Earth” every night in December.

Of course, Eugene and Paris are not identical. The cities’ physical size are not the same. Eugene covers 40.54 square miles. Paris is larger — 40.7 square miles.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.

Eugene: Compare to Where?

December 17th, 2018 by dk

There’s no place quite like Eugene, but what other place comes closest? That’s not a question we ponder very deeply, but what good is an Oregon winter without a little quiet pondering? I’ve thought about this question a lot and my conclusion may surprise you, even if it shouldn’t.

I can list a dozen characteristics that would make another place seem familiar to us, but I’ll limit myself to three. What essential attributes are required for Eugene’s doppelganger?

It must first be a place where words like “doppelganger” can be used. College towns display eccentricities that stay hidden in most other places. Students and professors alike come to believe they have nothing to lose. Call it “the tenure effect.”

It’s not enough for our lookalike town to host a university. The university must be considered the undisputed center of the civic life. When it’s the only game in town, it’s easier to forget it’s only a game. This rule eliminates major cities, adjacent suburbs and all state capitals.

Eugene doesn’t get trapped in self-delusion the way many other college towns do, because we have the majesty of natural wonder surrounding us. Whenever we feel like we’re at the center of the world, a hike in the woods, a kayak down the river, or a climb to a summit reminds us otherwise. We’re searching for another college town that also offers nearby grandeur.

We hear the same list of towns that people compare to Eugene all the time. But none of the usual suspects have all three criteria that I’ve suggested.

Boulder, Colorado is really a suburb of Denver. They might insist otherwise, but the maps don’t lie. Santa Cruz and Berkeley residents can get to San Francisco is less than an hour.

Madison, Wisconsin and Austin, Texas have earned their stripes as quirky college towns, but they are both state capitals, so every other city in their state can’t afford to ignore them.

Burlington, Vermont might qualify, if you’re a hard core ski bum, but most would say its grandeur melts each spring. Other cities meet two of my criteria, and sometimes almost all three. On the East Coast, there’s Ithaca, New York. On the West Coast there’s Eureka, California. But I think there’s a better choice twin that you may not have considered.

If a Eugenean clicked her heels together and wished for someplace like home, she would wake to discover that the answer was in her own back yard all along. By any measure, the closest college town to Eugene would be just that — the closest college town to Eugene.

Corvallis resembles Eugene more than any other college town. Rivalries aside, ducks and beavers often share the same pond. Two college towns less than 50 miles apart would normally sprawl together, but not here. Thanks to Oregon’s land use policies, the Willamette Valley has grown two very distinctive towns that are really very much alike.


Don Kahle ( writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs at

Tags: No Comments.