As I mentioned yesterday, I recently drove to Eugene to see The Decemberists open their latest tour. Paul and Susan allowed me to spend an evening and a morning with them in their new home.
I used to hate the drive to Eugene because of the stretch of freeway between Albany and Springfield. It's hellish. Nothing to look at but butte after butte. Boring. Then I discovered that if one exits in Albany (or just south of it), one can follow 99E west of the freeway, through a series of small towns, and then into Eugene. It's a beautiful drive. Now driving to Eugene is a pleasure.
Paul and Susan just bought a house. They moved in only a week ago. Paul gave me a tour of the place, and then we sat around talking about work and life.
"I'm hungry," I announced after we had chatted for a bit.
"Me too!" said Susan.
"Where would you like to eat?" asked Paul.
"I'm wholly at your disposal," I said. "Take me someplace good. My only request is that I be able to order something warm and hearty. I don't want to be limited to only salads and cream of mushroom soup."
"What about Laughing Planet?" Paul said.
"That's good," said Susan.
I was skeptical. "What's Laughing Planet?" It didn't sound warm and hearty to me.
"It's a vegan—" Paul began.
"Stop!" I shouted. "Vegan is not warm and hearty. It's salads and cream of mushroom soup. It's exactly what I don't want."
Paul and Susan looked at each other and then began to snicker.
"What?" I asked.
"It's just that the first time we ate there, we ordered the cream of mushroom soup," said Susan.
Eventually, we agreed on Café Lucky Noodle. I could order something warm and hearty, and the vegans could have their cold and lifeless food.
The place was busy, so we had to wait at the bar. "How you doing?" asked the college boy serving mixed drinks. We nodded at him. "I remember you," he said to Paul and Susan. "You were in a couple of weeks ago. Hey, you might like this wine," he said, displaying an Evesham Woods pinot noir.
"It's good," I said. "I've had it before." Susan ordered a glass. "That's pretty good service," I said, when the boy barkeeper had gone. "He remembers you and everything." Paul and Susan snickered.
"What?" I asked.
"We've never seen him before," said Paul. "He's remembering somebody else. Yet he picked the perfect wine for Susan. She loves pinot noir." They snickered again.
We were seated and given menus. The left side comprised Italian-style dishes; the right side comprised Asian-style dishes. Appetizers were mostly non-noodle. "Should we share an appetizer?" asked Paul.
"Sure," we said.
"How about the vegetable tempura? It's got mushrooms and broccoli and tomatoes—"
"Paul!" I said, whining. "I won't eat that."
"Oh," he said. In the end, he and Susan shared the vegetable tempura (I snuck an onion) while I had the chicken satay with peanut sauce for myself. For dinner, I had a Mussman curry over angel-hair pasta. The dish came with two thick slabs of warm and hearty chicken. Paul and Susan shared a vegetable ravioli with feta cheese. Not exactly vegan, but close enough.
"That was good," I said. "Warm and hearty. Now, though, I want to try some of the gelato I saw when we came in."
"I have an idea," said Paul, brightening. "Let's go someplace else for dessert. Let's go to Sweet Life."
"Oh yeah," said Susan. "Sweet Life has the best desserts."
We drove to Sweet Life, a bistro-ish place filled with desserts of every sort. It looked great. When I looked more closely at my options, though, I was unimpressed: vegan cinnamon rolls, vegan brownies, vegan chocolate chip cookies. I began to panic. I felt like I was trapped in some psycho Planet of the Vegans. Vegan truffles, vegan eclairs (how is that possible?), vegan tarts, vegan cakes. After I'd calmed down a little, I noticed that not everything was vegan. In fact, some of the stuff was decidedly non-vegan. I ordered a warm butter chocolate chip cookie and a scoop of vanilla gelato.
I liked the butter chocolate chip cookie so much that I bought the last four in the case and brought them home to share. Yum.
After dessert, we headed to the Decemberists concert, which I wrote about yesterday
In the morning, we loafed around the new house. I ripped CDs to my hard drive until the battery gave out. Paul played tracks in iTunes, introducing me to Devotchka, Flunk, Joseph Arthur, and Kasabian.
"So I gave you the song of the summer [Citizen Cope's "Bullet and a Target"], which you pooh-poohed, but then put on your latest mix," he said. "Here's the latest 'song of the summer'."
He played "Club Foot" by Kasabian. "This song rocks," he said. "There's no better song out there right now." Next, he played Kasabian's "Reason is Treason".
I leafed through the pamphlet for the Nick Cave CD I had just ripped. I frowned as I read the lyrics. "What is this? God music?" I asked.
This sparked a connection in Paul's mind. "Oh my god: the worst music to come out this year. Brian Wilson, Smile. Rolling Stone raves about it: 'We've been waiting 25 years for this.' It's godawful. There's a song on here with goats in it! Listen. 'Barnyard'. Here's this masterpiece. Rolling Stone reviewed this and I fucking bought it."
"He's lisping," I said, typing away on my laptop.
"He's awful," said Paul.
"Isn't this fun?" I asked. "Real-time blogging!"
Paul shrugged. "I don't mind. It's okay. I figured that what was happening."
Later, Paul took us for a drive through the hills south of Eugene. "I want you to get in shape so that we can take a bike ride out here," he said. We wound through the lovely countryside. I marveled at the various mosses clinging to the trees. "It's Spanish Moss," Paul told me.
"We don't have moss like that in the northern part of the valley," I said.
We drove through clear-cuts, passed what looked like an old logging camp along the Siuslaw River, visited small towns like Lorane and Crow. By the time we looped back into Eugene, our trip had taken sixty miles.
"I don't know," I said. "I'm out of shape. That's a long trip, and there are a lot of hills. I don't know if I'll be ready to bike it this summer."
For lunch, we returned to Sweet Life. I wanted another butter chocolate chip cookie, but there were none to be had. Somebody had bought them all the night before. I settled for a hazelnut chocolate chip cookie and a glass of milk.
Before leaving town, Paul and Susan took me to the Smith Family Bookstore, which is one of my favorites. It reminds me of Powell's back when Powell's was good: shelf after shelf of books, well-organized, but messy. In fact, the store has too many books for its shelfspace, so newer volumes are stacked in the aisles, ready to be rummaged. I've been relatively good on my book spending for the first three months of the year, but I let myself splurge this time. I spent $60 on books and went home happy.
As in the past, I had a great time in Eugene. I am grateful for Paul and Susan's hospitality, and wish them luck in their quest for warm and hearty vegan food.
On this day at foldedspace.org
2004 — Catfilter Here is a complete collection of all the cat-related questions from AskMetafilter. Enjoy!
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2003 — Character Camp "How could you not know?" Byron asked, his temper rising. "This is what we had planned. We each spent the night alone, and then came back together as a group. That was the Whole Point."
2001 — Knock Knock I was just awakened by a soft, rhythmic knocking. What was it? (Also: capsule reviews of the book and film versions of Lolita.)