A year ago, I went to my last party in Tucson, saying to myself that with the exception of two people present, I would never see anybody there again.  I said that a lot my final year in Tucson.  It was odd that the day I drove to Oregon, I never did a last walk around of the house, because I thought I would be back to help sell it.  I didn’t have to return, so I never said goodby to the saguaros, chollas, barrel cacti, prickly pear, the pyrrhuloxias, the phaniopeplas, the place where I did my astronomy for 15 years, and all the rooms.  We had a good house.

I said good-by to three people.  I hinted at it to a neighbor, but he didn’t say a word.  I arrived in Tucson quietly and I left quietly.  It was like I never existed.  I wrote an astronomy column for 20 years, and never heard a word when I was let go.  If the medical community were sad to see me go, only the Executive Director of the Medical Society said it.  I never heard a word from others.

The party was in early December, one of the few months I liked in Arizona, where one can be outside in Arizona in the evening.  I sat down, talking to a couple with whom I used to ride the bike.  Another man came up, whom I did not know, and began berating me about moving to Oregon in general and Eugene itself.  I was stunned, since the conversation hadn’t been at all about me but about the couple.

I am amazed that while I consider myself not particularly skilled in social behavior, I would never behave the way some of those influential in social circles do.  Apparently, he and his wife spent time every summer in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, but his wife couldn’t stand the rain and couldn’t wait to get back to Tucson.  More power to them if they were happy.

He told me “it rains in Oregon,” which is kind of obvious, and I replied, “Yeah, great, isn’t it?”  I didn’t tell him I was leaving a state that had 30 years of above normal temperatures since 1984, a 20-year drought, serious water issues, and the most dysfunctional legislature in the country.  Nor did I mention I bet a major career change to statistics on helping the medical community but missed the course on marketing.  In any case, when I crossed the Colorado at Parker, I knew the car would never roll back into the state.  In the past 8 months, neither have I.  There are times when I truly wonder if I will ever return to the state.  I haven’t missed it.

So, what has been my experience to date in Oregon?  Well, yes, it rains.  From April to June, we got 6 inches, almost all at night, a lot of it brief showers, with sunshine afterwards.  From June through September, we got hardly any.  The darkness, dreary days with rain all the time I have yet to see, although I’m assured I will see them.

Last night, my wife and I walked to see the men’s basketball game at Matt Knight Arena, walked to dinner afterward, put on our rain suits, head lamps and reflectors, and walked 2 miles home in moderate rain.  It was a great day.  I often take a rain jacket but don’t expect to wear it.  We are still drier than we should be, although a 3 inch soaking sure helped the stream flow on Spencer Butte; The Sisters and Mt. Jefferson are again snow covered.  I can identify the major Cascade peaks now. I have not given up a day of running because of rain, because it rarely rains hard, and then only briefly.

Hot?  Sure.  Eugene hit 101 and had 36 days over 90, a record, but high temperature records are the new norm in America.  Unlike Tucson, Eugene cools off at night.  I didn’t use cooling the whole summer.  In Tucson, we used to open the house half the nights in summer; the last summer we closed up from May through September. One can ride a bike 12 months a year in Tucson, but they do the same in Eugene, just well lit up, wearing rain gear, although not as many wear helmets as I would like.  We have a river walk along a real river, swollen by autumn rains, not a dry river bed that once ran most of the winter.  Hiking is year round in Oregon.  The high Cascades are now closed except for snowshoes, but the coast is available, although it will be wet.  In Arizona, the hiking season is from maybe October to maybe March.  The hiking in Oregon is wonderful.

I’m useful here, a new feeling.  I volunteer 2 days a week at a community college, teaching math, and love it.  They like having me.  I volunteered 9 years in the schools in Tucson and was never busy enough.  When I left, I never heard a word. I’d go to Lane 5 days a week, but I’d miss my 6 mile weekly hike with the Obsidian Hiking Club, climbing 1500 feet to the top of Spencer Butte, trailhead 6 miles from my house.  I help read to young kids, because Oregon businesses realized that poor reading skills in their children needed to be addressed.  I’ve led 2 hikes into the Cascades, and next month will lead at least two in the Coast Range.  I’ve taken more than 60 hikes within a day’s drive of Eugene, a third with a climb of 2000 feet or more.

My recycling garbage bin is larger than my regular garbage; it was the opposite in Arizona.  Property taxes are double; there is no sales tax.  There’s a Dutch Brothers about a mile away, and I can walk to Track Town Pizza every week for German Stammtisch.  I’ve been to a bunch of track meets and walked to each one.  I ride the bus downtown, because it is free for me and easy.  I never once rode the bus in Tucson.  Shameful.

No place is perfect, and Oregon is no exception.  The rural areas are red,  crazies run for Congress, ones who have names of the nearly 32,000 scientists who deny climate change, but don’t list the degrees and don’t update the list.  Besides, last I heard, science wasn’t decided on numbers of scientists but on facts.  We have homeless and Whovilles here and graffiti, like any other place.  We debate what to do.  The newspaper has printed two of my letters, one of which may lead to my helping with the Death With Dignity Act.  There is a good chance I will help with the Oregon Patient Safety Program.  They wrote me back and followed through.  I couldn’t get past the dugout in Arizona with that.  Marijuana will be legal next July, and the Wayne Morse Free Speech Plaza downtown is just that.  There’s a Farmer’s Market every week during the spring and summer.

I run daily on Pre’s Trail, and when we walked home last night in the rain, I told my wife she was finally an Oregonian.

I’ve been one for some time.  I love it.


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