Time Traveling


HEDCO Plaza (Photo: University of Oregon)

Last Monday, a story brought me back to the University of Oregon campus less than four months after my last tripA rare performance of Japanese folk music is scheduled for this Saturday at the School of Music, and I was planning an article for MyEugene.  I met my friend Simon, who was coordinating the event, in  the Education Station Café on the first floor of  the new HEDCO Education Building for lunch.

As I waited for him to walk over from the Music School, I marveled at the newly-opened wing of the School of Education that had, until recently, been a parking lot. A sculpture made of numerous metal letters scattered down and across the wall of the lobby, as if someone was pouring a giant bowl of alphabet soup off the balcony.


HEDCO Lobby (Photo: University of Oregon)

Anna would like this, I thought. I pictured her pointing out and reading all the different letters. Then I pictured her as an adult in this same lobby. For since she started Kindergarten last fall, Anna has been telling everyone that she wants to be a teacher when she grows up. She’ll change her mind hundreds of of times over the next twelve years, but if after all that she decides to get a teaching degree she may be spending a lot of time in this building as a young adult.

I returned to the campus area the next day for a very different reason. I had a routine doctor’s appointment at the Sacred Heart Medical Building and decided afterwards to stop by Café Siena on 13th Ave. for breakfast.

Café Siena

One day after looking into the future, I got a glimpse back into the past. For as much as the campus has changed since  left in 2003, Café Siena looks exactly the same. It could be 2003, 1998, or even 1994; within that little hole-in-the-wall café with the scrumptious breakfasts, time had stood still. I scanned the menu, trying to decide which of the delectable and fattening options would cause the least disruption to my current diet:

  • Crepes? No.  Too much butter and sugar.
  • Omelet? No. Too big to finish in one sitting.
  • Chilaquiles? No. Far too many calories.

After some thought I settled on the pancakes. I hadn’t eaten anything yet this morning—I had fasted for blood work—and if I picked something that would hold me until lunch, I’d stay on my usual caloric schedule.

As I waited on my order, I looked at the ticket stub in my hand. Café Siena still used the same order pads they always had, with the little tear-off strips on the bottom of each page. At the Music School, we used to joke about keeping the stubs and collecting all the numbers from 00 to 99, but none of us ever made the attempt.

So in two days I had mentally traversed three decades: from 1994, when I first visited Eugene while attending the Bach Festival, to 2024, when Anna would be starting her first year of college. So much had changed in and around campus in the seventeen-and-a-half years since I first set foot in Eugene and so much more will change in the next twelve-and-a-half years.

By then, the “new wing” of the College of Education won’t be new anymore. Neither will the “new wing” of the Music School. Old buildings will come down, new buildings will be built.

But Café Siena will still make wonderful crèpes, omelets, pancakes, and chilaquiles. And they’ll probably still use the same order pads with the tear-off numbers.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.


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