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A couple degrees colder and the rain would freeze.

“Hi there. Hello. Excuse me,” Pastor Dan Bryant says to a crumpled heap of blankets and backpacks. “It’s time to start collecting your things.”

Silence and darkness. Only select corner marts, coffee joints and gas stations are open at this hour.

“I just need a sign of recognition,” Bryant asserts.

A corner of fabric folds back, and out from the confusing wad signals a tiny hand.

It’s ten minutes before the doors open and more than 30 people have gathered in the entry garden of Eugene’s downtown public library. They are reading books, looking at their phones and chatting about movies. Some buy coffee at the Novella Café. They are in wheelchairs, in camo, in beanies. Some carry bags, one has a didgeridoo. There are fathers with babies, retirees, young professionals and sleepy-eyed women carrying crafting supplies.

A number of them are homeless.

When the library doors open nearly 50 people enter, a quiet mass that spreads to every floor, perusing books, heading into story hours for infants or getting online on the many available computers. 

It goes without saying: Mainstream media are hardly without blame when it comes to the passionate partisan distrust now swamping the so-called news, and the “truths” it reports, in slippery muck of moral relativism. As the world burns, Good Morning America pimps the latest fad diet as though such ethereal concerns stood equal footing with weapons of mass destruction.

For decades now, our major news sources have been drifting away from earnestness and investigative wherewithal and into the über-commercialized realm of sensationalism, crowd-pleasing and ratings cowardice, while on the flip side the general population, perhaps lacking superior critical faculties, is seized by a kind of sensory overload that somehow puts facts and fiction toe to toe.

EW talked to Samantha Swindler, a columnist for The Oregonian and president of the Oregon Territory chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, to get her take on the media chaos.

Did you absolutely love that article you read about Bernie Sanders on Occupy Democrats and agree with every word? Did you hate that story on NPR because the public radio network reported on the timber industry as if it had valid points on cutting down trees?

Before you pull a Trump and scream “fake news!” and before you post “media blackout!” on your Facebook feed and accuse the media of not covering a specific news topic, take a minute to think about what fake news actually is. 

Oregon State Sen. Jeff Kruse updates his email newsletter weekly. On Feb. 3, the Roseburg Republican wrote that he wanted to focus on the executive order issued by President Donald Trump on immigration. “The reaction to the order by the media, special interest groups and many politicians is a perfect example of the campaign of misinformation and lies being waged against this administration,” he writes.

Kruse is not alone in his rhetoric, Trump has lambasted the media ad nauseam at a national level. On Feb. 17, the president tweeted, “The FAKE NEWS media (failing @NYTimes @CNN @NBCNews) and many more is not my enemy, it is the enemy of the American people. SICK!” He later deleted the tweet, according to The New York Times

It’s Bill Rauch’s tenth season as artistic director at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, and on Saturday morning of opening weekend last month he sat on stage with OSF actor Rex Young and answered questions before a delighted crowd.

Example: Did the Tony-winning All the Way make a lot of money for the festival when it jumped from OSF to Broadway? Well, Rauch said, not nearly as much as Hamilton, calling the blockbuster show, which was not from OSF, “the OSF musical that got away.”

So what should he and the festival be doing to address these trying political times?

They said they wanted to cut off his head and tear his heart out of his chest.

The car Alfred Lahai Brownell was traveling in was stopped by a roadblock and surrounded by 150 men wielding guns and machetes, “all kinds of weapons,” Brownell remembers. The men were members of a security force allegedly hired by palm oil company Golden Veroleum Liberia. They were drunk, had lit a fire and were dancing around the vehicle, breaking into it and slashing its tires. 

“I prayed to God,” Brownell says, reliving the nightmare that occurred in his native Liberia in 2014. 

Brownell and about 100 other attorneys and environmental advocates who are partners of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide (ELAW) came to Eugene for the nonprofit’s annual meeting shortly before this week’s University of Oregon’s March 2-5 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC). 

This year, ELAW communications director Maggie Keenan says a key focus of the gathering is “defending the defenders.” 

“If you teach ethnic studies to students, teach them about their culture, get them involved, they start caring more about their education and are able to succeed,” says Johanis Tadeo, organizer of Springfield/Eugene’s City Wide MEChA and community organizer at Community Alliance of Lane County. 

Tadeo organizes for the local chapter of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán, a nation-wide student-run organization. MEChA focuses on education and history, specifically Chicano history — a curriculum that isn’t taught in most classrooms.

“I was contacted by a student a year ago, around this time, they were talking about how they were facing a lot of racism and discrimination,” Tadeo says. Meeting the Latino students at Thurston High School was life changing. The students had no support at all and didn’t know what their identities were, he says. 

Kelly Kenoyer

 et al.

This past September, Brenda went to pick up her 5-year-old son from kindergarten at McCormick grade school. “The principal said he was at the office and to come get him,” she says. Brenda followed the principal to an office containing her son, locked in and crying. "She felt like he was going to hurt her and she said she didn’t know what to do,” Brenda says. 

Her son ended up suspended within a week of joining the kindergarten class and was removed to a one-on-one program at Fox Hollow Elementary School. He was the only Hispanic student in the class at McCormick. 

Candidates in the race for the Eugene’s 4J School District board — a four-year-long commitment — are not happy about the Feb. 7 appointment of Betsy DeVos as the nation’s secretary of education.

Add to this the recent protests of Latino families lobbying the 4J school board to do more against the harassment of immigrants, and the May 16 board election has some weighty issues to address. 

Surely that’s not new news, but what is new is the approach our schools are taking to not just pump up grad rates, but also to help kids give a damn about their education. 

Perhaps the reason our high school grad rates have lagged behind some neighboring counties (not to mention they pale in comparison to the national average) is because we’ve failed to put the students first. Programs like Career and Technical Education (CTE) are working their butts off to change that.

Rachael said “no” repeatedly to the man who came into her Oregon apartment and attacked her on the night of July 6, 2014. 

She cried, knowing that her children were in the next room. She didn’t want them to hear. The man who raped her lived across the street. 

Two days later, Rachael went in for a sexual assault nurse exam (SANE) in which evidence would be collected for a rape kit. She waited weeks more to report the rape to police because she was “terrified” of her attacker.

“I had already showered and everything by then, but I still had my underwear not washed yet, my pants not washed yet, the sheets, blanket, and I submitted that for evidence in the place of … you know, I mean I had the full kit done, but they were saying you showered pretty well,” she says. 

No DNA was found on her body, but it was found on the clothing and bedding. Eugene Weekly is not using Rachael’s full name because she has never told her story outside of court and does not want to be identified.

Shirley Temple once paid a visit and may have rested her blonde ringlets on soft Hotel Benton pillows.

Symmetrically doomed presidential candidates John F. and Bobby Kennedy each stopped in, as did history’s great scurrying mole rat, Richard Nixon.

Built to capitalize on tourist traffic after the highway now known as Route 34 came through the middle of town about 100 years ago, connecting hayseed Corvallis to what’s now Interstate 5, the Hotel Benton was like a rural pageant queen — more stunning for the low brutish frontier edifices skirting her hem.

“It is difficult to measure the impact the Hotel Benton has had on social, commercial, political and cultural structure in Corvallis,” reads the building’s nomination form for the National Registry for Historical Places. “Being located within one block of the Southern Pacific Railroad station, ten blocks from the university and in the heart of the commercial core of Corvallis, the building served as host to nearly every conceivable event or convention for over 30 years.”

Walking along Broadway downtown on a Saturday night, you see a black man approaching from the opposite direction. You feel nervous — a split second of fear. Your instinct is to nonchalantly cross the street, but you know you can’t, because you don’t want him, or anyone else, to think you’re racist. 

You’re not, right? Nah, you can’t be. You live in Eugene. You voted for Obama, twice. You care about social issues, evidenced by the cool photo you Instagramed from the Women’s March. Hillary Clinton’s description of young African-American men as “super-predators” bothered you.

I’m sorry to break it to you, but your guilty conscience doesn’t mean you aren’t racist. 

To understand the future of the Willamette Valley as a food-producing region, it’s a good idea to look at its history. And to get a good look at its history, you have to go back about 50 million years. 

Before the Pacific Northwest as we know it was formed, a series of volcanic islands known as the Siletzia Island Chain sprouted up, forming the backbone of what we now think of as the Coast Range. 

Flash-forward 10 million years, and “the Siletzia block was accreted onto the North American Plate and covered with a thick pile of sediments,” says Leland O’Driscoll, a research associate at the University of Oregon’s Department of Earth Sciences.

The traditional holy book of Islam has been defaced, burned, defecated on and denounced in the decade and a half that’s followed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks by Islamic extremists on New York and Washington. 

A new exhibition opening Friday and running through March 19 at the Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art presents a very different American reaction to the Qur’an.

In American Qur’an, the museum’s spacious main gallery will be full to bursting with the scores of original paintings that make up Los Angeles painter and lifelong surfer Sandow Birk’s reflection on the Qur’an.

Here I am at 79, I’m going to be an activist,” says Deanna Eisinger, a retired grade school teacher. “I think we need to ruffle feathers and raise some consciousness.”

Recently out of the hospital after an asthma attack triggered her atrial fibrillation, Eisinger is not going to let something like an irregular heartbeat stop her from speaking up. She is going to carry a sign in the Jan. 21 Eugene sister march to the Women’s March on Washington, the day after Donald Trump’s presidential inauguration.

“I’m planning to go; I may not be able to walk the whole route but I’m going to go,” says Eisinger, who lives on a farm in Lorane. “We have to keep resisting and speaking out. I’ve never been a loudmouth but I’m changing. At my age I don’t care what people think.”

You hear the rhythmic metal tick-tock of armor plates clapping against chainmail from a long way off.

The sun sinks in the west as three swordsmen reach the wide cement platform that covers the College Hill Reservoir. 

Kurt Gerhard Studenroth lifts the steel helm from his cranium and offers his winded fellows hot tea from a half-gallon camping flask slung around his waist.

It’s the neoprene thermos that looks uncannily out of place; all other signs indicate we’re looking at Studenroth through a wormhole that connects South Eugene to medieval Europe.

The reality is much simpler than that, though. Think of it this way: Businessmen dress in suits and carry briefcases; police officers patrol the streets wearing guns on their hips and badges over their hearts; knights put on armor and swing swords.

An oceanic change has swept over national and international landscape, something swelling and churning for many years that, regardless of your sociopolitical orientation, seems with the recent election to have broken with all the force of a tsunami.

Regardless of whether we are now facing the collapse of Western civilization and the world as we know it or, instead, the prospect of becoming “great” again, a lot of people are feeling really antsy and uncomfortable these days. Nobody seems to feel fine. Anxiety is going through the roof. The forecast is uncertain.

For our annual Health issue, EW decided it best to take a look at quick, or at least quickish, routes to personal well-being — ways to relieve stress, to deal with input overload, to take the pressure off. Because, really, there’s no way to know what’s actually coming in the months and years ahead, but if you plan on sticking around, you might as well be in a decent and balanced frame of mind, to the extent that such things are possible.

A person’s period doesn’t give a damn whether she’s in the woods, if she has a house or if there’s a trashcan around to take care of the, erm, aftermath.

Cue Animosa, a local start-up company that is redefining menstrual product disposal by creating long-term, sanitary and odor-free period pouches.

Two days after the presidential election, my therapist asked me how I was feeling. A continuous loop of video footage of people shouting, “Hail Trump,” photographs of swastikas spray-painted on buildings and reports pouring in by the hundreds, and later thousands, of people being threatened because of the color of their skin repeated and shuffled in my mind, and it terrified me.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of submerging myself in a sensory deprivation tank.

As a kid, I was mesmerized by Ken Russell’s 1980 sci-fi film Altered States, in which William Hurt plays an abnormal psychologist who repeatedly enters an isolation tank with increasingly drastic and surreal results, eventually emerging as some regressed form of Neanderthal man and then, finally, a big ball of protoplasmic consciousness swirling on the event horizon of galactic nothingness.

"Walking is the best physical exercise,” writer Bill Sullivan says. “People are designed to walk. It gets rid of the crap of civilization.”  

Sullivan is pretty famous in these parts, and around the Northwest at large, for his collection of hiking guides. Many of us outdoorsy types have one, two or all of his books on our shelves.