Whit for Brains

The greatest cultural riches of the Whiteaker reside in the neighborhood’s nooks and crannies and offbeat details — the funky designs on a painted mailbox, the kitschy pop art on a hillbilly porch, a makeshift lounge plopped along the sidewalk.

The same goes for the Whiteaker Block Party, returning for its 10th year noon to 10 pm Saturday, Aug. 6; FREE. If you stick to the beaten path of the hoi polloi trudging between Ninkasi and Oakshire, you’re going to miss just about everything that makes the Whit so unique. Be an urban adventurer: Keep an eye out for renegade backyard parties, check out the side streets and alleyways, and stay alert to what’s behind the hedge and down the path least taken.

Yes, this year’s WBP theme is “Won’t you be my neighbor,” but don’t be like the douchebag tourist from campus and trod wantonly across everyone’s lawn and into someone’s living room. Be curious, but be courteous, and the wonders will open up to you.

And remember, this ain’t Disneyland, so no sandals or slip-on thongs! Closed-toe shoes with decent coverage will protect your feet from sharp, nasty, poky things like broken glass and needles.

Throwing shade: Whiteaker Block Party invariably falls on one of the hottest weekends of the year, so consider sunblock and shade your best friends. The neighborhood’s Scobert Gardens doesn’t offer much in the way of shade, so try nearby Monroe Park at 10th and Broadway for a leafy oasis from the sun and crowds. And while you’re there, check out the 25-foot driftwood and steel “Monroe Man” sculpture by Paul Pappas on the grassy knoll and the circular basketball court with three hoops.

A couple blocks east of WBP is Washington-Jefferson Skatepark + Urban Plaza, a great spot to cool off under the bridge and watch skaters and bikers shred some concrete.

Within WBP limits, Suzen Tattoozen-Tanton says the Whiteaker Tattoo Collective (245 Van Buren Street) will reveal a “shaded art installation” offering a reprieve to block-partygoers.

Everyone knows the human body is made primarily of water — up to 75 percent! — which means, essentially, that dehydration is a continuous threat to your very existence. In this regard, the WBP is dehydration ground zero. Excessive heat, constant motion, perpetual distraction and the non-stop consumption of booze all conspire to make this event a one-way ticket to complete and utter desiccation. Be smart, people! Drink lots of water — you’ll thank us in the morning.

What would Jesus recommend? Cleansing and soothing your wretched feet. Eugene’s Unwind Foot Spa is setting up in the “chill out” space at Territorial Vineyards with both cool-water and hot-water jetted foot spas ($5-$10 per session). The spa tubs have smooth stones at the bottom to rub your tired soles on. There will also be chair massages.

The Whit has more art per square foot than any other neighborhood in Eugene. Period. A challenge: Forget Pokémon Go for a moment and catch all the art you can. There are Whiteaker classics like Kari Johnson’s ever-evolving mural at 4th Avenue and Monroe; the “For the People, Of the People, By the People” mosaic statue in front of the Pizza Research Institute; the rusted-metal and wood-chunk sculpture that looks like a spine on Polk between West 3rd and 4th avenues.

Then there are the new staples: Ila Rose’s jewel-toned mural at 5th Alley and Blair Boulevard; Eric Keskey’s grinning skull at Tacovore; the mural on the north wall of Vanilla Jill’s, so heartwarming it will melt your fro-yo.

But perhaps even more delicious are the ubiquitous cheeky and ephemeral expressions like the birds-on-a-wire stencils popping up on sidewalks, the pretty witty graffiti, back-alley murals and even a vintage gumball machine filled with baby-doll parts.

Here’s some clues: Where’s Waldo? Why, in the Whit, good sir. You’ll find him grinning like an idiot along 3rd Alley, where a whole cast of painted characters live, from narwhals and smiling skulls to robots and a vinyl-scratching unicorn. Pop up an alley to 2nd behind Territorial Vineyards and find another motley crew of murals and street art, including: a “We Live, They Sleep” alien Donald Trump portrait à la John Carpenter’s They Live; a tokin’ ode to Alice in Wonderland with a smoking caterpillar, giggling flowers and a delighted Cheshire fat cat; Steamboat Willie thumbing his nose; and a derelict clown sucking down a cig.

Don’t miss the two different fences artfully cobbled together out of doors; one is on 4th, just east of the Where the Wild Things Are window painting with the Whiteaker flag, and the other frames one of the Whit’s new parking lots at Van Buren and 2nd Avenue. The door fence is more like a funhouse chain of shrines, with scrappy details like a Kurt Cobain print, an AT-AT model and a Gollum illustration.

And what about the Whit’s glorious telephone poles where flyering never died? It feels like Seattle circa 1991. These crusty cultural obelisks are spongy from layer upon layer of gig posters, fliers and stickers; they read like a diary to the neighborhood.

You don’t have to be a believer to appreciate the gem that is the St. John the Wonderworker Orthodox Church, whose blue onion dome is an iconic part of the “skyline.” Inside, artist Daniel Balter paints saints in the precise tradition of orthodox Christian iconography (see EW’s “Sacred Images,” 7/30/15), which he recently studied in Serbia, Rome and Greece’s Mount Athos. Balter says the church will be open for the WBP and people are welcome to view his work in progress. St. John’s will also have its Onion Dome food cart serving Mediterranean fare in the front yard.

It’s easy to miss the ugly gray brick building that hovers like some besieged Fortress of Rectitude at the nexus of 3rd and Blair, just across from Pizza Research Institute. Established at that location in 1976 as a member-owned club for recovering individuals and their families, the JESCO (Junction City-Eugene-Springfield-Cottage Grove-Oakridge) Club is a longstanding hub of Eugene’s recovery community where bottomed-out drunks and addicts begin their long, slow slouch toward the promised land of sobriety. So if this year’s block party finds you finally going sideways into alcoholic purgatory, look no further than the wooden benches outside JESCO, where avuncular old-timers will give you a knowing look as they shoo your sorry ass inside for the next 12-step meeting.

For imbibers, there are plenty of libations to go round, but remember, unless you’re in a bar or pub, beer and wine only flow in certain designated spots of the WBP that are fenced off and typically have long lines to boot. Sorry to bust your beer bubble, but you can’t walk the streets with a red Solo cup in tow.

If you’re drinking in the heat, you’ll need a good base. Drop by some of the 19 places to stuff your face at the block party. Can’t decide what to order? Here’s a five-course meal plan that will keep you fueled into the night.

First Course: 

Sweet potato fries at

Toxic Wings & Fries

Second Course: 

Nori wrap at Sushi Star Brigade

Third Course: 

Vegan Philly cheesesteak at

Viva! Vegetarian Grill

Fourth Course: 

Barbecue wings at

Hot Mama’s Wings

Fifth Course: 

Coconut shaved ice at

Paradise Shaved Ice

Face it: While you’ve been feigning Portland envy, Eugene has gone ahead and undertaken a musical renaissance. To put it plainly, there are tons of really great bands in Eugene right now, and the WBP is the best place to catch up on some of what you’ve been missing. Check out the block party’s G-Spot Stage, specifically the instrumental surf and spaghetti western-stylings of the Egotones (9 pm).

Also at G-Spot, see Eugene’s one-and-only self-proclaimed Swedish-via-Eugene psyche-rock band Dick Dagger (6 pm).

Look out for the super-secretive rumored reunion of a classic and beloved Eugene band. We can’t tell you much more, but suffice it to say the band’s name rhymes with “Shmeltsin” (OK, shhh: It’s Yeltsin 6 pm at the Blairalley Stage).

There will br another return to form: Actor and musician Cooper Bombadil returns from Los Angeles to play bass with cabaret-rock six piece Hot Sauce Holiday 2:30 pm and lead the psych-rock band Westerner, both on the Board Stage. The music roster is filled with many more local favorites, old and new:  The Sugar Beets, Not a Part of It, Caitlin Jemma and The Goodness, Le Rev, Pancho + The Factory, Blue Lotus, Sol Seed, Medium Troy and more.

But if you weren’t present and accounted for at the Ghost Tour show July 2 at Hi-Fi Music Hall, you missed out on a truly magical moment — the joyous debut of a new local band that, all things being equal, could singlehandedly punch Eugene’s music scene into overdrive. A collection of veteran musicians fronted by singer-songwriter (and sometime EW contributor) Andy Valentine, this band brings something new and invigorating to the table: sharp musicianship, honey-dipped harmonies and a charismatic collective presence, all in the service of smart, sophisticated pop songs that sound like some dark and delicious 21st-century collision of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and The Beatles. See them at 2 pm on the Main Stage.

Lastly, if you get a chance, thank a volunteer on your way out. WBP is a free event thanks to contributions like this from the neighborhood.

The WBP ends at 10 pm, but the good vibes continues over at WOW Hall for the inaugural WBP fundraiser afterparty; $10 adv.; $15 door. Eugene native Tiger Fresh, aka Dylan Peterson, visits from Oakland to headline with his hip-hop-infused EDM.

For the full schedule of events and attractions, visit whiteakerblockparty.com.

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