Tag Archives: lifestyle

Generation H

[deck]Homeless Youth Carve Their Niche on the Streets.[/deck]


[cap]A[/cap] boy in a brown fur trapper hat jolts awake to the alarm clock of a clattering cargo train. His concrete slab of a bed lays thirty feet from the tracks, under a highway bridge notorious for homeless inhabitants. It’s a welcome change – for the first time in two weeks, the police haven’t woken him.

Upon first glance, Steven “Panda” Thomas doesn’t appear to be homeless. With plaid shorts and a blue American Eagle T-shirt, he’d have no trouble fitting into a group of high school peers walking to class. Very few would guess that he carries a knife in his pocket for protection.

And nobody would suspect that the hat he’s wearing has accompanied him on a three-year journey from Alaska to Oregon, without a dollar to his name.

Living the homeless, transient, or “street kid” lifestyle like Panda, has become a growing trend among the young American generations. Approximately 3.5 million people, 1.35 million of them youth, are likely to experience homelessness in a given year, as reported by the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty in 2007. Estimates from many research organizations point to a steady increase in youth homeless, although exact figures are difficult to obtain. In a 2008 report, the U.S. Conference of Mayors reported a major increase in the number of homeless in nineteen out of twenty-five cities.

A growth in the number of street dwellers isn’t the only issue. Recently, a new shift in how the homeless youth are dealing with, and increasingly embracing their situation, has brought a whole new attitude to the sidewalks.

New Kids on the Block

Panda got his nickname from the street kids in downtown Eugene, Oregon for both his fuzzy hat and seemingly placid demeanor. The eighteen year old has been a homeless runaway since the age of fifteen. He speaks of his past three years like a blur of monotony, hitchhiking from city to city, sleeping wherever he ended up each night, meeting hoards of different people, and moving to the next city on a whim.

His ultimate goal was to make it to California to surf. He got as far as Eugene, until eventually discovering his need to be more ambitious.

He left Alaska after a few punches were thrown when his stepfather “said the wrong thing.” In the end, nothing was broken but family ties.

Family struggles like this are a common impetus for youth deciding to live the homeless life; Panda impulsively began traveling, never to look back.

“Everyone thought I was gonna be something,” he says. “But I guess if they saw me now, they’d still think it was the same old me.”

Panda found that surviving on the streets meant living a lifestyle of apathy. For him and for many, the lifestyle consists of quitting school and spiraling into a world of drugs, malnourishment, and constant insecurity. While Panda has opted to be a solo traveler, homeless youth often stick together and move in groups, forming their own subculture.

“It’s become problematic,” says Mike Langley, program director for Hosea Youth Services in Eugene. “More and more [homeless youth] seem to be content with this lifestyle than have in the past.” With a bushy white beard and trademark straw hat, Langley is better known as “Cowboy Mike” to homeless youth all over the city.

Hosea, one of the few homeless centers for youth in Eugene, is situated in the basement of a church and opens for dinner three nights a week. It’s a well-kept space with couches and a pool table, a place where the youth can shed their burdens for a few hours.

With a smiling staff and couches to nap on, it’s a welcoming environment. But it’s unavoidably obvious if someone doesn’t belong. After long days and nights on sidewalks together, the young homeless community is tight knit.

As they wait in line for a dinner of enchiladas, some of the youth are gracious toward the smiling volunteers serving them, but many hold their plates out in silent expectation. “I’ve had people I like to call ‘Hosea Alumni,’ the now-adult success stories, come back to visit and ask ‘Were we like that?’ They’re shocked when they see that lack of appreciation,” says Langley.

Getting his nickname from his trademark hat, Steven “Panda” Thomas, eighteen, has been on and off the streets for three years.

He attributes these attitudes to a new sense of entitlement he’s never seen before, due in part to many of the kids simply taking for granted the services provided for them.

But homelessness is far from a new problem.

What has changed are the attitudes and culture behind it, leaving a distinct chasm between old and new. Langley comes face to face with these generational differences every day.

“It’s like many of [today’s homeless youth] have accepted it with a mindset of ‘this is it’.”

Often, the homeless youth traveling in groups create a social dynamic and peer pressure that perpetuates these attitudes. Since these street kids are creating their own mock families, Langley says they tend to feed off each other’s weaknesses rather than strengths. He adds that these travelers present a whole new aspect of youth homelessness. “They’re not just accepting it, they’re reveling in it.”

Unemployed: Where it Hits the Hardest

Meanwhile, most older homeless are far from any reveling and instead are left desperately searching for a solution to their own predicament.

Fifty-year-old Dave Harrington sits on a busy corner off Sixth Street breathing in gas fumes and holding a sign that reads, “Unemployed. Hungry. Anything Helps. Thank You.” He became homeless five years ago after getting laid off at his retail management job.

The Eugene native, who was quick to proudly declare his relation to famous Ducks quarterback Joey Harrington, blames the economy and high unemployment rate in Oregon for his situation. He added that there should be more support for the “good” homeless people, defined as “the people who have a heart; who don’t take advantage of the system but, work with what it offers you.”

Harrington contrasts his lifestyle with what he considers the ”bad” homeless, classified by those willing to hurt or steal from others just to get by, or those who leave piles of trash in their wake. He groups most of the homeless youth into this category.

He, like many of the older homeless, doesn’t glorify life on the streets. Harrington tries not to take for granted any help he gets from social welfare systems such as food stamps. But even in a sympathetic city like Eugene, he says the resources are still very limited for homeless trying to make it out of their situation. “Employers don’t want to hire homeless; renters don’t want to rent to homeless.”

Dustin James, a sixty-five-year-old disabled Vietnam veteran, holds the same view about the attitude and ethics divide in the streets. He has sat in his old, broken wheelchair on the same busy street corner every day for a year and a half. “I don’t ever ask for anything, just talk to people,” he says, before thanking a woman profusely for a small plastic bag of fruit she hands him from her driver’s seat.

He’s been homeless for eleven years after disabilities from a car accident prohibited him from continuing his work in the bar business. “There’s a lot more homeless out here than people think,” he says, “Vietnam vets were hit the hardest.”

But while the economy has put a heavy burden on young and old, the youth homeless are at the bottom of the survival chain.

Lane County’s unemployment rate was a steep 11 percent for September 2010, with a nation-wide rate of more than 9 percent. With fewer jobs available, older and more qualified candidates are scooping up the jobs, leaving the youth to cope with empty plates.

When asked about the youth homeless, Harrington grimaces under his Ducks baseball cap. “They’re awful. They’re so violent now. You can’t talk to them or they just cause a scene.” James argues that the youth are much more indifferent than they should be. “My age, we want to work. They just don’t want to go through the hoops; they aren’t thinking about the future.”

Most of the older generation became homeless for the same reasons as the younger generation do now, whether it’s family issues, disabilities, addictions, choices made, being a victim of circumstance, or a variety of these factors. But they watch the youth’s new attitude from afar with confusion and little sympathy.

“We have to live with what we have,” says James. “But the younger ones, they could give a damn.”

Eugene: A Place For Nomads

Panda spends most of his days mingling around downtown Eugene, never panhandling or attempting to make money. With no jobs, and often no place to go, displaced youth are left to float around cities aimlessly, like ghosts on the streets. And like him, many of those ghosts drifted here from all over the country.

Kimberly Shaddy, twenty-two, was standing at the corner of Broadway with a sign reading, “Are you drunk enough 2 spare $1.00?” She traveled here on a school bus with four friends from across the country, but now lives in a car. After dropping out of high school, she hit the road because as she puts it, “I’m a nomad. I had nothing else to do.” With a big grin, Shaddy excitedly explains that the homeless culture is like a journey with similar characters everywhere you go, “Everyone knows each other, and there’s always drama.”

Even with this drama, most agree that there are solid reasons why Eugene is a well-known spot on the homeless map. John Reynolds, nineteen, made his way here from Dallas and says he never wants to leave. “I’ve been all over; Eugene has some of the best homeless resources in the country;” Resources such as Hosea, with the sole purpose to serve homeless youth.

After being on the streets for five years, Reynolds is noticing how young the already youthful homeless are getting, and how the streets are becoming increasingly more violent, despite the city’s peaceful reputation.

A hot spot for homeless crime is the infamous Washington-Jefferson Bridge. “I quit going down there, ‘cause I’m sick of watching my friends die,” says Reynolds, looking down at his dirty hands with somber eyes.

The bridge, sometimes referred to as “the pit,” is a place where homeless of all ages can be found sleeping on their belongings, often avoiding rain and police. Here, the age divide is unavoidable.

Both Reynolds and Shaddy emit contempt for the older homeless. Even without any future plans of their own, they grimace, expecting that by middle age, no one should be begging on a street corner.

“They’ve had decades to figure out how to get off the streets,” Reynolds says. In the past, he’s seen the clash of the two groups result in anger and violence. “They always seem to go after us or to blame us, but they’re the ones that just seem pathetic.”

Panda passes by older homeless on the street with a look of disdain; he also finds it hard to muster up any compassion for them. “It seems like they’ve had so many more options, but they’re just being irresponsible,” he says, not understanding how they ended up where they are.

Panhandling in downtown Eugene with her pregnant dog, Kimberly Shady, twenty-two, is one among many of Eugene’s young homeless population.

He considers their situation as far easier to remedy than that of the inexperienced, vulnerable youth. “I never want to end up like them,” he says, a look of repugnance on his childish face.

At the Drop of a Hat, A New Life

Panda says no one in Eugene has tried to mess with him, other than an instance where another homeless kid tried to steal his beloved hat. “I made him pass out with a choke hold, then helped him back up,” he says. “This hat’s like a part of me.”

Eventually, he knows the hat will have to come off. In the past week, he’s secured an apartment through New Roads and is set to enlist in the Marines, mostly to achieve the self-proclaimed goal of “three hots and a cot,” meaning three meals a day and a place to sleep at night.

His path toward success appears to be clearing up, but he’s not certain he’ll stay off the streets for good. “Do you see how many homeless are Vets?” he asks, envisioning James and his rusty blue wheelchair, “Quite a few.”

Panda’s the only one of the street kids he’s known to have enough motivation to get off the streets. If he’s successful later in life, he claims he won’t have much sympathy for homeless youth. He considers the lifestyle “their choice.”

It could be that life on the streets has worn down his empathy after seeing what he calls “zero ambition” and bad choices perpetuate around him. But once he finally surfs for the first time in warm California water, he says he’ll feel that if he could make it out of this life, others can too.

Just as he’s about to walk up the stairs to the first roof he’s ever lived under on his own, a group of street kids yell out his nickname from across the busy street. He smiles hesitantly, “Once you’re on the streets somewhere, you’re always on the streets. Even if you get off, part of you is always there.”

Against the Grains

[deck]The story of a professional sandboarder and his life on the dunes.[/deck]

[cap]F[/cap]or miles in any direction, mountains of sand, many standing over 200 feet tall, are all that can be seen. The blue streak of the Pacific Ocean near the horizon seems unreachable beyond the bare expanse of dunes rising and falling for miles in between.  Here, atop the highest pile of sand, a solitary figure leaps onto the slope — a small wooden board attached to his feet — and accelerates down the dune. As he picks up speed, the skinny, shaggy-haired rider begins to carve a path back and forth across the dune face in an effortless motion. Almost at the hill’s base, he launches off a small jump.  He reaches down through the sand that sprays in all directions and grips the edge of his board for a brief moment while suspended in the air. A split second later his board crashes to the ground and spins to a graceful stop, a goofy grin plastered across Joey Peterson’s face.

In the past four years, Peterson has turned the 29.6 mph journey from the top of a sand dune to its base into the major focus of his life. Introduced to the obscure sport at the age of sixteen, Peterson, who lives just outside of Florence, Oregon, admits to being skeptical at first.

“A friend wanted me to go for quite a while, but I thought he was talking about skimboarding. When I told him I didn’t want to get all wet and cold, he looked at me like I was an idiot,” Peterson says.

His friend explained that sandboarding is a dry sport, similar to snowboarding, in which the rider stands in the bindings of a waxed, wooden board and carves down a massive sand dune. Peterson decided to give it a try.

 Peterson placed first in the Sandmaster Jam. He has been invited to a sandboarding exhibition on the dunes of Cairo, Egypt and will also compete in Mexico this coming February.

Peterson placed first in the Sandmaster Jam. He has been invited to a sandboarding exhibition on the dunes of Cairo, Egypt and will also compete in Mexico this coming February.

Since then, he has taken every opportunity to hit the dunes with a love for extreme sports running in his blood. He started out racing motocross, but quit after several years to focus on skateboarding. Peterson remained an ardent skateboarder for several years before being introduced to sandboarding. He says it didn’t take him long to make the decision to quit skating and put all of his focus into sandboarding.

“Falling on sand is much less painful than falling on pavement, or even snow for that matter,” says Peterson. “I was sick of always skinning elbows and knees and banging myself up while skating.”

After only a year of riding, Peterson participated in his first competition: a big air contest in Florence called X-West Huckfest. Peterson decided to enter the event with less than a month to train and less than a year of riding under his belt. With such little time spent on the sand, Peterson recalls that his first competition was nothing short of a disaster.

On his first run, Peterson tore straight down a 200 foot dune, flying toward the big air jump at an uncontrollable speed. In his short time riding Peterson had not yet learned the essential sandboarding technique of speed checking, in which a rider carves through the sand in a zig-zag pattern so he doesn’t lose control of his board.

“I had no idea what I was doing. I just thought I did.”

“I didn’t know about speed checking and went straight-shot off the jump with no control,” Peterson says.

After hitting the jump at full speed, Peterson spun into an unintentional 360 and twisted sideways as he flew towards the ground.  While trying to recover, he plunged backwards into the sand in a wreck so painful and infamous that sandboarders have given it it’s own name: The Butt Torn, or BT. Peterson can hardly help but flinch as he recalls smashing into the dune with only the left side of butt.

The slogan, "It's not snow," is for those who come in with the mentality that sandboarding and snowboarding are the same thing; they quickly learn the dunes are not their snow-capped mountains.

The slogan, "It's not snow," is for those who come in with the mentality that sandboarding and snowboarding are the same thing; they quickly learn the dunes are not their snow-capped mountains.

“When just one part of you hits the sand, that part stops, but the rest doesn’t.  So if one of your butt cheeks hits–well that’s where the name comes from.” he recalls.

However, despite the numerous painful crashes into the dune, Peterson quickly discovered he had a natural talent for the sport. Within that first year of riding, he caught the eye of Lon Beale, owner and founder of Sand Master Park in Florence, the world‘s first sandboarding park. Beale is considered a pioneer of sandboarding in the United States. Since opening the park in 2000, he has discovered and coached some of the world’s best riders, including Josh Tenge, a four-time world sandboarding champion who holds three world records. Peterson began riding and training under Beale and has been hooked on the sport ever since.
For the past three years, Peterson has competed in the three major events that make up the Florence sandboarding season: The Sandmaster Jam, The NSA Railjam, and Huckfest.

This past summer, Peterson nearly claimed his first sandboarding championship. He dominated the Sandmaster Jam, an event featuring both slalom racing and straight speed competitions. Peterson finished second in the slalom and cruised to third place in speed with a top speed of 29.6 mph. The combined showings were enough for Peterson to finish first place overall.

“I kill it at the slalom. I think it’s from knowing how to skate and how to pump,” Peterson says while explaining how the Sandmaster Jam is his strongest of the three events. “We had practice the day before and I did absolutely horrible. Yet, I somehow came out the next day and killed during the competition.”

Peterson then took to the rails at the NSA Railjam, a rail grinding competition that he considers to be his weakest event. He complains that the rails are often buried too low in the sand to help younger, more inexperienced riders. In doing so, they become awkward to jump onto and easier for an experienced rider to lose his balance. Even so, Peterson was able to grind his way to a strong third place overall finish.

Peterson has had tumbles both on and off the dunes. An early morning car accident left him recovering for two months and prevented him from competing in a sandboarding championship. Had he competed, his friends and supporters tell him, he would have taken first.

Peterson has had tumbles both on and off the dunes. An early morning car accident left him recovering for two months and prevented him from competing in a sandboarding championship.

He stood in prime condition to win his first championship, trailing a good friend by just a few points with only the big air competition of Huckfest remaining in the season. Then one night, as he drove at 3:00 a.m. along a remote highway outside of Florence, Peterson lost control, rolled the car several times, and derailed his potential championship season.

Thinking back on the experience, Peterson counts himself lucky to have emerged from the wreck alive, much less riding again in just two months. He seriously injured his left shoulder and sustained numerous cuts and bruises. His injuries ended his sandboarding season, but Peterson believes that the fact he was able to recover and resume riding within two months was nothing short of miraculous.

Though Peterson says he’s not yet fully recovered, he has resumed his regular sandboarding training and hopes to make another run at the championship next year.

“Joey was our poster boy this past summer,” Beale says. “He was so close to being a champion [until his wreck]; but next year, he’s going to be our guy.”

Beyond riding in Florence next year, Peterson hopes to showcase his riding internationally in the near future. He, Beale, and five or six other riders from Florence were recently invited by the Egyptian government to showcase their skills in Cairo alongside riders from around the world, including Peru and Saudi Arabia.

Peterson was also recently approached by the editor of Sandboard Magazine who offered to pay for him and fellow rider Matt Walton to compete in Mexico this February.  Peterson can hardly contain his excitement at the prospect of traveling abroad to showcase his talent alongside some of the best international riders in the world.

“They’re both such great opportunities. I’ve never left the country and have barely even been out of the state, so to be able to go across the world is just amazing,” he says.

Above all, it’s the atmosphere and culture surrounding sandboarding that Peterson has grown to love about the sport. He so enjoys the variety and openness sandboarding offers people of all types that last year he began working for Beale at Sand Master Park, primarily instructing new riders and sharing his passion for the sport with anyone who will listen.

The dunes at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon are part of the world's first sandboard park

The dunes at Sand Master Park in Florence, Oregon are part of the world's first sandboard park

“With other boarding sports like skating or surfing, the riders tend to stick to their little cliques and create their own culture. With sandboarding, everyone is welcome and people are so friendly,” he says.

Peterson sees all sorts of new riders, young and old, coming to Sand Master, including families completely new to the sport and extreme sports enthusiasts wanting to try something new. He especially enjoys seeing experienced riders from the similar sport of snowboarding try riding the dunes for their first time.

“Snowboarders often come in expecting this to work exactly the same. I try to give everyone pointers and I catch them completely ignoring me. Usually they come back in later complaining that their boards don’t work right. That’s why you see the stickers reading ‘It’s not snow’ all around here,” Peterson says.

Though it’s now the off-season, Peterson stands atop the forty foot dune preparing for another trip down. He’s demonstrating to some new riders how to properly wax their boards.

“Rub the wax in vertical lines across the board like you’re back in second grade learning to color,” he explains to the onlookers with a smile.

“I just love the sport,” he says.

“No matter what time of year it is, I always want to be out here. I will take every chance I can get to come out and ride.”

As if to punctuate his words, Peterson slips his feet into the bindings, hops onto the slope, and begins to carve a path down the dune. His movements on the board are as natural as walking as he smoothly rotates his back foot in the usual S pattern of a speed check. Completely at home on the sand, he drops into a quick crouch and launches himself spinning gracefully through the air.

Director Jeff Nichols demonstrates using a cotton filter to safely fill needles with fluid and avoid air bubbles.

A Clean Exchange

HIV Alliance’s controversial needle exchange program provides clean needles to drug users in the hopes of preventing disease and inspiring change among users.

Clients return used needles and other supplies to the biohazard bin in order to get new ones.

Clients return used needles and other supplies to the biohazard bin in order to get new ones.

It’s the end of the road; a sign even says so. A tattered flag blows in the breeze and a train rattles along its tracks. Cars pass by without a clue of what is happening on this desolate corner of Eugene, Oregon. It is a depressing scene, and it is here that HIV Alliance’s needle exchange program sets up camp.

The atmosphere parallels the circumstances in which the needle exchange’s clients are in. They are in the grip of drug addiction. For some, there is nowhere to go; they have hit a dead end. People ride up on bikes, drive up in cars, or walk from wherever it is they call home. They bring with them bags, boxes, even jugs of dirty needles, and the HIV Alliance exchanges them for clean ones. From its large, beat-up, white van, the Alliance hopes to make even the slightest difference in someone’s life. As the night goes on, the biohazard bin fills to capacity and another needle exchange comes to a close.

At a base level, needle exchange programs (NEPs) offer a place for the safe disposal and trade of needles, with users getting one clean needle for every dirty needle brought in. Clients of the NEP are often dependent on heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, or methadone. For some, it’s whatever drug they can get their hands on. However, around 3 percent of clients rely on insulin and hormonal steroids for medical use and they require clean needles too.

But HIV Alliance’s needle exchange offers more than just needles. Founded in partnership with Sacred Heart Medical Center in Eugene in 1999, the HIV Alliance NEP aims to to prevent harm from drug use, “which is occurring whether we have this program or not,” says Jeff Nichols, HIV Alliance NEP coordinator.

“We’re giving [NEP users] the tools to make safer decisions,” Nichols says.

One client of the NEP who suffered from a stroke two years ago met Nichols in the HIV Alliance parking lot. This client was a heroin addict.

“He said he has really been thinking about making a change lately, but honestly was very scared,” Nichols says.

Both the client and his partner were at low points in their addictions, and while talking to Nichols he began to tear up.

“I have never seen such emotion come from him,” Nichols says.

Jeff Nichols is the director of the Needle Exchange Program for the HIV Alliance in Eugene, Oregon.

Jeff Nichols is the director of the Needle Exchange Program for the HIV Alliance in Eugene, Oregon.

Both the client and his partner had healthcare, but were limited in treatment and detoxification. Nichols and HIV Alliance were able to develop a plan that would work for both of them. They’re now planning to undergo detoxification at different locations.

Nichols became a drug counselor after dealing with his father’s addiction to intravenous drugs. He then became involved with HIV Alliance, working with drug users in the midst of their addiction rather than at the end. Having experienced addiction firsthand, Nichols has a rapport with clients built on trust and understanding.

“Part of their lifestyle is using; it’s not who they are,” Nichols says.

During the nineties, the Government Accountability Office, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Academy of Sciences found that NEPs work in reducing the spread of HIV among drug users, their partners and children, and discourage an increase in drug use. In 1988, Tacoma, Washington’s NEP was the first of its kind, operating with some community support. The program consisted of a table set up downtown.

Today, HIV Alliance’s NEP has grown, working in conjunction with Sacred Heart, the Eugene Police Department, and donors such as Wal-Mart.

“We are very much a full partner,” Lane County nursing supervisor Betsy Meredith says.

“People who are injecting drugs do care about their health and the health of others.”

But it is challenging to educate and explain this to the public.

“Hepatitis C is a serious problem in our community,” says Meredith.

Although Eugene hasn’t seen an increase in HIV in five years, hepatitis C is harder to prevent and control.

Unlike HIV, hepatitis can live outside of the body for eight days. The sharing of needles, tourniquets, and cookers can all lead to the spread of hepatitis. When clients come to the needle exchange without any needles, they are given safer injection kits with the hope that they will decrease their odds of contracting blood-borne diseases.

“It’s always difficult to measure prevented infections,” Meredith says. “It’s easier to count infections that have already occurred.”

Regardless of numbers, the NEP is working to prevent the spread of disease.

In order to help drug users become safer, it is necessary to have an element of trust established.

“You’re dealing with a very desperate population,” says Diane Lang, Executive Director of the HIV Alliance.“They’re disenfranchised from the system.”

Clients are wary of giving the NEP even the most obscure pieces of information, such as the first two letters of their first name and the first two letters of their city of birth. The information is used only for clerical needs, but some clients fear it will be used to aid in their arrest. As a courtesy, the Eugene Police Department stays three blocks away from needle exchange locations.

“I don’t know if we necessarily work with them,” says Sergeant Kevin McCormick of the Eugene Police Department’s Vice-Narcotics Unit.

McCormick doesn’t have a strong opinion of the needle exchange, but he has seen the drastic effects of illegal drug use.

“If having a supply of needles readily available encourages more people to continue their illegal drug habit, then more drug addicts will be out there destroying their lives and the lives of those close to them,” McCormick says.

Director Jeff Nichols demonstrates using a cotton filter to safely fill needles with fluid and avoid air bubbles.

Director Jeff Nichols demonstrates using a cotton filter to safely fill needles with fluid and avoid air bubbles.

In the first ten months of 2010, more than 500 discarded needles were found in Washington-Jefferson Park.

“If those came from the needle exchange program, that would be a bad thing,” says McCormick. “If the needle exchange program keeps people from discarding their syringes in children’s playgrounds, that would be a good thing.”

The NEP works to connect people with the resources they need. At each exchange, there is HIV and hepatitis testing, and on Thursdays there is a doctor on site to help with wound care. Also, pamphlets are at each exchange providing information on healthcare, rights as a drug user, and drug counseling.

“If they have something to make their life better, they’ll take it,” Nichols says.

The NEP doesn’t try to push people into rehabilitation; but each time a client comes to the exchange, they are asked if they would like information about detoxification or treatment.

“I’ll drive them there myself,” Nichols says.

“I gotta quit this shit,” says one client of the NEP to the onsite doctor. He explains to her that after three or four days off drugs, the stomachaches and withdrawal are too much for him, and he is back to the exchange for more needles.

“It’s important to get them when they’re ready,” says Lang.

Lang recalls a woman who lived in a homeless camp by the river. “She was not in good shape, and she didn’t trust us,” Lang says.

The woman was a victim of domestic abuse. She lost her job as an office manager and then custody of her two children. In desperation, she began trading sex for drugs. After a long period of not trusting the program she began exchanging her needles. However, she was reluctant to get tested for HIV.

“She was sure she had it,” Lang says. But she tested negative. She became a peer mentor, reestablished contact with her children, and started on the path towards the life she once knew.

Every week Nichols gets clients who are set on making changes.

“We just talk with people who don’t have that social time,” Nichols says. “It’s about taking yourself out of the equation. It’s the client’s decision and the client’s drive.”

But for every client that is ready to change, there is a handful of others who are not.

“I have to have something, so whatever you have is fine,” says a man desperate for an exchange.

Another man recently witnessed a heroin overdose. “What did you do?” asks a volunteer.

“I brought him back,” the man replies.

A conversation that might leave another person dumbstruck is seemingly normal at the needle exchange.

If clients are visiting for the first time or have not brought any needles to exchange, they are provided with a safe kit, including 20 needles, ties, cotton filters, alcohol swabs and information about help and prevention.

If clients are visiting for the first time or have not brought any needles to exchange, they are provided with a safe kit, including 20 needles, ties, cotton filters, alcohol swabs and information about help and prevention.

Nichols knows all the clients’ stories and they are genuinely excited to see him after he’s been gone. The clients talk about their children and grandchildren. Some go through a bin of donated clothes from Wal-Mart. They banter about the week’s events and laugh as jokes are told. From the outside it looks more like a get-together than a needle exchange.

“One day we had a hundred pairs of Miley Cyrus pants. They were going like hot cakes,” Nichols says.

But the conversation always goes back to drug use, and a look to the right at the full bin of white and orange needles is a harsh reminder of the dire situation the clients are in.

“Philosophically, one might say it encourages and promotes drug use,” McCormick says.

They are giving drug users the tools to sustain their habits, but they are also giving them the tools to change. Whether they are making a real difference is hard to determine based on numbers and facts alone.

Regardless, something is happening at the end of the road with the faded and flapping flag and the slow moving trains. It may be the exchanging of needles for drug use, or it may be exchanging the chance for hope and change.

Steeped in Tradition

A spicy yet soothing aroma of freshly-brewed tea fills the air in Josh Chamberlain’s spacious tea house, J-Tea. Surrounding the tea bar and stools in the center of the shop, shelves hold teapots decorated with floral patterns and teas with names such as Hairy Monkey White Tea and Second Flush Oolong. There are stacks of tiny foil packages colored with turquoise, gold, and lavender, each containing a hard, compressed block of loose tea leaves.

Here, you will not find the premeasured tea bags packaged into oversized boxes that are popular in grocery stores. Chamberlain’s shop offers teas with minimal packaging, so what you’re getting is – well, tea.

Other tea shops often carry an assortment of teas from just about every area in the world that produces tea. J-Tea carries a more specialized selection, selling only teas from Taiwan and China. Chamberlain is so particular about his teas that he travels all the way to Taiwan twice a year to pick out the finest tea leaves himself.

Heading straight to the source rather than ordering through a middleman eliminates Chamberlain’s risk of getting stuck with teas of subpar quality.

Tea, like wine, is an agricultural product that varies widely in taste, appearance, scent, and overall quality from farm to farm and season to season.

“Those really regional, seasonal differences in tea that get expressed in the flavor, the body, the aroma—these are things that I’m trying to capture when I select the teas,” Chamberlain says.

When he visits the small-production farms in the high mountains of Taiwan, Chamberlain looks for the proper conditions that will fulfill his personal standards of quality. Teas of high quality boast delectable natural flavors and pleasant aromas.

And, as with wine, when a particular farm and season has produced an optimal crop, Chamberlain will buy as much as he can sell.

Taiwan’s cool, humid mountains are covered with flourishing greenery and offer prime conditions for growing lush tea.

To ensure that the tea he is purchasing is of high quality, Chamberlain chooses to buy only pure, unflavored tea leaves. He avoids flavored teas, which are the dominant teas on the market in the U.S., because flavors are often used to mask poor quality, according to Chamberlain.

“People are often surprised that tea can taste as good as it does just on its own,” he says.

J-Tea benefits from the variety and frequently-changing qualities that come from small farms, while large-scale tea businesses usually look for just the opposite. They don’t want any variation in their teas, according to Chamberlain.

“They add the tea together in a formula that consistently produces the same taste,” he says. This, however, won’t guarantee that the color will remain consistent. To ensure that their product always looks the same every time a customer brews a cup, big companies add dyes.

Chamberlain concentrates on filling the majority of his store with genuine tea.
Camellia Sinensis is the actual tea plant, which is used to make green, white, and black teas. Herbal teas do not fall under this category, as they are derived from other plants, such as rose, mint, or chamomile flower.

Rather than focusing on the conventional top sellers, such as Earl Greys and herbals, Chamberlain instead seeks out rare teas.

Another feature that sets these teas apart from others is that J-Tea only sells whole leaf tea, rather than the dust and crumbs that are often used to fill tea bags.

Chamberlain’s vast knowledge of the types of teas and the processes needed to properly brew them also benefits his customers, especially those who purchase brewed cups from the tea bar.

“He knows so much about tea, so it enhances the experience of drinking it. Period,” says customer Frank Hale, a self-proclaimed tea lover.

Chamberlain developed his knowledge while he was studying abroad in Taiwan. His years overseas taught him the benefits of drinking tea, such as increased awareness and a calmer state of mind.

“I was crazy about tea,” he says. He would drink it in the morning, afternoon, and evening. After returning to the U.S. in 2005 with an MBA and an in-depth understanding of the beverage, Chamberlain decided to open his tea shop.

Chamberlain has honed and perfected his skill for getting the tea-brewing process right, evident in every cup of tea served. He pairs pots with equipment and particular teas in order to deliver an incomparable drink to his customers every time.

For example, Chamberlain knows that a heavier, more full-bodied tea, such as a ‘High Mountain Roasted Oolong,’ is best prepared using a dark, iron-rich clay pot. The dark clay absorbs tea flavors while simultaneously enhancing them.

For a lighter tea, such as a ‘Green Oolong,’ Chamberlain recognizes that porcelain is the best type of pot to brew the tea in. Porcelain lets the heat dissipate rather than holding it in, and it won’t absorb the tea’s flavors–perfect for switching between teas in the same pot.

Chamberlain is also a useful resource for his customers when they are unsure about which teas to buy. When customers ask for Chamberlain’s input, he replies by asking them what kind of beer they like, or what type of wine they prefer. Based on their preferences for other beverages, Chamberlain can better recommend a tea that will suit their tastes.

For instance, someone who likes malt whiskey may enjoy a tea with rich flavors, such as a roasted Oolong. If someone likes IPA beer, Chamberlain recommends teas with bitter flavors and a sweet aftertaste.

But what you get at J-Tea doesn’t end with quality. This tea house offers a unique business with a cultural touch.

Outside of the tea house is a modern metal structure that seems to make an artistic statement rather than serve a solid functional purpose. A short set of stairs leads customers from the street to a wooden entrance that resembles a box. The entire front of the shop is made of tall, glass windows, allowing natural light to gently flow in.

First-time customer Neil VanSteenbergen says, “There’s a comfort and warmth here. I’m going to come back and bring my sweetheart.”

Hale agrees. He keeps coming back to J-Tea because of the calm, soothing environment and the unique selection of teas that he can’t find elsewhere. Also, the cultural and spiritual experience of watching Chamberlain handmake the cups of tea right in front of his eyes is something he can’t get anywhere else.

Drawn to the time-honored tea-brewing process at J-Tea, Hale says, “After the first time I drank here, I stopped drinking store-bought teas.”

Chamberlain hopes the new shop will provide an ideal setting to expose customers to the health benefits and life-enhancing qualities of tea along with the culture behind drinking it. Here, he will work to conquer one of his biggest challenges: showing people what ‘quality’ tea really means and the traditions behind the cultures that enjoy it.

Pretty Little SOLDIERS

[deck]Two women in different stages of their Army careers tell their personal stories about surviving in a male dominated field of violence.[/deck]

She’s young, she’s a woman, it’s a challenge, but it’s what she asked for.

She’s young, she’s a woman, it’s a challenge, but it’s what she asked for.

[cap]T[/cap]wo pairs of hands pull blonde locks back into tight, perfect buns. Polish-free nails smooth the creases on the jackets that bear their names and ranks. Fingers quickly pass over the laces of the large combat boots weighing down their smaller frames. While one woman prepares for a field exercise during her first year training in Oregon, the other dons a uniform in Iraq—an outfit as familiar as her own skin.

These two women are among the thousands who proudly serve the United States Army. However, men make up 86 percent of the active-duty army and it is their faces and stories displayed in the media during times of war. But, in the last few centuries, women have taken on a larger role in battle, other than laundering soldiers’ uniforms and cooking meals, typically their military roles in past wars.

Flash-forward to the War on Terror declared in 2001. Women serve in 93 percent of all army occupations, although they are still held to different standards than their male counterparts with only 70 percent of army positions open to them. Although their role has slowly increased over the years, they still face very different and very real challenges because of their gender.

“You have to be a strong woman to be in the military,” says eighteen-year-old University of Oregon freshman Juliana Hoffman. “There’s going to be a lot of criticism.”

Hoffman is a first-year Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) student with a military background. Her father was a colonel in the Vietnam War and her mother was a lieutenant colonel in Desert Storm. Since both of her parents served in the military for over twenty years, she received plenty of support to enlist.

“I grew up around the military, around the base, and was always influenced by military people,” Hoffman says.

In each new town, Hoffman lived on the army base and the soldiers in their Army Combat Uniforms (ACUs) were her only constant childhood memory. Her parents’ jobs moved her around the globe. Her peers’ faces started to blur together with each move—from her home state of Washington to Italy to California. She bounced through five different schools during her childhood leaving any friends she had made behind.

“I never had a close childhood friend because of the moving,” she says. “It was lonely and it was hard.”

Before Hoffman was old enough to truly understand what her parents did for a living, bitterness aggravated her when she witnessed the difference between her life and the lives of her schoolmates.

“Growing up, I was proud of my parents, but I never really understood what they did. I was resentful because I didn’t get to spend as much time with my parents as I’d like to,” she says. “Now that I’m older, I appreciate them so much more. I think it’s amazing what they did.”

Although her father retired once Hoffman’s mother discovered she was pregnant, her mom remained on active duty. Until Hoffman was six, she and her brother spent the majority of their time with a nanny.

With support from her parents, who were both part of the military, Hoffman is determined to succeed in this emotionally and physically straining lifestyle.

With support from her parents, who were both part of the military, Hoffman is determined to succeed in this emotionally and physically straining lifestyle.

“My mom would go on business trips for weeks at a time—she was so consumed,” Hoffman says.

Her dad took over as a stay-at-home dad after the nanny left, but Hoffman still felt different.

“It was a little awkward having my dad take me to Brownies when everyone else had their mom there,” she says.

Now, Hoffman spends the majority of her time with ROTC, an uncanny resemblance to the time her mother dedicated to the service. She works her muscles three days a week during morning training sessions until they ache with pain.

With a head full of blonde hair, a tall, lean frame, and eyes decorated with different hues of make-up, Hoffman says that she may not look like the stereotypical army girl, but she joined for the challenge—and that’s exactly what she got.

She and the other cadets start their Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays promptly at six thirty in the morning, working on abs and arms.

“They’ll just work us and work us until there is pain involved,” she says.

Dark, dreary mornings await them, along with the occasional rainstorm during their runs. The campus is deserted and the crisp air freezes their sweat-stained army t-shirts.

“But it feels so good,” Hoffman says. “I’m sore and I’m exhausted, but I’m the type of person who loves to workout,” she says.

Along with the grueling morning workouts, the cadets embark on a field training once a term, starting at five thirty in the morning and continuing until eight o’clock at night. Their leaders simulate a mission typically performed in war zones and the cadets must treat it as such, carrying upward of fifty pounds. Hoffman completed one arduous field training earlier this fall.

“We were hiking up mountains and we were in the woods. We couldn’t stop until we found the point we needed to find. It was exhausting being in such heavy gear and boots, climbing over obstacles and logs,” she says.

Besides the physical aspect, the ROTC is an inimitable learning experience because participants in the program are training to be army officers by graduation. Hoffman hasn’t given much thought to the four years she must serve in the army after graduation, but she knows that it will be difficult. She credits growing up in the army for preparing her for what’s to come.

Although the different standards set for men and women frustrate her, she tries not to doubt herself, but instead, push beyond what’s expected from her as a woman.

“My mom has always taught me that girls are equal to boys,” she says. But the army doesn’t allow women on the front lines. “If there was something I really wanted to do, but couldn’t because of my gender, then that would upset me,” she says.

“I’m not going to go out there and be treated like a guy, but I like to be the best at what I do,” Hoffman adds.

Military Sexual Trauma Social Worker Sonja Fry of the Veterans Association in Eugene, Oregon, served eight years as a military police woman and uses her experience to counsel women with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and those who endured sexual abuse while serving in the forces.

“To be a female soldier in the military is already a mark against a female,” she says. “There’s already a feeling of being separate from the rest of the soldiers.”

According to Fry, this feeling of separation can lead to isolation, depression, and anxiety.

“It’s a tough life for anybody,” she says.

Hoffman, too, recognizes certain qualities that all women need to exude through the identity-stripping uniforms to make it successfully through the army.

“She has to be able to push herself and be willing to put up with criticism,” Hoffman says.

“And she has to be okay with not being number one. Emotionally, she has to be able to be judged and not let it affect her; not let the failure take over her,” she says, remembering the first training session where she didn’t finish first.

But her determination to disprove the stereotype of women as the weaker sex is another value that she believes an army woman must have.

“A strong army woman has to know what she wants and not stop until she gets it,” she says.

Kelly Calway is an army intelligence officer and also the 2008 army-athlete-of-the-year who has already experienced some of the struggles of being a woman in the military that Hoffman has just recently started to encounter. Photo courtesy of Kelly Calway

Kelly Calway is an army intelligence officer and also the 2008 army-athlete-of-the-year who has already experienced some of the struggles of being a woman in the military that Hoffman has just recently started to encounter. Photo courtesy of Kelly Calway

Fry adds that no matter how hard a woman works in the army, it usually won’t matter to the males because they see it as “[women] aren’t equal to men.”

One such strong woman is Army Intelligence Officer Captain Kelly Calway, currently serving her ninth year in the force, including her time in ROTC. The twenty-six-year-old 2008 Army Female Athlete of the Year, born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, started in the ROTC with a push from her father. As a commanding general at the Maneuver Center of Excellence in Fort Benning, Georgia, he hoped that his daughter would join the army just as he had.

Calway is currently based in Fort Carson, Colorado with her husband, who is currently deployed in Afghanistan, and their three-year-old daughter. The petite woman, with long blonde hair and brown eyes is strong in ways that would make most men envious. She packs more muscle and strength in her short legs than some of the weapons she totes. Calway is a dedicated runner—she’s training for the 2012 Summer Olympics—and she consistently beats her male competition during physical tests.

“I could fight as well as some of the guys out there,” she says.

The army currently pays Calway to run under their name with a typical training session consisting of twenty miles. She uses this physical strength as a way to break barriers with her male counterparts.

“I have to earn respect in a different way. I work harder to be the very best and study up a little bit more beforehand. But I’ve got a lot out of being good at the physical-type stuff,” she says.

Because Calway consistently beats her male competitors, she struggles with the rule that female soldiers can’t hold certain positions.

“When I was a gung-ho cadet, I wanted to go to ranger school, which isn’t open to us. I was really bent out of shape about not being able to go,” she says.

“I know I can do just as much as any guy out there can do, and if you’re able to meet the same standards as a guy, then you should be able to.”

Fry agrees that equality is lacking in the army.

“You can do your job as well as any other male soldier, but it’s never good enough,” she says. “Even if you give 150 percent in comparison to your peers, it’s still never good enough because you’re always going to be a woman. You’re doing a man’s job, and a lot of men feel threatened by that.”

Female soldiers are still deployed and sent to dangerous situations, even if they don’t hold the same positions as males. Calway was deployed to Iraq in May 2009 for six months, three years after she graduated from ROTC. As an intelligence officer, Calway surveyed the war zones for the infantry soldiers stationed on the ground who were in constant danger from the enemies. She created comprehensive briefs of the area to keep her team in control of the situation.

“Before a unit goes in, we know where the hot spots are going to be,” she says. “We’re responsible for figuring out where the bad guys live.” And her work helped keep their unit safe and prepared.

There is no "You run like a girl," with Calway who ran races while deployed in Iraq. She's planning on using running in another way to represent her country; by training for the 2012 Olympics. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Calway

There is no "You run like a girl," with Calway who ran races while deployed in Iraq. She's planning on using running in another way to represent her country; by training for the 2012 Olympics. Photo Courtesy of Kelly Calway

“When we save lives doing what we do, it’s like high fives all around,” she says. “You take so much pride in that. If you can stop one soldier from being killed or injured, your entire day is worth it.”

Calway felt the pressure of being in charge of hundreds of lives while working eighteen hours straight in horrid heat. “It was like having a hair dryer constantly blowing on your face,” she says. “It was just dust and dust and dust, with all kinds of sand and fires.”

Transitioning from the green, mountainous scenery that she experienced in her various homes growing up, Calway was trapped in a desert of monotony. So many factors contributed to making Iraq the ultimate test of endurance. “Everybody burns their trash there and it’s a really disgusting smell. It’s not a beautiful place,” she says with a laugh.

But something that Calway remembers most from her time in Iraq is losing her sense of self.

“It got boring wearing [the ACUs] every single day. Then you see someone wearing earrings and you get kind of jealous. It’s so much more girly!” she says. She could never free herself from the uniform like she would when she was in the States. Instead, it became her new identity, and she felt less like a woman.

“I remember thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, I could totally go for a skirt, or a pair of heels!’” she laughs.

She was forced to adjust to life in the desert without the simple luxuries such as hair dye, certain clothing, and even feminine hygiene products.

But the most challenging aspect of life in a desert war zone was the loneliness from being separated from her family. Calway longed to see her daughter and missed her second birthday.

“As a mom, you really miss your kid,” she says.

She found slight solace in the other mothers there, knowing their feelings differed from the father soldiers’. “I’d like to say it’s the exact same, but it isn’t. You feel a little bit more guilty as a mom,” Calway says.

Fry stresses that male counterparts see these types of situations as weaknesses.

“It’s tough to be a woman in the army and have a problem, emotional or otherwise,” she says. “[Men see it as] you trying to use your gender to get ahead or not do the same duties as everyone else. Like you’re trying to ride the system.”

But Calway talked to other mothers and put thoughts of her daughter and husband aside while she was working. She was in a war zone. Enemy fire boomed through their army base, indirect fire shook the ground, and thunderous helicopters constantly hovered, providing a shield of noise.

“You hear about all of the horrible things that the terrorists are doing, and when you get in direct fire on your base and you feel it, you realize how evil our enemies are,” she says. The deafening noise became such a common companion among the troops that a joke emerged out of the situation.

“You hear so many explosions that you just get used to it. It became a joke that if you jump, then you’re a newbie,” she says.

After her shift ended and her mind was still filled with the sounds of explosions and the detailed maps of enemy locations, she focused on what kept her happy at home.

“There were frustrating times and situations that would get really stressful, so at three in the morning, I would jump on the treadmill and get that stress and anger out,” she says. The rhythm of her feet hitting the belt and her steady breathing was so familiar and grounding, she credits her running for not having PTSD when she returned home.

Calway plans to continue her career in the military and hopes that her daughter will one day attend West Point and become an officer herself.

“I would love for her to consider Military Intelligence and I am sure my husband would attempt to sway her toward Engineers,” says Calway. “But we will just be proud that she decided to serve her country.”

As for Calway’s time devoted to the forces, “I’m just glad to give back to the country that has given me so much,” she says.

Although military counselor Fry has no disrespect for those who choose to serve, her experience, and that of the victims, influences her outlook. If a woman asked her if she should enlist, Fry would respond by telling her not to join.

“Until [the military] becomes more proactive about sexual trauma and actually makes some changes, then I don’t think it’s a healthy place for a woman to be.”

Running Goes Bare

[deck]An increasing amount of runners are leaving their athletic shoes behind as the barefoot running movement gains momentum. [/deck]

After reading the book Born to Run, Bruce was inspired to try barefoot running. When he runs he alternates between traditional running shoes and his RunAmoc

After reading the book Born to Run, Bruce was inspired to try barefoot running. When he runs he alternates between traditional running shoes and his RunAmocs.

[caps]O[/caps]n a chilly morning in early May, runners litter the trails of the waterfront path in downtown Corvallis. Ted McDonald enters the path and with every step he takes, his feet silently and gently touch the pavement. Ted’s bare feet draw attention on a path with runners wearing athletic shoes. There is no wonder why he is known as Barefoot Ted.

The idea of barefoot running came into Ted’s life eight years ago when he planned to run a marathon for his 40th birthday. As he was training in preparation for the marathon, Barefoot Ted experienced pain while wearing cushioned running shoes. He wondered if less cushioning with a minimal shoe sole was the solution to his pain. Shortly after this experience, he tried barefoot running.

“It was instantly obvious that I found the beginning of a solution,” Barefoot Ted says of his first time experience. Now, Barefoot Ted is one of the many supporters of the barefoot running movement. He travels across America teaching seminars and conferences on how to run barefoot and avoid injuries to people who have similar painful experiences while running in athletic shoes.

The barefoot running movement encompasses not just running without shoes, but also thin-soled shoes that provide protection while allowing the foot to hit the ground in its naturally intended form with less force. While barefoot running may appear to be an emerging trend, barefoot runners like Barefoot Ted show that it’s a lifestyle choice. Barefoot running is about listening to what your body is telling you without interferences from athletic shoes.

Experienced barefoot runners who have been running without shoes for at least a few years usually have the title “Barefoot” before their first name.

All barefoot runners have to earn their “Barefoot” title.

“’Barefoot’” was given to us by others who saw us run…” says Barefoot Todd, who has completed 86 marathons barefoot.

Some barefoot runners have a lot of experience running without shoes, like Barefoot Ken, who has been running barefoot for the past 20 years and who later introduced Barefoot Todd to it in 2001.

But thanks to the 2009 book, Born to Run, a new generation of barefoot runners is emerging. The book Born to Run introduced many longtime runners, including Bruce Austin, to barefoot running. “We don’t need the ultra modern protective running shoes,” Austin says.

Written by Christopher McDougall, Born to Run discusses a tribe in Mexico called the Tarahumara who are able to run barefoot for hundreds of miles without breaks. The book also explains why humans do not need the support from cushioned shoes in order to run. Born to Run has stayed on the New York Times Bestseller List every week since its release.

However, Barefoot Todd is concerned about the influence Born to Run could have on its readers, who may think barefoot running is effortless and immediately go out and try it without learning the technique.

In order to run barefoot effectively, one must first get used to the feeling of walking barefoot on a hard surface. The foot has been conditioned from years of wearing shoes and may need time to adjust to being barefoot. The foot must have a softer impact with the ground that finds its natural landing spot related to the body’s center of gravity. “A lot of times people tried it and it didn’t work,” says Barefoot Todd. “It just takes a little bit of reconditioning in order to get used to running without shoes.” Despite his concerns, Barefoot Todd appreciates what the book has done for barefoot running. “Born to Run has opened people’s minds to the thought of running without shoes,” he says.

The book has shaped the barefoot running movement by attracting people to the activity. Even though Born to Run informs the audience about the benefits that come with barefoot running, Barefoot Ted, one of the book’s characters, has been saying this for years.

Barefoot Ted and other supporters of running barefoot, including Barefoot Ken and Barefoot Todd, argue that the human foot is naturally conditioned for running. Modern running shoes provide unnatural padding and change the impact running has on an individual’s body.

Bruce started running when he was a student at the University of Oregon. He has tattoos from his numerous marathons and ultra-marathons, one of which he ran in Antarctica.

Bruce started running when he was a student at the University of Oregon. He has tattoos from his numerous marathons and ultra-marathons, one of which he ran in Antarctica.

The American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation journal published a study in December 2009 that compared running barefoot to running in athletic shoes. Researchers observed a group of healthy men and women running barefoot and again in standard running shoes.Their observations showed that running shoes increase the stress on three hip and knee extremity joints. The study recommended that footwear should try to be as similar to being barefoot as possible in order to reduce injury.

In January 2010 the British science journal Nature published findings from Harvard Professor Daniel Lieberman’s study that showed experienced barefoot runners’ forefoot or mid-foot hit the pavement first, but when runners wear athletic shoes with cushions they land on their heel first, which can cause stress to the heel, knee or leg.

Lieberman’s analysis provides a strong case for barefoot running; however, the study was partially funded by Vibram, a company that developed and sells a barefoot running shoe called Five Fingers. The study also says that “Barefoot runners can run easily on the hardest surfaces in the world without discomfort from landing.”

“It’s so sad” Barefoot Ted says of the people who run in athletic shoes. “There are people just pounding the friggin’ hell out of themselves.”

Despite research in support of barefoot running and a growing fan base, there are outspoken critics of the movement. The web site Barefoot Running is Bad, whose motto is “Exposing barefoot runners for the nutters that they are,” compares barefoot runners to being “As bad as the loony left of politics and the radical religious fanatics.” The web site, which says that it is not linked to the shoe athletic industry, offers rants against the trend’s research. “Can someone point me to one piece of evidence that shows high impacts actually cause any injury?” the webmaster wrote in a posting on the web site.

But this doesn’t discourage people from coming to Barefoot Ted for barefoot running advice. Barefoot Ted says he has been approached by celebrities, including singer Kimya Dawson’s husband, musician Angelo Spencer.

Some barefoot runners are nervous about the idea of having zero protection on their feet and are turning to shoes specially designed to be as close to the barefoot experience as possible.The leading barefoot running shoe on the market is Vibram’s Five Fingers, but it’s not the only shoe aimed at barefoot runners.

In early May 2010, shoe company Soft Star Shoes started selling a barefoot running moccasin. “Our customers were running in our shoes,” says co-owner of Soft Star Shoes, Larkin Holavarri

“We thought maybe we could find a better shoe for them.” The first week that the company’s barefoot running shoe, called RunAmoc, was on the market, Soft Star Shoes sold 105 pairs, which is extremely high sale for the small business.

Nike got involved in the barefoot running shoe movement with Nike Free, which according to Nike, “Provides just enough support while still allowing the foot to move in a natural, dynamic and barefoot-like manner.”

Barefoot Ted also sells a shoe kit that comes with all the material to assemble a barefoot running sandal, which he explains is “for a really minimalist person.”

But the experienced barefoot runners including Barefoot Ted, Barefoot Todd and Barefoot Ken avoid wearing shoes as much as possible. “If we take the time from the beginning to listen to, and respond by changing the way we are running, to eliminate the cause of the problems rather than just trying to muffle the messages, our feet will meet us part way,” Barefoot Ken says.

As barefoot running continues to grow as a business and trend, some experienced runners are concerned that the movement is losing its original message- barefoot running is about reconnecting with the body, listening and responding to the feedback your body gives you while running. “I cannot emphasize enough the importance of listening to the unprotected bare soles,” said Barefoot Ken.

I Want to be in Playboy

[deck]Auditioning for Playboy meant abandoning her religious upbringing and discovering a personal set of principles. [/deck]

[cap]A[/cap]s I reached for the latest issue of Playboy magazine on the magazine stand of the local Borders bookstore, I felt a mixture of emotions; I felt curious, excited, and a little naughty. I timidly glanced at the cover and the gorgeous, half-naked young woman wearing a racy pink tank top and a sugary smile. Feeling like a mischievous young girl about to peer under the lid of an imaginary Pandora’s box, I couldn’t help but playfully smirk right back at her. I fantasized about the “evil” and “offensive” things I had always been told were lurking among the forbidden pages of such publications. After years of prohibition, I was curious to find out. “How bad can it really be?” I thought as I made my way toward the cashier, shrink-wrapped adult media in hand. I felt an amusing sense of rebellion as I handed my debit card to the lady behind the counter.

The casting call encouraged the girls to embrace their 'inner Playboy' and to just have fun for the camera.

The casting call encouraged the girls to embrace their 'inner Playboy' and to just have fun for the camera.

Before that day last fall, I had never laid my hands on a single issue of Playboy. I was barely 23-years-old but already a completely different person from the timid and confused young girl who graduated high school in 2004. Had I picked up such a publication back then, I would’ve been horrified. “How could these women do such a thing?” I would’ve thought. “Doesn’t it make them feel worthless to be selling their bodies?”

Leafing through that first issue in a corner of the packed Borders coffeehouse, I was fascinated by the stunning women— many of them around my age—who looked happy to provide their luscious curves for the viewing pleasure of millions of readers around the globe. And to my surprise, I found myself wanting to do the same.

My decision to attend a recent Playboy casting call was a complex one. After all, appearing in a risqué publication raises many controversial yet intriguing issues about women. Would I be selling myself short? Are the nude females among the glossy pages merely sexual objects? What the hell would my family think?

I was raised in a fundamentally religious household, and I knew auditioning for Playboy would be an outright dismissal of everything the Mormon Church taught me about my body. The idea of physical purity is one of the most preached about and restrictive practices in Church doctrine. The Church has rigid guidelines telling its members how to dress (the rumors about “Mormon underwear” are true), date, groom (a limit of one pair of pierced ears for women, hair above the shoulders for men, and no body piercings or tattoos), and to remain chaste until marriage. It’s not surprising the perceived message from the Church is to hide the body.

Our home was no different. In our sheltered community on Oa’hu’s North Shore of 5,000 citizens—most practicing Mormons—my younger siblings and I lived a ritualistic life in a home that functioned like a religious business: three-hour services on Sundays, daily scripture study, family prayers three times a day, and communal religious activities at our local chapel on Wednesday evenings. Everything we did was meant to please our number one customer: God. My loving and God-fearing parents barely talked to us about sex, puberty, or anything of a carnal nature. Instead, “wait until marriage” and “dress modestly” comprised most of my sexual education.

Unlike anything I had ever been exposed to during my youth, I saw among Playboy’s pages the possibility to explore a compelling and taboo subject.

Had I even remotely entertained the idea of appearing nude in front of anyone except my “eternal companion” as a Mormon, I would have been told I needed to feverishly repent for such sinful thoughts.

Ericka persues a past Playboy issue while waiting for her audition. Playboy representatives saw about 40 girls over the two days of casting in Eugene.

Ericka persues a past Playboy issue while waiting for her audition. Playboy representatives saw about 40 girls over the two days of casting in Eugene.

When I decided to leave the Church five years ago, I also left behind the ideology that my body was meant to be unacknowledged. For once in my life, I wanted to do something that would go against the years of being told that my choices regarding my body were the concern of anyone else’s but my own. By deciding to take a gamble and pose for Playboy, I saw an opportunity for me to explore this evolving attitude of learning to adore rather than ignore my body.

As I sat there sipping a coffee and admiring the satiny female nudes on the pages in front of me, I marveled at the world of difference between the religiously trapped adolescent I once was and the undaunted, edgier woman who was now willing to—literally—reveal herself to the world. I realized this braver, gutsier gal would’ve never been allowed to emerge had she continued to seek the approval of religion or family. Although liberating, my decision to audition for Playboy would summon feelings of guilt and obligation from my past.

“You better think about what you’re doing to our family name, and your mother,” my father angrily said to me over the telephone a week before the casting call. He’d just heard about my Playboy endeavor through the family grapevine and called me to confirm whether this shocking rumor was true. When I shamelessly admitted it was, and that I didn’t tell them because I knew they would be offended by my decision, he was livid. His moralizing tone reminded me of feeling helpless, resentful, and trapped as a religiously controlled teenager once again. I thought about my mother, and how I love her more than anyone in the entire world. But I’d also grown to love myself. I suddenly realized I had reached a point in my life where I would never again let guilt or fear of damnation manipulate me. I had done that for 18 years, and I’d had enough. “Dad, I’m happier and more confident than I’ve ever been in my entire life. You are not going to take this away from me.”

Ericka is an electronic media major within the UO Journalism School.

Ericka is an electronic media major within the UO Journalism School.

While it hurt me to be the source of disapproval and pain for my faith abiding parents, I realized my decision to learn to embrace myself by auditioning for Playboy was exactly that—mine.

And so on April 12, I walked into a casting call as the most confident and happiest woman I’d ever been.

“You have a rockin’ body,” Jared Ryder, a professional photographer with Playboy said to me. When I tell him I’d been preparing for this audition for months by committing to a challenging fitness routine, he replied, “I can definitely tell.”

There, in front of f lashing camera lights in a local hotel suite—in the nude and totally at peace with my female body—I found myself thinking it wouldn’t matter to me if I was chosen for Playboy. What matters is that at the end of this journey, I had experienced the liberation and the power that only come from taking risks. I started on this Playboy project with curiosity and in search of a freeing adventure. At the end, I discovered a confident, fearless young woman ready to conquer the world and never look back.

Eugene’s Bike-Culturalism

Paul Adkins of GEARS and his wheels. Adkins transports his four children by bike since they ditched the family car.

[deck]Eugene is a mecca for bicycles. In October, the League of American Bicyclists designated our fair town as a Gold City, honoring Eugene’s great bike lanes, bicycle safety rules and an ever-increasing numbers of bike advocates.

Flux decided to find some of Eugene’s über-bikers and find out what made them choose the bicycle way of life.[/deck]

[caps]P[/caps]aul Adkins is no stranger to media attention. His car-less family of six was recently featured in Momentum magazine as an example of a family that can make a biking lifestyle work. I caught up with Paul over coffee the morning after he celebrated passing the torch of the presidency of the local riding and advocacy group Greater Eugene Area Riders.

What is your current occupation?

I am the community outreach person for Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life (but he’s not “the” Paul.) We try to get more people riding in the community, and get businesses to do commute-by-bike workshops. I am licensed by the League of Certified Instructors to educate people on traffic skills, laws, gear and maintenance. I actually have three jobs, since I have a family, but I only get paid for one. I just finished a two-year run as president of GEARS.

Can you explain what GEARS does?

GEARS is like inviting hundreds of friends on a bike ride. We have organized rides from beginner, or “Low-gear,” to some pretty serious rides. We also host the Blackberry Bramble and Jamboree in the summer for riders with children. All summer we host classes on skills and maintenance. I recommend the Street Skills class. For ten bucks, you go on a guided tour of the ins and outs of riding through Eugene and Springfield, with all the through-town networks and bike streets. GEARS is also in partnership with neighborhood businesses that support bikers. If you get a GEARS reward sticker for your helmet, they give a ten percent discount. Most of the bike shops in town are involved. You can check the complete list on the Web site. We also started a ride called Kidical Mass, that’s unique to Eugene, to try to get as many kids on the road as possible. More people riding makes the road safer.

GEARS helmet sticker is available at local bike shops and is good for discounts at participating Eugene stores.

GEARS helmet sticker is available at local bike shops and is good for discounts at participating Eugene stores.

So you have a whole family of bikers?

Yes, I have four kids, ages 8, 6, and twin 4 year-olds. They’re pretty brainwashed! We haven’t had a car for two years, so my wife and I both have Xtracycles, and we have a bunch of different Burley trailers when we need to haul stuff. The older kids have been riding their bikes to school since kindergarten, probably averaging about 10 to 15 miles a day. My kids could ride 20 miles without knowing how far it is.

Doesn’t that make life difficult?

No, I think they would be disappointed now if we got a car. Our family is trying to figure out how to spend less. We probably spend about one-eighth of what an average family spends. Eugene is a great place to ride a bike, when I’m riding with my kids I feel like we get the royal treatment. It’s like feeling beautiful to have all eyes on us. We’ve really had no bad experiences with drivers; actually drivers in Eugene are too polite sometimes. More than half of Eugene bikes on occasion. The size of town helps, nothing is too far to ride by bike.

Paul Adkins in Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, where he works as Community Advocate, increasing bike awareness and safety.

Paul Adkins in Paul’s Bicycle Way of Life, where he works as Community Advocate, increasing bike awareness and safety.

So, would you say bicycling is a lifestyle choice?

Bicycling is a simple, poetic way of solving all kinds of problems, all of the things that plague our culture: health, stress, emotional fatigue, traffic, congestion, pollution, the climate. It’s about community involvement and knowing your neighbors. I’m on the Whitaker Community Council, and we want to make it the most bike-friendly neighborhood in Eugene. We’re looking at making Blair and Van Buren (Streets) a bike boulevard, lowering car traffic and speed. In Europe, cities make biking a priority. We can look to Copenhagen as an example. Portland is doing a great job at obtaining that synergy. They’re at the platinum level, almost all of the elected officials are bike riders. The only other cities in the U.S. at that level are Davis (Calif.) and Boulder (Colo.). I do the work I do to let Eugene be a model place for those kinds of things. It certainly is already.

Do you see any area for improvement?

Well, people are learning what to do about leaf removal. Right now it’s pretty dangerous out there — bikers either have to ride in the road in traffic or pick up the leaves. If everyone would pick up their own leaves, it would be easier, and less costly for the city. It seems crazy to have the city pay.

Any words of encouragement for beginning riders?

People don’t have to buy a bunch of clothes to ride a bike. Hop on in the clothes you have on and go places! A lot of bike people in town are certainly not fashion statements, or they’re making they’re own statements. And we’re not afraid of getting wet.