Although I fully intended to further investigations from within the gym, insecurity rooted me to the sidewalk, reciting inwardly: “Higgs lived in a tower that was both tall and short and everything in between. Thus, it possessed a shape so odd that any direction he leapt would have been a leap into the embrace of life. Indecision, however, held him in a continual state of paradox of being neither alive nor dead.”
And then a man approached: mid-twenties, sandy brown hair, medium height, excellent muscle tone, a winning smile. As I was sizing him up, a parallel voice suggested his assessment of me: “Weirdo, bizarre looking, outrageous hair color, what is she doing staring at our building?” Although these proposed comments did not match up with his friendly bearing, past lessons rendered me incapable of conjuring otherwise. I had developed plenty of rude retorts to counter derogatory expressions. I braced myself with weapons ready.
“You’ll never get anywhere standing on the sidewalk,” he mentioned casually.
“What?” I said to myself as shields faltered under the opening volley leaving me with nothing to hand: “Sorry, is there a sidewalk law around here against milling?” My subsequently blushing cheeks gave me away as but a novice.
He pretended not to notice, replying: “You know it. Come on in; I’ll give you the tour.”
“Is there time in there? I mean, I mean it looks busy. What is your dysfunction?” The word bowled off my tongue irretrievably. I started to apologize, but it was too late. The poison had already been ingested.
“My dysfunction,” he grinned, “is to pry customers from sidewalks and get their asses up the wall.”
“Sorry, I’m not here for the climbing. I’m working on an architecture project.”
And then he noticed my printouts: “What’s up with the pics?”
My hand gripped the photos like a life preserver in a sea of doubt: “They’re from the UO Digital Collection. This one was taken in 1986 and is obviously the Rock Gym.” He closed the angle between us coming within mere inches, near enough for me to inhale the faint aroma of wood smoke and cedar. “This other one shows how the planing mill looked in 1957.”
“Buildings, buildings, buildings: an entire concentration camp for trees.”
“I’ve managed to find a couple of them still in existence, but the Rock Gym, I mean warehouse, doesn’t seem to be in the photo.”
“He stared at the printout for several minutes before concluding: “Can’t find it either. It might help to take a picture of the area from the same spot, Skinner Butte I’m thinkin’; that way you can compare the two and see what emerges.”
“That’s a really good idea,” I replied.
“I’d offer my services in the hunt, but I’m supposed to be working, maybe later. What is the point of this project anyway?”
I had already pondered this question since the professor had not offered any particular reasoning himself. The words were all there nicely lined up. This time they behaved:
“Architecture is the confluence of material reality—serviceability of a structure to its purpose—with abstract reality which oftentimes takes the form of a cultural manifesto. Like all art, architecture can be used to move our cultural mind beyond the box. During the Russian Revolution, for example, a number of artists believed that art should take the lead in leaving the past behind and recasting the future. Here, in Eugene, the driving force is for a green planet.”
The stranger was slow to respond, squinting while he attempted to digest the diamond perfection of my words. “If they had created a beautiful building from the start, it would have been a lie; it would have taken away its only positive attribute—honesty: I am what I am.”
“Beauty isn’t a requirement of art; sometimes it’s merely a distraction. Truth is the province of art; only then is it beautiful.”
“And so by some artful contortions of logic, we’ve managed to turn this eyesore into a thing of beauty,” he grinned.
I looked down at the tug of his hand on my arm: “Come on, let’s take this investigation indoors, so I can get paid.”
“OK,” I replied and followed him in through the portal formerly known as Door 1, Warehouse II, breathing deeply in an attempt to gain control over a fluttering stomach that kept interfering with my diction.