by Silas Valentino
Every Sunday night around 7:00, a group of people gather to eat dinner together. There are salads, loafs of bread, a homemade pizza with a surprising kick of spice and an organic smoothie made with all the types of fruit and veggies found in a community garden. There are men, women and even a seven-year-old child filling-in the empty spots around the tables and on the sofas. One conversation may regard the immaculate senses a dog possess while another one not too far away deals with the Aboriginals in Australia. The wine being passed around the table is a Yellow Tail white. The label depicts a kangaroo in mid-jump, fitting for the wine prides itself on its Australian heritage. Seated around the table is an older Australian gentlemen, William Silk, the youthful and seven-year-old Lily Cohen, and self-described bottom of the totem employee Ian McGoldrick. These three, as well as the 11 others in the adjacent room, make up tonight’s potluck dinner, a small get-together the Whiteaker Hostel hosts every Sunday night. No potluck is ever the same for the hostel employees never knows who may join them for a night of fresh foods, good conversation and a guaranteed improvised musical jam session. “People walk in all the time,” said McGoldrick. “We have no idea if they’re staying with us or not.” This delicious dinner lasts only forty minutes but within that short frame of time, you can see the vibrant glow produced by each member of the Whiteaker Hostel’s community.
Hostels are a breeding ground for people around the world to join-in with one another for a brief amount of time and enjoy each other’s company and experiences. They are notoriously cheaper than hotels and tend to be more carefree and lax in comparison to a four-star retreat. “A hotel doesn’t have a music room… or a potluck,” said Lily Cohen. The hostel life is more ideal for the traveler rather the vacationer. The awkward gut feeling you possess when meeting someone new is a constant emotion that can only be remedied with the out stretched hand ready for a shake. From there no one knows what you may discover about your new friend and self. The exchange rate usually accepted in hostels is an open mind and willingness to share. Caught in-between Jackson St. and Adams St. and just a football’s throw, if you’re Joe Montana, from Sam Bond’s Garage is the Whiteaker Hostel— a place of worldliness.
The Whiteaker Hostel has gone through some great changes ever since current manager Mac Hines took over in 2006. The hostel is constantly looking to improve its environment and customer feedback is always accepted. A small question box underneath a large question mark woven quilt is unavoidably near the front door just asking to be fed with suggestions of improvement.
Outside in both the front and backyard are countless displays of colorful art adding to the creative vibe set forth by the hostel. The Whiteaker Hostel can be enjoyed as a friend’s house rather a business. “You open the door and you see it,” said Kazuko Nishi. “It feels like you’re visiting a friend’s house.” Nishi is an Arizona-via-Japan transplant currently traveling around the state of Oregon. Though she claims her English is poor, she was able to fool Mike Hammet, a studying student seated on the other side of the table, into thinking she is currently writing a five-star book on hostels. Her comical lead-on lasted only a moment but her afterward’s laugh brought cheer to those around.
Mike Hammet is a student at The University of Oregon and after graduating, he hopes to join the Peace Corporation to travel and positively contribute to the world. He’s traveled to Asia a few times and hopes to one day visit Africa. He learned while traveling the benefits of staying in a hostel. “It’s expressing your freedom. There are no constraints,” he said. “It’s the ultimate freedom.” Hammet has been living in the Whiteaker Hostel for the past six months and he’s thoroughly enjoyed his stay. “The people are awesome. It’s a home away from home and the atmosphere is very welcoming.”
Across the living room and through the kitchen is an area that rivals That 70’s Shows Eric Forman’s basement in the realm of ultimate hangout spots. There are a number of instruments lying around the garage-turned-studio and nestled in the back are four connected old movie chairs that were once owned by Eugene’s favorite son Ken Kesey (rumor has it his head lice is still embedded in the fabric.) Currently, a weathered foos ball table is occupied with two teams of four friends looking to claim dominance over the other…
“Let me at ‘em!”
“Same teams different positions, I want you!”
This scene could almost be a set up to a terribly unfunny joke. Four guys walk into a foos ball game. One is an older man with a grey beard, another wears a spiked black necklace and the other two are two young men: one with a ponytail and the other wearing a plaid-on-plaid fashion ensemble. Off in the other room enters the smell of burnt rice coming from the pot and on the radio is 96.1 K-ZEL playing all you favorite classic rock. Neither of the two senses are stopping these four men from battling in a game of good ‘ol fashioned foos ball. They each come from different homes and time periods and the besides the friendship, their only connection is the Whiteaker Hostel. This is only a minor moment caught in the ongoing trail of friendship supplied by the hostel. “You get to meet a lot of random people,” said Kai Salmonson. He sits near the foos ball action and after he drinks a Sobe, he peels and plays with the paper label. Salmonson is from outside the Whiteaker Hostel but he comes over sporadically to hangout. It doesn’t matter who you know or where you’re from to join the hostel in its life. It’s a giant club with infinite members. Back on the plastic field, the foos ball comes to an idle stop. “Succubus!” explains one the players. It’s picked up, shot back in the game and the players continue to compete, shoulder to shoulder.
It’s the night after Day Lights Savings time and the clock reads 7:44 p.m. Dinner has been served, graciously consumed and now begins the strenuous process of cleaning. Lily Cohen has been waiting patiently for the chocolate cake to be unraveled. After it’s removed from the Tin Foil and placed on her plate, she sits down and begins eating, starting from the back with all the frosting, also known as the best part of the cake. Scientifically proven. “Lily is a superior creature from different planet,” said William Silk as he continues to slowly finish his supper. Mike Hammet walks by and Lily exclaims, “Finally! I have someone to beat up!” Hammet pinches her cheeks and proceeds to finish his studies.
In the kitchen, the sink is on low as the plates and dishes are cleaned and one-by-one the musicians begin to file into the studio…