rss feed | youtube | links | the burning log
Sunday, March 06, 2005
In the summer of 2000 I had just finished up a stint as the associate editor of the Oregon Commentator, a student magazine at the Univeristy of Oregon. Our last press run of the year, the annual "Tater Awards" issue, had rubbed someone the wrong way. Entire stacks of copies were mysteriously disappearing from boxes and stands around the nearly-vacant campus. We assumed the the Commentator's rivals, perhaps killing time until summer term started, were behind it. Then our news editor had a conversation with Hatoon, the homeless woman that lived outside the Knight Library.
Hatoon apparently had a problem with the cover, a Photoshopped image of the magazine's logo depicted as a cartoon character. According to her, "all the children of the world [were] being born with cartoon eyes" and the Commentator was at least partially responsible.
It was a cryptic explanation from a woman that charmed and befuddled UO students for decades. Rumor had it that she was the eccentric daughter of an alumni that donated a substantial sum to the university. Unlike the rest of the city's homeless population, Hatoon had full access to the school's facilities. She reportedly showered in the rec center and was always roaming the corridors of the library. During my years there, she could be found chatting with students at her spot in the library's courtyard. I never had much contact with Hatoon aside from the occasional nod and a weird encounter outside the University Bookstore last November.
Last Tuesday Hatoon was struck by a car while biking through an intersection. She later died at local hospital. A campus memorial was held on Saturday and my sister Shanna and her roommate Kat attended. At one point, a large hawk swooped low over the crowd and watched the ceremony from a tree branch. The crowd gasped and pointed. One woman reportedly called out, "Hi, Hatoon" before it flew off, only to return as the memorial ended.
Kat has posted a collection of pictures on her blog, along with a tribute. Most evocative is this image taken in a Woolworth's circa 1980.
The tributes in last week's Emerald could only briefly surmise Hatoon's life up to her years outside the library. She supposedly had an estranged daughter that she hadn't seen in years. There's no telling the combination of factors that drove the woman in the photograph to edges of the UO campus but it's an image that will haunt me for a long time to come.