Wednesday, December 22, 2010
They'll be wearing shorts. Or a thin T-shirt. Or flip-flops. Or all three.
They're not always hot-blooded kids in their teens and 20s, either. The other morning, with the thermometer nudging 27 degrees, I went to the local Starbucks to get my daily coffee, biscotti and copy of the New York Times. There was a customer inside -- a man of at least middle age -- wearing shorts and Teva sandals. Such sights are not at all uncommon here.
I can come up with only four possible hypotheses:
1. These people are emigrants from California and they still haven't figured out that it gets cold in Bend in the winter.
2. They don't own any long pants, long-sleeved shirts or shoes.
3. No brain, no pain.
4. They simply refuse to admit that it's ever cold in Bend. (Bend residents are the queens and kings of denial.)
I'm leaning toward a combination of #3 and #4.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The professional Bend-boosters have put a lot of time, money and effort into promoting Bend and Central Oregon as a terrific place to retire. They've even managed to get it included in several of those "10 Best Places to Retire" lists that magazines are always putting out.
Truth be told, however, Bend is emphatically not a good place to retire. It actually is one of the suckiest places to retire on the face of the planet -- or at least North America.
First, let's consider the climate. The winter in Bend is cold, it's wet, it's snowy, it's icy, it's gray, it's dreary -- and it's seven and a half months long.
We old farts do not like cold, wet, snowy, icy, gray, dreary winters that go on for seven and a half months. We do not like shoveling snow, scraping ice off windshields and slipping on the ice, falling on our ass and ending up in the hospital with a broken hip.
We like places that are warm and sunny. We like to put on our pastel Bermuda shorts and our white patent leather shoes with matching white patent leather belt and play golf or shuffleboard or croquet or (if we're Italians) bocce.
Or just sit in the sun and bask like lizards.
Then let's consider what to do for fun. In Bend, unless you go balls-out into all the outdoor recreation stuff -- and let's face it, despite all the propaganda, very few folks in their 70s and 80s are that gung ho for snowboarding, alpine skiing, mountain biking, rock climbing and running up and down mountains -- there isn't much.
Well, there's golf. There are plenty of golf courses around here, and people who play golf (I don't) tell me many of them are very good. But because of the suckitudinous nature of the climate, the golf season is only about four months long. (The boosters sometimes claim Bend offers "year-round golf," but that lie is almost as magnificent, towering and grandiose as "300 days of sunshine.")
We do have movie theaters, bowling alleys and bars, but you can find those anywhere.
Buying a retirement home in Bend or Central Oregon makes sense for only two classes of people:
First, those who are too poor to afford one in a warm, sunny place. (Bend really is a cheaper place to retire than many other locales, now that the real estate market has collapsed.)
Second, those who are rich enough to afford a second home in Palm Springs or some other warm, sunny place to flee to during Bend's seven and a half months of winter.
Since old Blackdog isn't in either of those categories, when he and Mrs. Blackdog finally retire (oh Lord, hasten the day!) we will be saying hasta la vista to Bend and all its suckiness.
ADDENDUM: I forgot to mention all the many ways in which living in Bend is unhealthy for old (and even not so old) geezers.
Because of the abundance and variety of vegetation -- especially the notorious junipers -- Bend records some of the highest pollen counts in the world during the spring and summer. It's hell for anybody with pollen allergies, or allergy-triggered asthma.
The dry air is brutal for anybody who has sinus problems. You''ll need to install a humidification system in your home.
The cold temperatures and continual wide swings in temperature and barometric pressure are torture for people with arthritis or fibromyalgia.
And finally, the short days in the winter and the general grayness and cloudiness that prevails most of the time except for the three and a half months of summer makes Bend a terrible environment for people with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
How does Bend suck as a place to retire? Truly, it is difficult to count all the ways.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
All the jock-sniffers in Bend (which has a higher concentration of jock-sniffers, per capita, than any other town in America) are in a continuous near-orgasmic state of arousal this week because the Cyclocross National Championships are being held here.
The five-day event begins today, and this is the second consecutive year that Bend has played host to the Cyclocross Nationals. For those not familiar with this "sport," cyclocross involves people riding bicycles (rather slowly) and often carrying bicycles (even more slowly) over a muddy, slushy, snowy, mucky course. (Here's some video from last year's event to give you an idea.)
I believe the powers that decide such things would do well to make this burg the permanent location for the nationals. That's because cyclocross has all four ingredients that make a "sport" perfect for Bend:
1. It's boring, dumb and pointless.
2. It involves no skill or grace -- just brute endurance.
3. It requires the use of expensive equipment and the wearing of brightly colored, tight-fighting Spandex.
4. It's physically unpleasant for both the participants and the spectators.
No wonder the local jock worshipers are all a-twitter. As for me, I'm saving my excitement for the Oregon Ducks vs. the Auburn Tigers in the BCS championship on Jan. 10.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
November was the first month since May to log more days of suck (16) than sun (14). Not only that, but the longest stretch of consecutive sunshine was only three days -- the first three days of the month. Then there were three sunny intervals of two days each and five single-day sun episodes scattered over the rest of the month. There have been only four sunny days in the last two weeks.
And some of the days recorded as "sunny" were marginal, at best, with a pallid, sickly sun glowing weakly in semi-overcast skies. I could easily have scored only 10 or 11 sunny days in November. But I try to give Bend the benefit of the doubt whenever I can.
Adding to the overall suckiness, an "Arctic blast" roared down from the Gulf of Alaska just before Thanksgiving, dropping about five inches of snow and driving temperatures down into the single digits.
Days of Sun: 14
Days of Suck: 16
Days of Sun: 193
Days of Suck: 141
Monday, November 22, 2010
Finter definitely describes the situation in Bend today -- it's still two days before Thanksgiving and almost a month before the Winter Solstice and some of the trees still have a few leaves on them, but the temperature is in the upper 20s and up to eight inches of snow is forecast for today and tomorrow.
After Finter, of course, comes the actual official Winter, followed by the Spring-That-Feels-Like-Winter, which might be dubbed "Sprinter."
And then comes the period of eight weeks or so we call "Summer," although even in Summer we experience some days so chilly that the label of "Wummer" might be applied.
Call it Finter, Winter, Sprinter or Wummer -- it all sucks.
Saturday, November 20, 2010
Not long after moving to Bend, I noticed something peculiar about the local restaurants: Most of them didn't provide any place for you to hang your coat and hat.
After living here a few months and going out to dine a few times in Bend restaurants, I figured out the reason: The restaurants are so cold in winter that you'll need to keep your coat and hat on.
Most of the restaurant owners in Bend seem to think that 45 to 50 degrees is a nice, cozy temperature at which to dine.
And then we have the common phenomenon of Bendites who love to stand in the doorway of a restaurant for 20 minutes at a time blabbing with their friends with the door wide open, letting gusts of 10-degree air blow in over the shivering patrons.
Jack Elliott, my friend and comrade in bloggery, has suggested that the restaurant temperatures are kept low for the greater comfort of the kitchen staff. With all due respect to Mr. Elliott, that seems implausible. If I owned a restaurant I'd worry more about the comfort of my customers than my kitchen staff.
I think the more likely explanation is that Bend restaurant owners are just too damn cheap to turn the heat up.
I'll say one thing for this policy: If you're having champagne with dinner, you won't have to worry about it getting too warm. Won't need any ice bucket to chill it, either.
Getting frostbite in restaurants -- just one more reason why Bend really, truly, deeply and profoundly sucks.
Sunday, November 14, 2010
One time the paper devoted the bulk of its front page for two consecutive days to an account of a cat that had to be rescued from a tree in LaPine. (Yes, really.)
The Bulletin also is an indefatigable booster of all things Bend, never tiring of reminding everybody about the (supposed) delights of our climate (including our mythical "300 days of sunshine") and our glorious "outdoor lifestyle."
Every once in a while, though, the truth slips through.
A couple of days ago, Julie Johnson, a Bulletin columnist, wrote a piece headlined: "Bend all atwitter over snow." (Yes, really.)
That in itself was no problem; even The Bulletin admits that it sometimes snows in Bend, and even I admit that snow can be pretty, and even kinda fun.
But at the end of the column, Julie recklessly ventured onto thin ice.
"I’m going to take this old-fashioned (non-Facebook) opportunity to explain why so many of us complain about the first snowfall in Bend: It’s because we mourn the other seasons," she wrote.
"In Central Oregon, spring is a no-show, summer is just passing through on its way to somewhere else, and autumn is cut short in its prime. We mourn those seasons we barely got to know.
"But winter, we know. Winter lasts until June. Winter returns before its time. Winter overstays its welcome, and so each year when it comes back, I offer a moment of silence for the softer seasons it usurped."
There it is: Official confirmation from Bend's Newspaper of Record that (a) winter in Bend does, indeed, really suck, and (b) it goes on for seven miserable months.
Julie Johnson sounds like a nice person. I really hope she hasn't just written her way out of a job.
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Of course it also means that the sun rises an hour earlier, but who the hell wants to get up to see the sun rise?
Bend's suckiness -- the climatic aspects of it, anyway -- is largely the product of two attributes: its altitude (3,623 feet above sea level) and its latitude (43 degrees, 3 minutes and 23 seconds north of the Equator -- nearly halfway to the North Pole, and just one degree south of Bangor, Maine). These two attributes mean that it's cold more or less year-round, and cold and dark in the winter.
Bend's relatively high latitude compounds the misery of its dreary, cloudy winters: Not only is the sun behind clouds most of the time, but there's precious little time for it to shine during the brief intervals when the clouds aren't there.
There's a slick little gadget on the Web called the Daylight Hours Explorer that lets you determine how many hours of daylight a place at any given latitude receives on any given day of the year. The Daylight Hours Explorer tells us that on Nov. 9, a place at latitude 43N -- like Bend -- gets 9.8 hours of daylight. By Dec. 21, the winter solstice, it will be down to 8.8 hours.
On the other hand, San Diego, California (latitude approximately 33N) gets 10.5 hours of daylight on Nov. 9 and 9.8 hours on Dec. 21, the shortest day of the year.
On the third hand, Nome, Alaska (latitude 64N) gets only 6.8 hours of daylight on Nov. 9 and 3.6 hours on Dec. 21. But who the fuck would voluntarily live in Nome, Alaska?
Of course, every place on the planet, from Nome to Bend to San Diego to Tierra del Fuego, averages 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness per day over the course of the whole year. Places like Bend that get relatively short days in the winter make up for it by getting relatively long days in the summer.
The catch is that the long summer days don't really "make up for it." The human organism can't store up sunlight during the summer and release it during the dark, dismal days of winter, when it needs it. That's why people in northern latitudes are prone to such afflictions as rickets and Seasonal Affective Disorder.
So if you find yourself in Bend during Dismal Sucky Time, your choices basically boil down to two: 1) buy a light therapy device and lots of cod liver oil, or 2) move.
Monday, November 1, 2010
Since Oct. 22, however, it's been pretty much solid suck all the way, and based on Blackdog's 25 years of experience we can expect more or less continuously sucky conditions to prevail from now until late June.
The Bend climate is truly suckalicious not only because the weather is cold and gray more days than not, but also because the sunny, tolerably warm days are crowded into a pathetically brief period -- two or three months, mostly.
Of the first 10 months of 2010, five (June, July, August, September and October) have had more days of sun than days of suck -- 118 to 35. That's almost an 80/20 sun-to-suck ratio -- pretty nice. Half of the sunny days (59) came in July and August.
On the other hand, the entire five-month period from January through May had only 61 days of sun. That works out to a nearly 60/40 suck-to-sun ratio.
Now that November's here, don't expect the sunny day total to rise significantly. Sunshine is going to be a very scarce commodity in Bend for the rest of the current year.
I'm expecting the final, total annual suck-to-sun ratio to be roughly 60/40, maybe a bit worse. Stay tuned.
Days of Sun: 20
Days of Suck: 11
Days of Sun: 179
Days of Suck: 125
Postscript: In compliance with the terms of my bet that Bend would not record 160 days of sunshine in 2010, which I lost, Jack Elliott presented me with The Shirt of Shame this month, and I wore it in public, once. MORAL: You Don't Bet Jack.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
It was nice while it lasted, but Indian summer is no more. It was killed last weekend by an icy blast that blew in from the Pacific, bringing cold, rain and -- last night -- snow.
Not enough snow to make things very pretty -- or, fortunately, to break tree limbs, like last year's Oct. 4 snowstorm did -- but enough to make driving treacherous for Bendites who have not yet gotten their studded tires on, and to create a pain in the ass for those who had to scrape an inch-thick layer of snow and ice off their windshields this morning.
Normally, as Blackdog has previously noted, Indian summer hangs on until Halloween, and then winter comes in like a howling banshee. We got cheated out of a week of nice weather this year. Anyway, at least we HAD an Indian summer, unlike last year.
But the Sucky Season is now in full swing. It's gonna be cold, it's gonna be wet, it's gonna be gray, it's gonna be dreary, and it's gonna be eight months long.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Today we’re going to explore the mystery of the Bend Parking Garage.
There’s not much to designing and building a parking garage, one would think. It’s a plain and functional structure. Basically you’ve got a lot of parking spaces and some ramps for cars to go up and down and some elevators and stairs for people to go up and down. We’re not talking about St. Peter’s Basilica here.
But somehow, Bend managed to fuck it up.
I have used parking garages all over this country and have never encountered one that comes close to Bend’s for being bewildering, confusing, inconvenient, and just generally all-around sucky.
All the other parking garages I’ve seen have big signs telling you what level you’ve parked your car on. Not Bend’s.
Other parking garages have exits that are clearly marked and easy to find. Not Bend’s.
Enter the Bend Parking Garage and you enter a dark, catacomb-like maze of ramps and passageways that seem to go up and down and around and around without any discernible logical pattern.
People have been known to enter the Bend Parking Garage and vanish without a trace. Sometimes their bodies are found years later, mummified by the dry High Desert air, lying in corners where they collapsed from cold, hunger and exhaustion after trying in vain to locate their vehicles.
There should be a quote from Dante posted prominently over each entrance to the structure: "Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch'entrate."
I try to avoid the Bend Parking Garage as much as possible. So do all other experienced Bend citizens. We know better.
But I’m publishing this in case you, the reader, are a visitor or a newcomer and might be tempted to venture into Bend’s uniquely suckitudinous parking garage.
Take a word of advice from your old friend Blackdog: Don’t.
Note of Apology: I screwed up (I'm still not sure how) and inadvertently removed a bunch of the recent comments. My sincere apologies for the loss of your fine literary labors.
Thursday, October 7, 2010
The first autumn that Mrs. Blackdog and I spent in Bend, everybody we knew kept giving us glowing descriptions of the glorious "fall color" in Oregon.
"You really gotta drive over the Santiam Pass and see the fall color," they'd advise us. "It's spectacular."
Both Mrs. Blackdog and I had grown up on the East Coast and had loved the truly spectacular displays of color that the trees put on every autumn in New England, upstate New York, and even the less urban parts of New Jersey. (See photo above.)
We had missed seeing the fall color during our years in California. In California, "fall color" refers to the dry brown hills turning green after the first rains arrive. So we were quite excited about driving over the Santiam Pass through the mountains and feasting our eyes on vast expanses of forest gorgeously painted in brilliant reds and golds.
What a letdown THAT turned out to be.
There was, I have to admit, a certain amount of "fall color." There was the occasional maple or aspen or grape ivy bush tinted with red or gold. Or sometimes with one or two leaves tinted with red or gold. (See photo at top.)
But Oregon's forests are predominantly made up of pine and fir and spruce, so their predominant color in the fall (and every other season) is green. There just aren't enough deciduous trees to create a real fall color show.
We should have figured this out before we went on the drive, but we were taken in by the enthusiasm of Oregonians. (It would not be the last time this would happen.)
It was a pleasant enough trip; the weather was sunny and warm, and we stopped for lunch at the historic and quaint Log Cabin Inn in McKenzie Bridge. (It has since burned down.)
But as a fall color experience ... well, it pretty much totally sucked.
Friday, October 1, 2010
September turned out to be a mixed bag -- days of sun, days of suck, chilly days, warm days and a couple of almost hot days.
The month started off with six days of sun, which was followed by three days of suck, which was followed by five days of sun, which was followed by a truly sucktacular seven-day stretch of cold, gray, drizzly, dismal, winter-like weather.
But then -- wonder of wonders! -- the high-pressure area over the Northwest that gives us our pleasant summers and (when we're lucky) Indian summers re-established itself, and the days have been sunny, warm and delightful ever since. (Well, with the exception of one weird warm but overcast day on Sept. 26.)
How much longer will our luck hold? The forecast calls for drizzly and cool weather Monday, but aside from that it's supposed to be sunny and in the 60s and 70s through Oct. 10.
Mark ol' Blackdog's words, however: Indian summer will exit at the latest on Nov. 1, after which we will experience at least seven and a half months of steady suck. And with the climate geeks predicting an extraordinarily powerful La Nina effect this winter, the suck promises to be not only steady but truly sucktacular.
Days of Sun: 19
Days of Suck: 11
Days of Sun: 159
Days of Suck: 114
Monday, September 20, 2010
After a while I realized their question was valid. There must be some good things about living in Bend, and in the interest of fairness and open-mindedness I should give them some recognition.
So I sat down and pondered for seven or eight hours and came up with five good things to say about Bend:
1. Do you have a large collection of sweaters and love to wear them? In Bend, you can wear one almost every day. Likewise for sweatshirts, parkas and mackinaws.
2. Do you love to spend the evening in front of a crackling blaze in the fireplace? In Bend, you can do it year-round.
3. Do you aspire to pass as an intellectual? In Bend, if your IQ is higher than that of the average cantaloupe you'll be considered a genius.
4. Do you like being unemployed? Bend's the place for you.
5. You won't have to spend money on sunscreen and air conditioners.
That about does it for me, but maybe my readers can come up with more good things to say about Bend. If so, you're welcome to do it.
Wednesday, September 8, 2010
I, Blackdog, hereby proclaim it as indisputable fact: Not only does Bend's climate suck, but it is getting increasingly sucky each year.
Bend boosters love to brag about our beautiful "Indian summers." Last year our "Indian summer" ended with a heavy snowfall on Oct. 4 -- almost a month ahead of schedule.
This year "Indian summer" never arrived at all. The cold, gray, dreary, drizzly weather started in early September.
As I write this it is 50 degrees and raining hard in Bend. For early September, this weather is WAAAAaaaaay beyond sucky. It is suckercalifragilisticexpialidocious.
Why is Bend's sucky winter weather dragging on longer and starting sooner? The answer could be the PDO.
About 13 years agot the climatological gurus discovered a phenomenon called "the Pacific Decadal Oscillation." This is a cyclical weather pattern that affects the northeastern Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast of the United States.
During the PDO's cool phase, ocean and air temperatures are below average and precipitation is above average. During the warm phase, the converse is true. Each phase lasts from 10 to 30 years.
The cool phase is good news for irrigators (because there's plenty of winter rain and snow) and fishermen (because fish populations in the northeastern Pacific increase) but, weatherwise, it sucks big-time.
The climatological gurus have declared that the PDO entered a cool phase in 2008, which jibes pretty well with when Blackdog and others began observing an increasing degree of suckiness in Bend's weather.
If we have in fact entered a cool phase of the PDO, we can expect Bend's climate to be not merely sucky, but SUPER-SUCKY for anywhere from eight to 28 years.
Of course, the climatologists could be wrong and we could just be experiencing a couple of unusually cool and wet years. But even under the best of circumstances Bend's climate sucks, and I'm not going to stick around to see how much suckier it can get.
Addendum: It's 10:26 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 19. 52 degrees and raining hard in Bend, Oregon's sunshine paradise. The "Fall Festival" was held yesterday and today. Must be a pretty dismal scene downtown.
One infuriating thing about Bend is that you can never, never, NEVER count on good weather. You might luck out and get it once in a while, but you can't plan on it, even in the middle of what passes for "summer" here.
For that reason I've made it a policy never, never, NEVER to buy tickets in advance for an outdoor event in Bend.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
"This is the Pacific Northwest, where life doesn't stop for the weather," the voiceover said.
"Yeah," I would say to myself, "because the people are too dumb to come in out of the rain."
In all fairness, I don't think the people in Bend are THAT stupid -- but they sure as hell have a weird idea of what "fun" is.
To a real hard-core Bendite, virtually everything is "fun."
Cutting firewood in knee-deep snow and sub-zero temperatures? "It was fun!"
Driving to work through snow and ice? "It's fun!"
I really, truly believe that if you put a Bendite in a Nazi concentration camp for six months and then asked him what it was like, he'd say: "It was FUN! I lost 30 pounds! And I met some really interesting people! That Dr. Mengele is quite a character!"
Thus, when a cold front moved through Central Oregon on Aug. 30 and SNOW actually fell in locations to the south of us and in higher elevations to the west of us, one of the local TV news stations posted the headline on its Web site: "August Snow Brings Fun Taste of Winter."
Dude. When it snows on Aug. 30, that is not "fun." That is HORRIBLE. That SUCKS to the max.
Although there were two suckerrific weekends in the latter part of August, with occasional rain and highs reaching barely into the 60s, the summer weather pattern basically continued through the month. Only two days legitimately earned a sucky rating, though several others were marginal.
Days of Sun: 29
Days of Suck: 2
Days of Sun: 140
Days of Suck: 103
Saturday, August 28, 2010
Is there any empirical support for this perception? Jack Elliott has come up with a link to a national weather service site that offers a lot of data, but no conclusive answer.
From the site Elliott found I followed another link to a site that has, among other things, data for average monthly high temperatures in Bend going all the way back to 1901. (That's even older than any of the old-timers here who currently are bitching about the climate.) The daily average highs for the spring months during the period from 1901 to 2010 are:
April: 58.3 degrees F
Not too sucky, I'd say. Here are the corresponding numbers for 2009:
So the April average high was 2.1 degrees below the long-term average, the May average high was about 2 degrees ABOVE the long-term average, and the June average was a mere 0.4 degrees below the long-term average -- pretty much a wash.
But now we come to the numbers for April, May and June of the current year:
Brrrr! Those months were about 5 to 7 degrees colder than the long-term average -- I'd call that significantly suckier. But one year does not make a trend, and we can hope that this miserable excuse for a spring (and summer) was an aberration.
Long-term data on average monthly precipitation in Bend show this:
April: 0.70 inches
Last year we had a notoriously soggy and sucky June -- more than 4 inches of rainfall -- following a slightly drier than average April (0.56) and May (0.73). This year April's rainfall was considerably above average (1.23 inches), May's was considerably below average (0.39) and June's was a bit above average (1.0).
Unfortunately the data don't tell us anything about sunniness, which, as those of us who have lived any length of time in Bend know, is not the same thing as absence of precipitation.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
Summer has finally arrived in full force in Bend, with sunny skies and high temperatures. Every day of July except one (July 2) was sunny.
The downside of the arrival of warm summer weather, though, is that it produces thunderstorms. Thunderstorms produce lightning, which starts forest fires, which fill the air in and around Bend with smoke for much of July and August.
Right now the Rooster Rock fire near Sisters has been almost contained (that means the firefighters have cleared a line around it to keep it from expanding further) but not before it burned more than 6,000 acres of woodland and filled the Central Oregon air with a pungent reddish-brown haze.
A couple of days ago the visibility was so bad that if you didn't know better you'd swear you were in Los Angeles. It was truly suckitudinous.
Thanks to July's impressive performance, the total number of sunny days so far this year has finally surpassed the total number of sucky days. But don't worry -- in two months, give or take, the Sucky Season will return.
Days of Sun: 30
Days of Suck: 1
Days of Sun: 111
Days of Suck: 101
*Apologies to Tennessee Williams
Monday, July 26, 2010
Snow in Bend on July 26? Nope -- although that's not outside the realm of possibility.
That white substance on the ground is hail. The photo was taken during a rip-roaring, roof-rattling, toad-strangler of a thunderstorm that ripped through my side of town starting around 2:15.
I'd estimate that three-quarters to an inch of rain fell, and the temperature dropped 20 degrees in 15 minutes. (That's not a guess, it's what my thermometer recorded.) As I write this the rain and hail have subsided, but the sky is still as dark as the ass of a black cow at midnight and the thunder is still rumbling.
One thing you've gotta admit about Bend weather: It's often very dramatic. Usually dramatically bad.
We're in a typical Bend summer weather pattern now: hot days (in the 90s) that generate severe thunderstorms in the afternoon. The cumulonimbus clouds start piling up over the mountains to the west and south around 10 or 11 a.m., and by 1 or 2 p.m. they're letting loose.
As he has said before, ol' Blackdog enjoys an occasional good thunderstorm, but having thunderstorms all afternoon, every afternoon kind of interferes with the enjoyment of that glorious "outdoor recreation paradise" we all supposedly moved here for.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
So I'll bitch about Bend drivers. DAMN, they suck!
People in Bend like to complain about California drivers, and it's true that California drivers often are aggressive. On the plus side, though, they're also usually skillful.
Bend drivers appear to have gotten their licenses out of a bubble gum machine. And they normally drive with their thumbs up their asses ... unless they've got their heads stuck in there instead.
After moving here I discovered that Bend has the longest traffic lights in the world. I mean, you wait FOREVER for the damn things to change.
I soon figured out why Bend has the longest traffic lights in the world: It's because Bend has the pokiest drivers in the world, and they need about 40 minutes to drive through an intersection.
When the light turns green, the Bend driver does not interpret it as a signal to proceed through the intersection. He/she interprets it as a signal to look left, then right, then left again, then right again, then to take a sip of coffee, and then -- maybe -- to THINK about proceeding through the intersection.
And when Bend drivers finally make the momentous decision to proceed, they accelerate as if they were holding a raw egg between their foot and the gas pedal.
This is why, if you have three Bend drivers ahead of you at a traffic light, you can count on waiting through three signal changes before you can get across.
Bend drivers are hyper-courteous, which often makes them hyper-dangerous. They will STOP in the middle of a roundabout to let other drivers enter. I have even seen them STOP in the middle of the firggin' Bend Parkway to let other cars enter.
Of course when they're actually supposed to stop -- such as when they come to a STOP sign -- they often get confused and behave as if it was a YIELD sign.
Conversely, when they come to a YIELD sign they often act as if it was a STOP sign. The distinction between YIELD and STOP evidently is too subtle for many of them to grasp.
Now that summer is here there are even more displays of sucktacularly bad driving on our local streets and roads, because all the old farts who are too timid to drive in icy or snowy conditions have decided to fire up the '85 Oldsmobile and cruise around.
It's almost enough to make me wish winter would get here again ... but not quite.
ADDENDUM: On the Bend Parkway, a short stretch north of the Powers Road intersection, there is an UNSIGNALIZED PEDESTRIAN CROSSWALK going across all four lanes of the road. It is Oregon law that drivers MUST stop for pedestrians entering a crosswalk -- which means that cars and trucks and semis barreling along the parkway at 45, 50 or 55 miles per hour are supposed to STOP if somebody decides to saunter across the roadway.
This, my friends, is a 20-car pileup just waiting to happen.
An unsignalized pedestrian crosswalk in the middle of a limited-access, four-lane, 45-mile-an-hour parkway.
Only in fucking Oregon.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
The skies cleared and things started to warm up on June 21, and in fact every day since then has been sunny -- a string of 10 consecutive days of sunshine. Yippee.
Incidentally, June was the first month of 2010 to record more sunshiny days than sucky days.
But it looks like The Big Chill isn't over yet: The high today (July 1) is supposed to be only 70, and tomorrow the mercury is expected to ascend to -- get ready for it -- a balmy 63.
That's a HIGH of 63 degrees on July 2. In most places in the temperate zone, 63 would be a normal LOW on July 2.
"Paradise" my frozen ass.
Days of Sun: 20
Days of Suck: 10
Days of Sun: 56
Days of Suck: 82
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Just when it seemed that the cold, gray, drizzly, grisly Winter II weather would never leave, summer checked in right on schedule on Monday, June 21. Temperatures have been in the 70s since then, and today is supposed to break 80 for the first time this year.
Monday also was the first day I went topless -- meaning not that I shed my upper garments and regaled Bend with the sight of my splendid abs and pecs, but that I got my convertible out of the garage, took the hard top off and drove around town.
I love to drive around in a convertible, feeling the breeze rippling through my thick, luxuriant, golden hair. But alas, topless days in Bend -- i.e., days in which it is comfortable to drive with the top down without wearing a coat, sweater or sou'wester -- are mighty few. I'd estimate there are maybe 40 or 50 of them per year.
Maybe next year I'll start a count. Meanwhile, I plan to enjoy the Bend summer -- described some years ago on another blog as "six weeks of sunshine and thunderstorms." (When we're lucky we get eight weeks.)
Sunday, June 20, 2010
Newcomers to Bend often ask me, as a 25-year resident of The Suckiest Little Town in the West, for suggestions on how to landscape their yards. Ol' Blackdog is always happy to oblige, because landscaping in Bend is ridiculously simple. Thanks to the cold, the dryness, and the incredibly short growing season, there are only three landscape elements that survive and thrive here: rocks, bark chips and juniper.
The top image shows a rock. (This one is a "lava rock," which is kind of cool.) An almost infinite variety of sizes, colors, styles and types of rocks is available to the Bend landscaper, which partly explains why rocks are such a popular element in local gardens. The other thing they've got going for them is that the Bend climate won't kill 'em
The second image depicts bark chips. Like rocks, bark chips are not, strictly speaking, a plant, although they are derived from plants -- specifically lodgepole pine, Ponderosa pine or hemlock trees, typically. Like juniper, bark has the advantage that the suckerrifically horrible climate of Bend can't kill it.
And last but certainly not least we have a picture of juniper, which is far and away the most popular landscaping plant in bend. Juniper is an ugly, gnarled, scrawny, scraggly, straggly, prickly, aggressive, hostile, vicious shrub/tree that bears no visible flowers and no significant fruit, except for small berries that sometimes ferment and are eaten by robins, with the result that your yard is littered with drunken birds making a disgusting spectacle of themselves. The only other thing juniper has to recommend it is that it is virtually impossible to kill. Even the non-stop suckiness of the Bend climate can't kill it.
So there you have your basic Bend landscaping tool kit. Just get somebody to deliver several hundred cubic yards of bark chips, spread it around, find a few rocks (you won't have to look far, and you won't have to pay for them) and scatter them here and there in the bark, then stick three or four scrawny juniper bushes in the ground and -- voila! Your Bend landscaping job is done! Enjoy.
Monday, June 7, 2010
Whitman chose the lilac as a symbol because Lincoln was assassinated on April 15, 1865, and in the areas of America with a normal climate -- i.e., those that have spring instead of Winter Phase II* -- the lilacs bloom in April.
While on a walk a couple of days ago I spotted a lilac bush that was just opening its blossoms. It is approaching mid-June here.
The lilacs are a good indicator of how the arrival of warm, sunny weather is always about two months behind in Bend. April here is like February in most other places. May is like March. June is like April. July is like May. And August is often like May again, which is kind of nice.
What's not so nice is that January and February are like January and February.
Postscript: The Washington state climatologist predicts that we should see warm, sunny weather by MID-JULY. Now ain't that just peachy keen.
*See preceding post
Tuesday, June 1, 2010
A man and his son enjoy a Memorial Day weekend camping trip near Bend
I've decided I am no longer going to use the word "spring" in association with Bend weather or climate.
"Spring" does not happen in Bend. A lot of people who migrate here from California say they "enjoy having four seasons," but Bend doesn't have four seasons. It has three seasons -- well, actually only two and a half: Winter, Winter Phase II (or Winter II for short) and Summer.
Winter can begin anytime between Oct. 1 and Nov. 1, but typically begins on Nov. 1. It continues until the start of April and then segues into Winter II, which runs to mid-June or sometimes later.
The weather during Winter II is pretty much like the weather during Winter, only a tiny bit warmer and with less snow (but often more rain.)
May is right smack in the middle of Winter II, and the weather has been appropriate to the season -- cloudy, gray and drizzly, with the thermometer struggling to push up into the 60s most days.
Days of Sun: 13
Days of Suck: 18
Days of Sun: 49
Days of Suck: 90
Monday, May 24, 2010
The story described how somebody had done a nationwide survey and discovered that Bend was Number One in America in per-capita video rentals. (They were VHS tapes in those days.)
I don't know what the current stats on DVD rentals look like, but I'd wager Bend is still right up there at the top, or near it.
Why? Because (Chamber of Commerce and tourist promotion propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding) there really isn't much else to do here.
The local media are always hyping Bend's "healthy outdoor lifestyle," but if I had to bet, I'd bet that no more than 40% of Bend residents engage in outdoor recreation on a frequent (i.e., once a week or more) basis.
In the first place, the weather is too shitty about three-quarters of the time for enjoyable outdoor recreating.
In the second place, downhill skiing and golf have gotten insanely expensive, and even pursuits like mountain biking, cross-country skiing and fly-fishing require a pretty heavy initial capital outlay. And (again, propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding) most people in Bend are not rich.
In the third place, most people in Bend are too busy working multiple jobs to try to pay the mortgages on their overpriced houses to have much spare time for playing outdoors.
Based on what I've observed, the favorite "outdoor recreation" for most Bendites seems to be getting in their SUVs on weekends and driving around from one shopping mall to another.
So what's available here in the way of indoor recreation? Not much.
There are no good museums, no good galleries, no good live theater, very little good live music. If you want to enjoy that stuff, the nearest city of any size is a three-hour drive away. (Longer when the mountain passes are snowed in.)
That pretty much narrows your indoor recreation choices down to five: movies, TV, DVDs, bowling and drinking.
And hey, if that's your preferred lifestyle, that's fine with me. But please don't try to tell me what a "recreation paradise" Bend is. Because when it comes to recreation, like just about everything else ...
Thursday, May 20, 2010
And everywhere I go in town, people are talking about the "weird" weather.
"Did you see that snow this morning?" says one.
"I know!" replies another. "Isn't this the craziest weather you've ever seen?"
Of course, there is nothing weird or crazy or unusual or even noteworthy about this weather. It is perfectly normal weather for Bend at this time of year, or almost any time of year -- i.e., it sucks.
Having suffered through 26 miserable, depressing, gray, cold, rainy, snowy "springs" in Bend, I am no longer surprised when the weather sucks. I am not surprised by anything the weather does here. (Well, except for those rare intervals when it doesn't suck.) I would not be surprised to see ice floes in the Deschutes and flocks of penguins waddling along Wall Street on the Fourth of July.
But other people in Bend -- many of whom I personally know have lived here for quite a few years, some even longer than I have -- still profess astonishment when the weather sucks in May.
What's the reason? These people are not imbeciles; at least, they give no other outward indication of being imbeciles.
The only plausible explanation I can think of is that longtime Bend residents are masters of denial (they have to be or they wouldn't live here) and pretending that horrible weather in May is "weird" and "crazy" is one of their well-developed denial mechanisms.
I'm cool with that. Hey man, whatever floats your boat, y'know?
But if you're thinking about moving to Bend -- maybe you're here looking for a house to buy -- and you ask about the suckerrific weather and the locals tell you that "this is really unusual" ... DON'T BUY IT. It's as big a lie as the "300 days of sunshine" claim.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
The big milestone of the month was the recording of the 66th sucky day of the year so far on April 16, meaning it is already mathematically impossible for Bend to attain the mythical "300 days of sunshine" that it supposedly enjoys per year.
As I post this it's relatively unsucky in Bend -- sunny and breezy, with temperatures in the mid-50s. Things will rapidly revert to the sucky spring norm, however: The forecast calls for another storm to hit Monday, bringing rain and dropping the thermometer into the 20s overnight, much to the chagrin of the foolish newbies who set out their petunias and hanging fuchsia baskets this week.
Days of sun: 12
Days of suck: 18
Days of sun: 36
Days of suck: 72
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Mrs. Blackdog and I returned yesterday from a much-too-brief vacation in Cabo San Lucas and, let me tell you, it isn't easy to make the transition from The Land of Perpetual Summer to The Land of (Almost) Perpetual Winter. One day we were relaxing on the beach under cloudless blue skies with temperatures in the mid-80s; the next we were in chilly, drizzly Portland, and the next we were back in even chillier, drizzly, grisly Bend.
It's just as well that we left when we did, however. If we had stayed a week longer we might have lost the fish-belly-white coloration so admired here in the "Oregon Sunbelt."
Friday, April 16, 2010
(Drum roll, please ...)
... it is now MATHEMATICALLY IMPOSSIBLE for Bend to have "300 days of sunshine" in 2010.
Fortunately for Jack Elliott, who bet that the 66-days-of-suck total would not be reached before April 16, yesterday was brilliantly sunny and he won his bet by the slimmest of margins. (I already have paid off.)
We've already demolished the "300 days of sunshine" claim, and the year isn't one-quarter over yet. Based on my long and painful experience I anticipate that the weather will stay sucky through April, through May and through the first half of June, which is when Bend finally begins to get consistently pleasant, sunny weather. In fact I will go out on a limb and predict that Bend will not log more than 160 legitimate days of sunshine all year.
Elliott, are you game?
Saturday, April 10, 2010
I've pretty much concentrated on the suckiness of the Bend climate, which is unfortunate because there are SO many, many other ways in which Bend truly, deeply and profoundly sucks. So today I'm going to focus on one of them: Bend's ugliness.
I know, I know -- all the tourist brochures and the Chamber of Commerce Web site brag about how beautiful it is. But take it from ol' Blackdog: The tales of Bend's beauty are almost as full of horsepuckey as the myth of "300 days of sunshine."
There's a lot of natural beauty in the mountains and the high desert around Bend, true. And there are a few pretty residential neighborhoods in town, such as the one near Mirror Pond, which is the place you always see pictured in the ads and brochures. (Incidentally, Mirror Pond is filling up with silt so fast that in a couple of years they'll have to rename it "Mirror Mud Flats," and the city doesn't have money to get it dredged.)
But much of the man-made environment in and around Bend, let's face it, is just plain butt-ugly. In fact, I can't remember another place I've seen that combines so much natural beauty with so much human-made ugliness.
Take 3rd Street, an unbroken string of strip malls, lube shops and franchise fast-food joints running right smack through the middle of Bend from its southern edge to its northern border.
Or take "the Costco District," a concentration of big-box retail stores and hideously ugly apartment buildings on Bend's northeast side.
Or take pretty much all of the east side of town, which offers scenic vistas of corrugated metal industrial buildings, car dealerships and rental storage places.
Or for that matter, as far as I'm concerned you can take all of Bend. Damn, it really sucks.
Saturday, April 3, 2010
Inevitably, however, the weather pattern resumed its normal suckiness at the end of March and the beginning of April, as storms blowing in off the Pacific brought high winds, heavy rain and snow and sub-freezing temperatures.
We can expect the suck to stick around for eight to 10 more weeks, if Bend runs true to its sucktacular form. One thing Blackdog has learned from 25 years of living amid Bend's suckiness is that if we don't get enough winter in January, February and March we'll make up for it in April, May and June.
Days of Sun: 14
Days of Suck: 17
Days of Sun: 36
Days of Suck: 54
(NOTE: I need to record only 12 more days of suck to demolish Bend's absurd "300 Days of Sunshine" claim. I'm betting I'll do it by mid-April.)
Monday, March 29, 2010
I'm not talking about the Deschutes River going on a rampage. In bygone days it used to do that from time to time, but it was tamed by dams many decades ago.
No, I'm talking about the flooding of Bend streets that happens every time we get any appreciable amount of rainfall. Hell, the streets here flood any time we get much more than a heavy dew.
The reason is that the people of Bend are either too cheap or too fookin' STUPID (or maybe a combination of both) to install an adequate, functioning storm drain system. We have a few grates in the streets, yes, but they're basically just holes in the ground. There's no system of pipes to carry the excess water away, so it just backs up and creates a lake wherever there's a low spot in the road.
That's my Bend -- a town of vast ambitions and half-vast thinking.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Bend typically experiences a false spring in late January or February, and this year the false spring was springier than usual; we enjoyed a succession of sunny days with temperatures pushing up toward 60. Predictably, the newbies mistook the phony spring for the real thing and started planting primroses and violas. We old-timers know better: In Bend you don't put your tender annuals out until Memorial Day weekend -- and even then you'd better check the weather forecast every day and be prepared to cover the plants if frost threatens.
In March, the weather in Bend promptly returned to its normal suckerrific mode. As I wrote this yesterday it was 38 degrees and snowing lightly. Overnight, the temperature went down into the teens.
Today Mrs. Blackdog made a trip to Salem on business. She just phoned to tell me the cherry trees are in bloom over there. Damn.
Monday, March 1, 2010
There even was a stretch of eight sunny days in a row, from Feb. 15 through Feb. 22. Temperatures also were unusually balmy, with highs in the mid- to upper 50s during that spell. (The weather for the Olympics in Vancouver, BC was much the same, which meant a dearth of snow and cross-country skiers splashing through slush.)
Unfortunately, but inevitably, the high pressure ridge that kept the clouds and rain away for much of the month has moved off, and the forecast is calling for typically cloudy, drizzly, sucky Bend weather this week. That's the one predictable thing about the Bend climate: If we don't get enough suckiness in February, we'll make up for it in March, April and May.
Days of Sun: 15
Days of Suck: 13
Days of Sun: 22
Days of Suck: 37
Sunday, February 14, 2010
One of the suckiest things about living in Bend is the dumb-ass way the locals delude themselves about how hard Bend sucks.
Case in point: Yesterday the local daily newspaper, in a front-page story about solar power, made the rather astonishing claim that Bend has "more sun than Florida."
After picking my jaw up off the floor I decided that, in the interests of scientific accuracy and fair and honest blogging, I shouldn't simply assume the assertion was full of shit; I should make some effort to check it out.
So I went to the city-data.com Web site (an invaluable repository of all sorts of economic, demographic and climatic information about thousands of cities) and looked at the sunshine chart for Bend, just to refresh my memory.
Then I looked at the sunshine charts for Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee and St. Petersburg.
The chart for every one of those five Florida cities shows sunshine substantially ABOVE the national average for most of the year. The Bend chart shows sunshine substantially BELOW the national average for almost all of of the year, except for a period of about six weeks in midsummer.
In fact, the curve showing Bend's sunshine is almost exactly the same as the sunshine curve for Portland, which is notorious for its gray, rainy climate.
The newspaper story didn't explain the basis for the "more sun than Florida" claim. Perhaps, in some obscure technical way, it's legitimate. For example, there might be more sun in an open field in Bend on a typical summer day than there is inside a sealed crypt in Florida on a typical summer day. Or there might be more sun outdoors in Bend on a sunny day than there is 40 feet underwater in Florida on a cloudy day. I can't be sure.
But my strong suspicion is that "more sun than Florida" is just one more load of Chamber of Commerce bullshit which the paper passed on without question, and which -- like "300 days of sunshine" -- will be added to the local folklore and help Bendites continue to live in denial of the fact that this town truly, deeply and profoundly sucks.
ADDENDUM: At the top of the post is a chart that Jack Elliot obtained from Dr. Vignola at the U of O. Evidently Central Oregon gets more solar energy than Florida by some arcane measurement process. I'm still not persuaded that Bend truly gets "more sun than Florida" by any reasonable human standard.
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
We in Bend always get a laugh out of the Groundhog Day tradition, because no matter what the frickin' groundhog does on Feb. 2 we KNOW the weather here is going to stay sucky until the middle of June.
Nevertheless, for the record, let it be stated that Punxsutawney Phil emerged from his burrow on Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, PA this morning and saw his shadow, meaning the rest of the Northern Hemisphere will have six more weeks of winter.
Monday, February 1, 2010
The first and last days of January were nearly cloudless. In between were scattered five days that I considered sunny enough to count as "days of sunshine." I was being generous on two or three of them.
Bend needs to rack up a total of only 66 non-sunny days to give the lie to the absurd "300 days of sunshine" claim, and it's more than a third of the way there already. I'm betting it will hit the mark by the end of March.
Days of Sun: 7
Days of Suckiness: 24
Days of Sun: 7
Days of Suckiness: 24
Saturday, January 30, 2010
Just about twenty-five years ago
I set out on the road
Thought I’d found a paradise
At least that’s what I was told.
Things got bad, things got worse,
I guess you know the tune.
Oh Lord, fog-fucked in Bend again.
Rode in on Highway 97
I didn’t have a clue
Just how hard this place could suck
My hopes and dreams fell through
Ran out of time and money
This never was my plan
Oh Lord, fog-fucked in Bend again.
If I had a dollar
For every sucky day
I’d buy a ticket outta here
And give my house away.
You know I’d catch the next plane
To someplace where it don’t rain
Oh Lord, fog-fucked in Bend again.
-- with apologies to Creedence