Monday, May 24, 2010

Couch Potatoes in Sucky "Paradise"

Many, many years ago, when ol' Blackdog was just a newbie in Bend, the local daily newspaper ran a front-page story under the headline: "Couch potatoes in paradise."

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 ...

BEND SUX.

18 comments:

g caster said...

Things cost a lot in Bend, yes. However expensive it may be to enjoy such recreation, can it really suck this much? I would wager no. How about hiking? that cost almost nothing? Maybe going out to the bars, few drinks, cheap music, for a price of under 25 bones for the night. I know some of those activities have a harsh initial cost but whats the pay off after you have equipped your self? People might rent a shit ton of movies in Bend, but who is really at fault? Bend or sucky individuals who are to consumed in self loathing to recognize how rad the town the live in is? With all do respect,If you hate Bend, say fuck this noise and move right? Whammy

blackdog said...

"Bend or sucky individuals who are to consumed in self loathing to recognize how rad the town the live in is?"

Say what? Could you put that in English?

"Maybe going out to the bars, few drinks, cheap music, for a price of under 25 bones for the night."

Listening to one of the lousy local headbanger bands while drinking PBRs until I puke isn't my idea of a fun evening. Sorry.

And of course if I wanted to do that I could do it anywhere. Having bars where people can listen to bad music and drink cheap alcohol doesn't make this town special.

"With all do [sic] respect,If you hate Bend, say fuck this noise and move right?"

Right, and as I've said again and again AND again, I'm working on getting out of here. That is my Number One priority. But I'm not some 22-year-old minimum-wage slacker who can just shove all his possessions into a backpack and hitch a ride out of town.

Mark said...

I will mostly concur with your opinion that the weather is indeed far from stellar and more often than not it mimics Portland and the valley in general. This is disheartening for me, a CA transplant who needs sun for healthy brain activity.

In all seriousness, you say you've lived here for 20+ years. Was this a sunnier place in days gone by? I've spoken with other true Bendites that say "yes". And if things are different now, do you have any opinions or actual scientific data that would demonstrate how the change came about? I'm interested. And I'm not sure if I can handle another crappy April, May and June like we had in 2008, had last year and we're now having again.

Aaron said...

So you're saying that someone who makes LESS money would have an easier time moving than you? I don't buy it. That's exactly what you need to do - leave your stuff with friends, go to where you want to be, and take a crap job until you can get. That is, unless you LIKE being miserable. Which, I mean, it does take quite a bit of enthusiasm to maintain a three-year long blog about how you hate something.

For reference, I packed my entire existence into the smallest U-Haul and moved to Bend in 2007, and have been aces ever since. YMMV.

blackdog said...

"So you're saying that someone who makes LESS money would have an easier time moving than you?"

Someone with less money, fewer possessions and fewer commitments. I'm almost 64 years old, I have a house, two dogs, and a wife who has a good job (and needs to keep it for a while). I can't just "leave my stuff with friends" and take off as if I was an unmarried 20-something whose biggest possession was a snowboard.

"For reference, I packed my entire existence into the smallest U-Haul and moved to Bend in 2007"

Well, bully for you. As I just explained, I am not in a position to do that. If I was I would be outta here, believe me.

blackdog said...

"Was this a sunnier place in days gone by? I've spoken with other true Bendites that say "yes". And if things are different now, do you have any opinions or actual scientific data that would demonstrate how the change came about?"

That is an interesting question. Has Bend's weather gotten suckier? My impression -- and that of a number of long-time Bendites I've spoken to -- is that the winters didn't drag on so long back in the day. The way us old-timers remember it, the winters were colder and snowier but the they didn't hang around until mid-June the way they seem to do every year now.

I sent an e-mail to the state climatologist's office asking for data on spring temperatures going back 20 years but haven't gotten a reply yet. If I can get the information I'll do another post on it.

mugmkr said...

Walking the trail on Pilot Butte on stormy days is amazing, free, and good for your health - to mention just one activity that those of us who love living here enjoy rain or shine!

blackdog said...

mgmkr: Yeah, walking up a big rock pile in the rain and wind -- that sounds like LOADS of fun.

But seriously: I'm not saying people CAN'T do outdoor things when the weather is shitty -- just that it's not as pleasant or inviting. When I lived in California I looked forward to outdoor exercise -- running, biking, playing tennis. (I played a lot of tennis back in the day.) Here, it feels like an ordeal about eight months out of the year.

What would be your estimate of the percentage of Bendites who take part in outdoor recreation once a week or more? Caution: Don't assume the whole town has the same lifestyle as yourself and your friends.

mugmkr said...

What I'm saying, dear Blackdog, is that some of us enjoy living here and make the best of it even when the weather is not the greatest. Between you and me, I'd rather walk the Butte trail alone in adverse weather than have to share the trail with the thousand others who come out on a gorgeous day.

I have absolutely no idea how many Bendites take part in outdoor recreation once a week or more, nor would I be able to hazard a guess. I am fortunate to be able to be self employed, and can set my own schedule in terms of when and where I want to go for a hike or a bike ride... I was lucky enough to move here in 1994, and I enjoy the enjoyable things and try to stay away from the crowds. The weather here is what it is...better this than the heat wave they are getting back east at the moment.
It's long been my belief that if folks back east knew what the humidity was like here in the summer, Bend would have a population of a couple of million. Shhhhhh....

blackdog said...

mugmkr: Well, to each his/her own. If you like living here, that's cool; I have no problem with that. What I do have a problem with is the relentless propaganda campaign to depict Bend as "paradise," which led to (among other things) an unrealistic opinion of the desirability (and thus the value) of Bend real estate, which led in turn to the Great Bubble, which led in turn to the current Great Bust.

We (not all of us, but too many) believed our own propaganda about how wonderful Bend is, which led to what I call the Doctrine of Bend Exceptionalism -- the conviction that Bend is just such a gosh-darn super-terrific place that people will pay any amount of money to live here.

One purpose of this blog is to counter that propaganda barrage. The other purpose is to amuse myself and, I hope, my readers.

blackdog said...

"The weather here is what it is...better this than the heat wave they are getting back east at the moment."

Debatable. Some people enjoy the heat. When I lived in the Bay Area I never minded when it got into the 90s. I'd go for my run or play tennis early in the morning before it got too hot, and at the end of the day I'd jump in the swimming pool. I'd rather have a little heat two or three months a year than freeze my ass off eight or nine months a year.

But like I said, to each his own.

blackdog said...

Footnote: It's Sunday, May 30, and the weather isn't too sucky -- overcast but no rain, snow or sleet, temps in the upper 60s. Despite these relatively benign conditions the Parkway and 3rd Street are jammed, as are the malls -- leading me to believe that most Bendites are pursuing the "recreation" of shopping the Memorial Day sales.

Anonymous said...

VERY interesting exchanges! I just wish there was this brand of openess when I first had my doubts regarding the weather/viability here?

Just being able to bounce ideas off others enables you to get out of that mental rut. To be perfectly honest to those that have doubts as to our climate not all that long ago... ( Why do you think we moved here in the FIRST PLACE! )

When I first moved to OR, man it was great. If anything, Portland's winter mounted to little more than an "annoying drizzle". Springs? Fantastic! Summers, leave the top down until the World Series!

But all that changed. Sadly ( as Blackdog notes ) we, uh.. weren't getting any younger? Kids in school, jobs, businesses! You don't work that hard to BUILD something and then just walk away? It's called "Escalation Of Commitment"! You get so invested in area, you'd almost rather 'die' than be forced to turn your back on it? Uh... then you realize you ARE DIEING!

blackdog said...

"You get so invested in area, you'd almost rather 'die' than be forced to turn your back on it?"

Plenty of older people leave the places where they raised their families to live in warmer and sunnier climes -- this is nothing new or revolutionary.

I've gotten fed up with Bend for three reasons: 1) The weather, as a number of comments have noted, has gotten suckier. 2) The town has gotten much more congested and ugly and the slow pace of life we used to enjoy is gone. 3) I'm older and less able and/or willing to tolerate the interminable winters.

blackdog said...

"Springs? Fantastic!"

Yes, Portland has lovely springs, and they begin in March. Bend has no spring -- or at best a one- or two-week interval in late June between Winter II and Summer.

Anonymous said...

"this is nothing new or revolutionary"

No it certainly isn't. But like death, retirement and downsizing.., it contains elements we really don't fully understand until we've "gone to the other side".

So while it may be a commonplace event for the general pop. at large ( it's still something each of us has to discover on their own? ) We all know ____ has nice weather, but what are the people like? What are their taxes, utility bills, shopping, medical care etc. like?

If I've learned nothing 'else' it's that these "Top 10 Best Places to Retire" damned lists are next to useless! And I can't imagine making a move with all the biased "information" that goes into compiling them? My guess is that it's the same adv. juggernaut that goes into "Bend has 300 days a year of sunshine!"? Ha!

Yonatan said...

I'm in Portland blackdog, just thought I check in.. Sorry to see you're still suffering there. Portland is very beautiful in the Spring and the extra rain here has made it green and lush. That being said I am sick of Oregon. I been stuck in this state for 18 years and I cannot take rain and cloudy drizzly skies until July. I am planning on moving to Southern Europe or having an extended long stay in the Caribbean. I am trying to start my own Web Softwre business, as I am a software developer. Hopefully, it will take off and I can live anywhere in the world.

I feel your pain Blackdog. My advice is you get a temporary summer rental in the valley so you can enjoy some greenery once in a while. Bend is downright ugly. Nothign grows in that overly volcanic soil. Its sad, at least in Arizona you get lovely sunny weather most of the year to make up for the ugly brownness; not in Bend!

The only redeeming value is the beautiufl mountains surrounding the Deschutes River valley. However, seeing how Bend is cloudy most of the year, you cannot even see the mountains. And, the idiot city of Bend, closes the Pilot Butte road most of the year.

Take care

blackdog said...

I hope you find a place you really like, Yonatan. The climate in the Pacific Northwest as a whole sucks, though some parts suck less than others. And this year the weather has been unusually sucky, cool and wet all along the West Coast -- although of course Bend is sucking harder than most other places, as usual, because it stays so frickin' cold for so long.

Right now Ashland looks like the likeliest relocation choice for us. We had thought about becoming snowbirds, maintaining a residence in Bend and spending the "cold months" someplace warm and sunny -- but then we realized that since the "cold months" in Bend extend from October through June, there wouldn't be much point in maintaining a home there that we'd live only three months a year in.