Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Sucky Winter-T-Shirt-and-Sandals Phenomenon

Every winter, I notice a strange phenomenon in Bend: People walking around in sub-freezing temperatures attired as if they were strolling to a beach in Kauai.

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

How Does Bend Stack Up for Retirement? Truly Sucktacularly.

"Honey, I think we missed the Palm Springs exit."

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

The Mucky, Yucky, Sucky Cyclocross Nationals Are in Bend Again

Some of the fast-paced action in last year's Cyclocross Nationals

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

As the Days Dwindle Down to a Sucky Few

No doubt about it now: The full-on, all-out, depression-inducing, freeze-your-balls-off Sucky Season has arrived in Bend.

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.

November Totals

Days of Sun: 14
Days of Suck: 16

YTD Totals

Days of Sun: 193
Days of Suck: 141