Saturday, March 31, 2012

Here's to You, Nanki-Poo

My comrade-in-bloggery, Jack Elliott, claims I enjoy nothing but "overcast, despair, and hard bop music." While the statement about bop music is, to some extent, true, it is a base canard that I enjoy "overcast and despair." To prove it, here is a charming little ditty from Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado. Sing along, everybody!

March Musings

It is the last day of March, 10 days past the so-called "first day of spring." It is 45 degrees in Bend, and torrents of rain and sleet are blowing horizontally. According to the Weather Channel's records, the last mostly sunny and reasonably warm day Bend experienced was on March 9, 22 days ago.

Bend sucks.

Comments are not being accepted on this post; it is a meditation.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bend Snobbery Totally Sucks

A Bend Eastsider relaxing at home, as envisioned by a Bend Weststider.

When we moved to Bend back in 1985, there wasn't much snobbery in this town. There were some rich people, and everybody knew who they were. But they didn't drive around in Bentleys or Maseratis or otherwise flaunt their wealth. They drove and wore pretty much the same things everybody else drove and wore.

That started to change in the early 1990s, when Bend began to promote itself not just as a place to visit for a few days for the hunting or fishing or skiing, but as an "outdoor recreation paradise" with an "upscale lifestyle" where affluent people should make their permanent residence.

I believe the watershed event was the opening of Broken Top, a snooty gated golf course community located on the northwest edge of Bend, in 1993. Contrary to widespread popular belief, Broken Top was not Bend's first gated community; Mountain High on the southwest southeast side holds that dubious distinction. But Broken Top was more expensive and had more "upscale"appeal from the get-go, and after it the floodgates of phoniness opened and the snobs poured in.

There are several kinds of snobbery operating in Bend. One, of course, is money snobbery, which is found in almost any community of any size. Another kind that's more peculiar to Bend is the snobbery of the jocks and -- mostly -- the jock poseurs.

The local media constantly tell everybody that Bend is packed wall-to-wall with "elite athletes." But bona fide "elite athletes" are pretty damn rare; there probably aren't more than about a hundred of them in Bend. But there must be at least 100 times that many Bendoids trying to pose as elite athletes.

These are the silly twits who are always wearing running shorts or bicycling tights or yoga pants (not that I have any real problem with yoga pants per se). They'e constantly posting on Facebook about how "awesome" their morning workout was, or telling you about their performance in their last triathlon and how they're going to totally kick ass in this year's Pole Pedal Paddle. They're ridiculous.

Equally ridiculous, if not more so, is the snobbery that residents of Bend's Westside display toward residents of the Eastside. As Westsiders see it, the Eastside is a forbidding, repugnant and probably dangerous place full of tumble-down shacks and rusting single-wides inhabited by drooling redneck semi-imbeciles who live on Twinkies, Dr. Pepper and methamphetamine, spend their evenings slouched in front of the TV watching NASCAR and ultimate cage fighting, and (very likely) marry their sisters.

It's a false image, but I don't mind encouraging it if it helps keep the Spandex-clad, jock-poseur, Westside hoi polloi away.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Middle of Nowhere is Not Where the Action Is

In reading a book titled The Ghost Map by Steven Johnson (it's about a cholera outbreak in mid-19th Century London and how its cause was discovered) I came across two passages that brilliantly explain why the fantasy of Bend becoming a vibrant, economically dynamic and diverse urban center is just that -- a fantasy.

First this:

"The power of telecommuting and instant connectivity was going to make the idea of densely packed urban cores as obsolete as the walled cities of the Middle Ages. Why would people crowd themselves into harsh, overpopulated environments when they could just as easily work from their homestead on the range? But as it turns out, many people actually like the density of urban environments, precisely because they offer ... diversity."

And later on, this:

"There's a reason why the world's wealthiest people -- people with near-infinite options vis-a-vis the choice of where to make their home -- consistently choose to live in the densest areas on the planet. Ultimately, they live in these places ... because cities are where the action is. Cities are centers of opportunity, tolerance, wealth creation, social networking, health ... and creativity."

Yes, Bend will continue to attract people who are devoted to the "outdoor lifestyle" to the point of obsession. But such people are a pretty small minority and they tend not to be the type of people who are driven to found mighty business enterprises. True, some of them will found small companies that employ themselves and maybe, at most, a dozen other people. But they won't create big job-generating businesses (think Intel, Apple or Dell) because in the first place they're not motivated that way, and in the second place doing that would prevent them from taking a day off every time there's fresh powder on the mountain or a week off every time they want to go catch some steelhead.

Also, Bend lacks the critical mass that makes places like New York, Los Angeles or Silicon Valley -- or, during the Renaissance, Florence -- centers of creative energy and intellectual ferment.  Energetic, ambitious and creative people tend to flock together. They seek out the opportunity to exchange ideas with others of their kind. They like the exciting vibe of a city. As Johnson says, they like to be where the action is.

Bend is a former timber town in an isolated rural area that managed to transform itself, more or less successfully, into a tourist town. That's all it's ever been since the mills closed, and all it's ever going to be. And the sooner Bendites face up to that the better off they'll be.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Everybody Back on the Roller Coaster

In its role as official house organ for the Builder-Developer-Realtor Axis, our local daily fish wrapper, The Bulletin, editorializes this morning that Bend needs to brace itself for another round of breakneck growth.

"Now is the time to start thinking about a return to rapid growth in Central Oregon," the editorial says. "Did we do it well last time around? What can we do better when it returns?

"During this time of economic loss and stagnation, most of us are waiting impatiently for a resurgence that brings jobs and restores tax revenues. Fortunately, there are a few signs of hope."

One of the "signs of hope" cited -- actually, the only tangible one cited -- is that the city issued twice as many building permits in the first two months of 2012 as it did in the first two months of 2011. The editorial doesn't mention that the total number of permits issued in January and February of this year was only 56 -- or that, according to an index of leading indicators compiled by University of Oregon economist Tim Duy, the region's economy actually slid backwards in the fourth quarter of 2011.

But never mind: Developer Mike Hollern predicts Bend will have a population of 250,000 by the year 2050, and developer Bill Smith assures us that Bend will grow because of its wonderful "quality of life."

"Central Oregon will need quality leadership, with smart thinking, increased infrastructure and wise use of resources," the editorial says. "It will need to balance the benefits of significant growth with preserving the qualities that make this a great place to live."

Did it ever occur to you, o editorial writer, that people move to Bend precisely because they DON'T want to live in a city of 250,000 -- or even 100,000?

The essential problem with this town (aside from its climate and its middle-of-nowhere location) is that the people who run it are idiots with about as much foresight as a fruit fly.

And that's why Bend sucks, and will suck even harder in the decades to come.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Here We Go Again

Mike Hollern and Bill Smith, two of Bend's biggest developers, spoke before the City Club of Central Oregon last week. They predicted that Bend will have a population of 250,000 by the year 2050.

No, there aren't any extra zeroes in that number. It isn't a typo. It's 250,000. A quarter of a million.

That's greater than the population of Glendale, AZ, St. Petersburg, FL, Rochester, NY, Madison, WI, Baton Rouge, LA or Salt Lake City, UT, to name just a few.

It is more than three times the present population of Bend, which is hovering around 80,000.

What's going to cause the population of Bend to more than triple in the next 38 years? Well, Mr. Hollern and Mr. Smith were a little vague about that, at least according to the account in our local fishwrapper, The Bulletin. But one thing that Smith said sounded awfully familiar:

"'Quality of life is better here than in many other places,' Smith said. It's an area 'that is constantly being rediscovered' by tourists who visit to ski in the winter, stay at resorts and take in the area's natural resources in the summer."

Ah yes, that good old "quality of life." Wasn't that what all the local boosters back in 2006 or so were saying would insulate Bend from the real estate collapse that was happening in California, Vegas, Florida and other areas?

We were different from those places, they all said. We had a wonderful quality of life. A unique quality of life, even. Everybody wanted to live here.

I don't have to tell you again how that worked out.

And yet here we are, six years later, and the boosters are telling us again that not only is our fabulous quality of life going to pull us out of the current depression, but it's going to be the draw that triples our population in less than 40 years.

And people are listening to them.

Folks here are strange.

And now, for a review of last month's temperatures:

February Totals:

Comfortable Days: 0
Tolerable Days: 1
Cold Days: 28

YTD Totals:

Comfortable Days: 98
Tolerable Days: 60
Cold Days: 146

Monday, March 5, 2012

Bend's Idiot Wind

In the mid-1970s, as part of the album Blood on the Tracks, Bob Dylan released the song "Idiot Wind." I have no evidence that he had Bend in mind when he dreamed up the title, but it wouldn't surprise me.

Bend is not the windiest city in America; in fact, statistics show that on average, it's slightly less windy than the average American city. But averages can be deceptive, as the statistician who drowned in a river with an average depth of two feet found out.

The wind in Bend doesn't blow all the time, but when it does blow, DAMN, does it ever blow!

It blows hard enough to send trash cans tumbling down the street. Hard enough to peel shingles off roofs. Hard enough to knock down tree limbs -- or entire trees. Hard enough to force Mount Bachelor to shut down the ski lifts. (When the chairs are hanging parallel to the ground, folks around here call it a "Bachelor breeze.") Gusts of 50, 60 or even 70 miles per hour are not uncommon -- and that's in the flatlands; it's much worse up in the mountains. A gust of 73 mph recently was recorded at Black Butte Ranch near Sisters, just up the road a piece.

These wind episodes occur every time a storm system roars into Oregon from the Pacific, which, in the winter, happens two or three times a week. I don't fully understand the meteorology of it, but it has to do with an extreme pressure gradient between the air on one side of the mountains and the air on the other side. Or something like that.

Anyway, whatever the scientific explanation, I detest it. Unlike my comrade-in-bloggery Jack Elliott*, I find gusty, blustery weather annoying, nerve-wracking and distinctly unpleasant.

It's an idiot wind.

*Bend's Best-Smelling Man

Friday, March 2, 2012

Escape at Last!

This is the place in the Phoenix area that we're renting for the months of January, February, March and April 2013. Can't show you photos of the interior because it was occupied and we couldn't get in, but the rental agent showed us photos and it appeared to be nicely furnished.

Skies were blue and temperatures were in the low 70s the five days we were in Phoenix. The locals apologized, said they were having a cold snap; normally, they said, temperatures would be in the upper 70s to low 80s at this time of year.

When we returned to Bend yesterday we found six inches of snow on the ground, with a temperature of 34 and a wind that made it feel more like 4.

Do you have to ask why we're getting the hell out of this frigid "paradise"?