I didn’t send an email last week because I was (and still am until tomorrow) on vacation in Southern California with the family. We’ve stayed in Huntington Beach, Encinitas and now Mission Beach in San Diego. Because Bend’s fortunes seem increasingly tied to California, I thought I’d use this week’s edition to offer up some thoughts on what I’ve seen and been thinking about down here.
Business: The three places we’ve stayed are comparable to Bend in that they are all thought of by many as desirable places to live, and they have the housing prices to show it. I know they are not representative of all of CA, much as Bend is not representative of all of OR. In Bend, we all talk about how expensive it is to live there, and how everyone wants to live there, but these places are that on steroids. People down here think worrying about a median home price of $470k is, well, quaint. A million bucks here gets you a 1,500 square foot fixer upper in a decent neighborhood. To the degree Bend competes with a place like Encinitas (pop. approximately 60,000) as an escape from more urban parts of Southern California, Bend is still a relative bargain. But it’s cold in the winter in Bend, and it’s remote. I told a guy here in San Diego yesterday that it gets below zero for at least a few days every winter in Bend and he just kind of stared at me like I stare at an astronomer who tells me that there are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth. It’s really hard to put some things in perspective.
Law: We’ve all become accustomed to warning signs about various things that might hurt us, from tobacco to alcohol to all that stuff on the visors of our cars about the importance of not rolling our cars over. California has taken the whole warning thing to another level entirely with Proposition 65, which requires any establishment selling products containing any chemical the state has designated as causing cancer to post a warning to that effect. We took the boys to Legoland the other day and there’s just a warning when you enter the place that somewhere therein you may be exposed to chemicals “known by the State of California to cause cancer.” The phraseology is creepy (how does a state know something?) and the warnings are so ubiquitous that I doubt they materially change behavior.
Politics: In Oregon, all the most desirable places to live (measured by property values) are liberal, and usually outspokenly so. Drive around Portland, its nicer suburbs, Ashland, Hood River, or Bend and you’ll see all manner of political signage and plenty of COEXIST stickers and those eARTh bumper stickers that I don’t remotely understand and which aren’t themselves necessarily liberal but always seem to occupy the same bumpers as these puppies. That’s not the case in the places we’ve been in California (and driving in between those places too). There’s very little political stuff to be seen. I’m sure it’s prevalent in other spots, e.g. Berkeley, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a little self-selection of more activist progressive types picking up and moving from California to the PNW.
Et cetera: Alright, I know you’ve been waiting for this so let’s talk about the roundabouts. I mean the roundabouts in Bend, where the drivers of cars bearing California plates seem unusually befuddled. I am not admitting but I am not not admitting that I may have made disparaging remarks about such Californians when I’ve been in a hurry to get around town, remarks which I regret. As punishment for my indiscretions, God has seen fit to provide us with a rented minivan with Arizona plates here in Southern California. It turns out Californians hate Arizona drivers with the searing heat of a thousand suns. While most drivers have been very accommodating, a few have repaid my geographic bias.
We’ll turn from this weird form of travel writing to our normal format of weird other writing next week. Your friends can sign up to receive the Bend Business Roundup here. No sales, no spam. Just the weekly email you’ve come to know and love.
Have a great weekend!