I have some news. I’ve loved dishing on our little mountain town over the last three-plus years, however infrequently, but I fell in love and got married and everything changed, in the best possible way (except for the leaving Bend part).
Yep, I’m leaving Bend, Oregon. I thought I’d be here forever, but then life threw me a curve ball. Where am I moving to? Some big fab city? New York? Seattle? San Francisco? Some hipster haven? Austin, Asheville, Portland? Nope. I’m moving to the Middle East. As in THE Middle East, not the middle of the Eastern U.S.
Before I go any further, you should know, I’ll be passing the torch to two rad women who are total pros at Bend-ing. You’ll love them. They’ll be introducing themselves shortly – expect this site to get a lot more attention than it did under my stewardship!
So, random musings on what it was like, living in Bend for the last few years… Grab a cup of coffee or open a beer. This is going to be a long one. A few weeks ago, I packed up our life in Bend and got on a plane with Betty (the Argentinian rat hound and all around snugglepuss) at Redmond Airport and headed to Amman, Jordan to join my husband. It was an intensely bittersweet departure.
While I was in the midst of moving, every time I drove over the Portland Ave bridge, my heart hurt a little. I will miss the Deschutes River more than I can reasonably explain. Aaaand my brother just moved back to town after a three-year absence – moving away from him and his soon-to-be-wife was straight-up brutal. Not to mention saying goodbye to my Valley-dwelling mom, dad, grandfather, aunt, uncle, cousins etc. Also, moving away from the Drake and the stellar staff and management (who became my most favorite people in Bend)… yeah, that wasn’t fun. Then there’s The Poet. You know, I met a lot of really nice and interesting people over the years, but the only friendship that really stuck was my friendship with The Poet (she may make an appearance here in the future since the new BGTB chicas are fans as well). Maybe it was the fact that we went on 5 mile runs on Sundays in ANY weather with a pitstop in the middle at McKay’s Cottage for manmosas, or maybe it was the fact that we both love words and sort of fell out of love with God in our 20s. Whatever it was, I miss her already.
But there I go, getting bogged down in details. Beginner’s Guide to Bend isn’t really about me, it’s about offering a glimpse into the REAL Bend Oregon. So let’s get to it!
How was it living in Bend for over three years? Glorious! And torturous, at times. I guess all the personal rambling above is relevant because Bend and I never really gelled in a big way and you can see it in the social circle (or lack thereof) that I left behind.
I love Bend. Truly. I hope to end up back in the cottage on NW 2nd Street someday. But it is not an easy town for a single 30ish / 40ish woman. For the first two years, I dove in. I took classes, I taught classes, I wrote a few pieces for The Source Weekly. I forced myself to go out alone. I went solo to shows at Tower Theater, I went to TedX, Night Light, Armchair, Ignite (the latter two, I actually got up on stage), Last Saturdays, First Fridays, every street fair, random beer events even though beer is so not my thing… but eventually I became a little weary of the circles growing tighter as I approached. There is a fierce protectiveness against outsiders that trumps any sense of manners or politeness – I get it, I’m not judging, who likes the random outsider who shows up solo? She must be weird. (Okay, yeah, good point.)
In some towns, it’s considered inhospitable to ignore the only person who arrives alone to a social event. Not Bend! You can smile, use open body language, try to start conversations, but if you don’t have a crew, you’re mostly invisible. So I eventually gave up and retreated back into my little solo world. I didn’t even meet the super cool neighbors on my street until I had a going-away garage sale. My fault for not being more agressivelly social, but will someone in Bend please revive some sort of old-school welcome wagon tradition? That would be pretty great.
My sustained outsider status wasn’t really Bend’s fault. I’m a bit of an introvert; I was horrible at following up on fledgling friendships and never gregarious enough socially to break through the Bend Barrier except in a few rare cases (see: Drake and The Poet). Bend isn’t the kind of place that will naturally envelop you in a metaphorical snuggie – unless you have some Bend social currency, like you’re a former pro athlete, you would sooner give up breathing than give up your chosen -ing (boarding, skiing, kayaking, climbing, biking, etc…), you have kids and/or jobs that provide organic opportunities for friendships, etc. I had none of those, so Bend was a wee bit stand-offish. And to be fair, so was I.
Was I happy in Bend? Yes. I loved my trail runs, being able to walk downtown, the stellar views, the pristine air, the drinking culture combined with the we-get-up-the-next-day-and-get-our-cardio ethos, weekend trips to my family’s place on the McKenzie, the biodynamic/local/organic/sustainable farming/ranching community (Juniper Jungle, Rainshadow Organics, Central Oregon Locavore, Windy Acres, etc.). I loved The Workhouse, Newport Market, CHOW, HotBox Betty, The Drake – especially Bob’s gnocchi, Derek’s bespoke cocktails, Mel’s always-warm welcome, Ted’s laid-back hospitality, Chef John Gurnee’s geniusness and general love of fennel – and the River Trail. I adored the one-park-and-one-brewery-for-every-square-mile thing, the dog friendliness, the people friendliness (in passing, you always smile and say hi on the trail, and usually on the street too), the traffic circles (yield!! don’t stop!!), the 7,000 amazing hikes within a few hour radius – oh, and the maintained trails – you don’t appreciate that until you hike in a developing country… and on and on.
Did I find love in Bend? Not exactly. Women write me via BGTB every few weeks asking what the dating scene is like in Bend, discouraged by a few of my previous posts. Well, I won’t sugar coat it: The dating scene in Bend is not exactly vibrant for the over-35 set. BUT one can complain about the ‘dating scene’ in any city really, except maybe the towns in Alaska where men outnumber women 2 to 1 – and even then there’s something to kvetch about, I’m sure. Here’s the bottom line: (excuse me while I step onto this soapbox here) Love isn’t some wilting flower that will only grow in pristine idyllic environs; it will find you; it will hunt you down if it must; it is hardy and relentless – even if dormant at times. Go where your heart leads you. Don’t listen to anyone’s yammerings about how wonderful the dating scene is or isn’t. If you’re single and looking, stop looking and start living. Love WILL find you. Sidenote: FYI, I married a man I knew for six years, we knew each other when I lived in LA. He moved to Bend last year so we could build a life together – and then he got a posting in Amman. And I’d follow him anywhere, so here I am, in Amman…
At the moment I’m sitting on our Amman terrace, looking out over the creamy limestone sugar-cube buildings, literally listening to the birds chirping, watching a beat-up tail-less tomcat slink across the garbage-strewn empty lot across the street and disappear under a flowering dogwood tree. I never thought I’d leave Bend, Oregon. I never thought I’d live in the Middle East. But I love that life continues to inspire me. The adventure is all. If it wasn’t for falling in love, I’d still be in Bend, having a different sort of adventure. Honestly, maybe three years just isn’t enough time to crack a tough nut (especially when you have a bit of lone wolf in your blood). If I hadn’t been swept off my feet by the love of my life, I’d still be in Bend, wondering what John and Bob were whipping up for daily specials at Drake, checking the tequila supplies for after-work cocktails with my brother and sister-in-law, and probably scanning The Weekly for the weirdest event I could find (The Poet just WhatsApped me about an annual crab louie fest at Sons of Norway – yes, that).
So, if you’re thinking about moving to Bend, my experience is just that: mine. Even with the challenges, it is one of my favorite places on the planet. Was it a little tough for me? Sure. Would I move back? Yep, in a heartbeat. This isn’t sour grapes, it’s just the unvarnished (and very subjective) reality of my time in the center of Central Oregon. Bend is an amazing place to live, but like any town, it has its thorns, and thank God. Who wants to live in perfect Pleasantville? Boring. Take a look around the site for more tips on choosing Bend, living in Bend and navigating the town. There’s more to come; I can’t wait for the next chapter of BGTB unfurl! Subscribe in the sidebar to get the latest posts in your inbox.
I’ll end my goodbye post with a few photos. One of us on our honeymoon, and a few of Amman shots:
Much love to all the Bend devotees out there. I’ll be back to visit. Enjoy every moment you have in your awesome little city. Come visit us soon (you know who you are).