*DISCLAIMER: This article was written by a soon-to-be transplant from Southern California who knows zilch about Bend, has visited Bend, but has never actually lived there.
I’m packing my crap and moving to Bend in 25 days. I’m sure there are plenty of things to hate about Bend, and I might even become one of those things (see below, on hipsters), but no one voluntarily moves someplace thinking they’re going to despise it, right?
This is my highly personal (and hopeful) list of 15 things I love about my new hometown…I think.
Bend is not Los Angeles.
Duh. A few random things that come to mind: There is no Soho House in Bend. The primary topic of conversation in Bend will never be the best rush-hour route from Santa Monica to the Hollywood Hills. In Bend, I will never again have to listen to actors bitch about casting calls and agents while trying to get my damn morning coffee in peace. And I will never again have to listen to homeless people bitch at themselves while I sip that morning coffee.
Bend is a small town.
No two ways about it, Bend is small. It’s about 30 square miles, is home to roughly 60,000–70,000 people, and is a zillion miles from a big city. I’m over big cities, so I like this very much.
In comparison, Venice is roughly 3 square miles with about the same population AND it’s suffocated on three sides by the city of angels (population 3.8 million). If I want to have dinner with my friends, who live deep in West Hollywood, I will spend about an hour and a half in my car to travel about 14 miles. If I’m going to spend that much time behind the wheel, I want to actually go somewhere.
Bend is dog friendly.
I love my dog, so living in a dog-friendly town is important to me.
Betty loves Bend as much as I do. (Betty is also an aspiring doggie porn model, as evidenced by the seductive pose above.)
Earlier this year, Dog Fancy magazine decided Bend is the most dog-friendly city in the country and named Bend “Dog Town U.S.A.” I’m pretty sure that moniker is already taken by my current hometown, but let’s not pick nits, it’s a dumb name anyway. Also, it pleases me that I just used Dog Fancy as a source. How often does that happen?
Bend is green.
I care about the environment and all, but I mean “green” in the foliage sense, like plants and trees. I like green. So does Betty. And we like the weather that makes green possible, which leads me to my next point…
Bend has real weather.
Obviously, you don’t get lush greenery without rain, which means you get snow too, thanks to the elevation. Fine by me, I’m down.
It may be cold for months on end, but Visit Bend claims there are 300 sunny days a year. Venice Beach only claims 264 sunny days per year. I’m excited for seasons — an actual “spring, summer-ish, fall, winter” cycle vs. “marine layer, warm summer, cool summer, marine layer” cycle.
My family is close by.
My only sibling lives in Bend. I can’t wait to pester my brother and his girlfriend on a daily basis. My parents live in Eugene (where my brother and I grew up). My dad has a weekend house about an hour outside of Bend, so, therefore, I have a weekend house an hour away. (My dad may not agree with this, however.)
My exes are not close by.
I have been a serial monogamist (with a short attention span) for most of my adult life. I’ve lived in Los Angeles off and on for most of this time. This means it is not uncommon to run into an ex while you’re at the drugstore trying to buy something embarrassing like Smooth Move tea, and have to hear all about how his wife is preggers, and then try not to notice that he’s staring at your not-pregnant ass as you walk away. I mean, for example.
Bend is a truly outdoorsy city.
I think people actually hike in Bend, instead of just talking about hiking, or strolling up a ridiculously crowded trail in Runyan Canyon in expensive workout gear and wearing full makeup. Just a guess.
Judging by the endless miles of mountain biking trails, the ever-present summer paddle boarders on the river, the proximity to Mt. Bachelor, and the sheer amount of athletic fleece, I get the sense that people actually do stuff in the outdoors on a regular basis.
In L.A., while everyone goes to the gym or does pilates or spinning or…, it’s like a chore, like flossing. Something that must be done. When it comes time for fun here, the question is usually, “So, you want to meet for a drink at the usual place?”
Don’t get me wrong, I fully intend to drink socially while in Bend, but I also plan to take advantage of the gorgeous (albeit chilly) setting and exercise for fun — and on occasion, I may do both at once.
Bend is affordable and not gross.
I could actually buy a house in Bend without winning the lottery. Coffee doesn’t cost $5 a cup.
I’m guessing it would be rare to find dozens of plastic grocery bags, used condoms, and various nasty debris floating in Bend’s lakes and rivers. There are also no smog alerts or Sig Alerts in Bend.
You can drink water straight from the tap in Bend without fearing it will give you cancer or a third nipple. Have you ever walked along Venice Boardwalk late on a Sunday night? Gross. Gross. Gross.
Bend lacks “the hippest street in America.”
At the moment, I live within spitting distance of the coolest block in the country (per GQ Magazine). Sigh. I am confident that this will never happen in Bend, which delights me. If I see one more fedora-wearing hipster striding past my house, I may hyperventilate. This leads nicely into my next point…
Bend has a bearable hipster-to-normal-people ratio.
I just want a normal life. I realize that hipsters are a part of life and that there’s no use hating them (confession: I know a few who are actually smart and nice). I just don’t want to be surrounded by them, like some ghostly vapor you can’t escape that takes up all the oxygen in the room, you know? Bend seems to have its requisite hipster population, but they haven’t taken over the town yet, and it’s doubtful they ever will. For starters, the care and feeding of hipsters require amenities provided only by urban centers; there are no acting jobs in Bend; and it’s too cold to go sockless in the winter.
I realize I’m treading on thin ice here. I might be mistaken for a hipster at first glance. But I’m pretty sure I’m not one.
Yes, I have a love-hate relationship with my iPhone and my MacBook. Yes, I wore Chuck Taylors when everyone was wearing Reeboks and legwarmers, and I I still do (meaning I wear Chuck’s, not Jane Fonda’s gear). But, bear with me here. I do not have a single tattoo. I do not drink PBR. I do not ride a “fixy” (fixed-gear bike). I do not own a fedora.
I do not think I am superior to those who think fashion is frivolous because let’s be honest: fashion is frivolous. The irony is NOT my chief aim when dressing (I want to hug people sporting non-ironic mustaches and mullets — though when combined, I have to admit it’s a little creepy). I wear skinny jeans, but I’m a chick, I’m allowed — I’ve been wearing skinny jeans for years and will probably never stop wearing them until my ass and my thighs merge into two lumpy old-lady masses.
Then I will wear kaftans. I will have big thick wool kaftans in the winter, and flowy ethnic-print kaftans in the non-winter. (I know, I hear summers don’t really happen in Bend, even though I was there in early August and it felt like summer to me.) Could a hipster write such a spectacular rambling digression? Probably. Never mind.
Bend tolerates (maybe even embraces) curmudgeons.
I’m over the homogenized, botoxed, superficially pleasant masses in L.A. I crave a whole spectrum of opinions and views. (Please note that not all Angelinos are anesthetized Stepford drones, but damn, there are a lot of them here.) I like curmudgeons, people who aren’t sunny all the time, people who tell it like it is, or at least like they think it is (as long as they aren’t malicious).
I think every town should have a small population of naysayers, devil’s advocates, and odd birds who won’t fly straight. I appreciate sites like BendSux — though I wonder why he doesn’t live someplace that is less sucky. Or he could move to Venice, there’s way more sucky stuff here. (For the record: I hope that Mr. BendSux stays crotchety and never leaves Bend. I love reading his posts. I’m partial to dissenting opinions and gloomy outlooks.) Speaking of staying…
People stay in Bend
I don’t have facts to back this up, but Bend seems like a less transient place than Venice.
On my block, nearly every week I wave goodbye to a neighbor’s moving truck and a few days later, am meeting new neighbors.
I won’t settle into Bend, and get to know the people who will have to put up with me for the next four or five decades until my friends put me in a nursing home. (With no children or husband, I expect, at some point, my life friends will convene in Bend from random corners of the country, take my house away, and send me to a place where old people can eat jello and applesauce together, and spread sexually transmitted diseases with abandon.)
You can age with dignity in Bend
Let’s be clear, I said aging, not dying. It’s about the quality of life you live until you get Kevorkian.
I don’t want to get plastic surgery or cling to my 27th year on the planet as if it were some glorious age that must be preserved forever and ever. I have wrinkles. I will get more wrinkles. My ass will fall (bye, bye skinny jeans), and my neck will jiggle. In L.A., when these things happen, you “correct” them. I don’t want to correct them.
I have a fantasy that as I get older, I will feel less pressure to inject stuff into my smile lines or f*ck with my face or my body to try and look 10 years younger. In Bend, when I get older, I will wear oversized glasses, turtlenecks, capes, furry boots, and brightly colored knit caps. Oh, and kaftans, have I mentioned I will wear kaftans?
I will garden, hike, ski, kayak, swim, play tennis and ride my old beach cruiser around town. (Note to self: must design sporty kaftans.) I will collect weird umbrellas and birdhouses and stray animals. I will look 50 when I’m 50, and 60 when I’m 60, etc… I will be a little eccentric and surly, but still fiercely love my family, friends, and the people in my community who haven’t moved away for greener, or drier, or warmer pastures.
I think Bend might be one of those places where I can age gracefully and build the authentic life I want. I know there are other places on the planet to do this, but this is my list, and I choose Bend, so shut yer pie hole.
Bend seems like a good place to heal a broken heart
More about my stupid broken heart later, but there’s something about Bend… Perhaps it’s all in my head, but it feels like a good place to lay low, move at your own pace, and slowly ease your way back into feeling like a normal person after having your heart exploded into a bloody oozing puddle of goo as if it were a True Blood vampire that just got staked.
It seems like a place where no one will be puzzled by my lack of shark-like ambition to find a husband or make a million dollars. It seems like the kind of place where no one will care that, yes, I’m “still single” (as if it’s a disease that needs to be cured). It seems like the kind of place where being kind is more important than the car you drive.
I want to ease into a community that won’t see me as someone broken down, soon-to-be past her sell-by date, and who needs fixing, but maybe sees broken as kind of normal (which I think it is in the real world. Normal.)
I don’t think Bend is some magical place with fairy dust in the water, but it seems like a decent place to heal and start over.
Only time will tell if this list is accurate — and even the parts that are accurate, who knows if they will still be true in 5 months or 5 years … but I’m hopeful. I’m grateful I’m leaving Venice before my hope expires, and before I become bitter and (more) sarcastic, and morph into some creepy cautionary tale.
I know I will be the same person in Bend that I am here in LA. Luckily, it’s not too late, I still like that totally flawed woman in the mirror. But life is long, and I want to put down roots somewhere REAL, where the living is relatively easy and healthy, where I can be who I am, with no apologies. (And Betty would like to romp around acres of grass, get endless belly rubs, and perhaps score the centerfold in Dog Fancy, F.Y.I.)
If anyone is reading this (highly doubtful), am I crazy? Have I imagined Bend to be someplace that it’s not?
If you live in Bend, why do you love it?
If you hate Bend, that’s cool too, I want to hear the real deal, but be kind, and try not to be a total hope crusher. I’m a little fragile at the moment. 🙂