April 9, 2005

What does your soul look like?

Not dead, not yet. I spent the weekend down in Bend shreddin’ the mountain, drinking cheap beer and catching up with old friends. It was my first time visiting Bend since moving to Hood River in January, and I was surprised by how much of my heart and soul are intertwined in that town.

On my way down from Redmond, as Awbrey Butte loomed into view, my chest got all tight and I was flooded with a confusing torrent of emotions and memories, encapsulating the wide open spaces of 2004, the entire span of which I spent living in Bend. Duluth is the only other town on the planet that does this to me, only with Duluth the experience is magnified a hundred times. When I pull over that last hill and finally see Lake Superior and the entire town unfolding before me, I just about lose control. The emotional rush is so potent that if you could extract it, a single drop would burn clear through to the center of the earth.

Arriving in Bend wasn’t that strong, but I was completely unprepared for how strong it was. I could totally see myself living there in the future, if it wasn’t for the fact that it’s so damn expensive. It’s really frustrating, because it seems like every decent place to live in this country costs a right nut (and half of the left) to live there. I mean, most stuff isn’t too expensive. Your water bill is kinda high, but other utilities are fairly priced, groceries are okay, and dining out is reasonable.

But damn, anything real estate out here is outta sight. I don’t care if you’re looking at houses in Bend or Hood River or Portland or Seattle or San Francisco, there is nothing available that you could consider to be fairly priced. Even in the short time I’ve been out here, I’ve seen average rental costs in Hood River increase by about $100 a month.

There is a house for sale on 12th Street in Hood River, a 1,500 square-foot bungalow with hardwood floors, a tiny yard and no garage. The house is really close to downtown, and across the street from a playground, but 12th Street isn’t an ideal street, being a busy throughfare for people on their way to the Heights area.

For this particular house, this tiny two-story deal with no garage and hardly a yard, they are asking a mere $320,000. At that price, if they were to cover every inch of the floorplan with $20 bills, they would still have money left over.

Anyways. That being said, I could totally dig living in Bend, if that dusty dirt wasn’t so damned expensive. The town has everything I could possibly need within twenty minutes, from mountain biking to climbing to canoeing to snowboarding. Bend does lack windsurfing and kiteboarding, however, and that’s definitely a score against it.

But the snowboarding, man, the snowboarding on Friday was absolutely epic. It had snowed all that night, and it was actually snowing in Bend when we hit the road that morning. There was 8 – 12 inches of the fresh stuff, and it kept storming until the afternoon. The mountain was nearly deserted so Shane, Adam and I shot line after line of fresh stuff. We traversed off Northwest way over into the western bowls, and blasted some huge, wide-open terrain in the trees.

Closer to home I was popping 180’s off everything I could find, and launched a beautiful backside off Triple Nipple, with slow rotation and everything. I also stomped the entire flat-down-flat rail, and pulled some fast and reckless lines through the trees, with some close calls that almost had me pickin’ splinters out of my teeth. Our bodies were thoroughly chewed up when we finally decided to call it a day, and we jammed back into town to grab some grub at Super Burrito.

All in all that town has some amazing things going for it, the best being all the people and friends I’ve met down there. Though I spent only a short day in Bend, I managed to catch up with my old roommates Shane and Erin, my friends Erik and Fish from the Lava House Alliance, and all the folks from Alpine. It was late Friday afternoon when I showed up at the office, so we closed down the shop and went for a walk down to the market. Jody grabbed a Redbull, Morgan grabbed a Sparks and Jim grabbed a six-pack of PBR tallboys. At the register, Jim said something that totally renewed his position as my personal hero.

“Could we get some small paper bags, too? The kind you drink out of and walk down the sidewalk with.”

I think it’s no question that we’re the classiest web design agency in existence. That night I met Erik and Fish at the Bend Brewing Company, and as Erik and I waxed poetic about the cowboy mentality, we came up with the slogan for my web design shop, should I decide to jump the wall and create one myself:

“Because we’re the experts. And we’re probably drunk.”

The night wore on and the words became ever more insightful. As Fish tried to figure out how Erik was going to make a tail for his Big Bad Wolf costume, someone mentioned the use of “thin strips of pudding.” Well. Once we plunged into the English accents and uttered that a few times, it was all over. We finished our brews while repeating every line from Invader Zim and Napoleon Dynamite that we could remember.

“I’m dancin’ like a monkey!”