Down And Out Or Coming Back: is Bend in as bad shape as we’re being led to believe?
Last Friday night a friend and longtime journalist who, like me, is slipping intoSenectitude, decided to give the Below bar at the new Oxford Hotel a try. Why not, we reasoned, see if the place is attracting any business.
It was. In fact the bar was jammed with people happily imbibing pricey cocktails and munching on expensive hors d’ouevres. It was a scene reminiscent of Bend’s now past Gold Rush era when every bar and restaurant in town was packed with wheeler-dealers celebrating the latest rise in the Dow, housing prices and their egos.
What seemed most ironic to the two of us as we imbibed a well-prepared martini was the juxtaposition of the go-go scene at Below with the news that had been reported earlier in the day.
First there was the Oregonian’s front-page story stating that Bend’s economy had yet to bottom out. That was followed by news of more local layoffs in the wood products industry.
That bad economic news was just the latest in a string of same. But head downtown on any night of the week and you wouldn’t think so. On any given night, there’s not a parking space to be found as hundreds of people are out dining or attending an event at the Tower.
So what is happening here? Are we becoming a town of a small number of haves and a much larger number of have-nots? Will the party for the haves never end as surely as the struggle for the have-nots become more intense and intolerable?
For all the talk about Bend as boomtown gone bust, it looks, at least on the surface, as if all is well. But dig below the surface and things aren’t that rosy.
And for those looking at a future that’s not so rosy, how long will it take before the local economy is back to being vibrant. Five years say the proverbial real estate industry and tourism flaks. Ten years say some hardcore business realists.
If indeed it’s ten years, a lot of plans for those hoping to retire are on hold and perhaps American dream of retirement will become an illusion for them.
Stuck with that sodden thought, I headed out of the Oxford and down the alley towards Franklin Street only to find the way blocked for the most part by a moving van.
“Somebody moving out? “ I asked one of the movers.
“Surprise, “he countered, “ we’re moving somebody in.”
Was this a small sign that things are starting to come back? Maybe yes, maybe no, it’s hard to tell these days.