The Eye wandered into Starbucks yesterday morning for my usual cup of coffee and copy of the New York Times. Ahead of me in line was a well-dressed, middle-aged man - mid-30s to early 40s, I'd guess. For some reason he looked like a lawyer.
"Are you going to be here for the Fourth?" the barrista asked pleasantly.
"Nah, I'm heading back to Portland," he said. "There's more to do there. Over here the only thing they do is set fire to the butte" - meaning Pilot Butte, which every couple of years or so is unintentionally ignited by the annual fireworks show.
"Well, THAT's worth seeing, isn't it?" I chimed in.
"When you grew up here like I did and you've seen it about 50 times, it's no big deal," he replied.
The conversation reminded me of an unpleasant but important fact: If you're not hard-core into the whole outdoor rec scene and you're too old and/or too married for the bar scene, there just isn't a hell of a lot to do here, winter or summer.
Okay, we have more than our share of "festivals," but they're all pretty much the same - a few music acts, some booths selling crafts and "art," and some other booths selling wine and beer (at absurdly inflated prices) and food. See one Bend "festival," seen 'em all.
Culturally there's not a lot either. When I first moved here almost 25 years ago, Bulletin Editor Bob Chandler (may he rest in peace) told me Bend offered "a lot of good plays badly acted and good music badly played." That hasn't changed much - except there's even less good music being played now that the Cascade Festival of Music has gone belly-up.
Concerts at The Schwab? Great - if you're into contemporary pop, rock or country music and you can pony up $70 to $100 for a pair of tickets.
Where am I going with all this? I guess the point is that while there are lots of good reasons for people to COME here for a weekend or a week, there aren't many good reasons to make people want to STAY here for a lifetime.
Unless, as I said, you're year-round, full-time into the outdoor thing - and people who prefer and have the leisure for that lifestyle aren't that numerous, besides which there are plenty of other places where they can enjoy it.
So Bend had better come up with some way to market itself other than "outdoor recreation paradise." In fact, pushing that image too vigorously, while it helps the tourism business, might conceivably hurt our long-term growth and economic health by encouraging the outside world to think of Bend as a place to play instead of a place to live, work, raise a family and locate a business.
Okay, enough grumbling. One of the few things Bend's got that no other place has got is our annual Fourth of July Pet Parade, and I won't miss it. And I might even check out the fireworks show -- although it's probably been too wet this year to have a first-rate butte blaze.
Have a safe and happy Fourth.