Real People

(pictured above: a cranberry farm)

Bend is a great town. A majority of the people who live there are deeply invested in the community and choose to call Bend home. But there is always this haze left by the constant coming and going of tourists and people who only live there part-time. It leaves behind a sense of unease and incoherence. The only remedy for which is to continue to invest deeply in the community of Bend.

Arriving in Coos Bay this week, opened my eyes to yet another side effect of Bend’s tourist economy and part-time dwellers; the city is pretty. We keep the industrial parts on the East side of the town and the industry that is on the West is built to a certain code (whether implicitly or explicitly mandated). The city of Bend puts a priority on pretty walk ways, pedestrian bridges, and maintaining that pretty facade. Which when you live there is a double edged sword. It is nice living in a pretty place, I would be lying if I said it didn’t have an impact on moving there. But as a therapist, when you get to know the people who are marginalized out of the pretty part, it feels odd. That a tourist economy, a necessary industry for Bend, could trump say for instance, housing assistance for a family.

Coos Bay on the other hand is an organic logging town built on generations of hard labor. My first reaction was, “Ew. So industrial.” However, as I have met people and spent more time here, it is refreshing. This place is full of hardworking people, who live here because they work here. A concept I hadn’t realized I had grow detached from. In Bend, many people (me included) choose to live there and thus make work… well…. just work. Either by creating an industry or market as an entrepreneur or some get lucky and find a full-time job or they get by with some strange cocktail of odd jobs. It’s a strange dynamic. And one that perhaps could only come from 21st century living. An age in which more than ever people are moving to cities of their choosing. Work used to be the only reason to move. However, since work is hard to find everywhere and there aren’t significant wage increases to stay for, why not move where you want to live?

That was a contributing factor for us. Our option was to either make X amount of money in rainy Washington and commute two and a half hours to a ski resort or make the same amount of money where we vacation and commute thirty minutes to a ski resort.

In Coos Bay, something else is apparent. The economy. Yes, those two words that my generation knows so well. It is the response we get to almost any plight. Sure, media can put its spin on it however they want but the labor market is hurting and one can see it clearly here. But one can also see there is a real sense of coherent community, very friendly people (who know the moment you walk in a room that you are visiting) and excellent food. We went to the more touristy area of Bandon and couldn’t find any plant-based or remotely healthy food. But here we have eaten like kings. There is a fully plant-based cafe for lunch and a couple of friendly restaurants who have made plant-based options for us.

I can’t help but wonder about our society. Is this just a metaphor for who we are becoming? More concerned with the way things appear than what is really happening? More identified by what a passing tourist may thing of our towns and less invested in creating a good quality of life for its residents? And isn’t this the outcome one would expect given the sheer amount of time and energy put into social media? A digital facade created by millions of participant’s facades. And is a simple pleasant facade what we really want the culture we pass onto our children to be? And was our country built by people working hard or people who looked good working and living?

As I type those questions I can’t help but feel I see the effects of this facade culture in my private practice. Families that take a great photo for a Christmas card but can’t stand to be in a room with each other. Parents who take their kids cool places but aren’t sure how to even talk to them. Or couples who invest all their time in looking up ex-lovers or high school sweethearts while ignoring their current partner.

Is social media making our existence a facade? I wonder….

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