In a Bend Barber Shop, My GOP Opinions Met with Silence

Buskers in Bend, OR.
Buskers in Bend.

There are few ways to better get to know a small city than to visit a local barber shop, and then spend a while in a nearby tavern drinking a local beer. In Bend tonight, I got to do both. First I visited Debbie Brooks at L&K Barber Shop on Oregon Ave, then I had a tipple at a neighborhood bar where posters on the door advertised two big upcoming women’s roller derby matches in town.

I was impressed with the haircut…Debbie spent a lot of time trimming and cutting and at the end, she whipped out a straight razor and lathered up my neck for a shave. How often do you get this kind of treatment at a simple barbershop with a striped red pole outside?

I asked her about the town…she lived here back when there were only 20,000 people in Bend, and she’s seen the growth to 80,000. But another man told me that predictions were once that it would hit 100K before the big recession killed real estate values and left a giant subdivision full of foreclosed houses. This county leads the state in that dubious statistic for foreclosure rate. Ugh.

“So how do you like Romney?” Debbie asked me brightly. I told her that I wasn’t a fan and that I also didn’t like Santorum or Gingrich nor Paul nor Cain. She was silent. I could tell that I was not in the company of fellow GOP haters, and it was a moment when I realized, this isn’t Portland and that this is still a pretty red state.

Despite our political differences, Debbie, like all of the people I’ve met in Bend, loves it here said it’s a friendly town, a great place to live. I moved to a tavern down the street called The Summit where I met a man who told me about the foreclosure rate, and that another big issue here is water. The snowpack isn’t reliable as it once was so there is a proposal to spend up to $70 million to upgrade the 80 year old infrastructure to keep their underground water source.  “I remember when there were huge snowdrifts on the streets, and now for the past few years, we just don’t get anywhere near the same amount of snow in town.”