Friday, November 20, 2009

Oh....NOW I see.

What can one know about a town theseadays, just driving around?

I think maybe in the old days it was a bit easier. There would be the downtown district, usually consisting of retail; surrounded by a halo of churches and old government buildings, then housing and rentals. In the heights and along the river would be money; and across the railroad tracks would be light industrial and poorer housing.

That sound about right?

When I say we stayed in Vallejo, that was just a zip code. Really, it was in an interstate exit, with box stores and newer retail.

Vallejo itself, when we finally found it, was pretty sad. We stopped for coffee at Starbucks (my first experience -- very impressive), and that again was in a little upscale conclave. Sub-divisions have become the real towns.

What I noticed -- and if I'm wrong, I'll be glad for anyone to enlighten me who knows Northern California better than me -- is that downtowns were either completely run down, or completely upscale. No in-betweens. Run down or shuttered stores, lots of antique (junk) stores; lots of iron bars in the windows. Or the opposite -- upscale touristy type stores.

Most of the traffic was in the areas that are equivalent to 3rd St. here in Bend -- strip malls and chains. Lots of cookie cutter mass market centers. And I do mean, they look EXACTLY the same no matter what town you go to.

San Francisco didn't feel comfortable to me until we got out of the downtown district, and especially the red light (by that, I mean porn shops and hock shops) and mission districts, and got close to Lois's house.

Towns, too, seem to divide between upscale and run down. Napa and Benicia were upscale, Vallejo was run-down. Downtown Napa has been converted into a little Big Box center, and didn't appeal to me at all.

We finally found a local who knew something, and who could give good directions, and we found the only bookstore in all of the Napa valley, or in Vallejo, or in Fairfield, or the surrounding areas; according to both the locals and the yellow pages. Everywhere we went, we got the same answer: "There 'used to be' a bookstore..." It's very possible that the locals just don't know; but the Yellow Pages has a free listing, and there weren't any bookstores in there....

Hard to believe that there isn't an old book exchange or maybe just a small type used bookstore run by a semi-retired person or something. I suppose the answer could be that everyone drives into S.F. proper, but with traffic the way it is, that seems crazy.

Copperfield Books in Napa was nice, and apparently they sell used books in their Santa Rafael store, which we didn't get to. But there still appeared to be about half a million or more souls unserved by a used bookstore. And yet little old Shasta had two of them.

To get into the more politically incorrect observations; the minority I expected to see, Hispanic, I didn't much see. But like the blind monks examining an elephant, I'm sure there were many parts I didn't see or observe. Lots and lots of Asians in San Francisco, and Vallejo seemed very black.

The weather was moderate for the whole trip; but it wasn't nice enough to make up for the traffic.

I know these probably aren't terribly original observations; but they come from a native Oregonian whose probably only been to that area half a dozen times in my life.

Coming back to Bend, you can't help but notice how clean and nice it feels. Even 3rd St.

Oh...Now I see.

I can totally understand why Californian's want to move here.

3 comments:

dkgoodman said...

I wish every Bend native could travel to see how special it is here. Travel broadens ones perspective and provides a basis for comparison.

blackdog said...

"What I noticed -- and if I'm wrong, I'll be glad for anyone to enlighten me who knows Northern California better than me -- is that downtowns were either completely run down, or completely upscale. No in-betweens. Run down or shuttered stores, lots of antique (junk) stores; lots of iron bars in the windows. Or the opposite -- upscale touristy type stores."

That's pretty much right.

I understand San Jose made a successful effort (more or less) to revive its downtown, but I haven't been down there in years so I'm not sure.

blackdog said...

"I wish every Bend native could travel to see how special it is here."

Au contraire, my experience with Bend natives is that they tend to have an exaggerated idea of the glorious incomparable wonderfulness of this place because they have no point of comparison and they've come to believe their own PR.

Bend is an okay little town. Like any other place it has its good points and bad points. It's not all that special.