Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finding a House, Pt. 1

We need lots of room. Not in the Yuppie sense of "we need room for yoga and to assure our egos that we are worthy people," but because Mrs Elliott and I both have own home businesses. Mrs Elliott handles car donations for charities and needs an office for her and an employee to work in and answer phones. I repair precision electronics and take up a lot of space. Our present house in Carlsbad has four bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a very large artist's studio with a loft. Mrs Elliott uses two of the bedrooms for her business, while I use the studio and loft -- and garage -- for my work. Then add my 17 year-old daughter to the mix and as far a living space goes, we're living in a two bedroom, one bath house.

Now, my daughter has decided not to follow us to Bend, which lowers the room count requirement. She's planning to attend community college, and while she could do that in Bend as well as here, her friends are here as well as her job at Legoland (does face-painting on the kiddies). Since teen unemployment is at record height nationwide and jobs give teens valuable experience, job history, and that feeling of independence which comes from folding money, it just makes more sense for her to stay here and move in with her mother.

But my 20 year-old son - not presently living with us -- is thinking of coming to Bend, so that cancels out the daughter not-coming thing; and Mrs Elliott has a deep desire to have a guest bedroom where her sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, friends, assorted cousins and sisters and nephews can stay when they visit. So when you add that to the space we need for our businesses we knew we would be looking for more than a bungalow with a garage.

So we got to Bend, thought it was worth exploring, and checked into the Riverside Motel Suites -- a genuinely funky place. Mrs Elliott thought the room smelled bad. I didn't notice any room smell, but my pillow smelled like vegetable soup. All night long I thought of soup. having decided that one night was more than enough, we checked out, parked our car downtown, and strolled around. Nice little downtown! I must add that I took note of the brewpubs.

We happened across the Bend Oregon Visitor Bureau where a nice fellow gave us a map of the area, with areas circled where he felt we might focus our house-hunting. After we spent the morning exploring the four quadrants, it became clear that we needed a native guide with access to MLS data.

So we found this innocent realtor at Duke Warner who had been minding her own business, and, with a little smooth talk, convinced her that we were serious, so she ran off a list of possible properties for us to look at. With Mrs Elliott driving, and me manning the map and GPS, we looked at house after house. Mrs Elliott was charmed by the houses in River Rim, but I disliked them as being too cookie-cutter, and not close enough to downtown. I liked the idea of living downtown, maybe in a loft over some commercial space, but Mrs Elliott wanted someplace with a view.

Looked and looked that first day, until evening. Got a room at McMenamins (quirky, fun, not much more $$ than the dreadful Riverside place) and wandered into town for dinner. Merenda seemed to offer some interesting food for me, a vegetarian (by which I mean a real vegetarian: no animals at all. It's part of the Buddhist precepts I took when I sought refuge).

Over dinner we talked about what we'd seen, had to re-calibrate our expectations because the places we liked were more expensive than we hoped to pay, while the affordable places were not very interesting or well-suited for our needs. But the wine was good, the meals were good, and after a nice soak in the Turkish bath at McMenamin's we climbed into our bed and dropped into childlike slumbers.


(This and the next half dozen or so posts are being written after the fact in an effort to start this blog and bring it up to the present. Although this first post was written in late June, it records things that occurred in early May. As a result the writing is hurried and details have been left out.)

We're moving to Bend, Oregon, in August.
I've lived in SoCal most of my life, and Mrs Elliott for all of hers. The first 28 years of my life were in Santa Barbara - which some consider to be the southernmost part of NoCal - but since then, I've lived in what is distinctively "Southern California" -- Calabasas, San Diego, Vista, Carlsbad. And never cared for it. Boring weather, tedious traffic, crowded, too many strip malls, minimalls, seas of pink stucco houses, dust and heat.

Mrs Elliott, on the other hand, likes SoCal very much. She hails from a long line of Mediterranian people, tracing their roots back to Rhodes and Spain. She, apparently, cannot have enough sun. I, on the other hand, feel affinity to shaded, greener areas, which tend to be wetter, with fewer sunny days. Mindful of the adage that a happy wife contributes to a happy life, I felt I could compromise some in the green/shade department; and Mrs Elliott is a sweet and optimistic woman, so she allowed that as long as she has sufficient sun, she'd likely be happy.

Also on my shortlist of requirements: little or no stucco, a college or university because youth adds vibrance to a town, places where bicycling is common, and an interesting downtown. We explored places in the southwest, and while Flagstaff seems pretty okay, it just didn't feel right, and the rest of the southwest is dry and has far too much stucco. San Luis Obispo? Nice, but too pricey.

We decided to check out Oregon. I knew that the Rogue River valley would be too gray for Mrs Elliott, so in May we flew to Portland, rented a car, and cruised down the east side of the Cascades. Climatically drier over there, but maybe green and cool and picturesque enough for me? We looked at listings in Sisters, which I found too rustic. It has a nice small town feel, but I'm not much for towns that small. Other nearby towns were similarly uninteresting to me for that reason.

When we got to Bend, though, I felt I had found a town that was "just right." Though we had originally planned to continue down to Klamath Lake, over to Medford, and back up the 5 to Portland, I felt it would be waste of time. The remainder of the towns were smaller than Bend, or too rainy for Mrs Elliott. Bend felt like it had all the right characteristics: a small but diverse downtown, musical events, farmer's market, a Buddhist group that meets at the church twice a week, reasonably good shopping, natural beauty, and as we found when we began to look at houses, prices we could afford.
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