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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Big Buzz: Attack of the killer Culicidae

Posted By on Sat, Jul 31, 2010 at 8:20 PM

This is a retraction of a former blog entry that noted that Bend was pretty much bug-free in summer.

That's because if you haven't been living exclusively indoors with the air conditioning on full blast, you've probably noticed that there are suddenly swarms of female mosquitoes (Culicidae) out there eager to get into your skin. Swarms that, in some places like along the River Trail, up on Storm King and in Shevlin Park can be downright nerve wracking.

"Make sure you've got a lot of bug repellant," noted a woman walking a dog as she strolled into the Shevlin parking lot," the mosquitoes along the creek are thick."

I thanked her for the tip and mentioned that I thought the mosquitoes, because of the long wet spring, were the worst I'd ever experienced in Central Oregon.

Overhearing our conversation another woman offered: "Well my husband and I have been here six years and there have been worse mosquito years for sure."

Knowing that arguing with a recent Bend transplant is a no-win situation at best and that playing the I've-been-here-for-way-longer-than-that card only would only make me look stupid, I let it slide.

But for the record, in my humble opinion, this is the worst mosquito season of the past three decades. It's so bad that KTVZ news recently did a segment on how the mosquitoes have taken over Sunriver and are holding tourists hostage.

And while that's hyperbole, I suspect our tourism promotion people are in a full state of panic as our fair city and environs, are supposed to be bug free.

That's because as Eden-on-earth, pesky skeeters are not supposed to make outdoor barbeques and parties not as much fun as they should be. And sleeping with the doors wide open shouldn't become a situation where just after you shut the lights out and start drifting off to dreamland that a squadron of buzzing pests attacks.

So what to do? Put up with the mosquitoes for about one more week and when we start to get a hint of cool fall weather, they'll be gone. Then we can get back to outdoor living at it's finest and the tourism people can breath easier knowing that Bend won't make it onto the list of "Top Ten Cities Enjoyed By Mosquitoes" story that's bound to appear in some newspaper or magazine somewhere soon.

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Monster Chops: Kate Davis plays bass

Posted By on Tue, Jul 27, 2010 at 8:33 PM

In too many music genres, the standup bass is basically a time keeping, "thump-thump" instrument. In the hands of truly great jazz bassists like the late Ray Brown, Leroy Vinegar, Ron Carter or Charley Hayden (as well as talented locals like Michael Scott and John Allen), it is an instrument of great range, depth and feeling.

In the hands of Kate Davis, the bass is an instrument of force. Davis is a compelling player with great range and incredible technique for someone so young.

That's young as in 19. That's young as in age, but not in talent.

Ms. Davis took the stage at the Cascades Theatrical Company this past Saturday night as part of the Just Joe's jazz concert series. Accompanied by Portland musicians David Goldblatt on piano and Gary Hobbs on drums, both accomplished musicians in their own right, she delivered a knockout performance.

Davis not only plays the bass like someone twice her age and with four times the experience, she also sings. Her vocal phrasing harkens back to the great women jazz singers of the fifties like June Christy, Chris Conner and Anita O'Day.

Her vocalizing is clear as a bell and she hit the notes spot on all evening.

That noted, most of the lyrics of the songs she's selected from the Great American Songbook and jazz repertoires have to be a bit over her head. Hey, she's 19 and that's her dad selling CDs at intermission and her mom encouraging her from the audience. But age again doesn't matter. Close your eyes and you hear the voice of a mature woman not a young woman in a summer dress and black high heels.

Davis is a marvel, truly a once-in-a-lifetime player and singer. And when she gets her stage presence persona worked out (it's a bit awkward now), look out.

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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Don't Bug Me: a visitor's view of Bend

Posted By on Thu, Jul 22, 2010 at 2:06 PM

Earlier this month, friends from Rhinelander, Wisconsin, who were married in Camp Sherman at the Deschutes Land Trust's Metolius Preserve five years ago, came to visit. The husband writes a column for the North Star Journal, Rhinelander's weekly newspaper. Here's his view of a visit to our fair city.

"We spent a few days in Oregon last week, Bend to be specific. Bend, where boomtown has become bust, where the gold rush of real estate investment has ground to a halt as people learn the difference between an investment and blind speculation. They thought they had the one; in fact they had the other.

Still, Bend is a lovely place and people on the sidewalk stroll along in a positive zippy manner though this may be due to the fact that from any given place on the main drag there seem at least two coffee shops in view at any time, at any place. A double shot of espresso can do wonders when the blues got you down.

We spent the days with dear friends, lazing about and doing little at all: there were no heroic ventures on this trip. Occasionally we would ride bicycles to the downtown and do what all tourists do which is to try to look like we were locals. When you do that you invariably consider every move before you make it and think about every step you take, thus causing you to wobble about and look exactly what you are which is a tourist trying to fit in.

We'd blunder about for a while and then find a coffee shop where we'd sip strong espresso, sunglasses over our eyes even in the shade as locals do.

Afterwards we'd stride off, revved on strong brew, looking zippy as any native. Then we'd make a wrong turn and look like total dufflesses.

Bend does have a lot of things going for it and in the heat of summer the high desert area houses hardly any mosquitoes. 'Had one in the room the other night' our host mused, 'first of the year'. He advised leaving the window, screen-less, wide open and we did. We also spent two evenings outside as night fell, two bug-free evenings.

After a too-short visit we flew home over snow covered mountains, Mt. Hood and Mt Bachelor, over the stubbed off top of Mt St. Helens, saw in the far distance Mt Shasta. I looked at the pure white snow, dazzling in the sun and suddenly missed winter, thought: I should have brought skis.

We arrived home as shadows stretched long across the yard. The dogs went crazy in welcome; they do not like our vacations. We lugged suitcases inside amid the chaos of jumping pups. My wife told them they were good dogs and then took them outside to check on the garden. We'd left to the promise of vegetables soon to ripen.

She was in quickly. I raised an eyebrow. 'That didn't take long'.

She had a look in her eyes that suggested some agitation. 'The mosquitoes! They're horrible."

Then the story goes on to tell of mosquito hell and finishes with:

"We spend the evenings inside, safe behind screens. Mosquitoes swarm outside. The whine of their little wings is background noise to the

sounds of a summer evening. We live in fear of going outside.

I sit on the porch, in the coolness of sunset, as darkness falls and my mind wanders, wanders to Oregon, to Bend, where boomtown has gone bust and McMansions sit empty, in foreclosure. But, hey, no mosquitoes! And snow on the mountains in July!

And I think, next time, next trip, maybe we should spend more than a couple days."

Attention VisitBend and COVA, time to roll out that "come visit our virtually bug-free part of the world" tourism campaign.

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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Le Tour: going short and loving it

Posted By on Tue, Jul 20, 2010 at 2:24 AM

Every July since 2005, I've had the pleasure of riding with the kids, families and those who just want an easy ride at the annual Tour de Chutes. As a group we ride only seven miles and in that seven I'm reminded of what makes Bend still a great place to live.

It's the people. People like the four and five year olds doing what must seem like a marathon and the 91-year old gentleman who rode like someone half his age. They, along with countless others, make the Tour special.

The Tour's emphasis was, as always, on fun, on celebrating life and on giving back. Giving back in this case to raise funds for on-going cancer research.

As grim and omnipresent as cancer is, the Tour's organizers make sure that the sense of community and the joy of being able to partake in a life affirming event remain in the forefront of the day.

The Tour always has special moments. Last year I had a six-year old challenge me to a race as the ride wandered through Broken Top. He won. I hope he goes on to win a lot more races.

This year I rode with old friends, talked with cancer survivors and looked for another six or seven-year old to throw down a challenge.

It was a wonderful morning and hats off to the dozens of volunteers who give of their time to make the Tour de Chutes special.

Kudos to Gary Bonacker. The Tour's creator and guiding light, Gary has endured his long struggle with cancer with grace. He keeps up the fight daily and is the bravest person I know.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Phil: a true legend turns 69

Posted By on Fri, Jul 16, 2010 at 4:39 PM



Quietly and without any fanfare or elbowing others for the spotlight, Phil Meglasson has done more over the past thirty years for local mountain biking than any single person. He’s been a subtle force whose work has benefited the lives of all mountain bike riders from beginners to seasoned pros.

He is the Phil of Phil’s Trailhead fame but trust me he was shy about accepting that honor. For Phil, working on his own away from the crowd is his way.

His way meant the creation of the Mrazek Trail and its continued maintenance.

His way has meant endless hours of work on the trails at Horse Ridge, the Maston and every trail that fans out from the trailhead that bears his name.

Phil was there at the founding of COTA and he remains fresh in my memory for pulling out a fold-up saw from his pack during rides and sawing down limps that had grown over to cover a trail.

But even more than Phil’s trail layout, creation and maintenance legacy is his long history of riding. Phil loves to ride and ride he does with anyone who has the time and wants to go with a guy who knows where all the great rides are at any given time of the year.

I first met Phil thirty years ago when I’d purchased my first multi-geared true mountain bike and he’d acquired a mountain bike at an auction of assets from the defunct Rashneesh Purim community in Fossil.

Thus ensued years of exploring every old double-track road, single-track trail and game trail in Central Oregon.

Exploring led to racing and expanding our riding horizions well outside of Bend and Central Oregon.

All the while, Phil took it all in stride never once thumping his chest or boasting. He just got the job done.

This past Wednesday, a group of longtime riding friends gathered at a party to honor his 69th birthday.

There was beer (Thanks to Don Leet of Sunnyside Sports), food and plenty of reminiscing among a group of Phil’s colleagues who form the bedrock on which the local mountain bike community was formed.

Typically, Phil was a bit taken aback by the attention. And in a rare moment, he was stunned when he was presented a very cool carbonfiber frame Giant “Anthem” mountain bike.

The bike, thanks to the help of Giant team member Adam Craig, was a fitting tribute and will have a thousands miles on it before year is out I’m sure.

So happy 69 Phil, you’ve been an inspiration, a pioneer and a tireless worker. Without you, I wonder if we’d have the trail system we now have. You’re the best and a true example of giving back to the community.




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Monday, July 12, 2010

Summerfest: the sights and sounds of downtown

Posted By on Mon, Jul 12, 2010 at 4:22 PM

There are so many reasons to love Bend's annual Summerfest. Remember Summerfest? It's the fest that looks like all the other fests but has more "art" and less food.

Now that you've sorted out Summerfest from the other fests in your mind, the first reason to love this fest is that it's Bend's best people show. Summer arrives a few days before the festivities begin and people immediately go overboard on weird dress and acting out.

That makes the people watching terrific even if its hard to find a shady spot to sit and watch the parade of humanity pass.

Second thing to love about Summerfest is the art. There is always lots of art and it all, let's be honest, is as good as it gets.

Take for example the little wooded garden plaques (you hang them off tree limbs or place them in flower pots) at one booth with right-leaning political sentiments hand-written on them. Very clever indeed and a wakeup call for you liberals out there to retaliate and start making your own cutesy garden stuff.

Then there's the photography. Wow, who knew boats in the harbor of some Italian coastal town were so brilliantly colored, that doors in France were so red, that flowers looked like they'd dropped acid and became so vibrant. And don't start in yammering about over-Photoshopping and making scenes look , well, unreal. I'm not buying it. These photos are real art.

Then there's that other art-body art. You could take all the sailors who shipped out to the Pacific with the Navy's First Fleet over the past 50 years and got tatted up in Manila or Yokohama or some other port and the amount of ink used on them wouldn't even come close to what's been used on Bend's citizenry. Our fair city is a body art capitol. Cool.

So much for Fest's good points. Now here come the downers.

Why did that aggressive crew from a Eugene micro-brewery do most of the beer peddling? That and putting their stickers on people's bodies, packs, hats, you name it?

What happened to our local craft brewers? It's your town, get out there and show us your stuff.

Then there was the sound system at the music stage on Minnesota Street. It was ear-splitting, as if the sound engineer decided that every group that played was a rock group and so the bass had to be amped up to an almost an unbearable level.

Take for example the set done by gifted jazz vocalist Rebecca Kilgore. Kilgore is a melodic vocalist, she doesn't scream or screech, she sings.

But given the overly-amped bass and, in her case, the way overly-amped electric piano, and she was literally drowned out. But if you walked away from the stage area and stood several blocks west by the Martini Bar, she was suddenly perfectly audible.

So Fest organizers, consider the music acts more carefully next year and what amplification they really need. A good pair of ears is nice to keep in shape.

Just as a good pair of eyes are need to enjoy the best of the Fest-the people, the art, the way this Fest is just like every other Fest except that it's held in July.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Freedom: wild riders, impatient driver

Posted By on Wed, Jul 7, 2010 at 9:14 PM

After a Fourth of July morning mountain bike ride a friend and I drove from the Skyliner's trailhead to Bend Brewing for a beer. Beer imbibed, we got in the car and headed east on Oregon Street only to encounter a huge mob of bicyclists filling the entire width and length of Bond Street.

There was no way we were going to get through the intersection. Looking back we could see the cycling mob was also blocking off Wall Street.

So what do you do? Turn off the car's engine, sit back, relax and watch the parade go by.

And what a parade it was with equal parts avid cyclists, extras from a Fellini movie, aspirants to become part of a Cirque du Soliel troupe, a few folks who looked like their tavern time started early that day, kids, you name it. It was one noisy and colorful parade, and a lot of fun to watch.

But wait, as much as the Freedom Ride and its estimated 3,500 riders was all about the new exciting and hip Bend (note that 20 years ago there was an annual cruiser crawl organized by Dennis "The Heatman" Heater"), there was a sign of the other new Bend.

In this case, new as in impatient and we're important people Bend.

Take a couple in a luxury European SUV who couldn't bear to be impeded let alone stopped on their way to something very important we're sure. Add in five cars ahead of them and a bunch of nutty cyclists and we have a situation

The driver of said marvel of European automobile manufacturing first lays on the horn for minutes at a time, as if that would get us all to mow down a few dozen cyclists to clear the way and get traffic going.

A glance in the rear view mirror showed the people behind us relaxing and enjoying the parade. But not the impatient couple. Soon the driving member of the duo maneuvered their car into the oncoming traffic lane and rolled up to the intersection. There, the driver took 12 minutes to inch the car across the intersection and then peel out down the road.

As they sped off out of sight, we got a look at the frame holding their license plate. It read "world's greatest grandparents". How true.

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Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fossilized: back for more bluegrass

Posted By on Sun, Jul 4, 2010 at 3:40 PM

What a difference a year makes. Last year temperatures hovered around 100 during the day and were in the 80s at night during the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival in Fossil.

This year, Friday was cold and cloudy with temps barely getting into the high 50s. That evening the mercury edged into the high 30s. How the musicians performed so ably in the windy temps during the evening part of the Friday night program, is to their everlasting credit.

As it has in the past, the Wheeler County Bluegrass Festival proved to be a special even if you're not a bluegrass fan. If you are, it's a must visit.

This year's schedule had been altered somewhat to accommodate an influx of vintage cars on Saturday. That meant that the annual Fourth of July parade took place on Friday. And what a short, sweet and heartfelt parade it is.

If you took all the groups that make up the parade and bunched them together, they would stretch two blocks in length.

Leading off was this year's parade on horseback was Wheeler County queen along with one of her court members. Then came a kazoo band, a few vintage cars, a car-drawn wagon packed with armed services veterans, and two people trying as hard as possible to look like dinosaurs in honor of Fossil's most famous product-fossilize bones.

Shortly after the parade ended, the music began down on the Courthouse grounds. True to form, Festival organizer Jay Bowerman kept to a tight schedule bringing bands on one-by-one from the late afternoon until 9 p.m. with a melodrama performance to offer a break in the music.

There was plenty of Bend music talent on stage from Quincy Street with locals Eric and Marlene Alexander, Bowerman, and Loren Irving and the band Back From The Dead with Ted Schoenborn, John Head, and Dave Ledder.

Stealing the show were Oregon's popular all-female band, Misty River, as consistent as ever in their playing, and the tart-tongued, tight playing Great Northern Planes. For those keeping score, Great Northern Planes mixed up traditional bluegrass with acappela gospel and two, count 'em, two Merle Haggard tunes.

Aside from the acts on stage, a lot of Festival attendees come to be part of the Saturday morning workshops. At the workshops, players in specific instrument groups (including vocals), learn the same song and then come together to perform it on stage. It's a truly rewarding experience.

However, the most rewarding part of the weekend might be the crowd. In one of the songs he's written, Bowerman bemoans the loss of rural life in America. Yet in Fossil, it's still alive and with it many wonderful people you get the chance to meet and talk with while the music plays on.

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