Letting Your Guard Rails Down

Go Jules Go Title Graphic Letting Your Guard Rails Down_13NOV2019

Not as nice as Bend, not as nice as Bend…

Sights whirred past as I tried my damndest not to go over 80 MPH. A giant, snow-capped mountain greeted me in the distance.


Not bad. Not as nice as the Cascades…

When I reached my destination, the little mountain town of Mt. Shasta, California, I parked the car and let Uncle Jesse stretch his legs.

Every passerby -not that there were many- smiled and said hello. While my new home in Bend, Oregon seemed to have ruined me for any other town, there was one consistent theme along the west coast thus far.

The people.

Also the hats. A lot of hats out here.

“I’m Georgie, by the way!” the adorable receptionist-slash-barista said as she extended a slender hand. By now I was checking out of my hip Mt. Shasta motel and we’d spent the past ten minutes chit-chatting.

“If you and your husband are ever in Bend, you have my name and I have a second bedroom!” I said as I waved goodbye.

Assuming you don’t mind sharing a bed.

Earlier in the week, I had decided to tick a few more west coast cities off my bucket list, and was pleasantly surprised when I found I could greet strangers like old friends as I wound my way from central Oregon to northern California. This whole…trusting…thing was kinda…nice.

Almost as nice as the tap water.

During a recent trip back to New Jersey, my home state, I was startled to realize just how far I’d already let my guard down. After only four months in Bend, I’d forgotten how to avoid eye contact. To jump to the worst possible conclusion. To regard every kind act with suspicion.

Oh, the landlord planted flowers? OVER WHOSE DEAD BODY?

I used to wear my cynicism, like most east coasters, as a badge of honor. You’re handing me a flier? Asking me how my day is? Hah! Go scratch, pal! I’ve got things to do! Places to be! Scowls to perfect!

Vodka to drink!

But after just one week in Bend, I’d made a dozen friends and felt the reassuring hand of something I never knew I’d been missing: Community. Suddenly, I wasn’t afraid to ask for -or offer- help. A ride to the airport, some extra boxes, paint supplies, you name it. My new hometown’s selfless generosity was infectious.

Here I am getting free metalsmithing lessons from the one and only Jim Dailing!
Oh! And here’s a recent haul of free groceries from friends who just streamlined their diet! (Not pictured: The free wine some other friends dropped off just days before. …Yes, my reputation as the unhealthiest most fun vegan in Oregon precedes me.)

And sure, you’re gonna have to steal my sarcasm and pizza standards from my cold, dead hands (which I hope are buried under some beautiful flowers), but this whole neighborly love thing?

Bring it on.


Did you grow up in a don’t-make-eye-contact kind of environment, or a here’s-a-cup-of-sugar-you-didn’t-even-ask for place? Do you prefer one over the other?


10 thoughts on “Letting Your Guard Rails Down”

  1. This is lovely, such a satisfying read, first thing in the morning in Syracuse, NY. The pictures add so much to your story, Jules. I know there are social interaction differences in general all over the country, but I live by that poem/story (too lazy to go find it) about the man who entered a new town and asked a stranger how the people were. He said they were friendly/unfriendly, can’t remember which, and the stranger answered, “Well, that’s how you’ll find them here.”

    Happy trails to you!

  2. I lived in central Denver for a while and knew 2 neighbors. I moved to the burbs which absolutely PAINED me. But we know and love the entire street! It’s been great. I’ll take community any time!

  3. I’m so happy for you I could spit. (But I’m originally from Jersey as well so that’s understandable.) You really are living your best life… in a stunningly beautiful place!

  4. Danny and I went to Bend a year ago last April! We had been told it was a lot like Boulder. I think he meant in its friendly vibe because the landscape was more like waaaay down in southern Colorado. We loved staying at the McMennamins! We had flown to Portland but grew tired of the rain. It’s a great location for skiing too.

  5. YES! You’re fitting right in if you look around and wonder, “Are people really this nice and happy here?” Maybe it’s a bubble, but what the hell. Might as well live somewhere you love and take that positive energy out into the “real world,” right?

    Also, that picture of the oil-full haul of food cracked me up and OVER WHOSE DEAD BODY made me spit up tea.

  6. You got to visit Mt. Shasta! You lucky duck! Looks like a great time. I’ve visited a few times, but only for a few hours each. Just a few miles south on the interstate is a little town of Dunsmuir where we stayed at the Railroad Park Resort. It’s a seasonal place where every “room” is a railroad car. It was great! I left my guys there for a few hours while I checked out Mt. Shasta’s crystal shops. Yes, the pace of life here on the west coast is certainly different from back east. I’m originally from the burbs of Boston where life moves very fast, and even though we lived in a nice neighborhood, people weren’t quite as laid back.

  7. I love you too, babe! And the ice cream and granola you shared – BAD ASS! You make Vegan look fun. Oh hell, you make life look fun!

  8. Yep, I’m from the northeast and lived in Boston for 17 yrs. I was just up there again this past spring, thinking I wanted to move back. Nope, I no longer feel like that is my home. I miss my friends who are there, but I don’t miss the constant beeping of car horns, the pessimistic attitudes, the cold weather. Not that everything is perfect in Florida, but I do find the people to be friendlier, especially when first meeting them. Folks from the northeast are more guarded, and they do tend to move faster, so there is that (I’m a fast walker myself). But I have heard great things about Bend. I am so happy for you that it is working out.

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