Don't believe everything you read in the newspaper. Especially if it's a front page story in the Salem Statesman Journal with the headline, "Is Salem a tourist draw? Absolutely, bureau says."
Download Salem, a tourist draw?
I'm a long time Salem resident (I moved there 31 years ago, but now live about five miles south of the city limits). I know Salem well, obviously.
When family or friends come to visit for the first time, Laurel and I start to panic. "What are we going to do? Where are we going to take them? There's nowhere interesting to go."
So I guess we're not going to be spokespeople for Travel Salem, the snazzier name of what formerly was the Salem Convention and Visitor's Association, which has introduced its new "Absolutely Oregon" catch phrase.
We like Salem -- but mostly for reasons such as the vast expanse of free on-street parking spaces downtown (because there's not much to draw people there).
In this regard, as I've documented, Salem is better than Portland.
That said, I've no doubt that Travel Salem will be able to attract conventioneers to the area.
Groups such as the Bland Lovers Association and People for the Abolition of Excitement will come here like moths drawn to gray. Also, the Watching Paint Dry discussion circle.
If I sound critical, it's because Salem deserves to be criticized.
Along with every resident whose tastes are so strip mall, big box store, and fast food'ish, the rest of us are doomed to mediocrity when cool businesses reject the area after a marketing study.
That's what I've been told turns Trader Joes off when they considered coming to Salem: the lack of cultural creatives -- who are willing to spend money on healthy, organic, cutting-edge, innovative items.
Recently we ate at the P.F. Changs restaurant in Bridgeport Village south of Portland. There's nothing like it in Salem. Great atmosphere. Excellent food. Reasonable prices.
We begged the server to tell her bosses that Salem needs a P.F. Changs. Badly. Her reply started off sounding encouraging.
"I've heard that we're thinking of opening up a new store in...Bend. But not Salem."
Laurel and I were shocked.
"But Bend has like one third the population of Salem. Come on, we don't have a Trader Joes; we don't have a Whole Foods. There's plenty of good locations in south Salem, where the greatest enclave of P.F. Changs-friendly people live."
She said she'd pass on our request to management, noting that she hears similar pleas from the many Salemites who frequent P.F. Changs. I won't hold my breath for a restaurant here.
The most amusing quote in the Statesman Journal story came at the end, from the executive director of the Salem Area Chamber of Commerce, Mike McLaran.
Salem, as a whole, is unified in absolutely the greatest place to be -- to live, work, and do business.
Wow, that's hilarious. My wife and I both cracked up when we read that. Mike has a sideline waiting for him in ironic stand-up comedy.