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January 22, 2011


Hello Brian, and Laurel,

I share your city envy preemptively.. Right now I live in one of those great places, Brookline, Massachusetts just barely beyond the Boston city limit. I’m writing this comment in a coffee shop (OK, a west coast Peet’s) in the very cool Brookline commercial enclave of Coolidge Corner after browsing a while in the also very cool Brookline Booksmith. And I work in Harvard Square. But next summer I plan to retire and move to Salem, Oregon to live with my daughter. I so belong in Portland, but she has lived in Salem for 11 years and is well settled there so Salem is where we‘ll be. (She thinks my east coast orientation might be a bigger hindrance to cultural assimilation in Portland than my urban affinity would be a help - maybe so.)

I remember coming across your blog a few years ago when I became interested in (the late lamented) Sustainable Fairview and then Pringle Creek. Just this weekend I came across HinesSight again when Googling places to take classes in Tai Chi in Salem. I took Yang style classes years ago but have fallen out of practice and would like to take classes again.

I love Oregon - the mountains, the coast. I spent my 60th birthday bicycling halfway around Mt. Hood from Welches to Hood River on a fundraising ride. And on the following year’s birthday I was at an orientation for a week-long camp & bicycle tour of the north central Oregon coast (during which a young woman grilled a waitress about the vegan purity of her meal.). But I have spent enough time in Salem to know that it will be a big adjustment. How that adjustment will play out, I’m not sure.

The lack of good public transit will be a real culture shock. I don’t have a car, don’t need or want a car. I bike, walk, take public transit for almost everything I do, with occasional help from my son who lives nearby. I bike to work whenever I can (not now with all the snow we’ve had since Christmas, but that’s what transit is for.) There are four grocery stores within a 15 minute walk from where I live: Trader Joe’s, Whole foods and two supermarkets. My daughter has a car, but it’s liberating for me to be car-free and a driveway with a car at hand seems like a slippery slope.

Bookstores - even here they are fewer than they used to be, but we still have some great independent booksellers. The Barnes & Noble in Coolidge Corner only lasted a few years, but the Booksmith lives. Diverse neighborhoods and interesting streetscapes. Lectures by some of the great thinkers of the day - I don’t begin to take enough advantage of these opportunities, but I have been privileged to hear Al Gore, Bill McKibben and James Hansen speak in one 8-day period. E.O. Wilson, Paul Ehrlich, Joseph Stiglitz, Juliet Schor, Amartya Sen. I guess that’s what YouTube is for.

I liked what the young woman you quoted said about the need to be creative in Salem to find like-minded people and compatible activities and I’ve been exploring opportunities in Salem via the web and conversations with my daughter. I like your style and I like your politics and will be following HinesSight and exploring your archive for insight into living a progressive life in Salem.

You might be interested in exploring material on the website of the organization I work for - the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy. Lincoln supports research, conducts seminars, lectures and short course trainings, and publishes books, papers and reports around land policy topics - urban sprawl, conservation, impacts of climate change, community economic development, property taxes, etc. We produced a documentary film on Portland, OR - Portland: Quest for the Livable City - the third film in a series called Making Sense of Place. Many of Lincoln’s publications and some of the educational sessions are online and free. Patrick Condon of Vancouver, BC who is on the design team for Pringle Creek has conducted seminars and written papers and reports for Lincoln on urban issues and most recently on cities and climate change.

I’m very much looking forward to the next stage of my life, to sharing it with my daughter and to finding my own niche in Oregon. And I look forward to reading more of your blog for ideas on how to do it well.

Laurie, almost-welcome to Salem. I'm confident that you'll like it here, though like you said, it'll be an adjustment after living in (or near) oh-so-cool Boston.

My mother lived in Brookline for a while, and my grandfather lived in Medfield. So when I was young we visited the Boston area frequently, but I don't remember it much.

When you move to Salem, be sure to give me a call. I'll email you my phone number. My wife and I can help get you in touch with the progressive side of Salem.

I'm sure you know that a Trader Joes is going to open on south Commercial Street fairly soon. The building is being remodeled now and is looking appealingly Trader Joes'ish.

But Salem is a lot more spread out than where you're living now. Getting around without a car would indeed be a challenge. As a scooter rider myself, i have to ask whether you've considered a small scooter.

Inexpensive. Great gas mileage. (Electric scooters also are sold in Salem.) Trendy. And yes, more dangerous than a car -- yet maybe not more dangerous than riding a bicycle on Salem's often non-bike friendly streets.

You sound pretty adventurous, given your biking exploits. So I could see you riding a bright green 150 cc Vespa (or whatever), stylishly clad in a red or yellow helmet/jacket (for visibility and protection), wending your way to Trader Joes and LifeSource Natural Foods via a 90 mpg (or so) transportation option.

Anyway, it's an idea. Thanks for your informative and entertaining comment. You're just the sort of person Salem needs more of.

I just got an email from a friend who shared this probably true story, I say "probably," because he has an ironic/wry sense of humor. Anyway, it rings true to me.

A Russian exchange journalist worked for the Salem Statesman-Journal newspaper for a year. He was addressing a group of students and offered a comparison of Moscow and Salem.

He said "You know in Moscow we love to party and we think of Monday as the hardest day of the week because it is so far from Friday. Tuesday is a little better but still too far from Friday to get excited. Wednesday, you call it "hump day" here, and it's better than the two previous days because you're half way to the weekend.

Thursday feels pretty exciting because tomorrow all the fun begins. Friday is of course the best because that night you go out on the town and launch into a weekend where you can do anything you like. In Salem, however, every day feels like Tuesday!

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