Baby Boomers Buy Bellingham (Heidelberg)

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I recently was drafted into a FaceBook group started by and for people who were kicking up creative dust in Bellingham from 1985-1995. Retro Bellingham was set up as a place to post artwork or fliers from notable music shows of the era,  or maybe even some marginally incriminating photographs of the group members’ younger selves fucking up all over the place– generally being young and free in Bellingham. It’s been fun to scan through the images and comments, re-connect with some folks who might have been scarce for the past 20+ years, and generally re-live some good times.photo

Because those were very good times. Anyone who’s ever spent more than about one loud night in Bellingham will agree there is something special about this funny little town. And the longer one stays, the more it seeps into your fibers and if you linger too long (or return more than once) then the vines of the place can weave themselves into your hair and around the rear axle of your car and through the little gear holes in all your cassette tapes and before you realize what’s happened, you’re here for good. We don’t like to call these people stuck. We prefer to call them regulars.

But most people don’t stay. And most don’t return, either– at least not for more than a visit. They couldn’t– there’s simply not room for them all here. Let alone jobs.  So most members of Retro Bellingham live elsewhere and merely fantasize about actually living in Bellingham. They fantasize about living here now, and they fantasize about living here then. But what about living here in the future?

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 Bellingham is special. But we’re joking ourselves out if we don’t think there’s not a Retro Corvallis and a Retro Boulder and a Retro Bozeman. Place is important, but part of what makes going to college so awesome is time.  One’s university experience is a mouth-watering combination of new freedom and suspended responsibility. It has a limited shelf life– at least for most:  it’s beauty lies in its transience (not its transients).

Because we all need a place to stay. Everyone knows students don’t think twice about taking up quarters most civilians wouldn’t dream of inhabiting. In the endless scrollings of Retro Bellingham, there have been lots of references to infamous living situations from the old days:  basements, attics, closets, porches– so many unconventional spaces that were regarded as bedrooms  simply because someone slept there. What is a bed, anyway, other than something to sleep on? Not all “bedrooms” have “beds” in them.

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And then there were the houses themselves. Scattered about the York District, west Sehome Hill and throughout the lesser paths of South Hill into Fairhaven and Happy Valley– the houses and their ominious, infamous monikers:  816. 712. 1016. 1111. Approaching the century mark, standing proud at various angles, the majestic rooflines and sturdy, tattooed columns of the Victorians and Craftsmans and FourSquares– systematically abused by generation upon generation of thirsty students all gleefully flogging that same 4-year dream in a rented room of a rented house with the ghosts of their predecessors egging them on from the other side,  living vicariously through the current semester’s version of themselves and wishing they could return to Bellingham.

Well, Retro Bellingham– you can:  buy a house here today.

Oh, you can’t live in it. At least not yet. But you’ve got to live somewhere when you’re older and Bellingham is consistently rated among the top retirement destinations in the country. People come from all over the U.S. to die here– most of us only have to come from as far away as the 1980s.

Please don’t poison the logic by saying (again) that you could have bought 919 N. Forest for $42k in 1987. That kind of thinking’s not doing either of us any good. Real estate is a dance of relativity. Consider instead how stoked you’ll be in 2030 to say you bought 2519 Peabody for $249,000 or 2714 Patton for a mere $180,000? 

photo 1Now is the warm spot we’ll look back on with melancholy. There’s low-hanging money still to be had out there, and the rental market here is “lessor’s choice”. You don’t have to rent to students– in fact, I wouldn’t recommend it for reasons easily revisited in a glance at Retro Bellingham. But from the looks of it, none of us is getting any younger. Half of us are true Baby Boomers, and the other half are close enough. Think of how validating it would be to finish your adult life the way you started it– sitting on a couch on your porch with your friends, drinking beer from a can and listening to the Flaming Lips. Buying a house with me at today’s prices and today’s rates virtually guarantees that experience.

If you have $50k, you gotta park it somewhere. Are you going to put it in your mattress? In gold? The Stock market?

Come home, let’s talk…

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