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A few times in my life my social world changed abruptly. During my youth, I moved between my parents’ home and my grandparents’ farm several times. Until I was in my mid-twenties I spent a few weeks at the farm during harvest season to earn some money and visit with those relatives. This was very easy because I always knew and liked the people with whom I was living. I moved from Spokane, Washington, to Burlingame, California, for a year in 1943, and then back to Spokane, but once again the moves were with my family and it was more of an adventure than an anxiety meeting new people. Then off to college where I had some movement through social situations but I did have some core friends from beginning to the end of that experience. My USAF flight school took me through several changes, but even there I had old acquaintances who were accompanying me with each transition. Then I moved to Berkeley, California, where I was in several different social groups over my fifty years there, but each of those groups was stable and I did have my core Channing Club group of Unitarians, some of whom I met within the first month of living there. That group gradually changed membership over those decades but is still coherent.

I moved from Berkeley to Bend, Oregon, in the spring of 2011 after purchasing a house here. I couldn’t afford to buy one in Berkeley but could here and because of that switch in circumstances, I figure I am a half a million dollars ahead compared to renting where I had been living. That is the value of the increase in my present home added to the rent I would have paid living there. Without doing anything further than that move I went from being a very modest-living student type renting a modest apartment to owning a mortgage-free average American ranch style home in a lovely city. I bought at just the right time and my house is now worth two and a half times more than I paid for it, minus inflation of course. It’s just numbers but I can’t be evicted either. That was a problem renting back in Berkeley because the property I was living in was sold, more than once. I never once missed a rental payment, nor did anyone ever complain at my occupancy.

Back to today’s problem. Half of the people in each of my social groups have just drifted away in the last few months. Some because their rent has tripled in the last few years. My property value went up and I’m richer for that, but my renting friends’ rent went up an equivalent amount too, something like triple what they were paying, and they have moved to different cities. Some to Mexico, some to Arizona, some to Washington … I don’t know where or why, but they are gone or going. If someone is living on a limited retirement income they must control their expenses very tightly.

One of my politically active friends, who challenges the various silly laws, and goes to jail periodically for a month or two, says he is up for six months this Friday. I am planning to go to his hearing and put in a good word for his performing a legitimate service. I remember the Free Speech Movement back in Berkeley where those of us inside the administration building after it was closed were violating the law, but that tiny offense had huge impacts on the right to free speech on every campus in the US. The First Amendment right to free speech is vastly more important than the Second Amendment right to bear arms. Our self-defense against a hostile government isn’t possible with a pistol but it is with a proper exercise of free speech. My friend is exercising his free speech in a grey zone of the way the laws are being defined, and perhaps the judge must impose some kind of penalty, or perhaps not, but a six-month sentence would be unusual and very cruel.

My longtime resident friends are wandering away, as tourists and realtors are swarming through our streets seeking easy pleasure and money.