Chill, this is Ashland!

the outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

the outdoor Elizabethan Theater at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival

Ashland, Oregon is a small, artsy “destination town” in southern Oregon, just north of the California border. Home to Southern Oregon University, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, and gorgeous Lithia Park, it (before Covid, at least) welcomes some four hundred thousand visitors a year.

It’s also attracted a number of resident artists and writers, including two of your blog hosts, Rail and Wren—this, in no small part because of its easy-going and sometimes eccentric character. Not to mention, characters, who often refer to their hometown as “Ashlantis,” or “Ashlandia,” or sometimes, when they object to some city ordinance, “the Peoples Republic of Ashland.”

A true Ashlandian "character" -- The Sheep Guy

A true Ashlandian “character” — The Sheep Guy

Along these lines, “Chill, this is Ashland!” has become something of a refrain in our circle.

Origin Story

Some years ago, I was pulling off a main street in Ashland and witnessed an interesting event.

A woman was pulled over in a gold Lexus with California license plates.  She was gesticulating and shouting at a group of three young adults and a dog, who were alongside the curb.  (They were apparently partially blocking her evident right-of-way.)

A young man in the group calmly and with a gentle smile exhorted the perturbed Lexus driver, “Chill, this is Ashland!”

That became shorthand in our circle for sweet, Ashland-esque experiences:  “CTIA! Moments.”

COVID reduced these moments in a big way, as the public liberal and fine arts university went remote and the world-class repertory theater, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, canceled all performances.

Recent CTIA Moments

Then, last Sunday, I was driving towards the downtown area, passing the university, when I caught sight of a motel billboard, “Imaginary Friends Stay Free.”

Ah, a CTIA! Moment:  seeing and humorously welcoming the wide range of beliefs and experiences of Ashlantians and its visitors.  (Seeing imaginary friends would not be abnormal here.)

I continued towards Ashland’s downtown, and noticed I was driving behind a car with a license plate that read “Silent.”   Hmmm.  Cryptic.  Very Ashland.  Another CTIA! Moment.

As I wended my way around a curve into the downtown area, I caught sight of a young Black man donned with a stocking cap.  He was riding a bicycle; his hands were not on the handle bar.  He was “strumming” an imaginary guitar with a wholly delighted look on his face.

Another CTIA! Moment!

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  1. Such a great vignette/”Sketch” (as we’re currently down the “Sketches by Boz” rabbit hole) of our amazing town! 🙂 I miss the frequency of those moments…the gentleman playing the cello in Lithia Park (though I think he’s still there when the weather is warmer), “Puck” in the Park, handing out berries to random strangers–with the benevolent suggestion that no one is really a “stranger” here.

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