This summer I packed all my worldly possessions in a covered wagon and headed out West. Actually, I flew Continental, who charged me $35 to check a bag. If that's not highway robbery I don't know what is. But when I alighted in Ashland, OR, I discovered not a Deadwood-style camp, but an impossibly lovely town of coffee shops, farmers' markets, mountains, and, of course, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. The wildest features of this Western town are the lush gardens surrounding every house and quaint bed-and-breakfast. And, I suppose, the senior citizens Shawn and I spied dancing to the beatboxing of a white, dreadlocked performer called Cornflower at a a local art festival last week.
South Carolinians don't really think about Oregon, or believe it actually exists. When I informed my family of my summer plans, they said, "Wow! Well, have fun in Washington state!" I don't know if this is proof of OR's existence, but here's a sampling of local Ashland businesses. You may notice a theme:
All's Well Vitamins
CD or Not CD
Anne Hathaway's House
Shakespeare's Sister Moon Boutique
Last night I attended a "community, all-levels" yoga class. In any other locale, this would have been called a "VERY STRENUOUS, even if you're a running/cycling/sprouted-grains-eating type" yoga class. Which, for the record, I am not. Granted, after the class I could have walked off some excess tension in the rock garden labyrinth on the studio's front lawn. Instead I chose to walk home (because everyone walks everywhere around here) and dive into some huckleberry ice cream.
I spent my first week in Ashland pestering small businesses with desperate requests for employment. All of them, from the brewery to the shoe store to the grocery co-op, included, "socially responsible," "organic," or "hemp" in the title. Finally I landed a position at Noble Coffee Roasting, where the sustainably-sourced coffee is roasted on the premises and then French-pressed. It turns out my position is more bus-boy than barista but it's a start. I plan to spend all my earnings at the 8728345 used book stores and the 9478274 precious little bakeries in town.
I asked Shawn if he wanted to attend the above-mentioned yoga studio's "Celebration of the Sacred Tantric Dance of the Divine Feminine" workshop with me. This caused him to look up from his iPad for the first time in days and say, "No. Haven't you seen enough middle-aged women with hairy armpits in this town already?"
I said, "Want to go to Yogurt Hut?"
So we did. Yogurt Hut is an amplified version of the kids' dessert section at Ryans, but with frozen yogurt instead of soft-serve ice cream. So it's healthy! After you pump yourself as much fro-yo as you could possibly want, you load it with candy and fruity toppings from the buffet. A cashier then weighs your creation and charges you accordingly. Mine cost as much as a steak dinner and was just as satisfying. I proposed a toast: "To a wonderful summer in your home town!" Shawn and I clinked our massive bowls of yogurt and headed home on foot, sidestepping a barefoot, pony-tailed backpacker gawking at the sunset.