Ashland 2010

We are at the main destination/reason for our westward trip, Ashland, Oregon, the town where Will was born in 1997 and where I took my first tenure-track job in 1996. We were only here two years, frankly because my job at Southern Oregon University was bad and also because Annette’s job prospects at SOU and in the area were poor. I’m leaving a lot of details out of that last sentence, details I’m not going to dwell on for mostly obvious reasons. Let’s just say that if we had stayed here, I’m pretty sure neither one of us would have stayed in academia.

Anyway, I’m happy to visit now as a tenured and content professor at EMU, one who happens to be married to someone who was just granted tenure, and I’m happy that we are sharing our trip down memory lane with our 12 year old son who left this town where he was born before he was one. Here’s a link to a bunch of flickr pictures of the area (including Crater Lake) so far; more details after the jump.

Ashland is first and foremost a tourist town centered around the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, which is an amazing theater company/festival that runs from late February until October 31. As far as tourist attractions go, this is a pretty good one in that it attracts a clientele interested in art, literature, fine food and wine, etc. But I am reminded again on coming back here that it is probably better to visit a tourist town than to live in a tourist town. Well, unless you like tourists.

We pulled into town and immediately drove by the little house we lived in when Will was born, and went out to dinner that first night at Cucina Biazzi, which is a very charming and very good Italian restaurant that was pretty much the way we remembered it. Though I have to say that 12 years ago, we thought it was so fancy. I guess with a few truly fancy meals in New York and Chicago and Vegas under my belt (not to mention Bouchon on this trip), I now think it’s more “charming.” Though still really good food, too.

Friday I got up and “ran” through Lithia Park and then we spent most of the day walking around downtown– lots of hippie-groovy stores, lots of touristy/artsy/fartsy stores, etc.– and walking around the park. And I have to say that going through Lithia park really is one of those trips down memory lane that has held up really well– it’s such a beautiful and lovely place.

Went to dinner that night at one of our regular spots when we were here, a British-styled pub called The Black Sheep, which was almost exactly the same as it was a dozen years ago, and then saw the OSF production that night of Hamlet. Easily the most accessible version of the play I had ever seen, and the acting and production was much better than I remembered. Much MUCH better than the few things I’ve seen at Stratford in Canada, to be honest. I’m looking forward to The Merchant of Venice we’re seeing tomorrow night.

And then today, there was Crater Lake. Now, Annette and I have fond memories of going up there a couple of times in the summer for picnics along the rim of the lake– breathtaking. So, in the trip down memory lane theme of the trip, we prepared a lovely little picnic of things for today. The problem was that we had taken those lunches oh so many years ago in late July and August, and it turns out that “winter” is still very much there in late June. You need to check out the pictures, but there was still several feet of snow around the rim of the lake– and by several feet, I mean like 10 or 12 feet in places. They hadn’t even bothered to plow out the picnic area. Oh, and it was freakin’ cold, too. Not picnicking conditions.

Happily, this all turned out well though because we decided to have lunch in the Crater Lake Lodge, which is a refurbished version of the hotel that has been up there since the early 1900s. We just looked around the common rooms and the dining room (where we, um, “dined”), but it looked very cool. Of course, like just about everything else up here, it’s only open a couple of months in the summer….

We have one more day here which will wrap up with The Merchant of Venice in the main and outdoor theater. Perhaps I will try to confront a few more demons and walk around SOU’s campus….

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