Being an Ashlander isn't so easy

Although I was born in Ashland, I'm not really that good at being an "Ashlander." I feel like I constantly disappoint the more committed Ashlanders. Tourists seem initially interested to meet someone actually born in this town, like when people travel long distances to see a baby panda born in captivity, but quickly I can sense their rejection as well.

I'm not a vegan, I wear clothing made by nonorganic sources, and I rarely remember to get the energy-efficient light bulbs when I'm shopping at the store. I avoid the First Friday Art Walk as though downtown were being swarmed by bees — bees that require parking for their Priuses. Other locals are probably most disappointed in me because I don't shop at the Ashland Food Co-op, but I'd say what disappoints the tourists the most is that I rarely go to a play at the Shakespeare festival.

When I travel and tell people I'm from Ashland, there's always a wistful look in a person's eye as they say "Oh, you must get to go to the plays all the time." I feel like that's akin to asking someone from Seattle if they eat every meal at the Space Needle, or telling a San Franciscan, "I love Alcatraz! You must go there every day! You're so lucky."

I'm not saying the Shakespeare Festival is only for tourists, I'm just saying the festival is sort of like the mayonnaise in my fridge, the longer it sits right in front of me, the harder time I have seeing it, or even remembering that it's there.

Generally, when I go see a play, I like to see whatever is playing on the Elizabethan Stage. Being outside, with the stars above me, is part of the appeal. I get to watch a play, and I also get to watch bats swoop around and catch bugs. My very favorite part of any outdoor play is watching the flag go up at the beginning. I can't explain why, but when a smiling face pops out the top window and hoists up a flag it makes me laugh every time. When I was a kid, I used to dream that I could one day have that job. Now that I'm an adult, I realize that hoisting a flag, that high up above the stage with so many people watching me would be a recipe for my own personal disaster, with the long-reaching side effect of embarrassment.

Some changes are easy. I may never wear a wardrobe made up entirely of environmentally friendly bamboo fibers, buy a Prius or have any interest in looking at art alongside a swarm of other people, but I can make some small changes to feel more like a real Ashlander again. I can change a few of my burned-out light bulbs for the low-energy versions, and I could throw a few natural fibers into my closet, though it will be hard to give up my jumper made of the pelts of every single type of baby endangered species. I could actually finally use that gift certificate my sister gave me last year and go see a couple of plays at the festival this summer. You can even eat while watching a play on the Elizabethan Stage, so I don't even have to give up my evening snack.

This morning, I got stuck in a little traffic jam in downtown Ashland. Eight cars waited patiently while a handsome young couple crossed the street. As the couple waddled from one sidewalk to the other, I realized that I really do live in the best place in the world, a town where even an amorous pair of ducks was using the crosswalk.

Zoe Abel is looking forward to watching "The Pirates of Penzance" this summer. She's currently feeding the ducks pirate-themed snacks to keep everyone in an anticipatory kind of mood. You can contact her at

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