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Ashland 9 October 2017

1728 : 511

Happy Indigenous Peoples’ Day

I-5 is horrible – more on that below. After breakfast and a cuppa with Chad in Chico, we merged with the trucks and crazies on the highway, wound through the upper Sacramento's canyon, through a beautiful swatch of the Siskiyou Mountains and the high valley of the Shasta River, up and over Ashland Mountain and down to the cultural capital of the State of Jefferson. Despite hearing the news about the Sonoma and Napa fires, we ate a nice late lunch along Lithia Creek, and then checked into our little cottage on a quiet alley an easy walk to the Festival stages.

It's Indigenous Peoples’ Day (Screw Columbus!) and Monday, so it should be quiet in town. The fall colors are on the trees in Lithia Park. This is our favorite time of year to be here.

1729 : 506

Tonight, a special performance of Off the Rails. OMG! What a fabulous show ...and what an honor, to be in that audience. At its base, this play's a retake on Shakespeare's Measure for Measure but in the spirit of remakes, this one was superlative. A musical, sorta, with poignant love songs and a classical surprise denoument (that the audience was in on), this was what one hopes for in Ashland. Add to that a special Monday performance, honoring the original inhabitants of this place, many of whom were in the audience, some of whom came up on the stage at the end for a celebratory dance. Compound this with the new spirit of theater, the erosion of the fourth wall, that stood between actors and audience, and an enthusiastic hall full of people willing to join ... Magical! Wow. 

The story, a gentle revision of Measure for Measure, has in it a dishonest, power-hungry military despot in charge of the local Indian School and, briefly and harshly, stand-in mayor of the town. Best memorable line, spoken by Elbow from the verge of the stage straight to the audience: "That's what's scary about a mad man in power..." Huge applause.

Another line appreciated by the audience, a third of whom were the local tribes-people: "Poor people go to jail for doing what the rich get by with every day."

The awareness of color and shades here in this amazingly cosmopolitan town makes me very aware of how white-bread we are in Mendocino County ...and white-bread is inevitably a form of closet racism. It's infatuating in the truest sense of the word: it makes us fatuous about all the shades of skin, of sexual alignment, of religious bent, that simply don't exist in our immediate environment. The only real differentiation we are exposed to is one of relative wealth ...and we (most of us) do our best to ignore and minimize that.

The richness and panoply of differences that the Oregon Shakespeare Festival brings to the stage excites me beyond words. At the end, many of the tribal luminaries were invited on stage to dance the last dance, bringing the audience to its feet in the best standing O I've ever seen. Brought tears to our eyes. A memorable start ...and a hard act to follow!


photos: Jenny Graham, Oregon Shakespeare Festival

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I-5 Blues

I-5, for those who haven't traveled it, is the strategic highway from the Canadian border north of Bellingham to the Mexican border at San Diego. As you might imagine, it's heavily traveled, usually at reckless (but certainly not wreck-less) speeds by people trying to get from Seattle to Los Angeles – 1,136 miles –in one day. And Yes, they are that crazy.

Unfortunately, through the Siskiyou Mountains between Redding and Eugene, there isn't a reasonable alternate route; there was only one feasible route, and I-5 squats all over it.  

What's craziest is the trucking. Heavily laden double-trailer trucks crawl up and over the almost mile high Siskiyou Pass (4,311') while the aforementioned berserkers negotiate the twisty highway at 70 mph. We have noted before that cars make people stupid. Today, traversing what should be a slow, beautiful passage, we saw multiple instances of greed, selfishness, immaturity ...

But mostly, cultural stupidity. There is a perfectly good rail link between Redding and Eugene, and hauling tonnage over a mountain range is just as fast, and much cheaper, on iron rails. I leave you to speculate why we've let our railroads die while overworking our highways (here's a hint: $$$ on both sides of the conversation: freight rates are ridiculous, and subsidized fuel for trucks is a scandal.)

Sadly, we have the second half of this drive ahead on Friday, but you can bet as soon as there's a viable alternative route – east of Springfield – we'll be on it!


Re-visiting this after a play that came after Supaman's super extra Green Show – he'll be back in full regalia tomorrow night, but you may remember him from last year – I-5 is exactly what we whities have done wrong. How can we ever make amends to our Mother?

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