Over the last three years, we long-time Ashlanders witnessed a public project at our historic Plaza. What I call the Plaza Destruction project — the worst example of poor judgment and reckless use of public money by city councilors, a dismissive city administrator, a compliant mayor, and an incompetent city staff in the last quarter century — resulted in the removal of beautiful healthy mature trees and all the mature bushes. Then that natural beauty was “replaced” with colorless grey pavers that bring to mind the quad of a modern prison, concrete benches (yes, concrete), and “public art” in the form of tiny abstract mosaics that could be in an airport terminal and are best viewed by tiny people about 18 inches tall. A brave minority of local citizens tried to stop the madness of this Plaza Destruction, to no avail. I was proud to stand with a brave few who stood witness to the healthy trees being cut down, especially a young local woman named Lisa Alexander who had been leading the citizen effort trying to talk sense to business-compliant city councilors and who went to public meetings to beg them to slow everything down.
With so many unanswered questions about this ill-advised, heavy-handed “remodel” of our public Plaza, I urge you to learn more about what happened and why by coming to watch one of the first screenings of a new, local documentary film ‘Where Have All The Colors Gone’. It was filmed and produced by Cici and Mark Brown whose two previous local films, ‘Two in a Million’ (about Dave Marston and Robin Lawson) and ‘Bowmer in the Park’ were accepted by the Ashland Independent Film Festival and shown in 2012 and 2013. Although entered, this film was not accepted this year by AIFF and a subsequent attempt to ask the Friends of the Ashland Public Library to sponsor the film was also declined. Happily, Havurah Shir Hadash will be hosting one of the first local screenings on Wednesday April 1 from 7 – 8:30 pm. A $5 donation is requested, refreshments will be served, and I will present live ukulele music to open the evening. I am also very proud to tell you that you will hear me making my music in the “soundtrack” to this excellent film.
In the photos below (courtesy Preserve Ashland’s Historic Plaza), you see Lisa communing with the Japanese maple on the Plaza before it was moved; Lisa on the cold December morning when we stood to witness the trees being cut down; yours truly standing by her; the two liquidambars standing alive on their last morning; and the stump and rounds a bit later — with photographic proof of healthy wood from the center to the bark (in direct opposition to the ‘spin explanation’ about the ‘poor health’ of these trees in legal testimony by senior city staff). As William Blake said, “The tree which moves some to tears of joy is in the eyes of others only a green thing in the way.”
Family values — we know that phrase now. It is meant to evoke a variety of symbolic abstractions related to our biological family and all the extensions of it. Looking back on my childhood, my experience is that I was taught these family values, whatever each of us define that as. Ironically, though it might grate on my conservative friends’ ears, Elko back in the day really embodied what Hillary Clinton said much later “It takes a village to raise a child.” Because I knew first I was in a family, and that nothing I did should besmirch the Name of the family. I also knew I was surrounded by a circle of families. So if I visited my friend Les’s house and did something uncool, when I walked in the door back home, my mother said, “I just got a call from Rosie, would you like to talk about it?” Ouch! But such were the boundaries of small-town America, not a lot of wiggle room for bad behavior in the 1950s and 1960s.
So in celebration of my own family, today I’m saying that I welcome, not fear, Friday the 13th and in fact everything about the number 13. I learned it is the Lopez family number, based on the heraldic designs of former times (when royalty and important families, and then everyone, had shields (Spanish, escudos) celebrating their family. Below I’m posting a discussion of the Lopez family escudo that I sent around to my family members with my interpretation of it.
Then, a few years back we were asked by Adam and Chris Starr, the sons of my cousin Elaine Goicoechea Lopez Starr and Jim Starr, to participate in a surprise 30th Anniversary Party for them. We were asked to contribute something, and again, the lucky number 13 helped inspire me, as I recalled from high school and college literature studies the great poet Wallace Stevens and his famous poem ’13 Ways of Looking At a Blackbird’. That became my launching point, and I created my own alternate poem ’13 Ways of Looking at a BasqueBird etc.’ in honor of my cousin, her husband, their Anniversary, and their two thoughtful sons.
I hoid it through the grapevine that someone posted about me on Facebook, and it must be true as I have some new subscribers (sign up if you’re here for the first time!) from my hometown, Elko, Nevada. Welcome, bienvenidos, e komo mai! Although I will not be joining Facebook, pass the word that I’d love to hear from all compadres from back in the day and that I answer all emails promptly. As a thank you for subscribing, here’s a postcard of the old Stockmen’s Hotel, before the fire. I found this among my Dad’s (Ocie Leonard “Alabam'” Holley) papers when we had to move him out of his home in Medford, Oregon, then tweaked it in Photoshop. There was a message to Dad on the back of the card, indicating Dad’s friend had probably bought it either at the Stockmen’s or somewhere in Elko on one of those postcard racks we all remember. In my youngest memories I remember the Stockmen’s block, just like this — we’d walk from the Old Post Office across the street with the cool Stockmen’s Drug Store on the corner and then past the barber shop and other stores to the hotel entrance. A busy block in Old Elko . . .
I decided to add a Subscribe feature to my site. It’s easy — just click on Subscribe on the right side of most pages, and when I post something new, you’ll get an email notification. I urge you to subscribe, especially if you are an ukulele player or one of my students, because that means you’ll automatically get an email when I post a new song tutorial.
Here’s an intriguing thought from Ralph Waldo Emerson, “We are all inventors, each sailing out on a voyage of discovery, guided each by a private chart, of which there is no duplicate.”