Tuesday, September 22, 2009

This is a pitch...

Last week I helped launch something that turned out to be much more than I had imagined.

“It” is Ashland Audiowalks' pilot test of its first audio tour and what it consists of takes a little explaining.

I can best liken it to when you were a little kid, sitting next to someone reading from a book you loved. Pretty soon you weren’t in the room any more but somewhere else, vividly experiencing what was happening before your eyes, all conjured up by the story.

So visualize this: You go down to the Ashland Springs Hotel (having called first to make sure a tourplayer’s available - 488 1700) and pick up your tour map and the magic wand that will open windows into Ashland’s past. (This is the tourplayer - it’s like a tv remote that you listen to on the tour.) Then find the starting point on the map, down by the Plaza, and press number 1 on your player. A voice starts talking to you, revealing a secret that happened on that very spot a hundred years ago.

It sets the scene and the story unfolds. At every point on the map - and there are over 20 - you get another glimpse into the Ashland that came before. You start to feel you’re living back then and you realize that you’re recovering your own history, that is to say the history of where you now live. It’s quite amazing.

Ashland Audiowalks* is the work of Paul Christensen, who conceived of and created the walk I sampled. It’s the first of a planned set of three that cover old downtown. He’s formed a nonprofit to produce these tours. (The player and map cost $7.50 to rent.) He and his collaborators want us to try it out and give them feedback.

I invite you to join in the project. It’s a real gift to the community and a boost for local businesses as well because it helps visitors feel more at home in our town. The website is:


After you try it please tell me about your experience.

* Ashland Audiowalks is a community service of the Imagine Project, a non-profit 501 c 3 corporation.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


A city with 8 times the population of Ashland, perched at the altitude of the Mt. Ashland ski area.

Founded 66 years before the Pilgrims set foot on Plymouth Rock.

That fought for independence from its European masters 66 years before Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence.

With eight active mines that supply 80% of the world's silver.

Where police wear Level 4 body armor, carry automatic rifles and salute the Mayor; and new laws are posted on the wall of City Hall to the accompaniment of a raucous bugle and drum corps.

And on warm summer nights bands of athletic young guitar and mandolin players lead dancing, singing, laughing crowds through narrow twisting cobbled alleyways, past blocky apartments in primary colors, public building of pink and gray Cantera stone and plazas and outdoor cafes everywhere.

This is your sister, Ashland, for the past forty years...built on increasing collaboration between our universities, a newly signed agreement with OSF and the Cervantes Festival, Rotary-sponsored, self-help housing funded by $70,000 raised in a single event last month, an Ashland Room in the official cultural center and a children's library with english language books; and graciously descending Paseo Ashland, unveiled just last Wednesday, with construction funding facilitated by UNESCO's World Heritage Cities program. Plus a hundred ceremonial moments with a thousand official speeches, gifts, plaques, kisses on one check, back pats and handshakes; gifts when arriving, gifts when departing, gifts for the fun of it; music, dancing, poetry...

At the end of each day, and the beginning, open-hearted, convivial, eminently sociable strangers who become friends. The foundation is persona a persona, people to people.

And where is it going now, what William Stafford calls 'the parade of our mutual lives'? It is being lived by the children of our 79 bi-communal marriages. But how will we sisters shape it for the new world that's being born?

Guanajuato-Ashland at 40.