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Ashland lovingly roasted at Havurah fundraiser

A “roast” is a feast where people get up and tell hilarious truths about colleagues, friends, the workplace and the town, bringing down the cocktail-sipping crowd in gales of laughter, ripping off the emperor’s new clothes, but without sticking any real daggers in anyone.

OK, maybe a few. 

The third annual Roast of Ashland, a fundraiser for Havurah Shir Hadash on Saturday evening, had 100 people splitting their sides, beginning with Mayor John Stromberg, who said he’s forbidden by city code from criticizing any city employee, so he would roast himself. He was, he said, attending a group discussion inspired by the contentious movie “Vaxxed” and, after a respectable period of time, had to leave, but found himself wrestling with himself about exiting at a politically correct moment, so he wouldn’t appear to be stomping out in disgust, depending on who was speaking.

Daniel Greenblatt, owner of Greenleaf Restaurant (the longest running vegetarian-, vegan-, organic- and gluten-free friendly eatery in town) roasted his customers, starting with those waiting for a to-go order but taking up a table and letting their kids trash the place. Then there’s getting dinged for the city sign code, rushing out for a few supplies but getting a ticket when you hurriedly park again, coping with a guy in need of grief counseling after eating a turkey burger and being hounded to donate to every team and event that comes along.

Felice Laurel, singing under the nom de roast “Bliss Vixen,” raked one of the town’s easiest targets, the New Age hippie, ending with the de rigueur rub in the hot tub. Co-emcee Debra Zaslow mocked the “conscious tantric love partner” of one married guy, with his wife excusing it by noting her target of his affection was prettier than another woman’s.

No one ever nailed Ashland’s eccentricities and hypocrisies like siblings David and Lisa Koch, who were born here. You’ve been in Ashland too long, they sang, if you know all the names the college has had, you complain about the traffic after living in L.A., you weep when you hear the name Geppetto’s (a beloved restaurant that closed in 2011) and you remember Rabbi David Zaslow, the roast host, before he cleaned up.

Ashland’s outrageous rental prices took a roasting, as costs were affixed to pup tents and dog houses. The mayor heard no end of complaints from the duo about parking, ever-present orange cones on streets, the proposed one-lane (each way) traffic diet for downtown and building a mansion right next to Lithia Park, so a DeBoer can be near the playground and better hear the drum circles. Then there’s the supposed new pot shop with bookstore called “Weed All About It,” Lithia water that “has tangerine-tinted bad jujus” — and the moaning refrain, “I’m moving to Talent till Ashland gets rent control.”

The Kochs bade us imagine Ashland today, if Angus Bowmer had mused it would be better to start a church than a Shakespeare festival — how about “Seventh Day Siskiyouism – 'yes, less risky than starting a theater.'”

Roasting Ashland High School, Paul Huard suggested the town is surrounded by the Great Wall of Patchouli and noted that, when many teachers are asked what they were before becoming a teacher, reply, “happy.” The educational rigors of the “No Child Left Behind” effort was nothing, he said, compared to a Jewish mother proclaiming “My son will be a doctor!”

Public TV host Jeff Golden of “Immense Possibilities” complained of competition to see who can find Plaza parking first — and how one has to resist strangling the single sleepy postal worker working next to three closed windows at the post office.

Your correspondent roasted his Daily Tidings, noting that — befitting paradisiacal Ashland — it never features a mugging or fire as its cover story, leaving such unhappy news of the Dark Side to the Mail Tribune.

“We feature awesome, creative stuff — OLLI classes, climate groups and restored pioneer statues” yours truly said, and we run girls volleyball as the lead story on the online Tidings so, per policy (and playing catchup with Facebook) we can post the maximum number of local faces online. Its journalists used to puff up with pride when driving by the Tidings building, but it’s an art gallery now and now we get a faint hit of that pride when we look at the editor’s laptop, which contains the whole newsroom of earlier days.

The Tidings readership took a roasting, with only 10 percent of the town’s population as subscribers. It’s only 5 bucks a week, the price of a latte and half a scone, so — show of hands — how many will get on the internet tomorrow and subscribe? Three hands went up. Maybe the rest already subscribe.

The fundraiser to support "all the educational programs we have at the Havurah, from our children’s Hebrew school to all our adult education programs" drew a full house of 100 people, according to Zaslow.

"It’s terrific that we raised some funds at our annual roast, but what we’re really doing raising awareness of how important community is in our lives," he told the Tidings. "Also, humor in itself can be healing. When we laugh at ourselves in a way that isn’t self-deprecating, new ideas come to us about how to solve problems we thought were insolvable."

John Darling is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.