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Goodbye Ashland

After six years, I have decided to abandon the quaint mountain town of Ashland.

I'm moving to big, bad Medford.

Thing is, Medford isn't that big and not at all bad.

I realized this these past few months that found me staying more and more often in Medford for an after-work beer and some good conversation with the various Medfordites I've met at the Gypsy, 4 Daughters and Bohemian Club.

Also, I've noticed something afoot in Medford's downtown — or, as I shall now refer to it, Oldtown, a much more flattering and I believe accurate moniker.

When I first moved here in 2005, Oldtown was a wasteland. The recession three years later exacerbated the malaise that was tangible in the area. It seemed hopeless.

When I walked around Oldtown on a Saturday night, I used to feel like the main character in Richard Matheson's "I Am Legend." Alone and forlorn in an empty world overrun with nocturnal demons.

Now, with Beerworks up and running and, for better or worse, Shenanigan's pumping some cash into the area, Oldtown is rising from the dead.

Southern Oregon Brewing Co. is on the north side of town. I want to support one of the best local brewers in the area.

I'm sure I will find other things that have remained hidden since I've mostly sequestered myself in Ashland since moving to the Rogue Valley.

A recent find is the great new Bento Central place right across from The Office. Where else can you eat lunch in a place that at times has an equal number of Medford cops and strippers dining at adjoining tables? And the food is good.

And cheap.

Which is a quality that's becoming harder and harder to find in Ashland these days.

I know, I know. Ashland's always been pricey. But in the face of a stagnant wage and the cost of living inching up by the year, the town has priced a single dude like me out.

And then there's the ultimately boring, but increasingly annoying, convenience factor.

The breaking point came a few weeks ago when I needed to buy a laundry basket and a vacuum-cleaner filter one Sunday afternoon.

I hit up the few places in Ashland that I figured would sell such items. Neither had any in stock.

"You might wanna try Target in Medford," a clerk at one store told me.

That's when I knew it might be high time to move. I'm sure I could have ventured to downtown Ashland to buy a $135 hemp laundry bag handmade by some dirthead living in a teepee outside Yreka and then plunked down $86 for an enviro-friendly vacuum filter made from the web of a Himalayan cave spider.

I support these things and the 1 percent of the population that can afford to buy them. But sometimes, just sometimes, a dude only needs a plastic laundry basket and a $10 package of vacuum filters.

There are Ashland institutions that I won't go without. I will make monthly pilgrimages to More Fun comics, Oak Tree and The Black Sheep, to name a few.

Ultimately, after six years, the town has gotten really, really small.

What it comes down to is I need an adventure. Even one as pathetic as moving 10 miles up the road.

For four years, my day has consisted of waking at the same time — 9 a.m., sharp — running the same trail in Lithia Park, then grabbing coffee at the same place — The Beanery — and then driving the same route to work.

It wears on a fella after a while.

Even in Ashland, I moved once every two years on average. Sometimes I lived in three places a year. I often grow itchy staying in one place for too long.

So your challenge for the week, my Medford readers, is to send me recommendations of eateries, drinkeries and other hideaways in my new home.

I look forward to reading them.

Reach reporter Chris Conrad at 541-776-4471 or email cconrad@mailtribune.com.