Best of Ashland

Part 1

Countryside Village RetirementWell, 2020 turned out to be one of those years we’d all soon like to forget. It’s hard to stay positive when 350,000 of your fellow countrymen have died at the hands of a foreign invader. COVID-19 makes Pearl Harbor and 9-11 look like a walk in the park. Then, of course, there was the Almeda Fire on September 8, which turned southern Oregon into a refugee camp. On top of that, restaurants, bars, schools, theaters and public gatherings were closed, and we actually considered ditching the “Best of Ashland” this year.

That, however, would mean accepting defeat, that there was nothing we could do about viruses and wildfires except roll over and play dead. We didn’t want to do that, and we realized that people needed some good news to digest, so the 31st annual “Best of Ashland” is on. To give our readers a chance to recognize people and organizations that really stepped up during the pandemic and fire, we added a “Create Your Own Category” section this year, and those responses will be interspersed throughout the text.

For 30 years, we have relied strictly on mail-in paper ballots for this survey. We just don’t trust online polls because we know how easily they can be manipulated by ballot stuffers. So this year we tried some new strategies in addition to the mail-in ballots (which still came in by the bunches). I personally sent out 300 emails to everyone on my list with the ballot attached, making it convenient for people to fill out and return (and I could also keep an eye out for ballot stuffing.) Then my daughter placed the ballot on our Facebook page, and we got a good response from that. In the end, we had over 250 ballots returned, and since they were required to fill out answers in at least 30 categories, we think that cut down on the ballot stuffers.

We also offered a $100 gift certificate to a local restaurant, and we would like to announce at this time that Ashland resident Ann Tibbot was this year’s winner. She selected Kobe Restaurant as her restaurant of choice (we gave her a list of 15 restaurants to choose from). Thank you to Ann and the other 255 people who sent in ballots.  

Before tabulating the results, I went through the last ten issues of 2020 just to refresh my memory, and four were devoted to COVID-19, one to the Almeda Fire, one to the Hemp Invasion, one to the election, one on race relations in Oregon, and two were fluff stories. Not a bad year’s worth of reporting.

So without further ado, Part I of the 2021 “Best of Ashland.” Part II, “Restaurants and Entertainment,” will be published in our February issue.

MEDIA

RADIO STATION PLAYING THE BEST MUSIC

 My physical therapist recommended that I run barefoot on grass to alleviate some tendinitis in my knee, so I’ve set up a running course in my back yard. Twenty-two times around is a mile, and I do two miles. Sounds boring, right? Not when you have Alexa by your side. I just tell her to play Bob Dylan or Eric Burdon and the Animals, or even the Top Billboard Songs from 1965, and I crank up the volume. You’d be amazed how fast those laps roll around.

Someday I suppose I’ll have her tune in to a local radio station, and according to our readers, the top choice would be Jefferson Public Radio’s KSMF (89.1-FM), which is their “Rhythm & News” station.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • KISS 107.5, Top 40
  • The Wolf, 95.1, Classic Country
  • The Valley, 106.3, adult album alternative
  • JPR’s KSOR, 90.1, classical music
  • KCNA (102.7), oldies
  • KSKQ, 89.5, community radio

FAVORITE LOCAL NEWS STATION

They were definitely kept busy this year covering the pandemic, lockdowns, elections and fires, not to mention sundry car accidents, robberies and burglaries, intermingled with a lot of good-news stories. And once again KDRV-Channel 12, with Brian Morton leading the way, took down top honors in this category, followed by:

  • KOBI-Channel 5
  • KTVL-Channel 10
  • KMVU-Fox 26
  • KSYS-Southern Oregon Public Television

FAVORITE REPORTER AT THE DAILY TIDINGS

Being a reporter is not easy, especially with hard-nosed editors breathing down your neck. Back in 5th grade through 8th, I started a free weekly newspaper which was passed around on the playground during recess (1-8 grades in a school of 160 kids). My mother (bless her heart) saved all those newspapers, and here are some close encounters I had with reporters:

  • “I had to fire Steve Spalding because all he wanted to do was play slaughter ball at recess instead of going out and getting news.” (I mean, I HAD to fire him.)
  • I placed a want ad looking for reporters and was actually going to spend three cents for every four pieces of news each week. (The last of the big-time spenders.)
  • “Wanted: One girl from any room to write down all the things that happen on the girls’ side and what games they play.” (That was apparently news of utmost interest to a 6th grade boy.)

I could go on, but you get the point. Over at our favorite daily newspaper, Shaun Hall, who covers news throughout the city, was top dog with our readers, followed by:

  • John Darling, feature writer
  • Reporter Allayana Darrow
  • Reporter Vickie Aldous
  • Columnist Chris Honoré
  • Sports Editor Danny Penza

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Patie Millen, who put together a coordinated plan to help families displaced by the Almeda Fire. Her group, heartrising.org, matches families with five volunteer households who work together as a unit to uplift and support those families. “We have many wonderful organizations reaching out to the community, all providing an array of services and support,” Patie said. “Researching, managing and accessing that information is a massive job, and that’s what our program is doing for the families.”

PEOPLE/BUSINESS

BEST NEW BUSINESS IN TOWN (LAST YEAR)

A year from now, they’re going to be handing out awards for any business that made it through these perilous times. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Sneak Preview is nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize and/or a Presidential Medal of Honor (I mean, if Rush Limbaugh can get one, we can’t be far behind). But for now, we’re going to have to content ourselves with the Best of Ashland.

In this category, our readers named a few new businesses, and this year ended in a tie between Burrito Republic, a burrito “stand” opened by Sam Jackson at 46 E. Main, and Billy’s Fried Chicken at 84 N. Main (on the main level where Thai Pepper Bar used to be)

Others high on the list were:

  • Luna Love Boutique at 250 Oak Street, a shop selling unique, tropical and hard to find houseplants, among other things
  • Old World Artifacts (287 4th Street), offering an unusual, hard to find variety of Asian artifacts and more
  • Craving Cave Restaurant in the Tolman Creek Plaza, with traditional Mexican-American fare and a sports bar
  • Fiber Arts Collective, a new art gallery located at 37 N. 3rd Street
  • Elder Apothecary at 815 Tyler Creek Road, with a broad selection of organic herbs and tinctures
  • Clyde’s Corner, a pizza house at 4495 S. Pacific Highway in Phoenix, which was opened by some Ashland High School graduates

MOST COMMUNITY-MINDED BUSINESSPERSON

It’s not enough that most businesspeople put in 60-70 hours a week making sure the business is running smoothly and all the employees and customers are happy. Many of them turn around and donate a lot of their time and money to local organizations, serving on boards, volunteering at events, and providing logistical support for numerous causes throughout the valley.

It was an impressive list of businesspeople but taking down the top spot this year was Morgan George of Northwest Pizza and Pasta, who donates a lot of his time, money and pizzas to various organizations throughout Ashland. He especially stepped up during the pandemic, smoke, and fires.

The list also included:

  • Pam and Kelly Jean Hammond of the Paddington Family of Stores
  • Jim Teece of Ashland Home Net
  • Nyki Keefe of Bestow & Bloom
  • Ramiro Padilla at El Tapatio
  • Jamie North of Mix and ReMix
  • Matt Bernard of Darex
  • Lloyd Haines
  • Doug and Becky Neuman

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to the Ashland Emergency Food Bank. It was open for business throughout the pandemic and fire.

* * * * *

FAVORITE HIGH SCHOOL TEACHER

High school is more important than you think. As a memory exercise, I tried to remember the names of some of my high school teachers and actually came up with twenty of them (five were nuns). For my four years of college, I couldn’t name a single one. The teenage years are obviously impressionable ones, and it’s important that we have a strong core of teachers to lead the budding adults down the path of being good citizens.

Our readers provided us with some good leads, and the number one choice this year was Humanities teacher Peter Bolling, followed by:

  • Humanities and Fine Arts teacher Betsy Bishop
  • Humanities and World Language teacher Kimberley Healey
  • Humanities teacher Gerald Roscher
  • Family and Consumer Studies teacher Jake Taub
  • Science teacher Becky DeSalvo

FAVORITE PRINCIPAL

About 27 years ago, I did a story on some contentious issue (can’t even remember what it was), and the City Administrator was totally upset with how I presented the story. He demanded that I come into his office and explain myself, and when I wrote the follow-up article, I titled it, “Getting Called into the Principal’s Office.” Then he got mad about that … go figure. But that’s what it felt like, and I’m sure everyone knows what I’m talking about.

Our readers singled out quite a few principals in this survey, giving most of their accolades to Tiffany Burns, the principal at Walker Elementary, where she tends to the likes of extremely well-behaved kids like Sawyer and Hunter Marks, my grandsons.

Others high on the list were:

  • Benjamin Bell, Ashland High School
  • Steve Retzlaff, Ashland Middle School
  • Michelle Cuddeback, Helman Elementary
  • Lindsay Gates, Bellview Elementary

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Trish Dorr, 5th grade teacher at Helman. She bought supplies to make Christmas ornament kits, getting many friends and grandmas to put the bags together for 700 elementary kids, who were burned out in Talent and Phoenix. Each child will get a bag to make three ornaments so that they have some decorations.

* * * * *

CUTEST BABY BORN IN THE LAST YEAR 

This year’s contest ended up an exact tie between Huxton Hogge (parents Abby and Matt) and Sawyer Kamel (parents Chris and Alyssa). Just too darn cute.

CUTEST PET

It was a tough battle for top dog in this category, but in the end Arroya, a German Shepherd puppy belonging to Nichole and Zane, came out on top. No one can argue that puppies aren’t cute.

We had quite a few people send in photos of their pets, and there isn’t enough room to print them all. We picked three more really cute ones, though, featuring Vern, Manhole (the store pet at Paddington Station), and Kitty.

FAVORITE DENTIST

Favorite dentist jokes: What do dentists do on roller coasters? Brace themselves; What happens when you go to the dentist multiple times? You know the drill; How did the dentist become a brain surgeon? His drill slipped; What did the dentist see at the North Pole? A molar bear; Child: “My dentist says bacon and soda works just as good as toothpaste.” Parent: “That’s baking soda.” Child: “Never mind.”

Yeah, I know, fairly lame, but I was just trying to lighten up this survey a little bit. And in this year’s balloting, Brian Kitchell of Ashland Dental & Oral Health, was voted number one.

It was close for the Top Five, which included:

  • Brandt Cullen of Ashland Family Dental
  • Ed Warr of Today’s Dentistry
  • Mehdi Lee Ghavam
  • Pete Schwarzer

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Gary McGraw
  • Eugene Robbins
  • Brandon White

FAVORITE FAMILY DOCTOR

You got stranded on top of Mt. Everest after all the Sherpas decided to head down the mountain for Happy Hour. By the time you got back to base camp, you were suffering from altitude sickness, frostbite, and a severe case of the trots. This definitely called for a visit to the family doctor, and in Ashland, our readers were able to name quite a few. Emerging at the top was Leslie Stone, who has been in practice for more than 20 years and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area.

Others high on the list were:

  • Jani Rollins
  • Steve Hersch
  • Karin Kuhl
  • Miriam Soriano
  • Pat Honsinger, who works in Talent
  • Sara Walz
  • Geoff Houghton, Naturopathic Doctor

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. After the fire, they did everything possible to help their employees and the community, providing housing, food, gift cards and just so much love.

* * * * *

FAVORITE ACUPUNCTURIST

I went to an acupuncturist a couple of years ago and on her wall was a cartoon showing a guy lying on a table. The sign in the background said, “Ed’s One Second Acupuncture Treatment.” The doctor is holding a porcupine above his head and yells, “Ready?” It was pretty funny, and it was reassuring to know that the acupuncturist had a sense of humor.

Acupuncture has actually been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years to help treat a wide range of conditions. You hardly even feel the thin needles, and they work by facilitating the flow of energy throughout the body. Our readers were able to single out a number of acupuncturists and this ended in a tie between Leslie Shanai of Acupuncture Oasis and Jody Herriott of Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Chad Moyer of Peoples Choice Acupuncture
  • Molly Romero of Active Acupuncture
  • Ken Bendat of Traditional Chinese Medicine
  • Yvette Bedrossian of Community Acupuncture
  • Nicole Peterson (Ashland Family Acupuncture)

FAVORITE HAIR STYLIST

The TV crew from CNN is outside the house ready to interview you about receiving the Nobel Peace Prize for your work at the Garden Club’s cookie sales … and your hair is a mess. A helicopter is waiting surreptitiously in the backyard to whisk you away to a hair stylist of your choosing. Our readers were all over the board on this, naming 35 different people, including their number one choice, Georgene Crowe, who actually won this category for the first time in 1993. We appreciate her patience in waiting 28 years for the next one.

The list of favorite also included:

  • Leon Danielle
  • Vonda Sambrano at Strands
  • Katie Yasui of DKor Hair Design
  • Kevin Huggins at Plaza Salon
  • Angel Ramirez at Waterstone Spa
  • Edythe Westbrook of Sunshine Salon
  • Holly Stanley at Blue Giraffe
  • Victoria Hernandez at Plaza Salon

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Blackstone Audio. They matched dollar for dollar all contributions for their eight people who lost homes due to the fire. Plus, they made unsolicited donations to all the bookstores in Ashland.

* * * * *

FAVORITE MECHANIC

When I was 38 years old, I finally broke down and bought a new car. It had six miles on it, and I was ecstatic. Before that, the most I’d ever spent on a car was $300, and trust me, I got to know the names of every mechanic in town and even got invited to their bachelor parties. Those cars were constantly breaking down, and in the long run, I would have been better off buying a new car.

Where to go when you need some work on your car? Two of them really stuck out in our readers’ minds: Zach Edwards at Ashland Automotive Inc. (550 Clover Lane) and Dan Dawson at McClure’s Auto Repair (1765 Siskiyou), followed closely by:

  • The guys at Ashland Auto Repair
  • Donnie Elliott of Southern Oregon Automotive
  • The guys at Valley View Auto Repair
  • Dan Wolff Auto Repair
  • Jon Isbel of Siskiyou Imports
  • Rudi at Rudi’s Auto Service

FAVORITE ATTORNEY

Okay, some more scenes from the courtroom that allegedly really happened:

Attorney: Doctor, how many of your autopsies have you performed on dead people?

Witness: All of them. The live ones put up too much of a fight.

* * * * *

Attorney: How was your first marriage terminated?

Witness: By death.

Attorney: And by whose death was it terminated?

Witness: Take a guess.

* * * * *

If I’d known courtrooms could be so much fun, I would’ve become a lawyer! Anyway, our readers appreciate the work that our local attorneys provide for Ashland, and they named 20 different ones in this survey. Topping the list for 2020 was a tie between Jack Davis (of Davis, Hearn, Anderson & Taylor) and Cheri Elson of Drescher Elson Sperber.

The list also included:

  • Michael Balocca
  • Susan Krant
  • Bob Good
  • Gary Turner

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Clarinda Merripen of the Black Sheep. She organized “Wild Relief Music Festival,” a benefit concert in October for the fire victims. The theme was “mending the Rogue Valley one song at a time.”

* * * * *

FAVORITE POLICEPERSON

Police all over the country are getting a bad rap these days. I know it’s anecdotal but in all my dealings with policemen (and women) over the last forty or fifty decades, I have never once run into one who was being unreasonable or aggressive. That’s not to say that those who lose control and forget what their job is should not be held legally responsible for unnecessary violence or death. Some people just aren’t meant to be cops, and there needs to be a more stringent hiring practice. For example, if they take a psychological test and answer, “If I don’t get the right amount of sleep, I sometimes lose control and want to kill the first person I see” … well, we might want to deny that application.

Anyway, our readers were able to single out quite a few police officers in this survey, including their number one favorite, Police Chief Tighe O’Meara.

 Also receiving quite a few votes were:

  • Officer Bon Stewart
  • Officer Hector Melitich
  • Officer Matt Carpenter
  • Officer Bob Smith
  • Officer Mike Vanderlip

FAVORITE LOCAL RESTAURANT OWNER

This definitely is not a great time to be a restaurant owner, but you have to admire their resilience and tenacity. Those who make it through are going to become stronger and better than ever, and for that reason, our readers named 25 different restaurant owners that they are rooting for.

Landing at the top of the list this year was the friendly and hard-working Salvador de la Cruz of La Casa del Pueblo. As one reader, who just happened to be a restaurant owner, said, “The guys delivers the food to you in his own car. Who does that?”

The Top Ten featured:

  • Nicole Ruibal of Kobe
  • Tom and Lisa Beam of Pie + Vine and Sesame
  • Billy Harto of Thai Pepper and Billy’s Fried Chicken
  • Morgan George of NW Pizza & Pasta
  • Rob and Annie Harvey of Beasy’s on the Creek and Harvey’s
  • Oliver Fix of Ostra’s
  • Marty Morlan of Martino’s and Macaroni’s
  • Beasy McMillan of Cucina Biazzi
  • Jesse Nuñez of El Paraiso

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Ramiro Padilla and El Tapatio Restaurant for feeding people who lost homes in the fire, and for coordinating resources to aid fire victims.

* * * * *

FAVORITE WAITPERSON

In a scene from Dante’s Inferno, our hero enters the seventh gate of hell and is required to work as a waitperson for 24 hours. He’s tasked with serving drunken college students, families with five screaming babies at the table, yuppies who insist on sending their plates back to the chef for fine tuning, a five-top with tourists from Sri Lanka who don’t speak a word of English, and a table of whitewater rafters who just got off the river tracking sand and dead muskrats throughout the restaurant. By the end of the day, it was so harrowing that he repented all his sins and asked the Lord for forgiveness.

Okay, I was probably exaggerating there, but sometimes waitpeople are close to saints. Our readers actually nominated 25 local waitpersons for sainthood, including this year’s winner, Kate Kuhn of Oak Tree Northwest Bar & Grill.

Others mentioned a lot were:

  • Amy Wong at Martino’s
  • Julie VandenBerg of Amuse
  • Pai Kim at Omar’s
  • Chico Orozco of El Paraiso
  • Alli Campbell at Thai Pepper
  • Sierra at Thai Pepper

FAVORITE BARTENDER

More bartender jokes: A Roman soldier sits down at a bar, holds up two fingers and says, “Five beers, please.”  --A neutron walked into a bar and asked the bartender, “How much for a beer?” The bartender said, “For you, no charge.” --The police chief asked, “Do you have any leads or suspects for the murder case?” The officer responded, “I’d like to interview the bartender wearing high heels and a leopard print dress.” The chief frowned and said, “Please, just wear your police uniform.”

Funny, right? If you actually want to hear some real jokes, our readers were able to name 12 different bartenders as their favorite. Topping the list this year was Zeke Hudson and the crew at Alchemy Restaurant & Bar, followed by:

  • Zach Benson of Thai Pepper
  • Gary Allen of Oak Tree
  • Chris Arthur at Omar’s
  • Freddie Herrera of Mezcal
  • Blake Henry of Brickroom
  • Kimmy Hudson at Omar’s

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Paddington Station. They donated over $12,000 in product after the Almeda Fire and collected over $3,000 in contributions.

* * * * *

FAVORITE COMPUTER REPAIRMAN

You can only go to Youtube so many times and type in, “My computer is making funny noises and is directing me to a dating service in Russia when I try to send emails to my mother who was apparently kidnapped while visiting Nigeria, and I need to get her out of prison.” Their advice: turn your computer off and on. Yeah, right … this is my mom we’re talking about, dude!!

Anyway, there’s nothing more unnerving than to have your computer go on the blink, and you usually need it repaired immediately. Who to call? Leading the way in this category was Lenny Neimark of Mac Man, who’s been in the business for over 20 years and is also a local theater director (he did Hair at the high school two years ago to rave reviews).

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Miles at Dr. Networking
  • Ashland Mac Repair
  • NMD Technology Services

FAVORITE PLUMBER

About 15 years ago, the leaky faucet in the bathroom was driving me crazy, so I decided to fix it just to surprise my wife and let her know how handy I was around the house. It had to be logical, right? I used a screwdriver to get the top knob off, then when I went to fool around with the main unit, I got hit in the face with a shot of water as if Old Faithful had just gone off. Apparently, no one told me you had to turn the water off in the main valve. So much for logic, huh? Ever since then, our plumber has become my best friend, and I leave all jobs, no matter how big or small, to him.

Who to call when you have a plumbing problem that needs to be fixed? Our readers named 22 different people in this category, including this year’s winner, John Latham of Latham Plumbing, followed by:

  • Roger at S.O.S. Plumbing
  • Greg Sprague
  • Scott Fitch
  • Economy Plumbing
  • Roto Rooter

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: “Best Local Nonprofit That Has Helped Fire Victims”: Rogue Food Unites and OSF. “Best Banks That Helped after the Fire”: People’s Bank of Commerce and Rogue Federal Credit Union.

* * * * *

FAVORITE ELECTRICIAN

Electricity is not something to mess with on a do-it-yourself basis. Just Google, “What Happens to Your Body When You’re Electrocuted,” and you’ll see what I mean. As a public service announcement, I want to strongly recommend that you leave that job to a professional.

Our readers agree, and they named quite a few electricians in this survey. This ended in a tie between J.R. Robertson of Rogue Valley Electric and Charles Richey of Ashland Electric.

Others high on the list were:

  • John Fiore of John Fiore Electric
  • Jeff Benson of Jeff Benson Electric
  • Ricco Patterson of Ricco Patterson Electric
  • Scott Ploss Electrical Excellence

* * * * *

FAVORITE STORE DOWNTOWN

Who needs all those fancy malls in San Francisco and Portland when you have downtown Ashland? There’s something for everyone, you’ll run into friends, family and neighbors, there’s plenty of parking, and you can visit your favorite bar and/or restaurant while you’re there. It also has an eclectic mix of stores, and our readers were able to name 20 of them as number one, starting with perennial favorite Paddington Station, located at 125 E. Main. In fact, the entire Paddington Family of Stores all received some mention, including The Paddington Jewel Box (180 E. Main); Inspired by Oregon (125 E. Main); and Paddington Express (corner of E. Main and 1st).

Other stores high on the list were:

  • Bloomsbury Books
  • Papaya
  • Tree House
  • American Trails
  • Prize
  • Mountain Provisions
  • Gold & Gems Fine Jewelry
  • NW Nature Shop
  • Manzanita
  • Crown Jewel
  • Culinarium
  • Travel Essentials

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Morgan George and Northwest Pizza & Pasta. When everything closed and they had to do take-out only, they started a deal giving you gift cards to other restaurants so that you could consider spreading your money around. Great concept, and they have donated to every cause, most recently food for fire victims.

* * * * *

FAVORITE STORE OUTSIDE DOWNTOWN

There’s the Railroad District, north end of town, the college area/Shopping Center, and the south end, all with shops offering something for everyone. And once again are readers had consignment shops on their minds as they voted Deja Vu (a clothing store) and Ashland Artisans Emporium (a gift shop with over 160 vendors), both located in the Ashland Shopping Center, as their favorites.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Ace Hardware in the Railroad District
  • Bestow & Bloom at 1606 Ashland Street (next to ReMix)
  • Ashland Recycled Furniture in the Railroad District
  • Bi-Mart
  • The Dollar Store in the Shopping Center
  • Rare Earth in the Railroad District
  • Get N Gear in the Railroad District
  • Hospice Unique Boutique at 1618 Ashland Street.
  • Renaissance Rose in the Railroad District,
  • Gallerie Karon in the Railroad District

BEST PLACE TO BUY CHILDREN’S CLOTHES/TOYS

The winners of this were actually broken down into two categories. According to our readers, the best place to buy children’s clothes was Bug a Boo of Ashland, located at 40 N. Main, across from the Plaza. And when it comes to children’s toys, the overwhelming favorite was Northwest Nature Shop at 154 Oak Street.

Others receiving votes were:

  • Earth Friendly Kids
  • Tree House
  • Paddington Station
  • Fun Again Games
  • Goodwill

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to the Ashland Chamber of Commerce, for stepping up during the pandemic and fires.

* * * * *

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR MOM

As a public service announcement, here is a list of reasons to buy gifts for Mom in January. January 9: Static Electricity Day; January 11: Learn Your Name in Morse Code Day; January 13: Clean Off Your Desk Day; January 15: Strawberry Ice Cream Day; January 16: Nothing Day. And my all-time favorite is January 17: Ditch New Year’s Resolutions Day.

So let’s get out there and guy some gifts for Mom! Where to go? This ended up in a tie between Bloomsbury Books and Paddington Station, although the Top Eight were pretty close. They included:

  • Papaya
  • Manzanita 
  • Ashland Artisans Emporium 
  • Jupiter Row
  • Crown Jewel
  • Prize

The list also included:

  • Gold & Gems Fine Jewelry
  • American Trails
  • Heart & Hands
  • Culinarium

BEST PLACE TO BUY GIFTS FOR DAD

When it comes to buying gifts for me, my kids always refer to the Three B’s: Books, Booze and Balls (golf, that is). Then, of course, there’s the occasional shirt, gardening equipment, and some interesting flowers for the garden. They surprised me one year with a Vita-Mix blender for my smoothies, which was much appreciated. Other than that … the Three B’s.

Topping the list for 2021 in this category was Ace Hardware, located at 249 A Street in the Railroad District, followed by:

  • Bi-Mart
  • Bloomsbury Books
  • Inspired by Oregon
  • Mountain Provisions
  • The Fly Shop
  • Travel Essentials

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Mark Yaconelli of The Hearth and Erica Ledesma who heads up its Latinx program. They rallied to formally train fire relief volunteers at shelters and donation centers in “Compassionate Listening.” Volunteers were finding that most fire survivors, when receiving supplies, really just needed to talk to someone about what they’d gone through. The Hearth trained volunteers to be that listening ear.

* * * * *

BEST SELECTION OF WOMEN’S CLOTHES

My daughter and I used to go on father-daughter road trips, and the last day was always a visit to a mall somewhere so that she could stock up on school clothes. We had a routine: she’d pick out a store, and I would find a comfortable chair to read a book. On one memorable occasion, I got a little sleepy and she had to wake me up with the admonition, “Dad, you were snoring!” Oops.

Where to go to shop for women’s clothes in Ashland? According to our readers, this was a 3-way tie between Patina Soul, located at 342 Lithia Way; Thread Hysteria at 19 N. Main on the Plaza; and Kixx, located at 264 E. Main.

Also mentioned a lot were:

  • Outback in the Temple of Venus
  • Deja Vu
  • Avant Garb
  • Paddington Station and Paddington Jewel Box
  • Papaya

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: “Fireman of the Year” should be Kelly Burns, Battalion Chief on the Almeda Fire.

* * * * *

GROCERY STORE WITH BEST SELECTION OF MEAT

As a carnivore, my mouth started watering just thinking about this category. Yes, I am slowly adding vegetarian meals to my diet whenever possible but going cold turkey (excuse the pun) won’t be happening anytime soon. The local grocery stores will be there to help out, and this category ended in a tie between the Ashland Food Coop (237 N. 1st Street) and Market of Choice, located at 1475 Siskiyou.

Others in the hunt (again, excuse the pun) were:

  • Shop N Kart
  • Albertsons
  • Safeway
  • Costco

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Talent Maker Fair which provided an amazing response helping others after the fire. Also, kudos to local restaurants and retail shops that offered free food and clothing. And we can’t forget our brave First Responders.

* * * * *

BEST PLACE TO BUY CBD PRODUCTS

For the uninitiated, CBD stands for cannabidiol, a chemical compound of the cannabis sativa plant which, unlike its marijuana cousin, does NOT contain THC, the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana. CBD has been found to help with a slew of health conditions, from pain management and anxiety to sore muscles. CBD comes from hemp plants, and because of the popularity of CBD in the last five years, hemp farms have proliferated in southern Oregon, as have stores offering CBD products.

Our readers were able to identify quite a few stores offering CBD products. Topping the list was Breeze Botanicals, located at 1526 Siskiyou, followed by:

  • Ashland Food Coop
  • Spativa
  • House of Leaves
  • Kaleafa
  • Shop N Kart

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to Clyde’s Corner in Talent. They opened their business during the pandemic, and miraculously saved their building during the fire. They reopened offering coffee to anyone and donated profits to fire victims.

* * * * *

FAVORITE GAS STATION

My favorite part of the movie Back to the Future is when Marty McFly ends up back in the year 1955 and when he walks by a gas station, he sees five employees in white run out to greet a car. They pump gas, check the tires, wash the windows, check the oil, etc. Now that was service. And gas was probably 13 cents a gallon.

But we can’t live in the past, can we? Our readers still love their gas stations, reserving their number one choice this year for the Mobil Station at the corner of Siskiyou and Walker.

The Top Five included:

  • The Astro Station across from the Library at E. Main
  • The ARCO Station just before the Interstate
  • Ashland Hills 76
  • The station at Circle K across from Ashland Hills Inn.

* * * * *

FROM OUR READERS: Kudos to police, firemen, postal workers, grocery store clerks, gas attendants, UPS drivers, retail workers, and the medical community during this pandemic.

POLITICS

 

A VERY UNSCIENTIFIC POLITICAL POLL

Each year we ask our readers to answer four political questions just to gauge the mood of the community. These answers are “relatively” accurate since very few people stuff the ballot for them.

1. Do you think racism is a problem in Ashland? I suppose it all depends on how you define “problem,” but I would bet that people of color define it a lot different from the majority of local residents. This question was asked of local residents just after a young Black man was shot and killed by a deranged white man in the parking lot of the Stratford Inn, so the results might have been skewed a little bit. The George Floyd murder in Minneapolis last year also opened a lot people’s eyes to the reality of systemic racism in this country. We’re hoping that will all change, but in the interim the vast majority of our readers still think it’s a problem, even in Ashland.

Yes, it’s a problem: 69%
No, it’s not a problem: 31%

2. Do you wear a face mask when out in public? Here’s the reality: if the United States had done what many other countries had done in February, this whole coronavirus pandemic would be in our rear view mirror right now. If we had endorsed social distancing, the wearing of masks, assiduous washing of hands with soap, carrying disinfectant around with us, and conducting massive tests with contact tracing follow-ups, we would have this thing under control. Unfortunately, we did not do that, but every health official on earth says that the wearing of masks could hold down transmission by up to 75%. Did you know that South Korea and the United States both recorded their first case of COVID-19 on January 22, 2020? Today, South Korea has it totally under control, and the United States is the biggest viral hot spot on the planet. This is an enemy that has attacked the United States, and it is up to every patriotic American to fight it with every means necessary, and that means wearing a mask. Our readers agree wholeheartedly.

Yes, I wear them: 96%

No, I don’t wear them: 4% 

3. Would you get vaccinated against COVID-19 if available? This is a tough one because some people believe that vaccinations are a plot to control people’s minds. Yet without vaccinations, we’d still have polio, smallpox, measles and rubella. And when it comes to COVID-19 and the economic disruption and loss of lives that it has caused, there can’t be many people out there unwilling to give vaccinations a chance. Most people in Ashland are on board with that.

Yes, I’ll get vaccinated: 73%

No, I’ll not get vaccinated: 27%

4. Do you think Joe Biden has a chance of uniting the nation? This issue of the Sneak Preview will be in the mail on Friday, January 8, and in twelve days our long national nightmare will be over. I realize there are still Trump supporters out there willing to fight to the very end, but you have to admit that your guy is acting like a whiny little brat. Can we just get this thing over with? President Biden will be faced with some enormous problems to solve: the pandemic, the economy, racial justice, just to name a few. I know he wants to unite the country, but some people will refuse to cooperate, just as a considerable number of people didn’t want to unite behind Trump. The difference is that Trump didn’t care about uniting the country, while Biden sincerely does. Our readers think he has a chance to do that.

Yes, he has a chance: 68%

No, it’s hopeless: 32%

* * * * *

Phew! That was three days of counting ballots and writing this thing. Thanks to COVID-19, I can’t go to my favorite bar to order shots of tequila, so I guess a quick trip to the liquor cabinet will have to do. See you in February for Part II.

—C.H.