Among the victims of the decline of Rt 1 were the old school sign painters, who not only lost steady clients who had paid them to keep signs in tip top shape, but were later hit with the double whammy of being replaced by cheaper, faster digital sign making. Another brick in the analog vs. digital wall you'll see me write about a lot. Suffice it to say there are a lot of old motels in and near Ashland.
Rates for motels tend to be around $200 a week. As I mentioned in my post The Magic of Fundraising, my friend Dave Powers has come to Ashland many times since 2004. His stays can last up to a few months. (It takes a long time to build and install Halloween decor for an entire theme park. No, we don't only work one month out of the year on such events). The cheapest places to stay in Ashland are motels.
$200 a week is a pretty good deal. That's less than $30 a night. Hotels can easily cost twice that. Dave has generally had good experiences staying in these motels in Ashland. But funny thing... I'd stop by the motel to see Dave, and I realized that there were people LIVING in these motels. You could tell by the sheer amount of stuff they had with them. I've seen laundry hanging up outside of motels. And I've seen more people than probably should have been staying in one room.
My mental wheels started turning. While $200 a month might be a good rate compared to a hotel room, $800 a month for a single room SUCKS compared to living in an apartment. Why in God's name would anyone choose to live in a freaking motel?
Ah... there's the word... "choose".
One day about a year ago, my wife was a bit upset. She told me she had seen a documentary on families that were living in the motels around Ashland. She told me I had to see it. I never got around to it. Until yesterday.
See, last week I attended the Ashland Town Council Candidates Forum. A chance to listen to the candidates speak about why they are running for office. A chance to ask them questions. A chance for them to answer. One of the candidates stuck out to me like a sore thumb. Her name is Lucinda Jones.
See, I was there to ask about the candidates position on forming an arts and culture district in Ashland. I wanted to start a very public conversation about the natural tension that exists between trying to preserve "community standards", (which are subjective and vary from place to place), and an artists freedom of expression, particularly in the context of censorship. My question was taken seriously, with candidates varying somewhat along the spectrum in regards to standing up for freedom of expression. There was some laughter.
Other questions had to do with supporting a theoretical new interstate exchange north of town, and preserving Ashland as a "sleepy little town" vs. trying to stimulate economic grown. Most answers were fairly predictable, with the candidates seeming to agree with one another on most issues.
There Lucinda Jones stood out like a wearied lighthouse keeper, trying to keep a beacon shining in a turbulent storm so that incoming ships don't dash themselves against the rocks. She spoke for the invisibles.
|Photo from Richmond Times Dispatch|
"Have you seen the lighthouse?", Cried Marie Christine
"Have you seen the jagged rocks, and the waters in-between?
Have you seen the lighthouse? Oh save me if you can!
And if you do I promise you I'll never sail again!"