A U-Haul sits in my driveway packed and loaded like a Thanksgiving turkey awaiting its time in an oven. By the time you read this the U-Haul will have made the 2.5 hour journey to Lexington, been unloaded, and its contents including but not limited to one full size bed, one large tan colored sofa, an assortment of antique furniture, a massive amount of clothes, and approximately twenty-two large boxes will have been moved into my new second floor apartment smack-dap between downtown Lexington and the heart of campus. In theory all of this stuff will have been put away, organized, and arranged in a manner that would look fitting for the pages of Elle Décor, but in actuality a large portion of these things will remain in their boxes, bags, or suitcases until I return for the start of the semester next week. In a matter of days I will begin my third year at U.K. I still have no clue where I want to go or what I want to do after college, and I can safely say I am no closer to deciding this than I was four years ago sitting at OCHS. I however have decided that it is my destiny to become the next Anderson Cooper. I feel that my in-depth knowledge of meth lab statistics, chicken raisin’, and ability to rattle off at least 40 Miranda Lambert songs have all aptly prepared me for a career in the field of photo-journalism. If only my ardent ability to be outspoken, and unfortunate frequency of comma slicing were to improve I might actually have a shot at that dream, but until then I will settle for my explorations of the near and close to home, and the continuation of my newfound love of pie. On that note I guess I should get to the “meat” of this column, after all it is currently 10:20 pm and the U-Haul will be pulling out of Centertown at 6:30 tomorrow morning. This column marks the halfway point for my search of what it means to be an Ohio Countian. Thus far I have, in print, been to Centertown, Megan, Rochester, Rosine, and maybe somewhere else that is slipping my mind this late at night. I however have, at this point also clocked several hundred additional miles exploring Equality/Kronos, Hartford, Beaver Dam, Ceralvo, Rockport, Fordsville, Pleasant Ridge, and Dundee. I am still building up the nerve to explore Beda. I fear if I get too close to my high school English teacher, Pam Bradley’s house she will give me copies of all of my published columns covered with her infamous red ink. Short of my last English teacher at U.K., who told me one of my papers wasn’t worth his time, I still fear red ink on a paper as much as tax season or unpacking this U-Haul. I could, at this point, present my findings from my summer here in Ohio County, but I’ll continue for a few more weeks with my explorations before I return to reporting the Centertown news, and enjoying my year at UK in relative anonymity to all of those in Ohio County. I suppose my near constant Facebook status updates and albums full of photos kind of limit that sense of privacy and keep me connected to this place called home. I know if I do anything too out of line Facebook friend, Ellen Tichenor will be sure to keep me in check when I see her on Sundays after church. During these months since I returned home in May I have learned so many things about the places, and more importantly about the people of this county. So many of these things I took for granted until I left, developed a desire to return, and went in search of them. I honestly can say while learned numerous things about the county and its people I learned equally as many about myself. Through these adventures I have learned a lot about both myself and where I want to go in life. At times of extreme frustration I may say that I just want to plan really pretty events, but I would never be happy in doing that, I would always be left wanting more, and wondering how I would make a lasting impact. When I was fresh out of high school I was set on going to the Middle East, I wanted to work with international business, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of this goal and came to say I wanted to be an event planner. This career is great. I can without sounding cocky say that I would be amazing at being an event planner or designer, but I love helping others too much. I love travelling, I love writing, I love exploring, and I love the satisfaction that comes with knowing you've helped the lives of others. In the years between high school and now I allowed myself to become homesick for Ohio County, I developed a fear of the adventure and the fear of not having security. I became afraid of heights (try walking out to the center of the bridge in Rockport), and I became afraid of leaving my family... It took coming home and searching out why I love this place to realize I can be happy anywhere I go, and that I can go without fear of being unhappy where ever I end up. In the book Eat Pray Love the author travels the world in search of what makes her who she is. For me it didn’t take the world to show me this, it instead took coming back to the places that had become all too familiar for me to see the person in the mirror. For me this summer has taught me that I am beyond capable of travelling the world, being myself, and insuring my dreams become reality. Who knew that I had to come home to learn that… So at the halfway make of figuring out what it means to be an Ohio Countian I can tell you that the people of Ohio County are unafraid to stand up for what they believe in, they are all uniquely individual, there is a deep sense of spirituality here, and that if you are looking for a better place to live and better people to surround yourself with you are going to be hard-pressed to find that place. Oh, and one other thing… there is absolutely no sense of anonymity here. Try going to Walmart on a Monday at 7:00 pm.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
July 29, 2040, this date which is currently three decades in the future, will be smack-dab in the middle of my 50th year of life. While at times I like to think that turning thirty is when you enter into "being old" I have come to accept that even I will be forced to age. Fifty however is a number that I still refuse to swallow; I instead like to focus on where I will be when I am thirty five. But for the sake of the year 2040 lets step into that year for a minute. By then I would like to be well established in my career, a career that has yet to be settled on as of July 29, 2010. Let’s take one of my possible careers and dream upon that. So, July 29, 2040, I will (in theory) be a journalist working in the field of some far off country. I will be writing about the culture, the food, the people, and the lives of some group of indigenous people, be it the Parisians on the Champs Elysees, or members of an African tribe deep in the heart of Kenya. Since Samantha Jones says 50 is the new 40 I will also be planning my second career as the editor of some local news paper in central Kentucky. We’ll say Danville. By that time I will have two children who will be attending high school at Sayer or Lexington Christian Academy in Lexington and I will spend my late nights reading the New Yorker, drinking some fancy tea that I’ve bought in Paris, and writing handwritten letters to those Ohio Countians who have inspired me to live out this dream. These I’m sure will be the same people that in 2010 give me the ideas for these columns, and are the ones who inspire me to dream such lofty dreams. This summer I have learned and experienced so much about our county and I have in turn learned a lot about myself and where I want to go and who I want to be after I leave the county in three short years. When I take these times late at night to reflect back on what I have learned this summer, and what I have learned in my twenty short years in Ohio County there are names that continually come to mind. These are the people that have made Ohio County home for me and have made it a place that continually causes me to struggle with the concept of returning or leaving post UK. In the next couple weeks will be stepping away from exploring the county, instead stepping into the past and reliving my days as a student of Ohio County Schools –yes I realize I only graduated two years ago. For me many of the people who have had the biggest impact in my life have been teachers. I suppose it helps that my mom is a retired teacher and I grew up surrounded by her friends, many of which are also teachers. As OCS go back to school this coming week I figured it would be an appropriate time to relive those years. The three that I look up most to are Pam Bradley, Scott Ford, and Randy Brown.
Monday, July 19, 2010
I’ll admit I own both The Fame and The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga. I can without missing a beat ramble off the words to Poker Face and Alejandro, and of course I tend to use the Bad Romance hand quite liberally; all while driving with my windows down and one of my best-friends in the passenger seat. I at times even like to wear my Red-Wings and pretend that I could easily change a tire or hitch a set of plows to one of the tractors that sits behind our house; but the truth is I like to appreciate art. I have come to accept that I am not the best at creating works of art. My skills in the field are pretty limited. Yes, I can take some pretty decent photographs, however I cannot paint, sculpt, or sew to save my life, and we won’t even get into my lack of knowledge in the field of paper mache. I am good with design, and culinary arts, but the rest I can only appreciate, and as far as my tractor hitching skills—they are about as limited as Lady Gaga’s ability to dress like a normal human. Last week we went on an exploration that I honestly wasn’t too sure of when I first heard about it; but soon after we arrived I was sold and fully immersed in the art that filled the property around me. We went to the property of Donald Bray on Rochester Road. The goal for the day was to explore the Rochester area, but with the absence of the ferry at the Green River we were left with only a visit to Mr. Bray’s home and a quick stop for photographs at the former locks on the Green River. The word "only" should be taken with a grain of salt, our stay at Mr. Bray’s was a several hour visit. Mr. Bray is by far one of the most talented artists I have met in the county. He seems to be well skilled in the arts of sculpting, painting, gardening, carpentry, and several other skills that I’m not sure the name for. After passing the entrance to his property several times I finally spotted a row of concrete columns at the base of a driveway and assumed we were at the right home. The green and purple concrete dinosaur sitting atop a hill behind the columns further proved the correctness of my assumption. We made our way up the winding hill to Mr. Bray’s home, which naturally he built himself. There we met him and his daughter Katrina Bullington. They quickly began our tour of the property. Armed with my new camera in hand we went to get a closer look at the dinosaur on the hill. Mr. Bray picked up a toy off the ground that looked identical to the sculpture before us, but was maybe five inches long as opposed to the sculpture which was at least 8 feet long. He told us how he had created the piece using concrete and rebar. I then asked what the tongue of the dinosaur had been created from, with a laugh Mr. Bray said it was made of concrete. At that point I was totally amazed. Strings of lights crisscrossed above us and led towards the columns at the foot of the hill. Mr. Bray told us that he was working on sculptures of da Vinci’s The Last Supper to go in front of the columns. I took that statement skeptically. I wasn’t sure how anyone would be able recreate The Last Supper in a way that would pay homage to da Vinci. This whole notion I had ended as soon as I saw the still unfinished pieces. He told us that the pieces were still being created in his basement and that we would see them later. We then made our way back to the house. There Mr. Bray showed us a collection of books that made the antique collector in me rather jealous, he also told us about how he had built the house and the stories behind many of the antiques that filled the house. As we made our way into the home’s basement I figured we would be greeted by a cat. No, instead we were greeted by the disciples and of course Jesus. One of them was standing right in front of the spiral stairwell seemingly ready to greet visitors. Instead of greeting the sculpture back I hesitated, stepped backwards and tripped on the step below me. Of course with all of my natural skepticism I had figured the pieces from The Last Supper would at most be a couple feet tall, but of course not, they were life size. I mean, really who would think of anything smaller? After taking a moment to regroup I decided to forget all of my assumptions and to instead expect the unexpected, which seems to be the overarching theme at the property. The pieces filled what seemed to be the whole of the basement, until you turn the corner to see the hand-dug wine cellar behind us. Obviously the walls were covered in murals in the style of Egyptian hieroglyphics and the floors were made of handmade tiles. This wine cellar seemed quite nice, until it was outdone by the handmade tiles in the mosaics that covered one of the porches. After I had lost my ever graceful composure over the nothing-less-than-amazing pieces in the basement we went on to see the main building on Mr. Bray’s property. This building housed a two story mural of a scene from the Civil War. The piece had been painted on stretched canvas and was surrounded by a three-dimensional continuation of the scene. While I could take the time, and space to describe the piece in detail I feel it is better to be experienced in person. The property is filled with dozens of works each created by Mr. Bray, the property has a log cabin, and grape arbors, and rows of strawberries, the property has hundreds of yards of lighting strung across it, and a plethora of antique pieces ranging from farm equipment lining the driveway to the book collection with books from around the world, yet all of this is not nearly as interesting as the man, and family that is behind it all. Mr. Bray has turned a hobby into a lifelong passion. In the living room of his home hangs one of his first pieces that was completed over fifty years ago, it is surrounded by the works of his children and late wife. Mr. Bray has created a collection that not only tells a story of someone who pays very close attention to detail, but of someone who truly follows his passions, and of a man who’s talent far exceeds the words I could possibly write about him. The exploration that we did last week adds another piece to my summer long journey to find what it means to be an Ohio Countian. This week I learned the importance of the individual. Often times it seems easy to lump the collective of a rural area into the words of a country song or the words of Miranda Lambert’s That’s the Way that the World Goes ‘round, but it is the members of the community that dare to be artistic, or bold, or outspoken that make the place dynamic, and they are the ones that create the places and events that are worth going to. And sometimes they are the ones who take the time to learn the lyrics to Lady Gaga songs, and dare to step out into the unknown.
I have a belief that the best books are those that are recommended to you by friends, or have great covers. The first rule holds true for all of my favorite books but one, and the book that changed my life is the one with the awesome cover. This book with the amazing cover is Pop Salvation by Lance Reynald. The other list includes in no order I Am Charlotte Simmons, by Tom Wolfe, A Hole in the World by Sid Hite, Walk Two Moons by Sharon Creech, To Kill a Mocking Bird, Their Eyes Were Watching God, and The Missing Piece Meets the Big O by Shel Silverstein. I like my books to be like my movies, I want them to make me think, to impact me in someway, or to make me greater appreciate some aspect of my life. I bought a book today that I feel will fill all three of the requirements... Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. The book was recommended by Matt and seeing as he and I have way too many similarities I think I will like it. In fact I have already fallen quite hard for it, and would much rather be reading it right now instead of typing this.... but, the book is actually part of a journey I am on to fully understand myself and where I want to go. While I won't be taking a year to travel the world, or am I recently divorced, I am in search of my own three things... Explore Learn Love....and of course Food is always a given! So
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Sometimes I get stuck behind the idea that I am too small, or I will let people's negative attitudes effect my world view. The truth of it is, I may at times be very idealistic, I may dream too big, or I may seem to forget to enjoy just being twenty...I love every minute of it. I sometimes find myself late a night browsing the Facebook profiles and walls of people that I went to high school with. I see their drunken pictures, their acts of questionable responsibility, and I read about the wild and often times risky lives they lead. I sometimes allow my mind to wander and to think that I want to be like that. But, when it comes down to it, I don't. That just isn't me. I guess you could call me crazy, but I love life in the fast lane, I love being surrounded by people twice my age, and I love the satisfaction that comes with creating positive change. I've spent the last year figuring out exactly what makes me who I am, and so much of "me" is about helping others, changing the future, dreaming big... and seeing it through to reality. In the past year I have been able to launch my own business. I designed my website from a blank white page, I have built a list of amazing shoppers, and I have learned a vast amount about the world of decorating and antiques. In the past year I have travelled across the south, and countless parts of Kentucky. I, during a normal year, would have been out of the country multiple times, flying to amazing destinations in the tropics, or cruising to beautiful beaches, but this year I have met the people that surround me and explored the places close to home. Through these adventures I have learned a lot about both myself and where I want to go in life. At times of extreme frustration I may say that I just want to plan really pretty weddings, but I would never be happy in doing that, I would always be left wanting more, and wondering how I would make a lasting impact. When I was fresh out of high school I was set on going to the Middle East, I wanted to work with international business, but somewhere along the way I lost sight of this goal and came to say I wanted to be an event planner. This career is great. I can without sounding cocky say that I would be amazing at being an event planner or designer, but I love helping others too much. I love travelling, I love writing, I love exploring, and I love the satisfaction that comes with knowing you've helped the lives of others. In the years between high school and now I allowed myself to become homesick for Ohio County, I developed a fear of the adventure and the fear of not having security. I became afraid of heights, and I became afraid of leaving my family... Now at the beginning of my junior year of college I see that I allowed myself to become jaded and hard, I became afraid to be who I am because of comments made my family members and the fear of not being accepted in my hometown. I started writing a weekly column for my local paper to be a way to hide who I really am from the people around me, but somewhere in the middle of my writing and exploring I realized the only people I had to fear where the people I kept so close. I allowed their comments to push me away from being who I am around home... but somewhere in that same time I met so many amazing people from the same area that have dynamic stories and inspiring lives. They are unafraid of being themselves or being judged and that truly inspired me... The column's intention was to find what it means to be an Ohio Countian, but in the end it became more about what it means to be me, Ben Ashby, and that is something I am beyond grateful for. It taught me that I am beyond capable of travelling the world, being myself, and insuring my dreams become reality...
Monday, July 12, 2010
Italian Cream Cake
· 1 stick butter
· ½ cup oil
· 1 cup coconut
· 2 cups flour
· 2 cups sugar
· 5 egg yolks
· 5 egg whites (stiffly beaten)
· 1 cup buttermilk
· 1 cup chopped pecan
· 1 t vanilla
Cream butter and oil with sugar add egg yolks one at a time – add ½ t soda to buttermilk – after with flour- fold in egg whites and vanilla- add 2/3 of floured nuts and coconut. Pour batter in 3- 9” pans (floured and greased). Bake 30-40 min.
Italian Cream Icing
· 1 stick of butter
· 1 pound powdered sugar
· 1 t vanilla
· 8 oz cream cheese
Cream butter and soften cheese, add sugar and vanilla. Add remaining nuts and coconut.
*Allow 24 hours before serving.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
1 cup cold water
1/2 cup sugar
1 standard bag of frozen black cherries
Make a simple syrup using the boiling water and sugar. Puree the fruit in a blender and add the simple syrup and remaining water. Run through a strainer or cheese cloth. Put in a freezer safe bowl and freeze until solid. Serve with a spoonful of fresh whipped cream and garnish with a sprig of lavender or mint. Enjoy!
I like to sporadically drop French terms into my everyday English vernacular. I use the term bon vivant to describe my philosophy on life… after all it was one of my icons, Andy Warhol, who said that everyone needs a philosophy. For a very awkward two years a few years ago I used a tout alors in place of "see you later," I will be the first to assure you that the term doesn’t make you sound cool or sophisticated; it actually makes you sound like a character from a National Lampoon Vacation movie. I will however, quickly admit I use the term gourmand to describe my love of food. It seems rather odd that I remain so skinny while I spend such a great deal of time consuming, contemplating, or searching out food. I suppose my use of French my may come from my six, yes six, dreadful years of "learning" the French language, or it may come from my fascination with Ina Garten; but the truth is, my knowledge of food far outweighs my knowledge of the French language. That tidbit is one that I am quite proud of. This summer, the quest for being a gourmand has led me across the south. A few weeks ago, a person I went to high school with and I made the trip to Savannah for Paula Deen’s fried chicken and sweet tea with a sprig of mint in each glass. However, this past week it led me to my grandmothers where we spent a Monday evening discussing the foods that make my family who they are. There is a general unspoken rule that to live in that house you have to be able to cook. A couple of weeks ago I went in search of my hometown. This week I wrap up that quest. For not having a restaurant Centertown sure has a reputation for good food. I’m a Baptist, which that statement in itself will tell you that I love food. Baptists and fried chicken go together like peanut butter and jelly or heartbreak and a good country song. There is never a reason not to have a fellowship meal, a potluck, or a covered dish dinner. A new preacher, a new baptistery, a birthday, a new light bulb in a Sunday School room, all are a cause for a potluck. I was corn fed on sourdough bread baked by Dorothy Brown, Italian Crème cakes baked by my aunt, and deviled eggs. I grew up learning the VBS songs written by Lifeway and crafting cowboys from coat hangers, and rain-sticks in crafts led by Susan Hines. The Baptist in me is blood deep, and the view of faith is something I have long realized is very strong in the county. Every Sunday that I’m home I have a strict routine. I start my Sundays with a bowl of Lucky Charms, I read the newspaper, which is limited to the comic strips of the Peanuts, Garfield, Ziggy, and my favorite Doonesbury; my reading also extends to the sale ads for Target and Best Buy. I like to stay on top of the upcoming music releases. My routine then goes on to Centertown Baptist Church, where I sit on the back pew with my cousins Charles and Becky Berryman. This week this column is being written from that pew. In the church the pews are bright red to match the carpet, the hymnals, the chairs, and a few people’s tempers. The verses of Amazing Grace bounce off the high ceilings and fill the sanctuary with the words of John Newtown. While I will be the first to admit I am not the best Baptist, nor am I a person to openly discuss my views on organized religion, I will be the first to recognize the belief in something higher that is a binding cord in the community. My exploration would be incomplete without examining the impact of faith in Ohio County. This summer we have criss-crossed the county photographing church after church. These are the places that open their doors to the communities they serve and act as a safe haven for those in need. In Lexington I go to Southland Christian which has 15,000 members. I love the church and it is my favorite church to attend. At the church there is greater sense of worship and less a sense of pomp that has largely driven me away for organized religion, but has only made my faith in a higher power stronger. With the debate of ceremony and worship styles aside, the small churches that dot the landscape of Ohio County possess a quality that Southland with its massive size cannot. The sense of community that is felt in our churches is indescribable. In times of need the members are the first to pull together, the first to be knocking on your back door with a covered dish, or the first to visit at the funeral home. There is great comfort in this. When my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer two years ago the people of our church, and my grandmother’s church, Centertown United Methodist Church, were constantly calling, sending cards, visiting and vigilantly making sure we all knew that they were always there. At Southland I always leave the church with a sense of hearing an excellent message, but I never feel like I am actually connected to anyone beyond the people who are riding with me. The senior minister, Jon Weese, comes on stage in jeans and has a casual attitude towards his messages. Naturally there is a large band and the aesthetics of the stage change weekly. These are qualities of the church that I think are awesome, but they do nothing to encourage the sense of community. Faith in our community is something that goes beyond blue jeans, and large bands, for the area it seems to be something that is deep rooted and is engrained into the people. Faith in the community, to me, is kind of like the scene from Talladega Nights where Ricky Bobby, played by Will Ferrell, is praying. His words are far from reverent and stereotypical of prayer but they get the point across, are heartfelt, and most importantly, are free from the reigns that are so often held tightly on religion. Many of our churches stress the importance of being reverent and following archaic rules of decorum, but to me it seems that in the words of Miranda Lambert ,"'Cause I heard Jesus, he drank wine and I bet we'd get along just fine" ,the church is about coming together as a group of people, no matter the background or the lifestyle and having that common shared bond of the belief in something greater. Life sweet tea, my aunt June’s stories of old Centertown, and my use of French words I love my church. Growing up with the Reneer Twins, Helen Holden, Virginia Stenburg, and all of my Ashby family that has attended the church I have learned the importance of the sense of community that is found in the local churches. I learned at an early age how to arrange a potluck table and have been made acutely aware of the importance of not ruining the carpet on the Fellowship Hall floor. My Sunday morning routine always draws to a close as we leave little white church and head to Los Mex for lunch. Like the staple dishes of a good potluck cover a banquet table my fellow Baptists, from Beaver Dam Baptist, fill the restaurant. It never fails that we run into some Westerfields, Kings, and Taylors, and I know they are all well skilled on good food.