By Lance K. Pugh: As much as I want to support the position that no one avoids our shops and restaurants, it is a dull-eyed effort to dodge the fact that city has not spent a penny investigating the matter.

In my column last week, I ranted, spun in circles, howled like a banshee and otherwise bemoaned the closure of many businesses in the downtown.

I am occasionally given to excess when what I observe seems obvious, yet apparently invisible to those who seek and succeed in layering us with taxes, fines and fees until we are properly composted and vigorously raked.

As much as I want to support the position that no one avoids our shops and restaurants, it is a dull-eyed effort to dodge the fact that city has not spent a penny investigating the matter. Could it be that our top bureaucrats and elected officials seem to lack compassion for the increasing number of business failures as they whistle by the cemetery?

It is with no pride that my list of failed or repossessed businesses was only a partial compilation of the fallen. I now present you with an updated list that marks the honor of being in business in Ashland: Shangra-La Spa, Frank Phillips Pottery, Il Giardino, Pilaf, Beasey's Last Stand, Ashland Bistro Café, Chateaulin, Chateaulin wine shop, Karen Alexander, Harpers, Exude, Kat Wok, Quiznos, Silly Rabbit Chocolates, and others which at this moment escape me.

I usually look at a glass as being half-full, yet as the businesses tumble and fall by the wayside, I cannot help but think of the families that ran them and all the work that went into the effort of making them a success. Now I cannot even find the glass at all, lest I ponder the fates of those who chose Ashland, falsely believing that the city is in favor of small business.



As a gulp of fresh air is needed, I report to you, dear reader, that my dog, Spooky, is still the very proud caretaker of his own personal deer, Sprinkles. About every two days or so Sprinkles squints through the bedroom window, trying to ascertain what his master is doing. Most of the time this is in the early afternoon, but whenever I see a deer nose on the glass I let Spooky out the door so he can play with his high jumping pal.

The dog tries to soft-mouth a flying leg, which moves at a blur. The deer attempts to do the same to Spooky's tail, causing the canine to twirl like a top to stay ahead in the game. Their play date seems to last only a few minutes as dog-walkers congregate on the sidewalk to watch the deer and dog duel at top speed. When the show is over the masters march their charges home, all the while lecturing them as to the manifold benefits of owning a backyard deer.

I have not seen a repeat of Spooky walking his deer, but have heard that they somehow have arranged a private outside table, with umbrella, behind Greenleaf Restaurant. The deer seems to enjoy one of many salad offerings while Mr. Munchbreath heads for a deli sandwich or resorts to his favorite, the chicken picatta. At least they are hanging out in the open and are eating well. They usually enter and exit their table from the creek, thus avoiding being spotted and photographed as before. Now I know where the doggie bag with a third of a chicken picatta comes from and is left on the porch for me to find once a week. Things could be worse.



Looks like the Apple Cellar is gearing up to expand to one of the available spaces downtown, as well opening a satellite operation in Jacksonville. The possibilities are endless if you have enough dough.

Lance@journalist.com was last seen taking the dog and deer out to lunch the other day. Lance was suspicious when he learned that Spooky already had set up a charge account and was served his water in a bowl right on the table.