Wednesday, January 31, 2007

26. A Report on the Candidates, with additional information

I guess since it is known that I am "into" politics, I have to make some comment on the final deadline for statewide elections which came and went yesterday with, as Secretary Grayson called it, "more of a whimper." I went up to the Capital yesterday, a tradition I have done for perhaps twenty years now, which would make it five times. I can remember being there in 1991, 1995, 1999, and 2003. I can't honestly remember being there in 1987. I may not have been as I was already committed that year to a candidate for governor, that candidate being Wallace Wilkinson.

At a formal dinner held in the Executive Mansion the night Martha Layne Collins was swore in as governor, me, my mother, my Aunt Dorothy Hedger, and my Aunt Frannie Marlowe, sat across the table from Wallace and Martha Wilkinson, both of whom would later become candidates for governor. I had known of Wallace when I was a student at the University of Kentucky my freshman year of college. By the end of the night, Wallace had convinced me, as well as my mother, that he was going to be the next governor, and invited us then and there to be supporters of his. We did, and he did.

I always liked Governor Wilkinson, although I know lots of folks didn't. And I still have those "Wilkinson '91" stickers they put out in late 1990 in anticipation of Martha's run. She, of course, didn't win, and Brereton Jones did. I had not supported Jones in the primary and wasn't that big a fan of his in the fall. But, as I have every inauguration since 1963 (as a three year old with, again, my mother and my aunt Dorothy, who at the time lived immediately next door to the VFW Hall on 2nd Street), I attended the inauguration of Kentucky's newest Commander-In-Chief. Unlike 1983 and 1987, when I managed to be a part of the festivities, I did not have an assigned seat in 1991. Nonetheless, knowing the routine, I got myslef inside the Capital as the halls were cleared to begin the procession out the front doors and down the steps with that majestic view of Frankfort laid out before you (now crowned in the distance with the figure of the Glass Castle housing the Transportation Cabinet, newly built across town, abstractly so as to be shaped like the Commonwealth, much like the Wendell H. Ford State Democratic Party Headquarters does, if viewing it from the correct perspective.

There, inside the rotunda, the only person I really knew was the outgoing governor, Mr. Wilkinson. He called me over and asked where I was sitting. With my response of not having a seat, he said to follow him. I thought he meant he was going to find me a seat - somewhere. His intentions were more specific. He pinned a button on me and told me to proceed out with his family and assured me that a seat would be found along the way somewhere. He, of course, was right. As we made our way toward the front, I passed a lot of active Democrats who I knew had played a role in Jones' elections, and who I also knew knew that I had not. They weren't happy, but at that point there was little they could say. I sat in the thrid row as part of Wilkinson's family, which was, to say the least, pretty cool. Frankly, it was a much better seat than I had had when the wife of a cousin of my grandmother was sworn in four years earlier.

That brings us to this year's entries for governor. I've stated here and elsewhere my support for Irv Maze, a good friend of long standing, and by extension, of the man who chose Irv to be his running mate. There are six others besides the State Treasurer Jonathan Miller seeking to be the successor of Ernie Fletcher, including two other Republicans. Every one seems to have a problem with each of the others in some way, with the exception of good old Charlie Owen, who praised every single one of them in some way in an interview last night with Ryan Alessi, the very able writer with the Lexington Herald-Leader, which is quickly becoming the real statewide political newspaper, usurping a role the Courier-Journal once held, before it became Gannett's One Great Newspaper in Louisville about 21 years ago.

So, I won't go into the Democratic governor's race. I've stated where I stand and know that the next fourteen weeks will be interesting to all involved. It is important that whatever enemies we make between now and Primary Day in May, we don't create divides so large that they can not bridged back over in anticipation of November's race against the Republican.

Crossing over to the Dark Side of the Aisle, I believe Governor Fletcher will be renominated and frankly, I am hoping he will be. He is the tainted candidate; he is who we want to run against - the devil we know and all that. I think his incumbency will be rewarded by the small cities and counties other than Louisville and the anti-abortion Catholics in northern Kentucky. Once you are outside of Northup's sphere of influence in the Louisville area, and whatever leftover appeal Bunning has from his service to the 4th CD, Fletcher - that is Governor Fletcher's office will carry him. Certainly Jeff Hoover helps to a point, but only so far, and certainly not nearly as far as most probably think.

House members aren't nearly as well known outside of the districts (1/100 of the Commonwealth) as they think they are. Look at the running mates of the Democratic candidates - Miller has Maze, a heavily populated county official; Beshear has Mongiardo, who has ran an almost successful statewide campaign; Lunsford has Stumbo, a statewide office holder; Henry has True, a heavily populated county official; Speaker Richards has Brown, a twice-elected statewide office holder. There is not a House member among them and there is a reason for that. Mr. Hoover's relative representation, however good it might be in the eyes of the Republican Primary voters, is not of the caliber of these Democrats. That isn't to say it is equal to or better than his Republican opponents. But people are voting at the top of the ticket. Ernie Fletcher was elected several times in central Kentucky before being elected statewide as governor. Northup can not match that record. And most recently, she lost.

In the other races, I had the chance yesterday to meet and speak with the lady who came to Frankfort to file for governor but ended up filing for Secretary of State, in a scenario very much like that of John Brown, III the first time he filed for the same office in 1995. While he wasn't trying to file for governor, other aspects of Ms. White's filing were similar. For the record (and I have so stated in one of the posts on my blog), Mr. Brown was an excellent Secretary of State, updating that office electronically and professionally and he should be and has been commended for the work he did while in office.

MaDonna White is a professor at Daymar College, a proprietary college based in Louisville with a variety of campuses here and there including one in Middlesboro, the city-in-the-crater in southeastern Kentucky. She and I are graduates of the same high school, the now-closed Durrett High School, which campus has been taken over by the relocation of Louisville Male from Brook and Breck to Preston Highway and Durrett Lane. I do not know much else about her, other that what me and the ten or so people who hung out yesterday at Secretary Grayson's heard in her post-filing interview. She is a very articulate person, a political novice, and, as the only woman in a three person race, has a chance of being our Party's nominee. I know nothing more about her than this, but she may be someone folks interested in this race may want to get to know.

Our next Treasurer will likely be Mike Weaver. I've been mentioning his name now and then - even moreso after Jack Wood filed for this office. Mark is correct that Todd Hollenbach - "Little Todd" to Louisvillians, but technically Louis J. Hollenbach, IV - will draw a number of votes here in Jefferson County. I've known Todd since we were both young teenagers from his father's campaigns for Jefferson County Judge. His father's loss for county judge to Mitch McConnell occurred the year we both turned 17. Todd is a great guy. But, he hasn't had the type of statewide coverage which the Weaver for Congress campaign just paid for in the 2006 cycle. Running in the 2nd CD forced Weaver to advertise in several of Kentucky's media markets, moreso than any other candidate in any other congressional district. That coverage - that access to a large number of Kentucky's voters - should be his entree to the Treasurer's office.

Jack Conway should have no problem becoming both the Democratic nominee for and the voters' choice as the next Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Lousiville attorney (and friend) Brent Ackerson described Jack as being able to moonwalk into the office. But that would take energy. Jack winning the nomination, at least, should be a given. Who his November opponent will be I do not know. Philip Kimball has ran for office several times in Jefferson County and has probably built up some name recognition here, maybe enough to get himself the Republican nomination. He is rather quirky, kind of like an old-fashioned law school professor, bumbling his way through the lecture, although everyone knows he is a very knowledgeable man. Remember, four years ago the Republicans gave us Jack Wood as a nominee, whom Porfessor Kimball would have probably flunked out of his class.

Cawood Ledford would have no problem answering the repeated question "Will Richie be playing in the next game?" He will. Richie Farmer did draw opponents, including a Mr. Stosberg, a resident of Devil's Hollow Road, out past Choateville in Franklin County. Choateville is an old neighborhood named for some of my relatives. I've spoken before, in a very early post, of Rachel Scott Brawner Lewis, my mother's mother's mother. Her mother, that is Rachel's mother, was Annie Choate Brawner Collins, of the Franklin County Choate family. Her grandson Bill Louis Collins, is married to the former Martha Layne Hall, of Bagdad, Kentucky. I am a great-great grandson of hers. Farmer also drew two Democratic opponents, a Mr. Neville of Pleasureville in Shelby County, and a David Lynn Williams, who I believe is one of Kentucky's perennial candidates, in much the same way as Tommy Klein used to be here in Louisville.

Although I can't say you read it here first, since I posted a great deal of this in another blog earlier today, I will let you know that I have endorsed Crit Luallen for Auditor and predict her easy re-election in the fall, far easier than her first one in 2003.

As I said above, when all of these primaries are over, what is important is that, for the Democrats among us, we should band together to retake the Mansion, and maybe in the process accidentally defeat Secretary Grayson and Commissioner Farmer.

In other news, the Weather forecasters, whose performances this year has been lacking, earlier today predicted several inches of snow for Louisville starting tomorrow. They have since backed off this bold idea, reducing the expected snowfall to "one or two inches." Damn.

Finally, now that the deadline for running in this year's elections has come and gone, you'd think we'd be talking about this year's elections. Remember above where I said Charlie Owen had nice things to say about all the candidates? Much of today's chatter has centered on Charlie and his comments and his possible re-entry as a candidate for next year, 2008, against Mitch McConnell. Always thinking ahead.

Today's marks the end of the first month of 2007. My how time flies.

Jeff Noble

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

25. The Kentucky Derby

Yesterday's blogging included two entries. One was a normal entry, the second one wasn't. It isn't my intention to be a "news outlet," making posts that will be made everywhere else. I did mention before about the train derailment in Bullitt County, but did so in the context of being near where I grew up and effecting communities which I once was a part of. Upon learning of the news that Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro had been euthanized, I reprinted verbatim the Associated Press news on the story. Some news stories will merit an entry such as this, but it isn't anticipated there will be many. Like many Kentuckians, for me the loss of a horse of any stature is unacceptable. The loss of an unbeaten colt which won the Kentucky Derby is most difficult.

As an unbeaten colt in five starts, Barbaro had already captured the attention of the sports world going into the Derby. His win in the Derby, by seven lengths, was the longest margin in a half century. Many felt we were finally due for another Triple Crown winner, the first since Affirmed won the summer I graduated from high school. That year, 1978, Alydar placed second in all three races of the Triple Crown, the only horse to have ever done. Barbaro was believed to be on his way to repeating the feat so far only accomplished by eleven horses. After the tragedy of the Preakness, in his convalescense, he became as beloved a horse as ever was, reminding many of Secretariat, perhaps America's greatest horse, which won the race in the record time of 1:59 and 2/5, back in 1973, and went on to win the Triple Crown with a spectacular 31 length victory in the Belmont, the largest margin of victory ever. That was in the days that Louisvillians still claimed the race and the track as their own.

Growing up in Louisville when I did, the Kentucky Derby was an event one always tried to get to in some way. The infield celebration wasn't nearly as big as it is now, and the price of tickets were far more affordable, allowing the traditional two-dollar bettor a chance to see the "greatest two minutes in sports." My family usually made a day of it, going out to the track early on Derby morning, making a stop at the Kentucky Fried Chicken/Porky Pig House on Preston Highway for several buckets of chicken to take along. In those days, the KFC opened early on Derby Day, and people loaded into the track with all manner of picnic baskets and other parklike accoutrements to help make the day more enjoyable. We usually staked out a place along the "clubhouse turn" where you could get up all the way to the rail and see the horses up close and personal. We would drag three park benches up to the rails, thus forming a three-sided fence around our little piece of real-estate for the day. My mother and her friends and all of us kids would be there all day long running around pretty freely. On most Derby Days, my grandfather Dan Hockensmith, and two of my uncles, Harmon Moore (not really my uncle but a close family friend)and Noble Hedger (the second husband of my great-grandmother's little sister Dorothy), would dress up in their finest, drop a few half-pints of vodka in the breast pockets, and make for the old stone wall near where the "Nurses Tents" were assembled, for an afternoon of schmoozing with the young nurses, eventually conning them out of several glasses of orange juice, to mix with their hidden half-pints of vodka. As the day would draw to a close, one of us kids would be dispatched to go round up Papaw, Uncle Harmon, and Uncle Noble and to make our way back home. Those days are long gone.

The three-week long Kentucky Derby Festival, commencing with Thunder Over Louisville, and leading up to the raceday itself provides Louisvillians with several opportunities to still heavily celebrate the Derby since Derby Days are no longer events to be enjoyed by Louisville's masses, as the day has been given over to the high rollers and corporate sponsors of America. Even the time of the race is now dictated to the needs of the broadcasters, with the presentation of the Governor's Trophy sometimes being delayed as commercials for Visa and Chrysler are ran on the airwaves. Several years ago, many Louisvillians decided the day for them is Friday, or Oaks Day, as it is called hereabouts. The Kentucky Oaks is just as venerable a race, and of the same age, as the Kentucky Derby. But it too has become too much a part of the corporate Churchill Downs, and less a day for the locals to enjoy a day at the track. Much more popular for Louisvillians are Father's Day, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving Day. So far, these days haven't been taken over by the seemingly single-minded moneid interests who control Churchill Downs.

Incidentally, the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby is scheduled for May 5, 2007.

Monday, January 29, 2007

24. Barbaro


Frank Anderson/Staff file photo
Jockey Edgar Prado gave Barbaro a pat on the neck after winning the May 6 Derby.

KENNETT SQUARE, Pa. - Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was euthanized Monday after complications from his gruesome breakdown at last year's Preakness, ending an eight-month ordeal that prompted an outpouring of support across the country.

"We just reached a point where it was going to be difficult for him to go on without pain," co-owner Roy Jackson said. "It was the right decision, it was the right thing to do. We said all along if there was a situation where it would become more difficult for him then it would be time."

A series of ailments, including laminitis in the left rear hoof and a recent abscess in the right rear hoof, proved too much for the gallant colt.

Barbaro battled in his ICU stall for eight months. The 4-year-old colt underwent several procedures and was fitted with fiberglass casts. He spent time in a sling to ease pressure on his legs, had pins inserted and was fitted at the end with an external brace. These were all extraordinary measures for a horse with such injuries.

Roy and Gretchen Jackson were with Barbaro on Monday morning, with the owners making the decision in consultation with chief surgeon Dr. Dean Richardson.

"I would say thank you for everything, and all your thoughts and prayers over the last eight months or so," Jackson said to Barbaro's fans.

On May 20, Barbaro was rushed to the New Bolton Center, about 30 miles from Philadelphia in Kennett Square, hours after shattering his right hind leg just a few strides into the Preakness Stakes. The bay colt underwent a five-hour operation that fused two joints, recovering from an injury most horses never survive. But Barbaro never regained his natural gait.

He suffered a significant setback over the weekend, and surgery was required to insert two steel pins in a bone - one of three shattered in the Preakness but now healthy - to eliminate all weight bearing on the ailing right rear foot.

The procedure Saturday was a risky one, because it transferred more weight to the leg while the foot rests on the ground bearing no weight.

The leg was on the mend until the abscess began causing discomfort last week. Until then, the major concern was Barbaro's left rear leg, which developed laminitis in July, and 80 percent of the hoof was removed.

Richardson said Monday morning that Barbaro did not have a good night.

Brilliant on the race track, Barbaro always will be remembered for his brave fight for survival.

The story of the beloved 4-year-old bay colt's fight for life captured the fancy of millions.

When Barbaro broke down, his right hind leg flared out awkwardly as jockey Edgar Prado jumped off and tried to steady the ailing horse. Race fans at Pimlico wept. Within 24 hours the entire nation seemed to be caught up in a "Barbaro watch," waiting for any news.

Well-wishers young and old showed up at the New Bolton Center with cards, flowers, gifts, goodies and even religious medals for the champ, and thousands of e-mails poured into the hospital's Web site just for him.

"I just can't explain why everyone is so caught up in this horse," Roy Jackson, who owned the colt with his wife, Gretchen, has said time and again. "Everything is so negative now in the world, people love animals and I think they just happen to latch onto him."

Devoted fans even wrote Christmas carols for him, sent a wreath made of baby organic carrots and gave him a Christmas stocking.

The biggest gift has been the $1.2 million raised since early June for the Barbaro Fund. The money is put toward needed equipment such as an operating room table, and a raft and sling for the same pool recovery Barbaro used after his surgeries.

The Jacksons spent tens of thousands of dollars hoping the best horse they ever owned would recover and be able to live a comfortable life on the farm - whether he was able to breed or not.

The couple, who own about 70 racehorses, broodmares and yearlings, and operate the 190-acre Lael Farm, have been in the horse business for 30 years, and never had a horse like Barbaro.

As the days passed, it seemed Barbaro would get his happy ending. As late as December, with the broken bones in his right hind leg nearly healed and his laminitis under control, Barbaro was looking good and relishing daily walks outside his intensive care unit.

But after months of upbeat progress reports, including talk that he might be headed home soon, news came Jan. 10 of a serious setback because of the laminitis. Richardson had to remove damaged tissue from Barbaro's left hind hoof, and the colt was placed back in a protective sling.

On Jan. 13, another section of his left rear hoof was removed. After Barbaro developed a deep abscess in his right hind foot, surgery was performed Saturday to insert two steel pins in a bone.

This after Richardson warned last December that Barbaro's right hind leg was getting stronger and that the left hind foot was a "more formidable long-term challenge."

Even before the injury that ended his career, Barbaro had earned his fame for simply being a magnificent racehorse.

Foaled and raised at Sanborn Chase at Springmint Farm near Nicholasville, Ky., Barbaro always stood out in the crowd. "He was an enormous foal," recalled breeder Bill Sanborn. "He was a tall and leggy horse, and when he grew it was like in two-inch spurts."

When the Jacksons sent Barbaro to trainer Michael Matz over a year ago, exercise rider Peter Brette climbed aboard and said "I thought he was a 3-year-old."

A son of Dynaformer, out of the dam Le Ville Rouge, Barbaro started his career on the turf, but Matz knew he would have to try his versatile colt on the dirt. He reasoned that if he had a talented 3-year-old in America, he'd have to find out early if his horse was good enough for the Triple Crown races.

Barbaro was good enough, all right. He won his first three races on turf with authority, including the Laurel Futurity by eight lengths and the Tropical Park Derby by 3 3/4 lengths.

That's when Matz drew up an unconventional plan for a dirt campaign that spaced out Barbaro's race to keep him fit for the entire Triple Crown, a grueling ordeal of three races in five weeks at varying distances over different tracks.

Barbaro won the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 4, but his dirt debut was inconclusive since it came over a sloppy track. After an eight-week break, an unusually long time between races, Barbaro came back and won the Florida Derby by a half-length over Sharp Humor despite an outside No. 10 post.

The deal was sealed - on to the Derby, but not without criticism that Barbaro couldn't win coming off a five-week layoff. After all, it had been 50 years since Needles won the Derby off a similar break. But Matz was unfazed, and stuck to his plan, saying all the time he was doing what was best for the horse.

Not only did Barbaro win the Derby, he demolished what was supposed to be one of the toughest fields in years. The 6 1/2-length winning margin was the largest since 1946, when Assault won by eight lengths and went on to sweep the Triple Crown.

The 55-year-old Matz, meanwhile, was living a charmed life. Before turning to thoroughbreds eight years ago, he was an international show jumping star, and a three-time Olympian and silver medal winner who carried the U.S. flag at the closing ceremony at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He also survived a plane crash in Iowa in 1989 and became a hero by saving three children from the burning wreckage. The crash killed 112 of the 296 people on board United Flight 232.

In Barbaro, Matz truly believed he was training a Triple Crown winner. He often said Barbaro was good enough to be ranked among the greats and join Seattle Slew as the only unbeaten Triple Crown champions.

But two weeks later after the Derby Barbaro took a horrible misstep and one of the most extraordinary attempts to save a thoroughbred was under way. The injury was considered to be so disastrous that many thought the horse would be euthanized while still at Pimlico Race Track.

Instead, Barbaro was transported that night to the New Bolton Center's George D. Widener Hospital for Large Animals and was operated on the next day by Richardson.

The injuries were as serious as everyone feared: Barbaro sustained a broken cannon bone above the ankle, a broken sesamoid bone behind the ankle and a broken long pastern bone below the ankle. The fetlock joint - the ankle - was dislocated. Richardson said the pastern bone was shattered in "20-plus pieces."

Barbaro, who earned $2,302,200 with his six wins in seven starts, endured the complicated five-hour surgery in which Richardson inserted a titanium plate and 27 screws into the broken bones. After calmly awakening from anesthesia, he "practically jogged back to his stall" looking for something to eat.

At the time, Richardson stressed Barbaro still had many hurdles to clear, and called chances for a full recovery a "coin toss."

Afterward, though, things went relatively smoothly. Each day brought more optimism: Barbaro was eyeing the mares, nickering, gobbling up his feed and trying to walk out of his stall. There was great hope Barbaro somehow would overcome the odds and live a life of leisure on the farm.

But by mid-July, Richardson's greatest fear became reality - laminitis struck Barbaro's left hind leg and 80 percent of the hoof was removed. Richardson recalled recently what it was like when he met with the Jacksons, and Matz, and his wife, D.D., to deliver the news.

"It was terrible," Richardson said. "I wouldn't have blamed anyone at that point for saying they just couldn't face the prospects of going on."

But Barbaro responded well to treatment, and his recovery was progressing until a final, fatal turn.


AP Racing Writer Richard Rosenblatt contributed to this report.

23. Noble roots and shoots

Today marks the sixth birthday of my second oldest (as well as my second youngest) nephew. Having no children of my own, I tend to celebrate those of my nieces and nephews, as well as their half- and step- brothers and sisters, and quite a few other friends, acquaintenances, and occasionally folks with whom I have no connection at all. I took presents last night both to my nephew and to his father, my only sibling, whose birthday was mentioned herein a week and a half ago.

My brother Kevin has two children by one woman and four by another. There may be a few others out there but no claims have been made, although they are consistently expected. This particular nephew is child number three by woman number two. His name is Kevin Joseph (Thomas) Noble, sometimes referred to as little Kevin or as Kevin, Jr., although he isn't a junior, given his name is not exactly the same as his father. As delivery neared for the birth of this boy, I spoke with my brother about the possibility of him having one of my names, either Jeffrey or Thomas, as part of his. I know that sounds a little strong, politicking to have your nephew named for yourself. But I was in a predicament. I wasn't to have any children and I did not know if Kevin was to have anymore. I used several arguments including the fact that over the years, he (my brother) had lived with me in my house longer than he had lived anywhere else, saving the house where we were raised off South Park Road in southern Jefferson County. His various visits, some for a week, several for six months, and one for a year and a half, invariably included a variety of female companions among the people he brought in, usually with no notice whatsoever. I also pointed out that our second cousin Robert Lewis, III was named for his (and our) childless uncle, Robert Lewis, Jr., the former Sheriff of Franklin County. So I lobbied. I was given assurances that indeed the child would bear my name in some way.

When little Kevin was born, I visited the hospital and noticed the name tag which read "Kevin J. Noble." Pleased at this, and assuming his name was Kevin Jeffrey Noble, I thanked Kevin for the gesture. Kevin was noticeably quiet at the compliment. Later that day, I was with the child's mother, Melanie, who noted that "little Kevin" was named for her uncle Joe, the brother of the child's maternal grandmother. "Oh?!?" I remarked. She asked what was wrong and I told her I thought they were going to name the child in some respect after me. Although she was laying flat on her back in a hospital bed, she was quick on her feet with the response, "He is. His other middle name is Thomas, after you." There was a precedent for this additional middle name, so I didn't entirely question her response. Their second child, a girl, bears the name Aubreana Vera Ellis Noble. Vera is the first name of the maternal grandmother, Ellis is the middle name of the paternal grandmother, and Aubreana is the name of a favorite soap opera character of my brother's oldest child Lindsey. When Kevin (my brother) came into the room, Melanie quickly, before I could say anything, pointed out to him that I was happy with the Joseph-Thomas combination of middle names. He was relieved, saying "Oh, good." Since that time, I have addressed cards to my nephew as Kevin Thomas, and will now-and-then address him as such. But other than me and his parents, no one of record seems to know that Thomas is part of his name. I know neither the hospital where he was born nor the Vital Records Department in Frankfort have any idea that Kevin Joseph Noble's "other middle name is Thomas," as reported to me by his mother. Hence the parenthetical Thomas first mentioned above.

As I've said, I have a total of six nieces and nephews. Now would be a good time to introduce them. The oldest of these is my niece Lindsey, who is 19 and something of an artist and free spirit. She attended duPont Manual High School, which I briefly attended and from which my mother and father graduated, Dad only briefly, getting most of his education at the old Flaget. She eventually graduated from the Jefferson County High School. Lindsey currently dates a young man named Matt who has his hands full keeping her feet firmly planted on Terra Firma. Jacob is 17 and a senior at Southern High School, which his father also attended. From when he was very young he was a skateboard enthusiast and can still be found on a regular basis at Louisville's Skate Park downtown. He dates a young lady named Laura "who drives" as he likes to point out since he has no car of his own. Jacob works at a Gatti's Pizza somewhere, although I do not know where. The third child is Kavesha who is 10 and is a student at Hite Elementary School in Middletown. Kavesha has been raised by a family friend Ms. Groves. She is very smart, very shy, and very petite. Aubreana is 7 and like her little brother Kevin, attends Cochran Elementary on W. Gaulbert Avenue in Old Louisville. The youngest is Elijah Gene Noble, named for his great-great grandfather Elijah Milford Hockensmith, Sr., and his paternal grandfather Gene Noble. Elijah will be 4 in May.

As to Aubreana and Kevin's school, my mother calls it the "new Cochran" as she attended the "old Cochran" at Second and Hill streets, now a part of the Youth Performing Arts School. I understand her doing this as I attended both the old and new Prestonia Elementary Schools. Long ago I identified three groups of students who attended the two different Prestonias. If you are older than 50 and never attended at both buildings, you call them "Prestonia and New Prestonia." If you are in the age group spanning the six years where you would have attended both, as I did, you call them "Old Prestonia and New Prestonia." I graduated from New Prestonia in 1972. If you are 42 or younger and only attended one, you would say "Prestonia and Old Prestonia." Prestonia, as an institution, closed for good in 1981. The old building, built in the 19-teens was torn down and replaced by an Aldi Food Market. The new one is now called Gheens Academy and is incorporated into the new Male High School campus, located on Preston Highway in the former home of my alma mater, Durrett High School, which like Prestonia, also closed in 1981. But, I digress.

Old E. M. Hockensmith, "Lige," for whom my youngest nephew Elijah was named, was a self-employed carpenter building mostly residential structures in Louisville, Frankfort, and Versailles. His oldest son, my grandfather Daniel Thomas Hockensmith, was born in a brick house still standing at the corner where S. 4th Street becomes S. 5th Street at Longfield Avenue on the backside of Churchill Downs. Like his father, Daniel was a carpenter and became involved in union politics here in Louisville, holding all of the various offices of the Brotherhood of Carpernters and Joiners of America Local Union 64, informally the Carpenters Union. My brother and I spend spent many hours as little kids running around the union hall located at 4017 Dixie Highway, next to Saint Helen's Church in Shively. My grandfather passed along his vocation of carpentry skills to my brother Kevin. Kevin named his first son Jacob Daniel after him. Daniel passed along his avocation of politics to me.

I also got Daniel's middle name of Thomas. Thomas was the middle name of both of my maternal grandparents. My grandmother, mentioned in previous entries, was Vivian Thomas "Tommie" Hockensmith. My middle name of Thomas comes from both of them. I'm not sure where Jeffrey came from, although judging by the number of Jeffreys in their mid 40s, it was pretty popular among the young women of the late 1950s and early 1960s. The same with the name Kevin; lots of 45 year olds named Kevin. His middle name is Dean, which is our father's late brother Don's middle name. Uncle Don, who died in 2005, was an artist, politician, raconteur, and all around crazy guy. He was an alderman for the old City of Louisville in the 1960s and was one of Louisville's civil rights supporters before it was a very popular thing to be. In retirement, Uncle Don spent his time drawing caricatures at different venues, when he and Aunt Judy weren't otherwise wiling away the hours at their place on Nolin.

That's enough genealogy for one day, even for someone like me who likes it. Entry number 23 comes to an end. Incidentally, I was born on the 23rd, so it was an appropriate discussion.

A reminder: tomorrow, 4:00 pm. Deadline. I'll be there.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

22. Catching Up

One July day several years ago I was at a seminar in Minneapolis. The temperature that day was in the 80s. I had a friend there who commented they were celebrating Summer that particular day. He said they had done Spring the day before and Autumn would be the next day. Then Winter and Snow would return. Today, apparently, Louisville decided to finally have a little Winter. It is 18 degrees as I am writing this with a wind chill of -5. And, it is snowing. Real live snow, blowing all about. It isn't sticking anywhere, but it is very pretty. I really can not figure out why it isn't sticking given the temperature, but that isn't important. The important thing is it is finally snowing.

I owe my faithful readers an explanation. I have failed you again. I missed a few days. I have no excuses. I thought about writing Friday but felt no inspiration. Yesterday was a matter of preoccupation, both with personal and political business. Among the personal matters is my continued process of moving both residence and office. The office move is rather complete. The residential move will likely take a few more weeks. When moving one is tempted to dispatch some items which obviously have little value, especially those which haven't been unpacked and utilized since the last move a few years back. I've discovered I own about 45 pairs of socks and about 23 half-a-pair. I also have six pairs of tennis shoes, although I only regularly wear one - one pair that is, not one tennis shoe. Pictures, books, newspaper articles, obituaries (becoming more frequent as I celebrate more birthdays), and receipts are things with which I seem to have a difficult time letting go of, especially books.

I am bibliophile as well as an avid and daily reader. I buy books all the time, at flea markets, auctions, roadside shops, and occasionally at legitimate outlets such as bookstores. My first recollection of buying books simply for the sake of buying them was at the auction held to liquify the estate of my late great-grandfather Robert Alexander Lewis, Sr., who had a homestead on the Old Louisville Road, west of Frankfort between the communities of Bridgeport and Graefenburg (spelled without an "s" but invariably pronounced as if spelled Graefensburg). At the auction, held in the summer of 1980, I bid on each of the boxes of books available and purchased almost his entire collection of a variety of books, some of which were schoolbooks of many of my older relatives, as well as a number of reference books, an old set of encyclopaedias, and quite a bit of fiction, much of which had a religious bent to it. I still have every book I purchased that day. Another source of old books is the library. The libraries at Bellarmine and Spalding universities will occasionally put books out on a table when certain books are deemed no longer suitable for them. I tend to snatch those up upon learning of their availability. Also, each year the "Friends of the Library," patrons of the Louisville Free Public Library, have a book sale. They have thousands of books available, which they divide into categories. They can count on me to rid them of two or three boxes worth each time they do this. The last such sale was held at the old Male High School on S. Brook Street. I also try to find obscure little book shops when I travel. They all tend to have cute names, none of which I remember; as long as their sign says "Used Books," or words indicating the same, I am game.

One of these little shops is located in New Harmony, Indiana, a quirky little town due west of Louisville across Indiana on the Wabash River, where Indiana State Highways 66 and 69 intersect. There is a toll bridge there crossing the river into Illinois, on the highway which, upon entering Illinois, becomes Illinois State Highway 14, and which leads to Carmi, Illinois. The first time I was there, the toll was one thin dime, like the entrance to the old Kentucky Turnpike used to be at the Outer Loop and Fern Valley Road ramps. I think they've upped the ante to a quarter. New Harmony is a most interesting site. Among my favorite places in New Harmony is the Library, or more properly, the "Workingmen's Institute - Library and Museum." I haven't been there in a while, so I do not know if it has been updated or not. For a dollar entrance fee, one can get a tour of the museum led by the one person working in the whole building who has - on each time I've visited - just let me roam the place on my own. The Museum is on the second floor of the historic building. Given that New Harmony was the site of not one but two different Utopian Communities, this subject is given a great deal of attention in the Workingmen's Institute - the two societies being the Harmonists under George Rapp (also called Rappites), and the Owenites led by Robert Owen, the British socialist who had operated other utopian communities in Scotland and Pennsylvania before arriving in Indiana. While each of the experiments in communal living failed, they offer an education worth knowing and visiting. Throughout the library are little bits of everything in Indiana's history, from the ridiculous to the sublime. There are pictures of old fire engines, lots of rocks, a skeleton of some sort, soil samples, old books and documents, and other such recondite matters as one might find in a small town old-fashioned museum. It reminds me of the old Library Museum kids my age or older used to visit on school field trips in Louisville, before the Science Museum opened on Main Street. Louisville's old museum was located at 5th and York streets in the old Montsarrat School building, which now houses apartments. There was a huge whale skeleton right inside the front hall that I remember climbing through as a kid. Most of the old esoterica from the Library Museum is safely put away in private rooms at the Science Center, perhaps considered too mundane for today's sophisticated world. That is a shame.

If any of you have any thoughts on New Harmony, please share them.

Finally, on politics, a couple of notes. Yesterday, a well attended rally was held by Congressman John Yarmuth marking the successes of the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress, which was the subject matter of this blog's inaugural entry. Seven laws have been passed by the House which have the potential for long-term change in the lives of many Americans. The one that received the most play was the increase in the minimum wage. The one I feel is most important for the future, both immediate and extended, is the commitment to embryonic research. I'm not a scientist of any note at all, but the value such work has for the lives of so many people, all over the globe, is immeasurable. I am glad to have been a part of the team which helped elect Louisville's newest congressman and hope that this work they are beginning will be supported by the Senate as well as the President.

One other political note: Tuesday marks the deadline to run for statewide office this year. Both parties will be having lively primaries. I've been carrying around a set of filing papers, already signed and notarised by supporters of - anyone - who might want to run for statewide office - if you are a Democrat. Again, the curtain closes Tuesday at 4:00 pm.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

21. A Republican Governor from Louisville

It has been a busy day in Frankfort again as candidates are making their ways to file for statewide offices, which are on the ballot later this fall. After the candidates file, they often hold press conferences here and there to outline their plans once elected. The candidates I am supporting for the two highest offices in the Commonwealth, Jonathan Miller and Irv Maze, did just that today with an outline of proposals made after filing today at 11:00 am.

As many of you know, I hold offices in both the local and the state Democratic Party Executive Committees, and as such I am committed to supporting the Democratic nominees on the November ballot, whoever they might be. That obligation will be seriously challenged this fall should one particular candidate who has currently filed as a Democrat in the office of State Treasurer make it through the Primary as the nominee. I am hopeful that someone will step up and make this race. I spoke of it last night with John Sommers, who last year lost a race for the Metro Council in District 23, who indicated he is interested. Bill Ryan, a close friend and longtime Democratic party activist also indicated some interest, but he predicated that on what Mike Weaver or Todd Hollenbach, IV might do. An entry by Weaver or Hollenbach would hopefully change the course of this race from the collision it is currently headed toward. But, I digress.

It is often said around this time of year that a Louisvillian can not be elected to the office of governor. In my lifetime, the only one who was close to being that was John Young Brown, Jr., who lived in Louisville in the Primary (if one believes he wasn't living in somewhere in Florida at the time) but had established himself at the Cave Hill Mansion in Lexington by the time of his election in November, 1979 (again, if one believes he wasn't living in Florida at the time). Yesterday, Governor Brown's son, John Young Brown, III, filed as a candidate for Lieutenant Governor on the slate with Speaker of the House Jody Richards. I have known the younger Mr. Brown for over a decade. He is a very able and capable person, who served as Secretary of State for two terms, overseeing elections and bringing the office up to date electronically. He is a good man. I noticed in the filing that he gives his home as Prospect, Kentucky, a well-to-do suburban village northeast of Louisville, bordering along the Jefferson-Oldham border.

It does seem though, that the road to the Executive Mansion somehow involves Louisville this year. Miller's running mate is the Jefferson County Attorney Irv Maze. Former lieutenant governor Steve Henry is a resident of Louisville and once served on the governing body of Jefferson County as a commissioner. Brown the Third can say he is from Prospect legitimately, as that is the name of the Post Office which serves his home. Recently elected Congressman John Yamuth hails from Harrod's Creek, Kentucky, for the same reason, a post office. But, both are known to be Louisvillians. On the Dark Side of the Aisle, defeated Congresswoman Anne Northup (defeated by Louisville's newest congressman Harrod's Creek politician John Yarmuth), is not only a Louisvillian in the "Metro" sense of the word, but actually lives within the limits of the former City of Louisville, now technically known as the Louisville Urban Services District. She is a Louisvillian, which brings me to today's essay on former Kentucky Governor Augustus Willson.

Former Kentucky Governor Augustus Everett Willson was a Republican who served as governor of our Commonwealth from 1907 to 1911. He is best known for pardoning, in 1909, former governor William Taylor, a fellow Republican governor who had been implicated in the assassination of Governor William Goebel on the front lawn of the Capitol building, then located on Broadway opposite Saint Clair Street in what some now call "Old Frankfort", to distinguish from the location in "South Frankfort" of the "New Capital" (as people in Frankfort tend to refer to the current building housing the seat of government which is now 100 years old).

Governor Willson, like former Speaker of the House Bill Kenton and current Kentucky Democratic Party Chair Jerry Lundergan, was a native of Maysville, Kentucky, having been born there on October 13, 1846. But he did not stay there. Willson went off to Harvard College where he earned his Bachelor's Degree in 1869. He studied law under and practiced with the Kentucky jurist, former Franklin County Judge and Kentucky Attorney General John Marshall Harlan, who was later appointed by President Rutherford B. Hayes to the United State Supreme Court. Like Harlan, Willson was an avowed Republican and member of the Presbyterian Church. Willson moved his wife, Mary Ekin, to Louisville, where first they lived on S. 1st Street (according to legend having built the home which now houses the Austin Inn Bed and Breakfast), and then later on S. 4th Street near Central Park - though his residency may have been the other way around. While living in Louisville, he travelled to the United States Supreme Court to argue the case of Washer v. Bullitt County (the opposing counsel was James Speed) in March, 1884. Willson represented landowners in Bullitt County who were opposed to certain payments for a bridge built crossing over Pond Creek into Jefferson County in the present day area known as Stites Station, south of Kosmosdale and north of Kathryn Station and West Point. He lost the case.

As a Louisville resident, Willson was a delegate to the Republican National Conventions of 1884, 1904, 1908 (as governor), and 1916. He was elected governor of Kentucky as a resident of Louisville, defeating a Mr. Hager 51.2% to 46.9%. He was a temperance leader and is also remembered for declaring Martial law in the state during the Black Patch tobacco war in western Kentucky. After his term as governor, he ran for the United States Senate in 1914, losing to J. C. W. Beckham, another former governor who figured prominently in the Taylor controversy of fourteen years earlier.

Governor Willson died August 24, 1931 and is buried in Louisville's Cave Hill Cemetery. A Kentucky Historical marker has been placed near his grave, identifying Louisville's only (thus far) governor of Kentucky. Governor Willson's papers are on file at the Filson Club in Louisville.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

20. The State of Our Union

Some comments on President Bush’s State of the Union address.

First, let me be clear. I have been a student of presidents and presidencies for many years. In college I wrote several papers on different presidents, although none on this one, who took office after I left college. I have remarked to many people during the six years and four days (thus far) of George W. Bush’s presidency that I believe him to be the worst president at least of my lifetime. I was born in the waning days of the Dwight D. Eisenhower administration, a well respected and revered man, both in his living and his passing. There are very little, if any, similarities between these two men other than party registration. Mr. Bush comes very close to Jimmy Carter on a failed domestic agenda and like Ronald Reagan has borrowed this country into a deeper debt that ever envisioned by anyone, including Mr. Reagan who previously held that dubious and horrific honor. This president came into office professing to be an isolationist. He will leave with his intention intact. His only international friend at the time of his questionable and questioned election in November, 2000 was former Mexican president Vicente Fox, with whom he later parted ways. He will leave office in two years after having taken the United States, her foreign allies, and her opponents on a roller coaster ride worthy of a Walt Disney theme park. America visited the mountaintop shortly after the events of September 11, 2001, with the support of the worldwide community. Today, that support is severely limited and open to question. Only UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has remained through it all, and his days are numbered in his homeland because of it. We no longer have a place on that mountaintop. Our place is in a depression at present, a valley filled with war abroad and uncertainty at home. While the president can cite economic statistics implying a strengthening nation, the truth is the divide between rich and poor, have’s and have-not’s, and other such divisions, is as wide as it has ever been. Two and one half months ago, Americans sent a clear message to the president, one he might even call a mandate, and to the Congress, by sending some of them home including our own Mrs. Northup, that we were not and are not happy with the state of our union. Let’s hope both the President and the Congress were listening then and are listening now.

Having said all the above, I will address some specifics comments of Mr. Bush, with which I agreed.

He began great. Hearing him say “Madame Speaker” was worth all the toil of many, many folks who worked tirelessly across the country last year to help make those words a reality. His tribute to her father, former Congressman Thomas D’ Alesandro, Jr., was very touching. Also, calling for prayer for the recovery and speedy return of two members not present, Senator Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood was fitting and appropriate.

I mentioned above the incredible debt the United States has amassed under this president. According to estimates, it stands as of this moment at $8,682,260,402,021.35. That’s Eight Trillion with a T. Everett Dirksen would be astonished. That’s about $28,864.73 for each and every soul who is counted as a citizen of this country. The president failed to address this matter at all. He did mention the budget deficit twice and asked Congress to take measures to reduce it by half by 2009. He did not mention the debt his administration has created.

He called Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid “commitments of conscience.” This is good. He also said we are failing to do our duty to keep them permanently sound. I applaud him for that.

He said that private health insurance is the best way for most Americans to meet their health care needs. He is wrong. America needs a universal health care plan and the sooner one of the presidential wannabes agrees to that, the better off they will be. He talked a lot about tax credits for buying health insurance. This isn’t enough. America needs health insurance, not more tax credits.

On the same matter, he spoke of individual states addressing these health care insurance needs. While this is good, they are only doing so because they know the president and our country’s leaders haven’t and probably aren’t. His comments here were only cover.

He spoke at length about immigration. I agree with him a great deal in some of these matters. My immigration beliefs are, admittedly, well to the left of almost anyone. But, his proposals merit a discussion and a vote and are steps in the right direction. Let’s just hope he keeps moving that way. I am not sure what he meant with regard to resolving the status of our illegals “without animosity and without amnesty.” I think amnesty is one solution which should be seriously explored.

His discussion on our country’s energy needs and policies was also worthy. He made proposals with which I agree. He mentioned cleaner coal, solar and wind power, nuclear power, the use of ethanol, woodchips, grasses, and agricultural wastes as energy sources. I agree with him on all of them. I am concerned about what he meant when he said we must “step up domestic oil production in environmentally sensitive ways.” Sounds like a reference to Alaska.

He ignored the Constitution’s reference to advise and consent when he called on the Senate to give him a prompt up-or-down vote on his judicial nominees. Of course, he has been ignoring the Constitution rather regularly since taking office, so this came as no surprise.

He then moved into a very lengthy discussion on the War, on Iraq, on all matters of foreign policy. I listened, but I have no comments on this. A lot of people thought he would avoid going to this subject, as he is in the clear minority with his thoughts. But, he forged on, but in a pleading way. I commend him for laying out his beliefs and asking for help.

He closed with some feel-good recognitions of several Americans including Silver Heart recipient Sergeant Tommie Reiman, of Independence, Kentucky. When he mentioned Sergeant Reiman’s hometown, Kentucky became the only state mentioned by name in the course of the speech. For that, we should thank him for the recognition, not only of Sergeant Reiman, but of all the women and men he has asked to give of their time and talents, and of some the ultimate price, in following his policies, policies which I find unexplainable. He closed by saying the “State of our Union is strong.” I hope he is right.

May God bless America.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

19. One more week.

Candidates are beginning to find their ways to the Secretary of State's office for the purposes of filing for the statewide elections to be held later this year. If they haven't filed yet, they've at least asked directions.

As previously stated, I am supporting the ticket of State Treasurer Jonathan Miller and my boss, Irv Maze. Irv Maze is the Jefferson County Attorney, now in his third term, and a good friend who has helped me off and on during the course of our friendship of nearly 30 years. Miller did very well in choosing the Jefferson County Attorney as his running mate. Maze has deep roots in the southern part of the county, in Okolona, Highview, and Fern Creek.

Other Democrats who have filed or have announced are former lieutenant governor and Lexington attorney Steve Beshear; the eccentric Gatewood Galbraith, another Lexington attorney who will play a much larger role this year than he has in elections past; Otis Hensley, an eastern Kentuckian about whom I know nothing more; my good friend Dr. Steve Henry, a two-term lieutenant governor in the most recent Democratic administration; and another good friend who is the longest serving Speaker of Kentucky's House of Representatives, the Honorable Jody Richards. There is speculation that others may enter, namely Bruce Lunsford, Charlie Owen, or Greg Stumbo, but it is only speculation at this point.

On the Dark Side of the Aisle, Kentucky's first Republican governor in 32 years, Ernie Fletcher, is running for re-election. The greatest threat to his renomination comes from Anne Northup, the Louisville legislator turned Member of Congress who was defeated about two months ago in her bid for re-election to the United States House of Representatives by John Yarmtuth, an alternative news editor and publisher, who literally put his money to work to give his liberal views a voice in Washington D.C. on behalf of Kentucky's Third Congressional District's constituents. I think Ernie's incumbency out in the state will serve him well in May, especially given Northup's usually brusque style of campaigning. While it had served her well, at least prior to 2006, it may not be the most compelling way for a Louisvillian to garner votes out in the state. Also running is Paducah businessman Billy Harper, who David Hawpe correctly identifies as the incarnate version of Elmer Fudd, based on Harper's appearance and voice. But, he has millions of his own dollars to spend, and says he intends to do just that. Adding to the silliness on the Republican side is State Representative Lonnie Napier, who represents Garrard and Madison counties, south of Fayette. Lonnie falls well to the right of both Fletcher and Northup.

The presence of all these candidates in both parties' primaries almost guarantees run-off primaries will be held on June 26th, the day specified in the statutes, assuming there are no extended contests to the Primary returns. This will cost the taxpayers approximately $5,000,000.00 - the estimate given to conduct an election. All the inside workers have to be rehired, all the machines reprogrammed, all the polling sites re-leased, all the deputy sheriff and deputy clerks rehired, and finally, all the votes recast. That final thing is a bit different. Typically, the number of persons recasting ballots in a run-off elections is dramatically lower that those who show up the first time around. Some research indicates turn out falls by up to 38%. This means 38% lower than the usual dismally low Primary turnout to start with.

Democratic State Representative Rick Nelson, representing Bell County in southeastern Kentucky - where they built a city in a depression created when a crator impacted the earth - has introduced a bill doing away with the run-off provisions. Again, the bottom line for this is spending $5,000,000.00 in taxpayer money that surely can be spent better elsewhere. If you agree with Representative Nelson, as I do, I'd strongly suggest you contacting your representatives in the General Assembly. They will be returning to Frankfort in ten days to commence this year's so-called short session. Call them at 502-564-8100 or go online to

In other news, also political, I'll be addressing the board of the Metropolitan Women's Democratic Caucus tonight, speaking on the outcomes of the 2006 races here in Jefferson County and Kentucky, as well as the outlook for 2007 and 2008.


Monday, January 22, 2007

18. State of the Blog

Last week the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Mayor gave his State of the Metro report. This week the President of the United States of America will give his report on the state of the Republic under his watch. If he is honest, if you can imagine George W. Bush to ever be so, he will follow the late Gerald Ford, who was known for his honesty and candor, and who in one of his State of the Union speeches was frank as well as honest when he reported the State of the Union was not good. Again, that will only happen if Mr. Bush is honest. In Frankfort, Governor Fletcher will offer a message of our Commonwealth under his watch. That should be interesting.

Here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, we are in our nineteenth day. It will hopefully be a custom to report from time-to-time to those assembled in reading my blog. This is one of those times.

According to my blog counter, which any of you can read through at any time, I've had just over 200 visitors! Break out the Old Forester! Now, once you discount the 50 or so times I've accessed the site, the number stands at around 150. That's still enough to celebrate. From Kentucky, visits have been made from Louisville, Frankfort, Lexington, Newport, and Simpsonville. We have had visitors from at least eleven states other than Kentucky as well the District of Columbia, to wit: California, Washington, Michigan, Iowa, Texas, Colorado, Oregon, Massachusetts, Virginia, Maryland, Florida, and Washington, D.C. We've also been viewed in several foreign nations, to wit: Canada (two provinces), Spain, Sweden (two provinces), and China. The locations of a few visitors cannot be determined.

As for topics, they haven't been quite as broad as I would have hoped. We've discussed the governments of our Metro, our County, our Commonwealth, and our Republic. We've had a wee bit of religious discussion, dabbled in history and genealogy, travelled to Florida and Washington, celebrated a few birthdays, touched on the theater, mentioned the weather (or lack thereof), and fallen into the too-easy topic of politics more often than I had planned, although politics has been my vocation and avocation for most of my life, so such excess is acceptable.

The one thing we haven't had are many comments. Mr. Nick Stump is our leading commenter with "more than one." He is tied with the ubiquitous Mr. Anonymous. We've had one "spam" comment, and one other one. I've referred to "my five readers." Maybe I have more, but only five have written.

So today we start our second nineteen days, maybe more. I'll report back later. If you have any suggestions, make them in writing by commenting to this post. Have a good week.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

17. Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow.

It's raining here at Milepost 606 on the Left Bank of the Ohio River. That isn't what they promised. They promised snow, to the tune of one to three inches. Once again, they were outfoxed by Mother Nature. But, they did provide an opportunity for endless promotions by the local media of the "next big storm." If history is any indication, the real next big storm will arrive on January 16 or 17, 2010. They seem to fall sixteen years apart. We had big snow storms on those dates in both 1978 and 1994. I am not sure what the weather was in 1962 but I do know we had snow and the temperature was in the single digits most of that week. But, not this year, at least not yet. We really haven't had any measurable snowfall which is not right. We have winter, we should have snow.

One of the new ways of telling when the government thinks we are going to have snow or freezing rain is by these new lines in the streets. Rather than waiting until the precipitation arrives, the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro has begun pre-treating our roads with some sort of brine mixture. The visuals of this are pretty cool. There are long straight lines within the driving lanes of the streets that have had the treatment. At given intersections, where both streets have been treated, a checkerboard pattern appears. It does work. I went out this morning while the roads were still icy, but on the treated streets (mine isn't one of them), the ice had melted.

But, it isn't snow.

Tomorrow, by the way, is my mother's birthday. She is a Hockensmith from Frankfort who has lived nearly all of her life in Louisville. She is a state government retiree and a most wonderful person. She is the most important person in the world to me. I hope her birthday is enjoyable and her 2007 prosperous and healthy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

16. The District

First, I've missed a day. Although there are no rules, and what rules there are are only arbitrarily created and are most often broke by their arbitrary creators. Such is the case here. I wanted to make at least one post a day, and as of yesterday, I have failed to do so. I will endeavor to do better.

This morning, I've read a Washington Post review of a theater group's performance of Macbeth, a favorite play of mine and maybe yours. I emailed it to a friend who has recently taken a job in Washington, DC. This friend and I have been to another theatrical performance, here in Louisville at Actors, and while our tastes are different and separated by a generation, there is a common enjoyment of live theater. The DC company in the review has two more plays planned this Spring, Animal Farm and Hamlet.

I've had a fascination with our nation's seat of government since a trip I took there with some of my 6th grade class at Prestonia Elementary. Most of the kids on that trip were from Ms. Norman's 5th grade class, but they needed four more kids to make a full roster. I had been in Ms. Norman's class in 5th grade, but we didn't make the trip, so she invited me and three others. What a time I had. Our school group was accompanied by the appropriate adult chaperones. Upon arriving, we divided into groups of five students, each with a chaperone. My group's chaperone was Ms. Norman's then-husband Mike. Since the other chaperones were all parents, the other groups had someone generally 20 to 25 years older than they were doing the chaperoning. Mike was maybe 15 years older than we were and was something of a free spirit.

We visited places all up and down the Mall, the various buildings of the Smithsonian, as well as the two houses of Congress, the Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court. At least we stood out in front of the Supreme Court and staged a mock-protest, just to say we had done so. Since my grandfather had been big in the Louisville local of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and their national headquarters was on the beaten path, just to the northwest of the Senate wing of the Capitol building, we visited there as well. All the other groups had set schedules. We ran pretty freely.

I've been back a few times. I have some favorite places, and there are some places I haven't seen yet such as Henry Adams' monument for his wife at their grave site. I've mentioned before my interest in and concern for the Historic Congressional Cemetery on E Street SE, in the direction of RFK stadium. I've not made it to the Folger Library, so if for no other reason, I have to go back there sooner or later.

I've lived almost my entire life in Louisville. I've also lived briefly in Frankfort and Lexington. The only other city I've ever wanted to live in was and is Washington, DC. It is a beautiful city with lots of history and lots of politics, two of my three favorite subjects, the other being religion. In the series West Wing, the inner workings of the epicenter of our Republic's government are shown in a dramatic presentation of the office of the President, as well as the City itself. I've begun with a friend watching episodes, in order, of the entire seven-year series, which he received as a Christmas gift. It has rekindled my interest in the District. I've longed subscribed to newspapers, newsletters, and articles pertaining to events there. Hopefully, this will be the year I get back, at least for a visit.

Finally, speaking of Washington, today marks the 3/4 point of the George Bush presidency, assuming he completes the term and doesn't declare himself Supreme Ruler anytime soon. At the latest, two years from today, we will be inaugurating the next Leader of the Free World. Redemption draweth nigh.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

15. Thursday Notes.

Very Light posting today.

I may have mentioned I have moved offices in the last few weeks. I formerly had a window looking north from the 5th floor toward downtown Louisville, but not close enough to see the Left Bank of the Ohio river at Milepost 606. I now have a view toward the south from the tenth floor, where one can see two of the four sides of the City Hall clock, and the public park I've previously written about at the southeast corner of 6th of Jefferson. Did I mention before that in the 1980s, that park was sometimes called Gonzales Park? Does anyone know why? I do. On a clear day, my view extends to the hills along the Jefferson-Bullitt County line, hills with trails one can visit and hike in the Jefferson Memorial Forest between Coral Ridge, Fairdale, and Valley Station. If you like the outdoors and are into hiking, or fishing too, you should acquaint yourself with the Forest. The main entry is off Mitchell Hill Road in Fairdale.

After having moved offices, this weekend I will be moving my residence from about 11 blocks south of my old office to 14 blocks east of my new one. In good weather, I'll walk it, but otherwise will probably continue to ride the TARC, now using Route 19 or 21, as opposed to 2 or 4. I've added quite a bit of space and am looking forward to the move - well, actually looking forward to life after the move.

In politics, there have been no new filings in Secretary of State C. M. "Trey" Grayson's office today, at least up until a few minutes ago. Yesterday I mentioned the Jefferson County Judge/Executive being interested in a state spot. Today he tells me he is about 27% there, which means he is 73% somewhere else. An anonymous commenter seems to know where his 73% interest more properly lies (or is it lays?). Also yesterday, I failed to mention the name of Ed Hatchett, one of the more honorable men to have served in Frankfort, as a possible candidate for State Treasurer.

On another political note, I have accepted an invitation in March to serve as a judge in the Bullitt County Mayors' Annual Chili Cookoff. I've done this before with two others, a councilwoman from the city of Hillview, and my young friend Taylor Coots, a native of Elk Creek in Spencer County and most recently living in Fayette County. When the time comes, I will post a reminder so you can all attend - all five of you.

Finally, the fire in Brooks has burned itself out. All kinds of investigators have poured into the area, whose intersection with I-65 is a sort of microcity, much like Hurstbourne and I-64, but on a smaller basis. There are plenty of motels rooms to house them and no shortage of fast food deals to feed them.

Oh. One more thought. The weather service is promising - promising I say - at least an inch and up to three inches of the white stuff this weekend. Although, as stated above, I'll be moving, I am looking forward to it. I love snow, and we haven't had enough. We've barely had any at all. Why have winter and cold, if you can't have some snow to go with it?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

14. Wait for the Midnight Hour

Well, it's been an interesting day here in the Bluegrass State, as least as far as politics goes. For the first time that I can ever remember, there are more Republicans running for governor than Democrats, although that is very likely to change between now and January 30 at 4:00 pm, the "midnight" hour for filing.

Actually, there was a time when the filing deadline was at midnight. I can remember a few occassions when I was quite young of making my way to the Old Court House on Jefferson Street [the one the Mayor calls Metro Hall] and seeing who would stream in to file at the last minute. Mary Ann Ryan ran the office at that time. It was in a small room off of the southeast wall of what is now the Deed Room on the 2nd Floor. Incidentally, Jefferson's Old Court House doesn't have any odd-numbered floors. There is the Basement which isn't a basement at all, but the ground level; the 2nd Floor, which houses the Deed Room among other things; the 4th Floor, where the Mayor of the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro holds forth, deciding which ribbons to cut and where the begonias would best look; and the attic, which is the 6th floor, another huddle of administrative offices serving at the pleasure of the L-JCMM.

Sometime back, the dealine was changed to 4:00 pm. Names such as former Jefferson County Judge Louis J. "Todd" Hollenbach, III, and John Young Brown, III come to mind as those who filed their papers in the so-called nick of time. Maybe it has something to do with that "III" behind their names. Maybe not. On the occassions where I was a candidate, I filed earlier rather than later. I thought it might help. It didn't.

As mentioned before, this year is a Statewide year. Filings occur in the Secretary of State's office, on the "Louisville" end of the 1st floor of the State Capital in Frankfort. The Louisville end is also the Senate end, if you are on the 3rd floor. No senators filed for anything today, but one probably will. Many years ago, legislators ran for office in odd-numbered years as do statewide offices. This meant if they wanted to run for a statewide office, more likely than not (as 119 of the state's 138 legislators are on the ballot every other year) they had to give up their coveted legislative seat. Many weren't willing to do so. So, controlling the power of the pen, they rewrote the laws to allow for a vote moving their respective elections to the even numbered years, and thus availing themselves of the opportunity to seek statewide office with their incumbency unencumbered by such a move. How thoughtful.

The prominent (and apparently only) filing today was that of former congresswoman Anne Northup, a Republican of Louisville who just ten short weeks ago was defeated by John Yarmuth, the liberal-editor-turned-Louisville-pol, and her running mate State Representative Jeff Hoover, a Jamestown attorney who has served in the House since about the time Anne Northup left it to go to Washington. Anne Northup truly believes she can defeat a sitting governor. This Republican primary - replete with a Third Person wild card, a millionaire from Paducah named Billy Harper - should be most fun to watch, especially because otherwise we'll all be watching the bloodbath on our side of the aisle, once all the players get in. As a reminder, I am supporting the ticket of Jonathan Miller and Irv Maze.

While very few things in politics or statemanship are truly coincidental, sometimes the gods work in mysterious ways. There is no doubt that Mrs. Northup's strongest area will be in Jefferson and the surrounding counties. Oddly, Bullitt County, just to Jefferson's south, has had the tragic train derailment in the last two days, affording Governor Fletcher to legitimately be seen at such "Northup area" places as the Zoneton Fire Department on Preston Highway in north Bullitt, and the Okolona Christian Church, which the Red Cross used as a shelter, also facing Preston, a few miles south of Okolona. His presence there is appropriate as governor in all honesty and as a native of the area, I appreciate it. But it also can't help but help him in an area where he will surely need it in May.

In the down ballot races, little has changed as everyone is waiting on Greg Stumbo, either to declare for governor or for reelection as Attorney General. The waiting wings are filling up with those who will have decisions to make based on what the very able Attorney General decides to do. The State Treasurer's race picked up a former district judge who most recently lost a race in 2003 as a Republican. This year he is a Democrat. He has also ran for a few non-partisan offices. I'm not sure such a cavalier attitude toward party identification is a good quality when one goes choosing a candidate for office. The Treasurer's race also lost a good man, Steve Gold, Democrat of Henderson, whose day job is serving as an attorney. Gold has also served in the past as (Interim) Chair of the Kentucky Democratic Party. Someday, he and others his age will have to take up the mantle of seeking these down-ballot offices. Other names which have been mentioned for this office are former congressional candidate Col. Mike Weaver, Todd Hollenbach, IV (son to the above mentioned Louis J. the III), the brother of State Representative Joni Jenkins, and the recently re-elected and sans portfolio Jefferson County Judge/Executive Ken Herndon.

Again, the deadline is January 30, 2007 at 4:00 pm. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

13. Train Wreck; January 17th events

Strange. Yesterday, in my essay on 22nd Street and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I wrote at length about the road where I was raised, South Park Road. In that essay I mentioned the hill where the South Park Country Club sits as well as the L & N Railroad, now a part of the CSX System. I didn't mention that it was 15 years ago this week the CSX closed up the old railroad shops along Floyd Street, taking what few employees were left to Florida, along with the name L&N, no longer a part of Louisville's history, except for the lights which shine from the old L&N Headquarters, thanks to State Senator Tim Shaughnessy, whose father was an old L&N man. But that is another story.

In all likelihood, the only mention of South Park Road (known as Coral Ridge Road in Bullitt County) and the L&N Railroad in recent days appeared on this blog, maybe read by five lucky souls. That all changed this morning as a train derailed in northern Bullitt County near the intersection of E. Blue Lick Road and Huber Station Road, in the community of Brooks, Kentucky. Huber Station Road runs along the east side of the L&N RR while Coral Ridge Road runs along the west side. This particular line is the main line originally established in the mid 1800s which gave the railroad its now former name, the Louisville and Nashville. Years ago this same area was in the news as one of the "Superfund" sites, places needing major cleanup from the storage and dumping of illegal chemicals. Smith's Dump is just over the hills to the west from the derailment site. Ironically, new and very high-priced homes have been built along the ridge of hills separating the dump site from the derailment site.

Not far away at all is Brooks Elementary School which has been evacuated. Not too much further in Jefferson County are Coral Ridge Elementary, Blue Lick Elementary (where I attended 1st and 2nd grades), and Knight Middle School. Coral Ridge has shut off its ventilation system in response to the wreck. Roads all through the area have been shut down, including the modern day equivalent of the L&N RR, that being Interstate 65 which is closed between Colesburg [I know you have no idea where that is], south of Lebanon Junction, and the Gene Snyder Freeway in Jefferson County. Many business and homes in the area have also been evacuated. A number of residents have taken up shelter at either the Little Flock Baptist Church or the Okolona Christian Church, both megachurches along Preston Highway between Okolona and Shepherdsville.

Much of what I have written on my blog has pertained to "place" rather than person or thing. Most of it is trivial, but personally important to me. This story will be the lead story for most of the day in our Commonwealth, and will grant Louisville, as the closest large city to the site, a spot on the evening national news broadcasts. Tonight, the personally important but generally trivial "place" notes I've made on South Park Road and the L&N will merge in importance with national and international news-making places like Baghdad, Teheran, and Washington, D.C., celebrating, unfortunately, their proverbial fifteen minutes of fame.

So far it seems everyone is safe, something for which to be thankful.

Incidentally, Louisville will be back in the news tomorrow as one of our own celebrates his 65th birthday. Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay), arguably one of the most recognized people on the planet, turns 65 tomorrow. As an aside, my little brother Kevin turns 45. On Kevin's 16th and 32nd birthdays, Louisville was snowed under with snowfalls of 16 inches in both years, 1978 and 1994. The 1994 snowfall closed most of Louisville down, including the airport and I-65, both of which have been affected by the Bullitt County train derailment. Should you see either Muhammad or Kevin tomorrow, wish them a Happy Birthday.

Monday, January 15, 2007

12. A Street By Any Other Name

I grew up in an area in southern Jefferson County along a road called Deposit Station Road, or Depot Station Road. Don't go looking for it on a map - it isn't there. And truthfully, it wasn't called that when I was kid. It was called then what it is called now, South Park Road, so named because it led to the South Park Country Club over on the west face of the hill which marks the highest point in the county at around 900 feet above sea level.

South Park Road was the fill-in road between Okolona and Fairdale. The original road connecting those two communities can still be seen it parts. It ran at right angles, beginning in Okolona at what is now called Minor Lane [or Minor's Lane or Minors Lane] and Preston Highway [which itself was once called Plank Road, then Preston Street Road, and sometimes New Shepherdsville Road, which in turn gave us what most people call Old Shepherdsville Road although the government calls that road Shepherdsville, without the Old]. From there it followed the current Minor Lane as far as what is now Outer Loop. It originally crossed Outer Loop at a right angle, continuing another block south, where it turned west (approximately where the UFCW 227 Union Hall is). From the it met up with another part of the road which is called Minor's Lane - the one with a Minor's Lane Baptist Church, a Minor's Lane Elementary School, and also, differently, the remnants of the City of Minor Lane Heights. It followed that road south to what is now called South Park Road, where again it turned west and headed into Fairdale, with the name changing to Fairdale Road where it crosses what used to be the L & N Railroad.

The South Park I grew up on was a fill-in, from a point along Blue Lick Road between the Moody Farm and the Hovekamp Farm, west to where Minor's Lane now intersects it, where Pape's Hardware used to be. Later, a final section connecting from Blue Lick Road east over to Preston was built, giving us the present day South Park Road. Incidentally, east of Preston Highway, South Park Road becomes one of the several Manslick Roads in the county. I could go into the story of Mr. Mann who operated a salt lick in the late 1700s near what is now Glengarry Shopping Center in Fairdale, but that story is for a different day.

Louisville's history has a number of street name changes in it, as well as streets which change name mid-course. Broadway was once Prather Street and before that it was called Dunkirk Lane. Von Borries Street became Baxter Avenue, while Baxter Avenue became Bardstown Road. Castlewood Drive was the original road to Newburg, and if you follow it up the hill and out Baxter past Shady Lane, it becomes, in fact Newburg Road. A person can travel from two different points on the Ohio River, and, never turning off the same road, will be on seven (some say eight) differently named streets: Starting at 9th Street and the river downtown, where at Main Street 9th becomes Roy Wilkins Avenue. Continuing south, the 9th Street name is rejoined at Broadway. Just north of Magnolia Avenue, 9th Street becomes 7th Street; from there south where some people say 7th Street becomes 7th Street Road (where the old railroad right-of-way exists north of Algonquin Parkway), continuing south, where upon crossing Berry Boulevard (at least that is what it is called on the east), the street becomes one of the ubiquitious Manslick Roads. At Palatka Drive, Manslick Road becomes Saint Andrews Church Road, named for a former Catholic Church located on top of one of the "Seven Hills" which make up the ridge south of Louisville and east of Dixie Highway. This ridge eventually lent itself to the renaming of the old Laconia community, now called Pleasure Ridge Park. Several years ago, Saint Andrews Church Road was realigned at Dixie Highway to meet opposite Greenwood Road. Thus, once crossing Dixie, the name changes, finally to Greenwood Road. Greenwood itself ends literally in the Ohio River after crossing Cane Run Road.

I was reminded of street names and changes today as I made my way driving along in the motorcade in honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King. When we crossed 22nd Street (heading east on Chestnut), there was a collection of people standing there with signs remarking on the Metro Council's recently failed attempt to change the name of 22nd Street to King. I'm not sure that 22nd Street is the appropriate street of which to change the name. It seems to me that, as King's legacy crossed racial and social barriers, naming a street which flows nearly in its entirely in areas mostly occupied by those living at or near poverty level is not right, nor does it allow the message of King to be reminded to large numbers of people. The only connection King has with 22nd is the pastorage of his brother, the Reverend A. D. Williams King, of Zion Missionary Baptist Church at 22nd and Ali Boulevard.

Not to be outdone, State Senator Greald Neal has introduced a bill in the General Assembly calling upon the state to designate Interstate 65 in Jefferson County as the Martin Luther King Expressway. I'm not sure I agree with that either, although I'm not against it. But, the truth is, I'm hard pressed to say which would be the right street. The local USA Today knock-off (the Courier-Journal) has suggested 6th Street. I think perhaps the answer should be Ninth Street. Ninth Street, mentioned previously above, is a four-lane divided highway with a wide park-like median throughout downtown where it serves as an artificial and arbitrary divide between Louisville and the West End. "West of 9th" is often heard when referring the the black areas. I know white people who don't go "West of 9th." I know a few blacks who don't like to go "East of 9th" but usually have to since not enough businesses serve the people "West of 9th." Ironically, 9th Street isn't even called 9th Street downtown. There it is called Roy Wilkins Avenue, named for an national African-American leader who ties with Louisville, if any, are unknown. This is all the more reason to change 9th (or Roy Wilkins). Rather than be a dividing line, the new Martin Luther King Parkway could be a uniting line. It is a beautiful street and too long has served as a separator. I do not think Dr. King would approve of such separation, but I do not know. I do know that his legacy is as a uniter, bringing together folks of all creeds and colors and religions, Americans all. The Episcopal Church calls him an American saint.

Louisville is one of the largest cities in the country - maybe the 16th largest largest - and the largest in the South, without a major street named for Dr. King. A privately owned and closed lane, one block long in front of the Federal Building, is the only place we have his name on a street. That needs to change.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

11. January 15, 2007

Tomorrow is a legal holiday in this country, celebrating the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Arguments have been made that no single person in this country deserves a holiday of their own. The only other persons who have one are Jesus Christ and Christopher Columbus. George Washington and Abraham Lincoln's birthdays were combined into Presidents Day several years ago, a day no one seems to celebrate except car dealers and mattress warehouses.

Today's comment is related to the celebration of the holiday, and specifically the way it is celebrated in Louisville, Kentucky, here on the Left Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 606. Among the events to be held tomorrow is a caravan sponsored by a group called PRIDE, an African-American group in this little burg ran by George Burney, Sr., a retired entertainer who for many years has been an advocate for African-Americans in various dealings with their various governments. The caravan commences from the Lyles Plaza parking lot at 28th and Broadway and wends it way through the West End, eventually arriving at a church service in downtown Louisville. In the past, church services have been held at either Lampton Baptist or Bates Memorial Baptist, both old traditional black churches.

It isn't really a parade as the cars participating travel at a rate of about 25 to 30 miles per hour through intersections, blowing their horns and waving. And it is the waving which is important in this celebration. Folks along the route, young and old, through the residential neighborhoods on Chestnut, Muhammad Ali, and other West End streets, stand from their front porches and sometimes out into their yards (remember it is middle of January) waving and cheering as the parade proceeds. It is truthfully and literally moving. Most of the children, and perhaps many of the adults, only know what they have been told about Dr. King, indeed, as is the case with me. He was assasinated when I was seven. That he has been dead for nearly 40 years and still attracts the response he does from the sidewalks and front porches in a town with which he had little direct contact is a testament to the reason he has been afforded a holiday. Would or do others who lived and died in his era draw such attention? Does anyone know the birthday or the death-date of Bobby Kennedy, who died the same year? Very few people do - I can not say I know when he was born. I believe died on June 6.

Last month, when President Ford passed away on December 26th, I was reminded by a friend that another president in the 20th Century had also passed away on December 26th, and in my lifetime. Until that reminder, I had forgotten. The other president was Harry S. Truman, beloved in retirement, but not all that popular as a president. The fact that I had forgotten a president's death, but will participate in a celebration of a civil rights leader's life again tomorrow, as I have done now for several years, says something about why tomorrow is a federal holiday, for good or bad. You must see the faces of those people on the doorstoops and front porches, and you will understand too.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

10. Luncheon Surprise

As many of you, my loyal readers - I think there might be five of you - know, my first love is politics. It has been a passion since I was a child, learning first hand from several women in my very early life. My maternal grandmother, "Tommie" Hockensmith, was an active Democrat in the Okolona area of Jefferson County for many years. She was joined in my political tutoring by two of our neighbors, the late Mildred Moody Shumate and former State Representative Dottie Priddy. About a mile east of our neighborhood was another woman active in Okolona politics, the late Carolyn Beauchamp.

The tutelage began early, as Dottie was a candidate for State Representative in 1969. She ran and won the 45th District House seat, defeating the Republican incumbent whose name was, I believe, Oz Johnson. He had been principal of Valley High School. The district was huge, taking in all of southwest Jefferson County outside of the Watterson, from Okolona, west through Fairdale, Auburndale, PRP, Valley Station, and Kosmosdale. I was eight years old.

For better or worse, the political bug caught me and remains to this day. In 1980, I entered Jefferson County partisan politics by seeking a seat as a District Vice Chair on the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Executive Committee, serving the Okolona, Coral Ridge, and Fairdale areas. I won on a ticket with Carolyn Beauchamp as Chair, as we defeated the incumbent Chair Ed Louden and Vice Chair Ann Ray. I've been off and on the LJCDEC both in a voting and non-voting capacity since that time, winning some elections and losing even more, including an unsuccessful race for the Chair of the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party in 2001. I am currently serving in a non-voting capacity as the By-Laws Chair. In 2004, I went statewide in my interests, seeking and winning a seat as a committeeman on the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee, representing the Third Congressional District, which generally speaking is Jefferson County.

Over the years I've been involved in a number of campaigns (including three unsuccessful ones of my own), attempting to elect folks at all levels of government. Most recently I served as a paid advisor (through my consulting firm) to John Yarmuth, who won his race over five-term incumbent Congresswoman Anne Northup. I get called upon from time to time to advise people at the very beginning of their ideas that they might want to seek office. I can recall one specific lunch meeting I had at Lynn's Paradise Cafe with a friend and his friend, his friend wanting to run for Congress at the time. The friend didn't run that year, but several years later came back to seek the congressional seat, and came very close to winning it. Today's lunch was at the Third Avenue Cafe in Old Louisville. A friend of many years with whom I have worked on several campaigns spoke with me and another mutual but non-political friend in detail about the idea of seeking statewide office in 2007. In the past, I've only been intimately involved in two statewide primary campaigns, both unsuccessful, in 1983 with John Celletti, and in 1995 with Jim Wayne. Statewide campaigns are an extreme amount of work and fun. When the conversation began, I didn't know where it was going, but knew it was going to be interesting.

Today's conversation covered the basics: how many votes are cast, which counties matter the most, and how much does it cost. None of the questions were answered fully, but just engaging in them is, in fact, engaging. The person seeking my advice has a number of positives going in their favor, and like anyone, also a few negatives, although they are just that - few - and rather unusual. I am not at liberty to say who the person was. That decision will have to come from my friend whenever the decision is made to actually seek the office. But going over positives and negatives and cities and counties and voters and donors and ideas is truly a great way for someone like me to spend a rainy afternoon in January with, admittedly, very little else to do.

The filing deadline is 4:00 pm, January 30, 2007. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 12, 2007

9. 1937

This will be short.

The papers are running a series of articles concerning the deluge of 1937. Seventy years ago later this month, much of the Ohio Valley from beginning to end was under water, especially here on the Left Bank at Milepost 606. Louisville suffered greatly in this event that was truly catastrophic for the entire area. A great deal of what was then known as the City of Louisville, including all of downtown well beyond Broadway, as well as points east going out Main and Market streets, and blocks and blocks of the West End, was all under several inches, if not feet, of water.

As I was growing up, references were often made to "the '37 Flood." One that comes to mind is a table which is currently sitting in my mother's family room. It will always be the "table that made it through the '37 Flood" as my grandmother would say most every time the table was moved from one side of the room to the other. I am not sure if my grandparents were living in Frankfort or Louisville at the time. They had just been married the year before in the "Pastor's House on Conway Street [in Frankfort]," another recurring story in my growing-up days. Frankfort, in the S-curve of the Kentucky River, also fell victim to the '37 Flood. I am sure there will be more to write in the coming days on recollections of 1937. Part of the significance right this moment is that the weather service is calling for up to five inches of rain this weekend.

I'd rather have snow.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

8. O How The Mighty Have Fallen

A touch of dignity was today restored to Jefferson Square, the public space occupying the southwestern 1/4 block opposite the old Jefferson County Court House, or Metro Hall as it is known to the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro and his acolytes. The building the mayor calls Metro Hall was the fifth building to house the judicial branch of government in Jefferson County. There have since been two more buildings erected to serve this purpose, the Louis D. Brandeis Hall of Justice, located diagonally southwest of the old Court House at 6th and Jefferson streets and built in the 1970s; and the newer Jefferson Judicial Center ("Judicial Center" being the new name for most of Kentucky's newest court houses) located west of the Brandeis Hall of Justice at 7th and Jefferson streets, built (as I remember) in the 1990s. If one's vista is to the south of the old Court House, as mine became due to change in offices yesterday, the park known as Jefferson Square offers a green space of land in the midst of the asphalt along Sixth and Jefferson streets and the concrete rising in the form of these seats of justice, as well as the multi-storied PNC Tower to the east.

Jefferson Square serves as the proverbial "public square" for Jefferson County. In it speeches have been made, bands have performed, and ceremonies held, including the very solemn community memorial service held after the events of September 11, 2001, as well as an immigration rally in support of Louisville's immigrant population last May 1st put on in part by KCCIR. I attended both events and have many others. Jefferson Square is truly a People's Park - you Berkeley alums of a particular age will understand my meaning.

Unlike several other Kentucky counties, our court house was not built in a center-of-town public square, complete with a British-like turnabout circus, but rather was built in the middle of the block (actually taking up 1/2 of the entire block). Oddly, while the center square is somewhat popular in our Commonwealth, of the counties abutting Jefferson, only Hardin's old courthouse is of this type. Oldham, Shelby, Spencer, and Bullitt, like Jefferson, each have court houses facing on a main street. (In Jefferson that main street is called Jefferson. In Oldham, Shelby, and Spencer, it is called Main Street, although Oldham's Fiscal Court Building is on a Jefferson. Bullitt opts for Buckman, while Hardin preserves history in Dixie Avenue). Incidentally, Hardin's new "Judicial Center," built a block south of the old one, looks like a chopped-off version of Jefferson's. Perhaps they were designed by the same person, but whoever she or he might be, I doubt they will attain the architechtural significance of a Gideon Shryock. But, I digress.

Back in November, a large task was undertaken in this county, as well as a county to the northwest, on the Right Bank of the Ohio, which made it an interstate, or national, affair. It seems a grand and noble christmas-type tree had grown far too close to a house for the comfort of its residents. The residents sought a way to rid themselves of this problem, and like many people do when faced with a problem, turned their minds and voices to the government. Lo and behold, the government of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro was in need of a christmas-type tree for its public square's winter display. How the two met up has never been fully explained.

You may know the story. The tree was felled from its location in Floyds Knobs, Indiana, and carried by a military transport helicopter belonging to Uncle Sam (the free ride for the tree being deemed a training exercise for our soldiers), from the Right Bank of the Ohio to the Left, where it was unceremoniously dropped on the Great Lawn. From there it was hauled to Jefferson Square, where once erected, it fell the next night. Re-erected, it remained in place serving as our christmas-type tree throughout the holidays.

As both a liberal and a Christian, I have divided passions as to the use of public money in the celebration of the birth of Jesus, especially in the public square. But I understand winter celebrations and wholly approve of them. I can individually choose to celebrate the Birth of the Savior, but my governments should, as people have for many ages, celebrate the end of the shortening of the days as marked by the Winter Solstice. That other religions and cultures have taken this very natural event and adapted for their personal uses bothers me not in the least. Pagans (and the rest of us) have the solstice, Jews have Hanukah, Christians have both Christmas and Epiphany, and most everyone celebrates January 1st as the New Year, thanks to the Romans of the 2nd century of the common era, the erstwhile "AD." Part of our winter celebration here on the Left Bank of the Ohio centered on this enormous tree, delivered from the air, as if Santa and his reindeer had overflown our little burg, granting us a tree for our festivities.

On the decision to decorate the tree, it was decked out in 40,000 lights of alternating columns of red, white, and blue, and crowned atop with nothing less than Old Glory herself. Personally, I found it atrocious. My mother, bless her, thought it was beautiful, as I am sure others did. To be sure, the hundreds of thousands of lights decorating other trees, shrubs, light posts, and anything else, made for a pretty sight. Louisville in winter, especially at night, is a beautiful place. [It would be even prettier if we had some snow through which the lights could twinkle, but that has been covered elsewhere, in that we haven't]. However, forty thousand red, white, and blue lights running vertically up and down a 50 foot tree do not make a sight to behold, at least not in a positive light, pun intended.

All that majesty came to an abrupt end today. The United States flag was properly and ceremoniously lowered. Then, limb by limb, the tree was unceremoniously dismembered. All that was left was a barren trunk, which was itself then divided into sections. The entirety of the former arboreal work was thrown into a waiting Parks Department truck and hauled away. Crews have swept the pine needles away, and the square is once again a place of beauty, peace, and green-ness, as opposed to a light show of red-ness, white-ness, and blue-ness.

Incidentally, the chipped and chopped-up needles and branches of this year's Patriot Tree will be mulched and used as bedding for some of the animals in the Louisville Zoo. While it may not be the most glorious end to the tree, it is a very good use. I hope the animals enjoy the tree more than I did.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.