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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Dear Jeff,
If my truck and I can be of assistance with your move please let me know.

PS-I have an idea, which if successful will help change a little piece of our world, like to run it past you.

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.