Thursday, December 31, 2009

581. Farewell to 2009

Thus ends another year. The skies are dark and grey, although it is not all that cold right this moment. The temperature here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 is about 42 degrees and the wind is, oddly, southerly. All that is scheduled to change later tonight when the mercury will dip into the high teens or low 20s, amidst what is now rain and drizzle, there will likely be ice and sleet for the year's-end celebration.

This entry is set to review the blog over the year and here and there a look ahead to 2010 and what plans might be made. This will be the 154th entry for the year, down from the 167 of 2008, and considerably down from the 250 during the first year's writing. There is a message in those numbers which will probably be borne out sometime in 2010.

The year started with a recollection of the Kentucky counties which I visited in 2008, something I've kept track of since 1979. I've been to all of Kentucky's counties at least twice, but usually make it only to 45 or 60 in any given year. This year's number is 45, compared with 44 in 2008. For the 22nd year in a row, Elliott and Lawrence have eluded me. These two counties I've been to only twice in the 31 years I've been keeping count - in 1979 and 1987. Twenty-two years is too long not to visit places like Ordinary, Sandy Hook, Blaine, Louisa, and Fallsburg, the latter being the hometown of former governor Paul Patton. Sometime this year, I'll see those places again - maybe I'll ask the inhabitants thereof what is on their minds as we begin the statewide races for 2011. Elliott is the most reliably Democratic county in the Commonwealth.

Later entries in January 2009 dealt with my return to City Hall, a trip to Washington to see Barack Obama inaugurated, and an ice storm of grand and trajic proportion visited upon the city. I'm not as pleased with President Obama as I was with candidate Obama - is anyone ever so? He has had a year to play. I hope 2010 is far more successful for him and the country than 2009 proved to be. I'm not sure how he is to accomplish that, but I am hopeful that he has some idea. One of the deficiencies of the last administration was their clear lack of a plan - other than the schemes of Big Dick Cheney. This administration must put forth some plan of action. Failed plans are better than no plans. FDR went through several iterations of plans when he was dealing with his recession.

February's entries marked Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday, a visit to Belknap Theater, the viewing of two films at the cinema (the last time I've "been to the movies"), and a decision regarding my religious affiliation. On the 15th I announced that I would begin the steps necessary to leave the Roman Catholic Church and join the Episcopal Church. It was a decision I had been very slowly making since the summer of 2003. That decision will become final on January 24, 2010, when I am officially received into the Episcopal Church of the Advent by Bishop Ted Gulick of the Diocese of Kentucky.

March's entries seemed mostly concerned with basketball. Imagine that - a blog in Kentucky mentioning basketball in March. There is also an entry on Kevin Triplett's deer-meat chili, a truckride to the Indiana village of Orleans, and the unfortunate passing of Chuck Olmstead, who was a friend for many years.

With Spring springing in April, it is obvious I took to the roadways. There are pictures from Bath County, the community of Salt Lick, the Nada Tunnel in Red River Gorge, and an intersection in Perry County. There are also pictures of Kentucky's earliest division of counties, a Louisville road map, and a flooded Churchill Downs.

May began with a 50-1 shot winning the Kentucky Derby - Mine That Bird. And while 2009 was a non-election year, May is still, even without an election, a naturally political month in Kentucky, the month in which our primaries are held. In a variety of entries, I manged to mention Gore Vidal, Jim Wayne, Perry Clark, Doug Hawkins, Dan Borsch, Robert Linn (of Pennsylvania), Rand Paul, John Yarmuth, Richard Nixon, William Taft, James K. Polk, Steve Beshear, and Stuart Perelmuter. Stuart, by the way, will be 30 (Damn!) next week and is celebrating the big day with a party. He is one of my favorite people on the planet.

On June 1st, we celebrated Kentucky's 217th birthday. Well, at least I did. I don't think there were any official commemorations. Later entries were all over the board - a Lincoln statue dedication, an immigration discussion with fellow blogger Paul Hosse, a trip with my friend Preston to a place called Preston Plantation, and a meandering discussion on racetrack slots wherein I mentioned ten different Kentucky counties, threw in some Scripture, invoked the names of former members of Congress Anne Northup and Henry Hyde, and reminded my readers of the fun I had with a bottle (and a half) of Old Forester Bourbon the night John Yarmuth was elected in 2006. That was quite an entry. June closed in a much more somber and recollective manner upon the death of music icon Michael Jackson.

The long, hot, summer days of July saw Craig Greenberg exit the mayor's race and Sarah Palin exit the governor's office in Alaska. Then there was the "Dan" entry - some political coverage of Dan Mongiardo, Dan Seum, Dan Kelly, and the son of Danny Meyer. Other entries mentioned Shakespeare in Central Park, and memories from 1998 of the race for Mayor of Louisville, and 1969 of Neil Armstrong's landing on the moon.

The first Saturday in August marks the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Graves County. For the first time in many years, I did not attend. Instead of the hot and sweaty winds of west Kentucky and arguably vulgar mouth of Jack Conway, instead I wrote of Louisville's inundation by a flood on August 4th. It was devastating to a number of mostly inner-city neighborhoods, the same areas which flooded in the Great Flood of 1937. I lost a water-heater and furnace due to standing water in my cellar. Others' losses were much, much greater. Mid-August brought the State Fair and the special election of Robin Webb in east Kentucky, and the long-awaited but hard to accept death of United States Senator Edward Kennedy.

September's entries included a trip with Chris Hartmann to an Indian restaurant on Bardstown Road, comments on Congressman Joe Wilson of South Carolina effectively calling the president a liar, and former President Jimmy Carter effectively calling Congressman Wilson a racist. Tense times. By the way, Joe Wilson is being challenged in 2010 by Rob Miller, a former Marine, who also ran in 2008. You may want to look into that race. Later entries centered on activities at the Kentucky Democratic Party and the revival of a proposed amendment to the KDP By-Laws concerning Special Elections in Fayette and Jefferson counties, a proposal I first made in 2005. My proposal was repeatedly opposed by Tim Longmeyer, the Jefferson County Democratic Party chair. As politics is strange at times, Tim has now proposed virtually the same language he opposed for several years. Whatever his reasoning, I support the changes. Finally, there were several entries on my father's failing health. I'm happy to report that since late October he has been doing considerably better.

Comments on President Barack Obama's win of the Nobel Peace Prize were among October's entries. Others included roadtrips to Owen, Carroll, and Fayette counties, and another through the 14th Senate District in Kentucky's so-called Holy Land. A Harvest Moon began the month and an extremely funny and rather over-the-top sexually performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream at Actors Theater closed it out.

November was mostly consumed with my trip, aboard a Greyhound, to San Antonio, Texas. I had a great time both on the trip and in the city, and wrote several entries to that effect. The trip was inspired by one taken by my friend Keith and his friend Daniel earlier in the year to Los Angeles and back, also on a Greyhound. A note - the two of them arrived early this morning in New York City, again, by way of a Greyhound bus. At some point I might write about the problems of riding the Greyhound, but not now. The end of the month brought the number of visitors to my blog to 60,000. Wow.

That brings us up to December with its shorter days and longer nights. Entries mention President Obama's war, a memorial tribute to my grandfather on Pearl Harbor Day, stunning losses to the Kentucky Democratic Party in two Special Elections, a discussion on political correctness with a Lexington friend, the possibility of new tax revenues mentioned by Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, the celebration of Christmas, and the passing of a very wonderful and giving person, Mrs. Sylvia Cross, at the age of 92. She will be sorely missed for many generations to come. May her souls and the souls of all the departed Rest In Peace.

So long 2009.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

580. And So This Is Christmas

Some stories for Christmas.

This will be the second-to-last entry of the year, barring some earth shattering news, such as the governor calling for a tax increase, the Harrods Creek Bridge opening up, or the Republican Party discovering the teachings of Jesus and the true meaning of Christmas.


The Gospel of Saint Luke, Chapter Two

The Birth of Jesus

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."


Happy Christmas (John Lennon)

So this is Christmas
And what have you done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

And so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
For weak and for strong
For rich and the poor ones
The world is so wrong

And so happy Christmas
For black and for white
For yellow and red ones
Let's stop all the fight

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

And so this is Christmas
And what have we done
Another year over
And a new one just begun

Ans so this is Christmas
I hope you have fun
The near and the dear one
The old and the young

A very merry Christmas
And a happy New Year
Let's hope it's a good one
Without any fear

War is over over
If you want it
War is over


A Visit from St. Nicholas (Clement Clark Moore, 1823)

'Twas the night before Christmas, when all thro' the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar plums danc'd in their heads,

And Mama in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap —
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters, and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new fallen snow,
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below;
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a minature sleigh, and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.

More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and call'd them by name:
"Now! Dasher, now! Dancer, now! Prancer and Vixen,
"On! Comet, on! Cupid, on! Donder and Blitzen;
"To the top of the porch! To the top of the wall!
"Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of toys — and St. Nicholas too:

And then in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound:

He was dress'd all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnish'd with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys was flung on his back,
And he look'd like a peddler just opening his pack:
His eyes — how they twinkled! His dimples: how merry,
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry;
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face, and a little round belly
That shook when he laugh'd, like a bowl full of jelly:
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laugh'd when I saw him in spite of myself;

A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And fill'd all the stockings; then turn'd with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose.

He sprung to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew, like the down of a thistle:
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight —
Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night.


I Heard The Bells on Christmas Day (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 1864)

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet the words repeat
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

I thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along the unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.

And in despair I bowed my head
'There is no peace on earth,' I said,
'For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men.'

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
'God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on earth, good will to men.'

Till ringing, singing on its way
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime, a chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good will to men.


Merry Christmas.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

579. On The Road

"Weekends were made for Michelob." That's an old advertising line. A nice cold Michelob might be good on a hot summer weekend night, but this weekend was not the time for imbibing a cold, brisk beer in a sleek, green bottle.

Rather, as is my wont, I spent the weekend on the road, visiting the living and the dead.

Saturday my mother and I travelled to Frankfort together where she dropped me off at the Wendell H. Ford Kentucky Democratic Party Headquarters where I was to attend the 4th Quarter meeting of the Kentucky Democratic Party State Central Executive Committee. My favorite cartoon character, Foghorn Leghorn, might make a funny here, implying that visiting the Democratic Party this weekend could be a stop one would make while visiting the dead. But then, that wouldn't necessarily be a funny - it is well close to the truth given the failures going on in Washington and our recent failures in Special Elections. So instead, I won't say anything about the meeting.

While I was cussing and discussing at the meeting, my mother crossed over US60 to the Sunset Memorial Gardens, where several generations of my people are buried. But, let me rephrase the beginning of the sentence. I did no cussing or discussing at the meeting. In fact, three different people commented on my lack of commenting. It was not for lack of trying. Despite sending the Chair a Christmas Card so as to get on his radar screen, and sitting directly in front of him during the meeting, and politely holding my left hand up for most of the meeting, I was, not surprisingly, never recognised for a comment.

Had the Chair called on me, in our discussion about how do we do this Special Election thing should there be a next time, I would have said that I've never understood why we go through a grand and monumental effort every four years during what is called the Reorganization, (allegedly) electing three people in each precinct in every precinct in the Commonwealth, and that group electing members to County Executive and State Central Executive committees, and then we do very little else with them. We are not even sure if the people we elected last year are still viable to the Party this year. Nor do we make any great effort to fill the vacancies in those precincts where no one was elected. (As a note, I've been told that Fayette and Franklin counties do endeavor to keep these slots filled). The truth is, if every precinct level opening was filled just in Jefferson County, we'd have a base-base of about 1545 troops-on-the-ground. Well, that's what I would have said if given the chance. I will add that several people who did get called on made impressive and passionate speeches - especially Marcus Woodward of Ashland, Charlotte Lundergan of Lexington, Lisa Tanner of Louisville, and Martha Jane King of Lewisburg. Mr. Woodward's discussion on healthcare was somber and sobering. Most everyone applauded. It was a great speech about a serious delinquency in our government. Let me move on.

My mother made her way to her cousin's house off Versailles Road opposite the road that leads back to the Frankfort Country Club. After the meeting, I hitched a ride over there. From that visit, we went to another cousin's house in Versailles, near the big Kroger off Lexington Road in Woodford County, east of town. Our final destination was back in Frankfort, but I very much dislike backtracking, so I coursed through downtown Versailles and headed west on US62, rather than physically north on West US60, the way we came into town.

This ride takes you past the High Bridge across the Kentucky River, just upriver from the old crossing of Shryock's Ferry opposite Tyrone in Anderson County, where perched up on the hill is a sign saying Welcome to Paradise, indicating the home of Wild Turkey Bourbon. We climbed up US62 into the east side of Lawrenceburg, and then northward out US127 toward Frankfort. Along the way, where KY151 (the old US127) leads off to the left is my cousin Loretta Sharp's restaurant called the Captain something. I've never been there. She operates another one by the same name down in Lee County, Florida. She is one of two cousins of mine operating restaurants in the area. The other one is Melanie Baker, who's Melanie's is at the corner of Saint Clair and West Main streets in downtown Frankfort. We didn't stop at the restaurant and instead stayed on US127 out of Anderson and into Franklin, crossing over both I-64 and US60, and leaving that road at KY1005, which takes one over to Choateville to the west. There we visited with my maternal grandmother's oldest sister, Frances Catherine Lewis Moore, who is 89. She had cooked up a pot of vegetable soup with a great deal of roast beef as flavoring. She also had freshly made jam cakes, and while we were there her great-granddaughter whipped up some oatmeal and peanut butter cookies. I had a little of everything.

Eventually, in a hard blowing snowstorm (which didn't stick) we made our way back to Mom's house.

Today was a different trip, one I had not planned until a few days ago. After church, I told a friend I wanted to go find the grave of Mrs. Sylvia Cross, the lady I mentioned in the previous entry who died last week. I knew from the obituary the name of the cemetery and I gathered from maps where the cemetery might be. I knew if I could find the cemetery, her grave would still be fresh and covered with flowers.

We started south on I-65 toward Greensburg, the county seat of Green County. Mrs. Cross was said to have been buried in the Green County Memory Gardens on KY61 south of Summersville. Not wanting to make the trip on the interstate system, I exitted at the Lebanon Junction/Boston exit, one of many along I-65 with KY61. We headed east toward Boston, a tiny community just out of Bullitt County and into Nelson. Turning south on West US62 for a brief period, we then turned east on KY52 which takes one along side the railroad spur from Lebanon Junction over to Lebanon itself, through the communities of Nelsonville and Lyons. The road ends at US31E in the community of New Haven, where we turned south on the Federal highway. I should have bought gas there in New Haven, as it was the cheapest I saw along the entire trip at $2.399 a gallon. But, I didn't. We followed US31E into Larue County, passing along the way the boyhood home of President Abraham Lincoln, the place at Knob Creek. At White City, I thought about turning onto KY470, but couldn't recall exactly where it came out, so instead I stayed on the road I knew, into Hodgenville, around the new roundabout - much better than Louisville's new roundabout at the Zoo, this one seems to have some purpose to it - and then south. We drove up into the Abraham Lincoln Birthplace National Historic Site, noticing the 56 steps representing the years of the president's life, and the granite edifice holding the little log cabin, dubiously yet traditionally held to be the birthplace of the 16th president. The entire facility is presently closed for renovations.

We crossed US31E onto KY61 towards Buffalo. Before US31E was completed sixty years ago between Lincoln's birthplace and Magnolia, this was the road over which is was routed. In Buffalo, I encountered KY470, now remembering where it led. KY470 south of Buffalo is the original alignment of US31E toward Magnolia. We contined on KY61 toward our destination. Along the way, I began noticing the names I read in Mrs. Cross's obituary - we passed a Despain Road (Despain was her maiden name), as well as several sites with the name Bloyd, which was her first husband's last name. We passed over the hill at Mount Sherman, out of Larue County and into Green County, down the hill into Taylor Chapel, through Allendale and Bloyds Crossing, past the old Skyline Drive-In Theater (will open May 1st), and into the crossroads village at Summersville.

At this point, we need only to look for the cemetery which quickly came into view less than a mile from the town on the east side of the road. The cemetery is about two acres and only about half developed. Nearly in the center, closer to the back side than the front, was the newly dug grave, covered over with flowers now a little over a week old. Although it was very muddy due to all the recent rain and snow, my friend and I crossed over to the grave. Her marker appears to have been in place for some time, noting her birth year of 1917, but much too soon for 2009 to mark her death. Next to her's is a gravesite for her son and daughter-in-law, people I've never met, but according to her obit, are still among the living. After a pause, a prayer, and some pictures on my cell phone, this pilgrimage was at an end. About 80 miles separate Mrs. Cross's final residence in Old Louisville and this site she had obviously chosen years ago as her final resting place. I was very sad.

We left the cemetery for the sojourn home. Again not wanting to backtrack, I headed south toward Greensburg, knowing KY88 a few miles ahead could take us over to both US31E at Hardyville or US31W and I-65 at the Hart County seat of Munfordville, usually pronounced with an "s" between the "d" and the "v." Twenty five miles separate KY61 in Green County and US31W in Hart County. Along the way I began to recognise the road, remembering a visit to another graveyard. We came upon the Gilead-Fairview Road, a name which stuck in my mind. I turned there and just a few hundred feet to the north was a fork with a lane called the Pleasant Grove Cemetery Road. Here in this cemetery is buried my cousin Scottie Ralston. I had brought my mother to her funeral in January 2004. The cemetery is quite small and full of stones bearing the name Ralston. Isabelle Scott "Scottie" Dean Ralston's mother and my grandmother were sisters - sisters also to the 89 year old Frances with whom we visited yesterday. I called my mother from the cemetery - Scottie was ten years older than me and ten years younger than my mother when she died.

This was our final stop, from there quickly making our way over to Munfordville and US31W's intersection with I-65. Headed north, crossing the Green River, the Nolin [No Lynn] River, and the Salt, we were safely back home about darktime here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

So begins Christmas Week. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 18, 2009

578. On the passing of Mrs. Sylvia Cross

I've learned from my brother tonight of the passing on December 10, 2009 of Sylvia Cross. Her obituary from the Greensburg Record-Herald is copied below. Mrs. Cross was 92 years old, one year and a week younger than my grandmother. When I met her, I thought she was in her early 70s. She was in fact in her mid 80s. Her role in my family was that of "Mammie" to my youngest niece and nephews, all three of whom she helped raise. They are 10, 8, and 6. She was their surrogate great-grandmother, cooking, cleaning, and teaching all of them from their births. And they loved to stay over at her house. Some might have thought three very young kids would prove unhealthful to a woman in her 80s and 90s. The opposite was true. She reveled in them and it was only in the last year or two that she became unable to care for them. She taught them to read and write and to pray and worship. Her house in Old Louisville had an abundance of religious pictures and crosses. She was as good a baby-sitting surrogate great-grandmother as any three kids ever had.

I knew very little about Mrs. Cross outside of this role she served for my niece and nephews. She hinted now and then at a past which included working in several local restaurants and bars, including Masterson's and The Tavern on Fourth Street - a wide berth separates those two establishments. Until I read her obituary a few minutes ago, I knew nothing of her family. I have always been aware of a granddaughter who I think was about my age, but I never met her.

The last several years Mrs. Cross asked me to take her to vote. She lived in K105 which votes at Noe Middle School. In 2007 she switched from being an Indepedent to being a Democrat. She confided in me that while she had her doubts about whether "Barama" was a Christian and it truly worried her, that she did think he was a change agent and she wanted change, and bringing change to America was more important than this man's religion. She always enjoyed talking to the inside workers when I took her to the polls. And she knew that last fall's election would likely be her last. She knew that whatever change this new president would bring, she would live through very little of it. She was hopeful for the future - for me and my brother, his kids, and her family. She was a very proud, patriotic, and religious woman.

I do not know if my niece and nephews, especially Elijah, who is 6, will, when they are my age, remember Mrs. Cross. I do know she thought the world of them and I know they are better off for having been in her care. I know will miss her. Rest In Peace, Mrs. Cross.

FRom the Greensburg Record-Herald:

Sylvia Hazel Cross was born Aug. 8, 1917 in Green County, Kentucky to the late Minnie Lee Druin Depain. She departed this life Thursday, Dec. 10, 2009 at the Taylor Regional Hospital in Campbellsville, Kentucky, having attained the age of ninety-two years, four months and two days.

Mrs. Cross had made a profession of faith in Christ and was a member of the Liberty Missionary Baptist Church in Greensburg.

She is preceded in death by one son, Lewis Bloyd and two brothers, William Boyd Despain and Russell Despain.

She is survived by three sons, Vernon “Duck” Bloyd and David Buley of Mt. Sherman, Ky; and Hugh Bloyd of Louisville; and one daughter, Sheila M. Buley of Louisville; She is also survived by one brother, Shively Despain of Florida. She was loved and supported by her first grandchild and her husband, Lori and Darrell Cox and their children, Jodi and Desteny. Also surviving are a host of grandchildren, great grandchildren, plus other relatives and friends.

Service took place at Foster-Toler-Curry Funeral Home, Monday, Dec. 14, 2009 at noon.
Visitation took place after 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 13, 2009 where minister, Rev. James Walker officiated.

Interment took place in the Green Co. Memory Garden in Summersville.

Pallbearers were David Buley, Vernon Bloyd, Hugh Bloyd, Troy Buley, Darrell Cox and Jerry Hall.

On-line Condolences can be made at

577. The Bad, the Good, the Important

1. The Bad News.
The United States Senate and specifically the Republican Conference has declared the Insurance Industry is now in full control of the U. S. government. The American Republic is obsolete. And the Party in the majority is helpless. I'm not sure [read I'm not smart enough to know] where we go from here.

2. The Good News.
Kentucky Speaker of the House Greg Stumbo, of Prestonsburg, indicated some capacity and support on the part of Kentuckians for additional [meaning new] taxes in support of education. A lot of us on the left want to look at a lot more than the Speaker does, but this is a great and good first step. Thank you Greg Stumbo.

3. The Important News.
I sent a handwritten letter to The Most Reverend Joseph Kurtz, D.D., Archbishop of Louisville, yesterday explaining that the time had come for me to formally leave the Roman Catholic Church. I cited my thirty years of active membership at Holy Family Parish, my beliefs in Social Justice, my concern that the current Church of Rome in the United States is simply an arm of the right wing of the Republican Party, and that Jesus' sermon in the Gospel of Saint Matthew at Chapter 25, Verse 45 has been given over to the close-minded and narrow-focussed campaigns that in my opinion were never a part of the teachings of Jesus. I also emailed The Reverend Tim Mitchell, Rector of the Episcopal Church of the Advent, requesting to be received into that church at the earliest possible date, presumably in January upon the visit to the church by the Bishop of the Diocese of Kentucky.

It has been an interesting week so far.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Beware the Ides of December

I'm writing on Monday evening, the 14th of December. The temperature here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 is 62 degrees. Sixty-Two as in the year my little brother was born. It would have been a great night for Hallowe'en, when the temperature was in the 30s.

I was outside looking at the brood of clouds moving across the skies thinking it would be a great night to go hiking along some trail, maybe in Cherokee Park or out in the Jefferson Memorial Forest. Parks officials frown on such things - hiking in the parks at night and alone. It is, however, the best time go out and mingle with nature. And it is best done away from the city, away from the airport, away from the interstates. Cherokee works for two out of three. The forest works for one out of three if your hiking on the north front of the line of hills stretching across southern Jefferson County from the Dodge Hill Pass eastward to South Park Hill. Hiking on the southside accomplishes all three.

In recent liturgies the priest at church has been using the expression "the moon, the stars, and the wind." Or something like that. I should pay more attention if I am going to quote him. These are the sights you see when out on an enchanted evening like tonight. Every time he does I'm reminded of a few lines from an Irish play I read in college, Sean O'Casey's 1925 Juno and the Paycock, which is technically a tragedy, and the storyline is indeed tragic, but two of the characters - "Captain" Jack Boyle and "Joxer" Daly are rather comical at times - a pair of drunken buddies with no real occupation or preoccupation except spending time in either Ryan's or Foley's tavern.

The "Captain" has created an image of himself as an old sailor whose early life was spent upon the open seas of runs between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, something we know is not the case. At one point, telling a story to his pal Joxer, he comments

"I ofen looked up at the sky an' assed myself the question -- what is the stars, what is the stars? An' then, I'd have another look, an' ass meself -- what is the moon, what is the moon?"
That's what I was doing outside tonight, looking at first my porch, with two pumpkins still guarding the doorway and a wreath adorning the door itself, looking up at the skies and saying something loony "what is the stars, what is the moon?" Frankly, it is an astonishing looking evening outside. I may go back out and smoke a cigar. I'm down to my last one - time to make a run up to Kremer's.

It has been a weirdish kind of day. I've upset a few friends, made up with another one, and have been somewhat absent-minded all day, something some people accuse me of on a regular basis.

Thus, beware the Ides of December. Even in that sentiment, I am off. We all know from Shakespeare that the Ides of March fall upon the 15th. In the old Roman calendar, that was the case in only four months - March, May, July, and October. In the other months, the ides fell upon the 13th. Thus it was yesterday to be wary of, not tomorrow. I was weary yesterday, though not wary. I am growing wary of things as we approach the end of the calendar year. Like so many years, I will be glad of its passing. 2010 should make for a better year, albeit the one in which I will turn 50. I'm not prepared for that.

So for now, we'll just turn the page to tomorrow. To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow creeps in this petty pace . . . . .

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Rob's 36th

December 13th is always a somber day for me. It was the birthday of a dear friend who died at much too young an age. Today would have been his 36th birthday. Happy Birthday, Rob. Rest In Peace.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

574. Explaining Political Correctness at Christmas

I want to share an email I received today and my response to it. I probably should not have responded, but it is about the sixth or seventh email of this nature I have received this "season." There is a widespread belief, by conservatives and moderates, that most liberals are non-believers - or heathens. To be sure, a number of liberals indeed are non-believers. Some are of other faiths, whether Jewish or Muslim or otherwise; others are agnostic, questioning things here and there; and some are atheists - non-believers. Some of us are a combination though we do not always recognise that trait.

I think I am a believer: a Democrat who believes, a liberal Christian.

The email I received is from a friend of mine, a retired attorney in Lexington who I've gotten to know through politics, someone whose opinions I respect. We are both Democrats. For the purposes of this entry, we shall call him Mr. Clay. (There have been some famous attorneys from Lexington named Mr. Clay, but they did not align themselves with the Democratic Party, nor did any of them ever email me). Our Mr. Clay's email is below, followed by my response.


From: Mr. Clay
To: Mr. Clay's friends
Date: Thu, 10 Dec 2009 17:03:11 -0500

Merry Christmas

I will be making a conscious effort to wish everyone
a Merry CHRISTmas this year ...

My way of saying that I am celebrating
the birth Of Jesus Christ.

So I am asking my email buddies,
if you agree with me,
to please do the same.

And if you'll pass this on to
your email buddies, and so on...
maybe we can prevent one more
American tradition from being lost in the sea of
"Political Correctness".


And my response:

Mr. Clay --

First, Merry Christmas to you as well.

Let me relate a story. Living alone I do not have much need to decorate - no kids to look under the tree for presents - just me (and I know what Santa is bringing me). So, every year, on the day after Thanksgiving I hang a wreath on my front door and put candles in my two front windows. But, I don't light them until the 24th. I was taught that we decorate for Christmas but only on Christmas Eve does "the star appear" and we turn on the lights. My lighted wreath and candles stay lit through January 6, the Feast of Epiphany, and the day we celebrate the visitation of the Wise Men to the manger.

As you know, I'm a pretty liberal guy - one of the more liberal ones you may know. I'm a faithful and longterm member of the ACLU as well as the American United for the Separation of Church and State and other "leftist" outfits. I am one of those people who jump up and down about the separation of church and state, or to use the words of the Constitution, "the respect of one religion over another" by the government.

I do not expect everyone to celebrate the Birth of Christ the way I do, with a succession of Advent Candles being lit from Sunday to Sunday between now and the 24th, or the Twelve Days of Christmas being celebrated, as I was taught, from December 25th to January 5th. But I do celebrate. And I have a deep, abiding faith in God and Christ. And while am very, very far from perfect, I think my beliefs are in line with Christ's. But then, I think every Christian thinks that - that their beliefs are in line with Christ's. None of us are completely right and none of us are completely wrong.

The main thing is to believe. To believe in grace, to believe in mercy, to believe in redemption, to believe in love.

Thanks for the email. I hope you and all your family are well. Enjoy the season. Merry Christmas. Pray for a healthy and peaceful 2010.

Your friend,

Jeff Noble

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

573. Democratic Party Party

The Jefferson County Democratic Party in cooperation with and coordination by the Metro Democratic Club held its annual Holiday Party tonight at the American Legion Hall on Bardstown Road. Approximately 140 people attended. Roast Beef and Gravy were supplied by the club and everyone was asked to bring a dish and from the amount of food present, everyone did.

There was no official business, just a lot of good food, lots of political conversation, and more than a little good-natured ribbing between opposing camps in the Louisville Metro Mayor's race. The top elected official present was Lieutenant Governor Daniel Mongiardo who worked the room over and over throughout the evening. Two of the four mayoral candidates were present - David Tandy and Greg Fischer. Several representatives of the Jim King campaign were there, led by Jonathan Hurst who is always delightful, even (or especially) when we are in competing camps.

The event was cosponsored by several local elected officals. They were Congressman John Yarmuth, Sheriff John Aubrey, PVA Tony Lindauer (who was present), Representative Joni Jenkins, Councilwoman Vicki Aubrey Welch (who was present), 38th District Senatorial candidate Marty Meyer (who was present), 25th District Council candidate David Yates (who was present), Circuit Clerk David Nicholson (who was present), Senator Perry Clark (who was present), Speaker Pro-Tem Larry Clark, Representative Charlie Miller, Representative Mary Lou Marzian, [my] Representative Darryl Owens (who was present), Councilwoman Madonna Flood, my boss Councilman Brent Ackerson (who was present), Senator Denise Harper Angel (who was present), Representative Steve Riggs (who was present), Representative Tom Riner (who was present), 41st District House candidate Mike Slaton (who was present), and mayoral candidate David Tandy (who was present). Greg Fischer's wife donated a large gift box suitable for a young girl, which was won by David Yates but managed to go home with the young daughter of Judge Mason Trenamon. Other members from the bench besides Judge Trenamon were Circuit Judge Olu Stephens and District Judges Claude Prather, Shelia Collins, Jennifer Wilcox, Erica Lee Williams, and Ann Bailey Smith. Retired Judge Judy Bartholomew was also present. Three candidates for judge were also present, Stephanie Burke, Christine Ward, and Dee McDonald. (What would a judicial election in Jefferson County without a McDonald on the ballot?) Also present were Councilwoman Marianne Butler, State Treasurer Todd Hollenbach, Representative Dennis Horlander, 37th House candidate Jeff Donahue, and 23rd Council candidate John Sommers. There may have been others, but these were the ones I recognized and announced as the night progressed.

The party lasted about 2 1/2 hours. It was a very good night, something we needed after the massive legislative failure of the Party the previous night in central and eastern Kentucky. We tried not to talk about it.

The next meeting of the Metro Democratic Club will be January 13, 2010 when the discussion will be on the current Ethics legislation before the Metro Council. Speakers will be Councilmembers Marianne Butler and Brent Ackerson.

Here is a link to pictures taken by Ray Crider at last night's party.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

572. What do I know?

Two Special Elections were held today in Kentucky, filling empty seats in our General Assembly - one in the House, one in the Senate. I made several predictions on the Senate race, a race I seemed pretty sure of. I wasn't as confident in the House race, further away geographically than the Senate seat, my jusitifcation for not knowing enough to offer my highly unqualifed guess as to what might happen.

The senate race was in Kentucky's 14th Seante District, which covers territory in Nelson, Washington, Mercer, Marion, and Taylor counties, some of the prettiest and most historic areas of the state. Nelson was the first county formed after the original split of Kentucky County, Virginia into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. Nelson took all of its territory from Jefferson. Washington is home to the little log cabin where Thomas and Nancy Lincoln made their wedding vows in 1806. Three years (and a few counties) away, a son was born, savior of the Union, one Abraham, 16th president of the United States of America. Mercer is home to Old Fort Harrod State Park in downtown Harrodsburg, which itself is the oldest city in the Commonwealth and was the original county seat of Kentucky County, Virginia. Marion County, the geographic center of the Commonwealth, has place names like Holy Cross, St. Charles, St. Francis, St. Mary, and Raywick indicating its Catholic roots. (What, you've never heard of Saint Raywick?). They recently opened a new government center in the courthouse town of Lebanon. South of Marion is Taylor County, decidedly not Catholic, but Baptist, and home to Campbellsville University, Green River Lake, and Tebbs Bend, where the cemetery holds the remains of two cousins of mine, James and Alexander Hockensmith, foot soldiers of the Confederate States of America.

The senator from this area for many years has been a Republican and most political pundits figured the seat would stay Republican. I was not one of those. Going out on a limb (apparently with a saw in tow), I made several predictions in this race, only two of which were correct. I predicted that the Democratic candidate, Jodie Haydon, would carry his home county of Nelson, which he did. I also predicted Senator-elect Jimmie Higdon would win his home county, Marion, and one other, Taylor. He did. There ends the successes of my prognosticating. I got the other two counties wrong as well as the turnout and the end result. I predicted a turnout of 22%, it was 24%. I predicted a win for the Democrats - I was wrong.

This only goes to prove that I know very little outside of Jefferson County politics. I wish that wasn't the case, but it is. The good news is that in a statewide race, Jefferson accounts for about 1/6 of the total vote. As long as I stick to what I know, I might possibly have a chance at redemption. If not, I could take my books, relocate to five acres in Bullitt County, home of my paternal grandmother's forefathers, the Lee family, and tend to a garden of tomatoes, peppers, corn, lettuce, and pumpkin. That really doesn't sound like too bad of a plan.


Here below are the results for both race, both of which were won by the Republican candidate.

Unofficial results for State Senate 14th District

Marion County 2,860, Higdon (R) - 1,405, Haydon (D)

Mercer 1,542, Higdon - 1,186, Haydon

Nelson 2,982, Higdon - 3,840, Haydon

Taylor 2,612, Higdon - 1,396, Haydon

Washington 1,331, Higdon - 1,054, Haydon

Totals: 11,327, Hidgon - 8,881, Haydon

Total Registered Voters = 83,416
Total Votes Cast = 20,208
Turnout = 24%


Unofficial results for State Representative 96th District

Carter 1,702, Jill York (R) - 1,285, Barry Webb (D)

Lewis 843, York - 378, Webb

Total: 2,545, York - 1,663, Webb

Total Registered Voters = 29,112
Total Votes Cast = 4,208
Turnout = 14%

Monday, December 7, 2009

And We Promise To Remember . . . . . 2010

And we promise - to remember - the Seventh of December - We're the Seabees of the Navy - The Bees of the Seven Seas.

Every December 7th I think of my grandfather Dan Hockensmith and sing the Song of the Seabees in his honor and memory, a line of which is above. To do it right, I should be about half-drunk and on a dance floor at some VFW hall. My grandfather was a Seabee in the United States Navy in World War II, in the 114th Batallion.

Okay - got that out of the way.


Since the last entry was about Washington DC, wars, and world affairs, this one is designed to hit a little closer to home. As many of my six faithful readers know, I am involved in one of the Louisville mayoral campaigns, that of Greg Fischer. Greg was the first person to file for the Democratic Primary which will be held on May 18, 2010. Also having filed is my friend Burrell Farnsley, whose father served the old City as mayor in the 1940s and the 3rd District as congressman in the 1960s. Filed as Republicans are Hal Heiner and Chris Theinemann, the former a developer and businessman who serves as a Metro Councilman representing the far eastern edge of the county; the latter a builder and developer with ties in many different parts of the county and across party lines. Announced-but-not-yet filed Democratic candidates are Tyler Allen, a Louisville businessman with ties to the 8664 campaign (which I support), as well as David Tandy and Jim King, who like Mr. Heiner are members of the Louisville Metro Council, the former representing downtown and neighborhoods adjacent to downtown to the east, west, and south (including where I live); the latter representing parts of the Preston Highway/Poplar Level Road corridors (where I lived for twenty years). There is also a West End lady who has talked about running but I do not recall her name. While I have met Mr. Theinemann and work in the same building as Councilman Heiner, I cannot admit to knowing either of them. The five Democrats actively engaged in a campaign are all friends.

As I travel around with Mr. Fischer, I often hear people ask him "Why are you running for mayor, especially now?" I'm sure all of the candidates get this question and I'm sure all of them have a good and worthy answer. On the surface, it would seem given the economic times that running for mayor would not be so popular an idea. We have problems - disputes with firefighters, disputes with neighborhood associations, disputes over bridges - whether seven lanes over a river or one or two lanes over a creek. But those are the simple negatives. There are also positives. And let's face it - the economy has to rebound sooner or later and sooner is passing us by quickly. Sometime in the next year or so, the economic engine which runs the Commonwealth - that's what gubernatorial candidates like to call Louisville when they are campaigning within Jefferson County - will ramp up. Slowly but ever so surely, the region will be hiring and rehiring, wages will rise, tax revenues will increase, and life will - eventually - return to normalcy.

Being mayor at the rebirth, or the renaissance of a city will be exciting, even if it won't be easy. I understand why these candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. Let's face it, there has been much discussion in the news about our city lately. There is the near-completion of the Downtown Arena, something first envisioned by aldermen Dan Johnson, Steve Magre, and George Unseld nearly fifteen years ago. There is the ongoing purchases of parcels completing the Ring of Parks around Jefferson County as well as adding acres and acres to our Jefferson Memorial Forest on the southwestern fringe of the county. There are the planned expansions at the University of Louisville and Jefferson Community and Technical College, the latter of which does not necessarily include a controversial hotel on Broadway. And while there may be bad news coming from TARC as it tightens further its belt, there is also a proposal by one of the candidates for United State Senate of a very modern transportation system using perhaps even a light-rail system, something that would work quite compatably with the expansion going on at Fort Knox just thirty miles to the southwest. There are new residential areas all over - from the former farms along what is now called Old Bardstown Road - and no, it is not the one in Buechel - to new lofts and apartments downtown, an expansion which began before the economic downturn and will be realized in the next few years. Fourth Street, East Market Street, Frankfort Avenue, Brownsboro Road, and other corridors are alive with activity. We are about to turn the corner and get the 21st century underway - right on schedule more or less. We have always been a little laid back and behind the times. Starting the 21st century in 2010 should come as no surprise.

So we have these folks wanting to be mayor. As I said, I am involved in the campaign of Greg Fischer. My dear friend Preston Bates confirmed for me that he and Jonathan Hurst have been recently hired on the Jim King campaign. I do not know who is running Tandy's campaign other than his treasurer being my old nemesis (and friend) from the KDP, former KDP Chair Jennifer Moore. Burrell Farnsley is running his own show, as he has done is campaigns-past. I know nothing of the operations of those from the other side of the aisle.

2010 will be an interesting year politically here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. If Democrat Jodie Haydon wins tomorrow's Special Election for the 14th Senate seat (to represent Marion, Mercer, Nelson, Taylor, and Washington counties), as I fully expect he will, the State Senate will be one vote shy of a tie for leadership. In 2010 here in Jefferson County, the 38th Senate seat, presently held by Democrat-turned-Republican Danny Seum of Fairdale, is being contested by Marty Meyer whose father held the seat prior to Seum. In the adjoining counties of Bullitt, Shelby, and Spencer, the Democrats have a shot at turning a Red seat Blue with the election of John Spainhour. Similar possibilities exist in Hardin and a small part of Jefferson for the 10th District, and in far western Kentucky where Democrat Rex Smith is challenging Democrat-turned-Republican-turned Independent Bob Leeper in a district centered on Paducah. The truth is the Democrats probably need, in addition to winning tomorrow's Special, three turnovers in 2010. One to tie, one to lead, and one for insurance. Yes, it will be an interesting year.


And we promise - to remember - the Seventh of December - We're the Seabees of the Navy - The Bees of the Seven Seas.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

570. President Obama's War

"George W. Bush has led our country into war, into debt, and into isolation with the rest of the planet."

Last year, on the night before the election of President Obama, I wrote a lenghty entry covering all my November presidential ballots since 1980. Most of them were cast for the loser as opposed to the winner. 1980, 1984, 1988, 2000, and 2004 - all cast for the non-winner. They weren't all cast for Democrats, although the more recent ones have been. Arguably in 2000 I voted for the winner, but he was later disqualified by the United States Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote.

In that entry last November, toward the end, I commented on the then-incumbent president and his vice president. And that paragraph began with the sentence above. "George W. Bush has led our country into war, into debt, and into isolation with the rest of the planet."

I think the phrasing of that sentence makes very clear that one of the many reasons I voted against George W. Bush was his involvement of America in the War in Iraq. None of us ever quite knew why we were engaged in that war, nor did anyone at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW seem to know how we were going to get out of it. But, the American people, in blue states, purple states, and a few red states, made it clear, they wanted the war in particular, and the George W. Bush presidency in general, to come to an end.

To this new president's credit, our country is on a path of withdrawal from Iraq. We are ending our war in that country. But, we aren't ending our war. The president used the verb transition six different times in his speech tonight. We are transitioning from Iraq to Afghanistan.

Afghanistan is where this president, long before he was president, said we should be fighting, taking our aim - literally - at the forces of Al Qaeda and the Taliban where they live. He has never wavered from this position. Thus, tonight's call for a surge of 30,000 troops should not come as any surprise to a student of Barack Obama. And, admittedly it doesn't.

But a lot of us who voted for Barack Obama to be president did so because we are against war - as opposed to being against the war, whether in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Bosnia, Korea, Germany, or even perhaps Cuba. Many of last November's voters, for a variety of reasons, voted for pacifism.

Pacifism isn't to be confused or be in anyway interpreted as anti-American, or anti-military, or unpatriotic. We pacifists aren't any of those things. We support our troops, we support our Flag, we vote out of civic duty, and most of us absolutely believe we live in the greatest country in history. And we do. We unconditionally want our country to succeed and we want our country to live in peace.

My father is, like me, a pacifist. He also served his country in the United States Army Reserves as a young man. He is also very conservative ideologically, a registered Republican for nearly all of his life, until George W. Bush used the military in a way that was unacceptable and unpatriotic to my father, at which point he switched and became an Independent. Unlike me, he did not vote for Barack Obama. My guess is he voted for Bob Barr, but I do not know if that is the case. But, he has made it clear that he is not anymore happy with Barack Obama being president than he was with George W. Bush, a man for whom he voted twice, but later came to despise. In a recent conversation - one before tonight's speech - my father, knowing that I did vote for and worked hard to elect Obama, asked me if I have been happy with these first ten months of the Obama administration.

The answer is no. He was happy to hear that. But the bases of his disfavor of this administration are far different than mine. While we both want the president (and where he understands this differently from many of the tea-bagging Republicans, ultimately the country) to succeed, he thinks the president has gone too far, borrowed too much, promised too much, and overtaken too much. He sees no light at the end of a somewhat socialistic tunnel. I see it the other way. Voters called for a big change both in 2006 and 2008 and this president is effecting such change in a big way. I tend toward optimism. I hope the president's plan works, the country recovers, and peace and prosperity are once again by-words of our Republic.

So, I cannot say I am happy with the president's call for an additional 30,000 troops in what is now most assuredly his war. But I am hopeful he is correct. I am hopeful our engagement in Iraq is at an end. I am hopeful that our engagement in Afghanistan will come to the end he has planned in 2011. I am most hopeful that, irrespective of how I feel about the president at this point in time, our country and her people succeed. Barack Obama is the person we have chosen to make that happen, to make the big change a majority of us sought in the ballot booth in 2008.

I am consoled by the knowledge that this president, first of all, has a plan; the last one didn't. I am consoled by the knowledge that this man is a very smart man, in stark contrast to his predecessor. I am consoled by the knowledge that this president still understands the audacity of hope that people like me have in him even after this speech. He has a lot of work to do.

In the end, this is America, the greatest country on the planet. We shant despair, we will proceed. And I expect nothing less than success.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

569. Who will be the 60,000th visitor to the site?

Sometime today or tomorrow, we will cross another of those thresholds, this one the 60,000th visitor. I'm prepared with some rainbow sherbet and ginger ale to celebrate. I don't really have a post today - just noticed the numbers. So, if you're hanging around here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 if the next few hours, check the number counter. I'm curious as to who is visiting. I'll take off the comment moderation device and make a request that for a few days people leave a message in the comment section. Tell me who you are and where you are from. Even if you don't use a real name, that is ok. I just want to know.

Thanks. All 60,000 of you. Even the repeaters. Even the six faithful readers.
-- Jeff

Friday, November 27, 2009

568. Happy Day After - that sounds better than Black Friday

Today is the Friday that the snow flurries were supposed to sweep into town. Didn't happen. In fact, although it is about 36 degrees right now, it is supposed to get up to 50 before the day is through.

But, yesterday, for a few fleeting moments, I did see the white stuff from my view at a dining room table in Bullitt County where I celebrated Thanksgiving. I wasn't over the river and through the woods as the Salt River lays about 1/4 mile south of where I was. It was my friend Jessie's birthday and she invited me to spend Thanksgiving with her family - parents, grandparents, and cousins. There was a little [actually a lot] of everything to eat - much of it homegrown - along with wine, mint tea, and good coffee to drink, and pumpkin and derby pie as dessert. I was one of eleven seated around a huge formal dining table and opposite me, over the head of one of Jessie's cousins, was a window to the outside world, one facing north into acres and acres of farmland - some presently laying fallow - and off in the distance a horse or two making their way in and out of a small stable. There was a bird feed stand - one of those on a huge hook. All kinds of birds kept flittering off and on the stand amid an ongoing battle for territory between two squirrels and one big bluebird. For one brief moment, maybe forty seconds, I saw it. The glorious flakes of white stuff falling from the heavens - not manna - snow. I edged my way into whatever conversation was ongoing and mentioned the snow, but by that time it had turned to rain. It was a brief encounter but I will count it as the first snowfall I've seen this season.

All in all, a very pleasant Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

567. Snow

Longtime readers of the blog - all six of you - are probably aware that falling snow has a tendency to get me all excited. So far this year that hasn't happened. We've usually had some of the white stuff at least blowing around here and there by this date in the calendar. Not this year.

Back in October I published Dick Frymire's weather predictions. We've passed three of his "event" dates, all three of which lacked the event. He called for a frost on October 1 which didn't happen. He called for a killing frost on October 30, which also didn't happen, but it did get very cold through the night of the 31st and into the 1st of November, but not below freezing. He also called for flurries on the 15th. To be honest I was in sunny San Antonio on the 15th, but I'm pretty sure no flurries visited on the 15th here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. The next date on Frymire's calendar is Friday, November 27, when he calls for one inch of snow. Some local forecasters are calling for snow although none seem to think we'll have an inch - just some flurries.

Whether flurries or real snow, I'm ready.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tom Owen Cultural Studies and Greyhound Cultural Studies

My friend and fellow historian Dr. Tom Owen is offering the following class for learning a lot about a lot of Louisville culture in a few short hours. Tom, of course, is Louisville's teller of hisotry. He is having a special show this Sunday, Novbember 22 at the Clifton Center called Everybody's Gotta Be From Somewhere - Close. It is at 2 o'clock and is free. I'd suggest attending this little lecture for a quick and concise lesson on Louisville and her neighborhoods. He will also be showing highlights from his six videos taken around town.

In another way of learning about Louisville cutlture, Dr. Owen suggests boarding the TARC Route #18, sometimes called Preston/18 or 18th Street or Preston Highway line. This particular line starts out in southwestern Jefferson County near the intersection of Watson Lane and Dixie Highway, arguably as deep in the "heart of Dixie" as one may be within the confines of Jefferson County, Kentucky. It follows northward along Dixie Highway from Valley Village to Valley Station to Pleasure Ridge Park to Shively to the Hallmark neighborhood to the Algonquin neighborhood to the California neighborhood, then at an offset intersection continues north on 18th Street through the Russell neighborhood and into Portland where it turns east along the Market/Jefferson streets corridor. It this section, one passes through Beecher Terrace, the Downtown Business District, and the East Market Street corridor (which some do-gooders are proposing we call NuLu). At Preston (going south) or Jackson (going north), the route follows southward out of downtown and into Clarksdale, the new Liberty Green, the U of L Medical Cpmplex, Smoketown, Shelby Park, Preston Park, Swiss Park, Parkway Village, Audubon, North audubon (which is actually south of Audubon), Audubon Park, the Fairgrounds area, Prestonia, and points southward. Preston Street becomes Preston Highway and the route continues through the western edges of Newburg and into Kentucky's largest unicorporated population center, Okolona. The route then courses a little to the east through suburbia into and out of Jefferson Mall, the terminal point.

One can only imagine the variety of souls one may encounter by repeatedly riding the full course from one end to the other and back. On a recent trip to San Antonio, Texas, in an attempt at a broader understanding of varying cultures, and because I simply like to watch the countryside as I am travelling along, I made my way there and back as a passenger aboard a Greyhound bus. This is Tom Owen's cultural lesson expanded exponentially.


It would be simple to say that the route was not long: I65 to I-40 to I-30 to I35E to I-35. Short and simple. Such a description of the tour would be an unjust way of describing what was, despite some setbacks, an interesting and enjoyable visit through four states and numerous seatmates.

We left Louisville on Tuesday evening en route to Nashville, Tennessee. Getting out of Louisville was time consuming as it was lane-switching day for the construction along I-65 from the Watterson Expressway out to the Snyder Freeway. This was to be a recurring problem throughout the trip, evidence of "Your Obama Stimulus Tax Dollars At Work" on most the interstates in all four states. It takes a while for the conversations to commence on such a trip, but once they do, there is a cornucopia of ideas related between passengers. The passengers themselves offer an interesting cross blend reflecting the melting pot of America's citizens. There were young couples, old couples, blacks, whites, browns, and others. Single women between college and home; single men between wives and girlfriends. A number of young black men who congregated together in the back of the bus oddly along with what could only be described as redneckish whites. And on each bus were a handful of Amish and a larger handful of Hispanics, mostly Mexicans. Understanding the Spanish langugage is very useful when touring America in this fashion. Dominating the conversation from Louisville to Nashville within my earshod was a retired truck driver from Bowling Green who has some medical problems and an aging hippee maiing his way from Canada to Florida. The hippee had spent three days in Louisville and was impressed by the "radical downtown architecture." He commented on West Main Street, the Glassworks, as well as the Court House and City Hall. After a short stop in Bowling Green, we arrived in Nashville at twilight. The young guy sitting next to me from Louisville to Nashville (and on to Memphis) did not say a word.

In every bus center save one (Louisville), there is a sign saying "Welcome to [name of city, name of state]."

After a short stay in Nashville, along with the discharge of some passengers and the boarding of others, we left for Memphis, Tennessee along Interstate 40, Tennesses's rendition of the Western Kentucky Parkway. As it was dark, the conversations, if any, were much quieter. My little area was controlled, so it seemed, by a young lady intending on telling all of us to be quiet as she needed some sleep. Keep in mind that it was only about 6:00 pm. Our next stop was a pick up at Jackson, Tennessee, the hometown of my dear friend Jarvis Wade. But, before arriving there, we came to a dead halt - near the town of Bucksnort. And for forty-five minutes we sat. And finally the kid sitting next to me spoke up. He, like all of us, was curious about the delay. He went on to say he was from Columbus, Ohio and was going to see his wife in Memphis. I didn't ask why the two were in separate cities. We had plenty of time to talk at that point. For the next three hours we travelled a total of nine miles, eventually coming upon the cause of our delay, a fatal single-vehicle accident (and fire) along the side of the road. Passing this unfortunate site, we continued to Jackson, the county seat of Madison County, Tennessee.

At Jackson we picked up passengers who had been waiting in front of a long-closed-for-the-evening Greyhound Bus Station (shown at right), one built in the art-deco style of similar design to Louisville's former bus station on Broadway, but of a much smaller scale. One of the newbies was an older man whose occupation involved driving newly built trucks from one point to another, using the Greyhound to make his connections between trucks. He was headed for a truck frame somewhere in Texas which he would subsequently drive to Indianapolis for additional work. He was from Henderson City, Tennessee and I mentioned that I thought I had distant relatives from there, related to my Grandfather Noble's brother, who lived in nearly Jackson. He knew of several Noble families in the area.

We travelled together from Jackson to Memphis for starters. At this point we were about three and half hours hours behind schedule.

The less said about my additional four-hour stay in Memphis the better. Nothing about it was pleasing and the Greyhound Bus Company should be fined for their operation in that city. For the record, the random Drug Check turned up nothing. And the jerk that was driving the 3:00 AM bus to Amarillo was not just "licking his lips." He stuck his tongue out at me and that was the cause of my outburst. At this point we were about seven hours behind schedule.

We left Memphis headed west to Dallas, quite a long haul somewhat diagonally across Arkansas, which when crossed diagonally is quite a trip. This took us through the capital city Little Rock with the Bill Clinton Presidential Library clearly in view off to the north, as well as other places that in the pre-Bill Clinton days most of us did not know of - one town named Hope and another named Hot Springs. Hope of course is the hometown of the former president, where as a child his last name was not Clinton but Blythe. Blythe is the maiden name of my great grandfather Lewis's mother, Sarah Catherine, but they were from the Owensboro area to my knowledge. Hope, by the way, is also the hometown of former Louisville Mayor and Kentucky Attorney General Dave Armstrong.

Further south of there was a town with a familiar name - Okolona. I'm sure like all the other Okolona's except for the one in Jefferson County, theirs is named for a tribe of Native Americans. We made a stop in Prescott, Arkansas and another one in the 400 block of the East I-30 Frontage Road in Texarkana, Arkansas where four blocks to the west is State Line Avenue and one enters Texas.

Texas. Texas is truly a different state of mind. Texans seem to be a rather independent sort, still not comfortable with their status as a state of the United States of America rather than their lone star status as the Republic of Texas, this despite the fact they've been a part of the American Republic since December 29, 1845.

Crossing no hills and no dells, we entered into Dallas after passing over a large body of water known as the Ray Hubbard Lake (at right), an artificial body of water serving as a reservoir for the drinking and other water needs of Dallas. It is a vast empoundment (23,000 acres) where one can see miles and miles of water across a fairly flat plain, differing from of Corps of Engineers lakes in Kentucky which tend to fill up a number of valleys in their formation.

We stopped in Dallas where, I have to say, the transfer from one bus to another was the most organized. Among all the bus depots, Dallas' was the cleanest, largest, and seemed to be very well operated.

We left Dallas southward along Interstate 35E which after a few miles becomes simply Interstate 35 en route to Waco. I must have slept through the stop at Waco since I have no recall of it at all. When I awoke we were already headed to Austin, shown in the picture above. Sitting next to me was a tall, muscular, handsome, and very fair complected young man - Andrew, the only person's name I learned on the entire trip. He is a vocational student, studying welding, at some Texas Vocational College. He was headed to Austin to meet his parents, girlfriend, and some others for dinner. The next morning he was going to Beaumont where he would pick up his new ride, a 2005 Dodge Ram Pickup. He was clearly excited about it talking the entire trip between the two cities. He told me all about growing up in Austin, doing the music scene - he plays guitar and piano - and generally liking being a Texan. He also mentioned politics, the only time along my trip anyone did. He had voted as an 18 year old for the first time last year and he voted for Barack Obama. Talking to an 19 year old from Texas who voted for Obama in his first trip to the polls. I was almost in love - it was too much to handle. I wished him well when he departed at Austin. His big broad hand completely covered mine in the handshake the way the late Mel Meiners did. Austin, by the way, is a much, much larger place than I had imagined. According to the Census Bureau, the population within the Austin city limits is close to 750,000 with the metropolitan area having about 1,600,000. That contrasts with the entirety of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro (small cities and unincorporated territory included) which has a population of aboout 711,000.

It is hard to determine where the suburbs of Austin end and the suburbs of San Antonio begin. Sandwiched between the two is the city of San Marcos, the seat of Hays County. We make a brief stop there and then moved on to our desitnation. My seatmate from Austin to San Antonio was an interesting looking fellow, looking something along the lines of Monty Python. Young, tall, and very thin and wearing a hoodie, he clutched in his hands an unsecured collection of papers and books which he told me was his "guide to the future." He is to be a monk in some very small very conservative Catholic monastery. He was going to San Antonio to meet his Superior. I wished him well; he said nothing more.

I finally arrived at San Antonio, eight hours later than expected, but still there and made my way by cab over to my hotel.


The return trip wasn't nearly as exciting, partly because I was now an accustomed traveller. One learns the nuances, getting of the bus and immediately getting into the reboarding line, even if you aren't reboarding for another 45 minutes. There is also the drill of rushing over to the Charging Stations, something travellers of the past did not have. These are banks of electrical outlets used for recharging cell phones and laptops. You exit a bus, drop your bags in the reboarding line, and head to the charging station to claim a plug. Then an interesting thing happens. You plug your phone in, with all the others, and walk away. Noone seemed to be hovering around to protect their valuable phone or lap top, not even in Memphis. I found that reassuring.

We left San Antonio a little later than scheduled due to an "misunderstanding" about whether 24 bottles of Mexican Tequila could safely travel in the underbelly of the bus against state and federal laws. After some deliberation, it seems that such transport can happen. I think at that point there were only 22 bottles to be transported, the distribution of the other two perhaps making the trip possible. Maybe. This trip northward had more than the usual share of mexicans, most of whom had arrived from Laredo (and Mexico itself) on an earlier bus. My companion from here to Dallas was a young mexican about 22 years old (veinty-dos). I never learned his name and as it turned out, he and his family made the exact same trip as I did, all the way to Louisville. But he switched seats at Dallas. We didn't talk much as he spoke no English other than to say his age and that he was headed to "Loo-Eese-Bee-Yay" which translated is Louisville. While not saying much he showed me some of his official papers along with some pictures from his wallet, which was attached to him by a long silver braided chain. But I never did learn his name. Along the way, we made the same stops - San Marcos, Austin, Waco (which this time I saw), and Dallas, arriving there about 11:30 pm.

As I said before, the Dallas depot is a very large and greatly organized operation, method amid chaos. We left from there headed to Little Rock and eventually to the hellhole at Memphis. My seatmate was an older Amish man with long hair tucked up in a hat dressed in the usual black. He was travelling with his wife, their two children, and one other young person. They were en route to Pennsylvania. None of them said much at all - not to each other or to anyone else. I was curious about always seeing the Amish on the bus since I've never seen them in the car. Finally, I worked up the nerve to ask why this apparent discrepency? He allowed several reasons. The do not drive cars, but they are allowed to hire others to drive them if travel distances are extreme. This seems unorthodox to me but what do I know. I'm just trying to find my way from the Catholic Church to the Episcopal Church which on the surface seems easy but so far has taken me going on six years. But, I digress.

He went on to say something about families travelling together trumping the law against use of a car as well as the idea that a car extols the prominence of its owner while riding public transportation puts all on the same level palying field. His explanantion completed, he said no more.

We stopped briefly in Prescott, Arkansas and a few other towns, one to pick up eight recently released convicts from a prison van. All young, all white, all carrying their little see-through cotton mesh bag of belongings, all eight of whom immediately made their way to the back of the bus joining the everpresent young blacks and young white rednecks, all seeming headed to either Atlanta or Detroit, niether one of which was on my route. At some point I drifted off to sleep, waking only when we arrived at the depot in Little Rock - actually in North Little Rock.

There is one of those ubiquitous coffee dispensing machines in Little Rock. Simple $1.00 Dixie Cups of coffee. I added sugar although I usually drink it black. I had gotten a cup from the same machine on the way south and it was relatively good. So was this second cup. I really wanted to be awake so as to see the Mississippi River once we crossed back into Tennessee. Crossing this great body of water is always a somewhat moving experience for me. Although I've crossed it a few times in the air, seeing it at ground level can be emotional. I had actually missed it when we left Memphis on the way down. It is one of those major marking points in our Republic, like crossing the Alleghenies in the east or the Rockies in the west. Thus, I was awake for my transposition back into Tennessee on Interstate 40 across the Hernando DeSoto Bridge (shown below with Memphis in the background).

Memphis in the daylight and less the confusion is a little better than what I experience on the way down but not much. I had been in Memphis as a little boy when my grandfather was working there building a Kroger distribution center. This would have been in the mid 1960s so I do not remember much. We stayed in some extended stay apartments called the Bellevue and there was a pool but it had no water. We visited Graceland, then home to an alive-and-well Elvis Presley and also visited some military base closeby. I may go back someday but I doubt it will be anytime soon.

For the first time since before leaving Louisville, there skies were overcast and we eventually drove into rain, rain which would be with us through Nashville and into southern Kentucky. I do not remember who weas seated next to me on this part of the trip. After the brief stop in Jackson I went to sleep.

I woke up outside of Nashville where we transferred to our "destination" bus to Louisville. Leaving Nashville I was ready to be back home. My final seatmate was a young lady, a junior in college from somewhere in upstate New York. Where she had been I do not know. She introduced herself and said very little else. I remained awake for the final leg of the trip. She spent the entire time texting people. She must have texted everyone of her contacts, as she never let up all the way into Louisville.

It hit me somewhere just south of Shepherdsville that I was home - my long trip halfway across the country and back at an end. Back to whatever business is at hand, I will always remember my lesson of cultural studies aboard the Greyhound to San Antonio.

Dorothy was right. There's no place like home.

Don't forget Tom Owen's program at 2:00 pm on Sunday at the Clifton Center on Payne Street.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More from San Antonio

The RiverWalk is so cool. Walked quite a bit of it late last night with a group of friends. Earlier we had been to dinner at Buchanon's Steak House, ranked the 2nd Best Steak House in Texas. Thinks Morton's on steroids. To my knowledge we don't have anything like Buchanon's anywhere in Kentucky.

The RiverWalk is Fourth Street Live times five all set along both sides of the San Antonio River and some offshoots all in downtown. We ended up at a place called Republic of Texas (creative name) where the DJ never let the music slow down or the volume go down. He played a combination of music from 1960s through last week - lots of hip hop, lots and lots of Hispanic music thrown in. Dancing was fun.

Today I'm going to hear Doris Kearns Goodwin at a luncheon. I have her book Team of Rivals for her to sign. I've read most of her books over the years. More later.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Live From San Antonio

I'm just checking in. I'll be posting more later. I'm staying the Menger Hotel which is literally next door to the Alamo. Kinda neat. The hotel itself is of an historic nature. In the past it has hosted Robert E. Lee, Theodore Roosevelt, and Bill Clinton to name a few.

I'm going to be doing some tinkering with the comment section as the blog is being bombarded with spam advertising. I've had more commenters in the last week than I've had since the commencement for the blog. Sorry for any inconvience.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day in America

Today is Veterans Day, a day we set aside for the honor and memory of those women and men who devoted a part of their lives, and in many cases their very lives, in service to our country. I was raised by one of those who served their duty in World War Two. My grandfather Daniel Hockensmith, was a Seabee in the United States Navy. He died in 1983 long after his service was ended. Others have died on the battlefield, in medical hospitals, and elsewhere. Some, like my grandfather, had the opportunity to live out their lives; others did not.

Yesterday, the President travelled to Fort Hood, Texas to address the memorial service for those who were killed in an outbreak of violence there this week. Thirteen women and men lost their lives on American soil. The president's speech was very moving, very emotional. I am sure it was one of the most difficult speeches he has ever given. I have copied the text of the president's speech below.

Today, or someday soon, remember our Veterans, if only by nodding your head in acknowledgement while driving past a cemetery. Veterans are buried in many cemeteries, but their graves are most easily seen in our National Cemeteries. The Louisville area has three - Zachary Taylor on Brownsboro Road, a part of Cave Hill on Baxter Avenue, and the New Albany National Cemetery across the river in Floyd County, shown in the picture above. In nearby Hardin County is the Radcliff Veterans Cemetery created and owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

May the souls of these veterans and all the departed Rest In Peace.


The text of President Obama's speech, November 10, 2009:

We come together filled with sorrow for the thirteen Americans that we have lost; with gratitude for the lives that they led; and with a determination to honor them through the work we carry on.

This is a time of war. And yet these Americans did not die on a foreign field of battle. They were killed here, on American soil, in the heart of this great American community. It is this fact that makes the tragedy even more painful and even more incomprehensible.

For those families who have lost a loved one, no words can fill the void that has been left. We knew these men and women as soldiers and caregivers. You knew them as mothers and fathers; sons and daughters; sisters and brothers.

But here is what you must also know: your loved ones endure through the life of our nation. Their memory will be honored in the places they lived and by the people they touched. Their life's work is our security, and the freedom that we too often take for granted. Every evening that the sun sets on a tranquil town; every dawn that a flag is unfurled; every moment that an American enjoys life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness - that is their legacy.

Neither this country - nor the values that we were founded upon - could exist without men and women like these thirteen Americans. And that is why we must pay tribute to their stories.

Chief Warrant Officer Michael Cahill had served in the National Guard and worked as a physician's assistant for decades. A husband and father of three, he was so committed to his patients that on the day he died, he was back at work just weeks after having a heart attack.

Major Libardo Eduardo Caraveo spoke little English when he came to America as a teenager. But he put himself through college, earned a PhD, and was helping combat units cope with the stress of deployment. He is survived by his wife, sons and step-daughters.

Staff Sergeant Justin DeCrow joined the Army right after high school, married his high school sweetheart, and had served as a light wheeled mechanic and Satellite Communications Operator. He was known as an optimist, a mentor, and a loving husband and father.

After retiring from the Army as a Major, John Gaffaney cared for society's most vulnerable during two decades as a psychiatric nurse. He spent three years trying to return to active duty in this time of war, and he was preparing to deploy to Iraq as a Captain. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Specialist Frederick Greene was a Tennessean who wanted to join the Army for a long time, and did so in 2008 with the support of his family. As a combat engineer he was a natural leader, and he is survived by his wife and two daughters.

Specialist Jason Hunt was also recently married, with three children to care for. He joined the Army after high school. He did a tour in Iraq, and it was there that he re-enlisted for six more years on his 21st birthday so that he could continue to serve.

Staff Sergeant Amy Krueger was an athlete in high school, joined the Army shortly after 9/11, and had since returned home to speak to students about her experience. When her mother told her she couldn't take on Osama bin Laden by herself, Amy replied: "Watch me."

Private First Class Aaron Nemelka was an Eagle Scout who just recently signed up to do one of the most dangerous jobs in the service - diffuse bombs - so that he could help save lives. He was proudly carrying on a tradition of military service that runs deep within his family.

Private First Class Michael Pearson loved his family and loved his music, and his goal was to be a music teacher. He excelled at playing the guitar, and could create songs on the spot and show others how to play. He joined the military a year ago, and was preparing for his first deployment.

Captain Russell Seager worked as a nurse for the VA, helping veterans with Post-Traumatic Stress. He had great respect for the military, and signed up to serve so that he could help soldiers cope with the stress of combat and return to civilian life. He leaves behind a wife and son.

Private Francheska Velez, the daughter of a father from Colombia and a Puerto Rican mother, had recently served in Korea and in Iraq, and was pursuing a career in the Army. When she was killed, she was pregnant with her first child, and was excited about becoming a mother.

Lieutenant Colonel Juanita Warman was the daughter and granddaughter of Army veterans. She was a single mother who put herself through college and graduate school, and served as a nurse practitioner while raising her two daughters. She also left behind a loving husband.

Private First Class Kham Xiong came to America from Thailand as a small child. He was a husband and father who followed his brother into the military because his family had a strong history of service. He was preparing for his first deployment to Afghanistan.

These men and women came from all parts of the country. Some had long careers in the military. Some had signed up to serve in the shadow of 9/11. Some had known intense combat in Iraq and Afghanistan, and some cared for those did. Their lives speak to the strength, the dignity and the decency of those who serve, and that is how they will be remembered.

That same spirit is embodied in the community here at Fort Hood, and in the many wounded who are still recovering. In those terrible minutes during the attack, soldiers made makeshift tourniquets out of their clothes. They braved gunfire to reach the wounded, and ferried them to safety in the backs of cars and a pick-up truck.

One young soldier, Amber Bahr, was so intent on helping others that she did not realize for some time that she, herself, had been shot in the back. Two police officers - Mark Todd and Kim Munley - saved countless lives by risking their own. One medic - Francisco de la Serna - treated both Officer Munley and the gunman who shot her.

It may be hard to comprehend the twisted logic that led to this tragedy. But this much we do know - no faith justifies these murderous and craven acts; no just and loving God looks upon them with favor. And for what he has done, we know that the killer will be met with justice - in this world, and the next.

These are trying times for our country. In Afghanistan and Pakistan, the same extremists who killed nearly 3,000 Americans continue to endanger America, our allies, and innocent Afghans and Pakistanis. In Iraq, we are working to bring a war to a successful end, as there are still those who would deny the Iraqi people the future that Americans and Iraqis have sacrificed so much for.

As we face these challenges, the stories of those at Fort Hood reaffirm the core values that we are fighting for, and the strength that we must draw upon. Theirs are tales of American men and women answering an extraordinary call - the call to serve their comrades, their communities, and their country. In an age of selfishness, they embody responsibility. In an era of division, they call upon us to come together. In a time of cynicism, they remind us of who we are as Americans.

We are a nation that endures because of the courage of those who defend it. We saw that valor in those who braved bullets here at Fort Hood, just as surely as we see it in those who signed up knowing that they would serve in harm's way.

We are a nation of laws whose commitment to justice is so enduring that we would treat a gunman and give him due process, just as surely as we will see that he pays for his crimes.

We are a nation that guarantees the freedom to worship as one chooses. And instead of claiming God for our side, we remember Lincoln's words, and always pray to be on the side of God.

We are a nation that is dedicated to the proposition that all men and women are created equal. We live that truth within our military, and see it in the varied backgrounds of those we lay to rest today. We defend that truth at home and abroad, and we know that Americans will always be found on the side of liberty and equality. That is who we are as a people.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day. It is a chance to pause, and to pay tribute - for students to learn of the struggles that preceded them; for families to honor the service of parents and grandparents; for citizens to reflect upon the sacrifices that have been made in pursuit of a more perfect union.

For history is filled with heroes. You may remember the stories of a grandfather who marched across Europe; an uncle who fought in Vietnam; a sister who served in the Gulf. But as we honor the many generations who have served, I think all of us - every single American - must acknowledge that this generation has more than proved itself the equal of those who have come before.

We need not look to the past for greatness, because it is before our very eyes.

This generation of soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen have volunteered in a time of certain danger. They are part of the finest fighting force that the world has ever known. They have served tour after tour of duty in distant, different and difficult places. They have stood watch in blinding deserts and on snowy mountains. They have extended the opportunity of self-government to peoples that have suffered tyranny and war. They are man and woman; white, black, and brown; of all faiths and stations - all Americans, serving together to protect our people, while giving others half a world away the chance to lead a better life.

In today's wars, there is not always a simple ceremony that signals our troops' success - no surrender papers to be signed, or capital to be claimed. But the measure of their impact is no less great - in a world of threats that know no borders, it will be marked in the safety of our cities and towns, and the security and opportunity that is extended abroad. And it will serve as testimony to the character of those who serve, and the example that you set for America and for the world.

Here, at Fort Hood, we pay tribute to thirteen men and women who were not able to escape the horror of war, even in the comfort of home. Later today, at Fort Lewis, one community will gather to remember so many in one Stryker Brigade who have fallen in Afghanistan.

Long after they are laid to rest - when the fighting has finished, and our nation has endured; when today's servicemen and women are veterans, and their children have grown - it will be said of this generation that they believed under the most trying of tests; that they persevered not just when it was easy, but when it was hard; and that they paid the price and bore the burden to secure this nation, and stood up for the values that live in the hearts of all free peoples.

So we say goodbye to those who now belong to eternity. We press ahead in pursuit of the peace that guided their service. May God bless the memory of those we lost. And may God bless the United States of America.

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.