Saturday, January 31, 2009

443. The Ice Man Stayeth

Here's the good news - the temperature is 34 degrees and the sun is shining brightly here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. That's the extent of the good news.

Today's Courier reports 122,000 Louisville customers are without electricity. That's a bare minimum of one in seven Louisvillians, assuming that every customer accounts for only one person, which we all know is not the case. Chances are that up to 33% of Louisville residents remain without electricity. Louisville's population is around 711,000. That could mean just over 200,000 people in the dark. There are no closed-end estimates on when electricity will be fully restored. The problem is widespread throughout the state and well into other states. I've talked on the phone with friends in Green and Grayson counties, to the south and southwest, respectively, all of whom are power-less and powerless to get any power back. We are all at the mercy of the utility companies, which have brought in help from all over the country. Another friend in Elizabethtown says there is some problem with the water supply there, although they didn't fully explain themselves. There have been several deaths including a few here in Louisville.

Fortunately, I have power - as does my mother, although her's is not coming in a full force - her lights are dim; her furnace is only working part-time. I met my brother and a guy who works with him for a morning cleanup at mom's house. To be honest, my brother did most of the work which I thought was only fair since he hasn't cut the grass there since the 1980s. My mother's yard, property that has been in my family since 1951, is dotted with trees, large and small, old and young, leaf-bearing and needle-bearing, all of which suffered damage. Even with my mother's description (made entirely from looking out the windows as she has not been outside in four days), I wasn't prepared. There are several branches from every tree down in her yard, criss crossing the lawn, some against the house, her car, the street light, the electric line, and every other configuration. The fact that she has electricity at all is a little beyond belief. At the southeast corner of her driveway is a utility pole from which extend the wires to her house and three others. Branches from other trees, including one across the street, have severed the lines to the other three houses. Those lines, along with a large branch, are blocking the road. Rudely, people have been detouring around the lines driving about 30 feet up into her yard and then through it to another to get back upon the road. I'm not quite sure people would think some lady's yard is the appropriate place for a detour. Her street is a U-shaped lane, with double access to South Park Road. The impromptu detour has been closed. We piled about one half of the branches across it, a stack about 35 feet long and five to ten feet high. The street is, for the moment, a dead end at my mother's driveway.

On the north side of her house, a huge branch looked like it was torpedoed into the yard, taking part of her guttering with it. All that is fixable. The backyard seems to have lost trees as opposed to branches. When my brother and I were little, our grandfather built us a cabin in the far back corner of the yard. Over the years we planted trees here and there, all of which are 35 to 45 years old now. Over time, a few have come down through one means or another, always falling in the triangular space between the garage, the pool, and the house. And such is the same today. Several huge trees are down, but none of them hit anything, other than themselves. Looking for the silver linings behind the clouds, I told my mother that the Ice Storm of '09 probably saved her $10,000.00 in tree costs. All the trees have been topped out and trimmed up, at no cost, other than the removal of the debris. She smiled, but, like the electrical current in her house, it wasn't a very strong smile.

What is amazing is driving through entire neighborhoods that are still fully without power. Between here and there, it seems most of Smoketown and Germantown lacked power, as did Audubon Park and parts of Camp Taylor. Stoplights along much of Shelby Street and Poplar Level Road were not working. The picture shows Winter Avenue looking west toward the intersection at Barret Avenue - no lights. Closer to mom's house, there did seem to be more electricity for longer periods of space. Instead of entire neighborhoods out, the shortage is limited to a house here and a house there. But restoration will not come quickly as every street and every house on every street will be checked and rechecked before the grid is fully restored and power is flowing freely.

The first month of January has been interesting, if rather unproductive. It seems we can't quite get the year started. Between getting over Christmas and New Year's, the anticipation and then celebration of a new presidency (as much a celebration of getting rid of the old one), and then a cold spell and ice storm, it is time for January to take its leave. Bring on Month Number Two.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

442. Hurricane Ike (Ice) Revisited

Back in September, (the remnants of) Hurricane Ike passed through Louisville, ripping hundred year old trees from their roots, wreaking havoc on roofs and power lines, closing most schools and businesses for nearly two weeks while the city went without electricity and most services. Fortunately, the temperatures at that time were moderately warm and there was little precipitation once the storm passed through, which was on a Sunday. As reported in the last post, the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 has been hit by an ice storm leaving us in very similar circumstances to the outcome of Ike, the difference being the temperature and the precipitation.

Very shortly after entering the previous post, sometime around 2:45 am the power went out in most of the city, and since that time in several surrounding counties, and presently remains so. It is Hurricane Ike all over. Except, the temperature is in the 20s, there is a cold wind, there is an inch and a half of ice, under which is three inches of snow, and over which is three more inches of snow. Schools, colleges, and businesses have announced they are closing tomorrow and Friday, much they way they did in September. Most remained closed for nearly two weeks back then. Can we afford it all again? A call to the LG&E service center reports all power is expected to be restored in seven to ten days. Seven to Ten Days!

No amount of preparation by the city street crews can counter the effects of having no electricity in the areas you serve. With street lights out in a number of locations, and ice crystals bending over some of the city's biggest trees, many of which snapped, while others offer a very delicate canopy over cars, which was the case with my car this morning. While one tree did snap, another simply leaned over the car and I drove out as if exiting Batman's tunnel into Gotham City.

Out at my mother's, the situation is both better and worse. She has electricity, although it has come and went a number of times. She also has considerable damage to her home and property from falling trees, although nothing apparently pierced the roof. Her car is below one such branch. And because there are downed power lines in the street in front of her house, several cars have detoured around the lines and into her yard, only to find that very slight eighteen inch hill in her side yard is maybe seventeen inches more than most cars can navigate through snow and ice. She reports a van and a wrecker are presently well lodged in her side yard. Both have been abandoned, and the detour is cutoff by their presence. As in the picture above, trees and cars have become rather familiar with each other.

The governor and the mayor are here and there on the media (so I am told) explaining the reality that there is little anyone can do under the circumstances. And since the two major utility companies serving the greater part of the Commonwealth are German-owned, getting someone local on the phone is proving difficult. I could make a pitch for municipally owned utilities here, but I wont. Even if our's were locally owned, the overwhelming nature of the storm probably would allow the same response, which seems to be very little.

Like the van and the wrecker at my mother's - abandoned - I've left my house for warmer climes, those of a friend from where I am presently posting. My nephew is serving as a sentinel keeping watch over the house where the temperature is hovering in the 30s. There is a gas-fired faux-fireplace which keeps an area of about 10 square feet in a radius immediately in front of it quite toasty. I wasn't content with that idea - my nephew was.

We'll see what tomorrow brings.

441. Ice

I woke up about 20 minutes ago to the very loud sound of limbs breaking and falling somewhere close to my bedroom windows. A small tree, the only one left in front of the house after the first two were taken out by Hurricane Ike back in September, is now history, bent over in three places, snapped in two like wooden matchsticks. Further noises, so far, have proven to be ice and snow sliding off the gabled portion of the house as well as the garage in the back. There are two very slender and tall trees between my house and the house to the west which have me greatly concerned. Out in the alley in the back, the remains of a large tree, most of which came down back in September, are now scattered like kindling. While looking out the front door, the limbs of a tree in the alley behind the house across the street fell out of the sky, creating a noise as if they were within a few handspans. The lights have blinked a few times, but thus far, as is evident by this entry, power is on. It's been a few years since we've had a serious ice storm. I can only remember three or four really bad ones in my life - this is another one. The last I recall was in 1994 - surely there has been one since then. We'll see what tomorrow brings although the forecast isn't too promising.

I used to really like winter. Maybe I am getting old.

Monday, January 26, 2009

440. Ill Winds - Thoughts of William Henry Harrison

It is a well known fact that William Henry Harrison, our Republic's ninth president, spent too much time in the cold March air of Washington DC, delivering his inaugural address, the longest ever, and dying a few weeks later from the after-effects. Last Tuesday, in a simlar manner, me and 2,000,000 of Barack Obama's closest friends spent upwards of six hours waiting in chilling temperatures to hear the 44th president deliver a speech of remarkably shorter length. President Obama emerged from the warmth of the Capitol to take the Oath of Office and make his speech. Meanwhile, large numbers of frozen attendees at the swearing-in never quite made it to their assigned posts. The section I was to be seated in (Blue) was big enough for maybe 15000 people if we all got really familiar with each other. Jessie, Brandon, and I had scoped the Blue ticket zone out the day before while touring the area. We even decided on the ideal place to be to see Barack Obama take the oath.

Alas, getting to that spot was only a fantasy, of phenomenal proportion. Instead, we began the morning waiting in a line which snaked its way from 3rd and New Jersey streets SE to 2nd and Washington streets SW. Standing next to me during part of my wait was Georgetown U. and Miami Heat standout Alonzo Mourning, who at 6'9" and 261 pounds, frankly, needed a little more space than I did. Fortunately, because of his height, he occasionally gave updates as to where the line ahead was headed, although ulitmately, that wasn't very far. Getting close was going to be a problem for the 15000 the area could hold. But the real problem was this - a total of 52000 tickets were relased for that section. And, based on commentaries after the fact, most of the ticket holders did not get to their assigned spot. My guess is about 7500 made it past security and into the Blue section. To be sure, out lot wasn't nearly as bad as that of the Purple ticket holders. They were herded into the I-395/3rd Street Tunnel and some remained there for the duration, underground with limited light and no amenities. It was not a good example of planning and execution. I heard a friend comment that all of candidate Obama's event, irrespective of attendance, had come off without a hitch. I reminded her they were choreographed by a well-oiled campaign. The inauguration was conducted by the government (actually several governments working in concert), which is well versed in screwing up any number of things, now including inaugurations. None of this complaining is to take away from the experience. I'm very grateful to Congressman Yarmuth for the tickets and the hospitality shown my his staff during my visit. Without reservation, I had a great time. But I digress.

Back to William Henry Harrison. Harrison, one time governor of the Indiana territory, was a two-time candidate for president, first unsuccessfully in 1836 (against among others Kentucky's Henry Clay, who was also unsuccessful), then successfully in 1840 against the incumbent Martin VanBuren. Harrison had been a territorial governor, military hero, congressman, and diplomat before ascending to highest office in the land. On March 4, 1841 (inaguration day in that era) he delivered the longest inaugural speech on record, over 8400 words. A few weeks later, he became ill, probably with pneumonia. He delivered the speech with neither hat nor overcoat to protect him from the weather. And then he died, serving the shortest term on record for president, a little over 30 days in office.

On the other hand, knowing that the temperature in Washington last week was forecast to be 30, with a wind chill right at 10, I bundled up in multiple layers of clothing, much the way my grandmother would dress me when I was a kid going out to play in the snow. I had on sweatpants and pants, three pair of socks, two t-shirts, a shirt, my duPont Manual hoodie, and a jacket over that, with a tobaggon on my bald head. But five hours in the cold takes it toll. After the inauguration, we all returned to the hotel room where, unceremoniously, I told every one to leave - that I was taking a hot shower, and going to bed, given that I had gotten no sleep the night before, and would be driving the twelve or so hours back to Louisville the following day. There is another story here having to do with my sleeping and snoring, and I owe a huge apology to all my hotel-mates over this rude dismissal from the room. Nonetheless, they all left, without an argument, and I went to sleep. Needless to say, it apparently wasn't enough.

Wedensday's agenda brought us back to Louisville, with several stops along the way. Once home, I didn't sleep well, but I did go to work. Struggling through Friday, I've come down with a cold, possible pneumonia, and an intense amount of wheezing. I should have gone to bed Friday, but instead took my mother to a funeral visitation in Frankfort for her cousin. Saturday morning, still ailing, I attended and spoke (along with Chad Aull) at a workshop for the Shelby County Democratic Executive Committee, a three hour session of give-and-take with Democrats in that county seeking to regain some seats lost to the Republicans over the past few years. I did go to bed Saturday afternoon and remained there until time for Sunday morning Mass. Since returning from church and a quick trip back to Shelby County to retrieve my jacket, I've basically been in bed, struggling to sleep and breathing with slight difficulty. I tried to go to work today, but instead brought my work home with me. Hopefully by tomorrow, I'll feel better. Lots of juice, lots of rest, and nothing on the schedule.

Friday, January 23, 2009

439. Sixty Degrees; The Inaugural Address

What a difference a few days make. Three days ago, when upwards of two million people flooded The National Mall to witness the inauguration of President Barack Obama, the temperature there was 30 degrees with a well-felt windchill of about 8 to 10 degrees. Today, it is 51 degrees in the Federal City. Here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, the thermometer is registering 60 degrees of mercury making for a very pleasant Friday afternoon. Of course, this being Louisville, it could very possibly snow tomorrow and a few flakes are expected as tomorrow's high is predicted to be 35 with a low of 17. As we are not quite to the midpoint between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, more cold days and nights are anticipated. That day will fall February 2, where, at least in the United States, we rely upon a groundhog in Pennsylvania to play meterologist for six weeks, as opposed to listening to well-educated men and women playing at meteorologist on the TV and radio airwaves. Who knows, maybe Phil the Groundhog is a better choice.

*****

Below, in case you missed it, is President Obama's Inauguaral Address, as released by the White House. I do not think it was of the caliber of the one he gave election night, but it is an extraordinary speech - one appropriate for the challenging times.


My fellow citizens -

I stand here today humbled by the task before us, grateful for the trust
you have bestowed, mindful of the sacrifices borne by our ancestors. I
thank President Bush for his service to our nation, as well as the
generosity and cooperation he has shown throughout this transition.

Forty-four Americans have now taken the presidential oath. The words
have been spoken during rising tides of prosperity and the still waters
of peace. Yet, every so often the oath is taken amidst gathering clouds
and raging storms. At these moments, America has carried on not simply
because of the skill or vision of those in high office, but because We
the People have remained faithful to the ideals of our forbearers, and
true to our founding documents.

So it has been. So it must be with this generation of Americans.
That we are in the midst of crisis is now well understood. Our nation
is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred. Our
economy is badly weakened, a consequence of greed and irresponsibility
on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard
choices and prepare the nation for a new age. Homes have been lost;
jobs shed; businesses shuttered. Our health care is too costly; our
schools fail too many; and each day brings further evidence that the
ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.
These are the indicators of crisis, subject to data and statistics.
Less measurable but no less profound is a sapping of confidence across
our land - a nagging fear that America's decline is inevitable, and that
the next generation must lower its sights.

Today I say to you that the challenges we face are real. They are
serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short
span of time. But know this, America - they will be met.

On this day, we gather because we have chosen hope over fear, unity of
purpose over conflict and discord.

On this day, we come to proclaim an end to the petty grievances and
false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for far too
long have strangled our politics.

We remain a young nation, but in the words of Scripture, the time has
come to set aside childish things. The time has come to reaffirm our
enduring spirit; to choose our better history; to carry forward that
precious gift, that noble idea, passed on from generation to generation:
the God-given promise that all are equal, all are free, and all deserve
a chance to pursue their full measure of happiness.

In reaffirming the greatness of our nation, we understand that greatness
is never a given. It must be earned. Our journey has never been one of
short-cuts or settling for less. It has not been the path for the
faint-hearted - for those who prefer leisure over work, or seek only the
pleasures of riches and fame. Rather, it has been the risk-takers, the
doers, the makers of things - some celebrated but more often men and
women obscure in their labor, who have carried us up the long, rugged
path towards prosperity and freedom.

For us, they packed up their few worldly possessions and traveled across
oceans in search of a new life.

For us, they toiled in sweatshops and settled the West; endured the lash
of the whip and plowed the hard earth.

For us, they fought and died, in places like Concord and Gettysburg;
Normandy and Khe Sahn.

Time and again these men and women struggled and sacrificed and worked
till their hands were raw so that we might live a better life. They saw
America as bigger than the sum of our individual ambitions; greater than
all the differences of birth or wealth or faction.

This is the journey we continue today. We remain the most prosperous,
powerful nation on Earth. Our workers are no less productive than when
this crisis began. Our minds are no less inventive, our goods and
services no less needed than they were last week or last month or last
year. Our capacity remains undiminished. But our time of standing pat,
of protecting narrow interests and putting off unpleasant decisions -
that time has surely passed. Starting today, we must pick ourselves up,
dust ourselves off, and begin again the work of remaking America.
For everywhere we look, there is work to be done. The state of the
economy calls for action, bold and swift, and we will act - not only to
create new jobs, but to lay a new foundation for growth. We will build
the roads and bridges, the electric grids and digital lines that feed
our commerce and bind us together. We will restore science to its
rightful place, and wield technology's wonders to raise health care's
quality and lower its cost. We will harness the sun and the winds and
the soil to fuel our cars and run our factories. And we will transform
our schools and colleges and universities to meet the demands of a new
age. All this we can do. And all this we will do.

Now, there are some who question the scale of our ambitions - who
suggest that our system cannot tolerate too many big plans. Their
memories are short. For they have forgotten what this country has
already done; what free men and women can achieve when imagination is
joined to common purpose, and necessity to courage.

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted
beneath them - that the stale political arguments that have consumed us
for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether
our government is too big or too small, but whether it works - whether
it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a
retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to
move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of
us who manage the public's dollars will be held to account - to spend
wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day -
because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and
their government.

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or
ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but
this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can
spin out of control - and that a nation cannot prosper long when it
favors only the prosperous. The success of our economy has always
depended not just on the size of our Gross Domestic Product, but on the
reach of our prosperity; on our ability to extend opportunity to every
willing heart - not out of charity, but because it is the surest route
to our common good.

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our
safety and our ideals. Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can
scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the
rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations. Those
ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for
expedience's sake. And so to all other peoples and governments who are
watching today, from the grandest capitals to the small village where my
father was born: know that America is a friend of each nation and every
man, woman, and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and that
we are ready to lead once more.

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not
just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring
convictions. They understood that our power alone cannot protect us,
nor does it entitle us to do as we please. Instead, they knew that our
power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the
justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities
of humility and restraint.

We are the keepers of this legacy. Guided by these principles once
more, we can meet those new threats that demand even greater effort -
even greater cooperation and understanding between nations. We will
begin to responsibly leave Iraq to its people, and forge a hard-earned
peace in Afghanistan. With old friends and former foes, we will work
tirelessly to lessen the nuclear threat, and roll back the specter of a
warming planet. We will not apologize for our way of life, nor will we
waver in its defense, and for those who seek to advance their aims by
inducing terror and slaughtering innocents, we say to you now that our
spirit is stronger and cannot be broken; you cannot outlast us, and we
will defeat you.

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.
We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus - and
non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from
every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of
civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger
and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall
someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the
world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that
America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest
and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow
conflict, or blame their society's ills on the West - know that your
people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To
those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing
of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we
will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make
your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies
and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy
relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to
suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world's resources
without regard to effect. For the world has changed, and we must change
with it.

As we consider the road that unfolds before us, we remember with humble
gratitude those brave Americans who, at this very hour, patrol far-off
deserts and distant mountains. They have something to tell us today,
just as the fallen heroes who lie in Arlington whisper through the ages.
We honor them not only because they are guardians of our liberty, but
because they embody the spirit of service; a willingness to find meaning
in something greater than themselves. And yet, at this moment - a
moment that will define a generation - it is precisely this spirit that
must inhabit us all.

For as much as government can do and must do, it is ultimately the faith
and determination of the American people upon which this nation relies.
It is the kindness to take in a stranger when the levees break, the
selflessness of workers who would rather cut their hours than see a
friend lose their job which sees us through our darkest hours. It is
the firefighter's courage to storm a stairway filled with smoke, but
also a parent's willingness to nurture a child, that finally decides our
fate.

Our challenges may be new. The instruments with which we meet them may
be new. But those values upon which our success depends - hard work and
honesty, courage and fair play, tolerance and curiosity, loyalty and
patriotism - these things are old. These things are true. They have
been the quiet force of progress throughout our history. What is
demanded then is a return to these truths. What is required of us now
is a new era of responsibility - a recognition, on the part of every
American, that we have duties to ourselves, our nation, and the world,
duties that we do not grudgingly accept but rather seize gladly, firm in
the knowledge that there is nothing so satisfying to the spirit, so
defining of our character, than giving our all to a difficult task.

This is the price and the promise of citizenship.

This is the source of our confidence - the knowledge that God calls on
us to shape an uncertain destiny.

This is the meaning of our liberty and our creed - why men and women and
children of every race and every faith can join in celebration across
this magnificent mall, and why a man whose father less than sixty years
ago might not have been served at a local restaurant can now stand
before you to take a most sacred oath.

So let us mark this day with remembrance, of who we are and how far we
have traveled. In the year of America's birth, in the coldest of
months, a small band of patriots huddled by dying campfires on the
shores of an icy river. The capital was abandoned. The enemy was
advancing. The snow was stained with blood. At a moment when the
outcome of our revolution was most in doubt, the father of our nation
ordered these words be read to the people:

"Let it be told to the future world...that in the depth of winter, when
nothing but hope and virtue could survive...that the city and the
country, alarmed at one common danger, came forth to meet [it]."
America. In the face of our common dangers, in this winter of our
hardship, let us remember these timeless words. With hope and virtue,
let us brave once more the icy currents, and endure what storms may
come. Let it be said by our children's children that when we were
tested we refused to let this journey end, that we did not turn back nor
did we falter; and with eyes fixed on the horizon and God's grace upon
us, we carried forth that great gift of freedom and delivered it safely
to future generations.

Thank you.

God Bless You.

God Bless the United States of America

Thursday, January 22, 2009

438. Back Home

We've made it back to Louisville.

After saying goodbyes to friends and hosts, we packed up the little Chevy and headed south along US1 and I-95 out of Alexandria and into Fredericktown, then across VA3, VA20, and US29 to other places, passing through a number of Civil War battlefields, with place names like Manassas and Wilderness and people names like Stonewall Jackson, all familiar stuff. Along the way we stopped at the homes of three former presidents, the 3rd, 4th, and 5th, who were neighbors, so to speak, a county or two southwest of Washington.

James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson all lived within a few miles of each other, particularly the latter two. Monroe has a very humble gift shop of minimal size, and a house to match. The home, known as Ashlawn-Highland, is owned and operated by the College of William and Mary, Monroe's alma mater. Madison's home, Montpelier, is much bigger but formerly even bigger, has an attached gift shop, art gallery, and salons, remnants of the later owners who enlarged the home, the duPont family. The farm covers 2500 acres and includes the family cemetery, a slave cemetery, and a race track, so our "Kentucky Derby" interest was piqued. And, of course, Louisville claims the duPonts as their own. In fact, for most of this week, I've worn (as part of my keeping-warm outfit) a duPont Manual High School football hoodie. Then there is the Jefferson place, Monticello, familiar from the back of most nickels. Jefferson's gift shop alone is bigger than Monroe's entire homestead. And there are classrooms - several of them. And the home itself, and an entire hill to go with it. And vineyards from all around. As the 22nd (today) is my mother's birthday, one of her presents will be a bottle of white wine from the refurbished Jefferson Vineyards. Monticello is overwhelming.

After visiting the homesites, we spent a lot of time being lost in Charlottesville looking for the University of Virginia and a parking space. We eventually ate at a Thai Restaurant on Fontaine Street. We left Virginia along I-64 and I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley (the multiplexing of the signs are shown near Lexington, Va.), and later we dropped off I-64 and rode through the little town of White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, home to one of America's most special resorts, the Greenbrier. I'm concerned that Big Dick Cheney may have taken up residence in the underground bunkers there now that his lease has ran out at One Observatory Circle.


I-64 continues up over Sandstone Mountain, a 7% grade at time which severely taxed my little Chevy's ability. We arrived at Beckley with the transmission still functioning, and moved north to Charleston past the State Capitol [at left], a beautiful gold-domed structure on the west side of the highway overlooking the Kanawha River. I-64 continues west to Huntington, there crossing the Big Sandy River and entering the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It was about that time that tonight's (technically last night's at this point) basketball game between UK and Auburn was being played, and we tuned first into an Ashland station, and then one in Lexington. By the time Kentucky won, we were fast approaching the Jefferson/Shelby county line bringing us back home here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

437. Final post from Our Nation's Capital

We'll be leaving the exhilarating, interesting, and challenging environs of Washington DC here in a few hours. It has been an enjoyable trip coming to see Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th President of the United States. While we didn't have the view we had sought, we had plenty of views nonetheless. But, not nearly enough.

As in my past trips to DC, I've always had something of an agenda - this time an inauguration - which has limited the ability and timeframe to simply sightsee. For the last few days, mornings have started early and in darkness; time and travel take place well underground on the Red, Yellow, Blue, Green, or Orange lines of the Metro; then hours have been spent waiting (in one significant instance) for literally nothing; and then after standing and waiting, nights have similarly ended in darkness, although more from nature's clockwork than anything else. While Washington and Louisville are both on the Eastern Time Zone, nightfall seems to come about an hour earlier, given here were are much farther east than we are there.

While here we've visited people and places throughout the District, although very little outside of it. We've visited with friends living here in DC and others up from Kentucky for the Inauguration, last night mixing the two at a party organised by my dear friend Stuart Perelmuter in the Old Diminion Restaurant, a little gathering complicated by the fact that it was in the same complex of five of the ten Inaugural Balls the new President and First Lady attended for a few short words and turns on the dance floor. We took some pictures - lots of pictures - including some sitting at the desk of Congressman John Yarmuth and a few more standing in front of the desk of Congressman Brett Guthrie. And we spent hours walking around the area immediately surrounding the Capitol. It occurred to me that in Louisville it would never occur to me to walk out to say Central Park or up to Cave Hill from my office on Jefferson Street. Yet, I probably made hikes of such distances several times over the last few days. I'm sure my infrastructure wasn't hurt by the activity.

None of these little details can take away from the euphoric feeling I get every time I am here which has not been nearly enough in my life. But it is euphoria which later today and tomorrow will give way to a return to normalcy once we've retunred to the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. If I were younger, Washington DC might be an object and option worth pursuing. It was something I did pursue once over twenty-five years ago, and then again, if only briefly, after Congressman Yarmuth's initial election. I spoke with him at length about it and left open the idea of revisiting the subject one day in the future. But then he and I passed over the idea of Mr. Noble goes to Washington and life has since been pretty good for me.

And just as I am returning to normalcy in Louisville, so too is Washington DC. But normal life here seems anything but normal and I expect the pulse of the Federal City will change greatly under the leadership of our new president,

*****

Along the way back to Louisville, if I can get my travelling companions up and on the go, I am hopeful to make some stops down in Virginia. We have a few things on the agenda for the trip back home. I had wanted to attend a few DNC meetings being held today here in Washington, but that is not going to be.

The next post will be made upon my return to the Commonwealth.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Live from the Marriott Wardley Park in Washington, DC - The Obama Era

Briefly, as this is a costly computer.

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Your presence is both missed and felt.
Thank you, President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Your presence is both missed and felt.

These two people and the efforts they took in the 1960s are writ large upon the body politic of the world today as Barack Obama becomes the 44th President of the United States.

Back on Election Night, when a lot of us were together at the Yarmuth Party in the Waterfront Park Building down by the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, a lot of tears of joy and hope were shed as state-by-ste, the Obama win sprtead across the Republic, each of those states coming after the Kentucky voters registered their "red" preference. We cried a lot that night.

It has all be replicated over and over today as more tears have been shed, this time with people I don't know from all over the United States and more than a few other countries. I've spoken with people from at least 21 states so far and there will be more once we go out on the town tonight here in the Nation's Capital.

I am having the time of my life, even though not all has gone exactly as planned. But no one can doubt it is a good day to be an American, and for the first time in many years, that sentiment is shared by many non-Americans.

Thank you Barack Obama.

Thanks Be To God.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Live from the District of Columbia - Day Two

I took a drive around Washington early this morning, before a lot of people realized it was actually already this morning. I visited the two cemeteries I had wanted to see, on the southeast and north sides of town along with a number of other sites throughout the city. By 9:30 am I had returned to my base and picked up my two fellow travellers for our trip down to Capitol Hill. The three of us visited our congressman's office, seeing old friends, and enjoying some pleasant conversation. Congressman Yarmuth wasn't there but most, if not all, of his staff was. While waiting in line to get into the building, Kentucky's new Second District congressman passed by, Brett Guthrie, a Republican from Bowling Green. His district includes twelve precincts in southern Jefferson County, including the one I was in raised off South Park Road. Congressman Guthrie was very gracious despite our being three self-identified liberals from Louisville. He asked if we had tickets (we did) and offered some if we didn't. He also invited us to his office. Congressman Guthrie had the unfortunate distinction of being the lowest draw for new offices for the incoming freshmen. His office is on an interior wall of the Cannon Building, up on the 5th floor, about as far away from the House of Representatives as one can be. He has taken it all in stride. Before leaving the Cannon building, we made our way up to Congressman Guthrie's office. His staff included two very knowledgeable and helpful folks, one who formerly worked for former Congressman Ron Lewis, and another formerly of Senator McConnell's office. They offered coffee, cookies, some tourist advice, and took pictures for us in his office. Jessie's parents and my parents are all residents of Congressman Guthrie's district. I know I will disagree with much of Congressman Guthrie's votes, but the visit to his office and discussions with him outside the building proved him to be a true southern gentleman. He will likely hold that seat for many years. Before leaving the congressional office buildings, we found Congressman Ron Paul's office as well as Congressman Ben Chandler's. No one was in either which was unfortunate. In a previous worklife, I worked as a paralegal to Congressman Chandler's present chief-of-staff and I would have liked to have seen my former boss and friend. Tonight's plans include a reception in honor of Muhammad Ali and other events taking place at our hotel, the Marriott Wardman Park. Later tonight we'll meet back up with some friends from Congressman Yarmuth's office and no doubt raise a toast to the last day of the Bush Administration, and then another of hope for the future, plans for prosperity, and best wishes for our new president, Barack Obama.


I have to admit I have pretty been choked up all day, and may have shed a few tears here and there. The whole visit has been very emotional.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Live from Alexandria

Ok, we made it. We should have left later. Leaving the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 around 6:45 am was a mistake. Easy driving from Louisville to Waddy. Then ice - everywhere. We poked along at 10 miles per hour or less, passing overturned and crashed vehicles, all the way to just past the I-64/I-75 split in Lexington. Smoother sailing from Lexington to Huntington, West Virginia, then back to a snail's pace. Cold, snowy, and considerable ice along I-64, then north on I-77/I-79, and continuing on I-79 to the University of West Virginia environs. I drove through the strongest snowstorm I've ever encountered along I-68 right at the Maryland/West Virginia line. The weather finally let up outside of Cumberland, Maryland. At Hancock, we exited the highway down into the little town on MD144, the old route of US40, the National Pike. In downtown Hancock, we turned north on Pennsylvania Avenue and drove the two plus miles out of the State of Maryland and into the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, crossing the Mason's and Dixon's Line, just to say we did. A fews blocks into Pennsylvania, we U-turned, proceeded back across the famous survey point, and on to Hancock, and then east along MD144 which eventually runs into a ramp back up onto I-70. Here's the best part (so far). At Hagerstown, we took a side road and ended up at a Burger King. While there, a friend from Louisville and his girlfriend pulled into the parking lot and came in. We had been there about ten minutes. I asked my friend, Shawn, how their trip had been. Amazingly, they responded they had had no problems. They left Louisville at 10:00 am, well after the ice had melted and the snow had passed. We could have slept in. Oh well. From Hagerstown, we came on down I-70 to I-270 to the I-270 Spur to I-495 to where we are now in Alexandria, just off Telegraph Road, and right by our Metro Access into the District. Tomorrow, after some sightseeing, we'll leave the car here and take the Metro over to our hotel room on the upper Northwest side of the District out Massachusetts Avenue. The drive, with the snow, wind, and ice, was frankly harrowing - a most perilous ride. But, all is well now.

More later. Off to bed.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Will 2010 and 2012 compare to 1934 and 1936?

Today is my little brother's 47th birthday. He called last night. He wasn't sure which one of us was 48. I told him I wished it was him but that wasn't the case. I said, "for the moment you're 46. I'm 48. Tomorrow you'll be 47 and I'll still be 48." He isn't a stickler for dates and minutiae. It's amazing we're only sixteen months apart. There are a number of things that set us apart that sixteen months seems to be too small a difference to account for.

Among other things in our twenty-five minute chat (mostly him talking; me listening), we (he) discussed my impending trip to the Republic's seat of government which commences early tomorrow. He, an Obama supporter like me, is specificially concerned that our new president cannot accomplish everything on his agenda anytime soon, an agenda he (my brother) strongly feels needs to find success. On that matter, our sixteen months' difference is much closer. I agree on both counts. There are so many things to correct and undo, things done by the current junta in power that a mere four years will certainly not be enough; but can we afford for these corrections to take that long? An interceding problem is there are mid-term elections in 2010, midterms which historically go for the Party opposite that of the one occupying the White House. The Republicans have already begun the character-assassination -like commentary on most everything Mr. Obama says he plans to do or wishes he will be able to do. At the other end of the spectrum, the screaming-liberal zealotry base [I could at times be called a liberal zealot, but I rarely if ever scream] which played a large part in nominating and electing Mr. Obama now want more than a 100% return on their invested time, donated money, and importantly, their vote.

These folks need to plan on a return on these investments at much the same rate as their checking-with-savings accounts are now paying. Mine is at 0.05% - not five per cent, but 1/20 of a single per cent. Of course, I don't keep enough money in my account for 1/20 of 1% to ever add up to anything more than a penny; the folks of whom I write, including me, justifiably feel they have a lot invested. While the returns will come, they will in all likelihood come ever-so-slowly, perhaps at the rate of 0.05% per annum. Zealotdom will have to stand by and wait. (Many of this group are regularly found around the community doing just that - standing by, usually with a protest sign in tow, in front of the Federal Court House on Broadway, or inspriring horn-blowers at the Bardstown Road intersections of Grinstead Drive or Eastern Parkway). Standing and waiting and getting results will be an arduous process, but it will also be one our country can live with for generations to come. Wiping out the excessive abuses creted under the current administration will take more than a one-time sweep across the windshield with a squigee. The depths of our problems will require not only one sweep but several, and then, probably, several more.

The problem is we are a nation accustomed to instant gratification. We want what we want now and bitch to anyone in sight or earshot when that doesn't happen. We have become a nation of whiners and moaners as opposed to doers-then-sayers. Admittedly, I'm not the most energetic person - I don't do the above-mentioned protests on street corners, and there is a lot of other activity I don't do that is readily apparent by my body shape and size. I am one who often pulls out of the drive-through lanes at McDonald's when either it moves too slowly, or the voice coming out of the speaker is so garbled that understanding is an impossibility. For all of us, such impatience, at least as it regards the successes of the next presidential administration, will - must - be set aside.

There is an old joke comparing the operation of the government and the making of laws to that of the making of sausage. Making sausage may not be pretty, but it is easy. You throw everything in and see what comes out, hoping it is an edible product. But sausage-makers will often add to the adage that they don't always eat the sausage. Back in the 1930s, that was what President Franklin Roosevelt did as a response to the excesses of the Republican-led 1920s which created by 1929 a worldwide depression. FDR made a lot of sausage, some of which was edible and some of which wasn't. He took the time to try several different recipes and the American public gave him much leeway in the process. The Republican Party of his day, while supportive in the beginning, grew to a critical distrust of the centralised power Roosevelt used for correcting the problems of the federal government. But, as stated in a previous entry, they didn't all work in his firm term. Nonetheless, exhibiting support during the midterm elections of 1934, voters went against history and added to the Democratic numbers in both the House and the Senate. A few Republican seats fell not to the Democrats, but to the Progressive Party, which found its base in the upper midwest in states such as Wisconsin. Then in 1936 FDR was reelected to the presidency with an increase of over 21% from his 1932 numbers. On the other hand, the Republican nominee's increase was just under 6%, resulting in an even bigger win for the incumbent president, who economically speaking, hadn't moved the country much at all; the different sausage recipes had not all produced an edible entree.

Will the electorates of 2010 and 2012 be as trusting and supportive of President Barack Obama as were those of 1934 and 1936? I think they will. In reality, they must.

*****

This will be my last post until the return from my Potomac visitation. I'm not advanced enough to do any live-blogging from along Pennsylvania Avenue, or even to download pictures taken at the places I hope to visit, either on The Mall or in a cemetery. My travel partners have agendae of their own; maybe they can be of help. When I next write, America will be in a new era, the Barack Hussein Obama era. I voted for Mr. Obama; it is one of the most important things I've ever done in those forty-eight years my brother and I talked about last night on the phone. Let it begin.

Thanks Be To God.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

432. Five Degrees

When I woke up a few hours ago, the temperature was 5, as in Five Gold Rings. Five Degrees of Mercury. Tonight the low temperature is expected to drop to Zero. With winds, the chill factor is Below Zero, the coldest weather here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 in five years. O to be in Washington now that it is Winter. I've been following Washington's weather, where this morning it appears to be 25 degrees, considerably warmer than here in Louisville.

Maybe next week.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

431. A Road and a Trip

It is a habit of mine to write about Kentucky's highway routes which coincide with the current entry number of the blog. Applying that to today's entry would mean writing about US431, a road which enters Kentucky from the south but never exits to the north. US431 enters in Logan County and is one three US highways which intersect in downtown Russellville, the other two being US79 and US68. US431 traverses generally north by northwest up through the state ending its entire run, both in Kentucky and the Republic, in downtown Owensboro.

I'll have to admit I've not actually driven many miles on US 431. I usually only cross it, either on US68/KY80 or the Wendell H. Ford Western Kentucky Parkway. If I have driven on it, it has only been for a few miles around one of those intersections, or somewhere in Owensboro. So, to be honest, there isn't much I can offer about my "backroads travel" on US431.

So, instead, let me tell you more about a trip I am planning.

I am getting excited about the roadtrip to the Inauguration. I'd be lying if I wrote otherwise. Early next Sunday morning, very early in the morning, me and my band of fellow travellers will take to the roads and head to our Republic's seat of government. For several weeks now, I've scoured the web versions of several Washington newspapers and magazines, getting the local take on what is happening along the Potomac a little over 600 miles from here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.

But it sort of hit me late last night when viewing pictures of President-elect Obama and his family as they gazed upon Father Abraham at his memorial on The Mall. I've been there a few times, but it occurred to me looking at those pictures, I can not remember when. We all know the president-elect has borrowed much from the words and legacy of Mr. Lincoln and shares a particular parallel to him - while both were elected as an Illinoian, neither was born there. Obama is a native Hawaiian; Lincoln a Kentuckian. Kentucky was once America's western frontier. Hawaii is now. The historicity of it all is, for me, almost too real.

Thus, while our itenerary for the 20th is set, at least for the morning and early afternoon, there are other hours and days which are unscheduled, at least unscheduled officially. I'll have to work with the others in my group, but there are several places, three in particular, I want to see while there. They are the Congressional Cemetery, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the National Cathedral, the latter which I've never been to as far as I can remember. My goal was in those free hours not to visit the places that everyone else usually does, which would include The Mall and all the centers of activity along The Mall, but that will change as I am now intent on gazing into the eyes of Abraham Lincoln much as Mr. Obama did yesterday. One place that is on very few people's lists of places to visit, but is on mine, is the Adams Memorial in Rock Creek Cemetery. Designed by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, his name for the bronze figure is The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding, a granite memorial to Henry and Clover Adams which Mr. Adams commissioned upon the untimely passing of his wife Clover. Henry Adams was an author, historian, and quite interesting person - the great-grandson and grandson of American presidents, but that was only his beginnings. If you've never read any of Henry Adams' work, you should. He, along with Salem Indiana native John Hay, a United States Secretary of State about whom I have written in the past, eventually built their homes, adjoining townhouses, at 16th and H streets NW, the present site of the very exclusive, expensive, and chic Hay-Adams Hotel, which is currently serving as the temporary home to family of President-elect Barack Obama.

Additionally, I plan to visit the offices - new and bigger offices I'll add since his promotion to the Ways and Means Committee - of my congressman and friend John Yarmuth. Out of respect, I may even visit the office of Kentucky's Senior Senator Addison Mitchell McConnell, Jr., a native of Alabama, but as of this week, Kentucky's longest serving United States Senator, a feat I did not help him to accomplish, but one which nonetheless deserves acknowledgement. Senator McConnell is in the "Class 2" of senators, which from Kentucky include her first United States Senator, John Brown. From the 19th century his seat was held by, among others, Henry Clay and Richard Johnson. 20th century occupiers included Albert Benjamin "Happy" Chandler, John Sherman Cooper, and Alben W. Barkley. I do not suspect I will feel compelled to visit the office of Kentucky's other United States Senator.

There are also several events on my official schedule - a Kentucky Democratic Party reception on Sunday, several events at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel on Monday, and a National Democratic Party meeting on Wednesday, which I may attend with our Kentucky Party Chair Jennifer Moore. One of my travelling companions, Jessie Phelps, is a graduate of Randolph Macon Womens College, a place we plan to visit on the trip back to Kentucky. Between Washington DC and Randolph Macon, about halfway, is Monticello, the Thomas Jefferson estate, as well as the University of Virginia, founded by Thomas Jefferson, who is also responsible, in two different ways, for the naming of my home county. The Virginia legislature proposed as one of the three new counties it created in 1780 the name Jefferson for its then-governor. Upon passage, the bill creating Jefferson County, Virginia (twelve years prior to Kentucky achieving statehood) was signed by Virginia's governor, Thomas Jefferson.

I could go on writing for hours, and may do so in the next few days, but it is time to get ready for church.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

430. Deja Vu at City Hall

Although it wasn't really "a hundred years ago," it was a long time ago when I first started attending Board of Aldermen meetings on the Third Floor of City Hall at Sixth and Jefferson streets. I would be there with my late uncle Don and his political friend Jim Reddington, also deceased. Jim's son Greg would also be there, along with our political raison d'etre Cyril Allgeier.

It was the spring of 1977. Cyril was making his second bid for office, running for the same office he had lost in the Primary of 1975, Fourth Ward Alderman. He lost to Mary Margaret Mulvihill in 1975 and was running against her again. We were running on a slate with William B. Stansbury, a member of the Board of Aldermen who was running for Mayor of the City of Louisville, an office and entity which went out of existence six years ago this week, thanks in large part to the efforts of His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, efforts I did not support. Mr. Stansbury, with whom I became friends and for whom I briefly worked, won his Primary defeating Creighton Mershon, and went on to be elected mayor that fall. Cyril lost, again, and went back to being everybody's favorite coach at Holy Family School, along with being a coach and player in the new Derby City Baseball League (founded 1974), as well as continuing in his job as a warehouseman at General Electric. But, he also planned to run again and we, the campaign team, needed to learn more about City Hall and how it operated, and having a friend in the mayor's office couldn't hurt. And it didn't. We spent the next four years regularly attending aldermanic meetings, sitting in the back of the room, and occasionally wondering around the aldermanic offices, which at that time were limited to the southwest corner of the third floor. That went on for four years from 1977 to 1981. Cyril didn't run in 1979, sitting out while John Sommers made a bid for the office - he too lost to Mrs. Mulvihill. But, Cyril and his campaign did come back in 1981, winning the Primary by 37 votes, a margin I predicted and on which I won a small bet. But, to be honest, the prediction was made while somewhat intoxicated, sitting on the front porch of the little house on Belmar Drive we rented as our headquarters. Uncle Don, Jim "Pop" Reddington, his son Greg, and Cyril also made predictions. Later that fall, Cyril won the seat outright and prepared to take office in January, 1982.

Prior to 1982, the Board of Aldermen had operated with six aides serving the twelve aldermen. Aides weren't assigned to aldermen, but rather to committees. That changed in 1982. The Board had decided to have one legislative aide per alderman. Those who were elected in 1982 would be the freshman class of aldermen having legislative aides. Cyril chose me, then 21, as his first legislative aide, a position from which he would later fire me, rehire me, and fire me again. Eventually I went to work for other aldermen and other agencies. But I was there in the beginning of Louisville's system of having legislative aides.

I enjoyed the political give-and-take of the legislative process, something I first learned about through serving as a page for State Senator Tom Mobley and State Representative Dottie Priddy. I'd regularly go to Frankfort durings sessions of Kentucky General Assembly. While a student at UK, I worked for the Legislative Research Commission in Frankfort. My interest was also furthered while in junior and senior high school by participation in the State YMCA programs known as Jr.-KYA, KYA, KUNA, Tri-Hi-Y, and others. It is a process I still enjoy.

So twenty-seven years after that first meeting as a legislative aide to former Alderman Cyril Allgeier, tonight I attended (worked) another meeting as a legilative aide, this time for Councilman Brent Ackerson, Democratic of the 26th District. Looking around the room, no one is there from my early days. My current boss was eight years old when I took that first job, as was the newly elected council president, David Tandy. Of course, I was only 21. I do see Leah Wilding from time-to-time. She was the legislative aide in the 5th Ward for Steve Magre. Dolores Triplett was the aide in the 6th Ward, working for David Banks. Dolores's son Kevin was an unsuccessful candidate for Councilman in last year's Primary, and has been a legislative aide himself in the past and I would love to work with him. Mary Margaret Mulvihill's son, Patrick, who was 11 years old when I went to work for Alderman Allgeier is now an Assistant County Attorney assigned to the Council and we have worked together for several years. Patrick is one of my favorite politicians and hopefully his name will someday appear on a ballot where I vote.

One other person who was there then still is, Courier-Journal reporter Sheldon Shafer, who has called me "Noble-One" as long as I remember, which, frankly, is a long time. But all of the other media is new. Since I do not watch TV, I could not say who the reporters/videographers from the local stations were. And something that wasn't even dreamed of in 1982, this meeting was "live-blogged," a word which wasn't created until a few years ago. Tonight's blogger was someone I've met only this year and find to be a very good writer and very intelligent young man. His name is Philip Bailey and he writes for the LEO magazine.

So many things are different. And while the Metro Council meets in the same chamber of the same building, the ancient carved mahogany desks are gone, replaced by a four-section counter top serving the twenty-six members of our local council. Still, it was all rather deja-vuish for me. I've been there before. I'm glad to be back.

*****

Today marks what would have been my paternal grandmother's birthday. She, Grace Irene Lee, daughter of Isaac, granddaughter of Samuel, and of the Bullitt County pioneer family of Lee's, being born January 8, 1915.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Comienza tan el Tercero Año

Briefly, today is the Second Anniversary of the blog. We've written thousands of words, uploaded hundreds of pictures, entered 435 posts (six of which we have deleted), and had just under 46,905 reader hits linking up to 53,034 page views. There've been a few comments along the way, although not too many. Actually not many at all.

In any event, thanks - sincerely. Really, thanks.

Tomorrow the 111th Congress starts, the Kentucky General Assembly convenes for a "short" session, and I report to a new boss. Tomorrow is also the birthday of my friend Sherry.

All is well.

Thanks Be To God.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

428. Beginning of Year Ramblings and Proposed Ramblings

I spent the last few days of 2008 moving, both my residence and my office. In moving my office, one thing of importance was the removal of certain maps from the walls. Attorney Jon Baker, whose office was next to mine, said he knew I was finally leaving when the maps came down.

The maps aren't of any value to anyone but me. There is nothing historic or important or valuable about them. Since 1979, I've kept a map of Kentucky outlining in red the counties I have visited or been through, usually stopping for a picture, much as the late Russ Maple did, photographing himself in front of each Court House. I usually keep the most recent five years' maps available to see "where I've been lately." There are counties I visit every year and others I can only claim to have been in twice. Over the years I've kept a list of the "counties visited" which last year I translated into an Excel document.

Like every other chart on any matter, 2008 saw a sharp decline in counties visited, mostly owing to the cost of gas to get to and from. As all trips start and finish here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, some destinations are harder to reach than others. For instance, it is just under 250 from my home to Woodman, an intersection of a community just across the Widows Bridge on KY194 at KY2059 in far eastern Pike County, making a round trip of 499 miles. Similarly, to get from here to Tyler in far western Fulton County is 280 miles. Tyler is a tiny little burg at the intersection of KY94 and KY2134. Going and coming would run the odometer up 560 miles. One could go another 16 miles each way further, from Tyler down into Tennessee and then up into the New Madrid Bend and Washburn Lake. Honestly, I didn't go to Woodman, Tyler, or Washburn Lake this year, although I have been in the New Madrid Bend once.

There are counties which I've been in in each of the thirty years I've been keeping track. In addition to Jefferson, they are Bullitt, Franklin, Hardin, Oldham, Shelby, and Woodford. In fact, to get to any of the other Kentucky counties from here, one must drive through one of the four of those six additional counties. Surprisingly to me, I've been to Hart, Anderson, Larue, Spencer, Trimble, Nelson, and Meade more often than I've been to Fayette, Kentucky's second most populous county. At the other end of the charts, I've been to Elliott, Greenup, and Lawrence only twice in the last thirty years. These three are just too far east to be on a regular route. All three were visited during gubernatorial election campaigns in 1979 and 1987. In fact, it was because of the feat of visiting all 120 counties in 1979 that I began to track my visits. I honestly didn't think then I'd be keeping up with it now, but I am.

Over the years, the numbers have varied. In 2002, I list only 14 counties, followed by 13 in 2003, which I think must be wrong, but probably isn't. I was out of work for six months in 2003 so gas money would have been at a premium. 2008 saw visits to 44 counties, down from the last few years due to gas costs. Another high number year was 1995, another statewide race year. That Spring, I drove State Representative Jim Wayne all over the state during his unsuccessful race for State Auditor, visiting 103 counties. Not all of them were with Jim, but most probably were.

This year being a non-election year, I will have to find reasons/excuses to do some travelling. There will be the regular six other than Jefferson to be sure. In two weeks I'll be crossing the Commonwealth on my way to President-elect Barack Hussein Obama's inauguration, taking me back through Boyd County and Ashland and a few others for the first time since 1987. My friend Preston is scheduled to visit with me some Confederate battle re-enactments during 2009, and I'll probably make the annual trek to Fancy Farm in August. If gas prices stay where they are, travelling will be a little easier.

Interestingly, I came across a chart (included at left) on gas prices adjusted for inflation. At the current price of about $1.80, gas is about the same as it was in 1979, when gas prices were about $0.75 - again adjusted for inflation. Last week I paid $1.38 using my debit card and entering a PIN number for a three-penny discount. Cheap gas is about the only good thing to come out of the economic crisis, as far as my maps are concerned.

Next week, or sometime soon, once settled into the new office, I'll rehang the maps for 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008, and start a new one for 2009. As of right now, the only county visited this year is Jefferson.

The Archives at Milepost 606

Personal

Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Single, male, bald, overweight, early 50s, seeking . . . Oh wait, that's goes on the other website. How about this - never married, liberal Democrat, 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.