Sunday, May 31, 2009

489. Interesting reading on Pentecost; like taking the driving test in an unfamiliar language

You will recall yesterday's entry included the reading for the Feast of Pentecost from The Acts, Chapter 2, which I described as "very familiar." It is where everyone was gathered and they all spoke in their own tongues but each heard in their own native language.

To underscore the idea, the scripture readings this morning at the Episcopal Church of the Advent were presented not just in English, but in a variety of languages. If my linguistic ear was registering things correctly, we heard in order German, English, French, Spanish, Latin, and finally, the Gospel in English. Thus I did not hear one of my favorite passages from scripture in the familiar words I am accustomed to. Rather, it was "all Greek to me," though not entirely.

Due to an early introduction to foreign languages at Prestonia Elementary School and the use of a book called "Word Clues" I recognised just enough words here and there to be able to follow along the printed readings in English. But only just enough. And somewhere along the way I found myself thinking about the little brouhaha this week over Kentucky's driving test being offered in twenty-two languages. The Kentucky State Police declared they would only offer it in English in the future and shortly thereafter Governor Steve Beshear, who is in theory the Commander-In-Chief of the Commonwealth, put the theory into practice and reversed the police department's decision - a gutsy and good move, one for which he should be commended - something I did in an email to Adam Edelen, his Chief-Of-Staff, shortly after learning of the governor's good move.

And this morning's unexpected readings in the various foreign languages affirmed my belief that the governor did the right thing.

Las gracias estén a Dios. Or,
Dank ist zum Gott. Or,
Οι ευχαριστίες είναι στο Θεό. Or,
Thanks Be To God.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

488. Diverse things happening

Stuart wasn't the only one. Kiran left too, as did Lillian. My friend Preston moved "back home" this weekend. My friend Keith is planning a Greyhound ride to California in two weeks to the same place where Stuart will ultimately light. All this moving about is somewhat bewildering.

But these are bewildering times. Tomorrow's readings for Mass indicate such. Outside of Christmas and Easter, the two high-holy holidays, tomorrow, which is the Feast of Pentecost, is my favorite. And it is a remembrance of a bewildering day in history, assuming you believe at least some parts of the Bible are actual, as I do. Like the reading from the Second Chapter of Luke announcing the birth of Jesus and that of Mark with the angel announcing to Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James at the tomb of Jesus that "He is risen; He is not here," the readings associated with tomorrow's feast are very familiar. From the Book of Acts, Chapter 2, is the arrival of the Holy Spirit, and the day every one was gathered together from all parts of the known world. It is like an enchantment. In fact, in the book The Mists of Avalon - one of my favorites - the entire scene is borrowed in a episode related to the Holy Grail. Here is the biblical passage:

When the day of Pentecost had come, the disciples were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability.

Now there were devout Jews from every nation under heaven living in Jerusalem. And at this sound the crowd gathered and was bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in the native language of each. Amazed and astonished, they asked, "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us, in our own native language? Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs-- in our own languages we hear them speaking about God's deeds of power." All were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "What does this mean?" But others sneered and said, "They are filled with new wine."

But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o'clock in the morning. No, this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel:

In the last days it will be, God declares,
that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh,
and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
and your young men shall see visions,
and your old men shall dream dreams.
Even upon my slaves, both men and women,
in those days I will pour out my Spirit;
and they shall prophesy.
And I will show portents in the heaven above
and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and smoky mist.
The sun shall be turned to darkness
and the moon to blood,
before the coming of the Lord's great and glorious day.
Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved."


The repeated passage from Joel, an Old Testament prophet, adds to the whirlwind of emotion addressed in the Acts, traditionally believed to have been written by Saint Luke. What I take from the reading is simple - that we are all part of the great and mysterious family of God, no matter our race or skin color or belief or gender or occupation or economic status or political ideology or hairstyle (or lack-of-hair-to-style as is my case) or any of the other differences that make us different. Here, in this day, as in that, we all belong not only to God but to each other. That's a very comforting and comfortable thought.

Thanks Be To God.

*****

Unrelated, tomorrow, in addition to being the FEast of Pentecost, is also the 6th birthday of my youngest nephew Elijah Gene Noble. Happy Birthday, Elijah.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

487. Mr. Perelmuter Leaves Washington

From the Old Testament, Ecclesiates Chapter 3 Verse 1, is the very familiar refrain of "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." This verse and the seven which follow are used for a variety of reasons, often as an explanation for some change, whether that change be small or great, temporary or permanent, life-giving or life-ending. Change is, in fact, the only real constant in life.

Such it is that I use the phrase to note the next move of a dear friend, Stuart Perelmuter. Stuart has been mentioned in the entries of this blog many times - twelve if my count is correct - and almost from the beginning, first appearing in Entry #6 on January 9, 2007, five days after the blog's commencement. And, his picture has appeared in the right-side column for most of that time as well.

I first met Stuart at a local movie premiere, one he wrote, in the Kentucky Theater in 2003, and lost track of him shortly thereafter. He reentered my scene of interest as a volunteer in the first Yarmuth for Congress campaign in 2006. He quickly moved from volunteer to staffer, and ultimately from staffer to employee of Congressman Yarmuth, for whom he has served as spokesperson and protector since John's first day in the Congress. To my knowledge, only one other original campaign staffer remains on Congressman Yarmuth's official staff.

As there is a time for every activity under the sun, so the time has come for Stuart to move on - eventually "out West" - where his passion lay as his first avocation is writing - screenwriting, playwrighting, and the like.

In today's email came his letter informing the regular readers of his dispatches from Washington (of which I am one) of his departure from service in the Congress. I wish him well.

Below is the email he sent:

Dear Release Readers,

This will be my last week as Congressman Yarmuth's Communications Director. As some of you know, I write screenplays and now, with a couple scripts in development, it's time for me to devote my full attention to them in LA.

Trey Pollard is taking over and will be excellent in the role. He will be assuming my phone numbers and can be reached at trey.pollard@mail.house.gov. Unless you tell me otherwise, you will be automatically added to his release list.

My tenure with Congressman Yarmuth has been an amazing experience. He has set the bar for a leader extraordinarily high and shown me what it means to serve a community and country effectively and with integrity.

Thank you all. It's been an incredible 1,000 days.

Stuart


*****

The familiar Scripture from Ecclesiastes has been featured before as an entry, actually two entries, on the blog, once on Kentucky Oaks Day in 2007, and a second time on the Day Before Thanksgiving in 2008. Here is the wording from the New International Version of the Bible:

1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

486. The Auburndale Loop is to be eliminated

Ok, I know many of you will have no idea what the title refers to. Were it not for family matters, I may not myself.

An article in today's Courier-Journal concerns changes in several TARC routes here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. One of those, along Route #6, which is commonly known as the 6th Street Route, is the elimination of a turnaround loop at Auburndale.

Where, you may ask, is that?

For some of the more senior readers of the blog, the former location of a school at the northwest corner of Palatka Road and Southside Drive (also known to some as Third Street Road at this point although that appellation doesn't actually begin until about a mile further south) marks what was once the Auburndale neighborhood. While tennis courts remain, the school is gone, replaced by a newer and larger one in the 1970s a few miles south. It is the neighborhood of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Catholic Church, the Ratterman Funeral Home, and at one time, Gordon's Corner, now home to a Speedway gas station.

Opposite Gordon's Corner, where the Rally's is now, is a very poorly paved circular drive from New Cut Road around to Third Street Road. It is where TARC busses, and before them Louisville Transit Authority busses, and before them trolley cars, would turn around and head back into town. And on the property of that turnaround sat a small white house which, for about one year, was the home of my grandparents the Hockensmith's and their teenage daughter Barbara, my mother.

They had left their Southern Parkway apartment and were building their new home off South Park Road between Okolona and Fairdale, the home in which my brother and I were raised where my mother still lives. But building that home took longer than anticipated and for a while, they rented the small white house on the Auburndale Loop which was owned by a Mrs. Probst (or maybe Probus). She lived at the top of the next hill on the other side of New Cut Road in a large farmhouse. Her farm is now the Cogan Properties' Park Place Apartment Complex, where the Burger King sits just across the railroad tracks. I can remember her big mailbox out on New Cut Road with the family name prominently printed.

Both Mrs. Probst's big white farmhouse and her rental cottage, the former home of my mother and grandparents are gone. And so too will soon be the Auburndale Loop.

*****

Below is a map of the Louisville Transit System dated May, 1954. You may not be able to see this, but at the very bottoom of the map, a little left of center, is the dot indicating the Auburndale Loop. Click on the map and it will open up to a much larger map in a new window. The old routes and street names are interesting and many of the routes have changed very little. Several of the other changes, which will take place on June 1, show up as part of the system on this map from fifty-five years ago.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

485. Jefferson to Jefferson and back

It was too nice of a day to spend working in the yard or cleaning in the house. Thus, a friend and I took to the roads for a short trip from Louisville, Kentucky to Madison, Indiana and back. Louisville is the county seat of Jefferson County, Kentucky while Madison serves the same role for Jefferson County, Indiana. Separating the two counties is Clark County, Indiana, bounded on both the north and south by a Jefferson County. About fifty miles along the Ohio River separate the two cities.

This weekend in Madison was the annual celebration known as Old Court Days, an arts and crafts show kicking off a summer full of events around the very historic river city, founded in 1809 and boasting a rather impressive collection of downtown buildings which serve as one of the largest National Historic Districts in our Republic.

One of those buildings, the Jefferson County Court House, whose grounds and surroundings serve as home to celebration mentioned above, is 154 years old and has been undergoing renovation and repainting as the city was preparing for its bicentennial celebration in two weeks. In fact the redo of the courthouse was finished this week. On Wednesday the county received an award for the renovation. Then Wednesday afternoon the courthouse caught fire destroying the dome and upper floors and ruining in the process two hundred years of official records and memorabilia. See the picture at the end of this post.

In the late 1990s and early in this decade I did title work for an attorney, David Dupps, which often took me to Recorder's Offices (known in Kentucky as County Clerk Deed Rooms) in various Indiana's county seats. On our trip today, while we didn't go past the City-County Court Building in Jeffersonville, where much of that work was done (and which is no longer the City-County Building, but rather is simply the Clark County Court House), we did go due north the thirty-one miles on US31 to the Scott County Court House at Scottsburg. The original courthouse, shown in the picture at right, was a simple structure of 2 and 1/2 stories set off the south side of the main east-west corridor, McClain Street, several blocks east of US31 and a few blocks east of the main north-south railroad line. A few years back, but not many, an addition was built with a very similar structure set to the east of the original one, and a connecting building between them greatly enlarging the courthouse operations. I must admit Indiana's process of expanding court facilities is much more historically and aesthetically pleasing than Kentucky's new cookie-cutter courthouses, properly called Judicial Centers, many of which appear to be built from one of the two sets of blueprints they seem to use. But, I digress.

We left Scottsburg and headed east on IN56 and travelled the 32 miles to Madison, entering from the north along Michigan Street, down the long and narrow winding hill on IN7 which empties you just west of the heart of town along Main Street, which is shown in the picture at left. Madison is a historically-aware and -adept town, with a little artsy-funk thrown in, along with that mixture of southern hospitality and midwestern common sense found in rivertowns throughout the area. It is how I imagine Louisville once was at some point, but it is much prettier. We had dinner in a small family-run diner - nothing special, either about the place or the food, but it was sufficient. We walked along Main Street with its art galleries, antique shops, and, surprisingly, a well-stocked cigar shop called Churchill's where we felt obliged to purchase two Cabrillos, hand-made cigars from Honduras, and chatted with the owner, a French-born man with a Polish surname, who has been in Madison since the mid 1960s.

A few feet east of the cigar shop the now burned-out superstructure that was once the Jefferson County Court House dome came into view. I have been in that building many times, doing both the title work mentioned above and searching genealogical records of the Hockensmith family, which lives and has lived for most of the life of the city in the area. Many of the earliest records of my maternal line were housed in the courthouse - they are possibly and probably lost. I was a little overwhelmed and frankly saddened by the appearance of the once-majestic building. The dome and top floor, where the courts were held, collapsed into the lower floors which house the records. Archiving and preservation experts have descended upon the building to salvage what can be, and it appears from stories I heard today that more can than can't but it is all damaged nonetheless, if not by the fire then by the water used to put the fire out. There is a process of removing the records and then freezing them, later to be freeze-dried and hopefully recovered. Several large refrigerated FedEx trucks were there being used for just that purpose.

Jefferson County's courthouse, like that here in Louisville, isn't on a town square, but rather sits in the middle of a block on a main street, in this case the street being Main Street. As this area was closed off, the festival itself moved onto Jefferson Street, which runs along the west side of the court house, and down to the Right Bank of the Ohio River at Milepost 555.

After touring the festival and visiting the riverbank, we made our way back to the car, and thence back to Kentucky and our own Jefferson County. Following the rule of never returning home along the route taken away, we crossed over the river into the little town of Milton, Kentucky, set along the riverbank on US421. We followed the left bank of the river westward along Coopers Bottom Road, home to several old-fashioned camps of twenty to thirty mobile homes perched along the river's shore. That road eventually climbs up the hill and finds its way to US421 at the Mount Byrd Baptist Church, where we turned south and headed into the Trimble County seat of Bedford, a sleepy little town where US421 and US42 intersect and not much else happens.

From there we followed US42 along its southwestward journey into Oldham County, where we took KY53 south to that county's seat, La Grange, or LaGrange, without the space. There seems to be official disagreement on how the city spells its name. While we didn't spend anytime in La Grange, I find the downtown along Main Street, which is divided by a railroad, an enchanting little place. But, just one block south of the tracks KY53, which is called 1st Street, becomes yet another commercial strip leading up to the intersection with Interstate 71, which returned us home to the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606.


*****





The Jefferson County Court House fire, May 20, 2009, looking east along Main Street in downtown Madison, Indiana.

Friday, May 22, 2009

484. Obama and the Supreme Court Vacancy

It occurred to me, amid all the criticism already out there, as well as whatever remains to be heard or printed, that it has been a long time since we have had a Constitutional lawyer who practiced and taught Constitutional law who upon arriving in the White House was obliged to make a Supreme Court nomination. I think very few of the forty-four men who have served as Commander-In-Chief of the Republic were more qualified to make such a nomination.

We'd had a number of lawyers who became president. Other that General Washington, the first six were of that ilk, and my guess is, they having formed the Republic, any one or all of them were as or probably more qualified than Obama, especially Jefferson, Madison, and the second Adams.

The years between our country's infancy and the Civil War which threatened its adolescense, most of the presidents were lawyers, but none of them, save James Knox Polk, were of any great merit. (If you do not know a lot about Polk, his four goals and his four accomplishments which, among other things, greatly expanded the United States, you should. After all, he had to beat the venerable Henry Clay of Kentucky to be elected).

After the Civil War, we had a succession of presidents who would better be described as clerks, at best. Most were military heroes; a few were lawyers; fewer were exceptionally qualified to make Supreme Court nominations.

The fin de siecle brought about a change in the calibre of our presidents and a change in the way America saw itself both at home and abroad. This era saw some excpetionally talented and remarkably different presidents. Perhaps, of those forty-four who have served, the most qualified of all to name a Supreme Court Justice was "Big Bill" Taft, properly William Howard Taft, who later became the Chief Justice of the United States and is pictured here in that role. President Taft is, to me, one of the most underrated of the presidents and none of them were or have been more capable than he to make a nomination to the Republic's highest court.

Having said that, Taft's successor, Woodrow Wilson, would rank very close. Since Wilson, I would be hard pressed to say that any of the later 20th-century presidents demonstrated great credentials as someone who could nominate a Supreme Court Justice. Certainly FDR thought he could name not one or two but several. That isn't to say that the justices he and his successors named didn't become great justices - some did, and perhaps a better barometer would be to look at the people they appointed and they served. But this entry is simply about the raw qualifications of making such an appointment.

Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, with whatever faults one may assign them, were students and practicioners of the Constitution. Both were among the most capable to make such a nomination. And that brings us to the current occupant of the presidency, Barack Obama.

Mr. Obama is a graduate of Columbia University and of the Harvard Law School where he served as editor of the Harvard Law Review and graduated magna cum laude. Before and during his terms in elective office in Illinois he was a Constitutional Law Professor at the University of Chicago School of Law. My belief is these roles, as student, professor, and lawyer, have prepared him to make an appropriate decision as to who the next Supreme Court Justice should be. Further, that outside of the Founding Fathers, he is one of the most qualified presidents ever to make such a decision. And that's a good thing.

Thanks Be To God.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

483. Celebration

It has been a year since Kentucky's last Democratic Primary election, one which pitted the current President against the current Secretary of State. I made some congressional district predictions in that race but the only place I was on target was here at home in Kentucky's Third, ably represented by Congressman John Yarmuth, who was unopposed on that day. In Kentucky, as a reminder, the current president did not fare well at all, losing to the current secretary of state 65 to 30, a pitiful showing. He did much better in the fall amongst the general electorate, but still lost by another pitiful showing, 58 to 41, capturing some 300,000 votes less than the Senior Senator from Arizona, who recently announced he was running for re-election in 2010.

Which brings us to Kentucky's next Democratic Primary, which is a year from now on May 18, 2010. We have a United States Senate primary and might have a Mayoral primary here along The Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. In the former, the current Attorney General, the current Lieutenant Governor, and a former federal inspector of some sort, have all announced their intentions. It will make for an interesting race. In the latter, His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro has not announced his intentions. But, like the Republican Primary for the United States Senate where at least two candidates, Rand Paul and Trey Grayson, have said they will wait for the incumbent to annouce his plans, on this side of the aisle are several persons indicating the same thing.

Lots of speculations begin with the words "If Jerry doesn't run." If Jerry doesn't run, it will only be the second time in twenty-five years he will have made such a decision, and the first time he had no choice as he was term-limited. That is not the present case. He can seek a third term which, if he did and was elected, would make his combined service in a larger city/bigger town like ours one of the longest in the history of the Republic. Of course, such a record would not come close to that of the late Robert Linn, a Republican who served as mayor of Beaver, Pennsylvania, a somewhat smaller burg than Louisville. Linn was first elected in 1945 and served through the middle of his fifteenth term, dying in office at the age of 95.

A lot can happen between now and 4:00 pm on January 26, 2010, the deadline to file for the May 18, 2010 Primary. Stay tuned.

*****

Oh yeah, a celebration. Today marks the birthdays of several friends of mine - Jerry S. (68), Jim W. (63), Gary P. (52), James J. (31), Keith D. (25), and Casey R. (15). Happy Birthday, one and all. Celebrate.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

482. River Road open west of 6th - and a birthday

Back on November 5, 2007, I wrote an entry entitled 7th Street North of Main Closed. I lamented in that entry that this block of 7th, a block dating from the very earliest of Louisville's history, was being closed off for the beginnings of a new and exciting waterfront building - well, properly it would have fronted on I-64 which itself fronts on the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. Alas, the new I-64 fronting 61-story Museum Plaza is still just a bundle of sheets of plans, the very basic beginnings of which have taken place, but nothing of any great notice. If this were a child's erector set, most of the pieces to be erected are still in the box. But, there is one change. While 7th Street north of Main remains closed - it is actually closed north of Washington Street - River Road west of Sixth has now been reopened to its old traffic pattern, which is to swerve southward at 7th, then westward on Washington (which is really just the alley north of Main), and come to a narrow intersection with N. 8th Street, all at the rear of W. Main Street's very busy and popular 600 and 700 blocks, which include the Muhammad Ali Center and the Louisville Science Center. What this means, hopefully, is a lessening of the logjam of cars which since November 5, 2007 have been forced to turn south on 6th when they really wanted to turn south on 8th.

Maybe the City could erect some proper streetname signage at the intersections of 6th and 7th with River Road. Currently the only sign in the area is wrong, identifying N. 6th as S. 6th, which starts a block further south. Someday I will write more than one line on the state of our City's streetname sign system but not today as this is a happy entry. I'm happy that River Road has been extended to 8th. Ideally it will someday be extended to 15th as part of the new Riverside Parkway to replace I-64 as part of the 8664 project. Someday.



*****

Unrelated: Today is the 13th birthday of my #2 niece, Kavesha. Happy Birthday Kavesha!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

481. Bike to Work - Remember to Stop at the Stoplights

Tomorrow has been declared Bike To Work Day, an environmentally friendly sounding idea given the amount of pollutants each car, truck, TARC bus, and other motor vehicle emit as they drive up and down the streets and highways. I am one of those people who love to drive - seeing the USA in my Chevrolet like Dinah Shore said we should do. My car is a small Chevrolet getting gas mileage in the 30s, but it does run on gas and I've polluted counties all across the Commonwealth. Perhaps I shouldn't be too critical of a Bike to Work Day. But, I do have a concern.

My trek into work, on those days which I drive - I also walk or ride the TARC, is a short one - about 16 blocks. There aren't a lot of bikers along the path I take down to Witherspoon Street, over to Bingham Way which becomes E. River Road as you go around the curve, then west to 6th Street and south to Congress Alley. Not much of a trip. It would be an easy bike ride, even for an out-of-shape 48 year old. I should probably take up the idea of peddling my way to work. My health could certainly use the boost.

There was a time I rode my bike a lot. I rode my stingray with regularity all over Okolona growing up, cutting through woods and paths that have since been developed into the drives and lanes of many new subdivisions. I remember getting my first 10-speed from my Dad when he lived in the Camelot apartments in the Highlands, sometime in the early 1970s. It was a warm and sunny day-after-Christmas and me and my brother, whose got the identical bike, took off from Everett Avenue down past the then-unfinished superstructure that later became the 1400 Willow, and from there into and through Cherokee Park and the adjoining Seneca Park. Before we knew it we were in the Bowman Field parking lot, quite a distance from our starting point to which we had to return.

When I was in my early 20s, I used to get up early on a Saturday - early meaning halfway through the night about 3:30 am, and take off from my Camp Taylor home to head into town. I'd ride down Preston to Hill, then walk my bike across the railroad crossing - my friend Dan Borsch would like to see that crossing reopened to traffic by the way - and from there I'd cut over to Old Louisville and head north on 4th Street to the fairy abandoned Fourth Street Mall. The anchoring hotels along the Mall, now known once again as simply Fourth Street, had just reopened. Both the Brown and the Seelbach long stood empty and most of the rest of the mall hadn't yet been revitalized, and some would argue it still hasn't. For the record, they would be wrong and can be proven wrong most any night by driving down Muhammad Ali Boulevard through the 4th Street intersection anytime from 9pm to 1am. The place is packed. But, I digress.

Much of my bicycle riding was done in the middle of the night or early in the morning, with very little traffic. A few times in the late 1970s and early 1980s I rode all the way to Frankfort along US60, staying overnight at a cousin's, and then returning the next day. I do not ever remember riding to work in the 1980s and I quit riding a bike before the 1990s arrived. So, I may not be the best spokesperson on this matter.

I will plainly admit that Louisville's avid bike riders annoy me, especially those who ride to work on a weekday, weaving in and out of traffic, regularly running stoplights, crossing up onto and off of sidewalks, and generally disregarding both the vehicular traffic and the vehicular traffic laws. I am not upset by their presence; I'm upset by their intentional violation of the city's traffic code. And it is upsetting to me that nothing is ever done about it.

Downtown there are two or three bicycle courier services who regularly peddle their business on the city's sidewalks. This is illegal and I've told more than one of them they are violating the law, but to no avail. When people are exitting one of our city's office buildings, dodging a bicycle courier should not be one of their problems. Sadly that is not the case, especially along the 5th Street business district between Liberty and Main. Bikes regularly weave in and out of pedestrians and occasionally tag them with a mirror or handlebar.

If your were tagged with the mirror or bumper of a car, and you took a notion to raise hell about it, your first line of response would be to get the license number. That isn't possible with bicyclists. They are unlicensed, perhaps as drivers, but certainly as vehicles. With a car, you look over and jot down a number. Now, think for a minute, why does that car have a license number anyway? There are two answers. One is to let people know - people meaning the law - who owns a car which may be violating the law. The other far more important reason a car carries a tag is to indicate the car represents the payment of taxes in the form of a license plate. Paying for car tags is one way of paying for streetlights, stopsigns, and asphalt. The other way of doing that is filling your car up with gas. Gasoline taxes in Kentucky account for nearly 37 cents for each gallon of gas you pump - a little higher for diesel. (Federal taxes add another 18 to 25 cents per gallon). Bikes pay nothing into the system which provide payment for roads. Bikes do not provide any revenues, except when they are first sold by the payment of sales tax.

Admittedly there are other things besides roads which are provided by the government for which no payment is made for general use. Parks are one example. I had a great albeit overly libertarian business professor in college, Dr. Bernard Theimann, who suggested that fences be erected around every park facility and an entrance fee be charged each time a person enters. He said that was one way of paying for their use. But most people using a park aren't simultaneously violating traffic laws as many bicyclists do - except of course a handful of bicyclists who ride through stopsigns, cross over lanes, and generally operate their bikes in the parks just as they do on other city streets - recklessly and often illegally.

But, a question. Have you ever seen any of our city police officers cite a bicyclist for anything? For weaving in and out of traffic? For riding on the sidewalks? For running a stopsign, or more dangerously, a stoplight? Or even speeding? The speed limit on most of downtown Louisville's streets is 25 miles per hour, a speed often violated, especially on long stretches of road, such as Main Street between Baxter Avenue and Slugger Field.

All this is not to say I am against bike riding - I'm not. And I wish I had the initiative to go bike riding more regularly. Part of it is fear of drivers, part of it being overweight, and part is just plain old damned laziness. But when (or if) I do, my goal will be to acknowledge, observe, and obey traffic regulations like any other vehicle on the street. That's a goal. I've admittedly fail to attain other goals and this one might meet with a similar end. But, it is a goal nonetheless.

The right to use the road comes with the responsibility to obey the law, doesn't it?

Monday, May 11, 2009

More from the corners of the Big Tent of the Kentucky Democratic Party

This Wednesday afternoon is the regular monthly meeting of the Metro Democratic Club, presently presided over by James "Jimmy" Moore. This month's meeting is to be a presentation by State Senator Perry Clark and State Representative Jim Wayne. These are two men from different parts of the big-tent of the Kentucky Democratic Party. Yesterday I referenced that tent held both me - from the left, and J. R. Gray, who other than his strong labor record as a legislator - habitates the right side of the tent.

Some would argue the same could be said of Jim Wayne and Perry Clark, one from the left; the other from the right. But that is not exactly accurate. Both are from unusual (and sometimes lonely) corners of the Party but neither could be simply listed as left or right.

Representative Wayne hails from the social justice side of the Party, a remnant from what I consider the glory days personified by presidents Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Lyndon Baines Johnson, and their respective New Deal and Great Society, neither of which were great successes but both of which were initiated with the noblest of intentions. Unfortunately, like the Roman Catholic Church, our country and our Commonwealth have lost the focus of those days as Representative Wayne reminds us from time-to-time with his speeches from the lower house of Kentucky's General Assembly. Jim represents territory running north and south from the corner of Breckinridge Street and Barret Avenue in the Original Highlands neighborhood of the (old) City out to Blue Lick Road and Susan Lane, a few blocks south of T. T. Knight Middle School, almost to the Bullitt/Jefferson County line. Representative Wayne is pictured here with Ivor Chodkowski and John Brumley of the Community Farm Alliance.

Senator Clark, who was Representative Clark for many years before he became a senator following his father Paul Clark in the same office, is a well-known libertarian on many issues. He is a constitutional scholar well versed in the history and purpose of the making of our republican experiment of government. He brings to the table a clear independence from the liberal versus conservative punditry most politicians follow. In 2006, he was an integral part of the campaign of John Yarmuth in the latter's defeat of Congresswoman Anne Northup, offering a strong and effective counter to her attack on Yarmuth for his alleged unfamiliarity with Louisville's South End. And he has helped keep Yarmuth in office by his continued support in this sometimes overlooked or even forgotten sector of our community. In 2008, Clark turned back a challenge from Southwest Jefferson's Doug Hawkins, a Republican on the Metro Council. Clark represents a district which crosses over southern Jefferson County, starting in the east in Highview and generally following a mile or two north and south of the Outer Loop, through Okolona, Edgewood, South Louisville, Auburndale, the Seven Hills, and crossing Dixie Highway to include portions of Pleasure Ridge Park and Valley Station. Senator Clark is shown here with our orange-sweatered Congressman John Yarmuth of Kentucky's Third Congressional District.

Wayne and Clark's districts overlap in the Edgewood/Preston Park areas, south of Standiford Field, an area which is basically unpopulated due to the UPS operations clearing out of residences, guised as part of the Louisville International Airport Expansion, Louisville's largest economic undertaking during the last twenty-five years, a project which incidentally displaced approximately one-eighth of the local population, but, alas, that is an entry for another day.

The Metro Democratic Club meeting on Wednesday starts at 6:30 at the American Legion Hall on Bardstown Road, three blocks north of the Watterson and across from the home of some of Louisville's best donuts, Krispy Kreme.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Big Tents, Pup Tents, Heaven, and Republicans

First, Happy Mother's Day to all the wonderful women in everyone's lives, whether they be moms or grandmothers or sisters or aunts or nieces or just friends. I went to visit my mother earlier than usual this morning, something I do most Sundays but usually later in the afternoon. I took her flowers and gift certificates to her favorite place to regularly shop. She also got flowers from my niece and a two-seater rocker from my father. She now spends most of her time looking after my father, a man from whom she was granted a divorce in 1964. Not that she needs any, but I'm sure she is getting some bonus points in that big book where God is keeping score.

As for God's big book, who gets in and who doesn't, and all that, I am a Universalist. I sincerely believe in the grace of God and the idea that it extends to everyone and, since all have sinned, it isn't like only the perfect can make it. If so there would have been no reason to have built all those rooms mentioned in the line "in my father's house are many rooms (or mansions)." What need would he or we have of all those rooms if he didn't intend to invite us in. For most of us, the idea of God's grace is a very good thing because most of us have at one time or another given a judgmental person a reason to exclude us. But, excluding people over and over and over leads to a very small tent, one that eventually collapses upon itself.

Such is what has seemed to happen to the Republican Party. During the Bush administration, Republican purists (or self-described purists till they get caught doing something Democrats are often accused of but rarely caught) have made the big-tent Ronald Reagan created and the late Jack Kemp personified into a pup-tent suitable for a boy scout outing for a night or two. The Republican Party keeps imposing upon its members tighter and tighter restrictions. If you don't meet all the requirements, they sometimes wish you would just leave. That's what Arlen Specter famously did last week. He just up and left. Now, to be honest, he stuck his finger up and found the wind blowing strongly in a leftward-leaning direction. By his own admission, he wasn't the first of the 200,000 Pennsylvanians who switched from one side of the aisle to the other - he was the 200,001st. Political self-preservation played a large role in Arlen's short hop across. But, he did cross over into the big-tent of the Democratic Party, one which here in Kentucky I've often said is big enough for both me and J. R. Gray from down in Benton.

I tend to think of God and Heaven in a similar vein. A big-tent place where everyone can get in thanks to God's grace. I'm sure some are allotted nicer rooms than others; some get filet mignon, others get White Castles; some have cable, others rely on rabbit ears, and so on. But it is my sincere belief that everyone gets in - even Republicans.

Thanks Be To God.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Clay Overbury and James Burden Day come to Kentucky

One of my favorite writers is Gore Vidal. I am, frankly, enamored with his series of political/historical novels, blending real political figures and events with fictional characters and story-lines. I've mentioned them before. A lot of history, and particularly political history, can be learned from reading Vidal's novels, if one can keep the fiction out of the way.

According to the critics, the least historic and most fictional of the group of seven of his many books which fit this category is Washington DC, written in 1967. One of the characters is Clay Overbury. Another is James Burden Day. Overbury is a protege and staff member of Day, who is a longtime member of the United States Senate. And while the novel is novel-length, one of the shorter and recurring internal plots is Overbury's desire to supplant Day in the Senate. And at one point in the novel, Overbury, who is young and handsome and ambitious, and a pseudo-military hero, announces that he is going to run for Senator Day's seat, while also saying he wouldn't run if Day did. But he was running. And eventually Day didn't.

If this sounds like some of the political theater going on up and down I-75 between northern Kentucky and Frankfort, there are similarities, indeed. But I've mentioned most of them. There are also very stark differences between the two characters in the novel and the would-be screenplay unfolding in the Kentucky Republican Party. Clay Overbury is a genuine fraud. James Burden Day is a well-liked, deeply thoughtful, and rather effective United States Senator. Their counterparts in Kentucky are, respectively, neither.

Sitting, as I do, way over on the other side of the aisle, gives me a pretty good seat to see the current drama unfold. When I go to the theater, I like to sit in the center-aisle front row seat up in the balcony, if possible, so as to see everything on stage and off. And right now what is happening off-stage seems to be more entertaining.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

On Any Given First Saturday In May . . . . .



. . . . a Fifty-To-One shot might win The Kentucky Derby. Today, that happened. Mine That Bird, with Calvin Borel aboard, won the 135th Running of the Kentucky Derby, by riding the rails on a muddy track, before 154,000 or so fans, winning the race in a little under 2:03, a slow race. A $2 winning ticket paid $103.20. (The above picture is a copyright of the Assocaited Press).

For most of the year, most Louisvillians know or care little about horseracing. Every year though, about this time on this Saturday, a new memory is etched into our collective memories, and this year the memory's name is Mine That Bird.

Yesterday, the same jockey won what was one the best horse races ever ran, winning the 135th Running of the Kentucky Oaks on the filly Rachel Alexandra. Around 105,000 fans saw Borel lead the favorite on a 20-length victory a few thousandths of a second off the record time. (The picture below is by Michael Clevenger of the Courier-Journal).

This is a good ending to this year's Kentucky Derby Festival.

Congratulations Mine That Bird, Rachel Alexandra, and Calvin Borel.

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.