Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ennui

July seems to have been an awfully long month - and there are still three days to go. I know it isn't any longer than any previous Julys, saving of course the possibility that the Atomic Clock Commission in Colorado has added a second somewhere, something they do now and then since the earth is slowing down, but usually they do that between 11:59:59 pm on December 31 and 12:00:00 am on January 1.

For whatever reason a sense of ennui has set in both here on the blog and at home. I've been slowing down doing things like making entries and cleaning the house. Neither seems to be a priority. The disinterest is such that I've decided to forego by usual travel to the west this weekend, missing out on a bean soup dinner on Friday, evening parties along Kentucky Lake Friday night, a great breakfast at Mayfield High School on Saturday morning, and the best sit-down country dinner in the Commonwealth Saturday afternoon at the K of C in Fancy Farm, Kentucky.

Other than the summer of 2005 when I was seriously ill, I've been going to the Saint Jerome Picnic at Fancy Farm in Graves County for a long time. This year, alas, I won't find my way into the annals of Kentucky's largest outdoor political event, nor will I overindulge after the K of C dinner on mutton snadwiches, cokes, and ice cream. And I'll miss out on buying a Capital Prize chance as well as playing bingo for one of the prizes under the big central pavilion behind the old school building.

I'll just be glad when July ends and August commences.

My goal, starting let's say on August 4th, is to reverse the hazy and lazy days of July with a burst of activity once August actually arrives on the scene, notwithstanding that the Fancy Farm Picnic is in fact on August 1. Since I've not been a part of either of the Senate candidacies for next year - for the record I'm for Jack Conway - next year's mayoral race will begin its long ascendancy in August and that I will be a part of. One of the refrains I've heard over and over this summer has been "You can't not participate in a mayor's race." After all, we haven't had a mayoral primary since 1998 and the last real one before that was 1985. I participated in both of those. This one will soon get started.

Another plan I have during August is to begin fixing the house up to the point that I can "have people over" sometime later during the Christmas holidays. Of course, given that I do not cook, I'll have to acquire some prepared food from somewhere if in fact I do that. The house is an old foot-thick-brick walled New Orleans-style one-story shotgun built in the late 1880s. It needs lots of work. I'd like to paint the entire interior which will be a great task in itself. Some of the rooms have 13 feet tall walls while others are 14 feet tall. I'm not quite 5'8". And all of them are full of stuff - books, furniture, boxes, more books, and boxes of books. Books predominate. I'd also like to comparmentalize the remnants of other peoples' stuff that I manage to have - leftovers from friends and relatives coming to stay a night, a week, or, as in the case of my brother on more than one occasion, over a year. For once in my life I seem to have the room not only for my stuff but everyone else's - but there needs to be a thinning. I have the room not only in the house, but also in the cellar, and if not there in the oversized two-car garage in the back. So that is my project for the next few months - personal organization and reor, something I've put off for forty-eight years or so.

That's another issue. In September I will be 49, twelve short months from a half-century. I want to be prepared to start that second half-century with as much of a clean and manageable plate as possible. Since I tend to be a procratinator, starting now - thirteen months early - is probably a good thing. Ok, admittedly, I'm not starting til next week, three or four days into August.

Happy End of July.

Friday, July 24, 2009

514. Missing a friend

Shed a tear 'cause I'm missing you
I'm still alright to smile
I think about you every day now
Was a time when I wasn't sure
But you set my mind at ease
There is no doubt you're in my heart now


-- from Patience, by Guns 'n' Roses

Joseph Robert Spears
born December 13, 1973
died July 24, 1991

May his soul and the souls of all who have left from this life Rest In Peace.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

513. Visions and Revisions

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions
And for a hundred visions and revisions
Before the taking of a toast and tea.

-- lines from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, by T. Stearns Eliot, 1915

*****

Late yesterday afternoon and well into the evening, my friend Preston and I took to the backroads leading out of northeastern Jefferson County. Our first stop was the allegedly self-contained microcity of Norton Commons, a very interesting but much-too-perfect-and-refined development off KY1694 where the old WAVE3 Farm was when I was a kid. KY1694 is called Brownsboro Road, but it is not the Brownsboro Road most of us identify with Ballard High School and Holiday Manor while wondering which of KY22 and US42 is the actual Brownsboro Road, once one leaves the confining bounds of the Watterson Expressway. For the record, Brownsboro Road is called US42 inside the Watterson and KY22 outside the Watterson until one reaches KY1694, and the turnoff to Norton Commons. At that point, if one stays east on KY22, the roadname is Ballardsville Road.

Preston and I covered a number of subjects during our leisurely ride which took us to three different county seats, La Grange (of Oldham), New Castle (of Henry), and Bedford (of Trimble). The discussions included a reference by Preston to T. S. Eliot's 1922 poem The Waste Land, which I admitted to not having read. In return I quoted, rather, from his earlier poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, which Preston then admitted he had not read. An even score.

As with all of our journeys, whether across town or across a handful of counties, politics was a subject oft discussed. Last night's discussion centered on the newly created race for mayor, newly created given that the current and longtime possessor of that office had earlier in the day announced he would not seek reelection, something a handful of people, including this writer, had been predicting for over a year.

What has happened since his announcement has been a summing up of the years, decades, even a generation of service granted by the mayor to the citizens of the old City of Louisville and the later Louisville-Jefferson County Metro governments. As if he had crossed over to another place, the Courier-Journal has ran dozens of pictures, several stories, and sidebars, print- and electronic media- space usually reserved for at-the-ready press when one does indeed cross over from this world to the next.

Similarly, the mayor's fellow politicians have been giving versions of accolades for all the things he has done (and a few things other people did). My good friend John Yarmuth, Kentucky's Third District Congressman, was in on the tidings. Another blogger thought all these good words of good deeds were too much, calling them "revisionist history." It isn't my intention in this entry to nod approvingly or join the naysayers in passing judgment. But an idea has crossed my mind.

I do not often like to play in the make-believe world of "what might have been." I've made decisions in my life which, if given the opportunity of revision, would most certainly have been revised, and perhaps revised yet again. But we do not get such opportunities, at least to my knowledge. But I would like to indulge the fantasy for a moment and engage in a game of what might have been.

This story begins with a failure of which I was a part. In 1998, I joined with Ken Herndon in supporting and helping to run then-3rd Ward Alderman Tom Owen's race for Mayor of Louisville. This was the old Louisville, not the current one. Tom's race was chaired and managed by Shannon Hensley. Our headquarters was on Bardstown Road in the Highlands, naturally. Many in our community thought the race quixotic. Many thought then and still do, most with a great sense of admiration, of now-Councilman Owen as something of our own Don Quixote, but considerably more effective as there are no windmills in the 8th Council District. I should add here that Tom is a friend of mine and I know him to be much more rooted in the real give-and-take of city life than his reputation allows. His City Hall office is directly across the hall from mine, and if he takes issue with anything I write here, I will hear about it very soon. But I digress.

As I said, the effort was a failure. But not one of grand proprotion. Tom's opponent in that race, in the Democratic Primary, which was all that mattered in the old City of Louisville, was David L. Armstrong, a former Jefferson County Prosecutor and County Judge, and Kentucky Attorney General. We were supposed to lose in a big way; we didn't. We lost by a small number, but it was a loss nonetheless. I, of course, thought we were going to win - I almost always think that of the candidates I'm for. And while we had forecasted in our campaign literature that a Mayor David Armstrong would be an East End elitist with no real concern for downtown or the Arts or housing or entertainment, nothing could have been further from the truth. As mayor from 1998-2002, Armstrong was the absolute strongest of advocates for all the concerns we had thought he wouldn't be. I was very pleasantly surprised and impressed by his term of office and his attitude to a broad scope of Louisville's citizens. I remember attending a "thank-you" concert for him at the Brown Theatre toward the end of his term, recognising all the good and great things he did for our beloved former City of Louisville. But, one thing he did wrong was support the move to merge the old City with Jefferson County.

And that's where tonight's entry on revisionist history comes in. What if?

What if Tom had won the 1998 Democratic Primary for mayor and then became mayor after the November election? I've never had this discussion with him although I have often thought about it. I do not know if he would have supported a proposed merger of the old City with the County had he been mayor at the time. My belief is he would not have - but that is strictly my belief. My belief is his would have been an administration affixed to the old City, addressing the concerns and needs that Mayor Armstrong did do, and not flirting with the wants, needs, dollars, and voters to be found in the county. Maybe I would be wrong, I do not know. This is all speculation. What if, though?

Let's assume for a moment that the Chief Executive of the old City had chose in 2000 to protect the interests of the old City by way of opposing merger with his bully pulpit. Would such a stance had been enough to defeat it? Merger had certainly been defeated in the past, at least twice in my voting lifetime, although I voted one way the first time then, like John Kerry, switched on the second. What if?

There are presently calls on blogs here and there to in someway undo the merger, to unmerge. Ironically, many of those calls are coming in from southwest Jefferson County which has undoubtedly benefitted from merger by way of having representation by people who actually live in the area. They are getting additional urban services without paying any additional Urban Services taxes. Before merger, southwest Jefferson was represented on the old Fiscal Court by someone who lived by Chickasaw Park in southwestern Louisville. That isn't to say that person's representation was bad - it wasn't - but it also wasn't closeby.

Undoing the merger vote would take legislative action in Frankfort [legislative action is an oxymoron lately] as well as a vote here in Louisville - I think. I'm not really sure and haven't closely studied Chapter 67C of the Kentucky Revised Statutes, the Bible for Louisville-Jefferson County Metro. The law that was written and passed allowing us to merge was well-written enough to make the undoing rather undoable. But again, What if?

Had merger failed, where would we be today? Specifically, about whom would Preston and I had been talking last night when speaking of the next mayor's race. It is true that all of the announced candidates are (to my knowledge) residents of the old City of Louisville. So they could all be running in that race as well as the current one. Let me note here that, conversely, there is no one currently running who could be identified as a "county" person, someone such as Irv Maze or David Stengel or Denise Harper Angel, all three of whom have roots in Okolona, a Democratic, if conservative, bastion of Democratic primary votes.

I guess my question is this - where would we be if not for Merger? I'm curious if any of my six faithful readers would care to address that question. The comments section is open for your ideas.

*****

For of all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: "It might have been!
-- John Greenleaf Whittier

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed.

There are places I remember all my life,
Though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain.
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all.

-- The Beatles


Most of us remember certain occasions. Where we were, who we were with, how we felt. When I was growing up, my grandmother talked about the 1937 flood as if it happened last Thursday. Of course it happened 23, almost 24 years, before I was born. Later generations speak of November 22, 1963 with a sense of deep reverence and true loss for our country at the assassination of a president. Others can tell you about the loss five years later of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. or that a few months later of Senator Bobby Kennedy.

My first memory of a national political event was when I was in 6th grade in the Spring of 1972. The wife of United States Senator George McGovern, who was then running for president, came to Louisville to speak to local Democratic women. The event was held in the New Gym of what would be my high school alma mater, Durrett. My grandmother, along with a few other women-politicos from southern Jefferson and northern Bullitt counties, were in attendance along with their children and grandchildren, of which I was one.

Another memory of mine is being taken to my high school principal's office to hear the results of my race for Student Government president. Teresa Stanton, Drew Chuppe, and I waited for Mr. Smith to announce the results. For the record I won. It was April, 1977. I remember the day I decided to quit UK and return home to Louisville. It was a bittersweet and ultimately incorrect decision. I was in the field between the South Commons Cafeteria and what was the north parking lot of Commonwealth Stadium, where my car was parked. Rick Lusardo and I were walking together through that field. He was a dear friend in those days. There is a tennis court there now.

I remember being in Frankfort in the Capital Plaza Hotel, there in front of the indoor waterfalls, standing with Aldermanic Clerk Linda C. Janes, lobbying for the City of Louisville, when the annoucement came down that Mr. Bingham planned to sell the C-J and dissolve the 5B companies here in Louisville. I believe it was January 9th, 1986. Just a few shorts weeks later on January 28th, and again with Linda Janes, we were driving back to Louisville and stopped at the McDonald's in Shelbyville on US60 at KY53. While there, we learned of the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster. We drove on back to Louisville in silence.

On a happier note, I remember being in the ballroom of the Galt House East when Bill Clinton's electoral college numbers passed the magic 270 mark; it was a middle western state, perhaps Minnesota or Montana. It began with an M. We partied well into the night, even though I had been a Jerry Brown supporter in the primaries. I was with a very special person in my life at that time, which made the win all that much more special. Clinton was the first (and presently the second-to-last) person I had ever voted for who was elected president.

I was in the Floyd County (Indiana) Recorder's Office doing a residential title search when the clerks' attention was drawn away from the desk to a TV. That was early the morning of September 11, 2001. I immediately left and went back to my office just in time to see the second place hit the second tower on the big-screen TV in the lobby of my then-employer, the J. Bruce Miller Law Group. I couldn't talk about that subject for nearly two years and it still haunts me.

People will argue that I couldn't possibly remember all the events of the night of John Yarmuth's first election as Congressman in 2006. I started drinking, something I rarely do, Old Forester Bourbon about 5:30 pm, a half hour before the polls had closed. I had been convinced since the rainy day of the Fairdale Parade in late September that John would win. Standing before our wall of information in headquarters, I told Jason Burke and Aaron Horner about 2:30 on Election Day that we would certainly win. They took off for a pleasure ride - I think a cigar and a drink. I had been assigned to the West End HQ for the day and as I made my way back, I took a circuitous course, stopping at several polling stations along the way to reassure myself my earlier beliefs were true. I remember that evening at the Seelbach Hotel on the 7th floor, about 6:35 p.m. verifying the numbers as Aaron, Jason, John, and I got into a quiet space away from the staff hotel room, being on the phone with Tom Barrow at the Baord of Elections, checking to see which were the sixteen precincts still outstanding and if, in my opinion, the votes in the those precincts could overcome the lead we knew we had. They couldn't and we began to change our community, our Commonwealth, and our country that night. Those few minutes were the most remarkable I've ever had in politics.

Finally, I can tell you about the night two years later, in the 3rd floor party room at the Waterfront Plaza Condos, where with many others I watched state after state, all across the country, change the nation and the world by electing Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States of America. It is best thing my country has done in my lifetime, perhaps.

These are the events I clearly recall: day, place, moment, and emotion. I began this entry with the mention of the 1937 flood, JFK, MLK, and RFK. Those things I do not remember. I was seven when Dr. King and Sen. Kennedy died in 1968.

My first clear memory of something I knew I would always remember happened forty years ago, July 20, 1969. I knew then, at eight years old, this was big. I still remember the scene clearly.

That Spring, in anticipation of bringing his World War Two buddies to Louisville for the bienniel reunion of the 114th Seabees, my grandfather's navy batallion, he had built a family room on the south end of our house as a place to entertain. My grandmother's living room was always a very formal place and she did not want his war buddies and their wives, girlfriends (or both) overeating, overdrinking, and generally having way too much fun in her crisp clean living room. It was the second addition to the house he had originally built in the 1950s for his wife and daughter, my mother. The plans had called for a basement but for whatever reason, probably economic, no basement was built. In 1965, my grandmother had requested a garage. My grandfather and his nephew built an oversized garage which included for him a workshop, and for her a space to house two cars, but has instead been the world's largest closet, or at least the biggest one in southern Jefferson County. In mid-1968, he added a redwoood deck across the driveway from the carport. Then, in early 1969, the carport was enclosed to make a family room, or den as they were popularly called.

It featured two built-in couches underwhich could be stored any number of things. God only knows what is under those couches as they haven't been checked in years. At the other end was a desk and bookshelves, also built-in, which housed among other things the new 1968 editions of the World Book Encyclopedia, the google-search of its day. There was a telephone jack and a small all-in-one TV, telephone, and a clock-radio attached, the absolute latest in technology. The room had something called indoor-outdoor carpeting which my grandfather allowed could be sprayed down with a hose and allowed to dry by way of a big cafteria style fan which he kept in the garage. Fortunately my grandmother never allowed him to test that theory. The room was decorated in an autumny orange and yellow decor, with all the woodwork painted chocolate brown. The cushions and pillows were of the same material as the curtains. In the middle of the room was a Library Table, whose legs had been shortened, which had been "liberated" from salvage when the old Manly Junior High School, at Brook and Oak, was abandoned. That old school is presently being restored as condos. By the door which led outside to the above-mentionred redwood deck was a little two-leaf table which my grandmother regularly reminded us had made it through the 1937 flood.

The room itself was set three steps below the kitchen. The wall between the two had been knocked out and a wrought-iron rail ran between the two rooms. There was also a lamp hanging from the ceiling made from the wheel of an old covered wagon - the interior hull gutted and replaced with electrical gadgetry. It was that lamp that caused a fire in the house on July 4, 1975. To get a taste of the decor, one today can visit the Fountain Room of the Galt House Hotel downtown. It is the only large space remaining of the Schneider propeties which hasn't been redecorated. The Galt House was built about the same time as the family room - and the decorating serves to prove such an idea.

Up against the 1/4-high wall by the kitchen, in the middle of that space, sat our big ol' TV, or TV set as they were then called. It was a brand new big-box thing, made by Philco-Ford, brown in color with gold trim, about 4' x 3' with a 3' foot depth and a set of rabbit ears on top. It was elevated off the floor by four screw-in legs which tapered from top-to-bottom. My grandmother was always irritated if we put our legs underneath the TV for fear of radiation. Strangely, I still have one of those tapered TV legs in the top drawer of my bedroom chest-of-drawers. I had not thought about that leg until I just now started describing the TV. The best thing about it - it was a color TV. That's what you called them then, a "color-TV." Not all shows were in color. You had to look in the TV listings or the TV guide for a little TV screen with a "C" to know which shows were offered, as the saying used to go, "in living color on NBC." Remember the chimes, "N-B-C, the full-color network."

It must have taken a lot to get us kids in from the outside in the middle of the afternoon and settled in front of the TV. That was my grandmother's work. But there we were, me and my brother, the Gutermuth kids from next door and Kesler's from across the street, and a handful of Priddy's and Peyton's from up and down the street. People all across the country and I suppose around the world were doing the exact same thing we were. It is well-recorded that President Nixon spent the day in front of a TV in the Oval Office.

And there in our family room in front of the Philco-Ford was where we all saw the lunar landing - Man on the Moon - to quote the late Walter Cronkite, "Wow!". And that's where we remained well into the night. I do not remember leaving - I'm sure we got fed, some went home, or to sleep. It was 6 1/2 hours from the landing of the lunar module to that historic moment when Neil Armstrong became the first man (that we know of) to step foot on the Moon.

Everyone remembers Armstrong's words, "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." According to those in the know, he actually said for a man but the "a" was lost to a glitch in transmission. What I clearly remember was six hours earlier, when he spoke the words "Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed." Cronkite was right. Wow!

For all the malaise of the 1960s, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, America had done this one up right and ahead of schedule. It was a very good feeling. I hope to have it again someday.



*****

Rest In Peace, Walter Cronkite, 1916 - 2009.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

511. The Globe Players

A friend and I have just returned from Louisville's Central Park where a performance of Hamlet has been presented by The Globe Players, the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival's acting troupe of middle and high school thespians. It was a great performance. The play runs through the 19th, which will close out this summer's performances of Free Will in Central Park. The play was directed by Matt Wallace. Matt has been a regular presence in the summer fare for almost a decade.

This evening, and throughout this run of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, the lead was played by Patrick Zakem, who will be a junior at YPAS this fall. He was an outstanding Hamlet. From start to finish, he demonstrated an ability in the role far advanced of his young age. Excellent.

The presentation of King Hamlet's ghost, especially early in the play, was chilling. Despite the 80 degree temperature, the presence of the ghost placed one as if in the middle of October of a cool windy night. Cheers to the scenery and lighting people for taking us deep into the netherworld. The later appearance in Gertrude's bedroom did not have the same cold effect, but was also worthy. The King's ghost was fittingly played by the same character who played King Claudius, Collin Sage, who will be a student at Georgetown, the college not the univsersity, this fall.

Queen Gertrude was very ably performed by Christine Sauer, a senior to be at Presentation Academy, just a few blocks up 4th Street from the stage. The bedroom scene was stunning. The role of Gertrude is that, for the most part, of an obedient wife; earlier this summer we saw Macbeth, where the wife is the lead, with the title role actually going to a second fiddle of a character.

A Saint Xavier grad, Ryan Burch, played Laertes, Hamlet's friend and foe, even unto the end of the play. I've never really liked the character of Laertes, whose deathbed conversion is like so many we see and hear about as one knows their time of crossing over is close at hand. Laertes' father, Polonius, was played by Collin Jones, a recent grad of Providence HS in Clarksville. I could easily see him as Falstaff or Henry VIII in some future production.

I have two or three favorite characters in all of Shakespeare, one of which is the very loyal Horatio, always described, simply, as Friend to Hamlet. Tonight's Horatio was Mitchell Martin, a graduate of the Brown School who will be attending Northern Illinois University this fall. Horatio is the type of friend we all wish we had, and if you are lucky enough to have a Horatio, treat him or her well. If we all had Horatio's in our lives, life would be all the more worthwhile. Young Mr. Martin was an excellent portrayer of this role. As with charcaters, I also have a few favorite scenes. I've written before on the blog of the graveyard scene, with the grave diggers, Hamlet, and Horatio. Most of us can quote Hamlet's line, holding the skull before his face, "Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio: a fellow of infinite jest, of most excellent fancy."

Several scenes were eliminated. I always enjoy the banter between Osric, Hamlet, and Horatio, which was missing from this performance. As too was King Claudius' reading of the letter sent by Hamlet from England, not-so-subtly informing the king that Hamlet yet lived. As is typical, all those scenes involving Fortinbras, cousin to Hamlet, which are woven in and out throughout the play, and in the script is actually the closing scene, were eliminated from this version. As such, the play ended where many people think it should have anyway, with Horatio's famous words: "Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince: And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!"

It was a very pleasant way to spend the evening.

And now, to sleep. To sleep, perchance to dream . . . . .

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

510. Poorer, Blacker, Older - and unrepresented

There is a lot of hullaballoo going on here and there over comments made by His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, calling the former City of Louisville, which I sorely miss and of which I often write, "poorer, blacker, and older" in the days leading up to the Merger vote. I've heard the mayor use the phrase a number of times, including almost a decade ago as he, Jefferson County Judge/Executive Judge Rebecca Jackson, the C-J, Senator Mitch McConnell, and others hoodwinked the voters into voting for merger with promises of smoother, cheaper, and more effecient government, none of which has yet happened.

When the mayor has used the phrase it has never upset me in the way that it seems to have presently upset any number of people on various sides of different demographic and political aisles. In defense of the mayor (words you rarely have ever seen me write), he very simply and succinctly told the truth as it existed in 1999 and 2000, leading up to that fateful day in November of the latter when Jefferson County's voters by a majority vote ended what was, at least for residents and taxpayers of the old City, now called the Urban Services District, a pretty-good gig.

The days of a friendly Democratically-controlled Board of Aldermen for the 230,000 or so residents of the former City, the only government entity which "went away" by the merger vote, came to an abrupt end on January 3, 2003, with the election and swearing-in of a twenty-six member Metro County Council, eleven of which were Republican. [As a note, I went to work for one member of the Council, the first new Democrat elected (meaning there is now one less Republican) since the commencement of the new government, on January 2nd of the this year].

What I see no one writing about in this debate are two things. First, acknowedgment that the days of white-flight, exascerbated as one writer indicated on another blog by the Federal Judge James F. Gordon's 1975 ruling desegregating the recently merged Louisville Independent Schools and Jefferson County Public Schools, are basically over at least in downtown Louisville. I am sure when the 2010 census data are released, there will be a larger number of whites in the 4th Council district, which is centered on downtown. Not only will that district be whiter, it will also be much younger, and considerably less poor, all contrasts to the district (and the old City) as it existed a decade ago. That will make drawing a majority-voting African-American 4th council district rather difficult.

But, back to the bussing discussion. For those of you who weren't around, it was a very turbulent time in our community. I was starting 10th grade that September, and was bussed from my home school (Southern, which had bussing) to my AP school (Durrett, which was exempt excepting the AP students) and then to my deseg school (Manual, which was also exempt excepting AP students) every morning with the order reversed every afternoon. It was a ridiculous arrangement which came to an end later in October, when the school system moved me (and a few other AP students) back to Durrett, which was exempt because its attendance boundary was gerrymandered to take in a great deal of the African-American community of Newburg, including students who lived on Ilex Avenue, whose backyards abutted the property of Thomas Jefferson High School, now one district over. Durrett and Thomas Jefferson have since closed; Durrett now houses Louisville Male High School, which has a county-wide attendance district, and Thomas Jefferson now houses a middle school, shown at left and also called Thomas Jefferson. Directly behind this school's back fence were students who lived in Durrett's district.

Here is the history of the times:

On February 28, 1975, the Kentucky Board of Education ordered the merger of the Louisville and Jefferson County school systems effective April 1, 1975. On April 21, 1975, the United States Supreme Court denied appeals to reverse a Sixth Circuit Court order, and on July 17, 1975, a final order to U.S. District Judge James F. Gordon stipulated that a desegregation plan would be implemented at the beginning of the 1975–76 school year, which began on September 4, 1975. Ernest C. Grayson, former Jefferson County public school district deputy superintendent, became the first superintendent of the merged districts.

In 1978 Judge Gordon ended the court's active supervision of the desegregation plan. However, the order was never fully lifted. The Jefferson County public school district continued mandatory busing but changed its racial guidelines. In 1984 the desegregation plan for middle and high schools was changed to a system of zones and satellite areas. Mandatory busing was replaced in 1992 by a program designed to integrate elementary schools by giving parents a choice of schools. Racial guidelines were altered with each of the above plans. In 1996 the district approved a new integration plan requiring that all schools maintain racial guidelines of between 15 and 50 percent African American. Six black parents sued in 1998 to eliminate the student assignment plan based on race that limits the number of African Americans who can enroll in Central High School to a maximum of 50 percent.


All of that italicised language above is lifted from the Jefferson County Public Schools archives. But the truth is that white-flight took off in the County outside the old City in a big way the summer of 1975 and continued well into the 1980s and 1990s, at which point it subsided. However, it had already begun in the old City long before that. People a generation older than me speak of a day when the West End, specifically the area just east of Shawnee Park, was all white west of the 31st Street railroad. Indeed, as a sign to indicate they lived on different streets than those east of 31st, all the street-names changed when crossing under the K&IT (now Norfolk Southern) Railroad bridge. Cedar became Herman, Walnut (which is now called Muhammad Ali) became Michigan (which is also now called Muhammad Ali), Madison became Vermont, Chestnut became River Park, and Magazine became Del Park. Main, Market, Jefferson, and Broadway did not change names. So it is correct to say that white-flight began in the old City in the 1960s or even earlier, and that it continued into later decades. It is also correct to say bussing generated even more white-flight from the County outside the old City beginning in 1975. That flight became evident in the censusses [censae?] of 1980, 1990, and 2000, in Bullitt, then Oldham, and more recently Spencer counties. Spencer's number lagged the others as there were no good roads from Jefferson into this neighboring county, and to this day, there is only one, KY155. But even it is dangerous, and still a narrow two-lane passageway, in most of Jefferson County. It opens up to a wide roadway with emergency lanes and broad shoulders south of Fisherville in Jefferson County, and remains so all the way to the Spencer County seat, Taylorsville.

The second thing I see no one discussing in the ongoing debate is the disparate taxing authorities which remain after merger, where we went from having one County government, about a dozen fire protection districts, and ninety-five municipal corporations (all with locally elected representation); to having one County government, about a dozen fire protection districts, and ninety-four municipal corporations (all with locally elected representation). The only local government that "went out of business" with merger, and along with it the locally elected representation of the Board of Aldermen), was the old City of Louisville. The one thing that didn't end was the old City's taxing district. Voters and property taxpayers in the old City today (and since merger) have no locally elected representation, unlike all the other municipal corporations in the County (which have city mayors, and commissions or councils), as well as the County itself (which has a mayor and Metro Council). As you will read on the license plates in our nation's capital, that is called Taxation without Representation, something we thought came to an end back in the 1780s after a war with England. Not so. Such a system remains for those living in the old City of Louisville. That should be a point of discussion, notwithstanding that a number of those people, though not as many today as in 2000, are poorer, blacker, and older, than their well-represented counterparts who reside outside the Urban Services District.

When will these disparate tax systems be merged?

Friday, July 10, 2009

509. And the connection is what ?

You never know when a conversation is going to take an odd turn. A semi-regular Friday night habit is joining friends for food, conversation, and - importantly - half priced bottles of wine at Carly Rae's, a sprawling eating and drinking establishment in Old Louisville on the northwest corner of Oak and First streets.

Of these two regular friends for the occasion are first one who is just slightly older, a Fine Arts graduate from Murray State University and employed as the executive director of a quasi-governmental agency charged with a number of duties all related to the promotion of downtown Louisville. My other companion is considerably younger, African-American, and a graduate of some small college in the South followed by a prestigious law degree from Vanderbilt. He is a high-priced corporate attorney who I am confident is worth every penny he makes.

Our conversations typically center on politics - imagine that. While all three of us are Democrats, we represent different places on the spectrum, the executive director and I occupying varying roles left of center of the Party, and the attorney filling a libertarian, corporate and, shall we say, rather conservative slot to the right. As I said before, our Party is housed under a big tent.

Tonight's conversation was rolling along after several glasses of a Lindeman's Pinot Noir of 2008 vintage, along with, at least for me, a plate of Town-and-Country crackers slathered in old-style beer cheese. We had talked about the governor's race as well as his accent. We touched on Richie Farmer and Trey Grayson. There were comments on the Louisville mayor's race in 2010, whether or not this July 20th or 21st's widely expected announcement would bring on a cavalry charge of candidates, to use the words of our mayor in an interview last week on WFPL's State of Affairs radio program, should he decide not to run again, one which, in my opinion, would in all likelihood be won by a sitting councilmember who is already assembling a stellar group of supporters and staffers; or if only Tyler Allen would be competition for His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro, something Allen indicated in a recent LEO article.

At some point, referencing back to the governor's accent, which I attributed to his hometown of Dawson Springs, a town I've been through on several occasion where the Beshear name is readily applied to a number of businesses and even the nearby state park lake, our discussion turned to western Kentucky and even far western Kentucky, where at length we spoke of how that land, west of the Tennessee River, came to be purchased by Andrew Jackson in 1818, hence the name The Jackson Purchase.


If you do not know the story, there was always a problem with Kentucky's (and Tennesse's) claim to this land, shown at least in Kentucky at right in the picture, which was home to and controlled by the Chickasaw tribe. After many attempts, negotiations between the tribe and the United States arrived at an agreement. The negotiators for the United States were Andrew Jackson, who would in two years become president, and Isaac Shelby, who earlier served as both the first and fifth governor of the Commonwealth. The land itself covered the territory east of the Mississippi River, south and west of the Tennessee River, and north of the the state of Mississippi, commonly known in Kentucky as the Jackson Purchase and in Tennessee as West Tennessee. Agreed to in 1818, it became law when the Treaty of Tuscaloosa was signed into law by President James Monroe on January 7, 1819.

So there we were discussing the Jackson Purchase when my one friend, the older one, responding to a comment by the other one, said, "Oh, that's like Michael Jackson."

Michael Jackson, really? WTF. We were a little dumbfounded as there was no real segue between the two, really none at all. We both allowed the third to make that connection, wild as it was, after which the conversation left the confines of Jackson's Purchase and turned to the life and times and untimely death of the singer all three of us seemed to like.

The question for my six faithful readers is what is the connection between The Jackson Purchase and Michael Jackson, other than the common surname involved, which had nothing to do with tonight's discussion. Until tonight I could not have dreamt of any. But, at least in the mind of my one friend, there is. If you have an idea, leave a comment. There are no prises for getting it right, just the idea that such a connection could be made.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

508. Acting - It's My Blog



One of the freedoms of running your own blog is being able to play god. In the words of America's 44th Best President, "I am the decider." I decide what goes on the blog and what doesn't. I have the power to edit things in or out, such as I did the other night when writing about the mayoral race in 2010. Or I can delete things altogether, such as I did last Summer during my time of troubles with the Kentucky Democratic Party and its former Chair. And, I can allow or disallow comments - leaving up those I deem appropriate and taking down those with which I find disfavor. To be honest, I think I've only deleted two comments, neither one of which were on point; one advocated increasing the size of one's penis, something most of readers probably didn't need to read on my blog as chances are they have received similar advocacy in their email accounts.

With the blog, I can be a political guru, a travel expert, a historical resource, or even a sports prognosticator as I did during the NCAA tournament or just ahead of the Kentucky Derby. And if I only attain 80% accuracy (as my friend Stuart Perelmuter has suggested), it's my blog. My 10th grade English teacher, Mrs. Risner, always wanted me to do better than 80% but 80% was all that was required to maintain my Advanced Program status, and thus that's all she got, at least that year.

Tonight, it is my decided role to don a whimsical hat, grab a pen, and play Theatre Critic. I took a Shakespeare class in both high school (from Mrs. Risner) and college (from Iverson Warriner), and passed all of the English lit classes in which I enrolled, which were several - at several different institutions of higher learning. And I was in my high school's Senior Play, both as a junior and a senior. Thus I am, of course, qualified.

So, here is the critique.

Earlier tonight I paid a visit to Louisville's Central Park where the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival, North America's longest running outdoor free festival of Shakespearean plays, now in its 49th year, presented its latest rendition of Romeo and Juliet. I had been a few weeks ago to a somewhat lackluster perfomance of Macbeth at the Festival and was hoping to find this production better.

I did.

If I were a good critic, I could tell you who all the actors were, something I should know given that they all played roles in Macbeth a few weeks ago. And several of them are veterans from previous years, including one who tonight played Benvolio, friend to Romeo. He is my favorite of the troupe.

Before the performance I ran into a friend from work, Gail Kaukas, who introduced me to her family. They were decked out in their own chairs prepared for a night of, well, murder. Her husband, tongue-well-placed-in-cheek, asked if I knew how it ended. "They all die," of course is the well-known answer to that question. And "there is some amount of poisoning" I added with delight. I left from their post and ran into a family I know from Advent Church. They too were looking forward to the theatrics of a good and festive bloodletting.

Romeo and Juliet is one of the Bard's plays that most of us can quote a line here and there. And most of us as teenagers played one or the other role in our own lives. Some may still. All in all it was very well done. The scenery was wanting a bit but the costumes were great and the players were outstanding. People like the Nurse, the Friar, and particularly the actor portraying Romeo, who delivered more than a few lines dangling six feet up hanging off the makeshift balcony, on a set that has seen better days. He should be rewarded not only for his acting, but the nerve and valor of speaking whilst climbing on what may be a forty-nine year old set. Ok, the set isn't that old, but it also isn't all that young.

At the beginning of the night, the skies, which had been clear all day, began to over cast our very big small town, but no raindrops fell until just before the closing scene, and then they were very few.

It was a very good show. Romeo and Juliet runs for a few more days. If you haven't been to Shakespeare in the Park lately, this is one to go see.

With that, I will doff my theatre critic hat and return to my regular role of trying valiantly to pass Stuart and Mrs. Risner's 80% mark.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

507. By the Light of the Silvery Moon

It's 2:47 am and I know no one is up for me to call. I woke up for a mid-sleep walk to the restroom when I noticed how bright my hallway seemed to be lit by the light of a silvery moon.

I stepped outside where the skies are clear, the temperature is 69 degrees, and a lustrous Full Buck Moon - that's what the Farmer's Almanac calls a full moon in July - is shining down upon us, so much so that I could check the tomatoes and peppers and flowers and herbs growing in my front yard garden.

I should tell you about the four tomato plants I have which now encompass an area of about 7 feet square, but that should wait. After all, it is the middle of the night.

Monday, July 6, 2009

506. Is 2009 really an Election Year?

Politically, the answer is apparently yes. These every-fourth-year-with-no-races drives some of us batty. We were raised in the days when Kentucky had an election every six months, and here and there, occasionally more frequently. I remember one year when my friend the late Jerry Kleier, a former State Representative and Alderman, appeared on the ballot three times in one year - once for a Special Election, then for a Primary, and then in November for a full term. Those were the days.

Since the adoption, in the early 1990s, of an amendment to Kentucky's 1891 Constitution, against which I voted, Kentuckians have been granted the luxury - or dread - of an off-year every fourth year. We are presently dead in the middle of one of those anomalies and for many of us, it is getting unbearable.

Fortunately - or not, the 2010 elections have already begun, something which usually doesn't happen until much later. I'm sure the rhetoric at Fancy Farm in a few weeks will make it seem like the next General Election is merely three months away as opposed to a year and three months hence.

In Kentucky, next year will bring races for our junior United States Senator. Both parties will have Primaries - the goal of every one being the replacement of Jim Bunning, a northern Kentucky conservative Catholic Republican who seems to have overstayed his welcome. While the two Republicans who have been raising money aren't saying, both are aiming for a non-Bunning primary. On the saner side of the aisle, the two Democrats are Attorney General Jack Conway and Lieutenant Governor Dan Mongiardo. While both supporters and opponents of each of them will claim otherwise, there doesn't seem to be too much separating the two. If there is, one of them hasn't yet said enough for anyone to know. I am for Conway, an attorney from Louisville whom I've known for over a decade since his days working with Denis Fleming in Governor Patton's office in the mid 1990s. There are reasons I am for Conway and one reason, and honestly only one reason, in particular that I am not for his opponent - the latter's sponsorship and support of SB245 in the 2004 General Assembly of an amendment to Kentucky's 1891 Constitution, an amendment I opposed with my vote, an amendment which outlawed Civil Unions of any kind, among other things, here in the Commonwealth. However, I will support either of them over the incumbent.

Other state-related offices include the 100 members of the House of Representatives and 19 members (or one-half) of the State Senate. Democrats are eyeing a takeover of several of those seats, including the 38th District here in Jefferson County, running along the southern border and presently represented by Republican Dan Seum, who at one time, prior to the gift of a tie from United States Senator Addision M. McConnell, Jr., was known as Democrat Dan Seum. Seum is opposed by Martin Meyer, the son of the man who held the seat prior to Seum's first being elected back in the 1990s. Other districts on the radar include Dan Kelly's in the Catholic counties of south-central Kentucky, Gary Tapp's seat just east and south of Jefferson County, and maybe Bob Leeper's seat in Paducah. Leeper is the Mayor John V. Lindsay of Kentucky, having held his seat as a Democrat, a Republican, and (currently) as an Independent, just as Mayor Lindsay did in New York City back in the 1960s.

Also on next year's ballot will be many local offices across the Commonwealth, including the passal of Constitutional officers required for each of Kentucky's 120 counties - offices such as County Sheriff, County Attorney, and County Clerk. Here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, there doesn't seem to be much interest in "voting the ins out." Chances are good that all of the County-wide officials will retain their posts. The one post which seems to be hanging in the balance is that of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Mayor, an office presently held by its only possessor since the inception of our Metro Government, an experiment which hasn't exactly worked out the way its proponents had argued it would back in 2000 - another one of those many NO votes I have cast.

Last Thursday, there were five Democrats known to be interested in the job, along with a few Republicans. Now there are four as Craig Greenberg, whom I would have supported, has withdrew his name. Since my guy dropped out, I'll try for once to heed my friend Drew Shryock's words and "keep my powder dry" a little longer than usual to see what, or more importantly, who shakes loose between now and the filing deadline in January.

We will also be having local elections for one-half of our Metro Council members, those who represent odd-numbered districts. Two of the incumbents already have opposition and three more might.

So much for 2009 not being an election year.

[2:35am, 07/07/09: This entry has been edited since its first posting at 9:14pm on 07/06/09]

Friday, July 3, 2009

505. Palin and Greenberg, over and out

Does anyone else think Sarah Palin is just plain nuts? I know she is attactive. I know all the Tea-Party people are big supporters of hers. But anyone who listened to her resignation speech today has to wonder about her sanity, her ability to stay on message, her ability to speak in complete sentences, and, finally not to mention her ability to complete even one single term as governor of Alaska. Was this a prelude to Palin 2012? God help her, the Republican Party, and the American people if that happens.

Closer to home, another race has been forming up, albeit mostly behind the scenes and in the corridors of power at 601 W. Jefferson Street, that race being who will succeed His Honor the Mayor of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro on January 1, 2011. The guy I would like to have supported, Craig Greenberg, has today called me to say he won't be a candidate. That is unfortunate. His explanation, unlike that of Governor Palin, was succinct and sensible and, regretfully, I respect his decision. That leaves a field of perhaps four, at least on the Democratic side. There are probably two or three across the aisle as well.

2010 will be an interesting year in Kentucky. We will have the chance to replace our very senior junior United States Senator with one of two Democrats, each of whom has a birthday tomorrow or the 5th. We may also have a new mayor here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, something we have only had twice in the last twenty-five years.

But for now all that is months away. The filing deadline is in January. But we should know who all is running before this month is over, surely in time for fun and fundraising come the First Saturday in August when all political eyes in the state will turn toward Graves County and Fancy Farm.

Until then, Happy Fourth of July.

504. Independence Plans

So we begin the second half of 2009. Time is flying.

Me and a friend a going for a hike in the Knobs State Forest, a 1000 acre spot not too far south of Louisville near Bernheim Forest. The Knobs State Forest just came into the state system in 2006. It is one of several places not too far away to go hiking, the others being Bernheim which is right next door, Taylorsville Lake State Park, the Jefferson Memorial Forest, and the various Riverwalk locations here in Louisville.

Tomorrow will be the annual reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Louisville-Jefferson County Democratic Party, something I've attended for a generation or more. We will meet at 9am at the corner of 5th and Jefferson and take turns reciting the various passages of Thomas Jefferson's document, here in the county named for him on a piece of legislation signed into law by him four years after the Declaration was adopted.

The Louisville Orchestra is playing a concert on the Jeffersonville side of the river at their downtown landing, shown here, on the evening of the 4th. I'm hoping I can find someone to attend with.


Celebrating birthdays on the 4th are Dan Mongiardo and Fred Gravatte. Celebrating on the 5th are Jack Conway and Dan Borsch. Is there a pattern? The 5th will also mark the date my grandfather, U. G. Noble, passed away in 1987.

Enjoy the weekend.


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.