Sunday, November 29, 2009

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

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

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

Friday, November 27, 2009

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

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

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

All in all, a very pleasant Thanksgiving Day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

567. Snow

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

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

Whether flurries or real snow, I'm ready.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Tom Owen Cultural Studies and Greyhound Cultural Studies

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More from San Antonio

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

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

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

Friday, November 13, 2009

Live From San Antonio

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

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

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day in America

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

562. Weather, Wendell, and Wander


Most of my six faithful readers live somewhere in the Ohio River Valley and for them my comments on the recent weather will not be news. But for the rest of you, across the country and around the world, it should be noted as newsworthy that the high temperatures here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 have, for most of November, been somewhere in the 70s. The average high temperature for November in this area is 56, which is the mean temperature in this area for the entire year. Of course, there are twenty days left to cool down those temperatures as there is a reason it is called an average. And we haven't broken any records although we did tie one. The record high temperature in any November for Louisville is 86 degrees. After today, there aren't too many more 70s forecast.


One of Kentucky's favorite and famous authors is Wendell Berry. Mr. Berry is a native and resident of nearby Henry County. Henry County is a beautiful largely agricultural county whose courthouse town, New Castle, is about 33 miles from Louisville. Berry's family is part of the gentry of the county where the Berry name remains very familiar. Berry lives on the far side of the county away from Louisville in the village of Port Royal where he has maintained a farmstead for nearly a half century. He writes about the agrarian way of life, sustainable farming, and other such lore, along with poems, newspaper articles, and magazine contributions. He is a graduate of the Millersburg Military Institute in northeastern Bourbon County along Hinkston Creek and of the University of Kentucky. (Note to self: someday I should write about MMI - an intersting place).

Tomorrow, Mr. Berry will be speaking to the Metro Democratic Club at their regular monthly meeting. I'm sure he will talk about the things he regularly speaks of, things that urban dwellers like to hear but usually do not have the intestinal fortitude to make happen - this writer included. I heard Mr. Berry speak many years ago at Bellarmine College. The Metro Club meeting will begin at 6:30 pm at the American Legion Highland Post on Bardstown Road, three blocks north of the Watterson Expressway. It should be a very interesting and informative night.


Unfortunately, I will not be in town to hear Mr. Berry speak. Of the many Metro Club meetings I've attended, this is one I would not want to miss. But I will. Earlier this year, I arranged to attend a convention which starts tomorrow in San Antonio, Texas. I'll be leaving during the day tomorrow and will thus miss Mr. Berry's address. Rather than take conventional transportation to the Lone Star State - a plane - I've opted to travel by Greyhound bus, something I haven't done since college. Earlier this summer two friends of mine crossed the country to Los Angeles - and then came back - aboard Greyhound busses. As they travelled, I got occasional text messages of where they were and what they were seeing - quite a show.

One part of the show, at least while the sun is shining, is watching the scenery pass by as we travel from Louisville to Nashville to Memphis to Little Rock to Benton to Dallas to San Antonio - and back. Another more interesting part of the show will be my fellow travellers themselves, maybe like Hemingway's Basque peasants encountered on the bus by Bill and Jake enroute to Burguete. I'm hoping to interact with a few along the way - hear their story - share with them mine, and so on. Wanderlust is an intersting affection.


I probably won't be posting again until next Tuesday. Enjoy the week.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

561. Healthcare Voters along MP606

I can't honestly say that when I voted last year for Barack Obama that healthcare was one of the overriding reasons. I'm sure it was one of the reasons, but not a the top of the list. Getting us out of Iraq was probably at the top. Or maybe it was getting George W. Bush out of Washington - that is more likely. Looking back at the entry of Election Eve, 2008, written the night before the day we elected Barack Obama the 44th President of the United States, this is what I had to say about George W. Bush:

George W. Bush has led our country into war, into debt, and into isolation with the rest of the planet. He has almost single handedly destroyed the integrity and pride of the United States of America. He had been aided and abetted in this travesty by his Vice President, Dick Cheney, a former congressman and Secretary of Defense from Wyoming. He has further been aided and abetted by voters all across the country who reelected him in 2004, or more properly elected him for the first time, as it is totally unprovable that he was ever elected the first time.

There isn't a word in there about healthcare. On other occasions, I've written about America's need to address its failing infrastructure. I've written a lot on the evils of continually lowering taxes and exempting taxpayers from the revenue rolls of the Republic, but, honestly, I've written very little about healthcare. A search of the blog indicates I've used the word twelve times, seven since Obama's election; five before then. So, why now?

It isn't like it is a new subject. My congressman has been talking about it since his first election in 2006. America has herself addressed the subject in bits and pieces over time. We've created Medicare and Medicaid, along with the Veterans Administration hospitals, all of which are forms of government-ran healthcare systems. I see very few people refusing the services of any of these three so-called "socialist medicine" programs. Yet, when it comes to expanding these programs to all people, nationwide, there is an unfortunate pushback.

Despite the pushback, the United States House of Representatives last night passed, by a very narrow margin, a healthcare bill. My congressman, John Yarmuth, of course, supported such legislation. His neighboring congressman, Baron Hill, along the Right Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606 also voted Yes, something of a pleasant surprise. His fellow Democratic congressman from Kentucky, Albert Benjamin Chandler III, voted with the Republicans - that is Ben voted with every single Republican save one - from Louisiana - voting against the bill.

At a dinner a few weeks ago in Lexington Congressman Chandler, in addressing a room full of Kentucky Democrats at the Red Mile Race Course, waffled on the matter, saying he thought it was a good idea but was worried about the cost. Imagine a Kentucky politician worried about the costs of healthcare. I must wonder on just what is it Congressman Chandler would rather have us spend money? He hasn't told us the answer to that question - only that this measure was too much for his blood. I think it is worth asking with which other "socialist" programs he might have problems? Does he think the school lunch program is worth the dime? Or Social Security? Or Medicare? Or the outlay for veterans at the Lexington VA hospitals [they have two, one on Leestown, one on Cooper Drive on the UK campus]?

Maybe it isn't fair to ask these questions as these are all programs already in place, programs which have been in place for many years. But, with all the talk for shrinking the government, one must wonder if they weren't, would the present congress, including the congressman from Kentucky's Sixth District, vote for such programs?

I've written in the past that the best advantage and worst aspect of a democracy is that people get to vote. Keep in mind America, we are a representative democracy, as the forefathers - there were no foremothers - assigned to the people no right to vote on everything, offering instead the right to vote for people who would then represent them in the congress. Fortunately, we are also a government of three branches. Obama runs one of them, the Conservatives control the Federal Bench, but it is unclear who controls the third, where the Democrats at least seem to be in charge at least on paper.

Ours is a big tent party. Thus, there is room for a blue dog like Chandler. To his credit, Chandler has supported some left-of-center initiatives. Like Yarmuth and Hill, Chandler was an early supporter of Barack Obama, endorsing him on April 30, a few weeks before Kentucky's primary. He has led the fight on Clean Water programs, something a lot more vitally important to his district than most of his constituents realize. And he has been against coal in the mountaintop removal argument, which takes some big chunks of coal to do in this state. So, maybe I'm being too harsh. (For the record, I am closer to Mongiardo's stance on coal than I am on Conway's, my candidate for the U.S. Senate). Nonetheless, at some point someone has to say, "Ben, based on your concern about costs, which group of Kentuckians is it you don't think should have healthcare?"

Thursday, November 5, 2009

560. In The News

For one thing, I was in the news, although if I had my 'druthers, I would not have been. Yesterday's edition of LEO carried a story, which had at least one mistake I've asked the writer to correct, concerning Ken Herndon's filing to close his lawsuit (while allowing the opportunity to reopen it) which was seeking to find who was behind a defaming mailer which likely caused him his race for Council in 2008. This filing brings to a close a long chapter of ugly politics which began in May 2008. I am glad that chapter has closed but I find it unfortunate that the evil-doers, whoever they are, will go unpunished. We can all expect this sort of thing again in the future. And when it happens, all fingers will likely be pointed at the same suspect(s) and probably for the same reason(s). One down side - of many - is that the handling of the mailing and of the subsequent lawsuit has caused friends to part and political alliances to crumble. The mailing was a mounmental effort with monumental consequences among a varied groups of people in the Louisville political and cultural community. So, this too, has passed.

More political news yesterday came in reports of what had happened the day before when elections were held in various places across the Republic. I pored through the electronic media pages from Virginia and New Jersey where the Democrats lost governorships. I also looked at the gay marriage votes and the mayoral votes in New York and Boston. It is a mixed bag of results but one thing is clear - the electorate in Tuesday's locations was, for the most part, down considerably from 2008, especially among younger voters and black voters, and in many places incumbency was a burden, not a help.

Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino are exceptions. Menino won a 5th term in Boston making him the longest serving mayor in that city, despite calls that he and his cabinet are too white, too WASPy, and all this in a town we all think of as Irish. He beat an Irish-American who had promised to hire as his deputy a Korean-American. Clearly the voters sought less diversity, weren't interested in hyphenated-ethnicities and Menino, the white guy, won easily. Bloomberg in New York barely won despite spending a fortune and running against a nobody. Bloomberg's win is unprecedented in that he just last year had the laws changed which would allow him another term. While the effort left a bad taste in some voters' mouths, he still eeked out a win. Out in both states, Republicans and challengers did better than Democrats and incumbents. Having said that, New York City remains a strongly Democratic city, with all the boroughs but one (Staten Island (Richmond County) - long a Republican center and the least populated - literally an island) easily electing Democratic leaders, Bloomberg being the exception.

In Maine and Washington, the vote turnout was better, in the 50s (it is hard to determine Washington's as they are still accepting mail in ballots). Both states pitted one side of the state against the other - in Washington it is coast v. inland, in Maine it is south v. north. Washington voted pro-gay marriage, Maine didn't. As a side note of interest, the same voters who turned down gay marriage in Maine overwhelmingly voted to expand the state's medical marijuana laws, which will now have the state actually growing and harvesting weed for sell to patients in need, an interesting step. It should be noted that marijuana legalization is not a liberal issue and draws considerable support from all sides, especially libertarians. I believe it is something Kentucky should take a serious look at. Hemp production was, at one time, something we were Number One in - and we're not number one on too many lists. And anyone who is paying attention knows the weed contiunes to grow, whether wild or cultivated, all across the Commonwealth. But, I digress.

I won't go into Virginia and New Jersey, where we lost both states. The New Jersey loss was something of a surprise. I think, like any local race, local issues combined with President Obama's lack of progress, gave the wins to the Republicans. Independents, very important voters for Obama in 2008, moved from leaning left to rambling right, tilting the scales even further. Obama needs to stop playing and start producing. Let me say that again. Obama needs to stop playing and start producing. Once more, say it with me. Obama needs to stop playing and start producing.

Finally, while everyone is talking about New York's 23rd Congressional District, where a Democrat was elected in this area (but not necessarily in the 23rd District) for the first time in 100 years, turnout was miserable. The vote was about 60% of those who voted in 2008, and about 3/4 of those who voted in 2006. Black turnout wasn't a factor here as this northerly-most New York district is 94% white. Last week Vice President Biden went up there for a rally - the turnout was 200 people.

The bottom line is this. A number those people who turned out to vote for change, to vote for the first African-American president, and to vote against eight years of the Borrow, Bully, and Spend tactics of the 44th Best President in America; they've done their part and are now sitting back. What's left are traditional voters in both parties and neither group is all that happy. We on the left are tired of waiting. We won the House and the Senate and the Presidency. We seek decisive action. Those of the right, an ever diminishing group, think all government is bad and wont be happy til Grover Norquist and those of his ilk control all the strings which make the government move. The great majority is in the middle watching and waiting. And like Dathan called to Moses in the Book of Numbers, their question is "How long must we wait?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Surprise Birthday

November 1st is my father's birthday - his 70th in a series. The entry title is a bit of dark humor. Attaining the age of 70 (and entering his 71st year) has been something of a struggle for my dad, a surprise of sorts that he wasn't anticipating. While for some time he has not been in the best of health, his mind is fine and his attitude about turning an unhealthy 70 is par for him - he told me last night, "this getting old is no good at all" he said with a dry laugh. I reminded him I was none too happy about it either - I'll be 50 the next time I celebrate a birthday, to which he responded, "damn, are you that old?"

So, for my Dad on his 70th birthday, Happy Birthday Old Man. Grow old and prosper.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.