Saturday, December 31, 2011

714. 2011, briefly

Today is the end of 2011. Thanks Be To God. I have had much better years in my life - 1977, 1978, 1985, 1991 (both very good and very bad, perhaps the worse), 1998, 2006, 2008, 2010. Toward the end, there is a trend, you might note. I'm ready to add to that trend and 2012 is promising.

A stroll back through 2011 is troubling on many fronts. Prominently, two of my friends were unemployed for large parts of the year. Thankfully, both were working as of yesterday. One of those will probably have to work today. I was unemployed for several months in 2003. It is difficult on everyone, disheartening, discouraging. I am hopeful 2012 brings, if nothing else - nothing at all, an improved economy for my friends and family and others.

Strolling through 2011 was for me meant to be something of a rebirth - the second half-century of my life. Rather than celebrate that new beginning, that renaissance, I have looked ahead to the end and for the first time in my life felt old. I hate that idea, I hate that prospect. I'm not prepared for such a station. And yet, there is little I can do about it, except, perhaps, work around it as long as possible.

Late in 2010, I was challenged by someone I no longer speak to (and I really am not happy that I have found it in me to no longer speak to someone, anyone, no matter who they might be), challenged to restart my life by doing new things, reviving old things, seeing new people, and generally getting on with my life. I've began to begin that process but such a beginning takes me back to the fact that I am not just getting old, but old.

Have I progressed? I suppose it is the eternal wish of humanity to move from one year to the next with some progress behind them as motivation to move ahead. This is how you feel in the late 20s and 30s and into your 40s. I know - I've been there and gauged that progress, or often, the lack thereof.

Yes, progress was made, but only in the smallest of gains, nearly imperceptable, and that is unacceptable. While not content with the progress, I am more content with myself than I have been in years, and that alone is worth celebrating. That isn't to say I've fully accepted that particular contentment, only to acknowledge it.

I wander out of 2011 alone at home. My personal friendships grew in small, small doses in 2011. I've ended the year on an upbeat note with one friend in particular, something for which to be thankful; and a downbeat note with another and in the latter must - must is such a strong word - yield to the idea that some gulfs are, in fact, to broad to bridge. I do not like that at all and reserve in a prominent and large corner of my soul wherein might be proven that no bridge is too far as this particular friend has been an exceptional friend on many levels for me in 2011 and I do not want to lose that relationship, not at all.

So, be gone 2011, be gone. You weren't all that bad, but certainly weren't much good. As my fourth grade teacher wrote every six weeks in the Conduct section of my report cards, "Room for improvement."

Room for improvement will be the purpose which sends me - and the world - into 2012.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

713. The Twelve Days of Christmas - Lessons from Quotes

PREFACE

There is that old carol which begins "On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me," which presupposes a true love, which I haven't. Still, I am offering below, one Christmas Day at a time - for the next twelve of the calendar - a short quote which has advised me, either in recent times or in the long distant past, or perhaps from the "dark vast and middle of the night."

A LESSON FOR THE FIRST DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, December 25th

Today's quote is from Abraham Cowley, a 17th century poet from the City of London. It applies specifically to, first, the events of a party held at my friend Aaron Jent's a few nights ago. And twice now of the same person, the first being an Election Night party in 2010, I've felt some betrayal - which is far too strong of a word yet I can think of no other - by certain actions. Here is the quote --

A mighty pain to love it is,
And 'tis a pain that pain to miss;
But of all pains, the greatest pain
It is to love, but love in vain. (1656)


An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is December 26th

Today's entry comes to us from Stanley Kunitz, an American poet who died in 2006 at the age of 100. He twice served as the Poet Laureate of the United States, most recently from 2000-2001. He was a conscientious objector in the Second World War although he did serve in the military. Such status may offer insight to a line in his work called Foreign Service, which serves as today's entry.

Doomsday is the eighth day of the week. (1958)


I have not read the context in which the line is written, but it does work for me. There is no eighth day of the week. I am an optimist and have always been, although I am often a quiet optimist. For me optimism doesn't mean that things will always turn out well. It does mean that our lives have purpose and every event in them can be used for learning. Some of those events are not pleasant and others are as endearing as possible. Optimism lies in the idea that tomorrow there is more of life to be lived, and I think that a good thing.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, December 27th
Know your station.

Sounds a little elitist, I know. It can be, but it isn't meant to be. During the 1990s and the first few years of the 21st century's single digits years, I worked in the private sector for attorneys. One of those was Norma Miller. She was a school teacher-turned-lawyer who at one time taught at my alma mater, Durrett, as Norma Osborne. She offered this advice with good intentions. Know who you are, where you stand, and what you can and cannot get away with. She didn't mean to limit yourself forever to a station in life in which you are unhappy. Just understand there are processes which can move you up and down the ladder and one part of a trip in either direction is to understand your present starting point. Having been around some of both Louisville's wealthiest and poorest of people, and counting friends in both spheres, I've appreciated this advice. Unfortunately, I haven't always followed it.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, December 28th

For many of us, the image we have of Four-Star General George Smith Patton is that portrayed in the movie starring George C. Scott. I prefer to remember Scott in Dr. Strangelove, but that is a different story for a different day. Today's quote is from the general to his son, George Smith Patton IV, who was a cadet in the Army on June 6, 1944, a well-known day in American history. Among the advice given is the letter is the following:

"Take calculated risks. That is quite different from being rash."


This is another piece of advice I wished I had began following earlier in life. Calculated risks means just that - you've made a calculation as to the outcome of whatever, and assessed the risks of both success and failure and are prepared to live with either outcome. Being rash involves no calculations, nor any plans for either outcome. There is a reason Patton rose to his four-stardom. He assessed risk and executed. It is great advice.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is December 29th

In my Facebook profile you will find a quote of mine which reads "Remember your yesterdays, Celebrate your todays, Pray for your tomorrows." That quote is in the running to end this litany of "quotes to live by" and may show up again on the 5th of January. Today's, however, is a corollary of sorts taken from the Bard - I'm surprised it took me this long to get to Shakespeare. From his play King Henry the Sixth Part II, in Act IV, we find

"I will make it felony to drink small beer."


I'll be honest - I do not know the context in which the words are spoken. However, it must have been a common expression as it appears in at least two other of Shakespeare's plays, Othello and King Henry the Fourth Part II. I take it as an encouragement to celebrate life, something many of us at times fail to do. We know that we are appointed a certain number of days to live and to each of us once to die. The problem is we don't know when any of them are. Therefore, rejoice and be glad. Celebrate and enjoy. And while one should do all things in moderation, or so the saying goes, do not have "small beers." If your way of celebrating is drinking Diet Cream Soda, do so with gusto. If, like me, you like a glass of Merlot on the days which end in "Y" make sure you smell the bouquet and drink to the end. Some of you may be partakers of Kentucky's most infamous product, hemp, in its smoking form. Far be it from me to judge you for that either. The Gospel of Matthew, in fact, at Chapter 7, tells me not to. The point is this - we are all one in the eyes of our Creator. He did not mean for us to be gloomy or sad or mean or morose. "Don't drink small beer" is what he meant, I think.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

INTERIM OBSERVATION - I stated yesterday that I was "surprised it took me [to the Fifth Day of Christmas] to get to Shakespeare." Well, it didn't. The closing phrase of the Preface to this entry, written back on Christmas Day, is from, perhaps, the most well-known play in the world, a work of the Bard of Stratford.

A LESSON FOR THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is December 30th

Today's "quote to live by" is from a Louisville native, Louis Dembitz Brandeis, nominated by President Woodrow Wilson as Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court on January 29, 1916 and confirmed by a strongly divided United States Senate on June 1st of the same year. Brandeis is one of the leading lights of American jurisprudence and liberalism. His face is familiar to eastbound Liberty Street drivers as one of the large murals adorning Louisville's buildings. And for those readers who wandered in and out of the Louis D. Brandeis School of Law at the University of Louisville, a small cemetery greets you at the entrance under the portico where the remains of Justice Brandeis and his wife are interred. The words and works of Justice Brandeis are many. For me, the following is an underpinning of my belief in government and liberalism.

"What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice." (1915, True Americanism)


My seven faithful readers will recall that I have often railed against the individualism which has controlled this Republic for the last thirty years, "rugged individualism" fostered by a president who lead the country deep into debt and did very little to correct the problem he created - Ronald Reagan, one of America's worst presidents as far as the common good is concerned. And it is in this last instance where Brandeis guides us. The American ideal is both the successes of the individual and the common good. While Brandeis lists only one avenue for the success of the individual - liberty, he offers two for common good - democracy, and as a back-up, social justice. I have been in an ongoing conversation With a dear friend who has become enamored of liberty and individualism. And while I have often been frustrated by his beliefs, it isn't because liberty and individualism are bad. But they are if they stand alone. Standing alone they will lead to the fall of the Republic. We are well on the way. Restoration of the "good old days" will require restoration of both a belief in and support of the strong central government, one strong enough to provide for the common good of all 308,000,000 people who call themselves Americans, as well as one strong enough and willing to create and sustain social justice. That is my America and I believe it was the ideal America of which Justice Brandeis wrote.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is December 31st

John Greenleaf Whittier was a 19th century American poet, politician, and newspaper writer. O that we would have such people today. (As an aside, Louisville had a newspaper writer-turned-politician in Henry Watterson. I do not know if he was into poetry). Whittier was a native of Massachusetts and failed in his only run for Congress, which we are told led to a nervous breakdown. He also founded a political party called Liberty (of all things). One must wonder what this man of peace and ardent abolitionist wished to do had he been elected to the Congress. Today's quote leaves much to the imagination.

"For all sad words of tongue or pen, The saddest are these: 'It might have been.'" (1856, Maud Muller)


Most questions in life, ultimately, have only one answer from a choice of two, either Yes or No. Certainly there are shades of grey here and there, but from the ridiculous to the sublime, most answers end up being some form of either Yes or No. Yet, some questions go unanswered because they go unasked. We've all heard presenters make the statement, "there are no stupid questions" to which some will add, "only those not asked." Whether the topic be politics or religion or love, things either are or aren't, answers are either yes or no. The sole exception to this is mathematics, where it is my belief there is always only one answer, the correct one. Mathematicians leave much to be desired when it comes to imagination. I prefer those who, while fearing the answer, do go ahead and ask. I have tried to follow this maxim, often knowing the answer, especially when it wasn't the answer I wanted to hear. The lesson here is fear not to ask, and fear even less the answer. For some answer is better than none at all. A corollary for New Year's Eve, as I find myself single in the largest sense of the word, is "'Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." This, from Tennyson.

Happy New Year's Eve, one and all.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is January 1st

Today is New Year's Day, usually celebrated the night before with revelry and fun. I was among those reveling in fun well into the night. But we all have holidays all the time, and we are prone to celebrate them in our own private ways, based on a song or a scene, or a cold snowy day or a splash in the cooling waters of North Benson Creek on a hot summer day in our youth. I have all of these. Listening to Jackson Browne's Running on Empty immediately places me, sometime in the early 1980s, in Mary-John Celletti's old brown Mercedes she called Winston along the Old Frankfort Pike in Woodford County. Watching the Kentucky Derby on TV evokes memories of when I attended in person with regularity, along with my grandfather Dan Hockensmith, my uncle Noble Hedger, and another so-called uncle, Harmon Moore. I recall the deep snows of January 1994 and driving to work where my friend Evan and I played Jeopardy on the earliest of computer-based games. North Benson Creek, especially along the Devil's Hollow Road in far western Franklin County, has been a cooling refuge for generations of my mother's family - both sides - and I often swam there in my teenage years when I was chasing after a girl named Ann Rochelle "Shelly" Dean. Such thoughts bring me to today's quote, to wit -

"The holiest of all holidays are those kept by ourselves in silence and apart; The secret anniversaries of the heart." (c. 1879)


These words were penned by another of America's 19th century poets, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a native of the "Maine district" of Massachusetts, Harvard lecturer, and historical lyricist. He was born in 1807 and died in 1882. Many of us learned to recite a part of one of his most famous poems as part of our American Revolutionary History course, the lines from Paul Revere's Ride. "Listen, my children, and you shall hear, of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, on the Eighteenth of April, in Seventy-Five, hardly a man is now alive, who remembers that famous day and year." We all have those "famous days and years" which we will always cherish in our heart, our own collection of these holiest of holidays.

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is January 2nd

One of my seven faithful readers happens to be one of the biggest fans of The Beatles this side of Liverpool. Olivia Fuchs, who is otherwise an attorney, makes endless You-Tube posts, newsletters called the Bea-letter (or something), and other event-related comments about the Fab Four, especially as the Abbey Road on the River, conventiently abbreviated as AROTR in most of the posts, makes its way to Louisville late each Spring. Olivia, however, knows that while I share a great love for music in general, the Fab Four aren't among my favorites. That isn't to say I do not like their music. There are a few songs in particular I love - I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Twist And Shout come to mind immediately. Today's quote is from a different Beatles' song, one written by Paul McCartney with input from the late John Lennon. The song was written and recorded in March 1967 and released on June 1st of that year. The song is my story as it relates to the last few weeks. The quote below was the working title and it appeared on the Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club album.

"I get by with a little help from my friends." (1967)


Followers of my Facebook page may recall a status update of mine posted back around Thanksgiving. It expressed my concern, for myself and others of my ilk, who find the holidays - now thankfully past - difficult at best and extraoridnarily lonely at times. Yet, we manage to make it through the seven weeks or so from Thanksgiving to yesterday, New Year's Day. And, again for folks of my ilk, we could not do so without (more than) a little help from our friends. Late in the night, actually about 3:15 am on New Year's Day, one of those friends called me. It was a call I was hoping for, worried about getting and not getting, and most pleased to have received. The caller, Michael, reminded me of our friendship, the other friends I have, and the support they have all given me, some in large and known ways, others in the quiet corners of the season. Each year I do dread the holiday season. Thankfully, I get by with a little help from my friends. Thanks to all of you. Happy New Year.

(This entry will be amended and re-posted as the first official entry for 2012)
An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is January 3rd

Will Rogers, a beloved American actor, writer, and satirist, offers up today's quote - not necessarily "one to live by" on a regular basis, just one to ponder on the first day of Election 2012. There is probably a lot of truth in it. Briefly, first, about Rogers, he was born in 1879 in what was called at the time "Indian Territory." We now call it Oklahoma. He died in an airplane crash 55 years later in another soon-to-be-an-American-state, the "Alaska Territory." Of his Native American heritage, he once remarked, "My forefathers didn't come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat at the shore." Here is today's quote:

"More men have been elected between sundown and sunup than were ever elected between sunup and sundown." (1924, The Illiterate Digest)


I find the quote appropriate tonight, even for a slight smile. At 7:00 pm CST, 8:00 pm here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, and thus after sundown tonight and before sunup tomorrow, voters in the midwestern state of Iowa began their infamous quadrennial caucus where just a few minutes ago, it appeared to be a three-way tie between Congressman Paul, Governor Romney, and the latecomer, Rick Santorum. Santorum has never impressed me. Paul once held my fancy, but that was many years ago and until he disavows the racist and homophobic statements made in his name, I have no plans to ever support him again. I have spoken to one of his more ardent supporters, Preston Bates, on this matter and Preston agrees with me that Paul should say these were not his thoughts, words, or beliefs. Preston is, as we speak (and assuming he has told me the truth) working for the Paul campaign in New Hampshire, where voters will next week take to the polls in the latest installment of the long and winding road which will probably lead to the nomination of Governor Romney as the GOP standard-bearer. We'll see - the show goes on. Happy Election Year, 2012.

(This entry will be re-posted as an entry of its own).

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, January 4th

Gatewood Galbraith, who passed away today at the age of 64, was known to be something of a "happy warrior." Serious about his political platform, he was, as far as everyone seems to say, a very happy person to be amongst. Today's quote to live by, more for the Republic than any single one of us, comes from a man who was known in national politics as "The Happy Warrior," Hubert Humphrey, who is one of my personal political heroes. Humphrey lived from 1911 to 1978 and served as Vice President of the United States under LBJ, another personal political hero. Both before and after his term as Vice President, Humphrey represented Minnesota in the United States Senate. As we enter the 2012 election season, let's not forget these words, undated, offered by Humphrey -

"Compassion is not weakness, and concern for the unfortunate is not socialism."


All too often in the national discussion compassion is looked upon as weak and silly. It is a result of that "rugged individualism" that President Reagan, one of America's worst presidents as far as the core fibers of our democracy are concerned, taught us to be a good thing. It isn't. We are Americans first and individuals second. Our sovereignty is granted through our citizenship as Americans. Humphrey understood this. Socialism is basically a four-letter word in the lexicon of American politics. Yet, we have been practicing forms of it throughout the history of the Republic, all the way back to the Revolution when one famous American is said to have commented "we must all hang together or we may all hang separately." Socialism has moved into the way we help young people in college, help lead adults into home ownership, and provide medical needs to our elders. And while there is no doubt that corruption has bred itself into the system, and needs to be systematically removed, our way of life - our uniquely American way of life - has benefitted from the veins of socialism which course through our government. Most of the Republican candidates for president are working hard to bring to an end our American way of life. Humphrey would have fought those efforts, but also would have done so smiling all the way.

(This entry will be re-posted as an entry of its own).

An other lesson from a quote will follow tomorrow.

A LESSON FOR THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS, which is today, January 5th

As many of you know, I like to drive - a lot. In these trips, labelled in 2006 by the then-Yarmuth for Congress Campaign Manager Jason Burke as "nobling" it often appears that the drives are aimless wandering. I know my "greener" friends will not appreciate the idea that I like to drive aimlessly here and there. The truth is it usually isn't aimless at all. I often have a desitnation in mind, whether it be Frankfort or Perryville or Madison (IN) or Corydon (IN) or Maysville, as was the case a few weeks ago, or even Washington DC or Brooklyn NY. The wandering part comes in the route getting from Point A, somewhere near the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, to Point B, wherever the destination might be. There is an entry on the blog called the Twelve Roads to Frankfort (or something like that). It could have just as easily been titled the Twelve Roads to Bardstown or Owensboro or wherever. Owensboro, technically, is not the easiest place to get to unless you are in Henderson or Evansville, just for the record.

In any event, I've known all along what the Lesson for the Twelfth Day of Christmas would be. It is a poem I've written about before on the blog, James Whitcomb Riley's My Philosofy. I learned it as an eight year old at the direction of my late great-uncle, Bob Lewis, Jr. I recite it all the time, to myself, and often to friends. I recently recited it at the 30th birthday party of Elizabeth Sawyer, a successor to Jason Burke as manager of the Yarmuth campaign. At the time I was with Kathy Wright, a Democratic Party activist from southeastern Jefferson County. It is my favorite poem.

Earlier today on Facebook, I rhetorically asked "who would provide the Twelfth Lesson?" I got feedback from several people including my friend Thomas A. "Tony" McAdam, who offered a 1925 quote from Lord Arthur James Balfour, "Nothing matters very much, and few things matter at all." I am familiar with that quote and really like it. I reduced that to the words from Bobby McFerrin's a capella song from September 1988 - "Don't Worry, Be Happy." McFerrin borrowed the line from an Indian guru/mystic, Meher Baba, who used it as part of his teaching in the mid 20th century. Interestingly, McFerrin's song and Tony's suggestion from Lord Balfour aren't far from the snetiments expressed in the poem which I knew would be the final lesson. Of course the poem is a much longer version, but it is one I have always known and somewhat followed.

I am understood by many to have a philosophy - I'm fairly liberal, fiercely partisan, and have sometimes been called a socialist, probably deservedly. I was so earlier tonight, in fact. But I have tried with great earnest throughout my life not to hold another's religion or creed or personal mantra or family status or any other distinction from having and keeping friends who are different than me. I believe I have been successful as most of my friends do share differences of opinions, beliefs, lifestyles, social strata, and many other measures of differentiation. I've never, or cpehaps rarely minded. I am more of a process person than policy person. Sure, I support policy but I especially support policy if it is attained through the proper processes. I've been criticised for that over the years, most recently by Curt Morrison, but I haven't changed much in response to that criticism.

James Whitcomb Riley's poem has been a guiding light since the age of eight, which at 51 now was a long, long time ago. Here is the poem with its original rural gothic spelling -

MY PHILOSOFY

BY JAMES WHITCOMB RILEY


I ain't, ner don't p'tend to be,
Much posted on philosofy;
But thare is times, when all alone,
I work out idees of my own.
And of these same thare is a few
I'd like to jest refer to you--
Pervidin' that you don't object
To listen clos't and rickollect.

I allus argy that a man
Who does about the best he can
Is plenty good enugh to suit
This lower mundane institute--
No matter ef his daily walk
Is subject fer his neghbor's talk,
And critic-minds of ev'ry whim
Jest all git up and go fer him!

I knowed a feller onc't that had
The yeller-janders mighty bad,--
And each and ev'ry friend he'd meet
Would stop and give him some receet
Fer cuorin' of 'em. But he'd say
He kindo' thought they'd go away
Without no medicin', and boast
That he'd git well without one doste.

He kep' a-yellerin' on--and they
Perdictin' that he'd die some day
Before he knowed it! Tuck his bed,
The feller did, and lost his head,
And wundered in his mind a spell--
Then rallied, and, at last, got well;
But ev'ry friend that said he'd die
Went back on him eternally!

Its natchurl enugh, I guess,
When some gits more and some gits less,
Fer them-uns on the slimmest side
To claim it ain't a fare divide;
And I've knowed some to lay and wait,
And git up soon, and set up late,
To ketch some feller they could hate
Fer goin' at a faster gait.

The signs is bad when folks commence
A-findin' fault with Providence,
And balkin' 'cause the earth don't shake
At ev'ry prancin' step they take.
No man is grate tel he can see
How less than little he would be
Ef stripped to self, and stark and bare
He hung his sign out anywhare.

My doctern is to lay aside
Contensions, and be satisfied:
Jest do your best, and praise er blame
That follers that, counts jest the same.
I've allus noticed grate success
Is mixed with troubles, more er less,
And it's the man who does the best
That gits more kicks than all the rest.


*****

Merry Christmas on the Twelfth Night. Tomorrow is Epiphany. Thanks Be To God.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

712. On the passing of Mrs. Violet Doyle

In today's paper - or on the internet - you can read the obituary of one Mrs. Violet Doyle, 91, who died two days ago. The obit will tell you her occupation, that she was married to her husband for over 70 years, and that there are lots of family members left behind - besides her husband, children, and brothers and sisters, there are grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild. What it doesn't tell you is that she was my grandparents's neighbor, and thus mine, my brother's, and my mother's when I was growing up out on Whippoorwill Road in southern Jefferson County off South Park Road.

When my grandparents moved out to what was then (and remained so until 1994) a gravel lane off a new section of South Park Road, so new that it was still called New South Park Road, there were a few houses already erected on what was originally called Whippoorwill Lane but has come to be known as Whippoorwill Road. (Interestingly, most Google maps and other electronic media call it Whippoorwill Drive). Most the houses were built in the 1950s, a few in the 1960s, and one was moved in "over the barricade" in the 1970s from its previous location at Blue Lick Road and Maynard Avenue, in the path of the new Jefferson Freeway, now known, appropriately, as the Gene Snyder Freeway.

One of those earliest of homes along Whippoorwill belonged to a woodcrafter, or turner, named Foster Doyle and his wife, Violet, or Vi, both of whom were in the 30s at the time, the early 1950s. Vi worked "up in Okolona" as if it were miles and miles away as opposed to about a mile and a half at the local dentist's office, Dr. William G. Penny. Foster was known for the lathe that stood on the left side of his garage, where he worked out dowels and rods and, now and then, baseball bats for some of us kids. Mrs. Doyle, whose name was always pronounced as "Miz-Dull" by everyone who didn't call her Vi, which was most of us including my mother, was known as the lady who could cook most anything and was always offering up some dish to "take to your grandmother" or "down the street to Mrs. Rogers" or wherever.

The Doyle's lived at 9011, while we lived at 9012, which wasn't directly across the street as you might think, but one door over from directly across the street. My grandfather built the home in which I was raised, 9012, in the mid 1950s and other than the few years my mother was married to my father, she has lived in that home ever since. 9009 was directly across the street, the house belonging to the Kesler family. Mr. Doyle, whose name was properly pronounced with all the vowels, D-o-y-e-l, kept a fine yard and a fine house. Their house, in which was raised three children, one of whom, Jeannie, was my first babysitter, seemed a bit smaller than some of the others but the yard was majestic. Most of the yards along Whippoorwill are about 100 feet across and 220 feet deep, approximating a half-acre kingdom for their dwellers.

The Doyle's front yard was adorned with flowers, trees, and shrubs, all meticulously kept. For several years while a teenager, I cut their grass, usually making $4.00 and something to eat. Amazingly, after I moved away, Mr. Doyle returned to that chore and continued the yard work until past the age of 90.

The back yard was, for the most part, garden - lots of garden. I do not know what all the Doyle's raised, but it was a little of everything and a great deal of it made its way across the street to the Hockensmith and Noble household of five. And, all the years the Doyle's were there, the food kept coming. I especially remember pies - persimmons, pumpkin, cushaws, and other varieties. And there was the asparagus patch that Mr. Doyle began, telling me at the time that the good asparagus was five to seven years off, frankly an eternity for a young kid.

I cannot remember ever while growing up and for many years as an adult any time that Mrs. Doyle did not have food fresh from the garden, or fresh from the freezer, or fresh from the stove. She was a provider not only to her family but to her neighbors on all sides. It was all good.

As time took its toll, both Foster and Violet fell victim to old age in their late 80s, her moreso than he, as he survives as a man in his mid 90s, but in the frailiest of health. All of their children lived away for most of these years. After they both quit driving, my mother served as their chauffeur, taking them to the grocery, the doctor, and importantly, the polls. They each voted well into these final years. Mr. Doyle always allowed me to place yardsigns in their yard, which sort of surprised me given how well kept it was.

Finally, a few years ago, not many, maybe three, the Doyle's were moved away from Whippoorwill Road and into the home of their daughter, which I understand to be in Fern Creek. My mother visited a few times before Mrs. Doyle was re-settled into a nursing home where she remained until a few weeks before her death. Their home remained empty for most of that time. It was finally sold earlier this summer.

Mr. and Mrs. Doyle will always be remembered as good neighbors; good friends. Emerson wrote "The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one." These people were examples of Emerson's words. Rest in peace, Mrs. Doyle. And thanks for the meals.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

711. Section 73; Section 228, and a visit to Choateville

Section 73 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky reads as follows:

The Governor and the Lieutenant Governor shall commence the execution of the duties of their offices on the fifth Tuesday succeeding their election, and shall continue in the execution thereof until a successor shall have qualified.


Today was the fifth Tuesday succeeding the recent election for governor and lieutenant governor wherein the slate of incumbent Governor Steve Beshear and the former mayor of both the City of Louisville and of its successor-in-law the Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government Jerry E. Abramson defeated the slate of State Senate President David Williams and the now-former Commissioner of Agriculture Richie Farmer. As such, Beshear and Abramson today celebrated their inauguration by taking the celebrated Oath of Office, as prescribed in Section 228 of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, which reads, in part:

I do solemnly swear (or affirm, as the case may be) that I will support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth, and be faithful and true to the Commonwealth of Kentucky so long as I continue a citizen thereof, and that I will faithfully execute, to the best of my ability, the office of [governor, lieutenant governor] according to the law, and I do further solemnly swear (or affirm) that since the adoption of the present Constitution, I, being a citizen of this State, have not fought a duel with deadly weapons within this State nor out of it nor have I sent or accepted a challenge to fight a duel with deadly weapons, nor have I acted as second in carrying a challenge, nor aided or assisted any person thus offending, so help me God.


Both gentlemen having sworn or affirmed that they were in the business of upholding constitutions and not in the business of duelling with deadly weapons, even as a second, even in another state, they were dutifully sworn into office by the Chief Justice of the Kentucky Supreme Court, the Hon. James Minton.

As I have done twelve previous times, I attended these ceremonies up and down Capital Avenue in Kentucky's very beautiful capital city of Frankfort. My first inauguration was for Governor Ned Breathitt as a three-year-old with my mother, Barbara Hockensmith, and her mother's aunt, Dorothy Borden Collins Austin Hedger, who, at the time, lived on Second Street just east of the VFW Post. The house is gone and the lot now serves as a parking lot for the VFW.

I participated in the inaugurals of three successive governors, Martha Layne collins (1983), Wallace Wilkinson (1987), and Brereton Jones (1991), although the latter was purely by accident, being invited at the last minute by a high-ranking official to whom I could not say no.

I was fortunate enough to have seats in the inauguration of Steve Beshear four years ago and even better seats for today's event, which I attended with my dear friend Michael (Eli) Garton, also of Louisville.

While there are at this hour festivities continuing, we have returned home, here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606. We had viewed parts of the parade, which included marching bands from 54 high schools across the Commonwealth and a total of 4150 participants. We were treated to some food and drink in several places, among which were offices of the House Leadership including Speaker Greg Stumbo (of Prestonsburg) and Speaker Pro-Tem Larry Clark (of Okolona). We also spent some time at the public reception held in the Thomas Clark Kentucky History Center on Broadway in downtown Frankfort.

Before leaving town, we dropped in on my maternal grandmother's younger sister, Frances Moore, 91, of Choateville. She was taking a break from making candies and bourbon balls for the holidays and chatted for about a half hour. We looked through a picture album from her 90th birthday event last Summer at the Choateville Christian Church where she has been a lifelong member. (Although my grandmother, Frances' sister, was not a regular at church, she was also a member of Choateville, having been baptised there in 1930). We talked about family, friends, and politics, all common themes in Frankfort talk. Politics is a mainstay in my family. Aunt Frances reported having retired from "working the polls" - something she did for 53 consecutive years in the Choateville precinct of Franklin County.

We've returned home and the Commonwealth goes to work tomorrow under the continued guidance of Governor Steve Beshear and his second lieutenant governor, Jerry E. Abramson.

Incidentally, the best line of the day came from the governor's speech when he said, "We need leaders who will build bridges instead of dams." So true on so many levels.

God Bless the Commonwealth.

Below is a picture from Kentucky's leading newspaper, the Lexington Herald-Leader, from the parade review stand of Mrs. Abramson, Lt. Gov. Jerry Abramson, Gov. Beshear, a Beshear grandson, and Mrs. Beshear, who was also celebrating her birthday today. An unscheduled part of the governor's speech was to invite the crowd in attendance to join him in singing Happy Birthday to Mrs. Beshear.


Photo from www.kentucky.com, the Lexington Herald-Leader

710. December 13

Today would have been the 38th birthday of my dear friend Rob Spears. May he and all the departed souls Rest In Peace.

Joseph Robert Spears
December 13, 1973 - July 24, 1991

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

709. The advent of snow and other seasonal commentary

Ok, it's December and I've been away for a while. I have had a few of my seven faithful readers ask if I have given up on the blog, a logical conclusion given I have made few visits here recently, or for that matter in a long while. The end of the blog shows the number of entries for each month and year and as we approach the fifth birthday of the blog, now less than a month away, the numbers - as they always do - speak for themselves. There has been a steady decline month-by-month, year-by-year. My hope is to reverse that trend and given that 2012 is an election year, and my highest numbers of viewers and page visits came in 2008, I am hopeful to get the blog back on track. Today's entry will be simply a few catching=up items and little more.

First, you all know I am a big admirer of the heavens when they open up with the white stuff. I cannot remember any year where we had to wait until December 7th for some of it to fall here along the Left Bank of the Ohio River near Milepost 606, but that is the case for 2011. As I am typing, off to my right is a mirror through which I can see the weather outside to the north (along with the garage door and window, and the factory mill on the other side of the floodwall). And there it is - snow, glorious snow. I'm not sure if it was in the forecast or if this is just a few flakes passing through the area. In any event, now that I've seen the snow, I am a little recharged for the season.

Speaking of seasons, I snuck one in the title of the entry - Advent. In the liturgical calendar, we are in the season of Advent, the few weeks in preparation for the birth of Jesus and the concelebrated Mass honoring His birth - Christ's Mass, or Christmas, as it has come to be called. In Advent we wait, recall, preprare, and then celebrate. It is akin to Lent in preparation for Easter. I've written about Advent before and you can use the search bar at the top of the page to look at that entry. Christmas, then, and its "Twelve Days," arrives the night of the 24th and extends to Epiphany in the New Year. So, if any of you are out singing "On the First Day of Christmas, My True Love Sent to Me," you are ahead of schedule.

The immediate future has enough on its plate as it is. Today, of course, is the National Day of Remembrance for Pearl Harbor, a day which lives in the infamy promised to it by President Franklin Roosevelt in his speech after the attack, which took place seventy years ago today at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, back when Hawaii was still a territory, or possession, of the United States. On this day I think of my grandfather, Dan Hockensmith, who wasn't there but was a Seabee in the United States Navy during the Second World War, and loved to sing the Song of the Seabees, where one of the lyrics is "And we always will remember, the Seventh of December!" So, as I always do on this day, I am thinking of him and his war buddies, many of whom I knew when I was a little kid, almost all of whom have probably passed on to their eternal glory.

Next week marks the 23rd birthday of a favorite person of mine, Preston Bates, who is often mentioned in these entries as well as those of my Facebook page. Now, understand Preston and I are miles and miles, chasms, even canyons apart in our political beliefs. He is a libertarian of sorts and at times has called himself an anarcho-capitalist (although he has backed off that for the moment). I, on the other hand, believe in a strong system of governments at all levels, from the local municipality - something we gave up in a vote back in November 2000 (I voted NO) - to the County to the State and to the Federal, along with a willingness to work with other governments worldwide in an effort at peace and stability. Suffice it to say, Preston doesn't. But in our discussions, we find room for agreement here and there. Some of it is simply the experience of politics and government. There were many things I didn't do when I was his age that I wish I had of. One was to participate in a meaningful way in a presidential campaign at the earliest of stages. The only presidential campaign I was ever a part of to any degree at an early stage was that of United States Senator Paul Simon (D-IL) in 1988. That didn't get far, but it was fun and quite an experience. I've expressed to Preston that should he ever be offered the opportunity to have such an experience to do everything he can to make it happen, even if it is a candidate and party I could never support. And, I've promised to help him however I can. Irrespective of the candidate, the party, and the outcome, being involved in a presidential campaign is a near-unique experience and I hope he gets to live it. After all, in the 235 year history of the Republic, only 43 men have been chosen as a leader of the free world and Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces of the United States of America.

A different discussion Preston and I had a few weeks ago at the Granville Inn on S. Third Street in the U of L neighborhood focussed on music and math, two things we both enjoy (in different ways) and can easily agree on. In that conversation, we discussed the relationship between the two, or even the idea that they are ultimately the same. A few days later I went to see a theatrical performance at the indoor venue of the Iroquois Amphitheater. The play called Broadsword, a production of a local theater company, Theatre [502], whose artistic director and one of the founders is Gil Reyes - see their website at www.theatre502.org. The play's run, locally, is over and I meant to post about it before it was over. The play is set in urban New Jersey and is centered on a reluctant reunion of a heavy metal band after the death of one its members. Pretty cool play but the thing that stood out - gave me cold chills, in fact - was one of the lines in the play wherein was discussed the relationship between math and music, mimicking the earlier discussion between me and Preston. It wasn't a theme, just a line in the play, but it underscored the proposition of that relationship that Preston and I had posited a few days earlier. As for Mr. Reyes, I've been following his work, or works in which he has been invovled, since about 2002 if memory serves me. It was through Gil I first met Stuart Perelmuter, another friend mentioned here and there in the blog. In one of Gil's productions, another friend of mine, Josh Peters (who celebrated a 32nd birthday a few days ago) played a key part. The Theatre [502] troupe produced three plays this year, two of which I had the good fortune to see.

That's all for now. I'll be back soon.

I would ask, since it has been so long since I've posted, that if you've read this far - to the end - please post a comment below - even anonymously - to let me know I still have some readership out there in the ether.

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.