Tuesday, May 31, 2005

YMCA's LaRocca: "No matter what happens with Scribner Place funding, the YMCA is coming to Floyd County."

Downtown revitalization again makes the New Albany Tribune front page, as the newspaper’s managing editor steps away form the education beat and chats with Joe LaRocca, executive director of the YMCA of Southern Indiana.

YMCA: 'No doubt' about building in New Albany, by Chris Morris, Tribune Managing Editor.

Chris clearly surveys funding sources for the new YMCA and the Scribner Place project. Here are selected excerpts from the article:

Funding for Scribner Place continues to be debated. The New Albany City Council has the final say on a bond that will help in paying for the project that many say will breathe life back into the city's downtown area.

“We have had great support from the community," LaRocca said. "No matter what happens with Scribner Place funding, the YMCA is coming to Floyd County."

"The only negative thing that we have heard are the concerns people have with the city not following through with their plan. And that is unfortunate," LaRocca said. "But we are moving forward."

Visit last Friday's UPDATED: Scribner Place: Who's for it, who's against it, and who hasn't decided for a listing of Scribner Place proponents, opponents, and fence sitters ... at least the ones who aren't invisible.

Sodrel in spin mode at news of possible Greenway funding reprieve

Finally there is hopeful news about federal funding for the embryonic Ohio Valley Greenway project.

Greenway trail along riverfront might get $3.1 million boost, by Alex Davis
(limited shelf life on C-J links).

It’s fun to watch as the 9th District Congressman, Mike “Sod Diesel” Sodrel, continues to furiously backpedal from his previously quoted assertion that the Greenway is a “feel-good project,” a pronouncement that had the rare and beneficial effect of uniting informed opinion in New Albany, Clarksville and Jeffersonville.

The Courier-Journal’s Davis now finds a whimpering Sodrel begging not to be taken out of context, and denying ill intent in his comments:

"I got beat up pretty bad by a lot of local folks because I said this was a quality-of-life project, and not economic development," (Sodrel) said in a telephone interview. "But I never said I was going to pull the plug on it."

NA Confidential to Mike Sodrel:

Quality-of-life is economic development.

Monday, May 30, 2005

A very special NA Confidential interview with “Anonymous”

"Anonymous” …

(a.k.a. legalbeagle, smalltownusa, concern taxpayer, hometown girl, trucker buddy, proud democrat, redwhiteblue … etc., etc., ad nauseam; age, address, sex, political affiliation and very existence on planet earth completely unknown, and damned well intent on keeping it that way, because what would free speech be without invisibility?)

… has emerged as the foremost hooded Internet spokesperson for New Albany’s unreconstructed, flat-earth Luddites, known hereabouts as Brambleberries owing to the distinctive grazing preferences of Mustela putorius, the common polecat, which accepts a home range of a quarter mile, and is determined not to wander past these self-imposed boundaries.

"Anonymous" is the talk of the town.

Declining persistent NAC requests for a face-to-face interview, which “anonymous” finds even more threatening than progress itself, he or she consented to a far-reaching question and answer session.

To preserve the anonymity of “anonymous,” this groundbreaking interview was conducted utilizing rotary dial telephones, Morse code, smoke signals and carrier pigeons.

NA Confidential:
Thanks for not sitting down with us. You have expressed anonymous opposition to the Scribner Place development downtown, but a wide array of local business and civic leaders feel that Scribner Place is a good idea. Can you explain your position?

conspiracygaragepointyheadsaaaaaaaaAAAARGGHHH …

In Richard Florida’s book, “Rise of the Creative Class,” the author theorizes that future economic development in cities like New Albany might derive from the presence of certain types of workers, who make employment choices according to non-traditional models that incorporate factors such as a community’s quality of life, its tolerance for multiculturalism, and proximity to recreational opportunities. Do you think New Albany has what it takes to prosper in this evolving economic system?

conspiracygaragepointyheadsaaaaaaaaAAAARGGHHH …

The French writer and political theorist Voltaire is said to have commented, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Based on your comments at Speak Out Loud NA, would you say that you agree or disagree with Voltaire’s sentiments?

conspiracygaragepointyheadsaaaaaaaaAAAARGGHHH …

Good nutrition and regular exercise are important aspects of one’s personal health and wellness goals. Does your family eat salad more than twice a week, or less than twice a week?

conspiracygaragepointyheadsaaaaaaaaAAAARGGHHH …

Okay, here’s an easier one: IU, U of L, or UK?

conspiracygaragepointyheadsaaaaaaaaAAAARGGHHH …

Thanks again for the, uh, chat … it really eased our minds.

What 3rd District Councilpuppet Steve Price really is trying to say is:


Diary: NA Confidential's Memorial Day weekend in Bloomington and NA

Taking advantage of an ideal, sunny Memorial Day weekend Saturday, Mrs. Confidential and I motored to Bloomington, Indiana, for a much-delayed visit to the hometown of songsmith Hoagy Carmichael.

First, we dropped in on “Opening Day” at the New Albany Farmers’ Market, located downtown on the corner of Market and Bank, where there were a handful of vendors, and strawberries, bread and flowers for sale. It seemed a good beginning for the new season at the local market.

We made our purchases and hit the highway, arriving at Bloomington’s Farmers’ Market around 9:00 a.m., local time. The market in Bloomington simply is amazing, and I haven’t seen anything like it since waking to discover the weekly market day in progress in the square facing our hotel in Tournai, Belgium, during last summer’s Tour de Trappist.*

Bloomington’s farmers’ market dwarfs the above-average version held on Bardstown Road in Louisville. For the majority of the year, the market venue is a municipal surface parking lot, but roofed arcades have been constructed, their support beams sprinkled with electrical outlets, and other infrastructure provided so that market days see a complete and magical transformation.

Even this early in the season, there was plenty of food, with meats ranging from elk to pork, root vegetables, cheeses, honey and baked goods. Flowers, seeds and potted plants were there in abundance. Coffee service and scones were available, a solo singer was performing, and environmental activists and political groups of various stripes offered information at tables to the side.

At least 500 people were at the market, including a young Vietnamese-American man who saw my Oakland Athletics pullover and told me he lives in Oakland and roots for the A’s. It turns out that I’ve been a fan longer than he’s been alive. Other than that reminder of encroaching longevity, it was a good conversation.

We then drove to E. Kirkwood Avenue for breakfast (bagel and lox on my end) at the Village Deli and a pleasant stroll through the scenic campus of Indiana University, which would be far less impressive architecturally if not for the sheer ubiquity of limestone in the region.

IU’s Lilly Library currently features an exhibit on pop-up books and the papers of our former 9th District Congressman, Lee Hamilton, who is much missed in the NA Confidential household.

Coffee was taken in the funky Soma coffeehouse at Grant and Kirkwood, where an aquarium is housed in a 1950’s television set, old gumball machines dispense chocolate-covered espresso beans, and the slogan is, “Coffee first … then your mundane bullshit.”

From Soma we walked to the quintessentially Hoosier courthouse square to browse the three (!) bookstores located there, and reveled in the sidewalk café ambience. Afterwards, it was back to the diverse Kirkwood/Grant area for lunch. Eateries boasting world cuisines – Thai, Turkish, Burmese, Moroccan, Tibetan, Japanese, Mexican – were open for business, and we opted for the Snow Lion, one of several tangible signs of Bloomington’s Tibetan cultural presence, for bean strings, noodles, fried tofu, and a version of kimchee.

Our final errand before returning to New Albany was to stop at the Bicycle Garage on Kirkwood and complete a transaction begun earlier in the day, for I had purchased a bike for Mrs. Confidential’s forthcoming birthday. She’ll now be free to move about New Albany on wheels, dodging motorized bumpkins and evading broken Smirnoff Ice bottles, and also be able to accompany me on bicycling excursions at home and abroad.

Back home in NA, our first ride was to Zesto’s for an evening snack. It was a fitting end to a very good Indiana day.

Sunday was another sunny, temperate, late spring day, and in early afternoon we took our bikes to the Loop Island Wetlands, tethered them to a tree by the old railway bridge, and set off on foot to investigate a natural preserve unlike any other in the metro Louisville area – thanks to owner Al Goodman’s visionary (and ongoing) efforts.

At the dueling grounds by the Ohio River, a sweeping vista of the Kentucky shore is framed by the K & I Bridge to the west, and the Clarksville waterfront to the east, and in the mind’s eye, a completed Ohio River Greenway project begins to make sense.

Current funding problems aside, the Greenway surely will come to pass, and when it does, it should do so in a scaled-back version that eliminates motorized roadways from the plan.


In closing, permit me to offer a Memorial Day remembrance. My father, Roger G. Baylor (1925-2001) served in the United States Marine Corps during WWII as a gunner aboard the USS Washington in the Pacific Theater. If you happen to attend a City Council meeting and observe me standing for the pledge of allegiance, be aware that my doing so is in honor of him.

* Trappists are a style of Belgian ale not served at Hugh E. Bir’s ... and this is just as well, for all parties.

Anatomy of the Sunday Tribune, 05/29/05

Sunday's New Albany Tribune is filled with recommended reading.

In a front-page story by Chris Morris, 9th District Congressman Mike Sodrel describes his Memorial Day visit to Afghanistan, noting that there is “no time frame for completing the mission” in the war on terror.

(Somewhere in New Albany, Councilman Cappuccino grunts agreement with Sodrel, and says to no one in particular, “no time frame – just like the city’s budget crisis … why, it might take us until November, 2007 to solve that one.”)

Elsewhere in the Sunday edition of the ‘Bune, staffers Roni Montgomery and Kyle Lowry provide good coverage of Ninny’s Restaurant and Destinations Booksellers, respectively.

Greg Gapsis of the Evening News has the front page of the “Spectrum” section entirely to himself, and doesn’t disappoint with a well-crafted piece entitled “Members Only: Visionaries transform one of New Albany’s most historic buildings into a professional club,” the story of how New Albany businessmen Carl Holliday and Steve Goodman, “who are developing a career restoring historic structures as hospitality venues,” are transforming the moribund Redman’s Club on Main Street into a professional club and banquet facility.

For the first time in weeks, an enticing photo of one of many local high school female athletes is NOT positioned prominently at the top of the sports page. Instead, there is a decidedly non-provocative view of Jeff High's retiring athletic director.

Has this spring’s cavacalade of quasi-cheesecake female athletic digitals been coincidental? Only the 'Bune's photog knows for sure ...

Moving hurriedly on, regular guest columnist Terry Cummins offers a predictably witty perspective on marriage and filthy kitchen sinks.

A different and far less savory aspect of relationships – physical and mental abuse – is considered by Amany Ali in her column, and she does a fine job of balancing personal outrage with sensible advice to female readers.

Ms. Ali's not the only person at the newspaper who feels “like screaming,” as the managing editor, Chris Morris, makes a rare and emotional foray into partisan politics in an unexpected editorial, “Elected officials need to start working for us.”

Chris is “sick of elected officials doing nothing,” scatters his fire in non-specific, populist fashion at any and all “spoiled brats” in elected office, points to seemingly endless debates in Washington over filibusters and judges, and notes that these disagreements come at a time when health care costs and other important needs must be addressed.

He then delves into affairs in the building across the way from the Tribune office on Scribner Drive.

“Partisan politics are not just played out in Washington, D.C., but also in state and local governments. Our legislature just ended weeks of partisan battles before coming up with a budget that still falls short of funding all our needs. And in Floyd County, Scribner Place could very well fall victim to partisan politics.

“When Mayor Regina Overton proposed the downtown project in 2002, the County Commissioners and County Council for two basic reasons – she didn’t include them in developing the plan and she was a Republican. Now, even though New Albany has a mayor from their own party, the commissioners and county say the county is broke. So, Scribner Place may come up short in funding which would force the project to be scaled back. That is too bad because this should be a Floyd County project.

“I am all about standing up for beliefs. I admire people who run for office and stand behind principles of a particular party. However, they also need to understand that stall tactics, whining and partisan politics doesn’t solve problems. And, after all, isn’t that what we elect these people to do?"

Very interesting.

Note to Chris Morris: Welcome on board. NA Confidential congratulates you for detecting the threat posed to Scribner Place by petty, partisan politics, the practitioners of which we have been outing for some months now.

Chris, you’re quite right in feeling outrage over this attempted putsch, but rather than shrugging your shoulders and saying, “that’s too bad,” why not throw the Tribune’s editorial weight behind the right course?

Just push down on the accelerator … she’ll go faster than 30 mph, you know.

And congratulations on a fine Sunday edition of the newspaper.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Tim on Steve on Scribner Place: Rather like non-alcoholic beer, isn't it?

In Friday’s “UPDATED: Scribner Place: Who's for it, who's against it, and who hasn't decided,” we included the 3rd District Councilman Steve Price in the list of “who’s against” the Scribner Place project.

This generated the following response from Tim Deatrick, correspondent for the Weekly World News (or the Tribune – we can’t recall which), who says:

“I was at the May 17th S. Ellen Jones meeting. CM Steve Price didn’t say he is against Scribner Place as a project, he said he is against Scribner Place being financed the way it is being proposed, because (1) the county is not willing to become a financial partner in this endeavor, (2) the current condition of the city's financial status is precarious at best, and (3) the Mayor and his Economic Development chief do not have any commitments from private investment in Scribner Place.”

Okey dokey, Tim.

At various times during the S. Ellen Jones neighborhood association meeting -- at least when Price spoke for himself and did not hurriedly defer to the numerological elders at the FacTable to speak for him -- he managed to offer at least two other "plans" as obvious improvements over Scribner Place.

First, Price mentioned transforming the old Reisz Furniture building on Main Street into condos and a rooftop bar to watch exciting events like Thunder Over Louisville. When asked who would pay for such a worthy project, one of the ranking Brambleberries laughed and pointed to the room at large: “You will!”

Second, Price interjected that he’d always thought it a good idea to take the funds earmarked for Scribner Place infrastructure development and use them to buy and redevelop derelict downtown buildings, in effect offering to nationalize them and have the city go into the landlord business, much in the same fashion as Havana and Pyongyang.

(NA Confidential’s not the only socialist in New Albany, after all.)

Add these statements to Price's admonition against "putting all the eggs in one basket," or whatever phrase from the Andy Griffith Show that happened to be in the homily file that particular evening, and then throw in the three factors Tim cited in his comment.

Taking these statements together, as a whole, how can it be said that Price is not opposed to Scribner Place as a project?

If Steve Price is reading, we’ll gladly post his clarification in the space beneath this.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Bolovschakite slander against NA City Controller Garry?

With unanticipated authority, the New Albany Tribune devotes the front-page marquee on a Memorial Day weekend Saturday to the continuing fall-out from the City Council meeting of May 19:

"New Albany City Controller Kay Garry is taking a firm stand against people who have questioned her in her capacity as the city's chief financial officer.

"Garry said yesterday that allegations made against her at a May 19 City Council meeting have provoked her to take legal action.

"Garry is talking about accusations that were made against her and New Albany Mayor James Garner by New Albany resident and business owner Valla Ann Bolovschak. During that meeting, Bolovschak demanded that the council request an investigation into what she called malfeasance and misappropriations from Garner's administration and Garry."

From City official considering legal action after accusations, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor.

Read more at Volunteer Hoosier:

"At the last, and momentous, city council meeting, (Councilman Bill) Schmidt and his minions launched a reprehensible attack on Mrs. Garry's integrity. There is no other word for it. The charges were baseless and mean-spirited. Under the now monotonous banner of "we don't know," a bitter city resident, taking her cues from a small-minded cadre of fellow believers, demanded that council make a criminal referral against Mrs. Garry for what turned out to be "what-if" spreadsheet entries."

From May I Be the First to Say ... by Randy Smith, Volunteer Hoosier blog.

Friday Tribune coverage of Scribner Place funding

After yesterday's NA Confidential survey of Scribner Place supporters, opponents and fence sitters, the New Albany Tribune offered a front page assessment of the financial situation:

Funding for Scribner Place could be in jeopardy, by Amany Ali, New Albany Tribune City Editor.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Link to today's Courier-Journal article about Scribner Place

Here's the errant link to today's Courier-Journal article about Scribner Place.

Scribner Place site is being vacated; Last businesses are moving out, by Ben Zion Hershberg, Louisville Courier-Journal (limited shelf life for C-J links).

UPDATED: Scribner Place: Who's for it, who's against it, and who hasn't decided

Note to readers: For whatever reason, incessant error messages have precluded us from including links to other web sites. See "InfoLinks" further down the right margin of NA Confidential for some of the relevant links.

Today, Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal writes, “The last two businesses (Schmitt Furniture & Retailers Supply warehouses) at the site of the Scribner Place project in downtown New Albany are moving this weekend, clearing the way for the buildings to be demolished.”

Scribner Place site is being vacated: last businesses are moving out

Hershberg makes no mention of the future, if any, for the former railroad freight depot at State Street by the floodwall. Perhaps Ted Fulmore of the Historic Preservation Commission can enlighten readers with respect to the current status of that topic, which was last discussed here on April 14.

Louis Schmitt closes the Courier-Journal article by observing, “We're really excited about the Y."

Schmitt, by all accounts a successful and respected local businessman, obviously is a proponent of the Scribner Place/YMCA project.

This fact would be entirely unremarkable if not for the incessant hue and cry from the city’s blinkered flat-earthers, grandstanding Brambleberries, petty obstructionists and unrepentant Luddites, who demand variously that the city of New Albany operate according to the dictates of their own admittedly threadbare household finances, but beyond even that, from the trustworthy perspective of good business practices.

Moving circuitously from these questionably compatible planks, the “no progress at any price” rabble breathlessly reach to conclude that Scribner Place is a catastrophic boondoggle designed by pointy-headed, soccer-playing, porno-viewing, tax-and-spend do-gooders to bankrupt our fair city – when all we really need is to save a couple hundred dollars a year by making public officials pay for their toilet paper.

And yet …

It seems to be the case that a large number of local businessmen echo Louis Schmitt’s support for the Scribner Place/YMCA project, and these are the same businessmen whose bread-and-butter principles of accountability are referenced by the alarmists as so crucially applicable to local government as a whole.

Numerous other civic organizations and media outlets have joined these local businessmen in supporting the Scribner Place/YMCA project.

So, our goal today is to compile a list of who’s for it, and who’s against it, one based on public, on-the-record pronouncements.

This list is by no means complete, and readers are both invited and urged to add to it.


City Hall

The administration of Mayor James Garner.

Editorial endorsements (media, newspapers):

Business First of Greater Louisville (October 8, 2004) ... archived on-line.

Louisville Courier-Journal (June 6, 2003) ... on-line pay per view.

New Albany Tribune (October 5, 2004; May 12, 2005) ... not archived on-line.

Civic endorsements

Caesars Foundation of Floyd County ... donating millions of dollars for the project.

Develop New Albany

New Albany Historic Business District Association

YMCA of Southern Indiana ... raising millions of dollars for the project.

Neighborhood Associations

East Spring Street


Neighborhood Associations

Main Street
S. Ellen Jones
Silver Grove

Political Parties

Floyd County Democratic Party
Floyd County Republican Party


3rd District Councilman Steve Price ... as stated on Tuesday, May 17, at the meeting of the S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Here's an idea: Shame as a tool of neighborhood improvement

NA Confidential still prefers stocks and shackles on Hauss Square, followed by eminent domain proceedings, but here's another, milder viewpoint:

"Dayton has joined a small number of cities nationwide that try to pressure property owners into cleaning up their act by posting large signs on rundown, vacant houses identifying the owners and how to contact them."

From Cities Hope Signs Shame Lax Homeowners, by James Hannah, Associated Press Writer.

It was twenty years ago today ... and 48 hours to Istanbul

(These accounts of my 1985 trip to Europe will continue through the summer of 2005)

“Sprechen Sie Deutsche?”

Somewhere beyond the fuzzy perimeter, past the friendly confines of a feverish dream, smothered beneath a layer of fatigue, compounded by sweat and grit, but pleased to a certain degree by delectable salami and goat cheese sandwiches washed down with surprisingly cold Amstel lager in bottles …

“Bitte – Sprechen Sie Deutsche?”

Midday, lying on my back atop a wooden bench in a stuffy closet misidentified as the train station waiting room, the station itself hardly more than a two-room afterthought with a buffet counter and one solitary ticket window – all closed – and with flies buzzing in lazy acceptance of the languid pace of life in Pithion, Greece … the vaguely unsettling mass of Turkey only a few miles away across a perpetually tense border … exactly why was someone haranguing me in German?

“Bitte, bitte.”

Even worse, I’d heard the song “Careless Whisper” by Wham! playing on the radio back in Athens, and now the wretched George Michael springboard cut wouldn’t disengage from my brain’s cassette deck.

“Sprechen Sie Deutsche?”

Through narrow slits could be seen a middle-aged, olive-skinned man with neatly trimmed, pencil-thin mustache, outfitted in what seemed to me to be a stereotypical Middle-Eastern green khaki, desert-style suit, his brow furrowed, and absolutely determined to speak with me in a language I recognized but could not speak.

“No,” I replied, slowly regaining consciousness. “Do you speak English?”

The man, who shortly would introduce himself as Hassan, was transparently delighted.

“English?” He smiled broadly, showing rows of metallic teeth. “Of course, English – you are American, yes?”

A profoundly one-sided dialogue commenced as it became apparent that Hassan had no pressing questions to ask, but simply wished to talk to any available human being, having narrowed his options to me after observing the two Greek women napping listlessly nearby, heads resting against each other, feet atop big cardboard boxes bound with twine.

There were valuable lessons to be learned from the circumstances of my situation, finding myself engaged in conversation with a Syrian traveling salesman during the hot early afternoon hours of an aimless day like all the rest in a tiny border town with more rail sidings and goats than humans, where an unshaven man in raggedy pajamas soon emerged bleary-eyed from a nearby house, grabbed a Greek state railways cap from a metal gatepost, and stumbled down a dirt path to throw a switch that heralded the passage of a freight train.

The primary lesson: Only freight trains would be moving until eight-thirty that evening, when the regular Athens-Istanbul “express” would embark at its regular nightly time for the 10-hour overnight run to the Turkish capital.

The people on that train would have boarded in the Greek capital the previous evening, long after I’d begun the day by concluding that the official schedules couldn’t possibly be right, and that if I started from Athens in the morning and rode to Thessalonika (Saloniki), surely there would be some way to get to Istanbul without waiting.

This proved not to be the case, and not only were my choices in Pithion extremely limited, but now an invasive Syrian had ruled out the best of them, sleep.

Hassan’s English was rusty at first, and occasionally he lapsed back into German, but as the stories of his life and times accumulated, I began to become accustomed to the cadence of his multinational delivery.

He spoke emotionally of places he’d been or lived, places I’d probably never visit, and he found something good to say about each of them: Aleppo, Jordan, Cairo, Saudi Arabia, and Beirut. He spoke of lamb dishes, marketplaces, the Koran, and his wife and children back home in Damascus.

Soon it seemed that I’d stumbled upon the very best way to kill a long wait in Pithion.

The trip from Athens to Saloniki the day before had lasted until early afternoon. It had amused me that the uniforms worn by Greek conductors never seemed to be entirely matched; some would have crisp railway jackets and blue jeans, while others might be wearing their standard-issue pants with a civilian’s print shirt, untucked. The overall effect was pleasingly anarchic.

The baggage check at Saloniki’s train station was closed for the lunchtime break, and there were neither storage lockers nor city maps to be found. The taxi drivers were asleep in their cars, and as was so often the case during my early travel days, these erratic conditions constituted sufficient frustration to abruptly abandon the sensible prospect of spending the night in Greece’s second-largest city.

It’d be somewhere else, or bust. Eurailpass in hand, I caught the next train out of town.

An alternative plan was hastily devised as the express for Alexandropoulis left the station with me seated in second class hungrily craving the lunch I’d neglected to pack. The new scheme called for an exit at the Greek rail station closest to the Bulgarian border, then a hop up to Sofia for a taste of Balkan communism before regrouping and traveling east toward Istanbul.

A Bulgarian entry visa had been procured before leaving the States, and it would have been no problem to use it, but as the train looped first north, then east, dark and forbidding mountains arose on the horizon where the border lay, and my resolution crumbled in the face of uncertainty – no, better to keep going as originally planned.

Now it was Istanbul, or bust.

The train made only a few stops as it tore through the early evening hours across the under-populated region of Thrace, and the growing coolness of the scented breeze through the open windows as night began to fall, and towns and fields flew past, made a lasting impression on me.

Where had the day gone?

Alexandropoulis, a nondescript and pitch-black port city, was the final stop of the day. It was after midnight. A quick look at the posted schedule revealed that no trains of any habitable sort would be leaving until five the following morning, when the milk run would depart for Pithion, another step closer to the border, and one lying on the route taken by the international trains to Istanbul.

It seemed senseless to pay for a room at the flophouse across the avenue and then use it for less than five hours, so I napped on a bench in front of the station and the nearby docks, where waves lapped against the hulls of rusty trawlers. The rapidly aging Service Merchandise travel bag was a pillow, and my blue K & H Café vinyl softball jacket a blanket.

Note to beginners: You probably shouldn’t try this at home.

At eight the next morning, I peered through filthy glasses at the hand-lettered “departures” sign facing the Pithion station yard. It revealed the cold, hard truth: Almost 13 hours were yet to pass until departure, and then 10 more would be needed on the train to reach Istanbul.

Another whole day … in Pithion.

I looked around. There were no hostels, no showers, no baggage checks, nowhere except fields to walk even if the bag could be safely stashed, but there was abundant bread, salami, goat cheese, Amstel, and the ubiquitous gaggle of older Greek men sipping demitasses of terribly sweet espresso-style coffee between shots of Ouzo, the fiery liquor turned milky white by the addition of a dash of mineral water.

There are times when a purely liquid breakfast makes sense, but I was desperately in need of solid food.

Pockets bulging with drachmas during a halcyon summer noted for favorable rates of exchange between European currencies and the dollar, my examination of prices at the claustrophobic buffet counter led to a conversation conducted entirely in the international sign language of mutually agreeable commerce, an armful of sandwiches, several bottles of Amstel (brewed in Athens under license), and the powerful urge to collapse in a heap when the attendant closed up shop around noon and disappeared into the village.

Then came Hassan. Later in the afternoon, he grabbed a paper napkin and began sketching a map of Istanbul.

“Where will you stay? Have friend? Hotel?”

“Hostel,” I replied.

“Hostel? No hostel. Hotel. You need a reservation?” he asked, accenting the word like a Frenchman would.

“No, I’ll find something.”

“No? No problem!”

He began scribbling furiously.

“Galata bridge … hotel, hotel, hotel.”

Each “hotel” was punctuated with a stab into the napkin and a blotch of ink.

“Sultan Ahmet … hotel, hotel, hotel.”

Soon Hassan had rendered the napkin into a multi-layered tic-tac-toe sheet, and his point was clear. There should be no problem finding a room in Istanbul, where I’d previously targeted the Sultan Tourist Hostel near the ancient Hagia Sophia shrine as the budget traveler’s best option.

“You must ask for hotel price, but pay less. This is our custom. Understand?”

Yes -- the art of haggling, which terrified me.

Eventually even Hassan grew tired, sprawling expansively on an adjacent bench, and within minutes snoring deeply in a way that denoted peaceful satisfaction. The buffet had reopened, and I needed to visit the pit toilet outside. There was noise outside; probably another freight train. When I returned to the waiting room from my errands, Hassan was gone.

A bit later, as dusk began to fall and the reckoning of yet another goat cheese and salami sandwich was at hand, I strolled out onto the undersized platform and Hassan’s voice suddenly boomed out from above the tracks. He was leaning out the window of an Istanbul-bound railcar parked at the siding to await the rest of the train soon to come from Athens, and he’d found his seat for the forthcoming trip.

“You may come visit!”

On board, in the first class seating compartment, Hassan was heating a small tin of water for tea, using a gadget that resembled a camp stove with sterno. He offered a drink, and I accepted. It was fragrant and citrusy. My Syrian tour guide reviewed marching orders, adding a few more lines to the tattered napkin, and we parted with affection.

My second-class seat was aboard the incoming express cars from Athens, and all five seatmates were friendly Germans bound eventually for the beaches of Turkey’s Mediterranean coastline. Border formalities were excruciatingly formal and drawn-out; luggage was searched, passports scrutinized, and vague memories of “Midnight Express” conjured into full, stalking presence, except that the Germans yawned their way through it, and it became clear that I was over-reacting.

By morning’s light, the outer suburbs of Istanbul were daunting, yielding eventually to the usual urban railway tableau of factory back sides and limp laundry on the balconies of old, gritty housing blocks. At last, the rapidly slowing train halted inside Sirkeci station, undoubtedly the grandest I’d yet seen.

Alighting, I saw nattily uniformed porters and smelled tobacco, coffee and perfume. You’ll forgive me the conceit of romantic Orient Express daydreams to which I’d been prefigured after years of reading history, visions that dissolved back into reality when I heard the voice of Radio Damascus calling me one, final time:

“You okay? Good sleep?”

Yes, and no.

“You have map?” he asked, and without waiting for an answer, made a sweeping gesture with his arms: “Many hotels in this city. You have no problems here. Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Hassan.”

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Louisville's Abramson on downtown growth: "We primed the pump"

Lost in the crossfire Tuesday was a thought-provoking piece in the Courier-Journal:

Downtown (Louisville) digs are in demand; Report gauges housing interest, by Sheldon S. Shafer, Louisville Courier-Journal (limited shelf life on C-J links).

Here’s an excerpt from Shafer’s article:

Metro Mayor Jerry Abramson noted that the city over the past 10 years has spent tens of millions of dollars on downtown physical improvements -- parks, streetscapes, transportation, roads -- and to assist development.

Significant private investment has followed, he said, adding that "we primed the pump."

"We have tried to create an atmosphere where people want to live," he said. “We are seeing distinct downtown neighborhoods develop … "

… Abramson said the city's role now is to "focus on the amenities" to support the housing -- encouraging developers to pursue projects such as gas stations, parking and retailing, including groceries, drugstores and barbershops.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Ballad of a Thin Man, Part II: C-J’s roving eye falls on the Constituency for Progress

Today in the Courier-Journal, reporter Ben Hershberg surveys the crowd of activists gathered for the teach-in held by a nascent Constituency for Progress, and sees something profoundly inexplicable by the traditional meat ‘n’ taters political culture of the town Larry Kochert knows so well:

Activism sprouts in New Albany; Civic movements in the city are rare, by Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal (short shelf life on C-J links)

It would seem that activism is the flavor of the day: Councilman Kochert tells Hershberg that he doubts it will last; CM Mark Seabrook warns that it isn't always well informed, and CM Steve Price says it's a good thing.

In the spirit of media fairness, NA Confidential visited the Tribune web site to see if activism had reached its shores yet, but the site hasn't been updated since Friday.

We suppose that answers the question.

Roger and Laura discuss free speech and accountability

(Note: This is in response to comments by Laura Oates, as posted here previously. See also the thread yesterday at Laura's blog).

Laura: Cowardly anonymous comments 'eh?

Roger (in italics): Happy to read your thoughts, Laura, and as an added bonus – as though integrity were not already sufficient reward for both of us linking our identities to our opinions – now we can engage in a meaningful dialogue in a responsible manner.

I can't help but call your hand on this one Mr. Baylor, as I wonder what you would be willing to put at stake with your words should you be in the same position as those who have, until now, been held silent.

Being held silent is one thing, but holding oneself silent is quite another. In the first instance, coercion emanates from outside the individual. We’re united in opposing such a state of affairs.

In the second, it restricts action from within, perhaps owing to fears real or imagined, or more commonly, because the individual is ignorant of the precepts that define civilized discourse. Because a state of ignorance is a state of unawareness, to learn these precepts is to cure the problem.

Would you give up your job? Would you give up your career? Would you risk your livelihood, your income? Would you do that to your family, only for the sake of others who would insist that anything less than such a sacrifice is "cowardly"?

While it is undeniable that the career prospects of French Resistance fighters in WWII would have been dramatically curtailed had the fighters not sought to remain anonymous, we’re not speaking here about extreme cases in the realm of human experience. Rather, we’re speaking about taking simple, primary responsibility for one’s own opinions.

You wonder what I “would be willing to put at stake,” and I must confess to being both puzzled and slightly offended by this question. Judging by the responses I’ve received during the past seven months of NA Confidential, at least some people hereabouts feel that what is being written is important – or else, why would they respond in the first place?

Thus, given that I am a small business owner, as is Randy Smith and Rick Carmickle (among others), and dependent on the good will of customers for my livelihood, exactly how is it that I’m not risking something or putting something at stake when I venture an opinion and attach my name to it?

In defending those who opt for anonymity, you note that they face dire consequences; logically, so must Randy, Rick and Roger.

Everyone who has an opinion regarding the political processes in this town should have the right to make their opinion known without sacrificing their job, their business, their associations, or their safety.

Of course that's true, but I wonder how your argument can leap so effortlessly from the simple, pro-social and responsible act of authenticating one’s opinion by affixing identity, to a fearsome place where doing so implies an automatic, sacrificial risk to job, career, livelihood, income, and family? Shouldn’t we be undertaking the elimination of fear, not its perpetuation?

Just because we live in a small town, doesn't mean we should fall victim to small minds.

Exactly, but for this assertion to retain validity, it must be all of the “small minds,” not only some. I wonder: Is it possible to be victimized by an anonymous “small mind?”

Indeed, some of the greatest minds among us have been muzzled due to this "reveal or retreat" mandate that you have insisted on.

Greatest minds? Muzzled?

Consider that twice in recent weeks, anonymous contributors to NA Confidential have slurred my character with blatant mistruths. They know quite well where to find me, as I make no effort to hide, but how do I find them in order to correct the mistruths? Is this a level playing field? Are you defending anonynmous lies as the products of “great” minds?

Laura, you’re contriving virtue where precious little exists, and defending habits of “thinking” that have the precise effect of ravaging the very principles of “free speech” you so passionately seek to defend.

Your newly adopted constituency of anonymity desires one thing above all else, and this is the vicarious thrill of hiding unseen in the rhetorical bushes and hurling inflammatory brickbats at those who have the integrity and, yes, the simple honor to play the game by the rules, as it was meant to be played, and as it can be learned by virtually anyone who cares about doing something the right way.

Perhaps the potentiality of balancing the scales of differing opinions is off-putting to you? After all, if you can silence the opposition, you will prevail as the presumptive voice of the majority.

I believe that the efficacy of free speech has identity as its key element, in the sense that each and every one of us speaks as a unique individual. It follows that anonymity is tantamount to vandalism.

Consequently, your “off-putting” assertion is illogical, because in fact, I am upholding the highest of all standards in the presentation of “differing opinions,” not the lowest. My goal is the engage the “opposition,” not silence it, and my record of public commentary over a period of more than two decades speaks for itself.

Just a theory from a simple sociologist trained to test theories.

The sociologist is far from simple. Obviously, she cares for the future of the city. In this instance, she’s simply fighting the wrong battle, and doing so under the banner of an overly simplistic theory that doesn’t correspond with reality. Thanks, I enjoyed the chat.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Another view: Floyd County Commissioner Charles Freiberger on the proposed Grant Line Road annex

Previously at NA Confidential, we observed the green space opposite the emerging Applebee’s on Grant Line Road, and wrote "Board of Commissioners votes in favor of Grant Line sprawl, adjourns to view American Idol."

My former high school basketball teammate and current 2nd District Commissioner Charles Freiberger responded promptly to a request for information, and provides this perspective of last week’s vote in favor of building a new office annex.

“As always is the case, there is another side to the story.

“The purchase of Northside Christian would have cost $3 million with about $2 million more in remodeling. You still have an old building.

“We don't have to purchase land; we have the land. The youth shelter is better located on Grant Line Road because of the park usage.

“No more sprawl will take place. We are just replacing our building with another one. The road frontage has never been talked about being sold. In the future, it becomes space for our expansion if needed. This keeps us from having to have more than one construction site, which reduces costs.

“The downtown might experience more county employees in the future, because the probation offices will probably end up in the City-County Building when the basement offices are moved to the Grant Line Road area. This puts all our court-related people downtown (more people downtown than leaving).

“Thanks for sending me the e-mail.”

Charles A. Freiberger - 2nd District. Lafayette & Greenville Townships

UPDATED: Let the cowardly anonymous comments begin: A special NA Confidential report from the May 19 City Council meeting

As promised, Rick Carmickle took notes at last week’s city council meeting, and provides coverage.

NA Confidential appreciates Rick's efforts!

Tuesday, May 24: City Clerk Marcey Wisman has confirmed that it was Valla Ann Bolovschak, not Tim Deatrick, whose public communications reference to Mayor James Garner as "Jimmy" prompted stern words from Councilwoman Bev Crump. According to Deatrick, his words were, “The Mayor is taking the citizens of New Albany to the cleaners!” I apologize for the confusion.


First, my remarks during communications from the public:

Mr. President and members of the city council, thank you for this opportunity to come before you and speak. I represent the constituents gathered downstairs on the plaza, numbering somewhere around 30 to 50.

We the people elected you; in your campaign promises you declared that you would support us! You said that you would be about the business of people, seeing to the will of your constituents. We have lost faith is some of you -- while you look after your own personal agendas, this city remains in a crisis!

You all sing the praises of Mrs. Garry while assembled in this hall; however, when not in a public setting, some you are almost guilty of slander towards her. This plan is the only plan that has been presented to you; even this council can put aside petty differences to do the job required of you. Please support this budget to start putting New Albany back on solid ground.

As you entered the building, you may have noticed nine shirts hanging on a line. No, these are not there as an advertisement for James the Cleaner! The nine shirts represent you, the members of this council. They represent that you need to work together, shoulder to shoulder, to solve this city’s crises.

Please stop telling us, “you do not have the information.” In fact, we do have the information. We know what must be done to preserve our city, and the one main thing is that you begin to serve We the People!

(Note: That is how my mind remembers most of it; I may have gotten part of it out of sequence.)


Following my remarks, Valla Ann Bolovschak made some comments that I failed to record, in fact I was so taken a back with her attack on the mayor, I just sat there stunned for a moment!

She seemed to have a pretty good argument about expenditures. However, she was hell bent on proving that laws had been broken and that criminals were running amok because of the Garner administration. She demanded a vote to be taken, and that the Floyd County Prosecutor’s office start an official investigation into the matter. She even snared two council members (Bill Schmidt and Steve Price) into making and seconding a motion.

However, council President Mr. Jeff Gahan, with advice from the council attorney, stated that “Open Communication from the Public” was not the time or the place to take such a vote, and that the motion needed to be presented in proper form.

Mrs. Yvonne Kersey announced she might have misinformed the public during a meeting of the neighborhood associations that the mayor had withdrawn his request for the loan from the sewer board. She also stated that she had contacted a Mr. Stroud (state auditor?) and requested that he and the city council sit down and discuss the budget in detail.

Mr. Frank Lucchese spoke about how previous administrations had provided the council with false information in the past regarding the parking garage, that it has never been filled to the capacity promised. He also said that the garbage trucks purchased under the previous administration were not working out, and they were a waste of the taxpayer’s money. He blamed all of the city problems on the previous comptroller, David White, and said that due to misspending, there would be no emergency funds available. He also stated that the council was being misled by this administration.

(See above for 05/24/05 correction ... Ed.)
Mr. Tim Deatrick thanked the council for asking the tough questions. In his commentary, he remarked, “Jimmy is taking the citizens of New Albany to the cleaners!” At that point, Councilwoman Bev Crump admonished Mr. Deatrick, stating “Sir, you may not like the mayor or any of the council members, but in this assembly you will respect the position of the office!”

(Go Councilwoman Crump!)


Mrs. Kay Garry stated that no money had been transferred into any of the funds now presented before the council and that the expenditures listed under those funds were place keepers to help reduce the amount of work on the comptroller’s staff, if and when the two funds were established: “The entries are there to reduce workload, should the funds not be approved it is a simple task to remove the entries and put them into the General Fund.”

Mrs. Garry also stated that Mr. Stroud supported her budget, and that state law required the rainy day fund to establish a plan before use. Also, after July 1, 2005 the city may be allowed to use EDIT funds for any lawful purpose.

(After hearing for several weeks that the council must “ approve” any expenditure over $500, Mrs. Garry pointed out that this stipulation is for only one fund, an ambulance non-reverting fund or something! Can you imagine the workload on the council if they had to approve every time a department need to buy ten toner cartridges or twenty reams of paper? They would be so busy micro managing the budget, there would be no time for anything else!)

In support of Mrs. Garry, city attorney Shane Gibson stated that on two occasions, open meetings were held to work on the budget and not one council member made an effort to attend. He stated that in this budget, salary and benefits of the city employees were not touched. It is up to the council to call a meeting with the administration to sit down and review the budget, but he assured them that every ounce of fat had been cut.

In other matters, Mayor Garner addressed the fact that the Courier-Journal scooped everyone about the 2002 audit. He explained that the state office had snail-mailed the report to the city over a week ago and as of the council meeting, the city still had not received the hard copy version.

In fact, the reporter had contacted the state office and pressured them into providing him with an e-mail copy of the report. After the article appeared in the paper, the mayor’s office contacted the state and had the same report e-mailed to them.

Mayor Garner said that there had been no misappropriations in the rainy day fund as was stated earlier during public comment, and that it was disappointing that two council members leapt at the accusations calling for an investigation. The mayor defended his comptroller, saying that she was the best this city has ever had, and was appalled at the accusations surrounding her office.

Mayor Garner stated that the Sewer Fund had 4.8 million dollars in its account at the present time, that borrowing a half a million would pose no threat to its operations, and that the city had a plan to repay the loan with proceeds from the EDIT funds after July 1.


Councilman Steve Price commented that back in 2004, a story appeared in the Tribune to the effect that the budget needed to be frozen, and that the city was in crisis then. He commented that history should be our teacher and that the council should not make the same mistakes again.

(I find it hard to believe that the members of the city council put so much stock into the reporting of both the Courier Journal and Tribune, and that these two forms of communications must be perfect. Around every corner, they’re always waving clippings like a flag of honor. I know that in this country we have freedom of the press, but sometimes that press gets carried away with its freedoms!)

Councilman Donnie Blevins commented that he was disgusted with the actions of the council, that politics was certainly alive and well today in these chambers. He recalled that right after his election, he was told to start working on re-election. He stated that it was apparent that members of the council were more worried about being reelected than doing the work of the citizens.

Councilman Coffey commented that four years ago a different administration came to the council with a budget that must be passed, much the same scenario as this one, and that when the council sat down and worked with the administration on a line item assessment, even more funds were found that could be cut.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

To the shores of Tripoli: A very good Tribune Sunday

It’s been just shy of a year since the NA Confidential household elected to ignore the abundant lessons of previous history and subscribe to the New Albany Tribune.

Some have suggested that I have a love-hate relationship with our local newspaper, but this is not the case. When high expectations on one end are often met with underachievement on the other, a certain measure of disappointment is bound to occur.

But not today.

The Sunday edition of the Tribune has much to recommend it, including:

Managing Editor Chris Morris on the Saturday dedication of the restored Division Street School.

City Editor Amany Ali on yesterday’s Da Vinci Downtown festival.

County Reporter Kyle Lowry on the reconstituted New Albany Merchants Association, now known as the New Albany Historic Business District Association.

A page three press release presumably authored by the Floyd County YMCA/LifeSpan Resources partnership, titled “New Albany downtown business leader excited about future growth.”

Guest columnist Terry Cummins in the lead editorial slot, writing on the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy’s “Daily Thoughts to Nourish the Soul.”

A travel report by frequent contributor Doug Eads describing a visit to Libya.

That’s right – not the Huber Farm, Branson MO or Cancun, but Libya.

In the Tribune.


All this would make today’s Tribune worth reading, and even paying $1.25 for the privilege, and yet there’s more.

In an op-ed essay titled “City officials work to keep city operating,” Mayor James Garner describes New Albany’s current budgetary problems, traces their origins, outlines the Garry Plan for dealing with the situation, dispassionately reports the City Council’s “mixed” response to the plan, indicates encouragement with the outcome of last Thursday’s council meeting, expresses hope that cooperation will avert worst case scenarios, and does so with clarity, grace and a measured, statesmanlike tone throughout.

With an ever-calculating 1st District Councilman Dan Coffey now recognizing the tactical benefits of a climb-down on the Garry Plan, who among the city’s “no progress at any price” sect cares to attempt such a concise explanation of what the flat-earthers are against, as contrasted to what Mayor Garner has so aptly summarized he is for?

Will 3rd District Councilman Steve Price, whose recent embrace of the lowest common denominator outpaces even that of his 1st District political puppet master, attempt to author the response?

If so, expect a reprise of the Grouch Marx song:

We don’t know what they have to say
It makes no difference anyway
Whatever it is, we’re against it

No matter what is or who commenced it

We’re against it

Friday, May 20, 2005

UPDATED: Council, mayor agree on budgetary reprieve while city's flat-earthers self-destruct

As topic sentences go, this one by the Courier-Journal’s Ben Zion Hershberg provides a textbook capsule of the May 19 City Council meeting:

“The New Albany City Council approved most of Mayor James Garner's plan for a $2.8 million, state-ordered budget cut, but it rejected his request to borrow $500,000 from the sewer utility.”

Of course, Hershberg’s account doesn’t seek to convey the expected circus-like atmosphere last evening, one enhanced by raging rain and storms outside, and generated from within by the usual litany of grandstanding theatrics.

Surprisingly, most of last evening’s chewing of scenery would seem to have emanated from the public in attendance, and not the usual sources on the obstructionist Luddite wing of the council itself.

At least one citizen from the “no progress at any price” sect was removed for unruly behavior, and the council’s president, Jeff Gahan, was obligated to invoke the five-minute speaking limit (three times?) during a histrionic, rambling presentation by local businesswoman Valla Ann Bolovschak, who demanded that the Floyd County Prosecutor’s office conduct an investigation of the obvious links between Mayor Garner, the Teapot Dome, Manuel Noriega, and the assassination of President Kennedy.

Uh, calm down, Beavis.

Even more bizarrely, some accounts have gone so far as to suggest that 1st District Councilman Dan Coffey actually clambered down from his perch high atop the good ship Lollipop and tried to play a constructive role in the budgetary deliberations.

I missed it all, having chosen to remain downstairs at the Constituency for Progress teach-in rather than view the unfolding spectacle on the third floor.

Our special correspondent Rick Carmickle, source of the preceding observations, took lengthy notes, and his account of the proceedings will be published on NA Confidential when he’s finished.

Back to Ben Hershberg:

“An estimated three dozen residents joined the budget debate last night in a demonstration led by a group that has taken the name Constituency for Progress.

“Randy Smith, an organizer of the demonstration in support of the mayor's budget plan, said he was disappointed to hear the City Council didn't approve the entire plan, since he believes it would be best for the city.

“But, Smith said, he and other group members were pleased with the turnout at their "teach-in" in front of the City County building, and they plan to remain engaged in city affairs.”

Credit Hershberg for his ability to see past the orchestrated diversionary tactics staged by the obviously frustrated Brambleberries, and to discern that the nascent CFP’s positive message during the evening-long teach-in represents a progressive futurist option during currently troubled times.

Council accepts budget moves; No layoffs in New Albany; sewer loan is rejected By Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal (limited shelf life on C-J links)

11:00 a.m. update - In Amany Ali's coverage for the Tribune, it is revealed that Councilmen Bill Schmidt and Steve Price both supported Bolovschak's proposed investigatory set piece. While this is to be expected from Price, who believes that "cerebral" is just another way to get a breakfast sugar buzz, we must express sincere disappointment that Schmidt would lunge for such transparently delusional bait.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ballad of a Thin Man

"Character is not made in a crisis - it is only exhibited."
Robert Freeman

Today’s weather forecast is bizarrely metaphorical. Strong storms are predicted during the afternoon hours, immediately preceding the deliberations of the City Council and its vote on the Garry Plan, which addresses state-mandated budget cuts.

You already know that NA Confidential believes the Garry Plan to be the best response to a bad situation.

Not unexpectedly, it seems terminally difficult for opponents of the Garry Plan to grasp that endorsement of the plan does not imply approval of the errors that have led to the necessity of its enactment.

As the State Board of Accounts makes clear in its annual financial report (for 2002), there is sufficient blame to go around – mayors, controllers, city councilmen, ancillaries, pizza delivery drivers, the founding Scribners and the man in the moon all are responsible for an institutional culture that perhaps never during the past century has functioned at a level of efficiency commensurate with the expectations of its citizenry, some among whom would use this as a pretext to abolish the city.

You already know that NA Confidential believes opponents of the Garry Plan to have offered absolutely nothing in the way of a credible alternative, preferring instead to indulge in various public performances of self-aggrandizing demagoguery, fear-mongering and flat-earth sophistry.

For those of a rational bent, the real questions are whether the city of New Albany is doomed for perpetuity to the clannish vituperation and political blood feuds (both within and without the ruling party of the hour) of a dirty little river town, or whether there might be a different paradigm, one that looks ahead to transcending our self-imposed limitations rather than deriving comfort and a sense of tolerable co-dependence from them.

For or against the Garry Plan, tonight’s vote will address the short-term budgetary repair required by the state of Indiana – a state of affairs over which there is far less maneuverability than opponents of the Garry Plan would have you believe.

But the implications reach much further than tidying the current mess.

Tonight’s City Council vote stands to provide the context for what comes next in New Albany – and make no mistake, somewhere over that horizon, the future is rushing headlong to meet us whether we like it or not.

Choices in the necessarily future tense already are being made, as in the inevitability of generational succession within the dominant political parties, the growing confidence and activity of the neighborhood associations, and the emergence of a constituency for progress that proposes to explore that most derided and misunderstood of all New Albany landscapes – the ones lying outside the box that we've chosen to inhabit for too long.

We believe that tonight’s City Council vote is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, to take stock of respective roles and talents in forging a better future for the city of New Albany, and to initiate the process of identifying who we are and what we intend to do.

There’ll never be a better time than tonight to publicly declare for progress, to decry the politics of regress, and to become a part of the solution.

We’ll see you at the teach-in.

2:00 p.m. update - Leadership Yardstick at Volunteer Hoosier.

A pillar of sand? Mr. Seabrook, this one's for you

With all due respect, you are mistaken in your cause-and-effect attribution.

The Fifth Dimension's "Puppet Man" is the theme song of Steve Price's doomed bid for re-election in the 3rd council district.

However, it is not currently on NA Confidential's play list.

If you have been informed otherwise, we suggest that your informant has misled you.

If you conceived this misinformation on your own, then we're very disappointed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Price rocks S. Ellen Jones: The last person to leave New Albany, please douse the candles and drop off your keys at the Brambleberry residence

On Tuesday night, Brother Price’s Traveling Deprivation Show staged a bravura performance at the monthly meeting of the S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association.

3rd District Councilman Steve Price was capably supported by the hard-riffing “Fact” Masters, his backing band, whose morose recitation of impenetrable and unverifiable rhythmic cadences freed the headlining Price to explore countless creative variations on a solitary, numbingly repetitive melody from his chart-topping single, “Paralysis.”

We sure ain’t got no money!
(cut the fat, cut the fat)

Pertty soon we'll have less than that!
(cut the fat, cut the fat)

We got no in-for-mat-ion!
(it’s the mayor, it’s the mayor)

We just can’t get to the facts!
(it’s that mayor, it’s that mayor)

We ain’t got no account-ing that’s right!
(we’re dumb, oh yeah, we’re dumb)

Yeah, we’re gonna be deluged!
Big troubles coming soon!
How’re we gonna pay for it?
(gotta run, gotta run)

We ain’t got no money for downtown!
(just let it go, c’mon let it go)

We sure can’t pay to clean it up!
(no no no no no no no no)

We don’t know nothing.
(never have, never will)

We’re just helpless and lost.
(watch the cost, watch the cost)

We gotta stay scared.
(all is lost, all is lost)

We’re done and paralyzed … paralyzed … paralyzed.
(all is lost, all is lost …fade to oblivion)

Board of Commissioners votes in favor of Grant Line sprawl, adjourns to view "American Idol"

Last week, the Floyd County Council voted 4-3 to build a new office “annex” at the current Grant Line Road site.

Last night, the three-member Floyd County Board of Commissioners ratified this decision.

Somewhere, a property developer is drinking champagne.

NA Confidential commends Jane Alcorn of Develop New Albany and Greg Sekula of the Historic Landmarks Foundation Of Indiana for their appearance at the Board of Commissioners meeting.

Jane presented a persuasive case on behalf of delaying a decision to explore downtown relocation options, while Greg asked for a formal consideration of the historical merits of the current annex, which would be demolished after the new structure is built (to read Greg's letter to the board, go here).

The yawns of the comissioners were audible as far away as Beijing.

Bored board president John Reisert, who has consistently led by example with respect to endorsing urban sprawl in Floyd County, brushed off the petitioners, noting that "we've been talking about it (the plans) for eight months," then urging immediate passage (with accompanying hot toddy, and hot greased rubber stamps all around).

We find it interesting that more than one “final” vote was taken by the County Council when the topic at hand was whether or not to buy the Northside Christian property – the transparently conflicted agenda favored by councilmen Ted Heavrin and Larry McCallister, as it is one that would have pleased ex-councilman Don McCartin, Northside’s chosen realtor.

Now, suddenly, the issue has been resolved in one session, with the County Council deciding to spend even more newfound money than would have been needed to buy the Northside property, and far more recently uncovered money than would have been needed to move offices downtown into waiting space while a comprehensive plan of future benefit to the county as a whole can be conceived and executed.

There is a persistent rumor, admittedly unverified, that one potentially sleazy aspect of the freshly ordained annex construction project will be the sale of the county’s Grant Line Road frontage and its development into a strip mall opposite Wal-Mart.

So much for the next-to-last open green space inside the beltway.

For further reading, see Volunteer Hoosier.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

UPDATED: Teach-in to be held outside the City-County Building before and during the Thursday, May 19 meeting of the City Council

Permit me to say just this: NA Confidential strongly concurs with the sentiments expressed in this media advisory, which was received shortly after midnight during a rare bout of insomnia.

NA Confidential supports the "Garry Plan" and opposes any effort on the part of the City Council's "no progress at any price" faction -- this being the one that has yet to offer a credible and legal alternative to the Garry Plan -- to cut Scribner Place funding under the false expedient of fiscal "rectitude."

Your support is needed at this critical juncture.

Recall that from its inception, NA Confidential has sought to advance the idea that the advancement of the city of New Albany -- our home -- is worth it, and that there is a constituency for progress right here, right now.

These constituents for progress must make themselves known -- to the City Council, but far more importantly, to each other.

NAC hopes to see you at the teach-in Thursday evening.


Noon, May 17, 2005

Citizens Call for ‘Responsibility’ From City Council
Residents Hope to Avert City Shutdown
Support for Scribner Place, Continued City Services Part of Teach-In

NEW ALBANY, Ind. - A group of New Albany residents plans to hold a “teach-in” before and during Thursday’s meeting of the City Council.

The council is scheduled to take a final vote to approve or reject a budget plan proposed by the administration of Mayor James E. Garner.

The so-called Garry Plan, formulated by city controller Kay Garry, is designed to ease the city past a one-year shortfall resulting from previous overspending by the city.

Residents and business owners in the city will gather outside the City-County Building starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 19, to illuminate the options facing the city and to urge the adoption of the Garry Plan.

Jeffrey Gillenwater, one of the organizers of the gathering, expressed concern over threats to the Scribner Place project by council members.

“Some of them seem willing to risk millions of dollars that have already been committed to the Scribner Place project. That’s a vote against progress for the city of New Albany.”

“Reneging on that commitment runs counter to everything the people of New Albany voted for in 2003. The city’s reputation with private investors could never survive such a vote.”

“We’re not sure everyone in the city is aware of the gravity of Thursday night’s council meeting,” said Randy Smith, another organizer. “Unless council passes the Garry Plan, the administration will have no choice but to close down many city operations.

“We are worried that council is ignoring the welfare of the city for the sake of some hidden agenda. That’s unacceptable.”

A series of speakers will explain why the city was forced to adjust its budget and how the Garry Plan would enable the city to continue normal operations with currently available funds. Expecting a large turnout, the group intends to stand vigil outside the government building before and during the council meeting so as to minimize any possible disruption to the meeting itself.

Media inquiries should be directed to Randy Smith at (812) 944-5116 or by e-mail to ops@destinationsbooksellers.com

UPDATE: In the Tuesday Courier-Journal, Rally to back New Albany budget; Residents support belt-tightening idea, by Ben Zion Hershberg (limited shelf life on C-J links).

Monday, May 16, 2005

Politics, preservation and a festival -- or, the week ahead in New Albany

We’re looking forward to a busy week in New Albany.

Tuesday, May 17
The S. Ellen Jones Neighborhood Association meets at 6:30 p.m. at S. Ellen Jones Elementary School, and it has invited members of the East Spring Street Neighborhood Association to attend and greet a very special guest.

It’s 3rd District Councilman Steve Price, who will be attending this meeting only two days before he casts votes critical to the city’s future … but will his “handler” dare to permit Price to comment on an increasingly regressive voting record and the fumbling public advocacy of positions that aren’t favored within the 3rd District?

Verily, only The Cappuccino knows for sure.

Word on the street is that Price’s politically conjoined benefactor, 1st District Councilman Dan Coffey, fears the messy outcome of an unscripted meeting between Price and his constituents.

Recognizing that Edgar Bergen remains dead and thus is unavailable for the job, Coffey plans to attend the meeting, presumably intent on performing selected arias from the “Bloviate’s Shuffle” while protecting his acolyte, Price, from well-deserved scrutiny.

Previously on NA Confidential:
The Coffey/Price dumbumvirate's rear-guard action against progress

This just in: Council's Coffey announces Anschluss with city's 3rd District, appoints Price as property manager, announces "drainage in our time"

Also on Tuesday, May 17
“Pizza and Preservation: Keeping the Paint on Your Historic Home,” at the Carnegie Center from 6:15 - 8:30 p.m. Call the Historic Landmarks Foundation at 812-284-4534 for reservations.

Thursday, May 19
Our City Council meets at 7:30 p.m.

A divided council (and for this meeting, a shorthanded one) must come to grips with a plan proposed by Mayor James Garner and the City Controller, Kay Garry, to balance New Albany’s books in accordance with Indiana state directives.

Otherwise, layoffs and cuts in services will begin on June 1.

First-reading approval has been given to two of the three main planks that comprise the Garry Plan, but the third, a short-term loan from the sewer utility, has become ensnared by factionalism, with New Albany’s “no progress at any price” band of flat-earthers dancing joyously to the syncopated rhythms of Coffeyist demagoguery, while lone Republican Mark Seabrook scans his dog-eared copy of “Hamlet” and studies the rhetorical tea leaves.

As usual, caught without coherent or constructive ideas of their own, opponents of the Garry Plan have sought to dismember the Scribner Place project, which in reality is to attack progress, progressive thinking, and progressives -- something so transparently obvious that even the New Albany Tribune sees it.

Stay tuned for more important information about the Thursday evening City Council meeting.

And please contact your council representative.

Recent Volunteer Hoosier commentaries on this topic:

Running Scared
Frontal Assault on Common Sense
Adopt the Garry Plan

Friday, May 20
Book signing for “Temples of Knowledge: Andrew Carnegie’s Gift to Indiana,” by Alan McPherson. 6:00 p.m. at Destinations Booksellers.

Saturday, May 21
The Da Vinci Downtown festival.

The Tribune’s Kyle Lowry wrote about the festival in the newspaper’s Sunday edition, but the link has not been posted as of this writing.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

On Thursday, May 19 at 5:30 PM ...

... there's a rerun of M*A*S*H on the Hallmark channel.

What? You were expecting something else?

Friday, May 13, 2005

Tribune editorial says: Scribner Place should move forward

The New Albany Tribune has consistently endorsed Scribner Place, so yesterday’s editorial in defense of the project does not come as a complete surprise.

Just the same, it is a timely and welcomed statement of principle in the run-up to next Thursday's City Council vote.

NA Confidential especially appreciates a newfound firmness in the Tribune's editorial tone, as well as its implied exasperation with the demagoguery of certain amateurs among the City Council members, those who remain publicly ignorant of accounting principles even as they lecture trained professionals to the contrary.

Unfortunately, the Tribune still does not archive editorials on-line, so here is the complete text.


“The city of New Albany is strapped for money. In fact, if Mayor James Garner is unable to secure a $500,000 loan request from the sewer utility, cuts may have to be made. There may be layoffs and or department cuts.

“However, the Scribner Place project should not become a casualty of these cuts. Money to fund the downtown development, which will include a swimming pool and YMCA, will not come out of the general fund. Caesars Foundation of Indiana has already promised $20 million over the next 20 years for the project. Also, $400,000 a year in Economic Development Income Tax funds have also been promised through a City Council resolution. Those funds can not be used for general fund expenditures – so they can not help New Albany out of its current mess. The City Council also will have to secure a $13 million bond to help finish off the project.

“None of these funds could help the city out of its financial problems. Hopefully, the City Council will do the right thing and move forward approving the required dollars for the construction of Scribner Place.

“The YMCA is coming to New Albany. The Y currently is raising money to build a new facility downtown. But, to make the downtown project complete, the city needs to live up to its promise.

“Scribner Place should not be used as a political football. It’s one of the best ideas for downtown New Albany to come out of the mayor’s office in years. It will help put life into a downtown area that could use a boost.

“With a $20 million gift from Caesar’s staring us in the face, there is no way we should put the project on hold. We should do what other progressive cities would do, move forward and improve our downtown area.”

Note the date of the preceding: Thursday, May 12, 2005. On that date, New Albany’s newspaper of record editorially linked progress with improvement of New Albany’s downtown area.

City Council contact information

1st District - Dan Coffey, 425 West Seventh Street (812) 949-1262

2nd District - Bill Schmidt, 202 Ellen Court (812) 945-7386
e-mail: schmidts@aye.net

3rd District - Stephen Price, 112 Butler Street (812) 941-9032

4th District - Larry Kochert, 2236 Shelby Street (812) 945-7652

5th District - Beverly Crump, 1510 Star Haven Dr. (812) 948-2603
e-mail: bcrump@iglou.com

6th District - Jeff Gahan 1122 Eastridge Drive (812) 949-9314
e-mail: gan2020@aol.com

At-Large - Donnie Blevins, 1548 Corydon Pike (812) 944-4856

At-Large - Jack Messer, 1906 Carriage Court (812) 949-9638

At-Large - Mark Seabrook, 1130 Eastridge Drive (812) 944-9644

Thursday, May 12, 2005

As the Sewer Board dithers, a city council faction is "Running Scared"

As so many times before, NA Confidential happily recommends that you go directly to today’s Volunteer Hoosier and read Randy Smith’s “Running Scared.”

Here’s are excerpts:

“Faced with an ingenious solution provided by city controller Kay Garry, a majority of the (city) council is preparing to thrust the city into peril …

“This council is prepared to thumb its nose at the state-approved solution, prepared to avoid making the tough decisions needed to address the state-ordered budget restrictions …

“There is a constituency in this city that supports the Garry Plan as presented. It is not partisan. It is not factional. It is not driven by support for any individual. It is driven by sound policy. It recognizes the city's real problems and will rise up to support leaders who offer solutions and reject 'leaders' who run scared. Boasting about ignorance is running scared. Deferring important decisions is running scared. Bowing to the perception that New Albanians are frightened fools without any vision for the future is the definition of running scared …

“If you hold office only to 'run scared,' just step down now and save yourself the humiliation of rejection by this city's constituency for progress.”

From Running Scared, in today's Volunteer Hoosier.

Before reading the following local media pieces on the Sewer Board’s role in the budgetary showdown, bear in mind that the board is composed of five members, one of whom is Mayor James Garner.

Of the remaining four who are relevant in the present tense, one is Mark Seabrook, the City Council’s lone Republican, and the other is veteran City Council representative Larry Kochert, a Democrat and a legendary wielder of back-room power in local circles.

Most emphatically, NA Confidential is not recommending that there is any connection between City Council factions, or concurrent political jockeying, or the many and varied coincidences that owe to the presence of certain councilmen on other boards and committees during a time of fiscal crisis, when skeptics among us might catch the faintest whiff of … nah, couldn’t be.

No. Not at all. Never should have watched that “JFK” flick.

Sewer Board balks at loan idea; New Albany mayor asking for $500,000, by Ben Zion Hershberg of the Courier-Journal.

Mayor's request for sewer loan comes up dry, by Amany Ali, Tribune City Editor.

Thank you Ted, may I have another: Floyd County Council votes to continue “living in Mayberry”

On Tuesday evening, the Floyd County Council approved a plan to construct a new $6-million annex to replace the currently occupied but thoroughly decrepit structure on Grant Line Road.

Ostensibly, the 4-3 decision ends months of uncertainty, during which forward-thinking, progressive elements on the council (the "3") consistently sought to combine much needed new office space with downtown revitalization, and were opposed by openly regressive council members (the "4") who seemed to be united only in opposing a downtown solution.

Oddly, and perhaps predictably, council president Ted Heavrin continued to actively and publicly oppose a future-tense downtown option throughout the course of the debate, even though such a downtown project would have boosted economic development of his own council district, which includes downtown areas.

An obvious bright spot of the new construction project as approved Tuesday night is that it will not result in an inevitable conflict of interest with respect to former council member Don McCartin, the realtor handling the sale of the Northside Christian property, which Heavrin’s and Larry McAllister’s vocal council faction continued to propose buying long after the seedier aspects of such a transaction became visible.

Instead, McCartin’s big commission is likely to come from the school corporation, which has expressed interest in consolidating offices and programs by moving into the former church property.

Here’s an excerpt from the Tuesday Courier-Journal article by Ben Zion Hershberg, as Tuesday’s New Albany Tribune typically contained no coverage of the county council meeting (late note -- the Tribune's coverage has appeared in the Thursday edition of the paper: County Council looking to build new by Kyle Lowry).

“Council members Larry McAllister, Jeff Fessel, Carol Shope and Ted Heavrin endorsed the plan, with Randall Stumler, Lana Aebersold and Dana Fendley voting against it.

“Stumler said he favored a longer-range plan that included the construction of a new City-County Building, in cooperation with city government, and using the current City-County Building to house only courts and justice-related offices.

“The City-County Building is badly out of date, Stumler said, adding, ‘we look like we're living in Mayberry here.’”

NA Confidential heartily thanks Randy, Lana and Dana for their continued interest in exploring long-term solutions to the city’s and the county’s problems.

As for the others -- well, at least I know who'll be voted against next time around.

Floyd panel approves building new annex on Grant Line Road
By Ben Zion Hershberg (remember, there's a short shelf life on C-J links)

It was twenty years ago today …

(These accounts will continue through the summer of 2005)

A 45-minute stopover at Keflavik for comprehensive Icelandic souvenir shopping may indeed have afforded my first official steps on European soil, but in truth, the inaugural stroll across the continent’s sacred ground must be said to have taken place at the Luxembourg City international arrivals terminal.

After passport control and customs, I spotted an “exchange” window. Exhausted from a night of little sleep, I turned and asked a fellow passenger whether I should get French or Luxembourg francs.

“Well, that would depend on where you are, wouldn’t it,” he replied, with a surliness borne either by his own sleepless transatlantic night, or perhaps an upbringing of pain and betrayal suggested by an unmistakable New York City accent.

Nonplussed, I waited silently in line and when my turn came, swiftly shoved the immaculately clean traveler’s check through a tiny aperture, waiting to see what sort of money would come spitting back, and hoping I wouldn’t have to answer questions in an unknown local dialect.

The teller motioned toward my passport and yawned. Luxembourg francs appeared … and a new ritual had been experienced.

Further ahead, the baggage conveyor disgorged my inexpensive Service Merchandise “athletic club” gym bag, which lacked backpack convertibility, but had a handy shoulder strap – and one of the strap’s connecting loops had been ripped away from the fabric by the baggage sorting claws, leaving it useless, and subsequently fating the bag to be carried like a suitcase for the remainder of the journey.

Finally I emerged into a covered plaza, followed the signs for an airport bus bound for the central train station, and paid the driver with a crisp Luxembourg franc C-note. A short suburban ride later, the bus glided into its lane at the stylish old Gare, and I bounded out, finally, into a stereotypically busy, sunlit European street with sidewalks, bicycles and cafes.

All well and good. Now what?

Somewhere in Luxembourg City there was an officially sanctioned international youth hostel with a reservation waiting just for me. How to get there? Should I buy a city map, or risk humiliation by asking directions of a possibly non-English speaking passer-by?

An Internet kiosk was out of the question, as the information superhighway had yet to be invented by Al Gore.

Looming before me was a large sign that turned out to be a map of the city, providentially erected as a public service for ignorant foreigners exiting the train station for the very first time. Walking toward it, I abruptly stumbled and looked down to see the arm of a street person in a decently clean suit passed out drunk in the shade of a fountain.

Fragrant and snoring, he was no help at all, but the map showed exactly where I was, and precisely where I needed to go, which looked to be about two kilometers in a straight line.

Easy enough on the face of it, except the street names in French defied easy memorization, and most importantly, the map failed to show the irregular topography of Luxembourg City, which lies on ridges and hills and is contoured not unlike West Virginia.

My 2-km scenic hike took almost two hours, mercifully ending when it did only because I finally chanced by a pole sporting various directional signs, one of which was the familiar hut-and-tree logo pointing the way to the youth hostel.

It had taken so long to perform my simple arrival tasks that the hostel already was open for afternoon hours. I checked in without difficulty, located my assigned bunk in what would become a completely filled 12-person dorm room, declined both a shower and an institutional dinner of noodles and mystery meat, never once considered drinking a beer, and proceeded to sleep 15 hours straight through ‘til morning, a continental breakfast, and the trek back to station to board my first train.

It was the 13th of May, 1985.
Two decades have passed since that confusing and exhilarating day in Luxembourg, and it has become clearer with each passing year that my decision to take a “handpacking” trip to Europe (backpack straps came later) – a summer-long escape that was conceived and executed with a single-minded determination unknown to me at the time – was the most important one I’ve ever made.

With it, I finally began the overdue transition from comfortably numb middle-class American to “citizen of the world,” as Edwin Moses so eloquently put it during the 1984 Olympics.

Although much academic groundwork had been laid prior to landfall in Luxembourg, it required practical application on the ground to gain the confidence necessary for learning while in Europe – and retaining the experience upon returning to New Albany.

The 1985 trip constituted a life-altering epiphany, but in truth, even the most minor of ephemeral insights would have seemed comparatively huge given my indecisiveness and lack of focus during that period of my life.

To be sure, having a college degree in philosophy made for witty cocktail party repartee. It accomplished precious little else, sufficing neither to impress women nor to make a mint. Career choices? Those were for fools who never saw the sunrise after a night closing every bar in town, and already were surveying their ten placid green acres with split-level dream home, riding lawnmower, and a fridge filled with Old Milwaukee Light.


Instead, or so I rationalized, my two part-time jobs were just fine, dependable for paying the bills, and also providing a semblance of scheduling flexibility in the event of hangovers – as there always was enough left over to buy beer. Why else would you work at a package store?

I got by, but I wasn’t going anywhere, and I knew it.

In 1983, a teaching friend asked if I would accompany him as a second chaperone on a whirlwind student trip to Europe the following summer. I’d have to pay, but the price seemed reasonable at $1,600 for nine days, with airfare, hotels, motorcoach travel and most meals included.

I was enthused, responded affirmatively, and began a savings account with money from a newly matured whole life policy.

A few months later, I visited the public library for a completely unrelated reason, and walking down the aisle, happened to pass the travel section. The first title that caught my eye was “Europe on $25 a Day,” by Arthur Frommer.

This prompted a double take. Was it a misprint? A scam? Could it really be true? Skeptical but suddenly curious, I checked out the book and took it home, poured a beer, and started reading.

Cue the orchestral swell and unleash the starburst.

For most twenty-something males, it would have required the woman of their dreams running bikini-clad across a beach during a rainstorm to elicit such a response as Frommer’s book did from me, for in it, there were clear and solidly reasoned tips for how to do Europe right … and for longer than a week.

Frommer’s play-by-play was relentlessly informative and effortlessly evocative. He offered rudimentary descriptions of the sights, but it was the technique tips that grabbed my attention: Always think like a European traveler, not an American, and like a local, not a visitor.

Don’t expect things in a foreign country to be the same as at home, and expect to pay more when they are. Think a bit, plan a bit, and accept the available bargains. Don’t eat every meal in a restaurant. Walk, ride the bus, rent a bike.

My new hero stated that any trip should be more than a postcard or a Kodak moment before the Eiffel Tower; rather, it should be educational, a rare and cherished glimpse into a different world from that of the traveler’s home. .

With a brain hard-wired for the humanities and history, not mathematics, doing the numbers never is easy, and yet even without a pocket calculator, the implications quickly began to add up. Using the student trip price as a base, the anticipated $700 for a plane ticket would leave the solo traveler with $900 – for 36 days, not nine!

And what if I were to postpone the epic voyage for a whole extra year, leaving even more time to save money … why, the trip might last three months, not nine days, and cost no more than double the shorter duration.

My most passionate affair had commenced, and has not lessened in its intensity to the present day.

For the next year and a half, my escalating European travel obsession was fed a steady diet of travel books, articles and PBS documentaries. Fresh copies of Frommer’s essential tome and the slightly more irreverent “Let’s Go: Europe” volume were purchased. Rail schedules were studied, and European history studied with zeal unlike that sufficing to pass a college course.

Plans were jotted, expanded, revised, discarded, and brought back from the depths of the waste paper basket. I acquired a Pentax K-1000 and learned to use it, just barely. The camera began to make much more sense after I relented to the rejoinders of friends and visited an eye doctor, who expressed wonderment that I’d been able to drive for so long without mishap, and prescribed glasses.

I stepped from his office, donned my new specs, and observed that trees were composed of individual leaves. All the rest was a downhill race, and as the spring of 1985 approached and the departure date neared, a rough outline settled into place.

The round-trip flight to Europe would be on the then-cheapest Icelandair, from Chicago to Luxembourg, departing May 12, and returning August 8.

Not yet 25 years of age, I qualified for the 2nd Class Eurail Youthpass, but the 1st Class standard adult card for three months was only $40 more than a 1- and 2-month Youthpass combined, so I opted for adulthood.

However, youth was served when my hostel membership card arrived in the mail, followed soon after by an international student I.D. (thanks again to my friend in the university registrar’s office for the rubber stamp needed to convince the authorities of my educational status).

I was utterly convinced that it would be my only trip to Europe, ever, and planned a purely kamikaze itinerary accordingly, incorporating nights on trains sleeping in seats (easier planned than done), on boats sleeping on the floor (ditto, but at least I’m not prone to seasickness), and taking advantage of every trick I could remember from the guide books to skim a dollar for later use.

Unfortunately, as evidenced by the opening day jitters in Luxembourg, my well-read plan did not take into account the greenness, timidity and stubbornness displayed by a first-time traveler who quickly became convinced that he was in far over his head.

Resource materials were clear and detailed, but practice wasn’t always the same as theory. The profusion of languages, customs and currencies sometimes overwhelmed the senses. Because ATM’s were not located on every corner as they are now, the failure to note holidays or erratic business hours led on more than one occasion to foodless nights. There were missed connections, confused fumbling and disappointments aplenty.

Somehow, despite the red-faced embarrassments, the cheapest hostel in town already booked solid, the standing-room only overnight train trip, the pain in my arms from lugging that silly gym bag, a fear of squat-only “toilets” in Turkey, forgetting to bring a towel and using my shirt to dry off after a shower, ringing the night buzzer when the door was wide open … somehow, a shocking thirty pounds lighter at the end than at the beginning, it all managed to work out.

Twenty years on, two relatively odd twists stand out in my memory.

First, with so much time spent waiting on trains and riding them, and resting in hostel common areas after a long day, and sitting in restaurants or park benches watching life’s rich pageant – with spare time to burn – very little of the trip was committed to writing. Only snippets and random observations survive, along with a fairly accurate day-to-day record of my progress.

Why? It may have been laziness and the accumulated weight of bad habits that resulted in my not devoting the necessary effort to document the trip in greater detail, or perhaps the sensory overload was too much to handle.

It certainly wasn’t because of the alcohol consumed.

To this day, people don’t believe me when I say that very little alcohol was consumed during the first European jaunt. In the beginning, there were stray beers here and there, but nothing approaching intoxication until I let loose for a night in Rome with a group of fellow travelers, having discovered cold, 2,000-lira (one dollar) 2/3 liter bottles of Carlsberg (and cold!) at a bar down the street from our pension.

Later in Turin, I drank with my cousin and his pal Scott, and after that at local place in Vienna and the Augustiner beer hall in Salzburg … of course, there was the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, and numerous pints of Guinness in Sligo, Ireland while watching Live Aid on the telly … and we can’t forget the vodka with the Australia during the Leningrad stay near the end … can we?

But seriously, fifteen drunken nights out of 90 is a fairly poor record for the allegedly professional drinker I fancied myself to be at the time, and it owed entirely to caution, to the fear of letting go in an unfamiliar environment, especially at night, walking long blocks back to bed following revelry. Also, there wasn’t much money, and I intended to keep it.

Stepping off the plan in Chicago on August 8, 1985, I had exactly $100 in my pocket. The rest was gone, and for as good a cause as could be imagined. Arthur Frommer, who helped start it all, ultimately was wrong in quoting a $25-a-day figure. Unlike today, the dollar was strong, and the final calculation came out to about $19.50 a day.