Henceforth, I'll post the text of my Thursday Tribune columns and add links to the Internet location later. That way, I can facilitate advance planning.
A few years ago, upon returning to her office in Louisville after a holiday, my wife noted to a co-worker that we had vacationed in Europe.The co-worker’s reply: “Did you fly or drive?”I’m trying to imagine a European with the equivalent of an American elementary school education making a similar comment, but I simply can’t. It’s inconceivable.
Here, it’s a recommendation for elected office.
Previously I’ve written about my birth as a tragically misplaced European, dropped into New Albany by a drunken stork without the saving grace of GPS. Accordingly, I retain a healthy sense of continental-style irony, something few native-bred Americans can appreciate.
It certainly helps to appreciate irony when delving into the mailbag, as in this comment recently posted on a local blog:
“I wish you well, and hope your business fails downtown.”
Anonymity always empowers malice, but oddly enough, I don’t take it personally, because this sentiment is bigger than me. More than a few local commentators sincerely hope that downtown fails, period, and given traditional political groupings, tribal intemperance, individual envy, periodic outbreaks of heartburn and their own absence of coherent alternatives, the existence of terminally spiteful unwell wishers comes as no surprise – until they’re elected to office.
Only then does the irony profusely bloom.
NABC has been building a business on the north side for more than two decades, and now we have expanded into downtown. Our plan for this expansion is calculated to provide eventual profit for the company and its owners, as well as a quantifiable boost to revitalization efforts currently underway. It’s a risk, and the investment is large by our previous standards.
So it goes that having chosen to make an investment in the betterment of downtown, we’re faced with the ironic prospect of enhancing the value of those council districts represented by New Albany’s two loudest and most vociferous opponents of progress. NABC’s new brewhouse is located in Steve Price’s fiefdom and lies two short blocks away from Dan Coffey’s.
As purveyors of gloom, doom and decay management, perhaps it’s no surprise that neither Coffey nor Price has congratulated us, and yet their districts will benefit from the ripple effect of “progressive pints” even though NABC’s fledgling existence downtown is a mortal affront to the councilmen and their hapless acolytes, precisely because it puts the lie to their central article of faith in non-development: “No one wants to invest downtown.”
Unsurprisingly, if someone does seek to invest in downtown, obstructionists like Coffey and Price pursue policies designed to thwart it, lest the “nickel and dime” flotsam and jetsam comprising their campaign “platforms” disappear into the breeze like many empty White Castle boxes drifting like tumbleweeds down Spring Street.
Opposition to the future is all they know, and it’s the time-dishonored default for New Albany. Ironically (there’s that word again), these politics of decay comprise a platform of futility that neither political party bothers challenging in any coherent way, ever.
In turn, this gaping leadership void inevitably implies that the prime hope for progress forever lies in the ability of activists, business people and contrarians to ignore the conniving politicians, sidestep the turf battles, and invest in New Albany, anyway, perhaps for no other reason beyond a need for someone to do something – anything – positive.
To review: We elect intellectually vacant politicians who promise that nothing will change for the better.
We get exactly that.
It isn’t ironic.
Not at all.
Many of these business people, contrarians and activists, and far fewer politicians, look forward to convening monthly at Develop New Albany’s “First Tuesday” networking gatherings.
The May edition was hosted last week by the River City Winery (321 Pearl St.; 812-945-9463; www.rivercitywinery.com/), which is preparing to open its doors full time later this summer. Evening wine sampling should be underway soon, with the owners still putting in long hours toward opening the kitchen. Call for details and opening hours before visiting, but take my word for it: When you see the job they’ve done remodeling and refurbishing the historic Baer Building, you’re going to be impressed … and thirsty.
The winery will be taking advantage of an active subculture that revels in something I’ve always jokingly referred to as “alco-tourism.” While there are other, more subtle ways of describing it, the underlying impulse is the same. Growing numbers of folks enjoy searching out small, distinctive, handcrafted libations, and they’ll go out of their way to find them.
In a planet filled to the brim with fast food franchises, the independent River City Winery will be one of a kind, attracting visitors who choose consciously to ignore the everyday chain eateries and watering holes, dining and drinking instead at locally-owned restaurants and pubs. Such is the reaction to the mass market mentality of the cookie cutter that related possibilities for profitably investing time, money and interest in niche alternatives are better placed for success than ever before. It works for bistros, wineries, cafes, coffee shops and breweries, as well as art galleries, bookstores and specialty retail businesses.
To concentrate these niche businesses in a place that had been previously undervalued, like the historic business district of a city like New Albany, is to create an atmosphere with a good chance of luring like-minded people to come and take a look.
Just don’t expect the conjoined councilman to understand any of it. After all, their job is to prevent growth from happening.