Friday, February 28, 2014

Brewers Gone Wild: 6 NABC specialties added to 6 Sun Kings for the Sunday Sunrise at BSB on March 2.

Gravity Head 2014 begins today at 7:00 a.m. at the Pizzeria & Public House, but this year for the first time we're augmenting the usual proceedings with an event at Bank Street Brewhouse.

The event was planned and ready.

March 2, 2014: Sun King Sunday Sunrise & Gravity Head Brunch at Bank Street Brewhouse.

Then the brewers got hold of it.

Now there'll be six rare NABC kegged specialties alongside six vintage Sun Kings, all day long (until they float) on Sunday, March 2, at Bank Street Brewhouse. Brunch runs from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., and the Build Your Own Bloody Mary Bar provides counterpoint.

Mercy.

VINTAGE
NABC Jaxon (2011)
NABC Bourbon Daddy (2012)

GRAVITY-MUS
NABC Chouffetimus
NABC Oaktimus

SPECIAL ENGAGEMENT
Ancient Rage
Bonfire of the Valkyries (River City Winery Colonel’s Legacy barrel-aged)

VINTAGE SUN KING (descriptions here)
666
777
Big Iron
Dominator
Timmie
Wee Muckle

Pour sizes strictly enforced. Market pricing. No growlers of special promo beers.

The Floyd County Health Department admits to being mistaken ... in only one instance, but hey, it's a start.


The Floyd County Health Department was represented at yesterday's snoozer of a DNA restaurant seminar by Julia Hayes.

She was there to explain temporary food serving permits, and of course, while doing so, she reaffirmed that her agency will be ignoring the Indiana Attorney General's recent decision in favor of NABC and again requiring registration for beer-pouring events in 2014, primarily because this numbnutted tactic provides Mark Seabrook, Steve Bush, Rick Fox and Doctor Tommy with the sort of adolescent orgasms largely unavailable to them otherwise .. but I digress.

Julia reminded the scant seven attendees that if food is being served or vended for a non-profit organization, of which Develop New Albany is one, permits (and their fees ... which have been waived for beer vendors, rendering the department's fine system meaningless) need not be acquired, although of course inspections still may be conducted.

Wait, I thought to myself.

Didn't the FCHD raid last year's Excruciatingly New Albany summer's lawn party and issue a bushel of citations? As the newspaper link buried within NAC's coverage verifies ...

Heard it through the grapevine: This year's Extrapolative New Albany.


 ... yes, it did.

So, I had to ask her about this, and as I began, it was time for DNA's seminar organizers to shush me, saying they'd already worked it out privately with the health fascists. I replied that yes, privacy is the whole point; where I come from, we'd like such matters to be revealed publicly. Julia explained that the FCHD's agent didn't know the event was being sponsored by a non-profit (yawn), so the citations were issued mistakenly.

That's right: The FCHD publicly admitted to being mistaken in the case of DNA, but not in the case of NABC, and all the while, whatever accommodation DNA's resident consultant (Hizz-former-honor?) worked out last year needed to remain private, not public.

I'm making up none of this. It's all true. And you still don't understand why I'm jaundiced?

If it wasn't for this blog, would stories like these ever be told?

The blessed return of a personal Bible.


I concede to a pleasing fit of nostalgia: A bag filled with mostly dirty clothes, salami and bread carved with a Swiss Army Knife, my Eurailpass, and the Thomas Cook timetable. Later, I fell in love with the bicycle as mode of European transport. But trains ... ahh.

In 2010, a Guardian editorial praised the continued existence of the Thomas Cook timetable, which finally fell to modern times ... but now is resurrected. Long live the European Rail Timetable (photo credit, Eurocheapo).

European Rail Timetable: Relaunching an essential train publication, at Eurocheapo

The decision last summer of the global travel business Thomas Cook to discontinue publication of its celebrated European Rail Timetable after 140 years was a mighty blow to rail travelers across Europe. However web-wise and connected a traveler may be, there is simply no substitute for a good printed timetable in revealing the overall pattern of rail services on any particular route. Whether for initial travel planning, or for evaluating options and amending itineraries while away, the European Rail Timetable was always worth its weight in gold.

Now there is good news. The title has been saved and the timetable will once again be published on a monthly basis from March 2014.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

What year is it, anyway?


That's February 18, 2014.

The photo, on the other hand ... if memory serves, both Windsor and Connor's Place ceased to exist in 2010, so it's probably from late 2009.

Be Local Expo, or as the Germans would say, "geschlossen."

ON THE AVENUES: Sixteen of one, thirty five of another.

ON THE AVENUES: Sixteen of one, thirty five of another.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

When Gravity Head comes calling, familiar space and time continuums can be briefly altered. Normal routines are rendered Byzantine by comparison. Life’s infinite horizons narrow, and one reverts to existence by the hour, minute by minute. Passing through the looking glass bores by comparison.

I’m not speaking of the fest’s actual commencement, because once the opening bell sounds on Friday morning, we all collectively observe the Sidney Freedman dictum from television’s M*A*S*H: “Ladies and gentlemen, take my advice - pull down your pants and slide on the ice.”

No, it’s the preparation for Gravity Head that saps working days and requires so much attention to detail during the run-up to the bacchanalia. We might choose to do it differently, but when it comes to what has unexpectedly become a tradition, the array of minor points adds up to a greater sum. It’s just a beer fest, but it’s more, and different from the rest.

In my opinion, the fundamental difference has been that from the very start, when we decided to have a second Gravity Head, we had no idea what the “proper” organization of a beer festival was supposed to be. Conventional wisdom eluded us, for which I remain grateful. Our aim has been to provide our regular customers and locally-based friends with as many opportunities as possible to taste a few special beers over a period of time. That’s it.

The beers never have been served all at once. They unfold in waves over a period of weeks. We don’t do flights, because flights imply a “right” to taste them all. Rather, the desired end is for folks to taste a few, and then return another time and taste a few more. Not too many at once, because they’re strong.

Of course, Gravity Head’s opening day has become somewhat of a scrum, and a singular tradition all its own. I’m content with the interior logic occurring there, but it isn’t what I look forward to experiencing each year. Rather, there’ll inevitably be a quiet Tuesday night on the second or third week, with a handful of friends, and leisurely, contemplative sipping of one or two quality libations, spiced with conversation. These are the precious times that lead to feelings of timelessness.

And timelessness is why I like beer, among other reasons.

---

The 16th edition of Gravity Head begins tomorrow at 7:00 a.m. at NABC’s Pizzeria & Public House. It reminds me that 2014 marks the 35th year of my professional beer drinking career.

The autumn of 1979 provided a familiar impetus for renouncing amateur status and turning pro. There was a messy breakup of a relationship, and one morning during the worst of it my car suddenly veered away from IU Southeast’s parking lot in the direction of a nearby package store. I wasn’t carded, and breakfast magically became two quart bottles of Colt ’45.

There was no looking back – except at those embryonic years of preparation, perpetually trapped in adolescence, but looking enviously at juicy adult privileges just around the corner.

Apart from wee nips taken during childhood from bottles of my father’s Oertels 92, my first real "cold one" was consumed at a junior high school party. Actually, four of us split a single can of Budweiser while hiding in the woods, safe from the prying eyes of the hostess’s parents, ostensibly attaining instant credibility by boasting of beer on our breaths and inexpertly mimicking the outward appearance of drunkenness.

Later, like so many generations of New Albanians, my gang ascended another rung around the time that our first driver’s licenses were issued. Wheels meant easy access to the bountiful paradise of Louisville’s west end liquor stores, just down Vincennes Street and across the claustrophobic steel lanes of the K & I toll bridge.

Raging acne and social ineptitude generally precluded my being chosen as the one to go inside Liken’s or the Corner Store. Consequently, I was at the mercy of my companions’ tastes in beer, and this was problematic, because at this early stage of my palatal development the "flavor" of a beer was the single biggest impediment to ingesting its desired alcohol. My friends liked Sterling and Pabst. I didn’t, but they were doing the heavy lifting of acquisition. Being in no position to argue, I learned to adapt by chilling.

The colder the beer, the less “flavor” it had, and the more I could drink of it. Accordingly, my mission in life became Styrofoam cooler maintenance – to nurture it, to protect it from harm, and most importantly, to keep it filled with ice.

But in high summer the cans got warm very quickly. Crammed into the back seat of a late model junker, and pulling the tab on an ice-cold can straight from the ice, I managed to down the first frozen gulps before being overwhelmed with the dismaying recognition that in spite of all reasonable precautions, the can still contained rapidly warming Sterling or Pabst.

Chugging made me gag. What to do?

A sufficient interval would pass, enough to encourage a carload’s presumption that the warm and thoroughly vile can in my hand had been emptied, and then the time would arrive for throwing it out the window. This called for consummate skill. In the fetid humidity of a hot summer evening, misjudging the distance from the open window of a moving car to the muffled cushion of a grassy rural roadside meant disgrace if a loud "thump" echoed through the valley as the half-full can struck unrelenting pavement.

The verbal abuse to follow was not at all good-natured. After all, hadn’t we driven all the way to Louisville to spend every last dime on beer?

---

And so it came to pass that in this manner, slumped shamefully in the back seat trying desperately to choke down a warm Sterling, I resolved to become a better beer drinker than all of them.

Granted, the precise meaning of “better” remained unclear, but as the others began to plan their careers in physics, cosmetology, and insurance sales, I worked at developing a feel for the generic concept of beer, which I came to understand as light-bodied and usually bastardized when compared to the golden continental lager that inspired it, and a taste for its flavor, or at least those discernable qualities differentiating it from cola and orange juice.

After turning pro, these youthful stumbles were brushed aside in favor of broader experiences. It was hard work to progress from the degradation of Schaefer "Weekender" 30-packs to the sublime pinnacle of Belgian Trappists and American Barley Wines, but at least those swill-soaked years of my youth were not wasted. Unless they were. I’m glad I’m older now.

Happy Gravity Head!

Muscle Monkey will return as soon as the permit snafu is resolved.


I spoke with Muscle Monkey's owner yesterday, who told me the Scarlet Letter on his door is about a tardy permit, and no more. It points to the Floyd County Health Department's narcissistic disregard for any semblance of fairness in a public relations context to post a notice sans context, but what do you expect from the mind of Dr. Tom?

From August 1, 2013: ON THE AVENUES: "Kneel and Kiss My Ring, You Degraded Alcoholic."

If you assume I’ll begin this essay by thanking a lowly brewer for affording a rebuttal to his serial insolence, think again. One should never assume -- you'll make an ass out of yourself, certainly not me, because after all, I'm a doctor. The grandeur of my medical world view inevitably comes with the position, i.e., the rarefied territory of my critical role as guarantor of public health and safety.

The rest of you should just get the hell out of my way.

Strategies and amenities suitable for Redevelopment to ignore.

At urbanscale.com, two collections of strategies and amenities help make the point that even for a city of New Albany's relatively small size, we can leverage our location in metro Louisville to punch higher than our weight.

Assuming, of course, that we read books and think outside self-imposed boxes.

Coming in at Number One on John Karras' hit parade is the strategy we seem determined to get wrong, and probably will continue to botch for so long as John "My Way Means the Highway" Rosenbarger has influence to peddle about it, even as he blames his sad political predicament for the situation. Sorry, John; we're not buying the BS any longer.

Vibrant Downtown Strategy #1

Turn one-way streets into two-way streets.

Why?

One-way streets are great if your only goal is to channel traffic through your downtown, but they are bad for pedestrian activity and retail opportunities. Two-way streets create a more comfortable pedestrian environment and have been shown to increase property values.

There is a good reason that the Main Streets that sit at the urban core of small towns and cities across the U.S. are almost always two-way streets. From Wichita, KS to Charleston, SC, cities across the U.S. are realizing the benefits of two-way streets in their urban cores.

12 Strategies That Will Transform Your City’s Downtown

10 Small Cities With Urban Amenities That Most Big Cities Lack


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Never a dull moment in Incompatibility City.

Lashing out from his lair off Bono Road, Doctor Tom has struck the Muscle Monkey Grill (Little Chef). Let's hope it isn't serious.

(Wednesday evening update: It isn't serious. Permit snafu only. Don't you wish the Health Department refrained from the Scarlet Letter approach and explained its action? Then again, at least they didn't stage an inept photo op implying their chosen target was harboring bacteria


Seems a bit cold this time of year for Exclusively Rental Property New Albany, but what do I know? Where are the cocktail weenies and Miller Lite?


Heavens, didn't this just happen? NAC's last report (and a reverse camera angle) came out last November. Dude, has anyone seen the insurance agent?


Nope. Never a dull moment in Insipidity City.

Wednesday Six-Pack: If they're the right improvements for East Main Street, they're the right improvements for all streets -- right, John Rosenbarger?


As universally ignored by city planners, here are six recent NAC articles addressing aspects of the East Main Street Improvement Project (in the context of pervasive municipal dysfunction), for which there'll be a groundbreaking ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, March 3 near the Snow Plow VFW 3281 at the corner of Fifth and Main.

Anyone want to join the sign-toting protest I'm planning?

Everlasting municipal dysfunction, bowel movements and political cowardice.


ON THE AVENUES: Plans and hopes and screams.


ON THE AVENUES: No, John; congestion is our friend. Help us achieve it, or get out of the way.


ON THE AVENUES: New Albany’s political culture is designed to reject Jeff Speck.


What's right for Main Street is right for the rest of us, too.


Ranting on John Rosenbarger's fundamental contradictions in the aftermath of an atrocious day in the neighborhood.

Back to the Ghetto: "Religiously conservative businesses" amid their own kind?

I recall the words of my hero Christopher Hitchens, even as I read about various legislative efforts (Arizona, Indiana) on the part of soon-to-be-extinct elderly white theocrats to sanction discrimination based on religious indoctrination:

"There are four irreducible objections to religious faith: that it wholly misrepresents the origins of man and the cosmos, that because of this original error it manages to combine the maximum of servility with the maximum of solipsism, that it is both the result and the cause of dangerous sexual repression, and that it is ultimately grounded on wish-thinking."

First, the dawdling old white guys, cluelessly pandering.

Anderson Cooper Demolishes Arizona Politician Supporting Homophobic Bill, by Jack Mirkinson (The Huffington Post)

Then a journey into the "fully intended consequences" labyrinthe.

Arizona bill’s other outrage: Why anti-gay bigotry is just the beginning; Legalizing discrimination is horrible enough. But a sneaky pro-corporate provision in the bill will also shock you, by Emmett Rensin (Salon)

Of course, not excepting the propensity of theocratic fascists in Indiana to gaily hop aboard the discriminatory train.

Indiana official slows bill to allow some religious bias, by Tony Cook (IndyStar)

But let's also acknowledge a contrarian point-of-view, as offered with customary aplomb by RV:

From what I understand, the Arizona bill is a reaction to the New Mexico photographer who refused to work a gay commitment ceremony, & was subsequently sued for refusing. Should a gay caterer be forced to cater an event at Westboro baptist Church? Should a Muslim DJ be forced to spin records at a Satanist wedding? Should a Nation of Islam drycleaner be forced to clean Klan robes?

Gravity Head 2014: Bullet Train to Blackout Town ... program, starting lineup and 14th starter voting information.


In keeping with recent content management resolutions, most Gravity Head blurbs have been posted at the NABC web site, and will continue to be. This is my blog, not the company nerve center -- if in fact we have such a thing. I'll be doing daily lineupdates in 2014 at www.newalbanian.com, not here. Following are the most important links as we approach the 16th liver bruiser. We're also intrigued to offer a Gravity Head event at Bank Street Brewhouse for the very first time.

Vote now for the 14th and final opening day Gravity Head starter.

Gravity Head 2014: The starting lineup.

Gravity Head 2014: The Program.

Schlafly kicks off Gravity Head’s 16th bacchanal on February 28, 2014.

March 2, 2014: Sun King Sunday Sunrise & Gravity Head Brunch at Bank Street Brewhouse.

Brewers Gone Wild: 6 NABC specialties added to 6 Sun Kings for the Sunday Sunrise at BSB on March 2.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Zweig ... again.



In January, I reviewed Stefan Zweig's three lives in a three-part review of "The World of Yesterday."

1. January 25
2. January 26


Lezard's essay is to be considered equal time; in particular, his point about Zweig's thoughts on sexual repression is well taken.

Why Stefan Zweig deserves Wes Anderson's praise ... Zweig peeled back the veneer of Austro-Hungarian culture to expose sexual repression and the nature of love – no wonder he inspired Anderson's latest film, by Nicholas Lezard (Guardian)

... For Zweig was very much the product of mittel-European bourgeois culture. He might even be said to have embodied it – and this may well have been one reason why others who were not Nazis resented his fame and success. Zweig knew everyone worth knowing, but whether they thought him worth knowing is another matter. Thomas Mann was catty about him behind his back, calling him second-rate; as well one writer might say of another whose sales and royalties outstrip one's own.

Failed suicide bungler strikes Elsby Building, thereby reaffirming one-way street safety.

Cars race past the Elsby Building on New Albany's outmoded one-way street grid, because that's the way we've done it for 50 years, and we're too provincial to contemplate change.

A radical monster pickup truck advocacy sect member incensed by rumors that Spring Street might some day be restored to two way traffic attempted to destroy the Elsby Building on Monday afternoon. The outcome was foiled when his illegally obtained novelty lighter failed to ignite on impact with his cigarette, causing his cell phone to fall to the floorboard, and his vehicle to strike and break a plate glass window.

Afterward, the city engineer was to have verified the Elsby Building's continued structural viability, except that New Albany doesn't have a city engineer, and all the usual piecework temps were busy with the East Main Street Project's non-bicycle lanes. So they sent the dogcatcher instead.

"Looks good to me."

City Hall later released a statement:

"Citizens wishing to donate to the Elsby broken glass clean-up should make all checks out to the Dixiecratic Democratic Party."

It was the second such attack in a year's time. In 2013, less than two blocks away, a nearsighted driver rammed his vehicle into an architect's window, only to discover that it wasn't the public art project he hated so damned much.

"What a relief that we're an unwalkable city and he was only going 55 mph," commented John Rosenbarger, New Albany's Rasputin of Redevelopment. "If people would have been crowding the sidewalk like in Madrid, someone might have gotten killed. All the more reason to institute a system of one-way arterial streets downtown, leading to roundabouts and some street calming somewhere else in the outskirts of the city. It's what they do in other places we can't ever hope to become, but as long as we accomplish 5% of the work each year, that's 20 years guaranteed employment."

From his hospital bed, the suicide bumbler said, "The streets that God made one way, let no wussy hybrid driver tear asunder -- not to mention those stupid fucking pedestrians too poor to drive."

"Bail, Caesar!"

Suits and (the) Sounds.



It's like I've been saying all along: Refrain from wearing suits, and bad things won't happen to you.

So be it. Know thyself; when you dispense with redundant fantasies of a GQ modeling gig, you’re free to use your entire brain, unbound by convention, custom and prejudice. It’s almost as liberating as Woodstock, and there are times when it still infuriates the unreconstructed Nixon generation.

The song is by the Sounds, a band from Sweden; the album is Weekend, released late last year, and currently in heavy rotation.

"Keep reading our emails regarding Sam's reopening at The Montrose this spring."


The fire that destroyed the original location of Sam's Food & Spirits may seem to have been a long time ago, but it was only early December. Since then, the Highlander Point location has been the subject of most company marketing e-mails, and yet the "other" property -- Plantation Montrose on Lewis & Clark Parkway in Clarksville, the Sam's site for banquets and big events -- has been standing by quietly, waiting future dispositions, and with this week's mailing, it appears a decision about the future has been made.

The oft-cited complaint about Montrose, which failed in previous incarnations (Major McCullough Steak House, Stratto's), is its location; neither here nor there, and at the wrong end of the highway. However, there is no more iconic a food and drink business name as Sam's in Southern Indiana. Everything's in place. I see no reason it won't work to render Montrose onto Sam's flagship bricks and mortar store.

As always, I wish Sam and everyone the best. It's hard imagining the scene without them.

---

Sam's Preparing for Opening...

Sam's New Albany will be open for Fridays during the Lenten season beginning March 14. (We will not be open to the public March 7 due to a previously booked event. However, Highlander Point Sam's will be glad to serve you Ash Wednesday and the first Friday of Lent. We're open at "The Point" seven days a week for lunch and dinner!)

On Fridays beginning on the 14th we will be open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. at The Montrose, 318 W. Lewis & Clark Pkwy., Clarksville. We'll open with our regular menu (including a few "tweaks,") and full bar. We hope to see you and know you will recognize some familiar faces. Sam's at Montrose is a hop, skip and jump from downtown New Albany and we look forward to lunch or dinner with you!

Keep reading our emails regarding Sam's reopening at The Montrose this spring Mondays through Fridays. And remember, The Montrose is available for weddings, receptions, parties and more Saturdays and Sundays.

Call that number you know...945-9757...for more information. Meet you at Sam's!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Howey: "The voters will not see the constitutional marriage amendment on the Indiana ballot until 2016, if ever."

The politician Silent Ron isn't saying much.

In which we finally hear Silent Ron's side of the HJR story -- except he says absolutely nothing at all.

But the journalist Brian Howey says it all, for the record: "The 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees “equal protection” of all citizens in all states under the law. This will be at the crux of future debates either in the courtroom or on the ballot."

While you wait for Silent Ron to unmuzzle himself, read the whole story here:

Brian Howey: Lessons from the marriage amendment

INDIANAPOLIS - The voters will not see the constitutional marriage amendment on the Indiana ballot until 2016, if ever.

For much of the past two months, House Joint Resolution 3 has dominated legislative and media attention at a time when Indiana's jobless rate is north of 6 percent, we have a methamphetamine epidemic (and in some places, heroin), our health metrics are trending south, and we are potentially leaving more than $10 billion in federal Medicaid money that you taxpayers have already contributed on the table. We have so much more work to do.

So, what are the lessons of HJR-3?

As new attitudes have fed the Indianapolis area's apartment boom, old attitudes doom New Albany's.


Here in New Albany, we spend much time over beer, coffee and various illicit pharmaceuticals discussing the perennial disconnect between theory and practice.

For instance, just about everyone taking a position on the future of downtown acknowledges that more people need to live there. Granted, our Slumlord Empowerment Districts (i.e., historic neighborhoods) lie only a short distance from downtown, but after a decade spent trying to make the point that ideas like walkability and complete streets apply to these neighborhoods just as much as free federal stabilization monies when it comes to effectively connecting them with downtown, the powers that be still look at messengers like us as though we were extras populating the cantina scene in Star Wars.

The only downtown housing solution ever advanced during the past decade of muddle was the catastrophic Mainland Properties proposal to use a $15 million parking garage as collateral to find the money its backers didn't possess, perhaps leading eventually to habitation at DC-level prices. Meanwhile, empty buildings still sit, unused and rotting, and there hasn't been a new building erected downtown since the Redmen's Club (later Steinert's) ... which remains vacant.

Perhaps, in the end, our perennial disconnect reflects our enduring contempt for education. If one persists in thinking that an empty-nester is someone who didn't get lucky last night at the Road House, and a millennial is a flower that returns to bloom each spring, then it's hard to picture this city ever turning the corner on downtown housing.

After all, valuable corners are meant to be sacrificed for a farmers market, not for thinking outside self-imposed boxes. And so we stumble, dully, into the future.

New attitudes have fed Indianapolis area's apartment boom, by Chris Sikich (Indy Star)

 ... Changing attitudes and lifestyles have boosted the apartment industry even as the new home market has emerged from the recession, said Drew Klacik, senior policy analyst at the Indiana University Public Policy Institute.

• Millennials, he said, are interested in living in an urban environment without the long-term binds of mortgages. Millennials are a key demographic, expected to grow from 36 percent of the workforce today to 50 percent by the end of the decade, according to Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates.

• Empty-nesters, he said, are ready to downsize and give up the maintenance headaches associated with home ownership. The first wave of baby boomers reached 65 in 2011, and the last will turn 65 in 2029.

"Millennials and empty-nesters want walkable new urban neighborhoods," Klacik said. "The stuff Carmel and Westfield are doing is a really big deal, and that really is the trend."

In which we finally hear Silent Ron's side of the HJR story -- except he says absolutely nothing at all.



In the run-up to the Indiana Senate's vote on HJR-3, Ron Grooms refrained from all social media inquiries prior to infamously adding his name to the list of "yea" votes for the Hoosier Stain. Rest assured; it wasn't just social media on my part. I wrote him privately, and my e-mail also was ignored. Still has been, to this very moment.

Following is a Facebook thread ensuing after a blog post share, beginning on February 18, and concluding (so far) yesterday. In it, Ron Grooms finally offers a tepid reply.

Of course, it's no reply at all.

Now he instructs me to phone him, presumably to listen as the same tripe is recycled, and the same evasions repeated aloud. He might phone me, as my number as there on my FB page for the entire world to see, but no matter, for you see, I'm a written word kind of guy. Am I judgmental this way? Of course I am. Words matter, and the written word matters. Listing various public meetings attended isn't exactly exculpatory, is it? Universals are what matter in this instance. Explain them in writing, or not at all. Oratory disappears. Words on the page remain.

C'mon, Ron. Take pen in hand, and explain your collusion with cowardly discrimination. Describe how it jibes with liberty, justice, economic development and those other hoary bromides you and your brethren toss out without ever thinking. Gimme some meat here, Ron ... and not over the phone, thanks.

Write. It. Down.

---

It would be revealing to hear Silent Senator Ron Grooms's side of the pro-HJR-3 story. What high personal principle is involved in aligning with the anti-human rights bash mob? Electoral considerations only? Is economic development pursued by depriving talented citizens of inalienable rights? Ron, are you going to say anything at all, anytime soon?

RW
I have never heard him say anything of substance before.
February 18 at 8:14am · Like

JG
As unfortunate as it is that Grooms has turned out to be the sort of senator so many of us expected, this another race that has inspired me not to vote unless a better alternative materializes.
February 18 at 10:28am · Like

MC
I'm pretty in the same boat as JG. Mr. Freiberger will have to step it up to get my vote. His recent statement was a step in the right direction. I definitely don't want to hear anymore about his ball playing days.
February 18 at 1:31pm · Like · 1

Roger A. Baylor How can Silent Ron be punished? Give a guy an idea here.
February 18 at 1:44pm · Like

KB
Without a strong candidate running against him, I'm not sure he sees his actions as remotely harming his future and continued political aspirations.
February 18 at 1:47pm · Like

Roger A. Baylor
Chuck didn't lose by much last time. But: I understand all your points.
February 18 at 2:03pm · Like

KB
Grooms is more entrenched now....
February 18 at 2:05pm · Like

Roger A. Baylor
I'll end with this. We all hate sporting analogies, but I've always been hesitant to underestimate Chuck. He hustled and got the most out of average basketball skills. Now, granted, I'd like to see that diligence applied toward a left-liberal agenda like mine. At the end of the day, we're going to have a State Senator no matter what. Silent Ron's a disaster, and voting against the worst candidate is a refuge of sorts. Dunno, but for now, I stick to my viewpoint.
February 18 at 8:29pm · Like

AB
Freiberger is more conservative than Ron in many ways. Even if Ron wasn't a family friend, I wouldn't vote for Chuck. The Clark County races are shaping up to be much more interesting to me, especially the prosecutors race. Both guys are very much qualified. You got to like that.
February 18 at 8:34pm · Like

Roger A. Baylor
AB, yeah, well, Ron loses me forever on the HJR fiasco, especially compared with his continual advocacy of same old economic development fluffing; apparently it's okay to subsidize the unctuous Kerry Stemlers of the world while at the same time dissing the sort of diversity that builds a genuine contemporary workforce. I call that old and out of touch ... politically, of course; he seems a nice enough guy personally. Then there's the silence.
February 18 at 8:42pm · Like

KB
I, too, take issue with the silence. Whether it's bridges/tolls, school vouchers, or HJR-3, he has yet to tell constituents which way his political winds are blowing until he actually votes. And even when an entire school cafeteria or gym is telling him they don't like the plan as outlined by the GOP, he lines right up for the party line. It makes him look like a political pawn playing typical political games, whether he intends to be one or not. I disagree with Clere on many things, but have been heartened by his principled stances on Medicaid and HJR-3 even when they've ruffled party feathers ... On the other hand, I wasn't impressed with Freiberger last time I saw his campaign materials. His pitch seemed to boil down to him being a democrat in name only, and that he has a conservative haircut. I'm also not terribly impressed by anyone currently serving on the county council, given that body's track record of managing the county and its funds. I'll reserve judgment until I see more of what he has to say this time around, but I'm not terribly hopeful he'll present a strong candidacy or viable option against an incumbent.
February 18 at 9:11pm · Like

RS
Ron Grooms made a choice. He must be fired. If voting for Chuck Freiberger accomplishes that, so be it. At the very least, Freiberger will pretend to listen to constituents
February 18 at 9:15pm · Like · 1

Ron Grooms
Roger,If you would like to contact the State House office phone, 317-234-9425,and leave your name and number ,I will be happy to return your call as soon as possible.You can email me at S46@iga.in.gov.In November,2013, we conducted four town hall meetings on each Saturday morning in November.On Friday,February28,2014 we will complete our fourth straight Town Hall meeting on Fridays when we meet in Highlander Point.We appear weeky in the district to gather input and provide my position on issues. HJR 3( House Joint Resolution) came to the Senate after being amended in the House after its origin.The Senate had 5 session days to debate the bill after the House sent it to the Senate.My opinion was seldom asked by the media and when asked was never printed.Many citizens spoke their opinions during our weekly February meetings or during private meetings of small groups as requested.There were several meetings of four or less with me, on both sides of the HJR 3 issues.I am currently answering letters from January about this issue. Also.let me know if you have concerns about the various winery or microbrewery bills that passed in recent sessions. Ron
February 23 at 12:48am · Like

RS
Hey, Roger. See? Ron has been "responsive." He's perfectly willing to tell you that he is responsive. You should be ashamed of yourself for letting yourself read anything into his actual vote on HJR-3 or any prior votes that he is anything other than responsive. After all, this is only the defining issue of the 21st century so far. What makes you think Sen. Ron Grooms is a bigot who is completely disconnected with a demographic as little as 5 years younger than he? What makes you think he is an ideologue so wrapped up in partisan lockstep that he is willing to create a legal, nay Constitutional ban on the marriages of homosexuals? It is clear to me, from Mr. Grooms's Facebook response that he merely voted along party lines and simply didn't know that a vast majority of his constituents find his vote to be repulsive and disqualifying. Perhaps only now does he realize how deeply he has diminished his reputation and legacy. Gosh, Roger Baylor, you seem to have been so unfair. Surely now Sen. Grooms will commit to kill this bill in the next legislative session. Aren't you now embarrassed that you called him out? Sen. Grooms is sensitive to this issue and no merely voted aye to let us know how responsive he is to constituent sentiment. Clearly, you have hurt his feelings. If only he had known how repulsive his vote would be, he would have stood up for the future, not a regressive past.
February 23 at 2:33am · Like

Roger A. Baylor
Apparently he can be reached if predisposed to agree, but if not, then the damage must be completed first, before belated alibis are proffered. Lame.
20 hours ago

DNA to follow this week's restaurant seminar with next week's Be Local Expo.


Whenever I see the Riverfront Amphitheater used as visual enticement for the city of New Albany, I think to myself: Then, why not use it more often?

Maybe it's time to get serious.


Yeah, and although no one knows exactly why, there's a restaurant seminar on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

REWIND: Matt Taibbi, John McCain, The eXile, Rolling Stone and the Open Air Museum.

First, the update: Matt Taibbi is leaving Rolling Stone.

I've linked to his articles far less often than I might have, simply because I didn't want it to be a weekly habit. Back on November 23, 2008, it was time to provide some background. Here is the full reprint.

---

Matt Taibbi: "A Requiem for John McCain," in Rolling Stone.

My first exposure to Matt Taibbi came from a book called, “The eXile: Sex, Drugs, and Libel in the New Russia,” which our on-line book discussion group tackled circa the year 2000. Here is what Publishers Weekly had to say about it.
In 1997, two American college-educated slackers began publishing the eXile, a no-holds-barred newspaper, in Moscow. The paper includes irreverent discussions of Russia's sex and drug scene and off-color humor pieces, such as an article poking fun at a U.S. African-American basketball player who was toiling for a Moscow team after he was kicked out of the NBA following a forced sodomy charge in the U.S. Their attitude toward Russia's expatriate community, including themselves, is clear: "Any affluent or even middle-class American who renounces the good life of sushi and 50-channel cable delivery" is "motivated by a highly destructive personality defect."

The pranks the newspaper plays are entertaining: convincing an aide to Mikhail Gorbachev that New York Jets football coach Bill Parcells wanted the former Soviet leader to give a series of inspirational pep talks to his team, for example. The eXile also takes on the herd mentality of reporters, managing to convince one of its rival papers that basketball hall-of-famer Wilt Chamberlain was considering a comeback in Russia. (In between its humor and its testosterone, the eXile has reported some important stories, most notably that much aid money from the U.S. went directly into the hands of some top Russian politicians.)

Only those with a National Lampoon mentality will enjoy the descriptions of the editors' sexual conquests and their comparisons of Russian and American women. Like much of the paper itself, the book, which recounts the newspaper's history, is tasteless. There's little doubt, however, that both incisively probe contemporary Russian reality--and the expatriate indset.
Wikipedia adds to the merriment:
Rolling Stone magazine said in 1998 that then-coeditors "Mark Ames and Matt Taibbi take the raw material of this decadent new Moscow and convert it into 25,000 instantly snapped-up issues of The eXile, consisting of misogynist rants, dumb pranks, insulting club listings and photos of blood-soaked corpses, all redeemed by political reporting that's read seriously not only in Moscow but also in Washington."
To be honest, I lost track of Taibbi’s writing for a number of years, and having ceased subscribing to Rolling Stone some time back, it wasn’t until the recent election campaign that I became aware of his work covering it. I still haven’t figured out how the subscription resumed without my paying for it.

Subsequently, I've been delighted to read Taibbi’s political essays. He grafts Hunter S. Thompson’s chemical-addled sneer atop the more urbane (and less overtly aggressive) analysis of mainstream journalists like Frank Rich of the New York Times, leaving me with yet another writing role model to absorb in small doses only, lest I subconsciously seek to emulate too obviously. It’s a quality I formerly admired in P.J. O’Rourke, at least until the ex-Lampooner dove completely off the deep end and abandoned pants-down Republicanism for the genuine non-ironic and fascistic article.

Like Thompson before him, Taibbi thrives in a habitat of surreal absurdity, and his descriptions of the waning daze of the doomed McCain/Palin bid for the nation’s highest offices are filled with sassy but deadly accurate imagery, as in this passage documenting the extent of the Arizona “maverick’s” sell-out to the dark side of the GOP (warning: the following contains brutally graphic figurative language):
In short, McCain entered this election season being the worst thing that anyone can be, in the eyes of the Rove-school Republicans: Different. Independent. His own man. He exited the campaign on his knees, all his dignity gone, having handed the White House to the hated liberals after spending the last months of the race with numb-nuts Sarah Palin on his arm and Karl Rove's cock in his mouth. Even if you wanted to vote for him, you didn't know who you were voting for. The old McCain? The new McCain? Neither? Both?
Seeing as surreal absurdity is also the order of the day in learning-impaired New Albany, it’s a shame we couldn’t bring Taibbi here for a brief time and turn him loose among the ward-heelers, rednecks, underachievers and Luddites. However, the results might hit too close to home, and after all, we’ve been documenting the Open Air Museum’s freaks and foibles for four years ourselves, dodging shrapnel when merited and beginning each and every day with a glance at the prices for one-way tickets out. It isn't a mere coincidence that "The eXile" stands as metaphor for the experience of leftists in New Albany.

Here are beginning and concluding passages from Taibbi’s piece on McCain, and the link to the whole story. Enjoy.
Matt Taibbi: A Requiem for John McCain

It sounds strange to say, but this election season may have done to the word "Republican" what 1972 did for the word "liberal": turned it into a poisonous sobriquet that no politician with bipartisan aspirations will ever again welcome. The Republicans didn't just break the party — they left it smashed into space dust. They weren't just beaten; the very idea of Republican conservatism was massively rejected in virtually every state where large chunks of the population do not believe in the literal existence of a horned devil, and even in some that do …

… When Obama took the stage in Grant Park as president-elect, that question was answered. We pulled off an amazing thing here, delivering on our society's most ancient promises, in front of a world that still largely thought of us as the home of Bull Connor's fire hose. This dumbed-down, degraded election process of ours has, in spite of itself and to my own extreme astonishment, brilliantly re-energized the American experiment and restored legitimacy to our status as the world's living symbol of individual freedom. We feel like ourselves again, and the floundering economy and our two stagnating wars now seem like mere logistical problems that will be overcome
sooner or later, instead of horrifying symptoms of inevitable empire-decline.


For this to happen, absolutely everything had to break right. And for that we will someday owe sincere thanks to John McCain, and Sarah Palin, and George W. Bush. They not only screwed it up, they screwed it up just right.

The farmers market, opportunity cost, and decision-making prior to fact-gathering.

At last Thursday's city council meeting, I mentioned the opportunity cost of tying up the southeast corner of Market and Bank with a farmers market expansion.

Opportunity cost: The cost of an alternative that must be forgone in order to pursue a certain action. Put another way, the benefits you could have received by taking an alternative action.

Councilman Gonder explains this opportunity cost in much greater detail:

If, on the other hand, the market were successful at the new garage site, (and it likely would be, because the local food movement is real and has been embraced by so many) then the current market site at Bank and Market Streets could be returned to service as a fully functional component of downtown commercial revitalization. It makes little sense to have one of the most economically valuable, as well as spatially valuable, pieces of property in the entire downtown, off the tax rolls, and dedicated to only intermittent use for eight or ten days a month six or seven months out of the year.

If set on a different course, that corner could be thrown open to a design challenge which could yield exciting possibilities not now visualized.

If, on the other hand, the City commits hundreds of thousands of dollars to that corner, the very expenditure itself is likely to shackle us to that piece of property, while other more profitable, enhancing, and defining, uses of the property are turned away from the downtown and, rather, sent to the outer reaches of town where development, while necessary and welcome, contributes less to what is the true heart of our City.

Yesterday, another friend put it this way:

Opportunity cost is when you have the fleeting opportunity of just a mere 48 months to spend an entire generation's tax dollars. You tend to focus on spending rather than planning.

What I find noteworthy is a very clear pattern over the past two years. A decision is made and fully funded, then reasons found to support the pre-determined conclusion. From swimming pools to the farmers market, this pattern has been repeated. Only once has there been an exception: There must be a study to determine the future of the one-way street grid before a decision is reached.

If you want to know why I'm pessimistic about the future of two-way streets and walkability in New Albany, this is the reason. If you wish to know more, ask John Rosenbarger -- who already has made up his mind.

We're doing better addressing the blight we have no plans to prevent.


This article looked intriguing, so I tunneled under the paywall to provide you with this takeaway:

In 2012 and 2013, the building commissioner’s office filed a total of $579,595 in liens, according to Brewer. Liens were filed for any service the city rendered on a blighted property, from cutting grass to razing a structure.

As of Wednesday, the city had recouped $155,284 in liens over the past two years. In 2010 and 2011, New Albany collected about $46,000 in liens, (Building Commissioner David) Brewer said.

No problem; you'd do the same for me, I'm sure. Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go wash my shovel.

FUTURE DOESN'T LOOK BLIGHT: City credits proactive approach, funding for increased codes results, by Daniel Suddeath

NEW ALBANY — The number of stressed properties and blighted structures addressed in New Albany over the past two years has risen sharply, according to numbers provided by Mayor Jeff Gahan’s administration.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

R.I.P. Mel Freiberger, Jr.

I got to know Mel Freiberger (Mel Jr., as opposed to his father) in 7th grade, and last saw him perhaps a year ago, and the one constant spanning those four decades was his smile, which can be described in only one way: As the shit-eatingest grin I've ever encountered.

This is a very high compliment.

Mel's grin was a mutable, elastic feature. It could indicate acceptance, mischief, amusement and annoyance, and usually served to suggest that interesting times were right around the corner. Of course, you could never be sure just how they’d be unfolding, for better or worse.

We played baseball together in high school, and while not really close friends, there were certain memorable moments. As seniors fleeing a prom party police crackdown, with the soiree being moved on the fly to an alternate location, Mel yelled at me to ride with him. I jumped in, and off we went, spraying gravel, to drive 40 miles back home at a very high rate of speed.

Realizing there was something missing, we abruptly detoured to Louisville to visit everyone’s go-to West End package store (leave your fake IDs at home) for a case of cold Sterling, which sustained us through the subsequent, riotous evening. I’ll never forget it.

And so it was that for Mel, beer was the Catch-22. Like all of us, he wrestled with his demons. Alcohol was one of them, and I believe he effectively beat it before cancer beat him. Cancer’s a bitch, but I’d have bet against it in Mel’s case, because he was a tough hombre and the stereotypical sporting force of nature, probably as skeptical of “practice” as Allen Iverson ever was, but putting every last bit of body and soul into it when the actual game was underway.

This could be true of other pursuits, as in the instance of a chili eating contest at IU Southeast. Mel won it convincingly, only to be summarily robbed of his title when the niggling, petty bureaucrat in charge conjured a previously unannounced rule from thin air, declaring that contestants vomiting afterward would be disqualified.

I thought Mel’s strategy was a stroke of genius.

Ironically, given my career in beer and Mel’s abstention from it, we came full circle the last two years, when NABC purchased local-grown hops for our Wet Knobs seasonal ale from a Knobs hop grower by the name of Brandon Freiberger – Mel’s son.

Rest in peace, Mel. I know it wasn’t always easy, and the results weren’t always pretty. But it seemed to me you always had a good heart, fought through, and did your best.

Melvin G. Freiberger, Jr.

At GAW News: "Indiana falling behind in the Anti-Gay HATING Game."

If you are allergic to impenetrable satire, avoid this link.

If not, join us in firing Ron Grooms this November. Perhaps he can retire to Arizona?

Indiana falling behind in the Anti-Gay HATING Game.

It’s always something!! Just when Goliath getting OH SO SMUG and happy about how Indiana done gone and pass it’s own law to put Anti Gay marriage on the ballet to weld onto the Constitutional, Just when Steve Stemler getting ready to do some HIGH FIVES with good Old Senator RON GROOMS who finally come out with the ANTI GAY CROWD (of which Goliath a PROUD hand holding member) JUS when GoliaTH ABOUT TO write a big fancy full research BOASTING article about how great and Anti Gay Indiana is on the Gawnews……. Along come some other dad blasted State to STEAL INDIANA’s THuNDER!!! Going all “We’re MORE anti-gay than YOU are Indiana!!!

That’s right…Arizona which is apparently some dusty barren god farsaken blasted landscape of a place…hotter than HELL and dry as an old bone STATE that nobody even think about wanting to visit…. ARIZONA now come out with a New and Clever ANTI GAY law what say that anybody running a dad blasted bidness is FREE to kick Gays out on their ASS.

You heard it ! Walk into a bar wearing designer clothes or something and the bartender look at you and say ”Get the EFF out of here you Gay Sumbitch!!!” AND THE LAW ON THE SIDE OF BARTENDER!!! HA HA HA!!!

Keep
reading

Gonder: A farmers market alternative.

At the Thursday meeting of the council, councilman-at-large John Gonder suggested operating the farmers market in and around the street level of the parking garage at State and Market.

Before you scoff, consider John's ten reasons. DNA's grandees are not going to like it, but he has some very good points.

Bill of Fare

Last night at the Common Council meeting, the civic equivalent of haggis was served to some picky Council diners. Following on the heels of a Tribune article, Wednesday the 19th, which revealed that a Farmer's Market redo had arrived at the table ready for consumption, came news that we're going be about $75,000 short of paying the tab.

While the Council had appropriated $270,000 for an addition at the existing market site, because of grading, and drainage work at the expansion, those funds would be insufficient. A discussion of the new reality revealed little stomach for additional funds for the expansion.

A somewhat offhand remark led to further exploration following the meeting. The remark was a question, "had it been considered to move the Farmer's Market to the municipal parking garage?" Prior to looking for ways to meet the new funding requirements of the Farmer's Market expansion, at the current site, it might be worthwhile to consider some of the benefits of moving to a new venue at the parking garage, which is hardly used on weekends.

Friday, February 21, 2014

I don't care what anyone says; the alligator should have stayed ... as well as the truth of what really happened.

(Photo from the Landmarks article)

I suppose we can all be happy that a buyer finally was found for the Weinmann-Hess building at 8th & Culbertson, or, as I always thought of it, the Gator Tavern.


What's done is done, but at the risk of reviving tired old allegations of "toxicity," might I inquire as to the purpose of historical revisionism in the Indiana Landmarks report?

News from the region: A landmark save in New Albany (Indiana Landmarks - Southern Regional Office)

 ... The c.1858 landmark’s fate looked dim back in 2011, when powerful spring storms in southern Indiana caused a rear corner to collapse. When the owner decided to demolish the structure, Indiana Landmarks teamed up with the city and the New Albany Urban Enterprise Association to save it.

With additional support from Horseshoe Foundation of Floyd County and Develop New Albany, we repaired the damage, added a new roof and period-appropriate windows, repointed the masonry, and gave the building a tasteful new exterior paint scheme before marketing it with preservation covenants. Inside, the building retains many original features, including a staircase, pocket doors, and wide-board pine flooring on the second floor.

Holy Whitewash, Batman. From quintessential example of back-room, non-transparent cluster reaming to shining example of cooperation and the victory of the human spirit, in one euphemism-ridden press release. Following are random references (2011 and 2012) to that rarest of local commodities, the truth.

ON THE AVENUES: They didn't ask.

Swank penthouse to crown 8th & Emery’s development.

Dan Coffey is right: The UEA is not City Hall’s ATM.

ON THE AVENUES: Brother, Can You Spare $12,500?

I miss Sarajevo.

The videos below are almost pornographic in their depiction of human stupidity. I browsed for them after stumbling across a link to photos of what's left of the 1984 Olympic site in Sarajevo, three decades later.





I haven't been to Sarajevo since my lone visit in 1987, which is described in these essays from the archive.

Red Stars, Black Mountains: What’s Habsburg got to do with it? (Part 5).

Red Stars, Black Mountains: Sarajevo on $10 A Day (Part 6).

Let's not forget the official video.

Just when I needed it most ...

I stopped by Quills this morning for an espresso and continued venting of spleen. As I was preparing to depart, I saw owner Nathan Quillo in back, and sat down to chat. To make an hour's conversation short, it was very encouraging to hear some of his ideas. I feel better, so thanks, Nathan.

In spite of everything, and although it will strike some readers as unusual, I'm truly an optimist at heart. Each day I rise, sure that it'll be the great breakthrough day, when things finally will make sense and begin happening. By mid-afternoon, it usually appears as false hope, but that's okay. There's always tomorrow.

The tone deafness hereabouts sometimes becomes so very frustrating that my optimism is gone by the time I'm finished brushing my teeth. Sometimes we forget what we're fighting for. Sometimes, we run out of time.

But perhaps not yet. Maybe something can be salvaged yet. Thanks, Nathan. I needed that.


More disgust: "New Albany City Council questions farmers market expansion."

My initial impressions were written last evening.

Disgust

Let's agree on one point: Everyone's in favor of the farmers market -- in theory, in principle, as something of value to the community.

However, favoring the farmers market does not imply a willingness to accept without questions the infuriating opacity of the funding process, which council person Baird evidently has abetted without once considering the many counter-arguments, or how the back-door budgetary conjuring of the money appears to outsiders.

For those of us kept out of this loop, it appears as though Develop New Albany is being given a blank check to "improve" an urban corner owned by the city, when the corner might be better deployed as infill, except that to determine the respective values of its use, there would need to be a plan ... and there is absolutely no downtown plan guiding this non-thought process.

Thus, the appearance is a payback to the same old grandees, plain and simple.

Another way to look at it: If the farmers market truly is as significant to downtown revitalization as its proponents claim it to be, might not we be harming its future potential by refusing to consider other options in terms of location and operation? After all, if a swimming pool is worth nine million dollars, isn't the farmers market worth a building, or a plaza, or its very own organic veggie farm at Valley View golf course?

Where is the overall downtown economic development plan?

There is a plan, right?

New Albany City Council questions farmers market expansion; Vote on funding for new police cars again tabled, by Daniel Suddeath (N and T)

 ... The suggestion that more money will be needed for the project caused some council members to question the improvements, as well as the management of the market.

“That seems terribly excessive,” Councilman John Gonder said of the estimated cost for the expansion.

The market is not being managed to its “full extent” and perhaps a separate entity should be formed to help operate the market along with Develop New Albany, Councilman Dan Coffey said.

The city is putting up a lot of money and has a responsibility to ensure its investment is being handled properly, he continued.

“I want to see what return we’re getting for our dollar,” Coffey said.

He added that downtown business owners should be more involved in the design process for the market.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Disgust.

Unexpected controversy arose tonight when Mrs. Baird chose to disclose a shocker: Having already earmarked $270K for farmers market improvements, bids came in high, and she'd be coming back to ask the council for another $75K.

A discussion broke out, perhaps the first one to occur since the council's budget was revealed to have included a line item for this project -- a fact that at least two council persons I spoke with cannot remember ever seeing.

Mr. Duggins proceeded to mount a defense, which I'm sure Daniel Suddeath will explain in tomorrow's paper (the link will be included here), but the part of particular interest to me was Mr. Gonder's question of the city's economic development director, paraphrased: One criticism of the farmers market I've heard comes from those who run businesses downtown the year round, wondering why weekend seasonal temporary vendors merit such attention when downtown businesses are on duty every day. 

Duggins's reply, also paraphrased: It's just like the complaints about Harvest Homecoming blocking storefronts; we'll talk about it someday; and the farmers market is important, so it's different. 

Excuse my being obtuse, but permit me to ask (non-paraphrased).

How so?

And: Those complaints about Harvest Homecoming ... are they the ones not being taken seriously, yet again, for another year?

Look, it's beginning to get tragi-comic around here. The more the topic is raised, the faster they're ducking and covering.

Swimming pools have a plan. Parks have a plan. Dog runs have a plan. Industrial entities (the heroic job creators) have a plan. The farmers market has a plan. Harvest Homecoming has a plan -- a bad one, which downtown business owners widely loathe, but a plan nonetheless.

What do all these plans have in common? Money is being thrown at them.

And then there are our local, independently owned businesses downtown. They've written the book on revitalization and played a disproportionately large role in lifting the city out of its self-imposed stone age, putting us on the map for the future generations ... and nothing. Not a peep. Not even a half-hearted effort to mediate the annual Harvest Homecoming cluster; just a change of subject.

Yes, and there's the other key facet of city life subsisting without a plan. It's the street grid, with the exception of Main Street ... and that's the wrong plan.

Really? This is very discouraging.

Welcome to the random conspiracy generator, restaurant seminar edition.

Yesterday, NAC's afternoon happy hour menu concluded with this palate cleanser from Develop New Albany, in the form of a first-ever Restaurant Seminar:

Guest Speakers Include: Fire Marshall - Chris Koehler, Floyd County Health Department - Dawn Stackhouse, Local Restaurant owner - Mike Kapfhammer, Horseshoe Foundation - Jerry Finn and learn about NEW events planned for 2014.

I raised an eyebrow; wouldn't you?

After all, a New Albany restaurant seminar featuring a Jeffersonville restaurant owner ... and Jerry Finn of the Horseshoe Foundation, who has nothing to do with local restaurants apart from being a mighty fine customer.

I'm told now that the seminar is being organized (with a scant week's notice) by a realtor and former mayoral spouse, and is intended as a way to let all the food and drink operators know about fire and health codes.

Which we do already (believe me), or at the very least should know.

On top of all this, there is the recent phenomenon of various summonses being issued to local food and drink operators, by the city's economic development team.

Maybe I'm jaundiced, but the experience of Come to City makes me wary.

Man, what's really going down?

I'm headed to the city council meeting. Maybe do some pol-whispering ... or grow me a crop of dental floss.

ON THE AVENUES: The bleak house on Do Nothing Avenue.

ON THE AVENUES: The bleak house on Do Nothing Avenue.

A weekly web column by Roger A. Baylor.

As I began writing this column early on Thursday morning, the usual cacophonous parade of block-long semi-trailers began thundering past on Spring Street.

We’ve been in this house for a decade, and I can’t recall witnessing this high a volume of engorged, steroidal truck traffic. It may well remain an apocryphal observation, given that there exists no entity in the city prepared to consider the problem or to deal with it – perhaps with the exception of Dan Coffey, who on more than one occasion has denounced the absence of weight enforcement as it pertains to football-field-sized vehicles destroying city streets.

Here’s the punch line: In the course of my early morning walks, I’m seeing plenty of trucks. What I’m not seeing is them ever stopping anywhere. They are traveling east to west, from one end of the city to the other. Apart from Padgett, which is the ultimate 800-pound gorilla when it comes to street grid reform, the fleets typically making deliveries to downtown businesses are comprised of smaller trucks of the sort that don’t shake structures while speeding past.

I believe it’s the first manifestation of bridges-evasion-borne, pass-through traffic.

I believe the city will do absolutely nothing, either to acknowledge the problem, or to act towards curbing it.

I believe this default inaction serves as an effective antidote to any meaningful concept of revitalization.

Of course, if social dysfunction is inevitable, one might as well pour a Progressive Pint and enjoy it. Consequently, I believe I need a drink … and some earplugs.

---

Snow when it melts ranks highly among life’s mixed blessings.

On the one hand, as the ice gradually clears from the sidewalks, walking on them becomes easier. At the same time, the more one is able to go outside and walk, the greater the volume of refuse, litter and garbage peeking back out from beneath the blackened white stuff, eloquently delineating New Albany’s sovereign territory.

These are the times when we are brutally reminded that at New Albany’s scabrous heart, it remains a filthy, unreconstructed river town, which Matt Nash noted in 2013.

http://cityofnewalbany.blogspot.com/2013/03/in-time-it-took-for-matt-to-write-this.html

Over the last couple of years, as the weather started to get warmer and the official end of winter was right around the corner, I have noticed how much garbage was just lying around. You might not see it when you are driving along the roads in an automobile, but if you go for a walk or ride a bike around town, you will begin to notice it nearly everywhere.

All the proclamations issued to the contrary by various poseurs and their agencies do little to alter the fundamental reality, because they’re unwilling to do anything to change the paradigm, and their words are to be taken with a grain of salt, if any still exists after most of it was dumped on the ground this winter.

Really, shouldn’t New Albany’s official seal be a wadded-up Rally’s bag resting atop a mound of cigarette butts, with a polar pop cup (or eighteen) scattered in the background, slightly out of focus, ever present but ill-defined? It’s an artistic image, indeed – or perhaps an autistic one.

If (in theory) both impaired driving and littering are illegal, and if bar owners like me are held responsible every minute of their working lives for the potentially devastating behavior of customers driving impaired, then why aren’t the fast food joints held responsible for eaters who repeatedly litter?

Then again, if social dysfunction is inevitable, one might as well pour a Progressive Pint and enjoy it. I hear they go wonderfully with a Big Daddy Double. The abandoned wrapper is blowing merrily past as we shovel it down.

---

My wife is a social worker.

For the uninitiated, here is a random web definition of her job:

“A social worker is a professional trained to talk with people and their families about emotional or physical needs, and to find them support services.”

Once upon a time, returning to her office, my bride noted that we’d just come back from a trip to Europe.

Came the immediate reply: “Did you fly or drive?”

No, not from a client struggling with mental illness.

From a co-worker.

I’m trying to imagine a European, even one with only an elementary school education, working in a similar position and proffering a similar comment, but I cannot. It’s simply inconceivable.

Has anyone ever determined why we Americans so often accept insufficient education with pride, almost as a birthright?

My bet usually is placed on the Barnum Axiom, wherein a sucker is born every minute – all the better to fleece him. We require an inadequately educated populace to render the average citizen less resistant to absurdly incessant sales pitches, so that the consumer economy can continue to hum along toward its goal of producing the most obese collection of poverty-stricken people the world has yet seen.

But if you try to make sense of it, maybe read a book once in a while, just be careful. In these parts, they’re always shopping for used rags and chloroform.

I’ve long since gotten over it, accepting as gospel that just about anything anyone might choose to say to me of a critical fashion will never spring directly from the critic. If it does, as with the perennially reeking derailment known as Professor Airwrecka, the comment will be made pseudonymously, or more often, anonymously.

My life is filled with backhanded compliments like these, because the ability to express oneself never goes unpunished by the semi-literate. I’ll never know what it’s like to feel threatened by ideas, and consequently, a degree of compassion must be retained. Take a deep breath. Walk a mile in their shoes.

Or, if their social dysfunction is inevitable, one might as well pour a Progressive Pint and enjoy it, while walking down the street, through the swirling detritus of unenforced ordinances, past the sacred slumlord empowerment districts, and against the headwind created by elephantine trucks.

Walking.

Since it’s the one thing they never seem willing to do, it may well be the best form of individual protest.

Oh, New Albany ... please stop breaking my liver.


If I were to link directly to Valerie Alexander's article, you'd miss the Bookseller's introduction, which helps to establish proper context.

When New Albany is namedropped elsewhere in non-flyover America, even amid otherwise positive stories, the reference invariably tends to focus on the way we really are and remain, rather than the way we'd like to see ourselves -- allowing for "we" as perhaps a couple hundred persons among 37.000.

It's a stunning disconnect, made all the more annoying because it's true. This culture needs changing. We smile and build half-million dollar dog parks connected by nothing, to nothing.

Rinse, repeat.

“Oh, Indiana, Please Stop Breaking My Heart!”

Every once in a while, we discover something written from afar but aimed directly at New Albany. Remember the Chicago Tribune story from 2008 where a downtown businessman declared (implicitly representing us) that he could never vote for a black man for president?