Monday, June 26, 2017

Just monetize, baby: Mirror imagery at Main & W. 1st.

In New Gahania, first we look at the purse.

Mark of Duggins: "An anchor fixes a potentially moving object to a place. It gets stuck in the mud and silt and keeps things from moving. That's why it's called an anchor."

City Hall unveils new street corner splash pads, with an ingenious example of the "sharing economy."

Last Friday it was revealed that just in time for the return of scorching weather, Jeff Gahan's bracingly futuristic Downtown Grid Modernization Project includes dozens of new splash pad installations.

Gahan's innovative Splash Pad Egress Reuse Program installations are located directly adjacent to ADA accessibility ramps (see photos below).

As a City Hall Source told the Green Mouse, "Why not use the ADA ramps for standing water? It isn't like we have disabled people in New Albany, and even if we do, they can just be shipped out to the tent camps in Greenville along with the public housing residents."

Nevertheless, NA Confidential has learned that Gahan has proposed a characteristically bold solution to safety concerns arising from drowning. Other cities have bike shares, but New Albany will be the first American city with ...

#OurNA ... where hashtags and satire go to be completely overwhelmed by the prevailing politics of insipid.

Uncanny, aren't they?

Grid Control, Vol. 7: What will the Board of Works do to rectify HWC's striping errors on the north side of Spring Street, apart from microwaving another round of sausage biscuits?

To reiterate, it appears that all "grid modernization" striping measurements were made from the south side of Spring, all the way from Vincennes to State. For whatever reason, whether by design or negligence on the part of City Hall's HWC Engineering concubine, if you park on the north side of the street, you get 6 to 8 inches less in terms of parking depth. Meanwhile, the half-a-foot greater depth is remarkably consistent on the south side.

Expect to see tires on curbs, but there's more. The cross hatching (buffer stripe scheme) is "aimed" the wrong way on the north side of Spring. The lines should be giving at least the subliminal signal that you should keep your west-moving car to the left of the buffer, but as painted, they imply that you should veer right.

The intersection of Spring and 10th literally is an accident waiting to happen, though we've already covered this bizarre bend.

Given narrower parking spaces on the north side of Spring, and with the prospect of wide vehicles like the one pictured above blithely encroaching by a foot and a half into the bicycle lane, cyclists face a far more confined route apart from the enhanced prospect of being "doored."

World class? My ass. It didn't have to be this way, did it?

As for the impression City Hall's timeless self-aggrandizing incomprehension leaves amid the "grid modernization" effort currently being implemented, here is the blog's junior editor, Jeff Gillenwater, whose Facebook comment excerpts from Friday characteristically summarize the situation.

It still blows me away that the single largest public works project in and around downtown New Albany in decades is happening in front of our house as I type and I (and everyone else) has to wait until they literally paint the lines on the street to know what it's going to be. Everyone in city government involved in the plan - administration, council, board of public works, planning department, engineering - should be ashamed of themselves ...

 ... Per my other post this morning, not voting for any of the minions currently involved. There's not a currently sitting council member or administrative sycophant who's deserving of public authority or money. I'll actively campaign against any of them as necessary, using their own record ...

 ... I was at the library earlier today and found the federally required environmental study for the street conversion-- probably a hundred pages or so in a big, thick binder. Know what wasn't included in all that (as legally mandated) publicly available information? A copy of the actual plan.

Autocentrism lives in New Gahania.

The proposal Jeff Speck submitted to New Albany included a fresh and significant biking infrastructure component that if implemented, would have made New Albany the undisputed regional leader.

At the time, NA Confidential warned you that Jeff Gahan would find a way to strip most of Speck's biking infrastructure ideas from the two-way plan, subverting the reversion into as lowest-common-denominator citywide paving project, diverting as much slush as possible into campaign finance coffers, declaring victory, and erecting another plaque to the usual suspects.

It's happening as I write, but of course there is little joy in being proved spot-on when so many opportunities are being squandered at so great a cost.

The Board of Public Works and Safety dozes tomorrow morning. Delusional excuses are to be expected, but the most important question: Will the feet of engineers and contractors be held to the fire, and these striping errors corrected?

Or, as usual in New Albany, do we condone incompetence? Don't look for admissions of responsibility, as these would imply City Hall conceding error, and that's something a garden variety flawless Dear Leader simply cannot do.



Grid Control, Vol. 6: Jeff Speck tweets about NA's grid changes, and those missed bicycling opportunities.

Grid Control, Vol. 5: Egg on HWC Engineering's well-compensated face as it botches Spring Street's westbound bike buffer cross hatching.

Grid Control, Vol. 4: But this actually isn't a bus lane, is it?

Grid Control, Vol. 3: TARC's taking your curbside church parking, says City Hall.

Grid Control, Vol. 2: Southsiders get six more parking inches, but you gotta love those 10-foot traffic lanes on Spring.

Grid Control, Vol. 1: You people drive so freaking horribly that someone's going to die at Spring and 10th.

THE BEER BEAT: Making light switch covers great again, and other examples of stewed cranberries tasting like prunes.

File under: Slow news day. 

Or maybe "any publicity is good publicity," this coming from the guy who put Lenin (and Che) on the Red Room wall.

Nude Donald Trump painting at Against the Grain getting jeers and cheers
, by Elizabeth Kramer (Courier-Journal)

A tiny detail on a small work of art in the men's restroom at Against the Grain Brewery has elicited a big reaction from customers.

The art in question is a replica of a nude painting of President Donald Trump — a 2016 work called "Make America Great Again" by Los Angeles-based artist Illma Gore. It's on a light switch in the men's restroom that a regular customer at Against the Grain put up without asking about four months ago, said general manager Shane Benton.

“We let it ride,” Benton said. “It’s art."

I'm reminded of the scene in the Marx Brothers' film Animal Crackers.

Capt. Spaulding (Groucho): Well, art is art, isn't it? Still, on the other hand, water is water. And east is east and west is west, and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce, they taste much more like prunes than rhubarb does. Now, uh... Now you tell me what you know.

Was it art or politics when I added a photo of Gus Hall, head of the Communist Party USA, next to Lenin in the Red Room? After all, Hall ran for president on more than one occasion.

(Owner Sam) Cruz said he has never considered getting rid of the art.

“We are 'Against The Grain,'” he said. “There is a lot in a name and definitely being fearless when it comes to standing by our values as it pertains to self-expression, which is a part of that.”

He added that image of the nude Trump does not express the company’s political values.

This Swiss fellow disagrees with Sam.

Arts has always been intertwined with politics, even when such slogans as l’art pour l’art were professed. From mimetic to corrective tool, art served its given purpose and was influenced and shaped by different social conditions and circumstances. Artistic production never solely replicated reality. Even during Realism it had its purpose of showing the brutality or beauty of everyday life to viewers. In the Nazi and Soviet visual culture was heavily encumbered with additional meanings supportive of ideological stances. Some creatives succumbed to ideological burden and created works that glorified political regimes, while in contrast to such attitudes, alternative artistic practices developed, often confounded to groups with limited access to public domain.

Speaking of fearless self-expression in local beer culture, here is my favorite example.

Not that soiled drawers reflect my political values, or anything like that.

(insert smiley face and LOL here)

Sunday, June 25, 2017

No Boston Olympics: "I think the most important talking point we had was around the taxpayer guarantee."


I think it is important to remember we should never be planning our cities around three-week events, or planning our cities around visitors. We should be planning our cities in a way that will work for decades, and will benefit the residents of the city.

The anti-Olympics grassroots campaign in Boston spent less than $10,000.

How Bostonians Defeated the Olympics, by Shannon Sims (CityLab)

... To find out how a grassroots campaign managed to shut down the Olympic juggernaut, we spoke with Christopher Dempsey, one of the founders of the No Boston Olympics movement, and a co-author of the new book No Boston Olympics: How and Why Smart Cities Are Passing on the Torch. We asked Dempsey, also the director of the nonprofit coalition Transportation for Massachusetts, what happened during the Boston opposition movement, what's up next for potential Olympic host cities, and why he believes that hosting the games under their current arrangement shouldn't be a part of any smart city's plan.


What was the most rewarding part about being involved in this movement?

We had a broad coalition of people who came to us for any number of reasons. Some people were concerned about the taxpayer guarantee, others didn't want disruption to their life for the three weeks, others were concerned about militarization of police and restriction on rights that occurs when hosting mega-events. At our victory party, there were people in socialist alternative t-shirts sharing a beer with people in t-shirts with the Don't Tread On Me flag representing the Tea Party right. We had been able to form an incredibly broad coalition, and that’s something I think doesn't happen enough.

One of the great takeaways here is that we are lucky to live in a democracy where we can have a robust Olympics debate. No Boston Olympics was outspent 1,500-to-1 by the boosters; we spent less than $10,000. But we had the facts on our side and a press willing to tell both sides of the story. I think we are lucky that's the case. The day after the bid was pulled, I received a phone call from the primary backer of the bid [businessman John Fish] and his words to me were, "Democracy worked." That was a pretty profound and gracious thing for him to say.

THE BEER BEAT: Day drinking porter with the porters at the market pub.

We could stay up drinking until morning, all the while arguing about the differences (if any) between Porter and Stout, but the only point of agreement might be this.

Entire quickly became popular as the workingman’s pint of choice, and as several historians seem to think, became known as “porter” because it was a particular favorite of the porters who labored at the local markets and also delivered the product to the pubs.

Historically, a porter is a person employed to carry burdens, as at a market. In the UK, what makes a "market pub" noteworthy is its exception with respect to allowable opening hours.

In Indiana, the rules are uniformly favorable. Any bar can be a "market bar," though not many do.

Sunday through Saturday, the legal hours for the dispensing of alcoholic beverages are 7:00AM to 3:00AM (IC 7.1-3-1-14).

Retailer permittees may allow the consumption of alcoholic beverages for a period of thirty minutes after the legal dispensing hours only if the alcoholic beverages to be consumed were purchased and received by the consumer before the applicable times (see above hours) to stop the dispensing of alcoholic beverages. After this thirty minute period, all containers that have previously had alcoholic beverages in them must be cleared from the tables, counters, bars, etc. (905 IAC 1-10-1)

Markets and their laboring porters. Porter as an ale brewed by the likes of George Washington. New Albany once had a market on ... Market Street.

What a great pub name: The Market Porter.

Pints at dawn: is this last call for London's market pubs? by Jessica Furseth (The Guardian)

Only a few pubs are still open to workers first thing in the morning – a throwback to when markets were vital to inner city life. Now these traditional early houses are being kept alive by a different type of drinker

... Four men are sat by the front door, getting a couple of pints before heading home to Southampton after a 12 hour shift on the nearby Crossrail construction. “A few of us try and come here once a week. This place is great for people like us, it’s our evening,” says Steve Webb, one of the workers.

Early houses came about due to a quirk in Britain’s alcohol licensing laws. Historically, all pubs would serve from first light, before this was stopped in the first world war because it was seen to hamper the war effort. But an exception was made for market pubs.

“Market business was often conducted in the pub. You’d go have a look at someone’s cattle or sheep, and then go into the pub and strike the deal with a drink,” says Martyn Cornell, a historian specialising in beer. “It was almost a commercial necessity to keep these places open, so market business could be carried out.”

Mark of Duggins: "An anchor fixes a potentially moving object to a place. It gets stuck in the mud and silt and keeps things from moving. That's why it's called an anchor."

Remember the time when Vic Megenity noticed that overnight, without consultation or the involvement of elected officials, the city of New Albany's symbol (seal) had suddenly changed?

Remember when Vic tried in vain to teach history to city council members who squirmed in their seats because they already knew that in a one-party cult of personality, Dear Leader makes the rules and not some old book-reading fart -- and they'd long since resigned themselves to being Yes Men for the greater good of local oligarchs?

Here's a refresher course from April, 2015.

By l850, New Albany became the largest and most important city in Indiana, thanks primarily to its steamboat building.

Of the over 400 steamboats built, the Robert E. Lee was, according to the New Albany Ledger in l866, the grandest ever built. With its Rosewood furniture and crystal chandeliers, it proudly plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers until it was destroyed by fire in l882 with the loss of 21 lives. This steamboat had gained national fame by winning its famous race with the Natchez, from New Orleans to St. Louis in l870.

By the late l890s, the city of New Albany commemorated its steamboat building era by making the R.E. Lee its official symbol. That symbol has been prominently displayed with a huge Bruce Fox creation on the front of the City-County Building as well as printed documents and brochures. It was used prominently to celebrate our Centennial Celebration in 1913 and our Bicentennial in 2013.

Several months ago, the city started using a completely different symbol — twin arches with a giant anchor hanging between. That symbol is now used on all city printed material and most recently scores of city street signs have this prominently displayed. No one has been able to explain what this giant anchor represents.

According to the dictionary, it means to prevent movement and to hold fast. Why would anyone want this as a symbol of our city?

The board of directors of the Floyd Count Historical Society recently voted unanimously to keep the historic Robert E. Lee as our city’s official symbol and that was presented to the New Albany City Council on April 6. The council stated it had no input on this change, yet they took no action to make sure this symbol is not lost to history.

We are very alarmed and concerned that this new anchor symbol was apparently created by the mayor’s office without a vote being taken from democratically elected representatives or by involving the public in providing input if it was decided democratically to choose a new symbol. No one could explain to us who, why, where, when or how this symbol was created.

Every citizen of New Albany should be alarmed at the undemocratic method of forcing through this drastic change in our New Albany symbol that has proudly served us for well over 100 years.
The Floyd County Historical Society’s mission is to protect and preserve our rich history. We, therefore, call on all city officials from the mayor to the city council to take immediate steps to restore the Robert E. Lee as our official symbol.

Please do not steal this symbol of our rich history but rather embrace it for future generations.

— Victor Megenity, vice-president, Floyd County Historical Society, New Albany

Who can forget economic dishevelment director Duggins bounding to the council podium to deny there'd been any change, even as a factory somewhere in China was churning out hundreds of streets signs affixed with the antiseptic new "branding piece," or "branding image," or whatever other gobbledygook newspeak term The Dugger recalled seeing on the cover of a business magazine he didn't read, or perhaps heard while dozing through another interminable One Southern Indiana pearly power of wealth luncheon, then rammed through redevelopment's bobbleheaded gravy slurpers while the newspaper promoted cooking school?

Two years later, this anchor has been slapped on virtually every object the city owns, and some it doesn't.

But the gift of an inexhaustible lode of satire?


Hilariously, while the anchor somehow seems a heroic slice of imagery to academic underachievers, it can be construed in a far more accurate way. Of course, Duggins never once considered definitions and broader meanings, merely concluding after an evening of Bud Light Limes that an anchor just looks cool.

We might thank him for this, because by doing so, he inadvertently has provided the best definition of Gahanism yet rendered. As regular reader B notes:

It's sadly fitting they've chosen an anchor as a graphic representation of the city. An anchor fixes a potentially moving object to a place. It gets stuck in the mud and silt and keeps things from moving. That's why it's called an anchor.

This is not a "marketing piece", a "branding image" - it's not a progressive symbol, it doesn't imply a growing and vital city. An anchor? Who designed this?

In 2019, there'll be this.

Helpful links follow.

Branding mud-struck: Why did the city of New Albany steal Anchor Brewing's seal?

W. 1st crosswalk propaganda: Other cities allow artists to create art. Ours merely glorifies its own fix-is-in muddy anchor.

Seals, branding mechanisms and a city anchored into place by sheer dullness of bureaucratic intent.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: I'm curious about the origins of the smooth, crisp and milky Pilsner Urquell pours.

Czech for Pilsner Urquell; a 1987 teaser. Photos to come.

The last time I had the pleasure of visiting the Czech Republic was 2006. That's a long time.

My most recent visit to Plzen, home of Pilsner Urquell?

Probably 1999; almost two decades. As I've been digitalizing my 1980s-era slides, there has been plenty of opportunity to ruminate about the incredible changes that have occurred in a place like Plzen since 1987.

Back then the country was called Czechoslovakia, and it was Communist. In spite of this, or maybe because of it, the beer was out of this world. Pair it with pork and dumplings, and repeat as often as possible.

In July, 1987 Barrie and I took the train to Plzen from Prague, found the brewery, and enjoyed a leisurely afternoon with multiple portions of the nectar, first in the former brewery tap outside the factory gate, then a few yards away in another pub long since supplanted by a roadway improvement project.

To me, it seems like yesterday. At the first stop, the coat check attendant told us she remembered the arrival of Patton's 3rd Army in Plzen during WWII. At the second, we were joined by a cab driver, who had chucked work for the day and was ferrying his buddies from pub to pub, drinking with them. None of them spoke English, and we spoke no Czech.

Rather, beer was spoken.

I watched quite a few Pilsner Urquells being poured that day, and would continue to do so in the years to come, hence the point of today's digression.

I've been vaguely aware that the Pilsner Urquell international distribution effort of late has been emphasizing the "three pours" draft approach. I'm all aboard, and want to learn more.

If my pub sanctuary project-in-development gets off the ground, this will be my daily classic house lager -- and make no mistake, Asahi as Urquell's new owner ranks nowhere near AB-InBev's level of multinational swinishness.

Besides, there'll be just a few changeable taps, and frequent excuses to pour Prima Pils, Goodwood's Louisville Lager and other beers in a similar range. What there won't be is a spinning wheel rotational approach.

As ever, I digress.

All I can ever remember ever seeing during all those times traveling in the Czech lands are were faucets pulled up, down or sideways to full bore as numerous glasses were filled with half-beer, half-foam, and then topped off. It seemed a reflection of having just one or two beers on tap, and numerous thirsty customers.

It occurs to me that I may be be missing something. Most readers already know that while I was in the beer biz for many years, it's been a while since I paid very much attention to a topic like this, even though there was a time when the Public House was the top Pilsner Urquell draft account in Indiana (if memory serves).

In this ongoing process of rediscovering bits and piece of life that were shunted aside during my should-have-known-better, trench warfare craft beer phase, I'm curious how long the Pilsner Urquell three-pour approach has been a factor.

Twenty years, maybe? Ten?

Or was it always a fact, just honored in the breach during Communist times, perhaps owing to the overall degradation?

Maybe I wasn't paying attention at all. It wouldn't be the first instance. If you know anything about this topic, please share it with me. As noted, it is my earnest wish to pour Pilsner Urquell again some day, hopefully soon.

Enjoy these two videos ...

 ... and two articles about the same.

Mastering the Pilsner–And Drinking Pure, Delicious Foam, by Nate Hopper and Eric Vilas-Boas (Esquire)


Democrats "might want to try developing a substantive policy agenda to run on."

Bland and inoffensive?

Why does this sound so familiar to Floyd County Democrats? Republican Lite seems no longer to be working for them, and one hopeful sign is that Jeff Gahan's public housing putsch has awakened some of the party's principled leftward standard bearers.

But they'll have to get past Dickey the Gatekeeper, won't they?

Jon Ossoff’s Georgia special election loss shows Democrats could use a substantive agenda, by Matthew Yglesias (Vox)

 ... Corbyn’s electoral map, in the end, turns out to look a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. He did well in the most diverse and most educated parts of the United Kingdom and worst among older voters. Whites with college degrees, in short, weren’t secretly dreaming of socialism. At the same time, running on a bold progressive policy agenda didn’t stop him from picking up support in exactly the kind of upscale precincts that the Democratic establishment has been trying to target. And it did succeed in doing what post-Obama Democrats have failed to do — engage young voters and encourage them to come to the polls.

But perhaps most of all, running on a bold policy agenda helped focus voters’ minds on policy rather than on the (extremely long) list of controversial Corbyn statements and associations from past years. Pundits had long expected Corbyn to get crushed at the polls, and had Theresa May succeeded in running an election focused on the Falklands War, the Irish Republican Army, and unilateral nuclear disarmament, she would have won. But instead, the UK ended up with a campaign about promises to nationalize utilities, eliminate university tuition, and raise taxes.

Ossoff’s effort to stay bland and inoffensive let hazy personal and culture war issues dominate the campaign — and even in a relatively weak Trump district, that was still a winning formula for Republicans.

Public Housing Putsch '17: Gahan, Trump remain in lock step as sycophants queue after the NAHA's director of finance resigns.

It's a measure of Jeff Gahan's generalized ethical barrenness (GEB) that when word reached the Green Mouse that Mike Bainbridge had resigned on Thursday as director of finance and compliance at the New Albany Housing Authority (NAHA), all thoughts immediately turned to the flagrant unsuitability of whatever pre-rigged replacement is to be chosen by Gahan's handpicked board of bobble-headed sycophants (GIGO).

ON THE AVENUES: Hi there, NAHA wastrels. My name is Peter Principle, and these are my friends Deaf and Dugout.

Given Gahan's perennial nepotism fetish, will it be a member of the mayor's extended family, perhaps Chris Gardner or Steve Bonifer?

Perhaps a regency by the Wizard of Westside, Dan Coffey himself? If so, he'll need an ivory abacus with gold lamé turnbuckles -- but Dugout can have it TIFFed, right?

Better yet: Bob Norwood, bootlicking insurance mogul to the stars?

And again this reminder: No local elected officials with the possible exception of a typically venomous Coffey have spoken publicly about Gahan's plans for the NAHA.

Silence is acceptance, is it not?

Seems they're all imaging the Orwellian words inscribed on the locomotive headed for the camps, right next to the smiley faced mud flat anchor: “Hop on Board the Quality of Life Express.”



It's #OurNA, all right: "New Albany attempting to purge itself of the poor" ... so, are local Democrats finally catching on to the Gahan shell game?

Covering and uncovering trip hazards at Elm and 10th without bothering to fix the problem? Why, that's #gahansafe!

It's been almost two years since NAC somewhat belatedly pointed to pedestrian trip hazards on two corners of Elm and 10th, these having gone unaddressed for so many years that even long-term residents couldn't recall the exact duration.

July 30, 2015

Photo essay: Only one of these things is a liability concern for the Board of Public Works and Safety.

You guessed it: The board's big liability concern is a street piano/public art project.

Brought in 2015 to the attention of the Bored of Works and Public Safety, junta coordinator Warren Nash yawned and returned to the task of re-electing a mayor with no aptitude for detail amid grandiose TIF-laden boondoggles.

Then, without warning, someone decided to give a damn.

January 9, 2017

18 months later, lip service for the trip hazards at 10th and Elm.

We might express curiosity at the number of years required to address the trip hazard issue with the least conceivable effort, but at least someone noticed and something was done to warn walkers, if not resolve the problem.

In early June, when Elm Street milling and paving commenced, MAC's crack ... team shrugged and moved the orange traffic pylons out of the way of shaded areas where workers congregate as their machinery operates.

This week on Thursday prior to the onset of rain, I was walking and noticed that after two weeks, the pylons still hadn't been moved back to their positions guarding trip hazards that the city refuses to mitigate over a period of years, and so I replaced them.

To whom should I send my civic mindedness invoice? I'm guessing the addressee isn't Warren Nash, who no doubt will yawn and return to the task of re-electing a mayor with no aptitude for detail amid grandiose TIF-laden boondoggles.

June 22, 2017

Thinking in Nawbany? It's always anchored firmly into place, right there on the mud flats, where the Ohio River meets the end of possibilities.

Friday, June 23, 2017

30 years ago today: Saying goodbye to Budapest, and an era now long gone.

As I write, it is the year 2017. I'll be 57 years old in August. 30 years ago, when I visited Hungary for the first time, a 57-year-old resident of Budapest looking back on his or her life might have noted these occurrences.

  • Europe's version of the Great Depression
  • The right-wing Hungarian dictatorship of Admiral Horthy
  • Budapest's devastation in fighting near the conclusion of World War II
  • Subsequent occupation by the Red Army
  • Communism's forcible implementation
  • The anti-Soviet Hungarian Uprising of 1956, which was savagely repressed by the USSR

At the point of failed revolution in 1956, our imaginary Budapester would have been all of 26 years old; if not already killed, maimed, purged or repressed, his or her whole adult life remained to be lived -- and by the time I arrived on the scene, much of it had indeed passed.

Hungary had been a relatively stable country for 25 years, and the citizen in question was close to retirement.

And yet, communism was inexorably eroding, and the Hungarians incessantly pushing the boundaries. Just three years later, in 1990, it was a whole new era, and everything had changed. Older people had it tougher when capitalism returned. By 2004, now 74, this retiree lived in a country that belonged to NATO and the European Union.

When I went to places like Hungary in 1987, these are the thoughts that filled my head as I wandered the streets.

At the time, so many Americans would have asked why Hungarians weren't fighting for "freedom." Actually, some were. Others accepted the status quo and went about their tasks. I was no fan of the system, and had little use for the regime. I was there to see how it worked, or didn't, and I tried to bear in mind that it takes all types to make a world.

Hungary was the sort of place I wanted to visit, not because I wanted it to be just like America, but precisely because it wasn't like America.


I spent far more time in Pest than Buda, and stayed in Óbuda my last six days in town. These areas weren't officially combined into one city until 1873. Pest's ample flat ground meant more space for building and growth than hilly Buda, and by the late 19th-century it had become the unified city's business district and commercial hub.

One of my favorite worker's cafeterias and a well stocked ABC supermarket were situated just down the way from the Dohány utcai Zsinagóga, or the Great Synagogue on Dohány Street, the largest synagogue in Europe and second biggest in the world. I walked past the Moorish-style building often.

The story of the Holocaust in Hungary doesn't make for pleasant reading, and that's why there's always the need for a refresher course.

Right around the corner from the synagogue is a major intersection in Pest. Turning left from Károly körút is Rákóczi út, and a straight shot to the Keleti pályaudvar rail station. That's the station with the big window, way on down the street.

Keleti is where I caught my train to Moscow, after foraging up and down this street for provisions. The church on the corner is the Chapel of St. Roch, originally built as part of a hospital complex.

A right hand turn puts you on Kossuth Lajos utca, leading west to the Danube, and access to Buda via the Erzsébet Bridge. This photo of the 19th-century ambiance was taken close to the bridge. It's called Ferenciek tere and has been extensively revamped in recent years. It's hard to see but the Fountain of the Nereids is in the middle of the photo.

Perhaps two miles northeast of Ferenciek tere (take the subway) is Hősök tere (Heroes' Square), which is adjacent to Budapest's roomy Városliget (City Park). The inept photo doesn't properly highlight the Hősök tere's famous statues of the Seven Chieftains of the Magyars, but it does provide a glimpse of rush hour traffic.

Andrássy út begins at Hősök tere, running straight into the heart of Pest, with the city's first subway line directly underneath the street.

In 1987, I was unable to visit what has become one of Andrássy út's biggest tourist attractions, the House of Terror Museum.

House of Terror is a museum located at Andrássy út 60 in Budapest, Hungary. It contains exhibits related to the fascist and communist regimes in 20th-century Hungary and is also a memorial to the victims of these regimes, including those detained, interrogated, tortured or killed in the building.

I'm left with a few vignettes from my time in Budapest.

One day I happened upon an old-fashioned, coin-operated weighing scale and inserted my nominal forints. The result was 89.8 kilos, or 198 pounds.

30 years ago today, I may have weighed less than 200 pounds, and if so, it would be the most recent verified instance, and perhaps the last. I'm not sure I can lose 50 pounds at this stage.

Another time I was walking down the steps from the Fisherman's Bastion when a bearded man who looked remarkably like Ernest Hemingway stopped me to ask in perfect American if I also hailed from America. This was confusing at first, at least until I realized that he'd been drinking, and simply wanted someone to talk to.

We went to a wine cellar and each had a glass of Tokaj. He told me he was part of the Budapest community of expatriate American retirees who'd found it so cheap to live in Communist Hungary that a couple hundred of them were in Budapest alone.

I wonder what became of him (and the others) when the living got more expensive, a few years hence?

I also wonder what happened to the old woman with whom IBUSZ placed me. Her flat was a couple floors up in a 1920s-era building on a sedate, leafy street in Pest. I made it through the first night, then rinsed out a few smaller articles of clothing, placing them on the windowsill to dry.

Rest assured, I was very fastidious when it came to Woolite in the sink. In tight spaces, I'd towel-dry first; there'd be no dripping. Nonetheless, my laundry evidently ran counter to her policy, because she was waiting for me when I returned from a morning walk, literally throwing my belongings at me as I beat a hasty retreat from an eagerness to evade responsibility for her fatal heart attack.

Back at the IBUSZ office, staff already had been alerted. Their eyes were rolling, and the English speaker was apologetic. It wasn't the first time, and something would have to be done about the old woman. In the meantime, would a quiet suburb in Óbuda suffice for new digs?

It would, and while more isolated, the house and neighborhood were excellent, and downtown still accessible by tram and bus.

Obviously, my cranky temporary landlord would have been in her prime during the time of the Hungarian Uprising in 1956. If you're interested in learning more about what happened in 1956, the late Tony Judt had much to say, as in this excerpt from his book Postwar.

A few Western observers tried to justify Soviet intervention, or at least explain it, by accepting the official Communist claim that Imre Nagy had led—or been swept up in—a counter-revolution: Sartre characteristically insisted that the Hungarian uprising had been marked by a ‘rightist spirit’. But whatever the motives of the insurgents in Budapest and elsewhere—and these were far more varied than was clear at the time—it was not the Hungarians’ revolt but rather the Soviet repression which made the greater impression on foreign observers. Communism was now forever to be associated with oppression, not revolution. For forty years the Western Left had looked to Russia, forgiving and even admiring Bolshevik violence as the price of revolutionary self-confidence and the march of History. Moscow was the flattering mirror of their political illusions. In November 1956, the mirror shattered.

I also recommend Under the FrogTibor Fischer's hilarious, poignant and informative novel, for insight into the post-war period. Fischer was born in London after his Hungarian parents fled their country in 1956.

Shortlisted for the Booker Prize, Under the Frog follows the adventures of two young Hungarian basketball players through the turbulent years between the end of World War II and the anti-Soviet uprising of 1956. In this spirited indictment of totalitarianism, the two improbable heroes, Pataki and Gyuri, travel the length and breadth of Hungary in an epic quest for food, lodging, and female companionship.

The novel's title is taken from an old Hungarian saying: "The worst possible place to be is under a frog's arse down a coal mine."

Next: I meet my friend Barrie in Moscow and join an epochal tour group.

Grid Control, Vol. 6: Jeff Speck tweets about NA's grid changes, and those missed bicycling opportunities.

The street grid proposal that Jeff Speck submitted to New Albany did more than change automotive directions.

It included a fresh and significant biking infrastructure component that if implemented, would have made New Albany the undisputed regional leader.

HWC Engineering then stripped most of Speck's ideas from the business-as-usual compromise plan, primarily because Jeff Gahan and his crony enablers never understood them, and moreover, because we're just too stupidly anchored in place as New Albany for such concepts to be grasped by the suburbanite time servers.

I suspect the two-way grid will be helpful, and conditions will improve. My councilman will declare victory in a process that by his own admission eluded his input and control.

Still, the junking of Speck's amazing vision will be remembered as a tremendous missed opportunity, ranking right up there with Bob Real's failure to tackle a ramshackle sewer system before the EPA's mega-expensive death sentence came down.

At this point, all we can do is hope the chance to optimize the downtown street grid for all users, and not just their cars, arises again at some point in the future.

Maybe next time we'll do it right.



Grid Control, Vol. 5: Egg on HWC Engineering's well-compensated face as it botches Spring Street's westbound bike buffer cross hatching.

Grid Control, Vol. 4: But this actually isn't a bus lane, is it?

Grid Control, Vol. 3: TARC's taking your curbside church parking, says City Hall.

Grid Control, Vol. 2: Southsiders get six more parking inches, but you gotta love those 10-foot traffic lanes on Spring.

Grid Control, Vol. 1: You people drive so freaking horribly that someone's going to die at Spring and 10th.

GREEN MOUSE SAYS: Anchors aweigh as Gahan self-empillars and Duggins refashions public housing after his own albatross.

The Green Mouse has learned of a plan to transform the Mark of Duggins as a fashion accessory for certain community members. The conversation went like this:

After all, the anchor "branding" symbol was Dugout's idea in the first place, and now it has proliferated faster than cash-stuffed envelopes during paving season.

And yet -- alack and alas and those cute little paper umbrellas floating atop rum drinks at Applebee's -- future political aspirant Duggins cannot receive credit for his artistry.

As we know, all ideas must be seen to flow directly from the brain of Dear Leader, our Little Father, the Genius of the Flood Plain, bountiful font of wisdom and coagulator of all known sagacity.

The Green Mouse says that because Jeff Gahan has grown impatient with the strength and intensity of adoration boomeranging back to him, he'll be moving to implement a "fix" at the social event of the season.

Envelop New Albany is expected to agree wholeheartedly and commend the vastness of the sheer mayoral intellect that enables the organization's daily work.

The Lifetime Empillarment Award is to be renewable annually, as prepaid and sponsored by our friends at HWC Engineering, at least until January 1, 2020, when the plaques for 2017, 2018 and 2019 can be tied to the nearest available Mark of Duggins and lowered from his trademark Tower into Ohio River for safekeeping as the civic clean-up crews arrive.

As an addendum, NA Confidential has been unable to confirm whether New Albany Mayor Jeff M. Gahan or anyone working in the city's administration is under federal investigation or indictment for corruption, bribery or racketeering. It is standard policy of the U.S. Justice Department to refuse to confirm or deny the existence or non-existence of investigations or subjects of investigations. A similar policy exists at the F.B.I.

W. 1st crosswalk propaganda: Other cities allow artists to create art. Ours merely glorifies its own fix-is-in muddy anchor.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

ON THE AVENUES: Train Whistle Reds, or my journey from Budapest to Moscow by rail in June, 1987.

ON THE AVENUES: Train Whistle Reds, or my journey from Budapest to Moscow by rail in June, 1987.

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

As though to refute a litany of preconceived notions, the train arrived on time. It eased into Kievsky Station in Moscow at precisely 11:10 a.m. on June 28, 1987, roughly 36 hours after departing Budapest.

Not all of these many moments were spent in forward motion. The border crossing between Hungary and the USSR, bosom fraternal allies bound by the solemnity of the Warsaw Pact, took three full hours in the dead of night at the edge of nowhere between Zahony and Čop.

Saying goodbye to tourist-friendly Hungary was relatively seamless. By contrast, entering the Soviet Union prompted a bout of nervousness. My ream of papers had every appearance of being in order – passport, visa, tour group documents and a pristine $10 bill to change officially for rubles while aboard the train.

After all, upon arrival in Moscow I’d need enough spare change to buy ice cream, vodka and subway tickets. After that the flourishing black market would satisfy my extended banking needs at a far preferable rate of exchange.

When leaving the USSR, one could convert rubles back into hard currency, though only for the exact amount of legal, sanctioned, rubber-stamped transactions. Laundering black rubles wasn’t possible, but I fully intended to get my ten-spot back before passing into Poland in early July.

Meanwhile at the border, there was palpable trepidation. Those Cold War spy tales had left an indelible impression, and not many Americans entered the USSR by rail from Hungary. Furthermore, I didn’t know enough Russian to hold a meaningful conversation with soldiers, whether or not they were carrying guns.

My fears were unfounded during the document check, which went swimmingly. Then a stone-faced Ivan Drago lookalike appeared, wielding grunts and gestures to convey to me that my nifty interior frame backpack should be presented and opened for immediate inspection.

Gazing sternly at my motley collection of belongings, he lifted a t-shirt and found the artfully concealed bottle of marvelous Egri Bikaver wine – and I could have sworn he was suppressing a smile somewhere behind a very stiff upper lip. The border check proceeded quickly and efficiently, and only after it had concluded did one of my two seatmates turn and address me in serviceable English.

There’d have been no compelling reason to make himself look suspicious until the other formalities were concluded.

Perhaps a tad paranoid, though in 1987 it had been only 34 years since Uncle Joe Stalin died, and memories were long.

In 2017, it's been 33 years since Bruce Springsteen released "Born in the U.S.A." -- and memory has ceased to be any factor in our lives.

The primary reason our border stop lasted so long was the need for something called a bogie exchange. It had nothing to do with Casablanca or Lauren Bacall. Simply stated, the standard Soviet rail gauge is wider than the gauge used in both Eastern and Western Europe (with the exception of Spain and Portugal).

Bogie exchange is a system for operating railway wagons on two or more gauges to overcome difference in the track gauge. To perform a bogie exchange, a car is converted from one gauge to another by removing the bogies or trucks (the chassis containing the wheels and axles of the car), and installing a new bogie with differently spaced wheels.

Rather than switch trains, the train switches wheels. In 1987, I must have been asleep and missed it. In 1989, at Brest on the USSR’s border with Poland, I was able to see a bogie exchange up close and personal.

Crews went into the compartments at each end of the railway wagon and detached the outermost passenger seat assembly. Below each of these was a mechanism resembling an oversized cotter pin, which was removed.

The wagon was lifted by the arms of hydraulic jacks and the narrower gauge bogies pushed out, to be replaced by wider ones rolled into position by means of dual tracks. The wagon was lowered, and the cotter pins replaced.

Off we went, back into the USSR.

In practical terms, wider wagons meant just enough extra inches to comfortably stretch my six-foot, four-inch frame to full extension, something rarely enjoyed inside Western European sleeper compartments.

With little else to do, my plan for two evenings on a Soviet train was to sleep as much as possible … and eat, and drink. I’d brought my own victuals from Budapest: a half-kilo of salami, bread, sweets, cherries, apples and wine.

One delightful difference on a Soviet train was overstaffing, with at least two attendants per carriage. At one end of each carriage there was a nook with a built-in samovar, the classic Russian vessel for making tea. Almost any time of day or night, piping hot tea was available for the asking at a ridiculously low price of a few cents American. It came in a real glass, inserted in a podstakannik (подстака́нник), the characteristic metal tea glass holder.

The sunrise on June 27 was unforgettable. We were eastbound in the foothills of the Carpathians, and I shuffled out into the corridor to hug a window and view scenery that reminded me of Wyoming or South Dakota. Soon the heights yielded to the plains and farms of Ukraine, interrupted occasionally by pine woods, and through these landscapes we would continue rolling all the way to Moscow via the historic cities of Lvov and Kiev.

I brought two books, a Russian language instructional text and Tolstoy’s War and Peace. There was plenty of time for reading them. I’d taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet, which came in handy when pronouncing words, though less so when I still didn’t know what the words meant.


This train trip was the centerpiece of my eastern strategy in 1987. I’d prepaid a “youth and student” tour of Moscow, Leningrad (St. Petersburg), Riga and Vilnius (now independent Latvia and Lithuania, respectively) and Warsaw. My old pal Barrie Ottersbach would be joining the tour in Copenhagen, and flying to Moscow with the group.

I’d been on the road for two months, largely incommunicado, and needed to connect to the tour group in Moscow from somewhere in Eastern Europe. I’d learned that booking such an East Bloc connection from the United States was highly problematic, and stupidly expensive whenever possible, but far easier in Western Europe by means of the official government-run travel agencies of the Warsaw Pact countries.

The first month of my trip unfolded in Western Europe, and I diligently procrastinated. Then I was in Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, and still did nothing. Typically for a last-minute type of guy like me, I waited until all conceivable inexpensive choices narrowed to just one flip of the coin.

Either something or someone in Budapest would sell me a train ticket to Moscow, or I’d be spending more money than I could afford on an airplane ticket.

I began with the ticket windows at Keleti Station and was ingloriously repulsed. Next came multiple locations of IBUSZ (EE-boos), the officially sanctioned national tourist office. Traveling in Communist countries meant developing a forager’s aptitude. The trick was to be persistent; just because one worker said it was impossible didn’t mean the next one wouldn’t be helpful.

In fact, one English-speaking IBUSZ clerk flatly informed me that a train ticket to Moscow simply couldn’t be managed so close to the departure date, still three whole weeks away.

Finally it occurred to me to visit the office of the Hungarian youth and student travel agency, which I believe was called Express. On the one hand, I no longer was a student. On the other, I’d registered for a spring semester class at IU Southeast, found a friendly face in the bursar’s office to verify the application, and then dropped the class with a full refund, though not before obtaining an internationally-recognized student ID from the accrediting agency in New York City.

Lo and behold, the helpful clerk at Express fixed me up lickety-split. It was a morale boost, and I felt extremely worldly for once. A 36-hour train ride with two nights in a three-bedded compartment ultimately cost me less than $25, including the salami, wine and multiple servings of tea.

However, the single most daunting task was yet to come.

I’d given Barrie a date and a window for expecting a phone call for reconfirming our arrangements prior to his departure. Had I been ensconced at the Budapest Hilton, making this call probably would have been easy, but I was a budget traveler sleeping in someone’s guestroom in Obuda and making lots of 15-cent tram rides.

It was generally accepted that in 1987, international phone calls were problematic to the point of insanity at a Hungarian streetside pay phone, even from Budapest, and so on the 22nd of June, one of the tourist offices directed me to a large centrally located telecommunications center where Hungarians queued to speak with the outside world.

It was a cavernous hall with a well-worn counter and numerous semi-private phone booths paneled in old school veneer. At the counter, you handed over the number to be dialed and paid for your fixed call duration. You were given a booth number, which would be called over the loudspeaker when the connection had been made.

It all sounds easy, except that the number 18 in Hungarian is spelled tizennyolc, and pronounced --- how, exactly?

I’d paid the lady, and now all I had to do was find my phone booth when prompted. The next twenty minutes were spent with my phrasebook, drilling the syllables TEEZ-en-yolts over and over again.

But when the speaker finally crackled, “achtzehn” came spilling out. Thank heavens for Frau Leach’s college German; it transpired that the Hungarian woman behind the counter was trying to help a foreigner as best she could, making eye contact to ensure I knew her German even if she didn’t know my English.

Barrie answered, and we coordinated plans in the scant minutes before the connection fizzled and crashed. I didn’t demand a refund.

Karma, after all.

There was a worker’s cafeteria not too far away from the telecommunications center, and it was time for a few of those chilly Borsodi drafts at the low daily price of a quarter each.

I'd be missing Hungary, for sure.


Recent columns:

June 15: ON THE AVENUES: Hi there, NAHA wastrels. My name is Peter Principle, and these are my friends Deaf and Dugout.

June 8: ON THE AVENUES: Since 2004, "Two way, better way."

June 1: ON THE AVENUES: Take this cult of personality and shove it.

May 25: ON THE AVENUES: Welcome to wherever you are, and come to think of it, Ljubljana will do nicely.

W. 1st crosswalk propaganda: Other cities allow artists to create art. Ours merely glorifies its own fix-is-in muddy anchor.

The good news: The crosswalk the city denied was possible is almost completed.

The bad news: Nothing prepares you for the public propaganda installation on W. 1st.

Anybody got a bucket?

ASK THE BORED: Anti-climactic paving bids, Elm Street speedway work and the forthcoming W. 1st and Main intersection.

ASK THE BORED: A progress report on paving, two-way streets and the crosswalk on Main at W. 1st.

ASK THE BORED: It's a pretty penny, but safety for humans at the intersection of Main and W. 1st draws nearer.

Grid Control, Vol. 5: Egg on HWC Engineering's well-compensated face as it botches Spring Street's westbound bike buffer cross hatching.

The Green Mouse thanks an intrepid onlooker for pointing to something we've missed.

"Buffered bike lanes are conventional bicycle lanes paired with a designated buffer space separating the bicycle lane from the adjacent motor vehicle travel lane and/or parking lane."-- National Association of City Transportation Officials

The hash marks in the buffer are called cross hatching. As you can see from the two diagrams, cross hatching in the buffer should be "aimed" forward.

In what will be the new eastbound lane on Spring Street, the cross hatching is painted correctly.

But in the westbound lane, it's backwards.

The cross hatching is "aimed" the wrong way on the north side of Spring. The lines should be giving at least the subliminal signal that you should keep your west-moving car to the left of the buffer, but as painted, they imply that you should veer right.

Not only that, but as we observed previously, the parking spaces on the north side of Spring are consistently 6 to 8 inches less deep from curb to line, enhancing the prospect of cyclists being "doored."

Not only that, but this subliminal cue stands to make an already bad situation at Spring and 10th even worse.

I'm told HWC Engineering's top-dollar engineers drew up the cross hatching the wrong way, and the contractors did exactly as they were told.

Will the cross hatching error be fixed?

And if not, doesn't HWC owe taxpayers a refund?


Grid Control, Vol. 4: But this actually isn't a bus lane, is it?

Grid Control, Vol. 3: TARC's taking your curbside church parking, says City Hall.

Grid Control, Vol. 2: Southsiders get six more parking inches, but you gotta love those 10-foot traffic lanes on Spring.

Grid Control, Vol. 1: You people drive so freaking horribly that someone's going to die at Spring and 10th.