Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Forever for sale: Bet they still let HIM join the neighborhood association.

Davey, we hardly knew ye.

In today's episode of AS THE STOMACH TURNS, we welcome new neighbors.

Of bagmen and mad hatters -- or, the business of electoral residency?

Better times at the former Good Times at 114 E. Market Street.

It's been a little more than a month since our last glimpse at 114 E. Market Street.

Now even the bones are visible at 114 E. Market Street.

I'm not sure how much more of the building can be stripped before there's nothing left except air.

It now appears that what used to be the second floor apartment will function almost as a mezzanine, with open space in front as one enters. The restoration of Comfy Cow across the street offers the template.

It's been gripping to watch as Resch Construction deconstructs and reconstructs this 1880s-era building, and I'll continue to provide updates.


Ideas can come together in mysterious, serendipitous ways. Earlier in 2017, Deep Purple released a new album called inFinite, of which there'll be more to say when I get around to it, some day.

In advance of the album came a single, "Time for Bedlam."

When we write the songs, we steep ourselves in the atmosphere of the song and try and figure out what it's about. And this one sounded vicious. Especially the keyboard solo. It was bedlam."

I thought to myself at the time: Hmm, bedlam; interesting choice of words, and from a group seldom noted for lyrical heft.

Weeks passed, and I concurred with my friend Jon's choice of massive summer novels for shared reading, this being a long tradition of our literary partnership.

Alan Moore’s Time-Traveling Tribute to His Gritty Hometown, by Douglas Wolk (NYT)

Brilliant and sometimes maddening, “Jerusalem” is Alan Moore’s monumentally ambitious attempt to save his hometown, Northampton, England — not to rescue it from the slow economic catastrophe that’s been gnawing at it for centuries, but to save it “the way that you save ships in bottles,” by preserving its contours and details in art. The book is, itself, roughly the size of a schooner: a 1,266-page behemoth composed in several dozen shades of the deepest, richest purple prose, fusing social realism, high fantasy and sparkling literary showoffishness. And it’s a vehicle for nothing less than Moore’s personal cosmology of space, time and life after death.

The novel is nothing short of incredible, certainly the finest book ever written about New Albany, and I'm hooked even if it will quite literally occupy the entire summer. However, my point at present is this single sentence at the very end of book one, chapter one.

In 1868 Ern's wife and mother for the first time in their lives agreed on something and allowed him to be placed in Bedlam.

Having slipped into insanity, the Londoner named Ernest was sent to Bedlam, and accordingly, bedlam as it comes to us today is "a scene of madness, chaos or great confusion."


Bedlam is a scene of madness, chaos or great confusion. If you allow football fans onto the field after the big game, it will be pure bedlam.

The term bedlam comes from the name of a hospital in London, “Saint Mary of Bethlehem,” which was devoted to treating the mentally ill in the 1400's. Over time, the pronunciation of “Bethlehem” morphed into bedlam and the term came to be applied to any situation where pandemonium prevails.

The Encyclopedia of Trivia adds:

Bethlehem Royal Hospital became a tourist attraction, where sightseers paying an entrance fee of twopence each, could amuse themselves at the patients' antics. Often the patients were teased and provoked by the general public into a raving frenzy.

From the fourteenth century, Bethlehem had been referred to colloquially as "Bedlam." The word "bedlam", meaning uproar and confusion, is derived from the hospital's nickname. Although the Bethlehem Royal Hospital became a modern psychiatric facility, historically it was representative of the worst excesses of asylums in the era of lunacy reform.

Bedlam for the beak-wetting set?

Why, that's no hospital -- it's the Redevelopment Commission.

1987 European Summer: "Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, is a dream world for lovers of cosmic concrete communist-era architecture."

Previously: Tjentište War Memorial, Yugoslavia, then and now.

Thirty years ago today, I was concluding my first and only visit to Skopje, then located in the country called Yugoslavia, now independent Macedonia.

It's a story I've never gotten around to retelling, and won't try today, but the short version is that with absolutely no warning, I arrived one morning at the workplace in Skopje of an earthquake engineer and seismologist who'd chatted with me on a train earlier in the trip, given me his business card, and told me to look him up if my travels brought me to Skopje.

No doubt the late Radojko Petkovski expected me to call first, but he merely shrugged, smiled, made coffee and later that afternoon, opened his apartment to a complete stranger from America, exhausting his limited English, awarding me his couch for sleeping, showcasing the local sights during the scant free time he had, putting me on a roundtrip bus to Lake Ohrid or a daytrip, and finally driving me back to the bus depot very early in the morning for my getaway to Bulgaria.

I bought the beers. It was the least I could do.

A few days ago, when at long last the slides of Skopje were scanned and digitalized, the only one that really grabbed me (apart from the two of us toasting) was the massive building seen above, snapped as I was walking on the other side of the Vardar River.

Surely it was among those early experiences marking the beginning of a long, continuing fascination with the architectural choices pursued in the East Bloc after the war, albeit it with a twist: Skopje's disastrous 1963 earthquake, which Rade explained to me, and which formed the impetus for his choice of career.

It turns out that the building I photographed in 1987 was, and remains, the post office complex.

It turns out that there's a whole back story to Skopje's brutalist architecture, one with parallels to the Bloc's cement fixation, but from a different conceptual origin in the earthquake's aftermath.

And, it turns out that the Internet source of this information, Yomadic, is drop-dead amazing web site. Readers with any interest at all in modern architecture are encouraged to click through and view the photos, if nothing else.


Skopje, capital city of Macedonia, is a dream world for lovers of cosmic concrete communist-era architecture. There is a reason that no other city on Earth has as many examples of brutalist architecture. There’s no tactful way to say this – the abundance of magnificent structures, is all due to a catastrophic earthquake that killed over 2000 people, and destroyed more than half of the buildings in this ancient city. In 1963, Skopje was flattened. In 1965, Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was selected as the winner of an international competition to redesign, and rebuild the city centre.

Napier – the small New Zealand city where my travelling partner Phillipa was born, suffered a similar fate. The great quake of Napier in 1931 occurred right at the peak of the Art Deco movement. Napier was destroyed, and then rebuilt, all in the early 1930’s. As a result, the city can rightfully claim the title of “art deco capital of the world”. Back in Skopje, 1963, the architectural trend wasn’t art-deco, it was modernist, with a particular focus on concrete brutalism. Unlike Napier, Skopje has yet to capitalise on its architectural heritage. I would suggest a new tourist slogan – “Skopje – Brutalist Capital of the World”. Perhaps it’s not as catchy.

Examples of brutalist architecture – a style typified by geometric themes and raw concrete – occur all over the formerly communist area of Yugoslavia.

Of all the places I visited back in 1987, Skopje probably has changed the most. The author explains.

Unfortunately, the Macedonian authorities do not share the same love of this contemporary architectural heritage. Many of the brutal and modern buildings of the communist era remain in government hands, and yet many are being allowed to decay. It won’t be long before some are past the point of no return. In a country that is suffering horrendous unemployment, you could be excused for thinking that the not-exactly-wealthy Macedonian government simply doesn’t have the time, resources, or money to maintain these buildings. However, this is not the case.

Skopje is currently in the thick of a construction boom. Museums, upgrades to Parliament House, decorative bridges, and more are being constructed everywhere. There are hundreds of bronze statues being erected all over the city center. I have never seen so many statues in one city. This initiative is all about Macedonian identity. The issues are deep, and the history is complex, but essentially the government has decided to prioritise, create, and invest in the ancient/historical Macedonian identity – at the expense of maintaining the absolutely unique and contemporary stock of buildings that were created in the second half of the 20th century.

Next in the 1987 travel chronicle: Five days in Skopje with the greatest seismologist of them all.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Performances of Rumors begin June 1 at TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana, so get your tickets soon.

The first production from TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana is right about ... now. This week, in fact.

Read all about it, and thanks to Jason for the heads-up.


Good afternoon!

We are excited to announce that Rumors, a comedic farce by Neil Simon, opens Thursday! You won't want to miss this hilarious play about a fancy dinner party gone terribly wrong.

At a large, tastefully appointed Sneden's Landing townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of Farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken and wife Chris must get "the story" straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusions and mis-communications mount, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity.

This is our FIRST production in our new space at 203 East Main Street, New Albany, IN 47150.

Performances are June 1-3, 8-10 at 7:30 p.m. and June 4 & 11 at 2:00 p.m.

You can reserve your tickets by:

Calling the TheatreWorks Box Office at 812-725-7601 and leaving a message
Purchasing them at the door (if seats are available)
Tickets are $16 for adults & $13 for students/senior citizens.

Please keep in mind that there is some mild language used during this production, and it is not recommended for small children.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

See you at the show!


Dr. Jason Roseberry
Executive Director
TheatreWorks of SoIN

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

The minutes from May 23 are in, and the low bid for this season's citywide paving extravaganza ... like always ...


No word on the inevitable re-dos, do-overs, or other famous stuffed-envelope-driven hallmarks of beak wetting borne of annual paving -- but guys, low bid!

Meanwhile, two other items about grid modernization (i.e., paving) and the W. 1st and Main work.

Elm Street paving begins now. There'll be a second street where average traffic speeds increase by 15% prior to the two-way restriping.

Finally, the quarter-million dollar W. 1st Street and Main Street Crosswalk project, photos of which follow, draws nearer to completion.

For a reprise of the long exhausting march toward a human-friendly intersection, with Team Gahan resisting every step, consult this popular previous post.

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

This is welcome news, and takes on added importance given the resistance with which City Hall initially greeted the idea. I'll never forget being informed in detail as to the absolute impossibility of such a human-friendly notion -- although negotiating with INDOT to ensure 2015 election-year street paving on Main rather than substantive dialogue about safety proved to be a very do-able priority.

They do excel at certain things.

Unlock your inner tapophile with "tomb tourism."

New Albany's Fairview Cemetery never disappoints.

While I appreciate the tone of this commentary, it remains that cemeteries are invaluable for a history buff. They reveal so much about local culture. Perhaps that's why I've been to so many during the course of my travels.

And yes, I made three purposeful trips just to commune with Jim Morrison at Père Lachaise. Photos may follow someday as my old slides are digitalized. Until then, note only that "tapophile" implies something very different to me.

Tomb tourism is an old hobby in brighter clothes, by Barbara Ellen (The Guardian)

Hanging out in cemeteries has always appealed to those with a taste for the macabre

It seems that there is a rise in tombstone tourism. This is where people visit places with the express intention of looking around graveyards. Dubbed tapophiles, they are sometimes interested in a particular site because famous people are buried there, such as Karl Marx in Highgate cemetery or Oscar Wilde in the Père Lachaise in Paris.

At other times, the tapophiles just wish to wander among the tombstones, enjoying the sombre atmosphere. There are even special tours to ensure you don’t miss out on a particularly rocking cemetery ...

Monday, May 29, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: Fest of Ale is almost here, though New Albany Craft Beer Week wasn't.

(Apologies for the premature publication)

In terms of unique hits, the 2016 debut in New Albany of Keg's Fest of Ale was one of the top stories of the year.

Keg Liquors Fest of Ale will move to New Albany's Riverfront Amphitheater in 2016.

In terms of media exposure, both traditional and social, no one does it better than Todd, Tisha and their helpers. For this reason, I concede to a degree of sloth in getting the word out in 2017 (see press release below).

No event ever "promotes itself," though not unlike NABC's annual Gravity Head, Fest of Ale comes awfully close. It's an area classic.

This said, regular readers may have noticed a certain absence in the run-up. The fact that nary a word has been breathed to me with regard to the omission probably can be interpreted in several ways. More about these in a moment.

In 2016, I took a stab at organizing a New Albany Craft Beer Week to precede Fest of Ale, and to culminate with it. It's a common promotional device, and one exercised widely. It didn't happen in New Albany this year.

I plead to partial responsibility, citing extenuating circumstances. My mother's final illness and death sapped me tremendously, and there for a little while, I wasn't quite myself. The April "spring break" trip I was sure we'd have to cancel became a coda of sorts, dedicated to recovery. By then it was late April, with too little time to get the New Albany Craft Beer Week's ball back into the air.

Still, I might have thrown something together, and didn't. No one noticed, and that's telling. Perhaps there's no need for such promotion; it certainly doesn't hurt my feelings if this is the case. The right time for it may not have come -- or is "craft" beer's acceptance level such that it isn't needed?

As with the New Albany Restaurant and Bar Association's lack of forward progress, it might be that the owners and managers most likely to spearhead the event are too busy with their everyday working worlds, which is perfectly understandable.

Or, as a dissident and resident civic contrarian, I'm just not the one to take on such an organizational responsibility. Outspokenness comes with a price, and resistance doesn't pay a living wage.

And while I remain a business owner until my partners buy me out (or, as is increasingly likely, lawyers actively intervene), not being involved with business on a daily basis has an isolating effect -- although planning for a new venture continues.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear: These aren't complaints, just as dispassionate an analysis as I can muster. In my experience, it's seldom the case that one big reason explains an occurrence. Rather, several little reasons achieve critical mass.

Overall, my verdict is that without a compelling need or demand for a New Albany Craft Beer Week, there was little reason to stage it.

Que sera sera.

For those planning on attending Fest of Ale, enjoy.


12th Annual Keg Liquors Fest of Ale

June 3rd, 2017
3:00 PM -7:00 PM
New Albany Amphitheater

Time is almost up for you to get your tickets for the 2017 Fest of Ale. We are in our second year at the New Albany Amphitheater and it has been a fantastic spot for our festival.

Thousands of fun loving beer drinking folks from Southern Indiana and Louisville gather annually, rain or shine for the this popular annual “Fest of Ale” event, presented by Keg Liquors to sample beers from around the world, socialize with friends, and raise funds for our children in need! This grassroots fun Fest promoting independent breweries and businesses offers over 250 amazing craft and import ales for sample, and raises thousands of dollars for the Crusade for Children.

Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the gate on the day of the event. Tickets are available at either Keg Liquors locations, or online at

Don't miss the area's best beer festival!

Keg Liquors
Keeping Kentuckiana Beer'd since 1976

617 E. Lewis and Clark Parkway
Clarksville, IN 47129

4304 Charlestown Road
New Albany, IN 47150

American vistas to crush the soul.

And yes, I had to drive there to take these depressing photos. Outside, it's Clarksville ...

(Malls) are also a much lesser evil than the recent alternative that has sprouted up: the so-called "power center", which is completely car-oriented. Say what you want about malls, their location may be car-oriented, but once there, you walk from store to store, it's human-scaled inside. Power centers are not only in car-oriented areas, but their stores are spread apart around huge parking lots. So not only do you need a car to get there, but you also need a car to go from one store to the next, a completely car-oriented shopping environment.

Memorial Day 2017 (3 of 3): History matters, especially on Memorial Day.

There are long, long trails a-winding through places like France.

Aisne-Marne American Cemetery

With headstones lying in a sweeping curve, the 42.5-acre Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial in France, sits at the foot of Belleau Wood. The cemetery contains the graves of 2,289 war dead, most of whom fought in the vicinity and in the Marne Valley in the summer of 1918. The memorial chapel sits on a hillside, decorated with sculptured and stained-glass details of wartime personnel, equipment and insignia. Inscribed on its interior wall are 1,060 names of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified. During World War II the chapel was damaged slightly by an enemy shell.

Belleau Wood adjoins the cemetery and contains many vestiges of World War I. A monument at the flagpole commemorates the valor of the U.S. Marines who captured much of this ground in 1918.

Respecting the memory of American soldiers who died while in the service of their country is a task perhaps best undertaken with respect for history, period.

Speaking only for myself, I take it very seriously. It's a habit of thought almost certainly springing from my father's fascination with far-off events that conspired to transport a hick from bucolic Georgetown, Indiana to the Pacific Theater of Operations -- and in his case, back home again.

Others weren't as lucky, and every year on Memorial Day, I pause to reflect on the serendipity of it all.

As a prelude to Memorial Day, there tend to be scolding social media reminders to the effect that Americans fixated on holiday feasting, partying and recreation somehow dishonor the nation's military heritage. To be sure, I contribute my fair share of rants about the general populace and its chronic ignorance of history.

However, I don't think honor and bacchanalia are mutually exclusive concepts. After all, the venerable institution of the wake combines them very effectively, and what's more, the human condition is incapable of sustaining a permanent state of mourning. Life does go on.

Like the vast majority of topics pertaining to human beings, the notion of dying for one's country is inordinately complex. John Gonder once touched on it during a conversation, when he mentioned the notorious escape clause during the American Civil War, where men drafted into the Union Army could buy their way out of service by paying $300 or providing a substitute to serve (and sometimes die) in their place.

During the Vietnam War, songwriter John Fogerty of Creedence Clearwater Revival noticed it, too: Exactly how is it determined who risks dying for his or her country, and who subsequently profits from their deaths?

Dick Cheney might know the answer.

Preferably, respecting the memory of American soldiers who died while in the service of their country is a task best undertaken with a respect for history on the part of those still living, along with sadness and regret that human civilization seems not to have evolved to a point of no longer requiring violence to settle issues. War is a ridiculous concept, although humans seem enamored of it.

It's also a holiday weekend, and I suspect you are enjoying it.

Carry on, then.

Memorial Day (Snopes)

Claim: Former slaves reburied dead Union prisoners of war in May 1865, thus creating the modern observance of Memorial Day.


TRUE: In May 1865, free blacks in Charleston reburied dead Union prisoners of war and held a cemetery dedication ceremony.

UNDETERMINED: The event referenced above is the origin of the modern Memorial Day observance.

Wikipedia's article goes into greater detail.

Memorial Day 2017 (2 of 3): "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream."

I've forgotten the context, but thanks to RG for the idea; in essence, the best way to honor the departed is to live in peace, even if humans seem incapable of doing it and unwilling to try.

As I'm fond of saying, a boy can dream.

Ed McCurdy (January 11, 1919 – March 23, 2000) was an American folk singer, songwriter, and television actor. His most well-known song was the anti-war "Last Night I Had the Strangest Dream", written in 1950.

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war
I dreamed I saw a mighty room
Filled with women and men
And the paper they were signing said
They'd never fight again

And when the papers all were signed
And a million copies made
They all joined hands and bowed their heads
And grateful prayers were prayed
And the people in the streets below
Were dancing round and round
And guns and swords and uniforms
Were scattered on the ground

Last night I had the strangest dream
I ever dreamed before
I dreamed the world had all agreed
To put an end to war

Memorial Day 2017 (1 of 3): Charles Ives, from Decoration Day to Memorial Day.

All traditions must begin somewhere.

May 30, 1868: Civil War dead honored on Decoration Day (History)

By proclamation of General John A. Logan of the Grand Army of the Republic, the first major Memorial Day observance is held to honor those who died “in defense of their country during the late rebellion.” Known to some as “Decoration Day,” mourners honored the Civil War dead by decorating their graves with flowers. On the first Decoration Day, General James Garfield made a speech at Arlington National Cemetery, after which 5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery. The 1868 celebration was inspired by local observances that had taken place in various locations in the three years since the end of the Civil War.

(In 1971, Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May.)

The composer Charles Ives' father served in the Union Army as a bandmaster.

Decoration Day According to Charles Ives (Prufrock's Dilemma)

Charles Ives wrote of his piece Decoration Day, the second of the four pieces included in his A Symphony: New England Holidays, that it “started as a brass band overture, but never got very far that way.”

Both musical and written remembrances conjure a time long past.

Ives' postface to Decoration Day reads:

In the early morning the gardens and woods around the village are the meeting places of those who, with tender memories and devoted hands, gather the flowers for the Day's Memorial.** During the forenoon as the people join each other on the Green there is felt, at times, a fervency and intensity--a shadow perhaps of the fanatical harshness--reflecting old Abolitionist days. It is a day as Thoreau suggests, when there is a pervading consciousness of "Nature's kinship with the lower order-man."

After the Town Hall is filled with the Spring's harvest of lilacs, daisies, and peonies, the parade is slowly formed on Main Street. First come the three Marshals on plough horses (going sideways), then the Warden and Burgesses in carriages, the Village Cornet Band, the G.A.R., two by two, the Militia (Company G), while the volunteer Fire Brigade, drawing a decorated hose-cart, with its jangling bells, brings up the rear-the inevitable swarm of small boys following. The march to Wooster Cemetery is a thing a boy never forgets. The roll of the muffled drums and "Adestes Fideles" answer for the dirge. A little girl on a fencepost waves to her father and wonders if he looked like that at Gettysburg.

After the last grave is decorated, Taps sounds out through the pines and hickories, while a last hymn is sung. The ranks are formed again, and "we all march to town" to a Yankee stimulant-Reeves inspiring Second Regiment Quickstep-though, to many a soldier, the sombre thoughts of the day underlie the tunes of the band. The march stops-and in the silence of the shadow of the early morning flower-song rises over the Town, and the sunset behind the West Mountain breathes its benediction upon the Day [Memos, 101-102].

** Decoration Day corresponds to the Memorial Day holiday that we currently celebrate in the United States to honor war veterans.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

THE BEER BEAT: Odds and ends from the month of May. I can't remember anything before that.

Why on earth did I keep the empty bottle?

Roughly a year ago, 18th Street's Sex and Candy was a very big deal. First, the backdrop.

(1 of 4) 18th Street's Sex and Candy, but first, the story of 18th Street Brewery.

(2 of 4) 18th Street's Sex and Candy, and how the "Twitter Fight Over Racy Indiana Beer Label Highlights Industry Sexism Concerns."

(3 of 4) 18th Street's Sex and Candy, and wondering, "What ... the Brewers Association (Is) Doing to Address Gender and Race?"

(4 of 4) 18th Street's Sex and Candy: "Your Sexism is Predictable and Boring, 18th Street Brewery."

Fast forward to a resolution of sorts.

18th Street Brewery Redesigns Sex & Candy Label, Calls for Progressive Dialogue Going Forward
, by Dave Eisenberg (Good Beer Hunting)

Company founder and head brewer Drew Fox says the new artwork is not open to misreading. “We want to be part of something positive and not part of something that people see as negative or derogatory,” Fox says. “We know that the [new] imagery would not lead to any interpretation of being a sexist label or objectifying women.”

It's good by me. Any effective strategy for dealing with sexism in "craft" beer is likely to be incremental. We're talking attitudes, and these take time. Speaking of time, I'm a history nut, and "extinct" styles fascinate me.

A few beers no longer lost nor forgotten, by Stan Hieronymus (Appellation Beer)

 ... “Why do I want to taste extinct styles? On one level it’s purely from curiosity: how did it taste, what did it look like, how did it drink? All the things you can only really learn about a beer by having one in a glass in front of you. That simple need to know could be satisfied by a pint or two,” he says.

“But then there’s the cultural aspect. Beer styles—and especially those associated with a specific place—have a wider significance than just being a drink. Because every beer style is a unique cultural item. When one disappears, the culture it came from is diminished.”

Heaven knows for a time, we tried. Back in 2012, NABC's Ben Minton did a damned fine Grätzer/Grodziskie.

Grätzer/Grodziskie ... oak-smoked wheat session ale, coming soon to NABC.

Ben Minton will be brewing another new historical re-creation session beer this week. We recently acquired a small quantity of oak (eiche) smoked wheat malt for this beer. The beer will be 100% wheat, something we've never done here, and it will be a very hard beer to brew. If you see Ben pulling out his hair, this is why.

Ben's task may have been extreme, but the ale he produced was delicious. These are the things I miss, as well as not-quite-extinct lagers like Zwickelbier.


The Saint Louis Brewery
Schlafly White Lager
St. Louis, Missouri
Style: German-Style Zwickelbier
ABV: 5.5%

As the weather warms up and we’re assessing our go-to summer options, it’s our latest Beer of the Moment: a deftly structured German-style lager with firm hops and a hint of mint.

But why "White Lager"? Modern marketing sets the teeth to grinding, but then again, I'm old. At this juncture, it's always worth a few minutes of refreshing as to the fermentation dichotomy.

LAGERS VERSUS ALES, by Randy Mosher (All About Beer Magazine)

It is common to slice the beer world into two irreconcilable sectors. Lagers are the yin: cooling, clean and constrained; ales are the bold, brash, ebullient yang. When it comes to pairing with food, some have even made an analogy between white or red wines and lagers or ales. The mind seeks simplicity, so a trope like this may be useful for getting a grip on the bewilderingly diverse world of beer, but is there any truth to it?

From the joys of stylistic awareness, I close this installment with the messiness of sausage-making.

Lawmakers to pore over Indiana's 'archaic' alcohol laws this summer, by Kaitlin L Lange (C-J, Indy Star)

Indiana lawmakers will spend their summer poring over the state's complicated mixture of alcohol laws, following a heated legislative session debate this spring over which retailers should be allowed to sell cold beer.

Let the record show this column complete, with time to walk down to Floyd County Brewing Company for a nice, civilized holiday weekend Sunday beer.

Trump, Gahan (whatever): "Journalism wants the status quo more than the truth."

Amid the agitated slurping sound of beaks being wetted and the low moans of sated local Democratic Party grandees ... thanks to TS for the link.

Journalism wants the status quo more than the truth, by Allison Hantschel (First Draft)

Something an editor told me once, when we were digging into a story about public malfeasance:

“It is always worse than you think it is.”

At the time, the story we were in the middle of, I thought it was pretty bad.

“Always. It’s always worse.”

He was right. Every story’s an iceberg; for every single sharp thing you see there are a thousand others below the surface waiting to gouge holes in your boat.

I thought of that when I read this thread today, about Trump and Russia, though to be honest it could be about Trump and just about any other thing ...


... Every story out now is the result of one or two or six people overcoming that just-keep-walking impulse and doing the damn dishes. Taking the fiction that makes it possible to go home at 5 and have a drink and exist in the world absolutely apart until every ugly machination on the part of the GOP is exposed and raw and of COURSE it’s all just too outrageous, that’s how things usually are under their skins. What made journos skeptical wasn’t reluctance to believe the breathtaking scope of Trump’s venality. What drove their skepticism was a sober assessment of the amount of work it would take to prove it, weighed against a desire to get away on the weekends.

When you get right down to it, journalism as an industry wanted the status quo more than it wanted the truth. That’s not a condemnation; all our systems are made up of people and people are what inertia eats. It makes it all the more laudable that there are journalists who are able to overcome the desire to sink into the couch for the next four years binge-watching Call the Midwife, because this is gonna get worse than we can even imagine.

It always does.


As an addendum, NAC 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.

Hitching Post ... or Noma Mexico?

Photo credit: New York Times.

To begin at the very end, Pete Wells concludes his rumination about a pop-up restaurant where diners enjoy very special meals priced at $750 per person, including tax and gratuity.

 ... They’ve chosen to pour their creativity into something that, because of its planned scarcity and relative expense, has to be seen as a luxury product. Luxury goods tend to float free of the everyday world and create their own cultural context, one of wealth and exclusivity. There are many ways to respond to that, but in this case, I don’t think a review written by me is one of them. I’d rather review a restaurant that has its roots in the ground.

In seemingly unrelated news, last week the Hitching Post Tavern caught fire. As of this writing, the bar's future is uncertain, although one regular customer told me there'll be a comeback for sure even if the specifics are uncertain.

More power to them.

It's been almost eight years since I last patronized the Hitching Post, but I'm not being hypocritical in wishing them the best and hoping they return soon. Advocating for independent local businesses means all of them, not just the ones on one's personal regular rotation.

Importantly, in terms of food and drink downtown, the Hitching Post has been a valuable component of the indie biz ecosystem -- for what the tavern is, what it does, and who values it.

Or, as a Hitching Post customer wrote on Facebook (lightly paraphrasing), "Now where will we go for a drink? There are so few places left."

Think about that.

Within a three block radius of Hitching Post, there are at least 15 establishments serving alcoholic beverages, with two (maybe three) on the way. A half-dozen others offer food, but no alcohol.

Rather, there are so few places downtown like the Hitching Post, which is to say -- using old-school terminology -- "popularly priced" neighborhood joints.

Of course, this isn't to imply that the newer wave of restaurants has not been welcoming to one and all. They have been, but it long since has become clear that New Albany's ongoing downtown revitalization has relied on an almost inevitably exclusionary socio-economic metric.

We're making New Albany luxurious again.

I'd posit that Jeff Gahan's public housing putsch has laid this latent seam raw, while at the same time having the salubrious effect of revealing the spiritual impoverishment of his cult of personality's bizarre trickle-down prosperity gospel.

Because this: "Luxury goods tend to float free of the everyday world and create their own cultural context, one of wealth and exclusivity."

In a nutshell, it's the fundamental problem with the city subsidizing a "luxury" apartment complex like Breakwater, which strives to give its residents the sort of posh amenities calculated to keep them cocooned at home, safely segregated from the poor schmucks a few blocks away who'll be gone as soon as Gahan can arrange the requisite cattle cars.

In the end, these observations are hardly novel. For thirteen years, NAC has been debating topics on a general theme of "proper balance": urbanism, sustainability, revitalization, gentrification, and naturally not to exclude inebriation. It's been a constant and wearying process of examining premises, over and over. I'd suggest that it can be no other way.

All I know at this precise moment in time is that it shouldn't be a question of either Hitching Post or Noma Mexico, but if it is, my answer might not be the one you think.

Why I’m Not Reviewing Noma Mexico, by Pete Wells (NYT)

Under the rustling palms of Tulum, Mexico, the chef René Redzepi has been serving what Kevin Sintumuang, reporting for Esquire, called “the most enviable meal of the year.” Mr. Redzepi, who transplanted most of his staff to the Yucatán, while Noma, his restaurant in Copenhagen, prepares to move, said he wanted Noma Mexico to be “the meal of the decade.” For Jacob Richler, who wrote about the dinner for The Toronto Star, it was “the meal of a lifetime.”

And I’m going to miss it.

Not that I will be entirely in the dark about what other people have been eating when Noma Mexico, sometimes referred to as Noma Tulum, reaches the end of its seven-week run on Sunday. Despite having accommodations for just 7,000 people, all of whom claimed reservations within two hours last December, it may be the most exhaustively documented pop-up restaurant in history.

Check it out: Portland (Oregon) has an ombudsman. Holding one's breath is inadvisable.

No need to worry.

An idea like this wouldn't ever make it past the Floyd County Democratic Party central committee, and if it did, the city corporate attorney would club it to death with his wallet.


The Ombudsman is an independent advocate for a fair, reasonable and just City government. Our office responds to members of the public, businesses and City employees to resolve complaints about City services and practices. We conduct impartial investigations and resolve problems informally. We have the authority to recommend remedial action or a change in policy.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

It's just another day, so what if I've no interest in being "blessed"?

I recently received an e-mail from a non-profit organization. It derives at least partial funding from local government.

The staff person closed with this:

"Have a Blessed Day!"

Verily, the chronic overuse of exclamation marks is bad enough. It makes me all judgmental and potty mouthed.

Restraint, damn it!

Damn it, Insider Louisville, an exclamation mark IS NOT NEEDED at the end of ALL sentences.

As for the desire to bless me and my days, let's begin at the beginning. As widely used in these parts, the "blessed" phrase obviously has specific religious roots, as rightfully asserted by the employer in this case.

In a Code of Ethics violation, US Bank states several customers had complained when Neace said the phrase, which has Christian connotations.

To me, the phrase "have a blessed day" is perfectly fine when uttered by someone on his or her own time, when I'm free to ignore such a usage (as is my grudging custom) or make the sort of snide comment you'd expect from the likes of me, which actually happens very seldom. Yes, I know they mean well. However, it's a diverse world out here, isn't it?

This may or may not be satire.

Local Woman Considers Saying ‘Have A Blessed Day’ Evangelism.

“Of course I’m sharing my faith when I say ‘Have a blessed day.’ It says ‘blessed’ right in there.”

Evangelizing on your own time is one thing, though I'd suggest making a better effort to know your audience.

Indulging while on the clock (as with the bank clerk), or in the process of conducting official business for a taxpayer-funded entity?

This strikes me as completely different, and ultimately indefensible.

Roughly ten years ago, I had official business at Floyd Memorial, and during the course of this appointment, the therapist paused from his duties to ask matter-of-factly whether I was square with Jesus.

Of course, I hadn't come to the hospital to study scripture (it wasn't part of my reality-based health plan), and I told him so. Maybe now that it's become Baptist Health Floyd, there's a Bible study component.

But seriously. Why did this even come up?

I support the separation of church and state, and my hunch is that neither the therapist's nor the staffer's superiors have considered these distinctions. They should. It's never about the shop floor, after all. It's about management and bosses who need to establish the proper tone, and maintain it.

If we're going to continue developing New Albany, can we do it for all of us, and not just one sect?

Let's give the Urban Dictionary a final blessed word.

Have a blessed day!

Black folks' code for "Fuck off, Honkey!"

That Cracker really pissed me off, so I told him to "Have a blessed day!"

#fuck off#go to hell#fuck you#screw you#drop dead

DNA's next Merchant Meeting will be June 20th at 8:30 a.m. at Wick’s Pizza (225 State Street).

“the octopus's secret wish
is not to be a formal fish
he dreams that some time he may grow
another set of legs or so
and be a broadway music show”
Don Marquis

Develop New Albany has released Merchant Meeting Minutes from May (below). Also, DNA now has a staffer who handles organizational matters.

Our next meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 20 at 8:30 a.m. at Wick's Pizza on State Street. Look forward to seeing you there. If you have events coming up, please email me the details. I will add them to our website calendar.

Heather Trueblood
Program Coordinator
Develop New Albany, Inc.
222 Pearl Street, Suite 109
New Albany, Indiana 47150
(812) 941-0018

The unexpurgated minutes begin ... now.


May 16th, 2017

Teresa called the meeting to order at 8:30am. Everyone introduced themselves and what business they were representing. Thank you to the Glass Gypsy in The Underground Station for hosting this month.

Tourism – Luanne Mattson and Kate Kane – Memorial Day weekend – Jeffersonville is hosting Abbey Road on the River. Tourism Board will have 2 concierge booths and are looking for volunteers. No selling, just advocating for Clark and Floyd if someone needs to know where to eat, shop, stay, etc. Dates are 5/25-5/29 and booth shifts are 3 hours. Please contact Kate Bewley at to volunteer. Please copy Luanne Mattson on all press releases, events that you have going on. Her email is June 6 will be the SoIn Tourism Coalition meeting to be held at the Southern Indiana Arts Council. More info will be in this week’s newsletter. Please email Luanne to be sure you are getting the consumer and partner newsletter from the Tourism Board.

Harvest Homecoming – Starting to gear up for the 50th anniversary of HH this fall. In August at the Fair Queen pageant will be the unveiling of the pin and theme.

City of New Albany – 2 way street conversion is underway. Should be completed by early fall. Info can be found at Please pay extra attention when driving downtown. River Run Family Waterpark opens Memorial Day weekend. Beautification Day went well… be sure to check out the new mural in the parking lot next to Big 4 Burgers. Parks Dept is kicking off a busy summer program and info can be found online.

Develop New Albany - Annual Meeting and Pillar Awards will be held Thursday June 29 at TheaterWorks of SoIn at 6pm. Appetizers will be provided and a cash bar will be available. Please join us!

Carnegie Center- Taste of Art and History will be held Labor Day weekend at The Calumet Club. Businesses can participate… for $150, you will be given 2 tickets to the event and signage at the event. Contact for more info

PNC Bank – May is Small Business Month. PNC Bank is offering a webX on Thursday May 18th titled “Delivering Happines”. An executive from Zappos will be presenting. Can register online at\women

June 10th and 11th will be the Art on The Parish Green and will be held at St Paul’s Episcopal Church. Over 80+ artists will be there and the YMCA will be hosting a Kids Art Place Tent! More info at

YMCA is offering a no join fee. Contact branch for more details.

The Olivet is having a 1 year anniversary celebration Saturday May 20th. Music, refreshments and special deals. They are located in the Underground Station. Dream Boutique will host their 1 year anniv. Party reception on Sat May 27th at 5pm. They are also in The Underground Station.

Meeting was adjourned at 9:25am

Next Merchant Meeting will be June 20th at 8:30am at Wick’s Pizza – 225 State Street.

Smoke 'em if you've got 'em: Match Cigar Bar New Albany's grand opening is Friday, June 9.

The Green Mouse ran into Match Cigar Bar New Albany's owner Jeff Mouttet last night. Jeff said that business was good so far, and the grand opening should be a bash for the ages.

Though by no means an aficionado, the senior editor is a longtime cigar lover. It's easy to stereotype cigar smokers, but misleading to do so. It's a diverse and creative subculture. Cigars aren't everyone's gig, but Jeff is the consummate professional and very good at what he does.

For my money, the advent of Match's second location in downtown New Albany is of inestimable importance. It lifts the bar, as 410 Bakery has done right across the street.

About the grand opening:

Grand Opening June 9th, featuring the re-release of Tienda Exclusiva, and a sneak peek of the Pappy Van Winkle Traditional Cigar. Both Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle will be in attendance. Insane swag, massive amounts of free cigars (including pre-release Pappy Van Winkle Traditional Cigars), and more. Open Tues-Saturday, 3pm to midnight until Grand Opening. Come by and check it out. Details, event posting, and emails to follow, so stay tuned!

From Jonathan Drew (Drew Estate Cigars):

PAPPY VAN WINKLE "Tradition" sneak peak on June 9th at Match Cigar Bar In New Albany, Indiana.

The photo below was taken the very first time that I met Julian Van Winkle. I remember it perfectly, and now, years later - I am honored to call him my friend.

Julian and I will join our host, Jeff Mouttet for a special event together for the final pre-release of the new brand, while it finishes aging.

My homeboy Ben Pearson said to me today, "JD, all things are coming together for this event" and I believe he's correct. We are going to be partying and having a good time while we celebrate Jeff's new store/ lounge opening. These are some of the best moments in life and I'm so thankful and appreciative of them.

We also have Herrera Esteli, Tienda Exclusiva Riverside as a special item, in limited quantities. This is a second release and Epstein Makadocious !!!

Just a reminder: There'll be no Boomtown this weekend because Dear Leader gave up on it.

But elsewhere, the boom goes on.

City Hall is as silent as a Bud Light & Clamato Chelada, but we're inferring that Boomtown Ball will NOT be held in 2017.


As an addendum, NAC 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.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Taibbi: "Democrats in general have lost the ability (and the inclination) to reach out to the entire population."

Fantasy Island for local DemoDisneyDixiecrats.

You know, the sort of superheroes who engineer secretive public housing putsches.

Jefferson-Jackson Dinner Will Be Renamed, by Ashley Southall (NYT; 8 Aug 2015)

An Iowa Democratic Party panel voted on Saturday to change the name of the popular Jefferson-Jackson dinner, joining several state parties in distancing itself from the legacies of the two former slave-owning presidents for whom the dinner is named.

Not here in Floyd County, and not on Mr. Sticky's (or Jeff Gahan's) watch. Meanwhile ...

The Democrats Need a New Message
, by Matt Taibbi (Rolling Stone)

After another demoralizing loss to a monstrous candidate, Democrats need a reboot

How low do you have to sink to lose an election in this country? Republicans have been trying to answer that question for years. But they've been unable to find out, because Democrats somehow keep failing to beat them ...

... The electoral results last November have been repeated enough that most people in politics know them by heart. Republicans now control 68 state legislative chambers, while Democrats only control 31. Republicans flipped three more governors' seats last year and now control an incredible 33 of those offices. Since 2008, when Barack Obama first took office, Republicans have gained somewhere around 900 to 1,000 seats overall.

There are a lot of reasons for this. But there's no way to spin some of these numbers in a way that doesn't speak to the awesome unpopularity of the blue party. A recent series of Gallup polls is the most frightening example.

Unsurprisingly, the disintegrating Trump bears a historically low approval rating. But polls also show that the Democratic Party has lost five percentage points in its own approval rating dating back to November, when it was at 45 percent.

The Democrats are now hovering around 40 percent, just a hair over the Trump-tarnished Republicans, at 39 percent. Similar surveys have shown that despite the near daily barrage of news stories pegging the president as a bumbling incompetent in the employ of a hostile foreign power, Trump, incredibly, would still beat Hillary Clinton in a rematch today, and perhaps even by a larger margin than before.

If you look in the press for explanations for news items like this, you will find a lot of them. Democrats may have some difficulty winning elections, but they've become quite adept at explaining their losses.

As an addendum, NAC 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.

A half-century after Sgt. Pepper, Abbey Road on the River is underway in Jeffersonville.

From George Martin all the way to Mike Moore ...

Yesterday I was delighted to help out for a few hours at the Clark-Floyd Counties Convention Tourism Bureau's information booth, situated by the Pearl Street entrance to Abbey Road on the River.

The Big Four Bridge is open for transit, with the ramp descending to street level adjacent to the fest gate. If you decide to walk, Budweiser wants you to keep moving.

Presumably no listening, either.

The festival takes up the whole rectangular expanse of the park built around the bridge. There'll always be first-year jitters, but yesterday it appeared that the fest's infrastructure had been well-planned.

As always in autocentric America, parking stands to be the biggest issue, thought there are hotel shuttles to help with out-of-town guests. Use the damn walking bridge, Louisvillians.

Of course, me being me, the biggest question is how much the city of Jeffersonville is budgeting for five days of Beatlemania. Recalling the reluctance of City Hall in New Albany to openly discuss how much Harvest Homecoming actually costs, it's an answer I'm unlikely to receive.

But just imagine being able to house all of Harvest Homecoming inside the expanse the size of Big Four Station, engineered precisely for this purpose (and others). No merchant would be blocked, and the independent businesses nearby would be in a position to enjoy the best of both worlds.

A boy can dream. Thanks to the bureau for having me -- and by the way, it's fazed, not phased.

Abbey Road on the River starts off cloudy, but recovers, by Danielle Grady (All Things Bright and Jeffersonville)

JEFFERSONVILLE — The first day of Abbey Road on the River’s first year in Jeffersonville didn’t start out perfectly.

Rain the day before pushed back the gate opening for The Beatles festival from noon to 4 p.m.

By late-afternoon on Thursday, however, temperatures had risen into the 60s and a small crowd of Abbey Road-die hards had gathered at the foot of the Big Four Bridge awaiting the five-day festival’s beginning.

Suzie Atkins, a six-years-or-so veteran, was among the not-phased.

“There’s always bad weather the first day and things get pushed back,” she said.

Abbey Road on the River, which was previously held in Louisville for 12 years, moved across the river to downtown Jeffersonville for 2017 after the festival founder decided to look for a different spot.

Good points aplenty: "The big urban mistake: Building for tourism vs. livability."

Team Gahan and Develop New Albany should be locked into a room together.

That'd be enough in itself, but they shouldn't be allowed to come out.

Okay, at least not until each one of them has read this article and are compelled to comment publicly.

As we know, they're unlikely to read this or any other essay, so sound off, fellow dissidents. How is Dear Leader doing according to the criteria herein? I'm sure the upper echelons at Flaherty and Collins have a point of view.

Public housing residents likely do, too. Thanks for the link, MW.


... I’m painting with a bit of a broad brush, but essentially what so many cities are currently experiencing is the dilemma of whether to invest in large urban draws that will bring outside money in, or invest in a growing and changing downtown residential population that yearns for investments in keeping them there. To put it simply, do cities invest in big projects that create an entertaining space that grows tourism, or do they invest in the people that have already taken a risk by moving back into their long-dormant downtowns?


City leaders, this one’s for you. You can either cater to your new residents by going into the downtown apartment buildings and listening to real people, or you can hop on the big ticket project train en route to a revolving door downtown. You can either build for livability or build for fleeting, often overrated promises of tourism revenue. You can facilitate local small business and community development, or you can create a short-lived wow-factor by opening the floodgates to developers and business interests who take money out of our communities. You can empower and invest in your new downtown residents and let THEM be the ambassadors for our growing urban paradises, or you can ignore them and build casinos and other flashy complexes that cater to the outsider and likely line the pockets of someone beyond the boundaries of the community.

The choice, as always, is yours to make. Choose to invest in your residents and local business owners… the people that invested first… tourism, development and financial success will likely follow. Empower your people, honor the risk they took by taking one yourself, and like happy employees of a strong company, they will take care of everything else.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

ORBP: "Massive expense, big tolls, fewer cars than ever. Even if way down the road these bridges fill up, this project is a financial boondoggle of epic proportions."

From 2011.

I'll lead with Aaron Renn's answer to a question asked in the comments section.

The toll revenue from the system is being split 50/50 between Indiana and Kentucky. Previous analysis indicated that 80% of the tolls will be paid by Indiana residents, so that’s who is paying for the project, ultimately.

One Southern Indiana is delighted. Evidently not a single humanities major was consulted.

Conversely ...

Louisville Spent $2.4 Billion on New Bridges While Traffic Fell Sharply (Urbanophile)

The initial figures are in and the new Louisville bridges are on track to be as big a failure as predicted.

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

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

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

(This column is just one installment in a series about my travels in 1987. Previously, Perugia ... next, more about Ljubljana)

May 15, 1987 … Trieste, Italy

I returned to the train station in early evening with a slight glow from cheap Italian table wine, and promptly suffered the first noticeable lancing of an otherwise sanguine seaside mood.

Rounding the litter-strewn corner to an isolated side platform, I saw the rusted, elemental Yugoslav train waiting for the ride to Ljubljana. There were only three passenger cars, and they had no frills left to give.

In 1985, my first brief glimpse of communism had come from the vantage point of a sleek Finnish tour bus. Now this unadorned vintage Balkan rolling stock hinted at what was to come during the next few weeks roaming southeastern red-starred Europe.

A port and border town, Trieste’s geographical resting place was much in dispute following World War II. Yugoslavia's Marshall Tito (Josip Broz, a Croat by birth) eventually acquiesced in his demands, and Trieste remained Italian, which it had been for only three decades after forcible detachment from the defunct Austro-Hungarian Empire at the close of the previous war.

Consequently, a sizable population of ethnic Slovenes living in Trieste's suburbs and hinterlands became Italian citizens overnight. Their descendants appeared to be my fellow outbound weekend passengers, probably visiting relatives on the other side.

They began boarding the so-called "express," many encumbered with multiple bags, bundles and boxes. No one was speaking Italian. It was almost as though the dilapidated Trieste rail siding was an extension of Yugoslav sovereign territory.

The train finally began rumbling slowly to the east. We lurched toward the border, into the blackened mountains for which the Balkans are both celebrated and feared, although the forested heights seemed less imposing when brightened by a setting sun.

At the border, my passport merited little more than a glance. The visa inside was duly stamped by the youthful, uniformed guard with the rifle slung over his shoulder. It all seemed unusually relaxed, a condition not always to be repeated in the Bloc during my journeys later that summer.

The locals had it somewhat harder, and their packages were inspected closely. Once inside Yugoslavia, the train began emptying as we stopped in one small town after another. After three and a half hours, just shy of 22:30, the express that never was shuddered to a halt at Ljubljana's central station.

Excited, I bounded down the worn metal steps into a warm and humid night, hoisted my pack, turned to follow the crowd, and was greeted by a full-scale reprise of an Animal House bacchanal, minus the togas.


Unsteady chorus lines of drunken young men were chugging bottled beer, the liquid streaming down their faces as they stumbled across the rails singing verses of unknown songs, with nary a female in sight.

To my right, a group of them were merrily urinating on a rail yard wall. Some were shirtless, half-heartedly wrestling. Others were projectile vomiting.

Although obviously harried by the mayhem, train station personnel looked on it with remarkably equanimity, as though the performance had been seen many times before.

And so it had.

Two days later while in route to Zagreb, a seismologist from Skopje explained that what I’d witnessed was a semi-regular occurrence throughout Yugoslavia. The revelers were the latest cohort of military draftees, celebrating their final night of freedom before shipping out to serve the motherland for two years.

Upon arrival in Ljubljana, I didn't know any of this.

Rather, standing on the platform transfixed and appalled, watching the crazy party, a question occurred to me.

Why the hell had I come here?

As throngs of thoroughly inebriated future Yugoslav soldiers milled through the debris in Ljubljana's otherwise unoccupied train station, I found myself an object of curiosity and attention, perhaps the lone western backpacker.

It must be said that the scrutiny wasn't threatening, and the general mood remained one of revelry. Gingerly picking my way gingerly through the ranks of the fallen, taking care to avoid evil smelling puddles, I scanned the strange directional signs in an effort to locate a safe path into the station's nerve center.

Two of them stood out: "Informacija" (information) and a pictogram of bank notes and coins.

Money was the first priority, as I'd passed from lira to dinars. In pre-Euro times, every border crossing required exchanging the previous nation’s currency into the next one. In 1987, there were few ATMs even in Western Europe, much less the East Bloc. Similarly, the credit card in my neck pouch would be almost useless in socialist locales outside of special "hard currency" shops.

Back then, you changed money the old-fashioned way, with actual dollars or American Express traveler's checks. The man behind the only populated window miraculously spoke a bare minimum of English, and was able to answer my questions.

Yes, he would cash a traveler's check.

No, he could not help me find accommodations.

No (gesturing at the cacophony), the baggage check room was quite full.

Bureaucratic scribblings followed, and he began slapping down those one thousand dinar notes, again and again, until the pile was at least two fingers high.

Not a bad exchange rate: $100 per inch.

Public transportation had shut down, and so my search for lodgings commenced on foot. There was a chronic scarcity of streetlights, but I managed to navigate a half-mile to the first university-affiliated youth hostel listed in the guidebook.

There were cobwebbed padlocks on the door.

The second hostel defied all navigational efforts. It was dark, the streets were deserted, I was soaked with sweat and it was well after midnight. Reversing course back toward the train station area, I made for the first standard hotel.

The night clerk eventually responded to repeated buzzing, sleepily offering non-negotiable terms of one night in a single-bedded room for roughly a quarter-inch of my hard-earned dinar wad, or three times the rate I expected to pay in a hostel. Exhausted, notions of showers and naps were cheering. It was a splurge -- and a deal.

On Saturday morning, flooded in blessed daylight, the youth & student travel bureau was easily found, and a less inexpensive bunk booked in a three-bed student hostel toward the city center. The day was free for exploring Ljubljana – sister city of Cleveland, Ohio – and drinking a few delicious Union lagers.


A few photos from Ljubljana.

The same view, 30 years apart.

The Dragon Bridge, in the Vienna Secession style (circa 1900).

I was a philosophy major in college, remember?

Already I was displaying a knack for finding breweries.

Saturday the 16th of May, a market morning.


May 25, 2017 … New Albany, Indiana

It is the 30th anniversary of my lone visit to the country formerly known as Yugoslavia. From May 15 through May 31 in 1987, I visited five Yugoslav “republics” that are independent countries today: Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Serbia and Macedonia.

The sixth republic, Montenegro, wasn’t on my 1987 itinerary and neither was Kosovo (ethnically Albanian but part of Serbia at the time). However, during a day spent in the city of Ohrid, the presence of Albania could be vividly sensed, lying twelve miles away across the waters of Lake Ohrid.

Other Yugoslav cities that I passed through were Zagreb, Sarajevo, Mostar, Kardeljevo (now Ploče), Dubrovnik, Belgrade and Skopje. I exited Yugoslavia on the Bulgarian border, somewhere around Gyueshevo.

Even for those with a moderate grounding in European history, these place names still appear mysterious and vaguely eastern. Yugoslavia was a multi-ethnic country made up of Christians, Muslims and Jews, and speaking a half-dozen languages (in two alphabets). Over the centuries, the inhabitants of these regions were the subjects of various foreign empires, including Rome, Venice, Hungary, the Habsburgs and the Ottoman Turks.

The cultural kaleidoscope was calculated for sensory overload, and looking back on these scant three weeks in my life, my time in Yugoslavia seems almost otherworldly. Naturally I wouldn’t trade it for anything, and yet I’m fully aware of how much was missed or only partially digested. In truth, I was still in training, learning the ropes.

However, one thing about Yugoslavia has stuck with me. The people I met were amazingly hospitable, unfailingly friendly and invariably helpful to this flailing American in spite of the many language and cultural barriers.

These pleasant memories made it all the sadder for me during the 1990s, amid the murderous, decade-long Yugoslav civil war, when numerous barroom discussions began or ended with someone asking me if I could see the conflagration coming, all the way back in ’87, when I was there.

No, I didn't. Not at all.

But those men and women who’d been so nice to me – what had become of them?

I didn't know then, and still don't.

It's a melancholy feeling, indeed.


Recent columns:

May 18: ON THE AVENUES: Are dissidents born or made? A humanities major examines his life and locale.

May 11: ON THE AVENUES: Would a Canon candidacy compromise Deaf Gahan's and Mr. Dizznee's shizz show? A boy can dream.

May 4: ON THE AVENUES: Under the volcano in Catania, Sicily (Part One).

April 27: ON THE AVENUES: Dear Mr. Dizznee: Can you hear me now?