Wednesday, July 01, 2020

Today's COVID must read: Marty Rosen on facemasks and collective responsibility.

Marty Rosen's "Letter from the Editor" column appears on Wednesday at Food & Dining Magazine.

On Friday, Susan Reigler offers "Bourbon News & Notes," and Ron Mikulak is back in the saddle, currently on Tuesday, with his weekly updates about restaurant coming and goings. I'm still hoping we're able to engineer the return of Sara Havens and "The Bar Belle," but that's above my pay grade as digital editor. 

My "Hip Hops" beer column runs on Monday. It's a weekly reminder to me that being on a team as formidable as this one is both an honor and a daily inducement to up my game. We're a small family-run magazine, and I accept that we don't have quite the range of other regional publications.

However, we definitely have the writing. Marty proves it, here.

Letter from the Editor: Face masks, yes. We have a collective responsibility to hold each other safe, by Marty Rosen (Food & Dining Magazine)

Of all the human emotions, none has garnered less attention from scientists, poets, artists, and songwriters than the one known as Disgust.

Certainly it’s a subject that never arises here at Food & Dining headquarters, where we while away our days sipping and nibbling on only the finest beverages and foods in our beautifully appointed stately pleasure dome.

And yet disgust, though it takes many forms, is fundamentally connected to food and dining. In its simplest, most literally visceral form, disgust manifests itself through symptoms like nausea and retching. We have all felt it when suddenly exposed to the odor of rotting garbage, for instance. And apparently it’s not a “learned” emotion ...

Find the anchor in this mural. C'mon, you know it's there.

Look carefully.

The propaganda arm of INDOT's three-and-a-half-year-long bridge "renewal" project finds the city's eight-whole-years-belated interest in public art to be cute! That's mighty nice of the state, isn't it?

Now INDOT will proceed to collectively kneecap any businesses downtown that somehow manage to make it past the pandemic's first few waves still standing, by (in practical effect) closing the primary access bridge for a period LONGER than the pandemic's likely reign.

Thanks, INDOT. May we have another punch to the skull? Of course, there'll be plenty of time for fewer downtown visitors to gaze upon the artistic finery (which I personally like, by the way). 

Meanwhile, file the mural pictured here under "More Works by David Thrasher That Have Been Consigned to Oblivion" by the city.

Others include his literal painted forks in the road, as well as the sculpture of the same name, last year ingloriously displaced to the shadow of the parking garage because no one 'round here ever "got it" -- just visitors who flocked to take selfies with it.

Dave, my man; ya gotta run with the right crowd. Be internationally known, dude.

Couldn't you do one of these instead? It'd be a huge hit at the Roadhouse.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Rest easy, suburbanites. It is highly unlikely that the conservative local Democratic Party will sanction defunding the police department.

Original title: BELATED NAWBANY WEEK IN REVIEW: "Councilman calls for closer scrutiny of New Albany police spending."

Following is a revealing article in the local chain newspaper. It seems that council member Al Knable, a Republican (not a Democrat or member of some other smaller political party), mentioned keeping an eye on police expenditures during the forthcoming budgetary process.

(As a relevant aside, the municipal budgetary process for next year stands to be very interesting, indeed, given the pandemic's effects on business, both local and statewide. It's hard to imagine any increases, and far easier to envision necessary cuts. Consequently, for the first time in a while, the budget might well become highly politicized.)

Concurrently, Jeffersonville's Mayor Mike Moore, a Republican, recently announced an effort to equip its police force with a new generation of high tech body cameras.

If my memory can be trusted, New Albany has rejected cameras in toto in the past on grounds of cost; as we can see in this excerpt, perhaps the consensus among elected Democrats (as opposed to Republicans, who have not enjoyed a majority on city council since before this blog was founded in 2004) is that such cameras are simply redundant in a city that doesn't have the sort of problems other cities do.

As an aside, isn't Pyongyang also an example of a city that doesn't have the sort of problems other cities do? The North Koreans keep saying so, at the very least.

Another point worth considering is the quote from the mayor to the effect that if our council is interested in social programs, members have had ample time to bring them to the table, and in fact should already have done so.

Te reiterate: Democratic Party council members have had an unassailable majority for most of the past 16 years. Based on this plain fact, there is a strong suggestion that any social program forthcoming from council would necessarily emanate from Democrats, as opposed to Republicans, or else have no chance whatever of passage. 

For most of the past 16 years.

I cannot recall substantive social programs being proposed by Democrats during this time, but if there were and I've missed them, please let me know and we can update and discuss.

In closing, allow me to note that since his return from Kentucky, Daniel Suddeath has contributed quite a lot of genuine substance to coverage of New Albany. He's lapping his immediate predecessor, the former assistant editor.

As yet it remains problematic for me to support the management of the newspaper, as it seems unable to acknowledge reality on the ground in this community. I wish this might change. If publisher Bill Hanson were to make a serious effort to change the newspaper's approach in terms of coverage, and analyzing events from a cross-section of the community rather than just one demographic, I'd purchase some variety of on-line subscription.

However Hanson can begin by acknowledging the thousands of hits NA Confidential has directed toward the newspaper's on-line advertising since 2004.

Bill, just say "thank you, Roger" -- and shake up that guest columnist roster -- and I'll give you some money


Councilman calls for closer scrutiny of New Albany police spending, by Daniel Suddeath

 ... Mayor (redacted) said Tuesday that the council, administration and public should scrutinize the budget every year. Funding public safety and programs that improve the community isn’t an either/or proposition, he continued.

“If any of the council members are serious about funding social programs, I would hope they would have brought those concerns up in the past instead of waiting for a lot of unrest,” (redacted) said. “I don’t think it’s fair to pit the police department against social spending.”

New Albany Police Chief Todd Bailey participated in a recent rally and protest walk in the city’s downtown. He said during the June 13 event that the NAPD values its partnership with the community, and that the department is demilitarized and has banned some of the questionable tactics and procedures of other police agencies that have drawn criticism.

(Redacted) also offered his support for the NAPD, adding that he’s aware of the concerns people have about policing, but stressing that departments and police officers have to be viewed on individual merits and not generalized.

“I think the New Albany Police Department has an outstanding record when it comes to treating people fairly,” Gahan said. “I think it’s a mistake to imply that we have the same type of issues other communities may be experiencing and to use what’s going on in other communities as an excuse to defund the police department.”

The June 13 rally in New Albany was historic, and it served as a call to action to community leaders, (Al) Knable said. The protest should lead to meaningful changes that include how the local government views the budgetary process, he continued ...

Monday, June 29, 2020

"12 Hacks to Turn Your Unfinished Attic Into an Organized Haven."

At Good Housekeeping: Transform your go-to dumping ground into a clutter-free zone.

Is anyone looking?



Now let's talk about the latest greenway extension press release from the municipals, as forwarded by the local chain newspaper: New Albany proceeds with next stage of greenway design.

Before you read the pull, know that to have surveyed the goings-on by the municipal higher-ups for the past decade or more is to see that when it comes to their attitude toward bicycles, it's as if none of them have ever been to a place in America or abroad where people use bicycles to commute and achieve actual useful tasks (as they would driving a car), as opposed to using bicycles strictly as recreational conveyances -- often, loading a bike onto a car and TAKING it somewhere else to ride.

In functional bicycle-friendly cities, the idea is to connect one's front door to a safe path to food, drink and a haircut as well as the recreational pathway.

Why do you think almost all the useful bicycle infrastructure was stripped from the Speck plan? The movers and shakers either don't understand, or they do understand and have made the conscious decision not to pursue genuinely multi-modal transport options. I tend to think they simply don't comprehend, because if they did, don't you think reality would reflect just a wee bit of it by now?

Let's read about the Democratic Party's plans for partial modernity.

Basically, the idea is to extend the Greenway to the little pocket park where people can park their cars next to Silver Creek. A quarter-mile, maybe?

It won't serve any constructive purpose as it pertains to people using bikes to connect from neighborhoods to the center, presumably because this would inconvenience drivers.

If there's another reason why they do these things, I wish someone would explain it to me instead of refusing to discuss it.

Note the quote from Adam Dickey about connecting bicycles to Clarksville via projected sidewalks. You know, where bicycles are NOT SUPPOSED TO BE in the first place. They're supposed to be on the street ... where we won't make it safe for people outside their cars. And yet Dickey adds that future plans should include provisions for walkers, not bicycles.

Automobile supremacy has us by the gonads, doesn't it?

 ... “This part called Silver Creek Landing not only expands northward up Silver Creek, but it also opens Silver Creek up to recreational use,” (redevelopment's Josh) Staten said.

Commission member Adam Dickey said the Clarksville Town Council has expressed interest in improving sidewalks along Providence Way, which could further improve safety and accessibility to the greenway.

He added that New Albany’s prior work on the greenway allows the city to explore additional connectivity to the pathway in the corridor.

“This is going to put us in a great position because no one else has moved up to Silver Creek, and I think this puts us in a leadership position,” Dickey said.

New Albany City Councilman Jason Applegate, who is also a member of the commission, emphasized the importance of opening up the greenway to other neighborhoods. He said safety is also a vital component of accessibility, and Dickey added the city should ensure that future roadway design centers around complete streets that allow for pedestrian use.

“We see the greenways being used so I think connectivity is so important,” Applegate said.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Sunday must-read: "After Save A Lot’s Closing, Potential For Food Desert Grows In New Albany' by John Boyle at WFPL.

Where to begin?

It's wonderful to see John Boyle hit the ground running at his new public radio gig. We're advised never to underestimate the value of liberation from Hanson Acres.

No one can be sure, but apparently the rule of thumb at the Jeffersonville News and Tribune is to ALWAYS solicit the view of a public official, elected or appointed, when writing a story like this.

Refreshingly to the point of screaming aloud with joy and dancing in the streets, Boyle does not do this, preferring instead to speak with those humans affected by Save A Lot's closure, and to locate educated, principled local experts whose opinions are not wedded to the same old political considerations.

The result is fine writing without a cover photo of a mayor, councilman or NAHA administrator.

Three ... six ... nine ... hell, 18 cheers for that.

Thank you, John Boyle.

But here's the part I'm waiting to hear explained by local officials: Assuming the downtown food and drink sector recovers from COVID, which as yet cannot be asserted as a foregone conclusion, what does it say about New Albany as a city that we constantly flog our trendy eateries and watering holes while ignoring the fact that they exist smack in the middle of a food desert, a fact that is most damaging to residents who frankly cannot afford to dine and drink downtown?

Perhaps the LEE Initiative can annex us. Shall we pray?

After Save A Lot’s Closing, Potential For Food Desert Grows In New Albany, by John Boyle (WFPL)

Since the 1950s, residents of downtown New Albany have bought their food at 624 State St., which was originally a Kroger before becoming a Save A Lot. But on June 20, Save A Lot permanently closed its doors. And while there are large grocery chains like Kroger near the outskirts of town, the city’s core is now lacking a full-service grocery option.

“There’s so many of us over here that are very upset, because sometimes we don’t like the big stores,” said Kimberly Williams, who shopped at Save A Lot frequently over the last 12 years. “[Save A Lot] feels homey. Other stores are big, crowded. I don’t like a crowd like that. I like to keep it simple. I know where everything is. That’s going to hurt.”

Williams lives in the nearby New Albany Housing Authority (NAHA) complex. Every two weeks or so, she would pull a wagon just over half a mile to shop, which would take roughly 30 minutes roundtrip.

One of New Albany’s Kroger stores is a little more than a mile away from the former Save A Lot. Though the increase in distance may seem minuscule, every extra step matters to elderly citizens like Williams. The difficulty is amplified by nearby hilly terrain and the fact that Kroger is located in a large shopping center surrounded by an expansive and busy parking lot, which makes the trip less pedestrian-friendly.

“That’s real rough,” Williams said. “You know what I mean? Because sometimes my wagon gets a little heavy. But you know, that’s how I do it… I’ll pull it home. I’m going to miss that. I am.”


The USDA identifies food deserts as neighborhoods that are more than one mile away from the nearest supermarket or grocery store in urban areas – or 10 miles in rural areas – and have poverty rates greater than or equal to 20 percent. One tract of New Albany east of downtown that has a population of 1,897 was already listed on the USDA’s interactive atlas of food deserts, which uses data from 2015.

With the closure of Save A Lot, four more tracts that meet the poverty thresholds could also qualify. Up to 13,500 residents of New Albany may now be living in food deserts.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

"As you address “systemic racism” in Louisville look at pollution in Black neighborhoods and the institutions that profit from it."

Photo credit goes to J. Tyler Franklin, at WFPL's 2019 series on toxic air pollution in Louisville.

You can almost hear the rejoinder: "Well, if it's dangerous, move ... but not into OUR neighborhood, of course."

Pollution in Black neighborhoods part of Louisville's systemic racism, by John Hans Gilderbloom, Gregory D. Squires, Robert P. Friedland and Dwan Turner (Courier Journal)

Thousands of Black and white protesters got a taste recently of what it is like to feel the agony of being gassed by the police. It was painful, sickening and scary.

But citizens in western Louisville are regularly “gassed,” causing long-term health problems. The mayor’s own office admits this truth, with people dying an average of 10 years earlier in western Louisville compared to the rest of the city. In some neighborhoods, the life span is less than in war-torn Iraq according to Louisville’s Health Department.

In other words, 60,000 folks (enough to fill Cardinal Stadium) are dying prematurely and most of them are African Americans. As you address “systemic racism” in Louisville look at pollution in Black neighborhoods and the institutions that profit from it. Western Louisville’s air, water and soil are so toxic and rank among the worst of any American city. It is unlivable for a modern American neighborhood ...


The calls for greater equity also means cleaning up the air, water and soil. Poor people needlessly suffer more here than the same low-income people in West Coast cites. If we adopted the same tough, environmental regulations as our West Coast counterparts, western Louisville would surely bloom.

The unfairness between black and white neighborhoods is stark and vivid. As the great urbanist, Jane Jacobs, once said: "everyone hungers for a first class neighborhood for both pride and dignity ... nobody wants a second class neighborhood." First class neighborhoods are safe, healthy, sustainable, and prosperous. It is a human right, an American right.

Stolen flags, vandalism, white supremacists, but "it’s a mistake to imply that we have the same type of issues other communities may be experiencing."

I hate to see it, make no mistake. The mistake comes in thinking this underachieving burg is in any way superior to its surroundings. We're all on the same plane here in the good 'ol USA, aren't we?

Friday, June 26, 2020

R.I.P. Terry Cummins.

Terry Cummins died on June 8, 2020. He was an amazing man and a role model second to none; Terry literally retired and THEN began climbing mountains.

 Rereading the following post, what stands out in hindsight is the fact that Terry still had another year and a half ahead of him.

Bon voyage; rest in power -- gentle, thoughtful and understated power, but power nonetheless.


September 3, 2018

Terry Cummins keeps fighting -- and writing.

Terry and me, 2015.
Terry Cummins was an assistant principal at Floyd Central when I was a student.  I got to know him all over again as an adult during the 1990s via the helpful medium of the Public House.

Since then, one thing I've tried not to miss in the newspaper is his weekly column. In 2015, Terry wrote wonderfully about his wife's terminal illness and his own cancer diagnosis.

August 26, 2015: On Terry and Vera Cummins, and doing what you have to do.

Vera died in early 2016, and several months later, Terry wrote one of his finest newspaper essays, bar none.

She’s been gone for seven months. It seems like forever, but I feel her presence that will not leave. Vera and I were married for over 61 years, which were packed full of all kinds of surprises, heartaches and emotions imaginable. When we chose to undergo frequent stubbornness contests, something had to give. An at-odds married couple can try discussing head-on conflicts, but it took several years for me learn to keep my mouth shut, and take her in my arms. If you do this, don’t ever whisper, “I think you were more stubborn this time than I was.” No, tightly squeeze her until her lips begin searching for yours. Then lead her to the bedroom no matter what time of day it is. It’s wondrous what love can do by what you do rather than trying to explain everything.

Terry bounced back from these reversals and beat cancer, only to face the same enemy for another round.

May 19, 2018: Newspaper columnist Terry Cummins and his thoughts about finality.

His most recent update came Saturday. If you've read Terry's writing, it makes perfect sense that he'd be chronicling his life as it is, right now -- without a trace of annoyance or self-pity, just the matter-of-fact perspective of a country boy who has retained bedrock values and an accompanying spiritual serenity.

Best wishes to Terry. What an inspiration he's been to all of us!

CUMMINS: Finishing with a flourish, by Terry Cummins

There’s no way to get around it. If you’re alive, you’re going to die. But I’m not ready yet. That’s too bad. If you’re up in years or your body is aging faster than it should, time is not on your side. Have you ever observed a beautiful flower keep its radiance indefinitely? Unless it’s plastic, it withers and returns to the earth to be regenerated again in the natural scheme of all life on earth. Unless you’re plastic, you’ll wither to dust and regenerate into eternal life, if you have faith and trust there is a Creator, an enduring, stable and abiding force.

But who wants to live a plastic, or artificial life? After fighting cancer for over three years, I’m weary of it. And after conquering colon cancer, which was like a long vicious dog fight, the remaining dormant cancer cells went to my bones and began thriving there. And now it’s another all-out battle to determine if my bones take me down deep or the poisons they inject inside me provide a bit more life of dubious quality. It gives one something else to agonize about — day and night ...

How and when will I pass on, and is there a way to prepare for it?

Pandemic flying: "Separating fact from fiction in airplane safety."

Apart from considerations about the personal health of my immediate family, my biggest COVID pandemic fear from Day One has been that my country will botch the response, with Americans awakening one morning to a new status as global epidemiological pariahs (you'd think being a worldwide political outlier would be sufficient).

And so we did, and now we are: US travelers 'unlikely' to be allowed into EU as bloc reopens, diplomats say.

Thanks, Trumphole.

Live in a superstitious country without brains, as we definitely do, and pay the consequences of not being able to glimpse civilization elsewhere now and then. It's all I've ever asked, and now it's gone, albeit temporarily.

When the time to fly away comes again, as it will, here are a few thoughts from Scott's Cheap Flights about pandemic airways reality. I'm not afraid of flying, but would prefer being able to leave the plane once we arrive.


Advice From Scott: The myth of “recirculated air” on planes

Separating fact from fiction in airplane safety to answer the question: During a pandemic, just how risky is it to get on a plane?

👃 Myth #1: There’s no fresh air on airplanes.

When you’re in an airplane at 30,000 feet, many people assume there’s no fresh air. Understandable thought, but it’s not true! Airplanes aren’t hermetically sealed environments. During a flight, fresh air from outside the plane is being continuously circulated into the cabin through complex vents in the engines.

✈️ Myth #2: Cabin air is “stale.”

In addition to bringing in fresh air from the outside, planes have hospital-grade air filters to purify the air onboard. These High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters cycle the air every few minutes, capturing 99.97% of airborne particles. Because of these onboard filters, researchers have found that airplane air is as clean or cleaner than the air in offices, schools, and other indoor settings.

🤒 Myth #3: There’s no chance of getting sick on a plane.

Though fresh air and filters help, you’ll still be sharing an indoor space with quite a few people for an extended period of time. If a sick person sitting next to you coughs, fresh air and HEPA filters aren’t great armor.

Planes, like most places, will never be 100% safe.

Because the risk of infection on a plane isn’t zero, precautions are prudent. Bring hand sanitizer (TSA is allowing up to 12oz in your carry-on) and disinfectant wipes for your seat armrests and table. Sure, the airlines are wiping them down already, but what’s the harm in wiping twice?

💺 Myth #4: Planes are superspreaders.

Dr. Joseph Allen, a Harvard professor and leading infectious disease expert who has studied infectious disease and airplanes for years, wrote recently:
“Billions of people travel by plane every year. [...] If planes made you sick, we would expect to see millions of people sick every year attributable to flights. We haven’t seen it because it’s just not happening.”
Indeed, millions of people have flown since the coronavirus pandemic began, and there’s only been one documented case where someone transmitted covid-19 to two or more other passengers. It’s telling that 2/3 of epidemiologists surveyed by the New York Times said they’d be comfortable getting on a plane in the next 12 months.

😷 Fact #1: Masks are really important.

Per Dr. Allen, a 2008 study found that wearing masks on an airplane "reduced the incidence of infection another 10-fold.”

Though nowadays almost all airlines require masks to board, some have been lax about enforcement during the actual flight. Thankfully, that’s starting to change; United and American Airlines have announced new policies threatening to ban travelers who refuse to wear a mask from future flights.

To quote RCMelic: No shirt, no shoes, no mask, no fly.

🙃 Fact #2: Travel should be fun.

Even with airplane myths debunked, many people still aren’t comfortable flying right now, and that’s a decision I respect 100%. Vacations should be fun, not stressful. Paris and Palm Springs aren’t going anywhere.

None of this is to say everyone should hop on a plane tomorrow. It’s a personal decision. My hope is that knowing more about airplane safety will be reassuring as people begin assessing when they’ll feel safe and comfortable traveling again.

ON THE AVENUES: I’m invisible, so will you stop insisting you see me?

Howard W. Campbell, Jr. is the central figure in Kurt Vonnegut’s 1962 novel Mother Night. Campbell is an American by birth who comes of age in Germany between the wars after his father is relocated for work.

When his parents move back to the United States, Campbell -- now as fluent in German as he is in English -- remains in Berlin. He makes a living as a playwright and marries a suitably Aryan woman (her father is chief of police) with whom he is passionately in love.

Entirely and almost narcissistically apolitical, Campbell learns that leading Nazis admire his plays, and as conflict again draws near, he is approached by Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda ministry, where soon he is employed, eventually becoming the wartime radio voice of American pro-Nazism -- think Tokyo Rose, Lord Haw-Haw and Axis Sally.

However, just before the onset of open hostilities, Campbell encounters a mysterious American from the War Department named Frank Wirtanen who urges him to become a double agent. At first Campbell refuses, but later changes his mind.

Consequently, throughout World War II, in the act of broadcasting on behalf of the Nazis, Campbell regularly passes coded messages to American listeners by means of deliberate pauses, coughs and other audible signals. He never knows exactly what information he is conveying; he merely conveys it via these artful inserts.

In other words, the fictional double agent Howard W. Campbell, Jr. manages to transmit crucial facts in the struggle against fascism while using neither words nor pictures. No essays, memes, polemics, or Photo Shop cleverness. Not even numbered ciphers. Only sounds and cadences, an inflection or two, the clearing of the throat -- maybe a purposeful mispronunciation.

I need a crash course in this covert and subtle way of communicating because it seems I’m back in lockdown when it comes to (clicks tongue) about (wheezes), not to mention (hums opening chord of Bob Dylan’s “Idiot Wind”) and (hiccups).

Did you catch all that?


Remember the Chinese guy with the bag facing the line of tanks 31 years ago in Tiananmen Square?

Substitute “Hauss” for “Tiananmen” and replace the sack with a six-pack of Thomas Paine’s Common Sense Ale, and that’s me in Nawbany. Everything I do and say is being watched, even when I’ve done and said nothing. Even my silence speaks volumes.

Therefore, in an ill-fated effort to avoid the summer’s newfound HEAT from (taps Keith Moon’s signature drum roll from “I Can’t Explain” on the microphone stand), I’ve been hammering the other side of the political aisle with nasty polemics … as with this tweet.

Welcome to 2020, when the rapturous tones of the GOP's robber baron capitalist death cult blossom into fun and games for all. "Die for Jesus and the economy" doesn't have quite the pull of "Remember the Alamo," but they don't write or read, do they?

After all, I actually AM a socialist, and maybe if some harsh invective is hurled against the Right, the Left will give me a reprieve, except they don’t, and even more obtusely, in spite of it all, I continue to have marvelous conversations with local Republicans, with whom I often disagree -- but yet we’re able to chat substantively in a fashion eschewed by the (lisp), who (oink oink) and grease the trap door.

Tanks for nothing. It is highly frustrating, and tantamount to a sort of exile-in-place. There are so many things going unaddressed that I want to write about, but unless -- wait a minute -- what’s that monotonous sound, the whirring from high up … damn, there’s a helicopter right above the house, and footfalls on the ceiling …

There are some Swedish meatballs in the fridge if anyone’s hungry.


Let’s play a different game.

If I were to begin a column with just this small list of titles, entirely alone and without explanation, what sort of point do you think I’d be trying to make?

Death Throes of the Dipshits
Nadir for the Know Nothings
Twilight on the Turds

Plainly there’s not enough information to judge, but you would, anyway. You’d automatically think it had something to do with that politician fellow whose name I can’t mention aloud for fear of the first tank operator deciding to drop it into gear.

For your information, these three titles refer to my forthcoming book about the GOP’s numerous self-inflicted wounds, something that should endear me to the area Biden cadres.

It won’t.

As a side note, I’ve been resting my speaking voice for more than three months, imagining that it might enable me to sing Freddie Mercury’s parts.

It didn’t work, either.


Six months have passed since my first column of 2020, which dropped on January 2. Here’s a quick recap.

ON THE AVENUES: On patience, grieving, puzzles and a necessary sabbatical.

… For a very long time I’ve been threatening to alter my terms of engagement and involvement with local affairs. Admittedly, these previous resolutions have been miserable failures. As with the fictional mobster Michael Corleone, just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in.

More accurately, I willfully pull myself back in, but not this time.

After 15 years, it’s time for a real sabbatical, at least six months to start and then with various options for renewal.

I couldn’t have selected a more chaotic juncture to issue myself a report card. Looking back from where we are right now, January seems like an Eden-like vignette from another dimension on a different planet.

Since I wrote the above words America has experienced the onset of a pandemic, courtesy of a nasty novel virus, at first encroaching and then exploding. COVID has settled in for a long stay, and rather than deal with it in any coherent fashion, we’ve leaped with both feet into an unprecedented, hopeful movement to at last deal with racial and social justice – and, of course, what’s hopeful from one perspective is brutally reactionary in another.

Boy, is it. But we don’t have problems like these in Nawbany, you know, like in those OTHER places.

Did I mention that as these happenings have rendered the country even more divided and fractious than before, we still have a presidential election to contest?

Listen, contrary to popular opinion I believe my sabbatical has gone quite well, thank you. The sabbatical has been so marvelous that it’s being renewed through year’s end, because the problem remains as it was when I penned the year’s first column: there’s nothing one can do when there’s nothing to be done.

And when they all have such abysmally thin skins.

My disengagement has proceeded swimmingly. I haven’t attended any city council or bored with works meetings, either live or via Zoom. Mentions about key elected officials have been reduced 80% or more at this portal. By and large I’m resisting the temptation to comment about the chicanery and corruption. When I have, they've been shadows of my former brilliance.

I’ve been a good boy, overall. The clique has to be delighted. They’ve blocked, muted and systematically excluded me from public dialogue, and I’ve voluntarily accepted their verdict.

I’m no longer a factor. Why, then, are the engines revving again?

But it's okay.

Admittedly there are times when it isn't easy living with the Groucho creed ("I don't care to belong to any club that will have me as a member"). Silence, whether voluntary or enforced, is little more than tacit acknowledgment of patience; one cannot come back without first going away.


Recent columns:

June 18: ON THE AVENUES: Anything except common, that Kentucky Common.

June 11: ON THE AVENUES: Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger.

June 4: ON THE AVENUES: There, there. People are dying, so you may have to wait until 2021 for your pork chop sandwich.

May 28: ON THE AVENUES: The late, great Lee Kelly -- by Matt Nash.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Woody Guthrie is back; Tulsa Athletic to play “This Land is Your Land” at home matches instead of the national anthem.

The Pearl in Germantown.

It's the soccer club in Tulsa, but first, allow me to express delight with the mural in Germantown. It wouldn't be allowed in Nawbany. I'm very happy that Woody Guthrie is being so honored.

Tulsa Athletic Making Bold Moves

There’s bold and then there’s Tulsa bold.

Tulsa Athletic announced today that the club would no longer play the National Anthem before matches, and instead play Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land” at all home matches. In a press release put out by the club this morning, co-owner Sonny Dalesandro explained their decision. “We developed a culture of inclusion and acceptance at Tulsa Athletic. We live in a country that allows us to freely speak our voice. We utilize this right as a club to continually try and improve our team and community. We believe ‘This Land Is Your Land’ not only captures a powerful patriotic sentiment, but this it does so in a far more inclusive way. The song speaks to this country being built and shared by every person of every race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation. It represents a future Tulsa Athletic is committed to striving for.”

Sonny, flanked by representatives from the club, made the announcement in front of a Woody Guthrie mural, painted on the side of the Woody Guthrie Center in Tulsa.

As for the song selection, I'm also feeling vindicated. I've been making this argument for so damn long ...

ON THE AVENUES: Let's lift our voices for another verse of "Talking Seventh Inning Blues."

... Conversely, if we simply must have a 7th-inning tune other than the historically correct one ("Take Me out to the Ballgame"), why not sing “This Land Is Your Land,” Woody Guthrie’s far superior response to Irving Berlin's "God Bless America"?

Why not sing it instead of the national anthem?

“This Land Is Your Land” is sublimely ecumenical, addressing the natural and human wonders of America without resorting to the divisiveness of those many supernatural elements.

I suppose the drawback is that when it comes to the imperative of emotional manipulation required by engorged corporate capitalists, Guthrie’s work isn’t as simplistic as Berlin’s schmaltzy paean to blind obedience.

Better yet, we might all wear “This Machine Kills Fascists” t-shirts whilst happily harmonizing from the third base side. It is through Guthrie’s legacy that this phrase has become immortalized. For many years my former brewing company used “These Machines Kill Fascists” as our motto, alongside a graphic of brewing vessels, and even today, with me being long gone from NABC, I never tire of telling the story of its origin.

Anthony Bourdain would have been 64 today. Let's remember him as a journalist.

I've laid out this one at Food & Dining Magazine, where I recommend you read it.

"Anthony Bourdain's genius was not in the kitchen. His genius was in knowing which side he was on"

There is little doubt, at least in my mind, where Bourdain would be standing this year if he had not left us.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Master race? Look at them. I see better specimens floating in the toilet each morning.

Three men indicted in the death of Ahmaud Arbery (CNN)

The sooner they rot, the better.

In the meantime, gimme some plywood and a bottle of beer. I'm going to build a memorial to Spike Jones.

Nawbany's ubiquitous used cars? They're "a symptom of having such a high concentration of poverty."

Earlier this week:

Traffic Cluster, Part One: Mt Tabor Road? It's the design. You know, the design we just paid millions ... to design.

Traffic Cluster, Part Two: We'll never resolve traffic issues until "leadership" is willing to lead, not pander.

But just before them, I wrote in reference to statue rectification: "Give 'em time, and we'll have statues of automobiles. I volunteer to be first in line when it comes to bringing those symbols down."

Taken together, these thoughts of pervasive and unaddressed automobile supremacy in Nawbany prompted reader John Q. Curmudgeon (no relation to T. Potable) to write this letter to the editor.

Don't worry. He's real.

Are you?


We already have monuments to automobiles in New Albany. Plenty of them. It's doubtful anyone can find another 14.94 square miles in the U.S. that has more ratty little "car lots", car parts stores and other auto related businesses than New Albany, Indiana.

Cheap used cars are for sale, parked on every corner in the town - used “luxury”, “high-end cars” are offered across from a funeral home, on a highway masquerading as a residential street. Another “luxury” car lot is across the street from the YMCA.*

Not a single new car dealership in New Albany - just used cars.

It’s a symptom of having such a high concentration of poverty. Banks make good money on auto loans and lend for them freely (because the car is the loan’s collateral), but not a single new car dealership in New Albany. Not enough money in circulation, not enough people to justify the investment. Sellersburg has new car dealerships, with one-tenth of the number of households in New Albany.

Apparently, most automobiles in New Albany are used and apparently falling apart, barely kept running judging from the number of parts stores and garages.

Auto parts stores are everywhere within New Albany’s small 14 square miles - two auto glass and paint locations, two NAPA parts stores, two O’Reilly Autoparts stores, a hub cap and wheel store, AutoZone Auto Parts, Advance Auto Parts, Bennett's Auto Parts, New Albany Auto Parts & Machine Shop, Bumper to Bumper, Auto Warehouse Inc., Walmart Auto Care Center, Tire Discounters, Big O Tires - and more corner, shade tree mechanic shops.

We don’t notice New Albany’s many monuments to the automobile - because we’ve grown numb to them.

When parking four old cars with “$300 down” written in white shoe polish on their windshields is the “highest and best use” of a high-traffic downtown corner lot, it’s a glaring example that no one values retail and business opportunities in New Albany. Another symptom of having such a high concentration of poverty.

Every article I read regarding the growing restaurant business in New Albany usually includes the phrase “get people across the bridge from Louisville.” There’s a reason. When the little corner car lots go, maybe we’ll see more opportunity for everyone.


* As to the lot across from the YMCA, reader NC writes: "I closed the lot about 3 years ago when my mom had a stroke. It sat empty for a couple years, the cars that were for sale on it were other lots parking them there or people we didn’t even know parking them there (every once in awhile the guys from the Firestone would sell a car off of it with permission ... it’s a mechanic shop for about the last year. So might want to edit that part, but yea Todd (Coleman) still owns it and rents it to the the owners of the shop. I’ve heard a couple rumors it could be for sale, but I’m not 100%. Could be just rumors."

Thomas Frank: "I came here to understand the Biden mystique, not to bury it."

How can self-styled progressives overlook Joe Biden's long legislative career of anti-progressive measures?

Because his name isn't "Donald Trump," and of course the usual left-wing delusion that leads to all genuine precepts being thrown away so the common threat can be met head-on, and then unceremoniously appeased owing to neoliberal donor cash.

The author Frank is no fan of Biden, but he gives it the good old (non)college try.

What's behind Joe Biden's mystique?, by Thomas Frank (The Guardian)

It was once a no-brainer among DC pundits that, in an electoral match-up between a friendly centrist and a bitter polarization-machine like Donald Trump, the guy who was closer to the middle would automatically win. And in the presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden, that conventional wisdom would seem to have found its man: he stands on behalf of no great causes, just a return to the consensus days of yore.

The flaw in this viewpoint is that the consensus days of yore were a dreadful time. What bipartisan centrism meant, in Biden’s heyday, was deliberate, state-sponsored cruelty on a scale so vast it is difficult to comprehend. It meant baked-in racial discrimination. It meant imprisoning enormous numbers of our fellow citizens for using drugs – especially crack cocaine, whose users (disproportionately African American) were singled out for horrendously harsh retribution. It meant three-strikes laws. Mandatory minimum sentencing. Unlimited funding for police departments. A boom in prison construction. And, as it pleased Joe Biden to say on the worst of these occasions, “the truth is, every major crime bill since 1976 that’s come out of this Congress – every minor crime bill – has had the name of the Democratic senator from Delaware, Joe Biden, on that bill.”

Biden has tried half-heartedly to walk back the decades he spent transforming America into a penal state. He may succeed in persuading voters to forgive him. But he’s not going to win because the old centrist strategy has worked and Republicans are fatally outmaneuvered by his clever triangulations. These days even the Charles Koch Institute is to the left of where Biden was back in the crackdown era.

You can say something similar about Biden’s famous rapport with the working class: it is badly compromised by his actual political record ...

So, how does Biden do it?

 ... Catering to society’s well-educated winners is no way to run a party of the left: Biden seems to be one of the few mainstream Democrats to have grasped this. He recalled in the interview being told by a Hillary Clinton operative in 2016 that he “had to make a distinction between progressive values and working-class values”.

“I said I’ve never found a distinction,” Biden claimed he replied. “Never found them hard to sell.” He told the Times about white working-class enthusiasm for gender wage equality and some other issues, and then he took this shot at the very heart of modern-day liberalism: “We treat them like they’re stupid. They know they’re in trouble, and nobody’s talking to them. Nobody’s talking to them. That’s what we used to do. That was our base.”

It is a point in Biden’s favor that he understands this problem. But is he the man to resolve it?

Will it work?

Frank concludes: "My own hope – and it is merely a hope at this point – is that somewhere in the soul of that tongue-tied, old-school Delaware pol flickers the forgotten core value of the Democratic party: solidarity."

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Strong Towns sez: "We Don't Need More 'Invitations to the Table.' We Need a New Table."

The table used to sit at the Roadhouse. I'm not sure where it is now.

Probably in the Down-Low Bunker.

We Don't Need More "Invitations to the Table." We Need a New Table.

Two years ago, I wrote about how most public engagement is worthless. I am not a fan of the ways we have oriented local government vertically, to essentially be an implementation arm of state and federal policy instead of servants of urgent local needs. While we’ve done this internally within local government, we’ve evolved our public engagement process for similar objectives.

You can think of local public engagement as peaceful pre-crowd control. How do we provide enough opportunity for feedback and engagement so that we can say that everyone was heard, but not so much that it actually refocuses our priorities from those that we hold internally? From my 2018 column:

I’m a planner and I’m a policy nerd. I had all the training in how to hold a public meeting and solicit feedback through SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) questions. I’ve been taught how to reach out to marginalized groups and make sure they too have a voice in the process. That is, so long as that voice fit into the paradigm of a planner and a policy nerd. Or so long as I could make it fit.

There has been a lot of conversation about this here at Strong Towns since that article, and the follow up by Rueben Anderson (Most Public Engagement is Worse than Worthless), were published. Common approaches to public engagement are broken because the objectives of that engagement are wrong.

A tweet by Bernice King succinctly summarizes the power dynamic at play.

I recognize the moment we are in and am not wanting to take away from it, but I would build off the core insights of that tweet by expanding it in the way Chris Arnade has described the “front row” and “back row” Americas. A year ago, Arnade wrote about those who own the table and control who is invited ...

Traffic Cluster, Part Two: We'll never resolve traffic issues until "leadership" is willing to lead, not pander.

It occurred to me last night that as the coronavirus pushes unprecedented bicycle sales, here and across the country, Jeff Speck gave us a diagram for downtown streets purposefully rebuilt to accommodate modernity in the form of bikes and biking.

Our mayor threw it out the window.

Had he paid attention and been progressive, we now would have the ideal grid for a pandemic, the sort of step even Jeffersonville hasn't managed.

Instead, we have more of what we plainly specialize in as a municipality: congenital underachievement, plain and simple.

It boils down to this.

According to Team Gahan, all traffic issues have been magically resolved by pure genius since the prime cuts of the Speck grid study were rendered into oatmeal-flecked, fat-encrusted sausage to suit the needs of pay-to-play campaign finance.

According to genuine reality, most such issues remain, because our emperors routinely fail to wear clothes, and partisan politics infects everything, leading otherwise thoughtful people like my district councilman Greg Phipps to cautiously treat symptoms with band-aids, leaving major violators like the thoroughly non-calmed Spring Street three-mile long interstate ramp untouched by critical scrutiny.

Yes, Greg you're absolutely right; four-way stops are needed in the neighborhoods. Drivers occasionally run a four-way at full speed, but usually they at least slow before doing so, whereas stop light signals impel drivers to increase their speed as they approach the intersection.

But unless some of them are placed on Spring Street itself, or something else done to slow ever-escalating speeds (which police bizarrely deny even occur), heavy trucks will continue to travel in excess of 40 mph THROUGH A NEIGHBORHOOD WITH MORE CHILDREN LIVING THERE THAN AT ANY TIME IN PHIPPS' RESIDENCY AND MY OWN.

Phipps need only glance outside his window at the tonnage streaking past and feel the vibrations, but he won't, because City Hall is in denial, and City Hall lickspittles are not allowed to ask questions pertaining to demonstrable reality. Big Daddy must be obeyed, and Spring must remain an artery for dipshit drivers.

Because, I suppose, that's who we are as a city: enablers for misbehavior.

We can change this for the better. All we need is a willingness to act. Why must it be this hard to convince them to attack problems that can be seen plainly with their own eyes?

Perhaps it's because they refuse to look.

New Albany council discusses traffic problems, by Daniel Suddeath (Returning Journalist Laps Papa)

NEW ALBANY — The most prominent concern for residents is traffic, and it’s time to ramp up efforts to ease those worries, New Albany City Councilman Scott Blair said during what may be the last virtual gathering of the body.

Traffic was the primary issue discussed during Thursday’s council meeting, with members expressing different ideas for how to address what they said is a city-wide problem.

Traffic Cluster, Part One: Mt Tabor Road? It's the design. You know, the design we just paid millions ... to design.

We might blame it on the pandemic, but COVID-19 did not cause ongoing issues with New Albany's streets. It merely exposed the design flaws.

When there hasn't been congestion -- as on Mt. Tabor during construction-related diversions -- there has been mayhem, both there and amid the downtown street grid, with much speeding and bad driving behavior.

You see, it's the design. You know, the design we just paid millions ... to design, whether Mt. Tabor or the thoroughly botched two-way reversion: City Hall's "20% Of Two-Way Usefulness Solution."

But you see, anyone with a grounding in modernity always knew that speeding primarily owes to design. That's why the Mt. Tabor neighborhood protested from the start that modernizing the road would make things worse, because they reasoned correctly that the redesign would, in fact, lead to conditions making excessive speed more likely, and attracting more users.

The city pushed it through because it had the matching funds, because the pay-for-play already was transacted, and -- well -- because of sheer ego. Because it COULD. And now even the chief of police says that design is responsible for speeding.

The design.

You know, the design we just paid millions ... to design.

Engineer Summers speaks for City Hall; why, our powers that be are powerless to do anything about these annual traffic increases (which were invited by the speeding-friendly "new" design), and so they must continue forever adding even more lanes, roundabouts, and whatever else is deemed necessary -- by some of the mayor's principal campaign donors -- to make more work room for added traffic ... and by doing so, assuring there'll be even more traffic (induced demand, folks).

Don't look at me. YOU'RE the ones who keep voting for these people.

Mount Tabor Road traffic again a topic of discussion, by Daniel Suddeath (Tom May Insta-Pulpit)

 ... That project has been a contentious issue between the city and residents of the neighborhood. The roundabout idea was scrapped before the first phase of improvements were launched in 2019 by the city after a public meeting when several residents spoke out against the proposal.

Summers countered that the traffic congestion is a preview of what the road will look like in 10 years if nothing is done.

“This will present a problem for the intersection of Mount Tabor and Klerner as traffic continues to grow,” Summers said, citing a Kentucky Regional Planning and Development Agency study that suggests traffic will increase in the region by about 1 percent annually.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Politicians paint murals, but protesters make genuine change and real history.

Give 'em time, and we'll have statues of automobiles. I volunteer to be first in line when it comes to bringing those symbols down.

Go Ahead and Destroy That Racist Statue (and Then the System Too), by Jillian Steinhauer (The Nation)

While politicians are painting murals in lieu of undertaking real change, protesters are making history by pulling down symbols of white supremacy.

On June 9, after a week and a half of large, daily Black Lives Matter protests in New York City that began as part of a national uprising in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that he was taking action: He would name a street in each of the five boroughs after Black Lives Matter and paint the name of the movement on those roads. The decision came days after Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser received widespread attention for turning a section of 16th Street NW across from the White House into Black Lives Matter Plaza, with the phrase painted in 50-foot yellow letters on the pavement. Meanwhile, a short way down the National Mall, Democratic members of Congress, most of them white, showed up at the Capitol on June 8 wearing kente stoles. They knelt for eight minutes and 46 seconds—the same amount of time that Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck—before entering their chambers to introduce the Justice in Policing Act of 2020.

Politicians around the country are performing. They’re trying to show their constituents that they’re working on the problem of white supremacy in ways big and small. They’re using gestures to attempt to broadcast a message—but one that is ultimately hollow. As Shannon Keating put it recently in BuzzFeed News, it amounts to “performative absurdity from powerful people who’ve long avoided real accountability for causing or excusing Black suffering” ...

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Paying for the jail, but not examining the real problem.

Mark brought it up, and there's a lot to talk about in terms of money. The Facebook thread is here.

Floyd County Council, Commissioners at odds over how to pay back jail debt
, by Daniel Suddeath (Hanson's Old White Guys Just Like Him Journal)

NEW ALBANY — Floyd County leaders are split on how to spend millions of dollars in interest from hospital sale proceeds, as governing bodies have passed opposing resolutions with repayment of a bond to renovate the jail hanging in the balance.

However, in light of recent weeks, I think our junior editor Bluegill wrote something as or more important.

In previous meetings, the Floyd County Sheriff reported that, like most jails in the country, half or more of the jail population at any given time is there not because they’re particularly violent or dangerous but because they can’t afford bail. Reform of our bail system - something the prosecutor’s office can do - would consistently cut our jail population roughly in half. Any county official willing to spend that much money because a prosecutor won’t reform a corrupt class-based system ought to be run out of office, as should the prosecutor.

And if you look at arrest numbers in New Albany, they tend to skew heavily Black well beyond population percentages. Do you think any politician in this county has the guts to address that publicly and head on?

So, Floyd County clearly has a class-based “criminal justice” system disproportionately aimed at Blacks. And what are we arguing about? Which tax to use to pay for expansion of it.

Wait -- do you mean not one of Bill Hanson's old white male columnists thought to explore this side of the story?

For more: Overcrowded jails, wasted tax dollars: Let's reform cash bail in Kentucky — and the nation, by J. Herbert Nelson.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Friday, June 19, 2020

ON THE AVENUES: Anything except common, that Kentucky Common.

I'm cross-posting this weekend. The article offered here about Kentucky Common beer is something I'd planned on sharpening for use in my print-edition Food & Dining Magazine beer column (and still might), but I'd reserved a keg of Falls City Kentucky Common, received it, and need to make a tout.

Pints&union is open Friday and Saturday for now, probably until the second week of July, when hours will expand as we "reopen." Those details can wait. Until then, and I'll be candid, those of our adherents who'd like to further the cause -- and help us survive a bit longer -- should allocate a bit of their discretionary income to buy a meal and a growler.

Here's some more honesty: While others in town pretend neither the pandemic nor a resurgent Black Lives Matter movement ever happened, Joe Phillips has run toward every damn fire he's seen the past three months. While so many others in the local restaurant business were whining about science ("but I don't WANT to believe it") and doubling down on their distaste for essential social justice, Joe was feeding people, helping people and getting involved with people to further their causes.

If you don't approve of reality in this sense, then maybe you weren't a customer in the first place. If you do, and you were -- and are, and wish to be still -- then please think about coming down and spending a few bucks.

Thank you. And now, Kentucky Common.

Anything except common, that Kentucky Common.

In a narrow sense, bourbon is distilled beer. It’s a fermented mash of grain with no hops or spices added, destined for a very different outcome.

But this very analogy confuses the specific with the general. By definition, bourbon is a particular type of whiskey native to Kentucky, while Louisville’s craft breweries produce many varied types (or styles) of beer, ranging from India Pale Ale (ale) to Bohemian Pilsner (lager), encompassing numerous (limitless?) flavor profiles.

What most beer drinkers in metropolitan Louisville probably don’t know is that one style of beer is indigenous to the state of Kentucky. It’s as specific to the wider world of beer as bourbon is to whiskey, and it likely was the single biggest-selling type of beer in the city of Louisville 125 years ago.

It is known as Kentucky Common, and ironically -- perhaps even obtusely -- it’s a style not often brewed these days by breweries located in city or state.

Therein lies a story.

First, allow me to begin with the conclusion: Starting on Friday, June 19 at Pints&union, we’ll have a keg of Falls City’s Kentucky Common for $12 growler fills, curbside. Call (812) 913-4647 or visit the order portal after 4:00 p.m. on June 19th and 20th, and also on coming weekends until we reopen in July, date TBA.

Note also that Falls City Bock, a superlative dark lager and one of the finest American-style Bocks to hit my lips in a good while, still is available in growlers at the same price. Don’t force me to drain this keg all by myself, people.

Now I’ll explain to you why the commonality of history matters, and why I personally enjoy Falls City Kentucky Common so much.


Prior to the contemporary craft beer era, most North American beers were brewed according to the broad parameters of styles that originated in Europe and were brought here by immigrants. Almost all of these styles came from the British Isles (in colonial times) or Germany and Central Europe (from the 1840s, on). Recall that “microbrewing” began only in the 1970s, and didn’t reach any semblance of critical mass until the late 1990s.

While brewers from Europe may have come to the United States with traditional recipes in mind, they often found that it was necessary to adapt to New World realities. Perhaps the most noted example of this shift came with lager beers in general, and Pilsners in particular.

Transplanted German brewers were compelled to adjust their thinking to suit climactic conditions and the raw materials at hand, particularly six-row barley as the malt backbone of their beers. Now, 150 years later, we can see that German and Bohemian Pilsners and their American cousins, pre-Prohibition “adjunct” Pilsners, are two separate branches of the same tree.

In like fashion, what we now refer to as “California Common” (or Steam, which is a term copyrighted by Anchor Brewing) reflects a hybrid brewing approach dating to Gold Rush times. Another uniquely American style is “Cream Ale,” which most of us of a certain age always will associate with Little Kings from Cincinnati. Cream Ales came about because 19th-century breweries specializing in top-fermented ale styles (the British tradition) sought a counterweight to increasingly popular German-sourced golden Pilsners.

Kentucky Common fits this paradigm. Here’s a bit of history of which you might be unaware, courtesy of the Beer Judge Certification Program.

A true American original style, Kentucky Common was almost exclusively produced and sold around the Louisville Kentucky metropolitan area from some time after the Civil War up to Prohibition. Its hallmark was that it was inexpensive and quickly produced, typically 6 to 8 days from mash to delivery. The beer was racked into barrels while actively fermenting (1.020 – 1.022) and tightly bunged to allow carbonation in the saloon cellar. There is some speculation that it was a variant of the lighter common or cream ale produced throughout much of the East prior to the Civil War and that the darker grains were added by the mostly Germanic brewers to help acidify the typical carbonate water of the Louisville area. Up until the late 19th century, Kentucky Common was not brewed in the summer months unless cellars, usually used for malting, were used for fermentation. With the advent of ice machines, the larger breweries were able to brew year round. In the period from 1900 to prohibition, about 75% of the beer sold in the Louisville area was Kentucky Common.

In its heyday, Kentucky Common would have been a localized example of “present use” beer, brewed in 6 – 8 days, low in alcohol content, delivered to taverns while still young and intended to be finishing its fermentation in the wooden barrel when first tapped. Kentucky Common was consumed quickly at a low price point.

This is why accounts of the period refer to Kentucky Common as being the working man’s choice. Rushing the growler in Louisville in the year 1900 meant sending one of your kids to fetch a (literal) bucket of beer from the neighborhood watering hole for pennies – and the liquid in the pail probably was Kentucky Common.


The typical grist for a Kentucky Common might have been 65% six-row barley, 30% corn, and 5% dark malt enough to resolve the brewer’s chemistry issues and give the finished product an amber to light brown appearance (Falls City uses rye).

Hopping was minimal, with American hop varieties used for bittering and just a pinch of aromatic (and more expensive) imported German hops at the end of the boil. Brewers likely used an aggressive house ale yeast to jump start the fermentation. Ingredients and techniques for making Pilsner were reserved for Pilsner, often the higher-priced “special occasion” beer.

There’d have been as many different interpretations of Kentucky (and Southern Indiana) Common, riffing off this basic model, as there were brewers-- several dozen in the metro at local brewing’s acme in the 1890s.

Today, the modern version brewed at Falls City might be the city’s most unique beer simply because no one else in town regularly brews an “Amber Cream Ale.” Exceptions include Apocalypse (brewer Leah Dienes helped write the official style definition), Old Louisville and Against the Grain, but availability isn’t year-round at those establishments. Seldom can we find a beer for direct comparison in terms of flavor profile.

Falls City Kentucky Common has an amber hue and looks a bit like a Dos Equis, but the resemblance ends there. It’s malty, not hoppy, with a bready flavor touched by caramel. The rye peeks through, adding complexity. The body is light, and there is hint of fruitiness. You’ll notice an element of sweetness derived from the use of corn as an adjunct; it’s something most mass market Louisville beer drinkers wouldn’t notice because it’s generally present in Miller and Coors products (less so AB-InBev).

I like Falls City Kentucky Common for what it is: a solid summertime quencher with enough beeriness to maintain interest, and to pair with assertive food.

Providentially, Pints&union is working with Freedom Run Farms via the LEE Initiative’s Restaurant Reboot Relief Program and we’ll be featuring lamb dishes, and my guess is the Kentucky Common will go nicely with these.


Recent columns:

June 11: ON THE AVENUES: Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger.

June 4: ON THE AVENUES: There, there. People are dying, so you may have to wait until 2021 for your pork chop sandwich.

May 28: ON THE AVENUES: The late, great Lee Kelly -- by Matt Nash.

May 21: ON THE AVENUES: Godlessness in defense of heathens, infidels, idolaters, atheists, non-theists, irreligious people, agnostics, skeptics, heretics and apostates.

Three oddball factoids from American history.

"Well, that was some weird shit."
-- George W. Bush, surveying Donald Trump's inauguration in 2017

Following are three weird items I've run across lately while perusing the digital archives.

1. For starters, the forgotten American president Rutherford B. Hayes is venerated in Paraguay (story at Atlas Obscura).

Maria Teresa Garozzo de Caravaca is disappointed to learn that Americans don’t share the same degree of appreciation for Hayes. “It really surprises me,” she says. “Everyone knows who Hayes is here.” His name was recently proposed for a multimillion-dollar bridge under construction over the Paraguay River. He’s appeared on stamps. There is even a soccer team in Asunción named Club Presidente Hayes, whose players are known as “Los Yankees.” On one reality-TV show, the grand prize was an all-expense-paid trip not to Disney World, but rather to the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library & Museums in Fremont, Ohio.

2. Smithsonian Magazine reports: "The Last Person to Receive a Civil War Pension Dies at Age 90."

Irene Triplett, whose father defected from the Confederate Army and enlisted with the Union, collected $73.13 a month.

3. Dispassionate etymology does not support the theory that the word "hooker" (a prostitute or sex workers) come from the surname of the Civil War's Joseph Hooker, a Union commander who famously botched the battle at Chancellorsville. It has long been supposed that Hooker's indifference to drinking and other diversions on the part of his troops prompted the term. However, the essay here is very much worth reading.

An Exploration into Why the Word ‘Hooker’ Came to Describe Sex Workers, by Trista (History Collection)