Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label economy. Show all posts

17 January, 2020

from Louisville: Another city on the make


There's a coffee shop walking distance from the shelter. These days I haunt coffee shops like I used to haunt bars. I went to Freddie's on Broadway because it was a cheap, cash only dive bar that asked no questions and only required people not to offend the general atmosphere. That place was also a wonderful archive of all things masculine from the 20th Century: hand drawn wrestling posters, beer steins, collector booze bottles from the 1970's, I hung out at Rubbie's because it's a neighborhood bar close to home, the happy hour prices are good, and the well bourbon was tolerably good. That bar was also a good bell weather for the last Presidential election.

Angry white men
trying to hold back
a changing world
like they grip their beer

Now I rotate between a handful of coffee shops in the city. When I'm scribing for pay or working on my own words, I go to noisy coffee shops, like the one close to where I live, or the one close to the shelter. When I'm meeting people, I go to one of two Heine Bros. On Bardstown Road because the white noise doesn't distract my ears from conversation. When I want to hang out and read, or talk to people who have also either stepped off or were pushed off the wide path , I go to Highland Coffee. They each have a thing I like better there than any other coffee shop. Heine Bros serves a turmeric chai with black pepper I really like. Highland has a nice selection of herbal teas and makes a cup of coffee. Sunergos, in my neighborhood, has the best cappuccino in the city and serves delicious cheddar chive drop biscuits that make for a good lunch.

Pockets of warmth
in an increasingly chilly cityscape
regardless of the season
regardless of the temperature.

Please & Thank You on Market and Shelby is a short walk from the shelter. They have wonderful herbal teas and the best blueberry lemon muffins in the city. I go there to scribe or to work, and to eat a muffin after I finish my short shift in the shelter coffee room. Lately I've run into K, a woman I met when I volunteered with one of the local homeless outreach organizations. She's usually sitting out front, a few steps off to the side away from the corner. When I can afford to, I get her a cup of coffee. Sometimes she's flying a sign. Sometimes she's waiting for her boyfriend J, who is always either off trying to find work, off trying to do some good deed that will, when he tells the story, never be repaid in kind. J has a demon in his gut like I do. When I see her I ask whether J has been drinking, so I know whether I'll see him or the demon. They are always in a state of emergency... being moved on, lost a tent, stuff stolen, scrambling to avoid snow, rain, cold, heat. Their home camp in Butchertown was bulldozed a few years ago to make room for a soccer stadium. The investors through money at the city to house the residents of Camp Campbell quickly for the good PR boost. Nearly all the former residents of Camp Campbell are no longer housed now. But there aren't any news cameras around to notice.

Erasure – delete a line
delete a camp
delete a person
a collateral damage
for the marketing collateral

Part 1 posted on Instagram. Check it out!

30 August, 2012

Southern Jaunt : Paint City Politics / Muckraker Goulash

Only the few know the sweetness of the twisted apple. - Sherwood Anderson

Journalism without a moral position is impossible. -Marguerite Duras

Every journalist is a muckraker. - Note From Travel Journal

Life long resident and year 'round haunted house proprietor Jim Warfield recently told me that there was a time when people referred to Mount Carroll as Paint City. "Because," he went on, "people would paint the buildings downtown." Jim is an endless repository of stories about this place, and his knowledge at times seems preternatural because a good number of his stories pre-date his existence.

This, of course, is how it ought to be. But The Long Memory is suffering from serious ill repair, and there's few people left with any interest... and even fewer with any interest in listening.

In a place like Mount Carroll, true prominence tends to be counted by the number of generations deep your family can be found in the cemetery on the hill overlooking town from the western horizon. It also helps to marry into the right family. (As opposed to the wrong one, which depends on which way the gossip is blowing.)

Since I have to cool my heels here in Paint City whilst waiting for the divorce to be finalized, I had to find something to occupy my time besides keeping regular hours at both the coffee shop and the bars. As I mentioned previously, I wandered back into freelance muckraking for the area paper that I used to rake muck for when I lived here before.

A note on muckraking. The term is one that tends to be used in a negative context; it's one that is used to describe bad journalism.... i.e., "biased" or "sensational" or "whatever doesn't match my worldview." There is this notion, often spouted by journalism professors, newbies to the job, and a public that hasn't bothered to to look into the actual history of journalism, that "true" journalism is "objective."

Dear Readers, let me assure you... there is no such thing as "objective" journalism. Our whole existence is subjective. We relate to the world from behind our own eyes, from the "I" position. The most we can hope for is distance... to be able to look at a situation with as few preconceived notions as possible. This is difficult, and requires effort. It also requires an honest appraisal of your ego -- which is challenging. Especially when you have one.

I'd also like to point out that any journalist who's really doing the job -- especially in the arena of politics -- is a muckraker. And any journalist worth his or her salt KNOWS this. You can't deal in the muck that is politics ... small town or otherwise... and expect to keep your hands and shoes clean. It doesn't work. The best you can hope for, if you care at all about the job, is find the narrative that needs to be told. That autobot Tom Brokaw said once -- and it might be one of the few things I agree with him on -- that journalism is all about finding the narrative. When people quibble over journalists covering "the facts" what they're really pissed off about it that the muckraker isn't telling the narrative THEY WANT TOLD.

A good journalist, like any good writer, will let the story unfold for itself. And just because all journalists are muckrakers, that doesn't mean they're devoid of a moral or ethical stance. To the contrary, a moral and ethical compass becomes that much more necessary to the larger purpose: not only to let people know what's happening, but also to keep (at least) an eye and an ear on The Long Memory.

Paint City Politics

Since walking back into small town journalism, my return as been heralded and maligned, applauded and booed. This, as far as I can tell, means I'm doing something right.

Most recently... last night... I was called out during an open meeting of the Town Council by a former alderman -- now a disgraced, maligned, and ostracized ex-alderman -- Nina Cooper, economic astrologist to anonymous fortune 500 companies everywhere that clearly don't pay her that often. I can only gather she's no Edgar Cayce, since she recently had to pick a job at a local embroidery shop that was able to secure her job through the purchase of a machine, part of that money coming from a local fund called The Revolving Loan Fund -- a fund whose existence she questioned as an alderman.

The father of the guy who covered my old Paint City beat after I quit in January of this year showed up to the meeting. Everyone knows him because he used to teach in the high school; he actually had a few of the current alderman and the mayor as students. His son was fired, it seems, because a particularly angry, bitter, and bitchy alderman, Doris Bork -- who is staying alive simply to see the mayor ruined -- called the publisher, a guy who I generally count as pretty smart, and cried. The general consensus as been that he did nothing wrong, this other reporter. And while I need the gig... the travel fund is hungry... I do feel like he got a raw deal. (I should point out that she had tried to get me fired too, when I was writing for the paper before. The hubris of small town autocrats never ceases to amaze me.)

The meeting was smooth until the General Audience section, at which point the retired teacher stood up and asked Doris if she had actual proof of the mayor's misconduct -- misconduct that she has been spreading like gossip while working the check out line at the grocery store -- or if it was merely "another figment of [her] imagination."

She was, understandably, defensive. She insisted that she had never accused the mayor of anything and demanded a retraction.

And, after some hemming and hawing, some attempt at recriminations, slander, and criminalization, Nina stood up and asked me directly what the "source" of my article was.

The source. I was floored, really. That was the one I didn't see coming.

You see, the article was actually a commentary after the regular article and was formatted as such.  So, by definition, it wasn't presented as straight news. I've been accused of editorializing in the past; I do, I admit, write with a certain flair and an eye towards the underlying narrative of events. But I do my homework, and I'm a pretty decent writer.

I can also only assume that Nina never watched All The President's Men.  And while I don't know for sure, I'm sure she voted for Nixon. Twice. It wouldn't surprise me to hear she had a little groupie crush on the paranoid oligarch, either.

Come to think of it, that was a movie, too, wasn't it?

Naturally, there is nothing going on in Paint City that rivals the impeachment of Nixon. That there are folks here who are determined to make it that important -- even at the cost of taking the town down with them -- borders on absurd.

That's the problem with Scorched Earth strategies. Not only is your target annihilated, but so is everything else.

And I'm beginning to think that might be the ultimate point. If they can't have Paint City the way they want it, then no one will get it at all. It will fall into the dirt with them, rot in a shallow grave and become one more small town in America that disappears into the cracks of an abandoned state highway.

Come to think of it, I've seen that movie before, too.

Or maybe it's more like this:

24 February, 2009

Living Broke

The clerk eyed us suspiciously when we checked into the hotel. It was clear she was trained NOT to, though, because as soon as she became aware of it, she smiled even wider, elevated the tone in her voice, and started to speak a little faster.

“And how long will you be staying with us?”

“One night.” I looked at my watch. It was eleven in the morning. For a second, I thought my voice echoed. The lobby was large and tasteful. Lots of polished wood. Marble floors with conservatively colored carpets bearing the hotel logo. Everything was well-lit and wide open. The lobby opened up into a large waiting area accented by an attractive looking bar on the far left side that was open all day and night. In searching for the appropriate term to describe the lobby, the only word I could think of was “magnificent.” I’d stayed in plenty of hotels – but most of them were small, dimly lit, questionably ran, and a few even charged by the hour.

“Very good, sir.” I wondered if she would make a note to have all the sheets in our room burned after we left. She looked like she wanted to.

I looked over at Clarice. She was looking around, taking everything in. She’d worked in nice places before. But this was a special occasion. Worth remembering. The clerk gave us an efficient looking pamphlet containing our key cards, smiled, and told us to enjoy our stay.

The elevator ride up to the third floor was seamless. The interior air was the perfect temperature and maybe even slightly perfumed. The ceiling to floor windows that were the three external walls of the elevator allowed us to see the entire lobby as we rose above it.

“Where are all the buttons?” I asked.


“The buttons,” I continued. “You know. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Glass Elevator. Buttons.” I pretended to push non-existent buttons on the glass. I left finger prints.

“You think you’re so funny,” Clarice said.

“So do you.”

She wrinkled up her nose and sighed. “Behave,” she breathed. “Can’t you, just once, behave?”

I didn’t answer because the elevator doors opened. We walked off the elevator. I looked up and down the hall. Clarice started walking to the right. We turned the corner and passed the ice machine and eight or nine doors before we got to our room. I tried to open it with the key card, but the little green light didn’t blink and I didn’t hear the sound of the lock tumblers clicking open. I tried it again. Nothing again.

“Why can’t they just use a regular key?” I muttered.

“Give it to me,” she said. She took the key card from me and slid it through the reader. The tumblers clicked and the little green light flashed. I grabbed the door handle and pushed it open.

The room was large. The bed was king sized. The ice bucket looked like polished silver and the glasses were actual glasses – goblets, really—with little paper caps to show they were clean. There was a large flat screen TV on the dresser in front of the bed. Next to the dresser there was a writing table and comfortable looking chair. The banker’s lamp illuminated the carefully arranged pamphlets highlighting all the tourist attractions we had no interest in seeing. In the corner by the floor to ceiling windows there was another comfortable looking chair with a matching ottoman. The room overlooked the lobby. We had a great view of the bar and of the comings and goings. I closed the blinds.

“Nice room,” I commented. I looked back at Clarice. She was staring at the bed.

“That looks like a down comforter,” she said.

“Yeah,” I said. “I bet it’s cozy.”

She looked at me. “I’m allergic to down.”

Oh. I hadn’t thought about that.

“The pillows are probably down, too.”

“We could call down for another blanket,” I offered.

“There’s probably another pillow and synthetic blanket in the closet,” she said. “There usually is.”

I walked over to the closet, and sure enough, on the top shelf, there was a plastic bag with blanket and pillow. “No problem,” I said. “It’s right here.” I tossed it on the bed and sat on the edge. The bed was soft. The down comforter was cool to the touch. Clarice looked at me and smiled.

“This was a nice idea,” she said.

I nodded. “We deserve it.”

She sat down next to me and sighed. “One night?”

“Is that enough?”

“It’ll have to be.”

“I bet they have killer room service.”

She nodded. “Probably costs.”

“So what?” I countered. “If we’re going to live it up, we might as well live it up.”

“In a little while,” she answered.

I shrugged and stood up. There was a small binder sitting squarely on the writing table. It contained a list of services and amenities, including the room service menu. I picked it up and flipped through it. “Says here they even have a laundry service.”

She didn’t answer.

I looked at her. “Do you think this is one of those places that has robes?”

“Go check.”

I did. There were two, folded neatly in the bathroom. Large, plush. Very comfortable looking. I picked them up and carried them out to her. “Check this out. They look really comfortable.” I tossed one at her. Then I tossed mine down on the bed and kicked off my shoes.

“What’re you doing?”

“I’m taking off my clothes,” I said, “and sending them to get washed.”

“Won’t it cost extra?”

“So what? Come on, babe. Let’s take a shower and relax.”

She smiled, stood up, and started peeling off her clothes. I walked over to the phone, called the appropriate number. There were clear plastic bags in the closet that were supposed to be used for the laundry service. We put our worn out clothes in one of the bags. For a moment, we stood naked, looking at one another. She smiled the way she smiles when I look her up and down. “Stop it,” she whispered. She didn’t mean it. I opened the door to our room, peeped out, quickly dropped the bag of clothes, and closed and locked the door. “Let’s take a shower,” I said.

“After.” She smiled. She had pulled to the down comforter off the bed. I walked over and kissed her. Then we fucked – a nice, deliberate fuck. We finished and then took a shower together. After we were dry, we put on the soft robes. I walked out and turned on the TV.

“Are you hungry yet?” I asked.

“Yeah,” she called from the bathroom. Then I heard the hair dryer. I walked over to the table and looked over the menu. Since I would have to wait for her to finish, I down in the corner chair, put my feet up, and watched TV. The local news was on and the talking head was going on and on about the war and how many soldiers had died that month. I looked at the clock. They were ten minutes into the news. They had probably talked about the economy first. That was how things went, anymore. I didn’t need them to tell me about the economy, anyway. I was trying not to think about it. I’d worry about all that soon enough. Tomorrow. We can put it off until tomorrow, at least.

Clarice stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in her robe. She was smiling. “Anything good on?”

“Porn and tragedy,” I answered.

She smiled and looked at the TV. “Let’s not watch the news,” she said.

“Fine with me.” I switched over to another channel. It was an old Gene Wilder/Richard Prior flick. “That’s better.”

“What’s it about?”

“Nothing,” I answered. “They’re always about nothing.”

She was looking over the menu. “Do you know what you want?”


“I think I want the grilled barbeque chicken sandwich.”

“I’m getting a steak.” She looked at me, and for a second I thought she was going to suggest I get a hamburger instead. “I want a steak,” I insisted. “cooked medium rare with a baked potato and a nice beer.”

“I was going to suggest a bottle of wine.”

“We can get one of those, too.”

She shrugged. “What’s going to happen tomorrow?”

“We’ll wake up, order breakfast, and hopefully, our clothes will be back from the laundry.”

“And then?”

I shrugged. “That’s tomorrow.”

“I think I’ll have the grilled salmon instead,” she said.

“That sounds good.” I stood up and walked over to the phone to put in the order.