Category: Kentucky

I often consider locking all the older entries on this blog

But that would prevent me from making deep cuts like this: Mitch McConnell spoke at my college graduation. I was very young and very tired when I wrote that entry, and McConnell, though well into his career, was not quite the architect of enormity he has since become. Elaine Chao spoke too, and it’s amusing to me now that I called her a “fervent liberal.” I wonder what I’ll have to laugh at fifteen years from now.

This came to mind because earlier this week, McConnell got harangued at a restaurant in Louisville, and because when I read the story I realized it was a restaurant I know. I feel compelled to explain why I find this amusing as well: the Bristol is maybe the worst place you could pick to eat on all of Bardstown Road.

It’s an iceberg-salad, sirloin-well-done kind of place, where everything costs about twice and tastes about half what it ought to. It’s also right in the middle of some of the best food in the city, and for that matter in the state. McConnell is among the most powerful living humans and a multimillionaire; he could afford to eat every night at Jack Fry’s, 80-odd years old and still killing it, or get the farm-to-table prix-fixe menu at Lilly’s, both within a few blocks of the Bristol. Those were once-a-year treats when I was digging myself a debt hole there back in grad school. McConnell could have thrown a stone and hit someone’s baked brie or lamb burger at Ramsi’s Cafe on the World, or turned the other way for a thick, crispy Louisville-style pizza at Impellizzeri’s, which still has an hour wait every night. He could have had the most delicate fish I’ve ever tasted at Seviche. He could have gotten his teeth stuck on the candied short ribs at North End Cafe. For fuck’s sake, he could have gotten better food at Burritos As Big As Your Head.

But he went to the Bristol, possibly because none of those other places would lower themselves to seat him. And he got overcharged for probably a tasteless beer and a milquetoast burger that would recoil from the notion of spice. Forgive me if I hope someone spat in it.

This post is mostly an excuse to make myself hungry thinking about how good it smells just to walk past open doors on that street, and how fond my heart is of that place and time. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe isn’t there anymore, or Nio’s 917, or Twice Told, and neither are most of the friends I used to sit down to dinner with. But Louisville is still home to much of my family and to a lot of restaurants that punch way above their weight. You have to really love something to make it that good, in a small city. If food is a way of feeling, then I think taste is a way of caring, and in at least those little ways, our little lives are better than his.


These days I carry around most of the information in the world in my pocket. Ten years ago I was still thrilled to have my dorm-room connection and a Dell desktop. But a few years before that, I didn’t have anything you could really call the Internet. Instead I had Bruce.

Bruce was my eldest cousin, fifteen years my senior, and I revered him. I was interested in sci-fi and fantasy books; Bruce knew about them. I liked board games; Bruce won them all. He had the sharpest wit I have ever encountered, but he was also unfailingly kind, and I never heard him use it to be cruel to anyone.

That included me, even at my most juvenile and annoying, when he spent a while living in our basement and attending classes at EKU. Remembering those days now, I would have been unable to stand me. Bruce listened, and laughed at my jokes, and gave me things.

That was another thing about him: he was never attached to material possessions, and generous with them almost to the point of carelessness. At one point he gave me what must have been nearly his entire collection of gaming books, obviously something in which he’d invested years and hundreds of dollars. He was offhand about it, as if he’d found an odd thing I might like in his pocket.

I treasured those books. For years I could reliably be found in a corner paging through a banged-up hardback with monsters on the cover, spending far more time reading them than actually playing, and blissful to be doing so. I’m sure I didn’t thank him enough, but I hope he saw how much they meant to me.

But if Bruce helped doom me to geekdom, he also rescued me. I was undersized for a long time, and at one point I lagged so far behind the curve that Mom was consulting growth-specialist doctors. When he heard about that, Bruce took a long look at me, then told me to finish my dinner every night instead of leaving most of it on the plate. I listened, and that was when my growth spurt finally hit.

It shames me to say that Bruce and I drifted apart. He waited most of his life for a kidney transplant, and got one, only to have his body reject it a few years later; his health was never the same after that, and his illness frightened me (I had another male role model who got very sick, you see). We had political differences, and the geographical distance between us grew as well. But his patience, kindness and generosity never changed.

I didn’t find the time to see Bruce on my most recent trip back to Kentucky, a few weeks ago, and I will spend the rest of my life regretting that.

When somebody you love dies you’re supposed to put together all the good words you can about him, and assemble an image for your memory that omits their shortcomings and sharp edges. But I can’t do that, because I see now that I was always the one coming up short. All my memories of my cousin are of a man who was better to me than I ever deserved.

I’m sorry, Bruce. I miss you.

I liked it this much despite the fact that it takes place in Kentucky

Recommended: Underground, by Jeff Parker and Steve Lieber. Those of us who are always demanding clever, tough ladies in lead roles will enjoy meeting cave geek Wesley Fischer, and those of you who want exciting comics without superheroes and lasersharking will be equally happy. (I could have stood a little more lasersharking, but my weaknesses are common knowledge.) There’s a hint of a sequel in the afterword, which is an idea I heartily endorse!

Oh, Centre, dear.

My alma mater is starfucking harder than ever before for its 2009 commencement speakers. At least when we randomly gave out a DHL to James Earl Jones in 2003, it was to a man who overcame a distinct handicap to become a respected actor. But Jerry Bruckheimer? Really?

I guess this is seen as a way to simultaneously give the students a treat and maybe earn a little donation kickback, in exchange for a piece of paper that nobody seriously believes is worth anything. If it were just Linda Bruckheimer, who actually has philanthropic ties to Kentucky, I’d be fine with it. But when you give someone a degree, even a worthless one, you’re endorsing their career and setting it as an example for students to follow. Spend your lives making hundreds of millions of dollars from empty spectacle without even providing any of the creative energy, kids! Bring the circus; let somebody else worry about the bread.

Sneakers, my favorite heist movie, features some plot elements that involve the NSA. It came out in 1992, when that agency wasn’t particularly well-known–o halcyon days!–and so it has this little exchange between Robert Redford (“Martin Bishop”) and Timothy Busfield (“Dick Gordon”) to introduce it to the audience.

Bishop: Sorry to waste your time, gentlemen. I don’t work for the government.
Gordon: We know. (Flashes ID) National Security Agency.
Bishop: Oh, you’re the guys I hear breathing on the other end of my phone.
Gordon: No, that’s the FBI. We’re not chartered for domestic surveillance.

Ah ha ha ha ha! Ha ha! Ah ha ha ha ha. Heh.

Bishop: Oh, so you just overthrow governments–set up friendly dictators.
Gordon: (chuckling) No, that’s the CIA. We protect our government’s communications–try and break the other fellas’ codes. We’re the good guys, Marty.
Bishop: Gee, I can’t tell you what a relief that is. Dick.

When Leigh sent me my copies of The Little Book [etc], she addressed me as “Catfish,” with reason, and which I liked. That probably contributed to my writing Kentucky over a year ago. I was looking for a penny to pick up today, and read that again, and was glad that it had come true after all.

Holy. If you’re on the Interweb, you’ve heard about the Wikipedia guy who said he was a professor and deleted everybody’s stuff and nobody could argue with him because he was an editor? But then, no, he was a liar and a college dropout and a tool? Right.

I went to school with that guy.

I wonder why that wasn’t in the alumni magazine. KENTUCKY.