The Valid Response You Entered is Not Valid; or, WTF is with the Louisville Free Public Library Automated Phone?

August 9, 2008

The Louisville Free Public Library has a cool service that informs you by automated phone call or email when a requested book has arrived at a branch for pickup. But when you try to end the call, you get the following weirdness:

Library robot: “Press 9 to end this call.”

Me: (Presses 9 on phone).

Library robot: “That is not a valid response.”

Huh?

-EG

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Good Ole Fun With the Relatives in Fern Creek; or, Am I Really Related to These People?

August 7, 2008

This whole thing is going to sound insufferably snooty, as any story that leads off using the word “insufferably” inevitably must.

The thing is, I was pretty much dragged by my mother to a family reunion this past Sunday, gathering together those on her side of the family, of which she is now the patriarch, the oldest living survivor. There would be no avoiding this. Whatever else may have been on my calendar for that Sunday was worse than secondary – it was stricken from the record.

So I met with distant aunts and uncles and cousins several steps removed from my ability to remember, faces that in some cases I recognized but could not put names to, many of them layered with a new coating of shopworn leather wrinkles.

I mostly sat and watched heavyset adults and kids splash around in a nice big pool, while family cliques grouped off in comfortable familiarity to eat and yak. And NASCAR was revved up on the big screen TV in the basement, to one side of the NASCAR paraphernalia on wooden and glass shelves. If there was a book of any consequence to be found in this house, I never spotted it.

These were my kin, my blood, residing in a part of town that, however clean and groomed most of Fern Creek is, gets the bad rap in Louisville as the stomping ground of barbarian rednecks. That, of course, is not fair, but my overeducated, superior-feeling ass could only see in the lives of my relatives too much evidence to support the stereotype.

They were all courteous and harmless; conversations remained safe and dull. I was no help, but neither did I hinder things. I sat and ate the grub offered, happy that there was plenty enough to offset the lack of a vegan main course. Lots of bratwurst, hot dogs and cheeseburgers went uneaten. In my carnivorous days, I could have polished off at least a couple of those.

The highlight of the day, for me anyway, was when one of my distant aunts and uncles picked up one of the empty bottles of Shiner Bock I had consumed and placed on a table near them. The party was BYOB, and this slightly upscale hefeweizen was what I had chosen to bring along. The way everyone looked at it made me feel like Cinderella in rags at the ball. This was the land where watery, aluminum-tinged Bud Light ruled. “That ain’t one of those beers that’ll put hair on your chest, is it?” asked one uncle. “Well,” says I, “since I already have hair on my chest I don’t have to worry about it.” Another distant uncle picked it up and stared at it, quizzically, eyebrows furrowed in a sort of uncomprehending, baffled, slightly distressed attitude. He passed it to a distant aunt who did the same, holding it up and looking at it, like the early man in 2001: A Space Odyssey trying to figure out new uses for a bone.

I immediately was reminded of that scene in The Gods Must Be Crazy where the Kalahari man picks up the Coke bottle thrown from an airplance and wonders what the hell it is. I mentioned this to my sister, and she laughed.

Is it fair to say I’ve outgrown these people, or merely grown differently? But no, one would have to grow, period. I couldn’t see any evidence of it in their cases, and saying so here makes me sound like an arrogant upstart who’s gotten above his raisin’.

And that makes me feel guilty, but it also makes me confused. I want to be sociable, genial, open to the experiences and lives of others. But I can’t help but be judgmental, elitist. That’s just the way it is.

So, maybe my relatives are bigger than me because I doubt they harbored such corrosive, cynical, jaded, unhealthy thoughts.

And that might mean that maybe I can learn something from them. Maybe we look at each other like we would strange Coke bottles fallen from the sky.

-EG


Cherubic Statuary Hidden in Plain Sight Off Ormsby Station Rd Near Hurstbourne Lane (Unseen Louisville No. 5)

August 2, 2008

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve biked past this oddity perched atop a small incline in the Hurstbourne Green Office Park next to Ormsby Station Road in eastern Jefferson County in Louisville, Ky. All that I can say is I somehow never saw this bit of statuary; completely invisible to me in plain sight until last week. So, we make this mystery statue the subject of the fifth installment of our Unseen Louisville series. I know I’ve written too many of these Unseen Louisville segments about stuff found in the Hurstbourne Green area, but since these things are close to my house and they keep popping up in my own backyard, I say, why not? This statue with a cherubic theme obviously is a leftover remnant of the old Ormsby Village orphanage campus that sprawled all over this part of the county from 1920 to 1967 (see my earlier posting on this from last year). Now it’s all office parks, but, thankfully when the new stuff was being built someone at least had the good sense to leave this bit of statuary around instead of demolishing it or carting it away to some anonymous fate. There is no descriptive plaque on the statue, so I can’t tell you the first thing about the artist, the foundry, the date of creation and installation, title of the work, or anything else. Perhaps someone out there can provide more information. Being somewhat ignorant of styles and motivations in art history, it’s hard for me to fathom what predilections pseudo-Renaissance stylists had that inspired them to depict what appear to be children slathering around in grape juice in some sort of orgiastic reverie. We will post that information in the comments section below or in a future posting. So, lacking anything substantial, I’ll share with you a few of the images I took of this interesting, elaborate sculpture. -EG






Jehovahs’ Witnesses Kingdom Hall’s a Comin’; or, Hallelujah! There Goes the Neighborhood

July 27, 2008

God has blessed us with a transfusion of new blood, as it were, in the neighborhood in the Hurstbourne Lane/Old LaGrange Road/Whipps Mill Road area of Eastern Jefferson County. That’s right, new blood in the form of new neighbors—Jehovah’s Witnesses—to be exact, who’ll gather to celebrate the Kingdom of God in their under-construction Kingdom Hall in said location. It’ll really be a privilege to have folks in the neighborhood to look up to, since we (and they) all know, they are the one and only hand-picked chosen Heaven-bound ones of the Lord. Shit, it’ll be like beholding superbeings or something.

Luckily, I’ve found out about this in time so that I can prepare for the onslaught of neighborliness sure to come in the form of Watchtower-wielding, glassy-eyed folk honing in with radar intensity on my doorbell. In a way I pity them, not because of their delusional fairy-tale beliefs, but because they really, really have no idea who they will be dealing with when they come to my door.

I’m fixing up a sign for them right now: All solicitors and religious peddlers agree to the following if they chose to ring my doorbell:

1.) You have one minute, and one minute only, to make your pitch. At 60 seconds the door will be shut.

2.) All doorbell ringers agree to be photographed and consent to your image being used on my blog on which I reserve the right to make any wise-ass judgmental comment I choose.

That seems fair enough.

Is my disdain for Jehovah’s Witnesses any greater than for any other crackpot religionist, whether they be with Scientologists or Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) or Branch Davidians or Heaven’s Gaters or Baptists or Papist Catholics? No, not really.

I remain, ever thus, your equal-opportunity religion basher.

For fun, here’s a website in which a disenchanted former member of the Witnesses (no doubt a “disfellowed” outcast, as they call their excommunicados) shares his list of 101 Strange Beliefs and Practices of Jehovah’s Witnesses. (Too bad the fellow still doesn’t seem to have been cured of Christianity as well. It’s funny when one cultist throws barbs at another.)

Below we see a delightful illustration culled from Jehovah’s Witnesses informational materials of the sheer joy implicit in observing Armageddon, knowing that you’re going to a better place and everybody else ain’t. The destruction of Earth and humanity has never been so much fun!

-EG
(Now, seriously, I ask you, do you really want to be stuck in Heaven with these fuckers?)


Peel Your Eyes Off the CGI and the Viddy Games and Look at the Real Special Effects, Dorks

July 26, 2008

Sometimes… no, strike that… all the time I feel like I’m the only person who sets out to work every morning and returns home each evening and actually looks at the amazing light shows that we’ve been blessed with seemingly every day this summer. One reason I think this is that I simply never see people looking at the sky when this stuff is going on; just people scurrying about in their usual dazes. Another reason is the following: I was taking a picture of the sunrise a few days ago at the bus stop and the lady standing there next to me seemed puzzled as to what I was doing, until I pointed above her head eastward. Our habits of ignoring the gifts of nature are so ingrained that we’ve fallen into some kind of groundward-glancing sleep that keeps our eyes below the horizon. This lady was pleasantly surprised at what she saw. Sadly, looking up would never have occurred to her, so inculcated was she into this societal mindset. This is a lady who reads corporate management books in transit, so her bafflement at what is real and important in this life should not surprise me.

While most of you people were getting your fix on the latest comic book movie or first-person computer/video shooter or corporate management books or whatever petty diversions you’ve sequestered yourselves into, this is the kind of stuff I’ve been looking at. Free special effects from nature or God or from whatever origin you like. These are some sunrises and sunsets from just the past few days. The last item here was a very transitory “atomic bomb” cloud effect of the setting sun shooting rays upward through a cloud top, which happened about two minutes before disappearing on the night of July 22, 2008. (See also previous posting: That Sunset Last Night in Louisville, Ky.)

-EG


Shit Economy Kills Ferd Grisanti Restaurant: Another Corpse to Add to the Heap of Dying Louisville Institutions (Another “Lost Louisville” Posting)

July 25, 2008

Back in the mid to late ’90s my Friday night ritual was to take my wife’s grocery list in one hand and my son’s hand in another for an evening of grocery shopping at the now defunct Bigg’s super shopping center in Middletown, Ky. Before that, though, we would hit a cheap place to eat like Dairy Queen or Pizza Hut or Hometown Pizza in Middletown or Subway or some buffet or some franchise/chain spaghetti place that I’ve forgotten the name of, and so on.

My memory is filled with dusk-lit Friday nights of eating at restaurants with my little boy.

One night, though, none of these cheap eats sounded appealing so I decided to splurge and take my boy over to Ferd Grisanti’s Restaurant in Jeffersontown, Ky., for a pricey (but still affordable) plate of spaghetti and a side plate of breadsticks. In our shorts and t-shirts we were not really dressed for the place, but the waiter seemed glad to see us in the somewhat sparsely populated dining room. I’d been to this place a few years before with my wife, and the simple elegance hadn’t changed.

On June 8, 2008, Grisanti closed the doors of this institution, which opened in 1972 and continued on after the death of its patriarch, Ferd, in 1993. That leaves Louisville Grisanti-less for the first time since 1959. That was the year that the flagship fine-dining Casa Grisanti opened on the east quandrant of Liberty Street and set the high bar for fare and service until its closing in 1991. The cheaper, family fare oriented Mama Grisanti kept going in Dupont Circle until the mid-1990s. I never made it to Casa, but went to Mama Grisanti’s several times, where I noticed the lower-bar standard resulted in less consistency of quality, but the fare was always reasonably priced.

I’ve been saddened lately at the number of Louisville eatery institutions biting the dust. The closing of Ferd Grisanti comes close on the heels of the demise of Azalea, which morphed from La Paloma in 1994 and before that from Bauer’s—a longtime institution. This location on Brownsboro Road, which has to be part of the psyche of the city, is now being threatened with demolition, though there are efforts under way to save it. I had once taken a date to Bauer’s and later my wife to La Paloma where we had a nice salmon steak, as I recall.

Not too long before, the J.P. Kayrouz restaurant in St. Matthews—which, in my opinion, had one of the most inviting and appealing interiors of all of Louisville’s restaurants—closed in 2003 and was demolished, to my everlasting chagrin. The food there was OK, though the soups were often memorable, but it was that simple, tanned wood interior that I found so beguiling. There was an unforced simplicity in that interior ambiance that so many more consciously designed restaurants—in their desperate striving for “atmosphere—fail to achieve.

So add these to Lentini’s on Bardstown Road (also closed in 2008 for the last time after several incarnations), Hasenour’s (1934–1996), New Orleans East (closed in the 90s I think) and some others, and you have a lamentable trend for those who like traditional dining in Louisville. (I forgot to mention the old Colonial Gardens across from Iroquois Park, also an institution and also threatened with demolition.)

Post comments about your own experiences at these and other classic, defunct Louisville restaurants.

The forums over at louisvillehotbytes.com also provide a sounding board for these memories.

-EG

Another casualty of the Bush Economic Miracle: Baer Fabrics, a Louisville institution, closed after 103 years of continuous business on July 19, 2008. (Courier-Journal / Business First / Examiner / WHAS)

Jeffersontown’s Ferd Grisanti Closes After Business Declines (Courier-Journal)
www.courier-journal.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2008806240334

Article about Kayrouz memories and the newest version of the Kayrouz family dining at:
www.louisvillehotbytes.com/?p=86

Article about Bauer’s and the pending fate of its location (from the Voice-Tribune):
www.voice-tribune.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=461&Itemid=12

Discussion thread (from of Louisville eateries that no longer around):
www.myspeakerscorner.com/forum/spawn.php?qv=1&fn=66&tid=46336


Dereliction of Duty By the Louisville Metro Police as Epidemic of Red Light Running Hits University of Louisville Belknap Campus area

July 24, 2008

(The image at left is not my own, but grabbed off Flicker. It is similar enough to what I am about to convey and will suffice to illustrate).
A colleague of mine just yesterday noted to me that he’d read a report that traffic accident incidents were way down due to people driving less because of high gas prices. To this I expressed surprise, because my darker side assumed that drivers would compensate for the price trends by ignoring red lights and stop signs, thus raising the odds of accidents. Nothing in my everyday biking experience, though, had provided real evidence of this; people seemed to driving just as well or as badly as always.

This morning, though, my more cynical assumption received validation.

Within the span of a minute, just two blocks apart from one another, I witnessed two blatant runnings of red lights. And I’m not talking about drivers who made it just under the wire as the light changed from yellow to red—I’m talking about lights that had been red for a good several seconds. In the worst case, the second incident, the light had been red for almost 10 seconds. This was the sort of incident where pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers and car passengers who happen to have the right of way, aka. a green light, get killed.

The cyclist in this case was very nearly me.

The first incident happened at Third and Lee where I, safely passing under the yellow at Lee heading south on Third Street noticed in the lane to the far left behind me a large produce type truck barreling down Third with no intention of stopping. Mind you, cars on Lee heading east or west for the light at Third cannot be seen by anyone heading down Third, so someone trying to run the light on Third takes an insanely stupid risk. But this jerkoff, sitting high in his mega-truck would not have been the one killed, and his fucking ass probably knows that. I looked over at him and shook my head vigorously in disgust, but regretted my lack of quick-thinking in failing to look for a brand name or license number or truck code number as he passed. Things like this happen so fast that they stun you in your disbelief.

The second incident was even worse than this. As I was passing east on the green light at Cardinal Boulevard, a white SUV traveling north on Second Street at high rate of speed blatantly ran the red light after it had been red for at least five seconds and maybe as long as ten seconds. I had barely passed under the green when this fucktard whooshes by right behind my back tire; I could feel the wind and the rumble of the asphalt from his vehicle weight right behind me.

The guy was practically out of state by the time I could react in any way, which was to look back at him and mouth out loud, “Oh my fucking God! Another one!”

So was this a case of some SUV driver—angry at the world for his own stupid choice of buying a gas guzzling penis-extender-mobile now getting back at a $4-a-gallon-gas world by thinking he now had the right to obey or disobey whichever traffic laws he chooses?

Or was he just on a cell phone? Or asleep? Or just a fucking jerkoff. I would not be surprised if all four of these applied.

So how is it that I’ve got the traffic situation north of the UofL better covered than our vaunted law enforcement?

(Postscript: One day after I posted this, two innocent little girls with the right of way crossing the street at Floyd and Warnock on the eastern side of the UofL campus were killed by a maniac hit-and-run driver eluding police; just a few blocks from the area referred to in my posting. Fortunately, they caught the motherfucker. I volunteer my services to drive over him…)

-EG