Category Archives: Lexington-Today

Hoops and High Notes

I have listened to or watched University of Kentucky basketball ever since eventual mayor of Lexington Scotty Baesler was the “sixth man” on an early 60’s Adolph Rupp-coached team. My mom and dad and I would sit around our yellow linoleum-topped kitchen table in North Lexington listening to the radio broadcast. Mom would keep score on the pad of paper we used when people came over to play cards, and dad would cuss and slap the table. I kept score in my head and memorized my dad’s vocabulary for later practice when I was alone in bed.

It was a real good time.

Cotton Nash was a god to me until Dan Issel came along. Mr. Issel was a god to me until Jack Givens came along. Then Kenny Walker. Then the Unforgettables. Then Jamal Mashburn. Then Antoine Walker. Then John Wall. Then Anthony Davis. Then……Wenyen Gabriel?

Fifty-plus years of watching the same dribbling, running, screening, and shooting on the same hardwood floors — why?

Why keep watching?

Because of Wenyen Gabriel.

Because, at any moment, a young person could have a transcendent moment in their life and by watching, you could be a vicarious participant in that moment.

Especially now, with daily political news being so unrelentingly grim and disgusting, I feel a renewed resurgence of hope and possibility for fixing things. To see a young person succeed beyond the expectations of today’s alarm clock, to see them rejoice in that unexpected success, to see them exult in simply being young and capable, is enough to keep me progressing, persisting, and resisting.

It’s just a game.

I know that.

The meanings I impose on that game are mine – perhaps the foolish dreams of an unrepentant hippie of the 70’s. I would not want my priorities to intrude on today’s young people, but I will gladly accept the inspirational intrusions of today’s young people on my priorities.

That said…

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 10, at the Singletary Center there will be a gathering of 26 singers from around the world competing for scholarships to be part of the nationally-admired University of Kentucky Opera Program. This will be the next wave of remarkable performers to shape Lexington’s vocal music experience. These will be the singers we will hear throughout Central Kentucky in our churches, and schools, and public concerts, and operas, and musicals, and recitals, and national anthem renditions, during the next few years until they mature and grace the planet with their talent.

It will be a magical day, a day of hope and inspiration, a day every bit as startling as Wenyen Gabriel’s 7-for-7 from 3-point range.

It will be a real good time.

Curling Collectibles

I collected baseball cards when I was a kid. Some of them were sacrificed early (Donn Clendenon, Marv Throneberry…) and attached to the spokes of my bike to change my whirring wheels to WHIR-R-R-R-RING wheels. But others were precious; Pete Rose’s rookie card, Roberto Clemente, Mickey Mantle, Warren Spahn, Fritz Brickell…treasures all.



Which curling cards would be the gems?

Well…this tyro would be seeking the cards of Nina Roth (US Ladies’ icy assassin), Switzerland’s Benoit Schwartz, John Schuster and Tyler George (the passion and the skill of the US Men), and the sultry Russian, Anastasia Bryzgalova (because…well…damn).


AND the entire South Korean Ladies squad. They gave themselves English marketing names based on what they had for breakfast. Ya gotta root for a team with players named; Pancake, Sunny, Steak, and Annie (a brand of yogurt).

Curling…cool…before cool was cool.

Grandpa Vonn

I know little of Lindsey Vonn’s late grandpa, only the few minutes NBC featured before tonight’s event.

Maybe he was a member of the NRA. Maybe he taught Sunday school. Maybe he voted for Trump. Maybe he liked anchovies. I just don’t know.

I know he served our country in Korea building roads and lived in Wisconsin cornfields building ski trails for his kids and grand-kids. And I know he compiled reams of scrapbooks about his granddaughter. And I know that he could barely speak of the immense pride he felt watching his granddaughter ski.

Last night, I spent a few minutes with a friend and new grandmother. I saw for myself the beginnings of that same grand-parental pride.

Grandpa Vonn’s pride contributed to giving us a planet-enhancing young lady and I fully expect my friend’s pride will give us a planet-enhancing young man.

I know little of Grandpa Vonn, but I think I know enough to add another hero to my world.

We are different.

All of us are different.

There are those (people and parties and clubs and networks……and now it seems…countries) among us that profit by shining a harsh light on those differences – pitting us against each other.

We might be closer to our best self if we take their harsh light and turn it back upon them, exposing and blinding them…yes…blinding them while we focus another light on those same differences; a celebratory light that entertains and inspires.

So…this gray-haired geezer guy who detests cold and snow will thrill tonight watching the blond and impossibly young Ms. Vonn slide down a snowy hill, and will hold my breath as Nathan Chen does quad after quad on ice (quel horreur!) and Yuzuru Hanyu demonstrates precisely what a wonderful world it can be.

Vive la difference!

Olympic Thoughts in the Bluegrass

Olympic thoughts for my friends in Frankfort.


Korea’s historic anthem.

Very cool and mightily moving.


In Kentucky, we have artists as well, and they have things to say.

We have Jean Ritchie…and Zoey Speaks…and Dwight Yoakum…and Everett McCorvey.

We have Michael Shannon…and Ashley Judd…and Joe Montgomery…and Jennifer Lawrence.

We have Frank X. Walker… Robert Penn Warren …Charles Edward Pogue…and George Ella Lyon.

We have storytellers…and stories…and dreams…and hopes……and more than a few suggestions.

Throw them away, ignore them if you will. Discard them, and discard a path to success – a path to wonder.

Yes, it’s useful and good to pursue and master the employable skills of today.

But why?

In the theatre, we consider the whence, the whither, and the why; whence have we come, whither are we going, and why are we making the journey. These questions match up remarkably with Kentucky’s historic place in the life-arc of our nation. Great questions and great possibilities have flowed through Kentucky, why should today be different?

…only if we continue to choose to be small…

The arts can provide the “why”.

There is a saying;

“If you have two pennies, spend one for bread and one for wine; the bread so you can live, and the wine so you will want to.”

The arts are the second penny.

Spend it.

How Deep Does It Go?

Let’s assume for a moment that Russia at least attempted to determine the result of the US presidential election. Can we all accept that assumption?

If not, would those of you who cannot accept that assumption, simply absent yourselves from this pondering? I’m not looking to change your vote or remove your guns, but frankly, I can’t do business with you anymore.

That was an uncivil request.

I apologize.

But I’m moving on.

Let’s assume for a moment that Russia at least attempted to determine the result of the US presidential election. If so, then other assumptions present themselves as possible;

  1. They tried but had no affect (are we OK with that?), or
  2. They were successful by swaying voters’ opinions (ARE WE OK WITH THAT?), or
  3. They were successful by actually changing votes in our voting mechanism (good grief!).
  4. Assumptions “2” and “3” (…crickets…).

I don’t know which of those assumptions, if any, is true. But I know they are all important and scary. Yet the current occupant of the White House and much of our Congress (bicameral and bipartisan) don’t seem terribly perturbed by these possibilities.

Why is that?

By the way, if you don’t know the terms “bicameral” and “bipartisan”, please look them up. Yes, you are entitled to your informed opinion. Informed…informed…INFORMED……that’s sorta important and useful. It’s a good thing to actually know what you’re talking about. It’s not “fake” or “elite”, it’s useful.

If any of the assumptions above are true, what makes us think this was their first try?

Does it seem logical that their first attempt to affect US elections was the US presidency? Wouldn’t you wanna practice first before you took on the big game? Wouldn’t you wanna see what you could do in say…Wisconsin or…Kentucky…or Utah, before you took a shot at Washington?

Maybe the un-urgency of the response to this cyber-attack has something to do with the culpability of the responders……in various buildings in Washington.

In business, when I was confused or uncertain about the people keeping an eye on business, I changed the eyes.

It usually opened mine.

Jes’ sayin’.

Part-Time Jobs?

Caught by surprise last November, I withdrew into stunned silence; afraid and ashamed and angry.

The anger faded. It will do no me no good. I will resist every unfair, greedy, and unwise effort I can identify, but I have always done that – it’s a reflexive urge taught to me by my Southern Baptist Sunday School childhood – nothing’s changed as far as that’s concerned.

I was afraid of what the results’ results would be.

I was ashamed of my own surprise and fear of my neighbors’ choice.

Why didn’t I know?

What have I missed?

What should I have done?

I will do better.

I will listen harder.

I will seek a better and more useful understanding.

I will act on what I learn.

I will…because I want to be a good neighbor.

But, (isn’t there always a “but”?) …so must others.

I have no answers, but I have glimmers of a suggestion.

If I have lost connection with my neighbors, so have my political representatives…and how could they have not? They must solicit campaign funds 24/7/365. They must run campaigns to retain their offices for six to twenty-four months (President Trump has already declared his re-election campaign’s beginning for 2020). They serve in legislative sessions for months at a time every year. They have homes in Washington and regular living quarters in Frankfort. They are full-time governors and lawmakers elsewhere, away from me, all while they’re supposed to be representing me and Janie on Providence Road.

That was not what was intended by our founding fathers.

George Washington was president, but he also went home to run his farm. He had to listen to and represent his neighbors. The same was essentially true for all elective officials.

I would suggest considering a move back to those conditions.

Rather than point fingers at how little time the Senate and the House of Representatives spend in session in Washington, perhaps we should reduce the length of campaigns and legislative sessions (and the participants’ pay).

Send them home to local concerns.

Perhaps we should rescind the expansion of the Kentucky legislature from bi-yearly sessions to yearly sessions. Have we really been improved by having the legislature meet every year?

Send them home to local concerns.

Make all of them part-time lawmakers and full-time neighbors.

Just a thought…

High Flyin’

I would have been 13 or 14 years old when one day I heard this funny little song about outhouses on the radio. It was Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Ode to the Little Brown Shack Out Back.” It got a lot of play for a few weeks before local radio returned to its breathless documentation of the British Invasion. Whimsical fantasies about plumbing architecture trends in Appalachia didn’t stand a chance against the Rolling Stones, the Dave Clark 5, and that other group.

But there was wisdom in the whimsy. Mr. Wheeler described the title facility;


Now, it was not a castle fair, but I could dream my future there,

And build my castles to the yellowjacket’s drone.

I could orbit ‘round the sun, fight with General Washington,

Or be a king upon a golden throne.




But it stayed with me and suggested something I was just beginning to suspect; my imagination and a quiet place might be a powerful antidote to the random adult violence depicted by Cronkite and Huntley/Brinkley.

The next year I heard the Kingston Trio deliver with typical Kingston Trio gusto the instructions of Billy Edd Wheeler’s “Desert Pete”;


You’ve got to prime the pump.

You must have faith and believe.

You’ve got to give of yourself

‘Fore you’re worthy to receive.


A simple thought; one I had learned in Sunday school and Cub Scouts, but now had outgrown in my teenage cynicism. I was so much older then…

It wasn’t until I heard Judy Collins on her concert album talk about Wheeler and sing three of his songs that his songs became important to me.

Ms. Collins sang his elegant description of a “Red-Wing Blackbird”;


O can you hear that pretty little bird singin’ with all his heart and soul?

He’s got a blood-red spot on his wing, and all of the rest of ‘im’s black as coal.


That’s my bird now.

It belongs to me and my part of the country.

I may not be happy about the sombre imagery (“When a man spills blood on the coal…”), but it belongs to my home state.

It’s my bird singin’.

Ms. Collins also sang his amazingly prescient “Coal Tattoo.”


Travelin’ down that coal town road; listen to my rubber tires whine.

Goodbye to buckeye and white sycamore. I’m leavin’ you behind.

I got no job and I got no pay – just got a worried soul,

And a blue tattoo on the side of my head left by the #9 coal.


This in the mid-60s’ and more true now.

A couple of years later, Wheeler anticipated the coal country environmental anxieties of the 21st century in his “Coming of the Roads”;


Look how they’ve cut all to pieces our ancient poplar and oak,

And the hillsides are stained with the greases, and they’ve burned up our heavens with smoke.


Is Mr. Wheeler the the Madame Cleo of the Smokies or have we not been paying attention? Perhaps a bit of both.

Grim stuff.

It gets grimmer.

Two of my favorite Wheeler songs speak of the longing to fly…but with a price.

In “High-Flyin’ Bird”;


There’s a high-flyin’ bird flying way up in the sky

And I wonder if she looks down on me as she goes on by?

Lord, look at me here. I’m rooted like a tree here.

Got those sit-down, can’t cry

Oh Lord, gonna die blues


And the song ends with specificity;


And the only way to fly is die.


He echoes this thought in “Winter Sky.”


Out under the winter sky

Out under the winter sky

Stars come tremblin’ on my eye.

Hand me wings for to fly.

And I feel like somethin’s gonna die.

I feel like somethin’s gonna die,

And me with it.


I wonder if once again Mr. Wheeler has accurately predicted, 50 years ago, a mind-set of today. In a geography of few opportunities, no jobs, education possibilities starved of funds, and little hope, how can you fly?


In a geography of dwindling art experiences to spark dreaming of futures and castles and orbiting the sun, how can you even dream of flying?


Well…………of course there are pharmaceuticals.

Tough Time for Heroes

I think my first hero was Mickey Mantle. Then I learned there were problems with alcohol.

Then it was Pete Rose……

Then it was groups; reporters, yippies, writers, comedians, teachers, US bicycle racers, film directors.

It seems the anointing of a hero leads quickly to the toppling of a hero.

Especially now.

Especially this month.

I’m not sure I can live in a world without heroes.

What to do?

Yesterday I attended an event that suggested a couple of places to look for heroes today.

I was flattered to be invited to be in the audience for the Senior Recital of a young singer I met when I did a small role in last year’s University of Kentucky Opera Theatre’s production of RAGTIME. The singer is a fierce, intelligent man of strong opinion and strong voice. I suspect his strong opinions will occasionally get in his way as he journeys through life. I also suspect his intelligence and strong voice will cause people to listen carefully to his strong opinions and we may all made better for it…including him.

That would be OK, wouldn’t it?

He sang a song cycle by a Spanish composer I did not know; Xavier Montsalvatge. The song; “Punto de Habanera” is racy and probably presents a point-of-view that’s far too masculine for this week’s news cycle. “Canción de Cuna Para Dormir a un Negrito” is a beautiful lullaby with the politically-incorrect sentiment; “Close your eyes, frightened little black boy; the white boogey-man is going to come and eat you.” The songs were sung with passion and control…AND passion and a determination to make things better. That might be heroic enough to withstand today’s 24/7/365 media eye.

He also sang of Don Quixote.

It was Ravel’s song cycle; “Don Quichotte à Dulcinée.”

Quixote is a personal hero of mine. He fights dragons that are actually windmills…and loses. He physically defends the honor of maidens that can ill afford physical honor. He sees glory and beauty in the mundane.

Ravel’s Quixote swears to Dulcinea that at her request he will;

  • Stop the Earth from turning.
  • Remove the stars from the sky.
  • Put the stars back in their place.

He will of course fail on all counts……but he will try……for her.

He prays in delight to St. Michael and St. George for assistance in these efforts…for her.

He is, by 2017, a thoroughly vetted hero. I will be very surprised if emails, dossiers, or accusers emerge to shine new, righteous light on his failings. His failings are well-known and they are admired by me.


Perhaps this is where we must look for our heroes today;

  • In the past.
  • In the arts.
  • In our fierce youth, beginning their journeys.

I’m OK with that.

Lucky Us

It’s a big weekend for my hometown and my beloved University of Kentucky.

  • The football team won and still has a chance to play for something big.
  • Ditto for the basketball teams – male and female.
  • Ditto for two singers from our nationally-ranked opera theatre program.

Please notice especially that last item.

The District Auditions for the Metropolitan Opera were held in Lexington this afternoon in a lovely room; the sanctuary at First Presbyterian Church.

I attended. Let me tell you about my day.

This lovely room is located in downtown Lexington, a few doors down from Henry Clay’s law office, a few blocks away from Mary Todd Lincoln’s home, and about two blocks away from Gratz Park (the heart of old Lexington) and the home of Thomas Hunt Morgan, Nobel Prize-winning brilliant Lexingtonian. The room is wood, and stained glass, and wood, and soaring ceilings, and wood, and memories of the funerals of personally-remembered brilliant Lexingtonians, and wood.

Today, it was all that filled with beautiful young singers singing humanity’s most beautiful songs beautifully all afternoon long…for free.

I watched and heard my friend Cynthia Lawrence, Metropolitan Opera star (I don’t believe anyone has sung with Luciano Pavarotti as often as Ms. Lawrence) lead a large audience in a seismic rendition of the National Anthem. Now we can all say we’ve sung at the Metropolitan Opera Auditions.

I watched and heard Jessica Bayne mesmerize the room with her Bellini number.

I watched and heard Taylor Comstock remind everyone of his recent stratospheric performance in LA TRAVIATA.

I watched and heard my friend Thabang Masango simultaneously charm and inspire the room with his Donizetti.

I watched and heard my friend Zachary Morris stir the room with his “New York Lights” from A VIEW FROM THE BRIDGE.

I watched and heard Rebecca Farley force me to resist the urge to warn her of her fate if she believed the blandishments of the Duke in RIGOLETTO.

I watched and heard Mary Catherine Wright break the hearts of the male half of the room with her Handel piece.

Some of these singers were proclaimed “winners” by day’s end and will go on to compete in the Regional Auditions in Chicago in January, but the real winners were those of us in the wooden pews of the lovely room to watch and hear.

The ultimate winner is Lexington which, for a while, gets to be home for these remarkable young people as they mature before leaving to populate the planet with singers.

Lucky us.

The Homeward Three-Step

Revisiting a moment from last year…


The Homeward Three-Step


Multitasking – I’m thinking of giving it up.

Oh, it’s been fun to pretend to be smarter and more productive now than 30 years ago when I was doing a mere one thing at a time. But it’s not true…and I think I’ve always known it was not true. I think the myth of the miracle of multitasking stems from a phrase I heard so often when I was younger; “Humans only really use about ten percent of their brain’s capacity.” I’ve never seen any research to back up that statement. Perhaps the research exists, but in these days of fake news on the internet I’ll wait till I hear Jon Stewart say it.

But suppose it is true… So what?

Maybe we need to have some empty space in our heads in order to manipulate the knowledge and ideas and experiences and memories that we acquire in living. Everybody knows that to build something cool with Lego pieces, you have to spread them out to see what you’ve got to work with. I think that might also be true of our brain’s inventory. Maybe we need unused brain capacity as an uncluttered space from which we can survey our stock of thoughts and ideas and perhaps we need some uncluttered time and attention to conduct that survey.

I used to play a bit of chess. I wasn’t very good but I enjoyed the hell out of it and I believe it made me a better and more useful person. I have not played a complete game of chess since about 1986… 30 years… What happened?

Multitasking happened. To even play chess badly, you have to play chess totally, un-distractedly. You can’t study the board, remember the openings, juggle with time/position/power, and calculate an endgame; while checking your email, checking your voicemail, returning a phone call, updating your Facebook page, and watching a baseball game. It just doesn’t work that way.

Chess demands your complete, undivided attention. Your cat does too, by the way. Of course your cat can be appeased as long as part of your multitasking involves taking the cat’s picture and putting it on your Facebook page. Chess does not offer that option. Maybe that’s why we see far more pictures of kittens than chess games on our screens. To play chess is to do one thing…


one thing…

at a time.

How embarrassing.

How shameful.

How unproductive.

This has been buggin’ me for years, but what could you do about it? Extreme multitasking has become something to which we all aspire and something on which we grade each other. Yet, even in the blizzard of multitasking I have found myself carving out uncluttered space and time in odd places.

When I was working in various parts of the state I had a lot of windshield time. Yes, it was a curse, especially on the interstate between Elizabethtown and Bowling Green, being pummeled by semi’s. (I’m convinced that if you built a windmill farm in the median of I-65 you could power the entire state from the turbulence of those trucks.) But it was also a blessing in the form of un-distracted time to consider the whence, the wither, and the why of your days. Where are you coming from? Where are you going? Why are you making the trip? I don’t miss the driving. I do miss the cogitation.

My newest oasis in the multitasking sirocco is being provided courtesy of Chloe, my wonder pup.

We walk………..a lot.

We ramble all over our neighborhood and in our meanderings we have now met and visited about a dozen canine and human neighbors. Chloe is a social addict. She loves to visit her acquaintances. I fear her social hunger is fueled by being stuck with a boring white-haired guy all day.



We walk a couple of times a day. When we commence we walk briskly, with purpose, with dispatch. We walk several blocks to see if Bailey, or Stupie, or Izzie, or Bert are out. We pause in front of the houses of Chuck and Joe (the greatest men on the planet in Chloe’s opinion). We keep a sharp eye out for joggers and walkers we recognize and JoAnne, our mail carrier and Rusty, our Herald-Leader delivery champion.

When we have reached the apogee of our walk and turned for home (having accomplished our biological missions as well – well, hers anyway), we embark on Chloe’s Homeward Three-Step. Urgency has now left the building.

We take three steps, stop, and turn to admire the sun on the magnolia tree at the Greek lady’s house.

Three more steps and validate the new fence at Chuck’s house.

Three more steps and explore the intriguing leaf and pine-straw pile on Berry Lane. Chloe is convinced there’s a dead body beneath the pile – I think it’s a carcass formerly known as squirrel.

Three more steps and we pause to discuss whether Dino Risi’s delightful film IL SORPASSO might have influenced the creators of AMERICAN GRAFFITI. I believe it did, but Chloe thinks I’m over-thinking a couple of rock ‘n’ roll flicks.

Three more steps and we sit for a spell to consider the possibility that old hootenanny folk music from the early 60’s might have new relevance and usefulness during a Trump presidency.

You get the idea.

Un-distracted time. No multitasking.