Category Archives: Lexington-Today

National Public Despair

I drove to Louisville today…and back…all in one day.

That sounds silly to those that don’t know me.

Those that do know me, know I’ve become a hermit who strives to not strive to be more than a Frisbee toss from the UK campus. A much-admired friend told me 20 years ago; “My wife and I realized that 90% of what we wanted in the world was within a one-mile radius of UK. We see no reason to live outside that.” He then chuckled to show me he was kidding. His eyes and a quick sip from his drink suggested he was ardently not.

The opera, the Guignol Theatre, the dry cleaners, the grocery store, Josie’s, the pharmacy, three wine shops, the bank, an art museum, football/baseball/softball/soccer/basketball, a library branch, Starbuck’s, pizza, pad thai, burritos, hot chicken, cheddar-burgers, reubens, omelets, hot browns……and vaccinations…are all my neighbors. The only things missing are an ocean and a major league baseball team.

But today I drove to Louisville and I anticipated a lovely day. It was sunny and cool. Traffic was light. I eagerly tuned the radio to NPR.

When I was driving all over Kentucky the last three years I worked, NPR was a joy; bright and positive, not yet sucked into the 24/7/365 reality show of the Trump debacle. Now, with Trump festering in relative silence in Mar-a-Lago (Florida’s iteration of Elba), I anticipated an afternoon drive listening to new books, new plays, new songwriters…who knows?

Instead, I got an earful of assisted suicide (legal and not so), stats on how many Kentuckians are currently hospitalized and clinging to survival on respirators, protest machinations in Myanmar, ecoside (what words we invent to soften, distract from, and just plain avoid saying climate change), royal racism, and the increase in the deportation of Haitians.

At least there was no mention of Trump or Dr. Seuss, though a few couplets from IF I RAN THE CIRCUS might have perked up things as I zipped past Waddy/Peytona.

I’m thinkin’ the nation may yet be in recovery.

A Martian Dune Buggy

Today, after toting it for six months over 290 million miles, we parked a dune buggy on the surface of Mars.

A dune buggy!

I expected the first pictures transmitted would show Arch Hall Junior racing and bouncing over a red terrain rescuing Marilyn Manning from the clutches of Eegah while playing a Strata-Caster and chanting in various mismatched keys. I admit to a little disappointment when the first two snapshots showed a bleak, guitar-less, Richard Kiel-less horizon broken sporadically by a few solar-wind-blasted pavers.

Still…we’re there…on another planet…looking for life.

How foolish.

How wonderful.

I’m so proud.

Our Martian dune buggy will gather samples of rock and soil that it can only send back to Earth if we go and get them.

If we go and get them! And, I gather, we have plans to do so.

What imagination!

I’m so proud.

The last four years have been dominated by resistance. Now, I suggest we let perseverance rule.

Let our imaginations persevere. Let our scientists persevere. Let our children learn and persevere and become the best and brightest they can be. The best teachers, scientists, writers, plumbers, actors, policemen, dancers, farmers, senators, singers, mayors……astronauts………the best.

The best.

We’ll need‘em on Mars.

Hell, we need’em here…now.

Wanted: Tree Planters

It doesn’t take long to plant a tree, but after you’ve done it, you’ll have a goodly wait till you get the full benefit of what you’ve planted. When I was in my twenties and thirties I planted trees and shrubs. Then I sat back and waited.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act. It was for me.

I had time.

Now…maybe not so much time.

I planted trees where I could see the result.

I had time.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

I had time.

Now…maybe…

I’ve visited places that people gush about; Arizona, Alaska, Mexico… I liked ‘em, but there were few trees and of few varieties. I missed my trees.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Hollies, tupelos, dogwoods, chincopin oaks, ginkgos, maples, magnolias, spruce, birches…

I cherish them all.

Planting trees was a selfish act.

Now, at this certain age, I know planting trees is for the pleasure of others. I will still plant them. They still fill me with hope for what will come. It is still a selfish act.

Yesterday, I saw hooligans and terrorists rampaging in our nation’s capitol.

I didn’t see any tree planters.

Tree planters have hope.

Frogs and Dogs

I posted a picture of the knot of frogs that inhabits our little pond. That’s what a group of frogs is called. I’m inordinately proud to know that.

I like the frogs.

One night recently, our wonder pup, Chloe, cornered the largest frog who had wandered a few feet away from the safety of the water. I had to intercede and provide the frog with a corridor to safety. There was a hop, a dive, and a splash – all was well. Chloe gave me a glare that screamed; “I don’t know you anymore.”

I like the dog, too.

The frog was being a frog; venturesome and stupid.

The dog was being a dog; a gleeful hunter.

Let them be what they are. Value them for what they are.

Sure they have their limitations, but as frogs and dogs, they’re jes’ fine.

Those limitations however, as charming as they are, are limitations. They prevent me from asking/hiring/electing them to be something other than frogs and dogs. For example, I believe Chloe’s penchant for chasing squirrels would make her unsuitable for driving my car and the frog’s constantly damp condition would render it unwise to assign electrical repair needs to him/her.

Nor would I nominate or elect either of them to be President.

But…as dogs and frogs…I like ‘em jes’ fine.

Christmas Whackers

I got tools for Christmas.

I’m sorry. I shoulda warned you before I said that. You might have been standing in a place where it’s hazardous to faint.

But it’s true.

My personal foundations are shaken. I’m questioning every tenet by which I’ve navigated the years. How has it come to this? Tools…and all the expectations and assumptions that accompany them…given to me…whose past attempted claims to the adjective “handy” were usually rebuffed and ridiculed with cause decent, and alas….

Janie gave me tools for Christmas.

She has followed and encouraged my perennial struggle to rein in the sly and raging ambitions of the trumpet vine under which we live. She understands my frustration when the vine soars high above my reach and threatens to initiate unholy congress with the overhead wires that power our house and allow our home to communicate with the rest of the planet. She knows of my aesthetic dissatisfaction with the ugly dead arm of a high branch on our 40-year-old dogwood. She senses my fear that the lower branches of the tupelos out front are scaring the strollers in our neighborhood.

Thanks to her, I now have new armaments to aid my battle.

I now have a wicked, 12-inch tree handsaw with apocalyptic teeth that devours with utter disdain bark, pith, pulp, and small student vehicles parked illegally.

I now have an extension that will allow me to clip twigs and branches from another area code.

Great…I think.

Chloe, the pup of wonder, worries that, these new weapons in my hands might lead to the wrong limbs being severed.

Janie coos “You missed one there, cowboy.”

I’m a lucky guy.

Whackers for Christmas.

Ouch.

Turning Toward the Morning

One of my favorite voices belongs to a singer/songwriter/sailor/boat builder from Maine. His name is Gordon Bok. I’ve never sailed nor built a boat and I’ve never been to Maine. Thus, I don’t always understand what he’s singing about. He sings about north winds and waves and storms and nautical conversations with meteorological entities. He describes negotiations between fishermen and the elements. He keens of the fearful waiting of a fishing community awaiting either a reassurance of their loved ones’ return after a storm, or a mortal tally of the lost.

No, I don’t always understand his jargon or his tales, and I suspect that often what I do understand is incomplete and inaccurate.

But he sings so beautifully.

One of his songs, Turning Toward the Morning, resonates with me as this difficult year swirls around its sordid drain. In it, Mr. Bok describes;

“When October’s growin’ thin and November’s comin’ home, you’ll be thinking of the seasons and the sad things that you’ve seen. And you’ll hear that old wind walkin’, hear him singin’ high and thin. You could swear he’s out there singin’ of your sorrow.”

I heard that old wind.

I heard it a few years ago in a small vacation rental on the moors of Nantucket Island. It never ceased. It whispered and rumbled and insisted. It sighed and soughed and implied. It whistled and crooned and threatened. It was intimate and indifferent and in control. Janie and I fled back to Kentucky.

I hear that old wind now.

I hear it on the news. I sift the news of its reality show trappings as best I can. I know they’re driven to create desire in me for reverse mortgages, free transportation to my yearly checkups, clean gutters, drugs with manufactured names I can’t pronounce, miracle pillows, and miracle spring water. I don’t mind this hucksterism. Hell, I grew up thinking I could order eyeglasses from my comic books that would enable me to see through people’s clothes.

No, I need the news services for the facts I can glean, not for that old wind “singin’ of my sorrow.”

I hear that old wind in the concerns of my friends.

My friends are smart (most of the time), optimistic (most of the time), and want to do the next right thing (pretty much all of time). But, for the most part, they are not spring chickens. They fret to near bitterness that they will not get to see the results of the great repair job that began on January 20, 2021. That old wind murmurs that it will take time to inoculate everyone to thwart the pandemic, it will take time to re-staff and refocus our efforts to build the better country we were building before the vandals were allowed entrance, it will take time…

So what.

We still must begin.

We have begun before, and I for one enjoyed that beginning. I’ll enjoy this one as well.

Mr. Bok scratches his head over our fretting;

“It’s a pity we don’t know what the little flowers know. They can’t face the cold November. They can’t take the wind and snow. They put their glories all behind them, bow their heads and let it go. But you know they’ll be there shinin’ in the morning.”

Put your glories all behind you. Bow your head and let it go. There are new glories to create.

Ronald Reagan’s campaign told us “It’s morning in America.” (LOUD BUZZER) Wrong! Thank you for playing.

The morning is now.

It always is……now.

It will be glorious and exciting. Just what us geezer-refugees from the Age of Aquarius need…a mission bigger and longer-lasting than ourselves.

Mr. Bok;

“If I had a thing to give you, I would tell you one more time that the world is always turning toward the morning.”

It is the dawning.

Be there…

…shinin’.

Snarling Charles & the Case of the Purloined Letter

(With apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

The geese were flying south and the geezers were gathering outdoors.

It was late October in Lexington, a season that normally chased flocks and folks towards shelter. But this was a spectacular unseasonably warm sunny morning. It had been predicted days before by the Gospel According to the Weather Channel. Thus, these codgers had arranged to assemble for one more chinwag before winter drove them indoors and Covid drove them apart. As Snarling Charles passed through the gate, the host’s fire pit, fountain, and grill were roaring, and the house pup was busy establishing Trumpian relationships trading nebulous promises of affection and loyalty for immediate material riches such as surreptitious scraps of edibles.

A jolly time seemed in the offing.

Heightened celebration was in the air.

Charles had received a phone call from his wife on his drive to this convening of convivial complainers. She had gleefully given him the news that CNN had just called the election for Biden. Charles had harboured (spelling is correct – Charles being the anglophile that he was, the “u” was ubiquitous) hopes that he could break the news to his colleagues, but alas, TV is faster than Lexington’s rambling lanes. The champagne was already flowing and the burgers were sizzling when he arrived at the gate. The pup was entertaining her own notions of a canine American dream…with mustard.

After hopeful toasts to the eminent end of a national nightmare, the usual litany of personal medical updates ensued, and was capped with the group’s retelling of theatre horror stories which had been burnished and improved since their last recounting.

Then someone remarked to Charles that they had noticed his latest “Letter to the Editor” in the local paper a few days before.

Charles, who had melted his snarl to a mere smirk in the glow of champagne, charred beef, and good companions, immediately snapped to attention. One eyebrow and one lip corner reached for the heavens; “Oh really? I didn’t see that.”

Charles was a writer.

Charles was a successful writer, and more importantly, a good writer.

People who speak French well, speak French whenever possible.

People who swim well, spend as much time in the water as they can.

People who write well…

Charles was a lousy poker player (that snarl…). He didn’t play poker very often.

He wrote well. You guess how he spent his time.

One of his most effective writing outlets was writing Letters to the Editor. They were sometimes pithy. They were sometimes pissy. But they were always strongly stated and well-written; rants perhaps, but rants with vocabulary, grammar, and panache.

This particular letter had been about standing ovations in the local theatres.

Now…

…in a nation where white lawyers and their wives are standing barefoot in the lawns of their mansions brandishing guns at people of color, and…

…a quarter of a million people have died from a virus in eight months, and…

…wildfires are consuming California, and…

…people in Flint, Michigan cannot safely drink the water from their faucets…

…we might have more pressing issues than surplus, unearned standing ovations in the local theatre.

But for Snarling Charles, this was one more thing that needed to be addressed and it was something to which he could bring some expertise.

Good for him.

As he put it in his letter;

“The automatic leaping to their feet of audiences in our town for any and every stage production, regardless of quality does a disservice to the labours of our best performers.”

He was proud he had written it. He was happy to hear it had been published. He was sorry he had missed it.

When he returned home, he indulged in a little more celebratory sparkling wine with his missus, walked the good dog Nigel, and delved in the past few days of the local paper until he found his missive.

Sure enough, there it was, just like he wrote it…sort of;

“The automatic leaping to their feet of audiences in our town for any and every stage production, regardless of quality does a disservice to the labors of our best performers.”

“Labors?”

Where’s my bloody “u”?

I Could Not Be Happier

Today I was driving through a beautiful neighborhood on a sunny, 70-degree day in Lexington. The trees were autumnally spectacular. I was on my way to a spacious outdoor courtyard to meet a half dozen geezer theatre friends for a socially distanced brunch. I have worked and played and laughed with this group for over 250 years combined. We used to meet with some regularity until covid drove us into our burrows. This was to be our first assemblage in eight months.

I could not be happier…I thought.

Then the phone rang.

It was the wife of one of the geezers, herself a friend of more decades than it would be polite to specify.

“Rodge! Tell my husband to turn on his phone!”

“Julieanne, is something wrong?”

“Just tell him to turn on his damn phone! Biden won! He won! They just called Pennsylvania!!”

I hung up and drove on. The phone dinged with a text. It was from my wife, Janie; an emoji of a champagne bottle launching its cork.

I arrived at the brunch, ridiculed my occasionally Luddite friend for walking around with a useless phone in his pocket, and announced the electoral headline in spontaneous duet with our hostess as she emerged from the house having just learned the same news. Champagne flowed and flowery toasts were deployed. Old friends were reunited. Old stories were told again. Our laughter rocked the world.

I could not be happier…………I thought.

But there was something missing.

At first, I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Then I thought back to election night, 2016.

I went to bed that election night stunned and morose. The momentum and the arithmetic was undeniable: Donald Trump was gonna win.

Janie had already gone to bed. I didn’t wake her with the news.

The next morning, as she learned the result, I watched the subsequent waves of incredulity, indignation, sadness, fear, and finally anger.

“What do we do to fix this?”

We were together for the bad news.

We should be together for the good news.

I excused myself from my jolly brunch brotherhood and headed home.

Janie met me at the door. There was a hug and a kiss. Champagne flowed and the toast, though not flowery, was precise and jubilant; “Now we can begin.”

I could not be happier…………………………this time I know.

The Gargoyle Vote

A hall-of fame bluegrass autumn evening prompts me to open the library windows and allow its pleasant invasion. The temperature is perfect, the humidity is low (rare for Kentucky). The sounds of the evening stream in to complete this urban hermit’s bliss.

What a change from the harsh invasion of last night.

The sounds of last evening screamed in to annihilate any bliss.

A red, shiny, snarling, sneering, pouting visage filled the TV screen. It was a face I’d seen before on the gargoyles of French buildings; looming and leering, hungry and angry, auguring vengeance on any lack of subservience, real or perceived.

It was a face I’d seen before in the Marvel comic books I collected in the 70’s. It was the screaming face of Peter Parker’s boss, J. Jonah Jameson. It was the leering face of the Green Gargoyle. It was the rampaging, obese face of the Incredible Hulk (“Don’t make me mad”). It was a cartoon face. It was not human.

I knew that then.

I know it now.

There’ll be no voting for gargoyles at our house.

This evening’s sounds are mostly gentle and reassuring.

The soft plash of the frogs, the muffled rumble of a squirrel on the roof, the martial rhythm of the cicadas, Little George and his dad recreating Tyler Herro’s finest moments on their hoop in the yard behind us, and the UK Marching Band practicing for this Saturday’s first home football game of the season.

I start thinking about football. It’s kinder than roaring gargoyles…barely.

I like to watch some college football and I usually get caught up in some of the pro football playoffs.

But it appears to me that the game has become purely a game of physical attrition. Whose third-string quarterback can beat whose fourth-string left tackle? Which team has the most pass receivers unencumbered by crutches? Which team has the fewest players undergoing the concussion protocol?

Why would any parents allow their children to participate in such an exercise?

For my occasional entertainment?

Why would anyone allow their children to become a gargoyle on TV?

For my occasional entertainment?

Gulp!

Folks, please, don’t bother for me.

I can always find a good or dreadful movie to watch.

Quisling

A geezer moment.

Remember, on TV, usually in the evening, during the non-prime-time that local stations would set aside for PSA’s (public service announcements, run for free to prove why the station is worthy of their precious license to broadcast), an earnest, usually unfamiliar face would appear on the screen and say; “Hi, I’m (name of unfamiliar face), and today’s WORD FROM UNITY is…” They would state a word and proceed to expound inspirationally on that word. It was an effort to make the viewer think and be better.

I don’t think it was particularly effective.

I don’t remember it continuing for too long.

Why?

Well…the words weren’t really that interesting, truth be told. Of course, at that time, how interesting could they be? There was no internet, no Google. If the word was at all outré, you’d have to go to the library to look it up!

Well, that was then. This is now.

 

Hi, I’m Roger Leasor, and today’s WORD FROM UNITY (whatever UNITY is) is; quisling.

 

Quisling.

Look it up.

Read a bit about the man himself. You already know him and his regime pretty well.

I think the word could be useful in the next few months and, perhaps, years.