Changes

Ya got trouble!

Pop quiz: You’re Professor Harold Hill and you’re making good time with this saucy little librarian named Mrs. Partr- uhhh I mean Marian. She REALLY wants a Zima, but you’re both in a dry town. WHAT DO YOU DO?

“And the next thing you know your son is playin’
For money in a pinchback suit.
And listenin’ to some big out-o’-town jasper
Hearin’ him tell about horserace gamblin'”

Yes, ya got trouble, my friends, but you don’t have to go to River City, Iowa, to find it. Trouble surrounds Lexington’s liquor stores, which draw heathen Georgetonians like moths to the hellfire of Hadestown.

That all could change Tuesday as, for the umpteenth time in Georgetown’s recent history, the city asks its residents whether they want to allow package liquor sales in the city limits. Georgetown already allows liquor sales by the drink at restaurants.

But, as I say, ya got trouble, my friends. And it’s a lot more complex than people realize. It’s trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “C” and that stands for “convenience.”

The “trouble” with Lexington’s liquor stores is not the product they are selling (it’s legal and we’re all adults), but that they are surrounded by these pesky big box stores, gas stations and restaurants. So when I go to Liquor Barn near Hamburg Pavilion, I’m not just spending 20 bucks on a case of light beer. I’m spending money on non-booze items at Liquor Barn as well. I’m putting gas in my car at a nearby convenience store. I’m shelling out $1.27 for a movie from the Redbox machine outside Walgreen’s close to the Liquor Barn.

And I guarantee I’m not the only one who shops like this. Because if all you’re driving to Lexington for is booze, it’s just a wasted trip. And I’m just gullible enough to want the convenience of buying my booze and groceries in approximately the same place.

So, to review thus far, I, and a fair number of my fellow closeted boozehounds in Georgetown, regularly go to Lexington to purchase alcohol, which we cannot buy in Georgetown, and while we’re there, we also buy gas, toilet paper, saltine crackers, condoms and the latest issue of Tiger Beat, all of which are readily available in Georgetown. But we buy them in Lexington. Because, well, we’re there already.

We’re spending money in Lexington that we might otherwise spend in Georgetown. Can ya dig it?

I’d like to reverse that trend.

I’m voting “yes” on Tuesday. If you’re a “no” voter and feel compelled to pray for my soul, thank you, but please don’t bother. I’m an adult. So are the friends I’m asking to go to the polls. We don’t need to be saved from ourselves. We just want to be able to buy a legal product in our own community. By statute, a local Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) agency will be set up within the police department, and a portion of the tax revenue goes toward that agency and the police department. This would free up the city’s general fund to do things like purchase a new fire truck to bolster an aging fleet and start a curbside recycling program, which gained a little momentum back in 2009 and early 2010, but failed to gain traction for a variety of reasons, including funding.

If, by some catastrophe, this measure fails (and the Georgetown News-Graphic poll seems to indicate that failure is not bloody likely), I will continue my weekly sojourns to Lexington for booze and other items, including the $1.27 Redbox movies.

As a concession, though, I’ll at least return the movies in Georgetown. That and a buck will get you a buck’s worth of Pepsi. But it won’t buy a new fire truck, put more cops on the street, or help fund a curbside recycling program.

But, hey, whatever helps you sleep at night.

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Ch-ch-ch-changes!

I’ve been remiss in my blogging for the past several months, and am overdue for a “major change in my life” post. And until I do that, I can’t really feel as though I’ve closed one chapter and begun another.

It’s perhaps the only obsessive-compulsive aspect of my life.

About three weeks ago I ended my career in journalism (or did I?) to begin a career at the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. Prior to leaving the Georgetown News-Graphic, I had a conversation with good friend Byron Brewer, former News-Graphic managing editor. Byron also made the transition from journalist to state worker, and I asked him if I needed to pace myself in my new position. “No,” he said. “You need to slow yourself.”

Still, three weeks into the new gig, I can’t help but miss the old profession. I miss the people I worked with and the folks I talked with each week. I don’t miss going out to wrecks in the worst of weather, risking my ass on an icy road in order to illustrate to other fools why they shouldn’t risk their respective asses on that same road. I don’t miss politicos behind the curtain calling with tips and then telling me that what they told me is off-the-record. I don’t miss my butt going numb in the peanut gallery at court enduring two hours of “I didn’t do it,” in order to get an update on the case I really care about. I’m not going to miss the crazed Birther who took away 12 minutes of my life trying to convince me that Barack Obama was not born in the United States and that he was, in fact, born to Sarek of Vulcan and Elizabeth Taylor. Who knew? Anyhow, that’s a dozen minutes I’m never going to get back, so thanks a lot.

Off-the-record has always bothered me anyway. Here’s Tom’s little piece of trivia for today (whatever day you read this): There’s no such thing as off-the-record. One day I’m going to write a book about all the things told to me off-the-record, and there’s not a shyster in the world that can do anything about it.

But before I do that, I’m going to do an open records request for all text messages sent by Georgetown City Council members during city council meetings. I’m no lawyer, but I think even most strict interpretation of the Commonwealth’s open meetings laws will stand behind me.

My one regret in 15 years as a journalist, though, is that I never rose to prominence enough to merit being put on a mafia payroll.

Although I write all this out of conceit, I don’t want to be missed. Some reporters suffer from the delusion that they are irreplaceable or that their voice is unique. In my case, not only was I replaceable, but I was replaced by a better, more experienced version of me. That’s a win for the paper.

If you do miss me, thank you. If not, I’m not going to beg you. The work, and not the accolades, was the reward, every day.

Coming soon: Less than a month into his tenure as a state employee, how is Tom taking the transition? Has his head come close to exploding as he tries to reconcile the idea of ending his work day at 4:30? How many inches does his butt rise out of his office chair whenever he hears a siren outside? And the capital of Nebraska is Lincoln!

Back in the game

The man who inspired me to become a reporter: <br>Jane Doe (aka Irwin M. Fletcher).

The man who inspired me to become a reporter: Jane Doe (aka Irwin M. Fletcher).

This week I emerged from a ten-month exile to Unemploymentland and rejoined the ranks of the Working Stiffs as a general assignment reporter for the Georgetown News-Graphic. It’s been ten years since I last worked a real news beat as a writer. In the intervening decade I’ve held a variety of editing positions, jobs which required me to fact-check and polish the work of other writers. The work had its rewards (I’ve lost count of the number of major gaffes I’ve prevented from going to press), but it’s just not as sexy as being “the writer.” Screaming girls don’t hang outside the auditorium waiting to see the guy who runs the sound board; they’re waiting to pounce on the band. And God bless them for it!

I won’t dwell on my unemployment, not in this post anyway. I’ve been mulling it over and I’m much more excited about being employed again, and not so full of bile and vitriol about being out of work. In the past four days, I’ve interviewed more people and written more copy than I have in a similar period of time in a long while. I’m not the goofball that walked into a newsroom 12 years ago, fresh out of college. Now, I’m the old man in the newsroom—literally. But there’s still much to learn. Adobe finally got it right and wrote a desktop publishing program that doesn’t suck…an application that apparently works and plays well with Photoshop and Illustrator. I’m looking forward to learning that. I’m also looking forward to covering municipal meetings again, better prepared for that daunting task now than I was a dozen years ago.

So, that’s how it is. I’m not great, but I’m better than I was. I’m going to try to use this space to provide more of an informal commentary on the news in Scott County, Kentucky. It might up the readership from two to three.

He’s back, and he came to play!

Welcome back! I’ve taken an extended hiatus from the blog due to a chronic condition (unemployment) that I developed back in January. Not to jinx myself, but things might be looking up for me in that department, and I thought I’d celebrate by engaging in an activity that I thoroughly enjoy: spouting off to you, loyal readers.

This three-and-a-half-month period has not just been about me frantically looking for a job. It’s been a soul-searching journey as well. I have a wonderful opportunity to remake myself professionally. In some cases, I’ve taken some chances. The best job I’ve applied for thus far would have taken me to the Middle East for eighteen months covering front line military units for Stars and Stripes newspaper. My wife was surprisingly supportive. As long as I sent the checks home, I could do it. Unfortunately, it did not come to that. They gave the job to someone else. But I feel I grew somewhat as I redefined what I could do professionally. It would have been a tremendous opportunity, but I think there’s a victory in just putting one’s name on the line for a position like that. It’s something I never would have done before.

I continue to apply for mainstream journalism jobs, but I have come to the somewhat painful conclusion that I must, at least for the time being, divorce myself from the idea of working in a conventional newsroom. Most of the jobs I’ve applied for have been public affairs or communications specialist positions with state and federal governments and colleges and universities. What I lack in a public relations background I make up for in twelve years of being a spin recipient. I feel pretty confident I can write press release or broadcast copy that’s not going to end up in the circular file because I’ve spent twelve years of my professional life making that determination myself, from the standpoint of a news writer and editor. And I do admit, the prospect of being on the inside and looking out is quite enticing. I’ve never wanted to be Governor or Mayor of anything. I’ve always been the kind of guy who just wants to serve at someone’s pleasure, whether that person is the President of the United States or the Utah Railroad Commissioner. To paraphrase a line from one of my favorite movies, I’m comfortable being the guy behind the guy behind the guy.

David and Cyndi, another good friend and a helluva performer. This photo was taken on the Beach Trip of 2002 (near Charleston, South Carolina). Good times.

David and Cyndi, another good friend and a helluva performer. This photo was taken on the Beach Trip of 2002 (near Charleston, South Carolina). Good times.

In any time of crisis, there are often more tragic events that help you put your own life into perspective. In late March we lost a dear friend, David. I say “we” because his was the kind of spirit the world needs so much, and because I honestly think that the world is diminished by the loss of such a powerful force of generosity and humor. It was impossible to be in a bad mood when you were around David. Where some people might be accused of sucking the life out of a room, David was the kind of person who radiated positive feelings. I had known David since high school and had the pleasure of getting reacquainted with him years later in Lexington Singers. He was blessed to have a loving partner, Jeff, and scads of friends who will miss the energy he always carried with him wherever he went. My thoughts continue to go out to Jeff and to David’s mom, dad, and sister.

Friends have been an important support system in the last few months, and I’ve been lucky enough to reconnect with several, one of whom I have been out of contact for far too long (I’m not going to tell. I’m mysterious. Live with it). Reuniting as we all have, whether in person or via the magic of the Internets, has been enough to stimulate my creativity and force me to unload some of the things that have burdened me and perhaps held me back from the human race. In spite of my unemployment situation, I feel such a burst of personal power. I think I know where it comes from, and I’ll be damned if I let go of it again.

Wailin' on my horn at MSU homecoming 2008.

Wailin' on my horn at MSU homecoming 2008.

There are other elements (the “little things”) that have helped me cope during this personal crisis. Music has always been a big part of my life, and although I have never achieved any great level of talent at it (other than being featured in a duet on the Lexington Singers Pops Concert Greatest Hits CD…if you were me, you’d probably brag about it too), it is as necessary to my existence as water. And I do love my water. I can’t pin down anything in particular I’ve been listening to in order to pass the time during my exile, otherwise I might have written a “Listener’s Guide for the Unemployed.” Come to think of it, that’s not such a bad idea. Alas, what I find enjoyable is good for me, not for everybody. I will say that there are two pieces of music I’ve listened to in the last three months that never fail to put me in a good mood. The first is “Rhapsody in Blue” by George Gershwin. The other is a 1976 live recording of “Four Brothers” by Woody Herman and His New Thundering Herd. Listening to that one makes me wish I’d been a more diligent study on the saxophone. I wasn’t bad for being self-taught, but no one is ever going to throw undergarments on the stage if I start playing again. Not female undergarments anyway.

I also have been reading more books. I’ve read some real crap and I’ve read some decent stuff. It’s a blessing just to be able to make the distinction. Ordinarily, I’m not much of a reader, but I’m trying to follow the admonition that “writers read,” and it’s helped me immensely. I’m no closer today to finishing the next bestseller than I was three months ago, but I think I’m putting together a great bag of tricks concerning what works and what doesn’t. In my writing exercises, I’ve taken some chances, developed some bravery, “written naked” in a manner of speaking  (try to erase that mental image quickly, would you?) and come up with some surprising results. Will those exercises ever see the light of day? No. They’re only the result of a game of solitaire “Truth or Dare” designed to answer the question “Can I?”.

So, that’s my exile in a rather large nutshell. I hope this heralds a new chapter in my life and that I’m able to put the bad stuff behind me. There’s a song that poses the question: “Is the way to get over someone just to get under someone else?”

In the context of my job, I hope that it is.

Some changes, some additions

As you can see, I have transmogrified “Screaming at the Top of My Brain” into “Cranial Effluence” as the theme for this blog. Not only is it tighter, but, upon reflection, I must admit that as soon as I typed those words in the inaugural entry, I knew that’s what I should have named the blog. It’s certainly more of an indicator as to what the reader can expect to find here in my little corner of the universe.

That’s not to say that you’ll experience a decline in the excellent service that you’ve come to expect here. Nay, nay! I’ve forgone having the letterhead and business cards reprinted, and passed the savings on to you. Aren’t you lucky?!

And just in time for our grand reopening, I’ve added a few friends to the Olde Blogge Roll (just look to the right….there ya go). Walk In Brain is penned by college buddy Wes, a fiery liberal spirit, Indiana’s Favorite Son (in Bizzarro Universe anyway) and the newest assistant professor of music theory at Clayton State University in Georgia.

And in this corner, from Lexington, Kentucky, by way of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, multimedia guru, cyclist extraordinaire, all around good guy and co-worker, and the newest bionic man Greg. He offers his nuggets of wisdom at his blog, PuttPuttSpeedway. If you like cycling, you’ll find it a good read.

Enjoy.