Where We Went This Year! (22,000 miles of driving!)

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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Louisville, KY

The Promised Land. The End of the Drought. The Beginning of the Future.

The Return of Butley.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Tag’s great. Some day, if I ever have need of a service dog, I’d love to have a pal like Tag to actually get things for me that I couldn’t get on my own, to open doors for me, to go with me to work and to the movies … and to bowling alleys!

But in the meanwhile, able-bodied, late-sleeping, and bearded (read: hidden cost of shedding) as I am, bring me back my boy.

Nicole and Eric had it all planned out: drive to Louisville, swap the dogs that Monday night, and spend the rest of the week riding bikes. It … didn’t quite work out like that. They drove to Louisville, we swapped the dogs, and … well … that’s where the plan went awry.

But let me back up – I have no photos of our reunion with Butley because a) it was literally at midnight, b) we were in a poorly lit park just over the river in Indiana, c) I knew I wanted to spend the time getting slobbery kisses and wrestling. So you’ll just have to trust me when I tell you that we were nearly BOWLED OVER by the gleefully rampaging ball of muscle that Butley had become! Other people, in a dark park, late at night, in a strange city, with a pit bull charging them down, open-mouthed and snorfling like a rutting moose, might be afraid. Understandably. We, however, were thrilled.

And as soon as Butley saw the big red Forester he’d spent so much time in already this last year, he hopped right up and in the back seat. “Right, OK – on with the show!” he seemed to be saying. And while we stayed out in the park and traded brief Butley and Tag tips, bags of food, toys, beds, leashes, and the like for awhile longer, after a long day of travel for everyone, we were all just as happy to cut it short for the promise of a lunch tomorrow and to have the proper catching up when and where it would be a little more comfortable.

So – Butley’s back. All hail the big-head.

Louisville was another one of those towns where Angie and I had both worked, had a pretty good sense of where we were and what the place was like, and with Butley back in our care, we were pretty happy to spend the time just wandering the new Waterfront Park they have. It’s a great new development that is new since either of us had worked at Actors Theater of Louisville. Before, it was just an abandoned, industrial area. Now, it’s a place for the whole town to enjoy, and it promises to give a good shot in the arm to the downtown economy and quality of life.

We always knew there were good restaurants there, and while we only went somewhere other than the Einstein’s Bagels in the hotel lobby a couple times, it was never disappointing. Proof is the newest noteworthy addition to the downtown dining scene. While a few local cognoscenti resent all the attention its gotten and consider it a bit out of place, we thought it was terrific. Kate Hampton, Angie’s understudy, was practically drooling at the thought of their burgers. And I gotta say, it’s some seriously good eats; married with an off-beat design that straddles quirky and trendy without sacrificing too much of the just-plain-weird on which Louisville’s arts scene prides itself.

“Keep Louisville Weird” reads a slogan you’ll see on bumper stickers or posters here and there. It’s not the only city to herald itself thusly. I’ve seen “Keep Austin Weird,” “Keep Portland Weird,” I think there may be a “Keep Seattle Weird,” although I think it’s a little late for that place. But all of these cities are cities that – if I had a job that kept me there – I have no doubt I could find a very happy life for myself. Angie as well. Funky coffee shops, atavistic LP record shops, art galleries for self-taught artists, and local dignitaries that could only happen there. So, if New York ever gets too much (if I ever actually live there for any length of time), I think one of my chief criteria may be, “Is it weird?”

The one decidedly NOT weird, and frankly kinda depressing, thing about the downtown Louisville scene is the 4th Street Live trainwreck of the kinds of bars they must scout out for those “Girls Gone Wild” videos. Loud, typical, anonymous, and full of so many flashing lights, television screens, and gimmicky restaurants that you KNOW it’s going to be a drag just as you walk up to it. If you’re going to Louisville, I suggest you avoid it.

We did enjoy the street musicians there. Maybe because it’s a new thing, I don’t know, but it was more than some guy with a plastic pail drumming brilliant but piercing rhythms that echo off the buildings. It was 5-piece bands, acoustic guitarists who actually had a good voice, and … outfits. It almost felt a little like New Orleans.

Which would be appropriate, since Louisville shares the same municipal logo – the fleur de Lis. You’ll see it all over – in reference to King Louis, I imagine, the town’s presumptive namesake.

That and the orange fire hydrants.

But we also spent time with Nicole and Eric, going over some of Butley’s training. And our little foursome somehow has the proclivity to talk. A lot. And so we did. Among the topics were a couple ideas Eric and I have been throwing around for fundraising for Paws & Effect, their canine service program. And Tag also had to go to the vet – it seems the meds he was taking for flea and tick prevention only work … on fleas. And after his romp in the woods, he came back with – a LOTTA ticks. We thought we had gotten all of them. But a couple had to be handled by a vet. So, that took up one day. And then we had a little remedial work we had to go back over with Butley, and that took up one day. And we had to meet to give them Tag’s food. And that took up an afternoon. And … well … unfortunately they didn’t get a lot of riding in, during the break.

But they had a true vacation from work, and hopefully they won’t resent us forever. (Right guys?)

Angie and I both did a little perusing the Bardstown Road area, a favorite for both of us. Walking along, I thought back to the bike I bought at Bardstown Bicycles, the days I spent flipping through the music at Ear-X-Tacy, and getting Coffee at the Metro Café, back when I was working at the Humana Festival.

And, this being the home of the LebowskiFest, I did have to look to see if I could find a rug. You know. Something to tie the room together.

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