New Shoes in the Rain

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Drive (and park) at your own risk

My home city of Lexington, Kentucky has always struggled with finding an identity for its downtown area.  When I was a kid I remember the phrase "urban renewal" being thrown about pretty regularly, and gradually a few new office buildings, a couple of hotels and Rupp Arena, home of the Kentucky Wildcats basketball team, all were built.  A few other developments have taken place in the the thirty years since all of that development, but not all that much.  But things appear to be moving along now.

The catalyst?  An upcoming event called the World Equestrian Games.

Now, to be fair, I'm not a devotee of equestrian sports.   My understanding is that this series of events involves a great deal of training and dedication, and I do not wish to demean anyone who participates in this sport.  But the Lexington area is making significant investments in infrastructure in order to accommodate the large numbers of visitors (competitors and spectators, one would assume) who are expected to visit the area during this event.

As a result several major thoroughfares look like war zones at present.  One major artery has had several blocks between the University of Kentucky campus and downtown Lexington closed for months, while work was performed on storm sewers and other utilities.  And just today I found lanes closed on three different streets, making it difficult to escape the downtown area, where I lunched with a friend.

That brings me to the fly in the ointment for today.

I learned today that in 1983 the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government set up provisions for a downtown parking authority.  Apparently this concept is popular in other cities, but this was completely obscure until 2008, when the authority came into reality and began charging exhorbitant rates for metered parking.

Why do I know this, you ask?  Because I got a parking ticket today.

Yes, I inserted well over a dollar of coins to ensure that I was parked legally on a side street adjacent to the site of today's lunch.  As my friend and I emerged from the restaurant I saw a parking enforcement worker ("meter maid" is a little outdated, I would think) and I actually commented to my friend that I hoped I got to my car before did.  I then heard laughter as this parking person walked away from me down the street.

And then I arrived at my car and saw something stuck in the windshield wiper.  A citation for $15.  Turns out that the chap who enforces parking on that street---a street upon which mine was the ONLY car parked when I arrived and when I left--had, in fact, arrived on the scene no more than two minutes before I did.


That's not all.  The citation goes on to say that if it's not paid in ten days, the fine DOUBLES.  Instructions were provided on appeals and such, and there was a phone number, so in order to allow myself time to cool off a bit I elected to wait until I arrived back at home before calling.

When I called I spoke with a pleasant woman, who after hearing me rattle on for a minute or two suggested that I speak with her manager.  He came on the line and was a little too chipper for my liking, and apparently had heard all of this before....the outrage of paying so much for metered parking and STILL getting a ticket.  How this discouraged people from visiting downtown.  How it would be a LONG while before I parked at a meter unless I had absolutely no choice.

This fellow then explained to me that the Lexington Parking Authority, or LexPark, is a self-supporting entity, and that their existence is owed to the merchants of Lexington's downtown area.  Turns out that these merchants apparently felt that too many office workers were hogging up all of the parking meters, as that's cheaper than buying a monthly spot, so these merchants BEGGED the city leadership to put something in place to reverse the trend.

If you're a resident of the Lexington area and find this parking nonsense as disagreeable as I do, the executive director of LexPark is Gary Means.  He can be reached at 859-231-PARK.

Well, now that I've had my "get off my lawn" moment, I feel so much better.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reflections from the road

As I write this post, I'm sitting in a bakery in Montgomery, Alabama, in a behind-numbing chair that apparently has seen its better days.  I've just about concluded a three day road trip for my company and my fourth travel day of this week.  This trip involved sales calls and representing the organization in a charity golf event outside of the city here.  With all of that in mind, I have some open questions I'd like to pose to no one in particular....

Isn't it nice to hear everyone (or nearly everyone, anyway) speak with a lilting Southern drawl?

This part of the country has endured some pretty serious rain over the past several weeks.  With that being the case, how can a golf course have such rock-hard ground all over it?  About the only thing that was soft were the greens.  Everything else was hard-pan with very short and spotty grass.

Why do certain parts of the country NOT restrict smoking in certain places, like restaurants?  The information on the health risks of second-hand smoke are available for all to see, isn't it?

We had good, if hot, weather for our golf event yesterday.  Then last night a major storm system blew through the southeast and dropped significant rain on the Montgomery area.  How, then, did the power in the hotel go out THIS MORNING?

OK, enough questions.

My beloved Cincinnati Reds have been a great source of pride over the past couple of weeks, winning the majority of their games and surging briefly into first place in their division.  They lost two heartbreakers in Atlanta over the past couple of days (one more question--why was the Reds-Braves game not televised Wednesday night in the Montgomery area?) but I'm very hopeful the boys will shake it off and resume their mostly winning ways.

Saw a blurb this morning that Tiger Woods' apparently estranged wife Elin is going for the fences, asking $750 million and FULL custody of the couple's two children.  Pay up, Tiger.  Allowing this sordid set of circumstances to drag on cannot be good for anyone involved.

And, with that, it's time to head to the airport to head for home.  Have a good weekend!

Friday, May 14, 2010

If you build it, they will......sell it?

Just saw this news item reprinted from the Des Moines (IA) Register and paraphrased here:

Iowa's world-famous “Field of Dreams” is for sale.  The field featured in the 1989 move is part of a 193-acre tract that the Lansing family have had in their family for more than 100 years.They're asking $5.4 million for the field and surrounding farmland plus the house used in the movie.
The sale will be conduced without stipulations, meaning the new owner could potentially plow under the field, just as the fictitious Ray Kinsella was urged to do by his bankers in the movie.

Now, if you're not a baseball fan, or a movie buff, or a Kevin Costner fan, perhaps you've not seen this gem from 21 years ago.  But if you are any of those things, then you know that this is almost sacred ground.  Because I've actually been there!

One of those odd convergences of circumstances wherein our daughter was moving to Denver for a residency in her field, and so my one and only condition of helping was that my wife and I return via Iowa so that I could see this sight for myself.  And it didn't disappoint, save for the fact that the corn was only ankle-high at the time of our visit.

My wife is not really a baseball fan, but thankfully she's a big Rick fan.  So if that's what I wanted, she was all for it.  And so we trekked eastward from the Denver area, north into Wyoming, then east through Nebraska and Iowa until we got within fifty or so miles. We were among the first visitors that day (a Friday, if I recall correctly) and we were there a couple of hours.  By the time we left there were about twenty or thirty people there, mostly families, but all delighted to see a baseball diamond amid cornfields.

I had a ball, a bat and a glove, and my wife threw me a pitch that I couldn't help but rip into left-center field so that I could run the bases.  One of my favorite photos of her depicts her sitting atop the bleachers from the movie (they're still there, too) with a big smile.  Probably amused at what a goof her husband became the minute we arrived.

Speaking of smiling, I don't believe I stopped grinning until we hit a major traffic jam outside of Rockford, IL later that day on our way into Chicago.

The field was at one time owned by two families, the Lansings, who owned the house and the majority of the field itself, and another family who owned the left two-thirds of the outfield.  Rumor has it that at one time the latter group actually plowed under their share of the field and then came to their senses and helped restore the field.  Later the Lansings bought out the other family, so it's all theirs until they find a new owner.

Amazingly, there is no charge to visit, despite the Terrence Mann comment that "they'll hand over the money and not even know why they were doing it."

My most cherished reminder of that visit is a framed poster showing the house and field from a somewhat elevated view.  It hangs in our garage to this day.

I wouldn't presume to tell the Lansing family what to do, but here's hoping that the next owners recognize what a special place this field has to some of us and keep it as it is, for all to enjoy.

After all, "if you build it, they will come."  We did.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Of sleeping ballplayers, torn Tigers and others

Lots of fodder in the recent sports headlines to chew on....

First and perhaps most disappointing if true:  there are reports from anonymous sources (is there another kind in a situation like this?) on the Seattle Mariners that Hall-of-Famer-as-soon-as-he-retires Ken Griffey, Jr. was not inserted as a pinch-hitter in a recent game, ostensibly because he was ASLEEP in the clubhouse!  Frankly, Griffey always seemed to have enough respect for the game that I find this hard to believe, but you just never know.  And the players were supposedly younger players who like and respect Griff, so, again, it's hard to tell what's what.  Very telling, though, that both Griffey and the team's manager were very quick to refute the report.  What IS true and not in dispute is that Griffey's offensive production is so poor that he doesn't even serve as the designated hitter in every game.  He's batting around .200 (that's not very good, for any non-baseball fans reading this) and has not hit a home run this year.  If your heart's not in it, Junior, retire with your dignity intact.

Someone who apparently has less and less of his own dignity these days is Tiger Woods.  As someone wrote online recently (and I'm paraphrasing), every time you think this guy has hit bottom something else happens or surfaces to make things even worse.  And Tiger not only was a non-factor in the recently completed Players' Championship (won by diminutive first-time winner Tim Clark), but he withdrew mid-round Sunday with some sort of neck injury that he now says has been bothering him for over a month (but that he didn't mention at the Masters, apparently).  Then news broke Monday night that Hank Haney, the architect of Woods' most recent swing rebuilding project, had decided to end his relationship with Tiger.  I heard a former pro golfer comment that the "swing coach" role is highly overrated, but it's no secret that several golfers, including Phil Mickelson, enjoy a new level of success after changing "swing coaches" from time to time.  If I'm Tiger and half of what has been printed about me is true, I simply disappear from golf AND public view.  For at least a year.  But that's me.

Happier subject, for me, at least.....if you're scoring at home, the Cincinnati Reds have won 10 of their last 14 games and their starting pitching is FINALLY looking like many of us thought it would this season.  And they're producing offense, which is a nice treat after squeaking out wins with little or no offensive production for so long.  Hope they can keep it up through Sunday, when a couple of friends and I will trek to Great American Ball Park to see the Redlegs play the Cardinals.

Now, let's be careful out there.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The whole wide world

This entry isn't about any one subject....

First, I find it repugnant that BP is acting as though it's not REALLY their responsibility to clean up the massive and ever-growing oil slick that threatens to contaminate the Gulf of Mexico's coastal areas for the next several years.  Simply put, you break it, you bought it, in my opinion, so in that context it IS BP's responsibility.  But this doesn't really strengthen anyone's argument that "drill, baby, drill" is going to be the answer to our domestic energy needs, at least not without destroying the environment in any part of the country where drilling will take place.  

This, of course, does not in any way contemplate what happens to those who work the ocean for their livelihood, namely the commercial fishing and shrimping boats.  And I agree with those who wrote that they don't understand why this event has caused gasoline prices to spike 10 cents a gallon.

Glad to get that off my chest.

Saw that last night an unruly fan at Citizens' Bank Park in Philadelphia was tazed by police after he entered the playing field, a definite no-no.  This is the same place where a man deliberately vomited on neighboring fans after those neighbors saw to it that the man's friend was removed for bad behavior. Turns out the victim was a police officer from a neighboring community, out with his daughter.  And lest we forget, this is the same city where fans once booed Santa Claus.

The Kentucky media and blogosphere is up in arms after John Calipari's first Kentucky basketball team turned in a less-than-stellar classroom performance, among the lowest ranked in the Southeastern Conference.  I'm afraid it's this simple--you can have stand-up student-athletes who perform well in the classroom and play hard on the field or court, or you can have absurdly talented ballplayers whose primary interest in college is the athletics, and not the academic benefits.  Just can't have both.

The local newspaper just detailed some comings and goings from local television stations' news/weather staffs.  Really, can you imagine anything more thankless than having to pay dues at a small market or lower rated station, and moving very slowly and gradually up the ladder to bigger and bigger markets (if your talent allows)?  Good thing most businesses don't work that way, or else we'd all give up and work retail or something.

My blogger buddy from The Queen's Ramblings (check out her blog, there's a link here somewhere) is beginning to worry me with all of this talk about dresses, handbags and now mascara.  I mean, you'd think she's a GIRL or something!