Chuck Barry’s Red Leather Shoes

“Par-ma?!” – Leonard Ghoulardi

Question 1 – Why a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Question 2 – why Cleveland? Question 3 – Does anyone care?

Well we thought we did. Last April, we trekked up to Chicago for that last chance to freeze our asses off before springtime came. It is a good way to give thanks for Miami’s warm but generally wet winters. Arfie said,”Well if we are all the way up there, let’s hit Cleveland on the way back and go to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. We can get some of that Great Lakes beer and pierogis.” Pierogis. I had forgotten about pierogis. We grew up 50 miles south of Cleveland in a Hunky family that had a grandmother who loved to cook. Pierogis, jelly filled crepes, chicken baked in sour cream and paprika, pigs in the blanket – You don’t get any of that stuff in Miami. Cleveland has them all. So I sez, “sure we can do the HoF as long as we can get some of those pierogis first.”

We rented half of a two family I found on Abnb. It was on the west side of town, a part called Ohio City. I’d never heard of Ohio City before but I did know their biggest landmark – the West Market. The West Market is a hangar like structure built in the 1800s. It’s crammed with scores of butchers, bakers, farmers and specialty food stores. They sell pierogis there. So did a restaurant around the corner of our apartment – they had pierogis and beer. And another place just up the street had them and another and another. You pretty much could get pierogis everywhere but odd Thai or Indian restaurant.

There were a lot of other great things about Ohio City besides pierogis. When they built the West Market, Ohio City was full of immigrants that came from Europe’s underbelly to work in Cleveland’s heavy industries a half mile north on Lake Erie. It was blue collar and bosses all thrown together. Their homes are still there – small one and two family framed houses like we were renting, some grand thee story brick houses with big front yards and wrap around verandas. And, where I guess the big bosses lived, a half a dozen stone behemoths that took up half a block surrounded sturdy iron fences.

In the ’60s and ’70s, Ohio City got its share of urban blight as whites moved out (to Parma!!) and the community’s tax based shriveled to nothing. This reversed in the late 90s. Whites moved back in. So did blacks, and Hispanics and Asians. Everybody rehabbed every house they could buy, Great Lakes Brewery built their micro-brewery on Market Street and suddenly Ohio City was the place to live. Ten years ago, gentrification started. Boutiques opened next to consignment shops; a dozen restaurants selling tiny portions of food that cost a lot opened throughout the neighborhood killing any free parking that remained. The West Market started selling $50 bottles of wine, pierogis doubled in price. Abnb rentals opened on every block.

Two miles from Ohio City is Cleveland’s big downtown landmark – Public Square. Public Square is just that. A big square. There is nothing notable in the Square. No grand statue, elegant monument or even a piece of confusing civic art. Just wide swaths of concrete broken up by a park benches flung around a handful saplings planted randomly in the concrete. Mostly the square is there to drive around. Five of the city’s main drags run into it so to switch from west to north or south or east, you first have to go to the Square then circle around it until you got to the road that took you in the right direction. It’s an Americanize version of an English roundabout without the statue in the middle.

We set off for the Hall of Fame Monday morning. To get from Ohio City (west side of town) to the HoF (north east side), you had to go around the Square. Being a stranger in these parts, we went around it twice unaware that the traffic lane on which you entered the Square determined the street you would exit out of. The city apparently felt signage was a waste of money since everybody driving through the city most probably lived in the area. It was no big deal. Cleveland traffic is not like that of New York City or LA or Chicago. It’s more like Albuquerque’s – there is not much of it, and that which is there moves nicely along. (That evening we went to a ball game during rush hour. It was the same deal as the HoF. To get from the west (Ohio City again) to the south (towards Progressive Field) we had to loop the loop Public Square. The traffic moved around the square as licketly split as the big metro buses can go.)

We ended up parking two blocks from the place and an easy walk towards the lake to the Hall of Fame. There we had the luck of the preterite : two school buses were empting out kids right in front of us. Naturally the kids blocked the doors until everybody took a picture of themselves taking a picture of themselves with someone else. Then someone else. After that rigmarole was done, they moved into the building, grabassing along the way. The few adults that seemed to be minding them were more minding their smart phones screens. One of the more unfortunate of them was trying to handout wrist bands while checking names off on a printout on her clipboard. It was a slow process but no one cared. Everyone had the day to kill so why rush it? We just wished we had been their 10 minutes sooner and avoided the whole thing.

I remarked that we were fucked – the kids would be in front of us throughout the whole exhibit, moving at a snail’s pace through one exhibit to another. Arfie figured we would get ahead of them once we got through the ticket process. His theory was that half of them would need to piss so there would be a 30 minute bathroom break before they hit the museum. Arfie was right. Once they got into the lobby with their wristbands checked, it was back to the selfies and grabassing.

Tickets seemed reasonably priced at $26 bucks a head; $25 if you were under twelve or over 65. Not much of a discount. With your ticket, you got a guide. Six stories of stuff. We were excited.

A wondrous pyramid stretching along picturesque Lake Erie (well it’s somewhere around there).

It turns out, our enthusiasm was premature. Firstly, although the HoF building rises five stories above the lake, the main exhibit is in the lower level of the building (An I.M. Pei signature glass pyramid, this time knitted into the beautiful lake setting with as much effect as his Louvre pyramid accentuates the Louise XIII buildings surrounding it, i.e., zero and zero). The ground level consists of a utilitarian food court and a huge Disney sized souvenir store. The second floor was closed and, according to the brochure, has been for some years. The fourth and fifth floors are a SiriusXM studio and an area where visitors can record the thrill of viewing the history of Rock and Roll. Both were empty.

The third floor is the actual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. I am not sure what our expectations were – maybe some memorabilia from its famous members, but again, a letdown. The floor was filled with plaques. The same little plaques they hand out to the inductees every year at HoF ceremonies in NYC. Hundreds of wood blocks with brass name plates. And nothing else. It is hard to ooh and aah over a bunch of wood squares strung from the walls.

The nice café. Still don’t see the lake? Keep looking.

If you were wondering who stills sells CD, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame has your answer.

So there were three things you get for the $26 (or just $25 for kids and grandparents) admission ticket: (1) a basement exhibit of the history of Rock & Roll as envisioned by Ahmet Ertegun, the Atlantic Records founder, (2) the privilege to buy a half an avocado sliced onto a piece of toast for ten dollars, (3) entrance to a Disney designed all exits out of the building lead through Rock & Roll Hall of Fame ToysЯUs like visitor’s store.

What’s in the basement? A lot of stuff. Chuck Berry’s red shoes. A suit worn by Gene Autry (Gene Autry? Rock & Roll? Confused? Read the little signs that explain it all and you’ll still be confused.); actually there are hundreds of suits and dresses worn by nearly anyone who ever made a record, all arranged historically on the exhibit’s maze of walls. Somewhere in the center of the place is the Elvis area. It’s a large oval room upon whose walls hang a dozen Elvis jump suits, lots of shoes and a couple of guitars. A giant video monitor sits in the middle of one wall surrounded by benches. It’s the only seating in the gallery and when we were there, every fricken seat was taken by those old people (enjoying their $25 discount fee!) who actually remembered and/or cared about Elvis. After watching 10 minutes of Elvis performance footage from his Las Vegas days you get one of those ‘I guess you had to be there’ feelings. How could so many people go so gaga over a middle aged crooner dressed up like a color blind drag queen? The people sitting on the benches, that’s who. Reliving the dream.

It was hard not to compare the Cleveland Rock & Roll Hall of Fame with the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. We had been to the CM HoF two times and came away both times thoroughly delighted. We are not big country music fans but after you tour that museum, you come out wanting to tune up WSM on the radio and play it real loud. The CM HoF is many times larger than the Cleveland HoF but it’s not the size it does better – it is how the exhibits are arranged. Yes they have one of Gene Autry’s suits too but you also figure out what Autry sang, who he learned it from and who the singing cowboy influenced in the 1950s. Ernest Tubbs had a small stage in back of his record store and as a young man, Elvis played there along with Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard and dozens and dozens of other stars. They tell the history of it all. Then, you can walk a couple blocks down to Broadway and the Ernest Tubbs Records is still there still selling vinyl.

The Ryman Auditorium became known as the church of country music back in the 40s when everybody owned a radio and WSM broadcast a two hour show from it every Saturday night. You can spend an hour in the HoF reading about the Ryman, look at ton of photos of the early shows with Roy Acuff or Mini Pearl or Hank Williams. When you’re done with that, you can just walk two blocks north on 5th Street and guess what? The Ryman Auditorium. And if you visit during the right time in the winter, you can catch a real live Grand Ole Opry show at the Ryman pretty much as they were when WSM broadcast them seventy years ago. And it goes on and on. Nashville was where country musicians wrote their songs, tried them out at one of the Broadway honky-tonks, than recorded them in RCA Studio B on south 17th Street. If they were lucky and talented enough to make the big time, they bought a big house – In Nashville. The place reeks of music.

Birthplace of Rock ‘N’ Roll? Really? Cleveland!

At least Nashville’s got the country creds.

Cleveland isn’t Nashville so it’s not totally fair to compare the two. But when you build a Hall of Fame dedicated to Rock& Roll, you need to have to have a pretty jazzy museum and perhaps located in a town with some music history. Or at least it should be in a place Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductees actually come to. Cleveland strikes out on all three. Game Over.

As anyone who has spent time in Cleveland will tell you, there are countless reasons not to visit the city. Ohio City is cute and an anomaly. Most of Cleveland sucks. It is just another rust belt city like Detroit or Pittsburgh or Akron – decaying infrastructure, struggling schools, and a dingy downtown. It’s a city a native can love but for the rest of us? Periogis. Go to Cleveland for the Periogis. And Great Lakes Beer. But skip the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame even if you can get that great senior citizen discount.

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Segways: “they could do things that would make us shit in our pants.”


 
 

Jeff Bezos said that in 2001 when he saw a Segway demonstrated to him and Steve Jobs.  We now know that Bezos understands a whole lot more about retailing than he does about transportation.

Dean Kamen said he was thinking about a green alternative a person could use instead of a car when they just needed a carton of milk from a grocery.  He came up with a Segway.  We should be thankful he did not think of some battery operated Sherman tank though the tank might have been safer for its drivers.

We all know how successful Kamen was at solving the getting the carton of milk problem. I can say I have never seen a Segway parked at my neighborhood Safeway in the last 10 years.  But I have been run off sidewalks and bike paths and park trails countless times by Segway riders mindlessly enjoying the outdoors on their expensive little toys.

Ask yourself what purpose do they serve?  Write it down on a piece of paper.  Still looking at a blank piece of paper?  Well cut your losses and admit it – there is no reason for them to exist.  Another clever idea that should have been let to quietly die.

Kamen was a good salesman.  He sold the the company to Jimi Heselden in early 2010 for millions using smoke and mirror sales numbers.  Jimi was probably deep into buyer’s remorse when his Segway killed him in late 2010 (he was riding trails around his house when he belatedly encountered a design flaw he should have known existed – no brakes – and as he approached the edge of the trail going too fast…. well it was oops and over the side for ole Jimi), since Kamen’s estimates of 50,000 units a year turned out to be actually less than a tenth of that when Heselden owned them.

Steve Jobs nailed the concept as soon as Kamen approached him for capital money. “I think it sucks”, said Steve trying to sugar-coat how he really felt. “Its shape is not innovative, it’s not elegant, it doesn’t feel anthropomorphic.”  That was in 2001.  Little has changed since then.


So why?  They are banned in Great Britain, the Netherlands, Denmark, Hungary, and in most of Canada and Spain.  Segways are perfectly legal in most U.S. cities (it is the old NRA matra: Segways don’t run people off the road; people run people off the road) except San Francisco, Boston NYC, and parts of Chicago.  Few individuals buy them anymore.  They were popular as a police toy when they first came out but now, over 80% of the police departments have moth balled them.  They don’t help fighting crime and they are expensive to maintain (the battery replacement alone is about half the original cost of the Segway). 

The only group who benefits from Segways are those little companies in most cities that offer Segway city tours.  The only group.  And the tours are at the expense of anyone walking on a sidewalk or trail or path that in the tour’s way. 

So should Segways be banned?  Ask yourself  – who would miss them?  Like no one.  Who would be impacted – a few dozen people who own tour companies in big American cities. Who benefits – pretty much every one who likes to take a walk or a jog or a bike ride on a pleasant Summer’s day.

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El Agave Revisited


We are not huge fans of tequila.  If you grew up in the Midwest and South, tequila was this sour tasting concoction with a worm in the bottom of the bottle.  Not that we ever saw a worm in a tequila bottle, but a couple of Hispanic friends (who actually never lived in or, from what I knew then, ever visited Mexico) assured us that real tequila (as opposed to the tequila sold in the local State Store) had a potency that put vodka to shame and indeed was always flavored by worm).

As we grew older, we mostly took our tequila in frozen margaritas first sampled at Fat Tuesday’s on South Beach, the sample here being a 16oz plastic cup of this flavor and that, sold from giant rotating barrels though we couldn’t tell you a whole lot about any differences after we got halfway through the second one. This was followed a couple months later in their bar on Bourbon Street and then, frankly, in at a least a half a dozen other Fat Tuesday’s along the eastern seaboard.  A Fat Tuesday’s margarita was not the tastiest drink in the world but Fat Tuesday’s had 10 different flavors, always served in large plastic cups and knocked you on your ass for less than 10 bucks.

After a while, we drifted away from margaritas.  Our tastes grew more towards straight whiskies – bourbon or rye or a single malt was the ticket.  Slow sipping on something with deep flavors and a bite is our preference these days.

A couple of months ago we were in San Diego and sampled some of the numerous Mexican restaurants the city has.  Our friend Richard, a San Diego transplant from Atlanta, suggested a Tequileria called El Agave in the Old Town area.  We had our doubts – our previous excursions into the touristy Old Town had not resulted in any memorable food;  forgettable was probably a better adjective.  And our Mexican beverage of choice remained Cerveza.  A Tequileria specializes in, well, tequila. 

Richard was insistent.  His promise to buy a couple of rounds of tequila for us all was as about as much arm twisting as we needed.

We learned two things that evening at El Avage.  Number one, it turns out one can get pretty good Mexican food in Old Town.  El Avage had a classical mexican menu – a dozen different moles, wonderful combinations pescados and carne, and the best Sopa Mariscos I have ever encountered.

We are better whisky tasters than food critics.  Which leads us to the second thing learned that night – tequila drunk neat is pretty damn tasty.  The number of tequila’s the Tequileria had must have been in the hundreds – the place would put a Scotsman to shame.  We still can’t vouchsafe for worms in the bottle because after our third round, we could barely see the bottles in the dim light.  Richard assured us there were worms.

The tequilas’ tastes were as complex as bourbons or scotches. Some smokey, some dry; they had a tremendous range of subtle flavors that spanned from peppers to cinnamon to nuts to cherries.  Some had a nasty bite to them, but most were almost creamy smooth.    We were impressed.

We are not ready to join the tequila fan club just yet.  But we added Cinco Cantina and El Vato Tequila to our favorite Miami bar list.  We are going to keep testing these babies out.

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Hunting The Wiley G70

It was time to buy a new car. The old one was showing its miles; I was finishing up a contract that would put some money in my pockets. As Winter was ready to turn things over to Spring, I started.

In an era of the web and online car companies, you’d think that purchasing a car would be simpler than it was thirty years ago. But it’s not – the internet lets car manufactures produce slick advertising and an array of gimmicks that allows prospective buyers to compare, build, finance and almost take delivery of any car you want, but when you come right down to buying the car – you end up working with a dealer again. It’s back to selecting something from whatever they have in stock or can find through their national (which means 100 mile radius around them) inventory. With the dealer, of course, you get not to be missed experiences of being upsold every imaginable piece of crap, offered deals on cars you never expressed the slightest interest over, and the time honored tradition of going back and forth between the sales person who gives you a price but is powerless to change it and a ‘manager’ in a back office somewhere that tells the sales person what to say. I’d rather hear an Elizabeth Warren campaign speech than walk on a showroom floor.

The internet has a lot of information to help buy a car. Edmunds and Kelly tells you what a particular new car is selling for in your neighborhood as well as providing estimates on your trade-in. All this information the car sales people will disparage as being biased, obsolete, not applicable to your particular city, that car trim, or any day but when the third Wednesday of the month falls on Friday the 13th. But you at least have a ball park number to tell you how much they aim to screw you.

We all need to buy a car from time to time. For most of us, our car preferences evolve as our money making capacity expands or shrinks. I have never had the money to own a ‘power’ car or any desire for wealth parodies like Cadillac or Lincoln. But this time, I was considering something a little sporty; something with a little flare. When you’re seventy years old, you start thinking that this might be your last car. Why not splurge?

Cockpit of a 2019 Infinity Q50. The nifty CD player is right above the temperature knob.

Where to start? That’s where the internet clicks in, fantasy meets reality, and endless frustration haunts your every day. You think Lexus and Infinity make a nice looking car. Their entry level cars have a lot of pop, look good and cost under 40K. So you began with them. Soon, you figure out that these cars are ancient – their current designs date back to 2012. They have engines with lots of power but those horses primo gas guzzlers and very inefficient. Inside, interiors seem nicely appointed but the electronics dated. Both companies listed a CD player as a not to be missed audio feature. Maybe, but who has even seen a CD since 2015? Their computer technology is panned in all the trade rags -how many new functions can you cram into an eight year old computer? Both Toyota and Nissan admit the cars are on their last design legs and expect to replace them in a year or two but for now – well they are elegant old clunkers. Only a dullard who falls for the cheesy sales brochures would buy one now.

On to the Germans. I threw Mercedes out right from the beginning. If you are someone’s great grandfather and want to upscale from your old Buick LaSabre, Mercedes is the right car for you. That leaves BMW and Audi. They make similar cars similarly priced using the same complicated options approach to create the car you actually will want to buy. It works like this: you start off with a basic model – say a BMW 3 series. The price starts at 35K and for that you get a stylish looking car, a peppy engine and a steering wheel. There is a set of primitive looking seats too but it’s obvious you’d never want to sit in them. From there, you build the rest of the car. You want real seats that are at least covered with a quality vinyl – you order the Convenience Package for 1,200 dollars. How about power adjustments on those seats? 800 dollars. Maybe add a sunroof? There’s an Executive Package for that (2,500 dollars) but you’ll get heaters in seats you just ordered too. How about some basic safety technology, say a Blind Spot monitor– twelve hundred dollars. But you can’t order that without getting the navigation system and that’s three grand. All of a sudden you took a thirty five thousand dollar car and made one that cost fifty thousand. And all this stuff and more is standard on the aged Lexus or Infinity.

$35,700 base price but it takes $56,972 to drive this baby home.

At the end of the day, you realize the Germans know how to both make a great little car and rob you blind at the same time. If you were smart enough to pass on either the Lexus or Infinity, you’ll probably pass on the Germans too.

So what to do? Well why not scan the car magazines and see what they recommend?

The top three car publications seem to be Car and Driver, Motortrend and U.S. News and World Reports (I know, who would have thunk). They all split cars and trucks into dozens of different categories, drive them around then rank them by category. The car we’re looking for is in the small luxury/sports category. Is there something they all like? Yep – the Genesis G70. Car and Driver named in one of the Best 10 2019 cars; Motortrend made it car of the year, and U.S News and World Reports ranked it #1 in the small luxury car category. A Genesis G70. Not a car most of us had ever heard of.

When you dive into the specs for a Genesis G70, it’s not hard to see why it got the awards. It has all the stylish looks you want in a sporty car, boasts a BMW breaking 365 horsepower engine, has about every electronic gizmo known in the industry, and runs about the price of one of those starter Lexus or Infinity cars.

So I got on the Genesis manufacture’s site and built the car I liked. It nice dark blue G70, black interior with snazzy wheel covers. Everything else was standard equipment – you name a feature or function you’d want on a well outfitted car and the G70 pretty much included it (no CD player though). At the end of the build process, you press a button that says ‘Find My Car’. All the manufactures’ sites have this button and it just matches the inventory of nearest dealer to the car you built and gets you the closest thing it can find.

Of course it didn’t find the car I built but there was no surprise there – I built dozens of car through five different manufacture’s build tools and not one of them found the car I built anywhere close to where I lived. What did surprise me was that the closest dealer to me that had any G70s was 400 miles away in Macon, GA. What? There’s a Genesis dealer six miles north of where I live. What about them?

Pompano Genesis – There are two G90s in the showroom, both over a year old. The doors are locked on weekends.

Well it turns out that most of the Genesis dealers in Florida don’t have any Genesis G70s. The Genesis dealer near Pompano has been there for nearly a year. Its showroom has two 2018 Genesis 90s on it. That’s it. No one answers the phone when you call them (you leave a voicemail); nobody responds to an email. At first I thought, this can’t be. The Macon Genesis dealer had 23 G70s in stock and they were priced nicely below sticker. So the car was definitely around.

Want to see a Genesis G70 in the wild? Try Macon, GA.

I tried some other Genesis dealers closer to home. Naples had a lot of Genesis G80s and G90s but no G70s. Hopefully soon, they said. But at least they answered the phone. West Palm Genesis said the same thing and they told me why they are hard to find in Florida. It turns out that there is an approval process a manufacture has to go through with the state before they can sell a particular model. For whatever reason, Genesis dilly and dallied in Florida (or maybe contributed to the wrong person in Florida Governor’s race in last year’s election) and only got a license to sell G70s a couple of months ago. Cars should start showing up any day now. Clearwater Genesis, the same; Jacksonville, ditto; Orlando ditto. Any day now. I waited four weeks. Nothing changed. Could come any day now.

After a while, you figure that if the dealer says ‘any day now’ for weeks and weeks, they know they aren’t getting one for a while. I thought about going to Macon and just buying the thing there but then, where do you get it serviced? Not in the Pompano Genesis dealer with no Genesis’s. Driving 400 miles for an oil change wasn’t going to work either.

So after nearly two months of looking, I gave up on the Genesis. After a little web surfing, I found that Genesis themselves made this mess. In 2017 Hyundai decided to make Genesis a separate division similar to what Toyota did with Lexus. Only they stopped shipping Genesis cars to Hyundai dealers before they had the new Genesis dealers set up. (If Hyundai had been a Japanese car company, a lot of executives would’ve committed seppuku by now. But it’s a Korean company. Nothing another scotch on the rocks can’t fix.). And now they have hundreds of Genesis dealers that exist only on paper but don’t actually sell Genesis cars yet.

In the end, it turns out that it is kind of hard to a buy a decent luxury/sports sedan at a reasonable price. You can overspend on a BMW, overspend on a high priced Accord (Honda calls them Acura’s) or end up with a car that will be technically obsolete in a year. And the American car companies are getting out of the sedan business. At this point, I am just about ready to say screw it and start looking at Ford 150s.

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My Old Kentucky Home

 

I lived in Kentucky in the early aughts. It’s a beautiful state in many ways – the northern part is shaped by picturesque valleys overlooking the Ohio River (which is really in Kentucky), in the center is bluegrass country dotted with stately horse farms and quaint distilleries, and to the very south, lovely mountains and hollows in the foothills of the Appalachians. The rest of the state mostly sucks.

The Boy Governor ran the state when I was there. They called him the Boy Governor not because he had boyish good looks (he didn’t), sophomoric naiveté (he was just plain dumb), or some sort of playful personality (which doesn’t exist in bible thumping Republican (though he did try a humorless comedy bit on the Jay Leno’s Tonight Show)). No he was called the Boy Governor because he knew as much about running a state as an eleven year old boy. And he proved it week after week. His given name was Ernie Fletcher and he was both Baptist minister and medical doctor. Word was, he wasn’t a bad doctor and could deliver a nifty fire and brimstone sermon at a drop of a hat. The good people of Kentucky put him into office because they figured these traits would be a dandy background for a Governor. They found out they were wrong.

The Boy Governor before he was indicted.

What the Boy Governor accomplished in four years of office was ‘not much’. He couldn’t get a budget passed so he ruled by decree for two years. That got him into judicial hot water but like most things that go to court, it got tied up so long that legislature finally figured out they ought to pass some type of spending bill and by the time they did, everyone was too tired for any retributive shanigans . The Boy also said he had no idea that hiring state employees followed some type of process. He thought, you give me something – money, cars, vacations – and I give you a job. Most of his underlings thought that’s how the law worked too. After three years, the whole lot of them got indicted on a riffraff of charges around bribery, conspiracy and perjury. The governor pardoned them all and actually got away with it. Although he was indicted too, he thought pardoning himself might return vigilante hangings back to the state justice system so he made a plea bargain with the Attorney General wherein he regretted doing all sorts of illegal hiring practices but didn’t admit to actually doing them in exchange for a Get Out Of Jail card. Even this was too much for voters. After four years of mayhem,he was trumped out of office.

That was when I left the good state. But I always had a soft spot for buttered corn grits and cheap whisky so kept an interested on what the state was up to. A guy named Steve Beshear thrashed the Boy Governor in the 2007 election. Beshear was a Democrat and Democrats generally fare poorly in Kentucky elections but the Boy Governor had so pissed people off that Beshear got in on a cakewalk. That didn’t stop the Republican dominated senate and house from trying to box him in whenever possible but he did what he could without them. One of the things he did was expand Medicaid coverage to almost 600,000 Kentuckians as soon as the ACA was passed. The Republicans called it a foul deed, but the voters thought different and re-elected him to another term.

Matt Bevin auditioning to sell Chevys in Louisville.

Then came Matt Bevin. That’s when I decided to write Kentucky off. If people were so stupid to elect a man who thought the Tea Party was a little too lefty to be trusted, they have no one to blame but themselves as their homes go up in flames. It’s been only two years but so far he cut state to education by 10%, eliminated grade school/high school academic standards, began disbanding the states ACA support, and implemented two of the worst anti-abortion regulations in the country. He was taken to courts on most of these, but the Kentucky Supreme Court seems to have thrown their ethics into the same morass that Republicans in Congress have and let Bevin make Kentucky Great Again as he saw fit.

As great as it has ever been.

I said at the beginning of this that Kentucky is a beautiful state in many ways. But it has a dark side to it as well. Take away the mountains, horses, the bourbon trail and you are left with a state whose people are devastated.

Just when you were wondering if there was any organization that kept track of all the statistics produced by other organizations, one that does pops up on the internet. The name of its site is Wallethub. Right. The name doesn’t make any sense to me either but they post the largest collection of statistics I have encountered. So I thought – here’s a state with a history of electing morons to office – Fletcher and Bevin to be sure, but don’t forget its Senators. Somehow, Kentuckians elected a guy Hermann Goring could have mentored (McConnell) and another too wacko for even Ted Cruz (Rand). The state is full of Kim Davis’s – you don’t hear about them because then generally stay under their rocks, but they must have a debilitating effect on Kentucky. And they do – you just have to look.

So here’s some stuff that helps explain things – it is all 2018 data (except number 10) that covers all fifty states:

 

  1. Highest number of adults in poor health:            #2
  2. Poorest state by income:                    #4
  3. Highest percentage of people living at the poverty level:    #4
  4. Least educated adult population:                #5
  5. Least opportunity for new jobs:                #2
  6. Highest number of adult smokers:                #2
  7. Highest expenditure on guns and ammo:            #6
  8. Lowest investment in innovation:                #6
  9. Highest Healthcare Uninsured rate 2010:            #4
  10. Highest Healthcare Uninsured rate 2016:            #42

     

These are a pretty dismal set demographics aren’t they. They paint a picture of poor, sick, ignorant people who have little hope of improving things with better jobs, training or education. I doubt if anyone who lives in Kentucky likes that picture.

So what do you do? There is no simple answer. You’d think in a state that invests so little in education, health and jobs, would a low tax rate. Not true – 22 states have lower tax rates that Kentucky and all but three (Alabama, Arkansas and Mississippi) spend more on things like schools and Medicaid that Kentucky. The money is there but where does it go?

And that’s the question the people who live in Kentucky should be asking anyone running for Governor or the Senate or Congress at election time. You get the sense that the current people in office think Kentuckians are too dumb to ask a simple question like that. I hope they keep thinking that. For the most part, the people of Kentucky are a pretty smart bunch of people and when they catch on, there will be some house cleaning to be done.

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The Three Florida’s

When people think of Florida, they usually think of two things: Disney World and sunny beaches. Ask a national politician what they think about Florida and they will tell you there are three of them: (1) Southeastern Florida from West Palm Beach on down to the Keys, (2) a fifty mile wide band that runs from Tampa to Titusville and (3) Everything else. People whose job it is to classify regions in the United States would classify southern Florida as Caribbean, the Tampa to Titusville strip as Urban and Everything else as Deep South. People who vacation in Florida only know about the Caribbean and Urban country. Politicians focus on the Deep South. That’s where the voters are.

I am not from Florida but I have lived in the Miami area for almost thirty years. Today, as it was in 1990, if I travel 70 miles north, I might as well be in Tuscaloosa. And it’s like that for the next 100 miles and the next 100 miles and another 100 miles after that. Except for that little bit of Interstate that runs through Orlando.

    Horse farm in Bronson. Only Texas has more.

There are a lot of things that would seem to most people to be terribly wrong in Florida. The state is a reasonably rich, maybe not a California or New York rich but certainly it holds its own with the likes of Ohio or Pennsylvania and does a fair shade better than places usually thought of as nice places to live – Colorado, Washington and Oregon come to mind. Tourism is the number one income producer here but there are a lot of large national service companies in Tampa, Orlando and Miami. Northern Florida is covered with rich farmland and if they are not breeding horses, they are growing fruits and vegetables for their northern brethren. There is money here, lots of it.

But the voting part of Florida doesn’t like parting with their money. We don’t have an income tax here which the natives and snow birds just love but it also means it’s hard to get money to pay for things governments usually do. Things like education – Florida is 50st lowest state in per student funding. Nobody does screwing kids better than us. What about healthcare? Well Florida ranks 48th
in health access and affordability, prevention and treatment metrics. That comes from the Common Wealth Fund which even the Governor agrees is nonpartisan. Only Louisiana and Mississippi fare worse. The Florida Department of Health offers their own impressive statistics – we have the highest uninsured population in the US, rank 49th in providing mental health services, and have some of the rottenest teeth in the nation. If you live in Urban Florida, 74% of us see a dentist at least once a year; in Deep South, 31%. They don’t eat those grits in Pensacola for nothing.


You can’t swing a cat without hitting a prison in Florida

It goes on –We love prisons. Florida has the highest incarceration rate in WORLD. But for all the fun we have putting people behind bars, we are the third lowest in the amount we spend per prisoner so if you in a jail here, it’s a pretty rough ride. Alabama and Louisiana are worst but only by a couple of percentage points.

Then there’s the drinking water – last year we had more EPA drinking water standards violations than any other state except Texas (of course they have almost twice as many people as we do). It’s pretty bad water. When northerners come visit me in Miami, they notice that the commode always looks like it needs to be flushed. They don’t say anything at first but after they flush it another a couple of times, they figure it’s OK to politely observe that the water in these parts is yellow. I respond, “Yep, and you don’t want to drink it either.”

Potable means you can drink it.

I have a neighbor who works for the State who says bottled water was invented in Florida. He leaves off the reason – only a fool would drink the water here. My water is yellow because the farmers up north dump loads of fertilizers on their fields whose run-off goes directly into the aquifers. Nobody in Deep South Florida gives a shit and when it comes to election time when there could be a change to elect a government that might care to do something about it, the Urban and Caribbean Floridas stay away from the polls. They figure it’s cheaper to buy bottled water.


The Thing That Cannot Be Named

It goes on and on. State employees are forbidden to use the phrase ‘Climate Change’ because our current Governor as well as our last two former ones didn’t believe such a thing exists. If you live in the Miami or Tampa areas twenty years ago, streets were pretty dry throughout the year even if they were a couple of blocks from the ocean. Now we get localized flooding every time there is high tide due to the Thing That Cannot Be Named. Since global warming does not exist in Florida but property insurers have suddenly become reluctant to sell insurance for homes within three miles of a beach, the state stepped in to guarantee any losses insurers might incur if The Thing That Cannot Be Named causes flood damage to a property. The Deep South Floridians haven’t figured out that they are now paying to ensure the big high rises along South Beach. However, they have done a lot more dumber things so I am betting they aren’t going to figure that one out for a long, long time.

The Home Depot in Lake City

What else have we got? Conceal and Carry – you bet – it all started here. Ditto with Stand Your Ground laws. You don’t see a lot of gun slingers out in the open here in Miami but stop in at a Wynn-Dixie (it’s a grocery store chain) in Ocala and it’s like walking along Main Street in Tombstone when the cattle drive comes through.

There is another interesting area that Florida is also a leader in – the number of hate groups that call this state home. The Southern Poverty Law Institute inventories hate groups by state. Last year, Florida had 66 of them, more than any other state except California (‘natch) and tied with Texas (double ‘natch). Some people might say that relates to another interesting statistic – 93% of all white people who shoot someone with a Stand Your Ground defense get off while only 26% of blacks do. I am just saying.

Most people who live in Florida know most of this stuff one way or the other. Maybe not the statistic but certainly the effect. None of us pay income taxes. We like that. A whole bunch of us drink bottled water because we want to live. The larger bunch that don’t drink bottled water eventually gets a dreaded disease but as the chance of them having medical insurance is pretty low, they won’t do much about it until it’s too late and the state has to pay a lot of money to medicate them while they die. Their survivors will still continue to complain the state shouldn’t be providing medical care to anyone anytime – doctoring ain’t the business of the state.

How can you go wrong with Spring Water that has an Eagle on its label?

It is not likely anything will change. The Deep South Florida has been keener on voting than the rest of Florida for the last eight presidential elections. Forget the off year elections – most people in Miami don’t know such a thing exists. So if you ignore elections and nothing changes, well you really can’t complain can you? And that seems to be just fine for every one that lives here – the Urban and Caribbean guys get to keep a whole bunch of tourist dollars every year and no income tax is a nice thing if you think about it that way. Sure you can’t drink the ground water but that’s why Wynn Dixie stocks all those shelves of spring water.

 

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