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    This article appears in the February 2012 issue of Louisville Magazine. To subscribe, please visit

    The only cities lower on the happiness scale, the magazine’s researchers say, are Detroit (99), Memphis (98), and St. Petersburg and Tampa in foreclosure-clogged Florida (100 and 97 respectively).

    Imagine the shock, horror, anxiety and anger the “Possibility City” folks — heck, even a good share of those who make fun of “Possibility City” folks — have been working through since Thanksgiving. Here you’ve got a place that, just a few years ago, picked up the award as the most “livable” large city in America from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and now its reputation — discourtesy of the best-selling men’s magazine on U.S. newsstands, whose six-sentence story and listing were picked up by 100 or so online sites — is dog doo among impressionable people everywhere.

    Go ahead, say it: “Hand me the pistol — we are finished.”

    And I know why; everyone should know why. The absence of Mayor Jerry. Our bigger-than-life cheerleader has left the scene. Ain’t no sunshine when he’s gone. No giant-smile (that smile!) ribbon-cuttings. No high-pitched podium power — just a Kevin Bacon drone. If Jerry were still here, we’d all be happy, employed, free from pharmaceutical crutches. But he’s not — he’s in Frankfort now, and we’re all a bunch of sad sacks without him. Just ask Men’s Health.

    When Jerry was here, we were riding along like a cigarette boat on the Ohio River — a city of cities by the assessments of various publications and associations. The seventh-safest metropolitan area in America and one of the most underrated too. We were the best large city for relocating families, the fifth-most-affordable for family health insurance, the ninth-fittest, a top-25 place to retire, the seventh-best town in America. Now look at us — a bunch of unemployed, suicidal, antidepressant-popping Debbie Downers, getting sand kicked in our faces by paradises such as Fargo, N.D. (3); Omaha, Neb. (4); and Sioux Falls, S.D. (7).

    I understand there are a few Louisvillians out there who think the veracity of these month-by-month “researched” pronouncements is laughable (even amid our gloom) — about as weighty as a grain of salt. Men’s Fitness, a competitor of Men’s Health, may have found us the ninth-fittest city in 2006, they’ll say, but three years later it named us the 10th-fattest. And Jerry was still mayor then.

    Point well-taken, I guess, if it weren’t coming from depressed people.

    Illustration courtesy: Carrie Neumayer

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