“This is the best place I’ve ever seen!!!” — Emilia, my first-grader, last night while gazing at toy-aisle junk, inside a Walgreens for the first time since before the pandemic. Low bar, parents. Low bar.
1. Louisville.com has a new look thanks to our collaborators at Kertis Creative. (I know, I know, I’ve been mentioning the site’s transformation in the newsletter since basically Louisville’s founding, so I thank you, thank you, thank you for your patience. (Although, because of the pandemic time warp we’ve been living through, where seconds can feel like weeks and months can feel like minutes, maybe the launch is right on time?)) Special slow clap goes to Annie Langan and Andrés Orrego at Kertis, and to our production coordinator Alex Winters.
👏…👏 …👏👏…👏👏👏…👏 👏👏👏👏👏👏. Watching you create something beautiful was a rare highlight in 2💩2💩.
We are considering this a “soft launch” and will be tweaking things in the coming days and weeks, figuring out our new web rhythm, so please do let me know what you think, and what problems you find.
2. Over the summer, during the peak of protesting, one of the most talented writers I know, Taylor Killough, started reporting this new profile of activist Shameka Parrish-Wright, who works for the local chapter of the Bail Project and recently announced that in 2022 she’ll be running to become the first Black person and first woman to be mayor of Louisville. Killough’s lede:
Before the women marched in the streets, the reverend told them a story.
“There was a woman named Hagar in the Bible,” she said. “Let me tell you something about the strength of Hagar. Hagar prayed one prayer: ‘Lord, do whatever you want to me, but save my sons.’
“That’s the spirit of a Black woman.”
A few feet away, Shameka Parrish-Wright closed her eyes and thought, Thank you. And then: We’ve got so far to go.
3. In this newsletter I’ve made my fair share of jokes about what seems to have become acceptable pandemic drinking — competing recycling bins piled high with empty cans and glass bottles, that interminable coffee-becomes-cocktails routine — but the reality is that my family tree has too many roots soaked in addiction.
In LEO this week, Danielle Grady has a powerful story titled “Staying sober, connected in the loneliest year: the COVID curse for those in recovery,” which ponders “the long-lasting effects of the pandemic on addiction.” Grady writes, “In Louisville, 582 people died of overdoses in 2020, the year that COVID cut people in recovery off from family, friends and resources…For comparison, from 2015-2019, 334 people died on average each year of overdoses in the city.”
Last spring, as part of a three-month time capsule of life under lockdown, a man in recovery named Evan told LouMag, “It’s really easy to pick up a bottle or a drug when you’ve got nothing else to do and you’re bored and feeling sorry for yourself. And today, with COVID, that’s more real than ever. Because my addiction spurred out of isolation, having some sort of connection with people is huge for my recovery.”
4. It’s only February and I’m hitting my Jack Harlow newsletter quota for the year: The rapper from Louisville is the current digital cover star of SPIN, and on March 14 he’ll be up for Best Rap Performance at the Grammys for “WHATS POPPIN,” which made Spotify’s career-launching Rap Caviar playlist and has been played more than 700 million times on the streaming service. From SPIN: “As exhausted of a character trope as this is, young Jack Harlow was very much just a regular kid. His writing ability is what made him irregular. It also gives him a puncher’s chance at becoming the preeminent star of his generation.”
I spent a year working on a profile about Harlow — from being a recent Atherton grad in 2016 to performing onstage at Forecastle in 2017 — and I’d love for you to check out the story’s fresh design on our new site. Back then he was 18 years old and sitting in the basement of a rental on Berry Boulevard, just around the corner from the Déjà Vu strip club not far from Churchill Downs, telling me, “I’m young. But I’m impatient. It’s crazy to be able to see your prime and not be there yet.”
5. And here’s how Call Me Kat, the FOX sitcom set but not filmed here, portrayed Kentucky this week: “You know, gyms weren’t a thing when I was a kid. We just climbed trees, chased livestock and danced for the lord.” Also: “I’ll have to leave the part out about where I took my donkey to the prom. Kids don’t want to hear a love story.”
Oh, and apparently a white-haired, handlebar-mustachioed, intimidating reporter named Jordan Evan Luther does an annual Twenty Under Forty project for the C-J that leads to a “pretty certificate” and big raises for the names on the list. Mr. Evan Luther, hit me up! firstname.lastname@example.org.
A little something from the LouMag archive.
Bob Hill, the legendary former C-J columnist (take that, Mr. Evan Luther!), had a piece in the paper about, “at 78 and diabetic,” receiving the vaccine in Jeffersonville, Indiana. He wrote about pulling into the clinic set up behind Hangers Pharmacy while “the guy on the radio announced the American death toll from COVID-19 had just passed 400,000, with a good chance a half-million of us could be dead by the end of February.”
Hill’s words about the pandemic’s death toll — “two Americans…dying every minute” — reminded me of something he wrote for the magazine in 2009, during the stretch when he was penning a monthly back-page column. A memorial called The Moving Wall, 252 feet of black aluminum to honor Vietnam War casualties, had made a stop “in the wet grass and unavoidable mud” across the river at the Clark County 4-H Fairgrounds. “A spiral book containing the names of the Vietnam dead was more than 500 pages thick, the names stacked tightly into single-spaced lines in small type — two columns to a page,” Hill wrote. He and other volunteers took turns reading names over “20-minute periods for 72 consecutive hours, roughly 800 names an hour, 13 names a minute — one name every 4.6 seconds for three days.
“The names of the dead floated through the damp night air in perfect military cadence, then dissolved into the gloomy black sky — each name to be followed by another and another and another and another until 58,253 men and women would be counted in the precise order of their deaths.”
Bri took our four-year-old, Miles, to snowy and hilly Joe Creason Park Thursday afternoon during her lunch break, and he said, “The virus can’t catch us on this sled.”Miles, my four-year-old, was on a spotty-service FaceTime call with his Grammy, whom he doesn’t get to see in person like he did pre-pandemic, and he said, “I wish ‘poor connection’ was never invented.”
editor, Louisville Magazine