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8.20.2021, No. 67


⏱️ = 4-minute read (or so)

“I was born the daughter of a general in the Afghan army. When the Taliban came into power, he was killed” — Nadia Nadim, who described escaping Afghanistan as an 11-year-old to WLKY, and whose soccer team, Racing Louisville FC, will play Germany’s FC Bayern Munich tomorrow in Louisville in the Women’s Cup final



A basket of toy soldiers

I’ve noticed this basket of plastic toy soldiers countless times at Fante’s Coffee on Grinstead Drive, but this week was the first time I saw multiple people in line in front of me grab one.


Last Thursday, a friend of mine from Louisville wrote to me about her husband’s deployment, saying: “He’s been safe so far but is in transit. I have no idea when I’ll talk to him again or where he’ll be exactly or how long he’ll be gone. He was just a few weeks shy from dropping off his official paperwork to get out.


“And those poor women and kids there are probably so terrified. I can’t imagine knowing the likely fate of our girls under Taliban rule. I just want him to scoop up all those babies and kids and love and protect them.”


I put my reminder on the windowsill by the front door.

A small toy soldier

2. You should read Jay Caspian Kang’s NYT opinion piece titled “How a ’00s College Debate Team Predicted Today’s Culture Wars,” about identity politics and the effects of class and Ede Warner, who, in 1993, “accepted a tenure track position at the University of Louisville to teach Pan-African studies and coach debate. Over the next decade, Warner and his Louisville team” — the Malcolm X Debate Society — “fundamentally transformed debating at the college and high school levels.


“By routing every debate topic, from NATO expansion to climate change, toward American racism, Warner created a literal hierarchy of who should be heard and what should be discussed.”

3. Scott Recker worked at LEO before last month’s sale of the alt-weekly to Cleveland-based Euclid Media, but, since that purchase, I’ve enjoyed the notes he writes in his new role as editor, including this week’s column about JCPS board member Chris Kolb. Last week, Kolb resigned from his position as vice chairman of the board (he still has his seat) after tweeting “Fuck you” at a state senator who, in response to Gov. Beshear’s school mask mandate, had tweeted, in part: “Did anyone even speak at all to the psychological and educational harm to students wearing masks all day?”


Recker writes, “In a situation where one person’s opinion is essentially visceral hysterics to basic COVID safety protocols that affect the actions of their constituents and, by proxy, the health of the state and beyond, and the other person said a cuss word, we shouldn’t be more upset with the cuss word.”


I checked back in with Miles, my four-year-old preschooler, about having to wear a mask all day, and he said, “Dada, sometimes I forget I’m wearing it!”

4. From the C-J today: “Louisville Metro Government is buying and outfitting a property near downtown” — 212 E. College St., off Brook Street near I-65 — “to serve as the city’s first ‘Safe Outdoor Space’ for unhoused residents.”

5. Yesterday, my friend Stephen George, president of Louisville Public Media, mentioned a 1974 New Yorker story about Louisville titled “City in Transition,” and I’m excited to share more next week, once I’ve spent some more time with the words. While searching for the story, I stumbled upon this 2014 WFPL opinion piece, by my friend Keith Runyon, about the New Yorker’s examination of Louisville in ’74. (Keith, the former editor of the C-J’s editorial page, was kind enough to email me a PDF of “City in Transition.” Opening line: “There are a few cities in this country that one might think of as prima-facie likable, and Louisville is one of them.”) In his commentary, Keith called the piece “remarkably perceptive” but added that the “article also discussed race relations in Louisville, and in retrospect it was too complimentary of how well the races worked together here.” 


A little something from the LouMag archive.

Louisville Magazine's August 2018 cover
August 2018

Last week, a woman named Cassandra Colon left a voicemail telling me her aunt Sylvia Arnett — known to all as Miss Syl at Syl’s Lounge on West Broadway in the Russell neighborhood — had died Monday, Aug. 9, at age 85. Colon and I talked by phone yesterday afternoon. “We buried her yesterday, Wednesday,” Colon said, mentioning the funeral at St. Stephen Church and burial at Evergreen Cemetery, on Preston Highway near Male High School. “This is a devastating blow. There wasn’t a person who knew her who didn’t love her. The mayor even spoke at her funeral,” Colon said. “She never saw the bad in people, and there’s a lot of bad out there. She fed people. If you didn’t have bus fare, she would just pay for it, not worried if you would pay her back.”


In 2018, Chris Kenning profiled Miss Syl for a Louisville Magazine cover story, writing, “She might pass as just another senior at a church picnic, but in her bar she’s a celebrity in a silver necklace of interlocking rings and an elegant white V-cut blouse. She carries herself with a quick step and wields a buoyant wit that belies her age. Her short hair and gold-accented eyeglasses obscure brown eyes that, in equal measures, telegraph a onetime Marine wife’s no-bullshit stoicism and grandmotherly kindness.


“The bar’s over-50 regulars surround her. Many are bonded by time, by lives spent navigating similar touchstones: childhoods in west Louisville neighborhoods; strict parents who took no lip; factory jobs out of high school; urban renewal; civil rights and busing; family picnics in Shawnee Park; plant closures; pensions; life’s everyday setbacks and small victories. One of Syl’s sons calls the bar ‘the Black Cheers.’”


For the story, the Rev. Kevin Cosby, Miss Syl’s pastor at St. Stephen, told Kenning, “Those of us who remember west Louisville when there were movie theaters, restaurants and more strong, stable families” view Syl’s Lounge as “a throwback to what we used to have. And I think maybe psychologically people see in her institution the hope of what is yet possible.”


Just me, or are the recent headlines — you know, war and plague and our roasting planet — coaxing you into the fetal position? I moved to Louisville in 2007 to work at Louisville Magazine as a staff writer, my first job out of college, and whenever the stress started to overwhelm, I’d sneak away for an afternoon movie at Village 8 (which, I’ve been meaning to mention, reopened last month). Anybody else up for a $3 matinee next week? Been wanting to see Annette, whose standing ovation at Cannes lasted longer than it took you to read this newsletter, but the trailer gave me anxiety. Maybe Boss Baby 2? When I asked Emilia, my second-grader, about it, she said, “Daddy, will you please tell me why you haven’t seen Boss Baby 2 yet?”

Josh Moss
editor, Louisville Magazine

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