⏱️ = 4-minute read (or so)
“Done hibernating / Among the living / I didn’t think I’d make it.” — My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James last Saturday night at Railbird, practically howling the lyrics to “Spring (Among the Living)” — a song from 2015 I’ve heard live before, but whose lyrics, in the context of surviving a plague, now haunt me.
1. While reading about America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, I found an in-memoriam USA Today piece that lists every single one of the “at least 2,456 American service members [who] died in operations Enduring Freedom and Freedom’s Sentinel.” It includes 43 soldiers from throughout Kentucky: Benton and Dry Ridge and Bowling Green and Catlettsburg and Paducah and Van Lear and Morehead and Philpot and Dixon and London and Owensboro and Mount Olivet and Corbin and Fort Thomas and Rineyville and Lexington and Tollesboro and Radcliff and Richmond and Dayton and Florence and Buffalo and Morganfield and Greenup and Woodburn and Fort Campbell and Lawrenceburg and Stanton and Bellevue and Worthville and Independence. The names from the Louisville area who died in Afghanistan:
Clayton Lee Adamkavicius was 43 when he died on April 21, 2006.
Adam James Ray was 23 when he died on Feb. 9, 2010.
Kristopher David Chapleau was 33 when he died on June 30, 2010.
Aaron Matthew Faust was 22 when he died on April 15, 2012.
Michael Shane Pridham Jr. was 19 when he on July 6, 2010.
2. Several outlets had stories about how Metro Councilwoman Cassie Chambers Armstrong “backs off [her] plan to move up last call at Louisville bars,” instead focusing on a bipartisan “late-night safety plan.” (Of Armstrong’s original proposal to move up last call from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., Kelsey Westbrook, of NoraeBar in NuLu, wrote in a C-J opinion piece: “We are just now getting our heads above water and the delta variant has thrown yet another preventable hurdle in our paths. We have been drowning for a year and a half. To stop our sales at 2 a.m. would simply be attaching a weight to our ankles when we’re so close to the shore.”)
Armstrong, who’d filed an ordinance to move up last call amid surging gun violence, told the C-J, “I think: Why burn bridges when you can build them? Filing this ordinance brought a lot of people to the table to really engage in conversations that people weren’t as eager to have a few weeks ago.”
Listening — actually listening to dissenting voices — and changing your mind?
Slow clap. 👏…👏 …👏👏…👏👏👏…👏 👏👏👏👏👏👏
3. One of the most creative collaborators I know, designer Sarah Flood-Baumann, brought the food-and-drink service industry’s words to life for our new issue, which we sent to the printer this week. Here’s some of her design:
I asked Sarah about her design approach, and she said: “Anyone else stress-eat throughout this whole damn pandemic or is it just me? These past 18 months, the service industry kept my belly full and kept my daughter from having to eat burnt grilled cheese at every meal. This industry sustained us, comforted us and fueled us into another day, and for that, the chefs, waitstaff, bartenders and everyone in between deserve all the recognition. In the most Louisville way possible, I wanted to design a cover that said to the restaurant and bar folks, ‘You’re the best. Thank you.’ Just as the winner of the Kentucky Derby receives a blanket of roses, I thought the service industry deserved their own version.
“Photographer Sophia Mobley shot the cover and interior food images in her studio. Inspired by our favorite takeout spots, the artistic direction was to be a bit messy, greasy, drippy and so yummy. Sophia made me very hungry in the process.
“Illustrations by Mitch Wiesen and Liz Richter highlight the outrageousness of the pandemic. We’ve asked our servers and kitchen folks to balance the unbalanceable, to walk the tightrope of staying safe and keeping the lights on, and sometimes it seemed like owners and managers were drowning in a sea of shrimp and grits.
“So many of the folks interviewed for this issue had a quippy response or penned a poignant answer to our questions. To document and highlight these viewpoints, I created type-focused pull quotes that I want you to tear out (or use a steak knife or pizza cutter!) from the magazine. Post these up on the wall to laugh at the absurdity of it all or as a reminder to stay resilient and steadfast.”
I also asked illustrator Mitch Wiesen about their creative process: “I usually start with lots of thumbnail sketches, exploring different ideas, compositions, layouts, etc. Once I have a couple that I’m happy with, I start sourcing reference photos. Some things I draw from memory (cherries and waves and plates and bowls come to mind), but for more complicated forms, like people, I always prefer to source a nice reference photo. This issue required googling some unusual yoga poses, 1900s plate spinners and statues of the Greek god Atlas, among other things.
“The illustration style, from the line weight to the colors to the textures, are very much within my signature style. I love making things that are simple and bold and fun to look at. In terms of the content, it was important to me to showcase the strength, courage and resiliency that service workers showed over this past year, as well as the extreme exploitation they faced as they were pressured, and in many ways forced, to work thankless jobs under dangerous and deadly conditions with some of the lowest hourly wages of any industry in this country. We, as a nation, are deeply indebted to our service workers.”
I could remind you about the interminable waits for water and food and booze (especially on Saturday) last weekend at the Railbird music festival at Keeneland. (At one point, I turned to my friend and fellow writer, Chris Gaitten, and said, “How long does it take to get a beer at Railbird? Leon Bridges’ entire hour-and-15-minute set.” “Plus like 20 minutes,” he replied.) But that’s not what I’ll remember. What’ll stick with me is how basically every member of every band I saw — the Black Pumas, the Revivalists, Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, Dave Matthews Band, My Morning Jacket — just couldn’t stop smiling, something I don’t remember being as prevalent pre-pandemic. They seemed as thankful as me for live music.
Here’s what Gaitten had to say:
“Over the past year and a half, I can’t count the number of times my wife, Emily, has turned to me and said, I miss live music. We both did, deeply. I’ve been to Forecastle, Bonnaroo and Lollapalooza many times and had been missing the joy of these music festivals, the release and escape and togetherness. What surprised me at Railbird, though it probably shouldn’t have, was how much musicians missed us. The overwhelming sentiment coming from the stage was gratitude — for the fans returning, for the chance to do this again. Until the Dark Ages of 2020, we all took festivals for granted.
“No more. Dave Matthews mentioned his appreciation multiple times — in part for the fans ‘sticking around,’ as if his band wasn’t the Sunday-night headliner. I will never forget his expression of madcap delight as he did a goofy dance during a pitch-perfect cover of Peter Gabriel’s ‘Sledgehammer,’ with his shirt so heavy with sweat it looked like an oversized wetsuit.
“To close out Saturday night, Louisville’s My Morning Jacket played just their second show in two years (the first was the night before in Charlotte). Jim James seemed awed to perform again and talked to the crowd about the arbitrary nature of time in 2021 and how we needed to capture the lightning bolt of this moment (or something like that — it was more McConaughey than Churchill). The band certainly harnessed some kind of energy, especially on the six-minute face-melter titled ‘Wasted,’ despite performing it live only once before.
“I have video of that song’s furious final three minutes, ending with the crowd’s rapturous cheering, including several screams from the very large lungs of this newsletter’s very fine editor. He’d been holding that oxygen in for two summers. We all had.”
Support for Louisville Magazine comes from Ronald McDonald House Charities of Kentuckiana, which is raffling off a flight of five Pappy Van Winkle bourbons. Each of the 1,750 tickets is $100 (only 16 remaining as of this writing), with all proceeds benefitting families who stay at the House when they travel to Louisville for medical care for their children. Winner announced Oct. 14.
Also, here’s what people are saying about The Power of Giving Away Power, by Louisville Magazine publisher Matthew Barzun:
“Josh, I thought you were going to send me a copy of Matthew’s book?” — a text from my dad.
A little something from the LouMag archive.
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month. Three of our recent Bourbon Issue covers:
February 2019, illustration by Jon Shaw. Ah, remember the days before the world was clued in to all the hidden gems on the liquor-store shelves in Louisville?
February 2018, photo by Chris Witzke. EVERYTHING HAS BOURBON IN IT NOW EVEN MARSHMALLOWS WILL IT EVER STOP?
February 2015, photo by Chris Witzke. Every month is Bourbon Heritage Month in Louisville?
Two weeks ago in this newsletter, I mentioned my Louisville friend whose husband had just been deployed. Last Thursday, after a suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members (and many Afghans), she wrote to me that her husband was safe. Then she said, “Send some love to those families that will see the black SUV roll into their driveaway.”
editor, Louisville Magazine