Sunday, July 29, 2012


So much of our state's history has depended on people who came here from elsewhere (not even the Indians were natives) and they often came by a river.
Jean Jacques Dufour, impressed by our Revolution, came here seeking soil to grow the grapes his family grew in his native Switzerland. A riverboat dropped him at Salter's Tavern, where he saw the steep hills of wild Jessamine County, and he knew he was home.
In 1799 Dufour chartered the first commercial vineyard, not in Kentucky but in the new United States.  Henry Clay was among his subscribers; when he produced his first wine a few years later, bottles went to a noted American wine expert, President Thomas Jefferson.
In time, Dufour's noble experiment failed and the hillside vines fell into disuse; the stone buildings that had been his winery, collapsed.
Fast forward two hundred years.
Ex-police detective Tommy Beale, history buff, and amateur wine-maker goes looking for Dufour's original site. After pouring over deeds, old records, and history books, Beale felt he had found that site and bought the land. Subsequent excavations and surveys proved him right, and slowly over the years he brought the land back to a semblance of the days when Dufour presided over it.
He has now produced his first wine, which I had the pleasure to enjoy over last  weekend...and this weekend he will formally open his First Vineyard--Kentucky's first vineyard--America's first vineyard.
You need to be a pioneer, such as Dufour---and Tommy Beale to find the place..down a not very well marked two lane blacktop road, that becomes a one lane plus road (where the sign says "Road Narrows!"), past another road that once led to an old fort ("no longer visible", according to the US Geological Survey) and down Sugar Creek Pike to the Sugar Creek Resort which he also operates.
Starting Thursday, August 2nd, thru Saturday (no Sunday sales in Jessamine County, not even for America's first winery) the weekend, from one until seven pm this historic place will come to life again..  The vineyard/winery will be open to customers and history buffs and modern day tourists, in the footsteps of J.J. Dufour. Google First Vineyard, or go to, or call 859-229-3154, or 946-4208 to check on directions.  I strongly advise doing this; it is not easy to find  the first time..and I had a navigator.
But, if you persevere,  O Pioneer, you should arrive at 5800 Sugar Creek Pike..and step back into our history.

Monday, July 23, 2012


A theater in Aurora.

An island in Norway.

A high school called Columbine.

A street corner in Tucson.

A campus in Virginia.

A mall in Toronto, a post office in California, a cafeteria in Texas, a schoolyard in Alabama, even the House of Representatives in Washington, and on and on and on....

Locations where people, deranged and sane, have used firearms to kill others for reasons real and imaginary, political and personal, or for no reason at all.

And yet we--our American Society--allow it to go on happening, without a single step to try to stop this insane carnage. Congress won't do it (witness all that happened after Gabby was shot..nothing.) Frankfort won't do it..unless we citizens insist..loudly and continually.

The NRA has won. Public opinion which once favored some type of gun control is now narrowly against them. The NRA keeps buying more and more public officials as it continues its illogical stance.."Guns don't kill people; people kill people."  Holy Merde, Batman!

People with guns kill people. It takes both, and society must work on both parts of the equation..but it's definitely easier to work on the guns.  Once upon a time it was illegal for private citizens to own machine guns..even assault rifles were once controlled--until the law expired, and a new, more conservative GOP-controlled Congress refused an extension. The assault rifles of today are the machine guns of yesterday.

I do not want to outlaw handguns or rifles. Neither do I want to see "sportsmen" using AK-47s to shoot squirrels. There is a middle ground. For one, eliminate the loophole that allows gun shows to avoid background checks. (some states require this and Kentucky can, too.)  And assault weapons and extended clips can be banned or at least rigorously controlled. Some form of registration for some weapons is needed.

But it won't happen unless a lot of us let our public officials know that we don't want another Aurora--which could just as easily happen at a multiplex here.

So tweet your social media friends how you feel, write your representatives in Frankfort and Washington that it doesn't have to be the NRA-way or no-way. Guns can be regulated within the Second Amendment, even under the Supreme Court's historically inaccurate understanding of it.

But first we must all get mad --and stay mad--at allowing the present situation to continue, which guarantees there will be more Auroras. Be like the Dark Knight of Network news anchors, Howard Beale...get up from your chairs, go to the window, open it, stick your head out and yell.."I'm as mad as hell and I'm not going to take this anymore!"

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 16, 2012


Tony Leonard died Saturday in a Lexington nursing home; he was 89.

For those of you who didn't know him (and I wish I had known him better) let me sum up his long, achievement-filled life in one four letter word: L-O-V-E.

Tony came here in the early '60s as a nightclub entertainer, and fell in love with the Blue Grass. He was to stay fifty years.

He loved to perform and he was pretty good. He sang the national anthem at Yankee Stadium, and often sang to open UK games in Rupp Arena.

While here he got to know and love horses, and soon his hobby of taking their pictures became his full time profession. He loved photography , and was pretty good at that, too. His pictures won an Eclipse award; a top racing honor. He won an international photo award and was named personal photographer to Queen Elizabeth when she visited here to see her horses.

But nothing in his life of love surpassed that of his love for Adelle, his wife of 66 years. She worked with him first as an entertainer, later urged  him to make photography his real work, and encouraged him throughout their life together.

When her health--and his--failed, they moved into an assisted living facility together. Later, she worsened and had to be moved into a full time nursing home. Tony, who could have stayed in the assisted living facility, went with her..and there he died, holding Adelle's hand.

In their last few years, the couple's declining medical and financial conditions made them first, wards of the state and then placement in a guardianship program. Articles in the Herald-Leader spotlighted the inadequate care this understaffed, underfunded program was giving them, and eventually led to the assisted living placement.

Hopefully their example, even in this time of bare budgets, may lead to better programs for taking care of the elderly..maybe yours, maybe in time, even you.

If so, the love Tony  (and Adelle) gave us in so many ways, will be repaid, at least partially.

Farewell, Tony...and thanks for the love.

I'm just sayin'...

Sunday, July 8, 2012


You've finally pushed me to do the research I've been promising myself I would do for years ever since I learned about reverence for our flag, Old Glory, as a Boy Scout in my small West Virginia town. 

I've done the research and what passes these days for one type of patriotism, of respect for America and one of its greatest institutions isn't that at all; and worse, it's illegal.

I know this will come as a shock to 99.44% of you because we have let our country drift from not only the law but from what Patriotism and Tradition used to mean.

Case in point, Katy Perry's wearing of the American flag, both on stage in a very bad network telecast on July Fourth and in the pages of numerous newspapers last week.

Here's what the Flag Code says:  Title 4, U-S Code, as listed in a report to Congress in April, 2008.  Under Section 8 Respect for the Flag, part  D.."The flag should never be used as wearing apparel..."  (There's more, but did you see that kid wearing nothing but  a U-S flag as his bathing suit on the beach in several weekend newscasts?)

Part J ..."No part of the flag should ever be used as a costume or athletic uniform."  (There's an exemption for flag patches by police / fire, etc..and I suspect for our Olympic team. The President is given the authority to make changes.  There's another exemption for flag pins...."being replicas..should be worn on the left lapel near the heart." This because Old Glory is considered a living thing.)

And, oh yeah, those cute little plates and napkins you used at your 4th picnic..strictly illegal. Part J again:  "The flag should never be used for advertising purposes in any manner whatsoever."...and.."it should not be printed on paper napkins..or anything designed for temporary use or discard."

For years many of us have felt at our patriotic best when we (over) displayed the flag and (often illegally) displayed it. There's a right way and a wrong way to revere our flag and frankly, many of us don't know the differences.  That is what the Flag Code in Title 4 is all about..and as a law, it is very clear and very easy to follow...and by and large, many of us haven't been doing it..including a lot of "patriotic organizations" and governmental units.

We  and they are not less patriotic; we and they just got carried away some years back by the feeling if a little flag waving was good, then a lot of flag waving was better..without really paying close attention as to the specifics  of the Flag Code which has been there all along to help us.

Now you know--and of course there's more we should be following, and for a legal document the code is remarkably short and very clear.

As for that holiday TV spot showing George Washington and Abe Lincoln dancing around a certain furniture chain's "bargains"..that's probably not illegal (as Katy Perry most certainly is) is just plain stupid!

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, July 2, 2012


In over three decades in Lexington I have been without power for days at a stretch several times. I know the problems and inconvenience so I know what people in the Mid-Atlantic states are going through this week after those freak storms swept through.

I suspect, as restoration of power lengthens, there will be calls to cut down more and more trees because in many cases it was a downed tree limb that caused the power outage. These calls need to be rejected and we need to think about, not just the value of trees, but how to best solve outages--long range.

Trees not only provide us beauty, but shade; as I drove around town last week I knew, almost instantly when I entered an area with inside car temp just dropped, and quickly. Trees also clean the air of impurities. Trees add value to our property.  We need them--big time, long term.

But we are all downstream when a limb falls and takes out our power. And we want the power back on instantly. Utility crews must work quickly to restore power and not be concerned with long term solutions.

But we should be...and so should our power companies and our state Public Service Commission. Kentucky Utilities keeps telling us the high costs of burying power lines..which is the obvious solution. Too costly, KU says.  But has KU cost accounted the 3 times within the last decade and a half of burying the lines versus what it cost those 3 times to make "temporary" repairs? Not to my knowledge, and neither the Lexington Fayette Urban County Government nor the PSC has asked them to do so.  Do so!

Then we will have a much better, more practical basis to decide if the costs of burying lines now--versus bringing in crews from many states, which KU has had to do several times recently, makes economic sense.

And, as my councilman Bill Farmer wisely suggests, areas of Lexington will soon  have their streets torn up because we must upgrade our sewer and water lines under a federal court decree--so this is the time to require power, phone, cable, etc to get together and bury each line at the same far less cost and disruption than each doing it separately. (This is making lemonade, truly).

It's time to prod the council and the PSC to start burying power lines, and more, before the next (and the next and the next...) storm comes through and takes out the power.

We are all downstream, but in this case we can do something about it. 

I'm just sayin'...