How One Man Fell In Love With The Maniliest City In America

Chris Humphreys.

Chris Humphreys.

Editor’s Note: This column originally appeared online at www.voice-tribune.com.

I used to hate this city.

Before you start questioning my motives and yelling for me to “geeeeeeeeeet out!” let me plead my case.

For the first 18 years of my life I grew up in a lovely home in Okolona, where my parents still reside. I had a good childhood and home-life, but growing up in the South End of Louisville did nothing to help me like Louisville any.

At 16, I starting working at the Jefferson Mall, where I worked at four different stores in three years, all the while witnessing theft and fights what seemed like once a week.

Around the same time, I discovered the magical part of town where kids can go to loiter and annoy paying patrons at different establishments all the while still being “cool” for doing so. I discovered the Highlands.

This was a big step for me. You mean there’s more to Louisville than the Super Wal-Mart on Preston and strip malls on Outer Loop?

Skip to age 18, I started school at JCC (which immediately changed its name to JCTC upon my arrival) and finally got a taste of the downtown life, which was nice, but Second and Broadway still wasn’t the ambassador to Louisville that I needed.

Jump to the end of that year, before turning 19, when I moved in with my first serious girlfriend – in Buechel. The part of Bardstown Road that’s literally and metaphorically on the other side of the train tracks. The complex was so bad that Papa John’s wouldn’t even make deliveries to it. Luckily for us, her lease ran out a couple months later.

We then traveled up Bardstown Road a few miles and landed in a 4-unit, 100+-year-old home near Cherokee Park.

After months of loud noises coming from our drug dealing neighbor upstairs and threats from the drunk witch in the unit next to us, we finally convinced our Stalinesque landlord to let us out of the lease early in order to find a place to live that didn’t make us fear walking upstairs.

Luckily for us, my mother’s friend was trying to sell her shotgun home in Germantown and after a little convincing, agreed to let us rent it from her. At this point I was 20 and still in college, out of the mall and designing at a sign shop in the Highlands. This was a turning point. I got to travel between downtown, the Highlands and Germantown and only had to go south on 65 to visit my parents and favorite comic shop.

GQ recently named Louisville as its "Manliest City in America."

GQ recently named Louisville as its "Manliest City in America."

By 21, my relationship fell apart, I was living alone, still in school and was working at another sign shop that took me back to Buechel five days a week. Not what I really wanted out of a city that I was slowly learning had a lot to offer.

Cue age 22. I graduated after four years at a community college that was only supposed to take me two (I took the extra time to get another degree and a fancy web-design certificate). I was still stuck in Buechel making nowhere near enough money for the work I was doing and desperately wanted out of this city and into a real city that actually wanted a photographer/designer that loves food more than oxygen.

Three months before turning 23, I stopped looking at the Missed Encounters section of Craigslist and clicked on the Jobs link instead. A month later I was the new designer/photographer at The Voice-Tribune. If moving to Germantown was a turning point, then starting my new St. Matthews gig was some real parting of the Red Sea type stuff.

I quickly learned that Louisville was so much more than the mixture of redneck ghetto trash that I put up with in Jefferson Mall and strange hippie-hipsters in the Highlands that made you feel more like you were turning the corner of Haight-Ashbury than Bardstown-Eastern Parkway.

I learned that East-Enders aren’t all stuck up rich people with more money than God. They were, in fact, nicer and more kind to me than anyone from the South End ever was. I found out that on any given night there’s at least one event going on somewhere in this city that’s worth attending. And most importantly I discovered our restaurant scene that I would put up in a “Top Chef” style challenge against any bigger city I’ve ever traveled to.

This year The Voice-Tribune moved to Butchertown in NuLu, and I’ve fallen in love with Louisville all over again.

It put us within walking distance or a short TARC ride of some of the best places to eat in town, blocks away from the ever-expanding Gallery District that seems to have a new store or shop popping up every few weeks and is only a hop skip and a jump away from The YUM! Center and one of my favorite summer venues, Louisville Slugger Field.

Louisville has much to offer to everyone. Unfortunately, like my younger self, not everyone knows that. But, to my surprise, GQ magazine does.

While flipping through the March issue of the men’s mag, I saw some familiar locations and a headline that reads “The Manliest Town in America” featured prominently on page 100.

The one-page travel column is where writer Brendan Vaughan recounts his recent trip to The Possibility City and mentions some of my personal favorite places in town, 21c Museum Hotel, Proof on Main, Please & Thank You, The Blind Pig, and, of course, Churchill Downs. And he makes a damn good argument for his case. (Pick it up on newsstands now if you want to read the full thing.)

Well that’s it. That’s my journey through Metro-Louisville over the last 24 years. I’m still in the Germantown shotgun house, living with a roommate I keep in my attic (kidding, mostly) and two cats that have free reign, enjoying our delicious food and entertaining nightlife and working to keep you folks entertained with The Voice-Tribune five days a week – and I love it.

Contact photographer/designer – and, now, writer – Chris Humphreys at chumphreys@voice-tribune.com or call 502.897.8903.