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.

Where souls go to die.

Where souls go to die.

At age 16 I starting working at the Jefferson Mall, where I worked at 4 different stores in 3 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 2nd 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 Johns 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 bitch in the unit next to us (that we even got arrested late one night [still proud of that one]) we finally convinced our Stalinesque landlord to let us out early in order to find a place to live that didn’t make us fear walking upstairs.

It took me a little while to discover the bar scene in Germantown, my favorite being Nach Bar.

It took me a little while to discover the bar scene in Germantown, my favorite being Nach Bar.

Luckily for us a friend of my mothers 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.

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 4 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 went by and they finally got back to me, resulting in a designer/photographer position 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 sh*t.

It's not the size that matters, right?

It's not the size that matters, right?

I quickly learned that Louisville was so much more than a 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. That 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 NuLu and I’ve fallen in love 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 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. So to my surprise this morning when I turned to page 100 of the March 2012 issue of GQ, I saw some familiar locations and a headline that reads “The Manliest Town in America.”

Louisville: GQ's "Manliest Town in America."

Louisville: GQ's "Manliest Town in America."

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 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 5 days a week. And I love it.

Courtesy Photos

9 Responses to “Louisville”

  1. Stunoland

    Louisville’s most important mile is sullied by a hideously ugly 1950s style elevated waterfront expressway. This eyesore results in an image defining gateway, that is completely inadequate to compete in the 21st century. It is not imperative that Louisville remove the freeway from its river but it is vital that the city have a plan to at the very least build a context sensitive road that moves traffic while presenting a marketable face to the world.

  2. Rusty

    Good Stuff, the move to South Bend has me respecting what Louisville has to offer more and more each day.

  3. Justin Lewis

    I know it gets it’s bad raps, but I think the Southend will go no where when people keep this kind of attitude towards it. I have lived in the Iroqouis Park neighborhood my whole life and am nothing like what is described.
    No one knows about Louisville hidden treasures because of this bad talk…..the south end Valumarket with its huge ethnic selection, Swags Sport Shoes a local business open for 30+ years as is considered one of the nations top fifty running stores 3 years in a row. Iroqouis Park is one of the best parks in the city. The Amerciana Center (old Holy Rosary) is doing so much with immigrants and sustainability.

  4. kelly

    I really enjoyed this article….Louisville has developed into a city with many micro-cultures and each one adds a new experience.

  5. Kim

    This was an amazingly written article. But I do agree with the person from the Iroquois Park neighborhood. I have lived in Louisville for my entire 52 years. And they were all spent in Okolona. We have never referred to Okolona as the South End. The South End is Iroquois Park to us. My ex husband was raised in the Iroquois area and when he moved to Okolona he actually always referred to it as the east end. Ironic! Okolona does have it’s ethnic issues and rednecks to boot but it’s always been home to me. I raised my children here and they are both very successful adults with a great appreciation for culture and food as the author suggests. Louisville has a great variety of art, culture, sports and food to offer. But honestly, we all know you can get anywhere in Louisville in 20 minutes. So no matter where your home or stomping grounds are you can always make it to any of the amazing events nightly with little effort. When me and my husband opened our business in the Highlands we were able to offer our children new adventure but after searching for housing in the Highlands we discovered that the 20 minute drive down I65 South each evening brought us peace and quiet that we didn’t have in the city all day (and a driveway for our car!). Also, on our drives in the morning heading North on I65 it sometimes scares us the smog that lingers over the skyline. That’s the days I’m glad I get to retreat to Okolona in my lovely home and breath the fresh air of this great place called Louisville, Kentucky. Also, the author isn’t an asshole, he is one man with an opinion. He obviously was raised with character and class to go out into the world and seek adventure. I see this young man going far in life. Maybe not in the South End but his is talented and a very articulate author.

  6. Jacob

    But what about the Orange Julius at J-Mall? Delicious orange drinks make up for a multitude of shortcomings.