July 3, 2006
Notes From The Heartland
My friend Ed Feuerherd, who is head of Creation Films in
Louisville, Kentucky, is a fan of my column and regularly
forwards it on to a colleague or two, one of whom feels it
is good and yet not very relevant to her life in Louisville.
I am, in my writing, too New York centric. As
it happens, I ended up in Louisville, doing some work with
Ed and his company this past week. Louisville is a gracious
city experiencing a boom in downtown revitalization, nestled
along the banks of the Ohio River, a regional center of civilization,
industry and arts, not to mention home to the Kentucky Derby.
Twice while there I had dinner with Ed and Sandy, the woman
with whom he is involved, and listened carefully to our conversation
to discern if their Louisville concerns were vastly different
from my New York centric ones. Ed and Sandy both
own small businesses, as do I. His film company specializes
in historical works and Sandy, an elegant lady, runs Notting
Hill, an antique store in a lovely section of Louisville.
Their views may differ; their concerns are the same. They
are concerned with the progress of the war in Iraq. They are
troubled that their taxpayer dollars might be being spent
foolishly on a sports stadium project that is unneeded, while
other issues are ignored, like education. This conversation
mirrored the dialogue in New York regarding a West Side Stadium.
Our local concerns are parallel if not exactly duplicated.
On the national level, our conversation knew no localisms
other than the permutations native to their locale and to
Kentucky is providing troops to the war effort; so is New
York State. Many of the New York Guardsmen come from towns
as small as some in Kentucky. National Service is not defined
by locale; it is shaped by the policies made in yet another
city, Washington, D.C.
Moving on from Louisville, I came home to Minneapolis,
the town where I was born and raised, another town that is,
like Louisville, experiencing a Renaissance of sorts, with
great new buildings by Michael Graves and Cesar Pelli, with
the Guthrie Theatre, the beacon for Regional Theater all over
the country, opening in new digs, brilliant in design with
stunning views of the city and the Mississippi River.
As I walked around Lake Harriet on different days with different
friends and talked over other fine meals in wonderful restaurants
and in comfortable homes, I listened to the concerns of my
friends in the Twin Cities and found they, too, have concerns
that echo those of my friends in Louisville. There is concern
about the war, the national deficit, the bent of the political
life of the country. Conversations in Louisville and Minneapolis
centered, at times, around discussing the nature of the individuals
running for local office. The names were different and the
cities were different though the issues were again, I found,
parallel: crime and taxes and civic services and all the big
and large things that result in cities working or not working
are focuses for political contests in Minneapolis and Louisville
--and New York.
The problems of New Orleans are seen through the prism of
Katrina and are, at the bottom, about many of the same issues
facing Louisville and Minneapolis -- how crime is contained
and tax dollars spent. We live in a world of commonality of
concerns, regardless of the city we reside in. Concerns are
reflected from one place to another and are more binding than
Each city I have visited in the last week is unique and is
also a mirror of the other cities, with local shadings of
shared issues which makes life in one city completely relevant
to those in other places. We are more alike than different,
no matter how fiercely we cling to our local identity. The
United States, as vast as it is, is knitted together today
in ways that were unfathomed a century ago, bonding us to
each other through the media, the amazing way we throw ourselves
around the country in planes, trains and automobiles and by
the fact we all participate in any burden placed upon as a
nation by the government we all elect.