I chose Louisville as it is about 3 hours Greyhound and it was the Belmont, the last of the Triple Crown, which Churchill Downs would be airing on the big screen so it seemed that it would be as close as I would come to the Derby so off I went.
And yes I took Greyhound as the idea of renting a car and driving alone for over two hours did not appeal let alone pay 20+ bucks a day to park said car seemed idiotic, so Greyhound it was. I would have taken the Mega bus but their stop seemed to be under an underpass next to what seemed a Taco Bell so I passed. The idea of being dropped in said location was not appealing but the Greyhound station was within walking distance to the Omni so off I went.
I have yet to write my concerns/complaints/issues about the Greyhound but they are the prototype for Southwest and frankly my issues with them is no less troubling but at least they serve a beverage. The Greyhound serves attitude, from the Ticket Agent to the Drivers there are the most discourteous, rude and most unpleasant individuals I have ever encountered and again I cannot help but wonder if this is a "Southern thing?" This is why I have a rule for my Americana tour: Flights no longer than an hour or a city within a two hour drive. The exception being that Louisville has a time change and if anyone has ever driven I-65 would know exceptions to time frames must be allowed. That and Churchill Downs, Justify and Bourbon are all worth it.
Louisville is definitely undergoing change but they are adamant they are not "gentrifying." This article from four years ago seems to demonstrate how the city is approaching change and growth but in a manner that is clearly not like Nashville which has not refused a single check proffered by a developer for any number of bullshit builds that seemingly enable them to avoid taxes and occupancy at an acceptable rate that would enable them to pay said taxes. I definitely walked among many of the areas with a cabby showing me some of Louisville's more established neighborhoods to see for myself how they were approaching development and the healthy mix of art, business and industry was healthy and diverse. The sidewalks, the transit and the idea of access was there. And yes in my exchange with a local Teacher working part time this summer I learned that like in Nashville the transit and services decline in those areas defined by income/color. And the schools are in flux with the arrival of Charter and the subsequent scandals by the Governor who is determined to add them to the mix of choice that is less about choice and more about money which Nashville is all to familiar. This is still the South and the Bible is the book of choice.
My travels took me yes to Churchill Downs, which I cannot say enough about in what a hell of a ride it was for me. The people of the Downs were amazingly kind and generous and I cannot thank them enough for their kindness and generosity to this girl who would have never imagined that I would cross the doors of that esteemed track. But I also went to the Muhammad Ali Center on the very day Trump considered him for a crime that had long been overturned by the Supreme Court so it was again a gesture fueled in ignorance and utterly without point. I cannot say enough about that place as well as it was about Ali but also about his values and how they evolved as did he over the years with regards to peace/justice/compassion and understanding. They did not shy away from his more controversial dialogues or life choices but that is what was also amazing that they showed a man whole as he was certainly that and more. It was two hours well spent as I walked from one museum to the next and gallery to gallery finding a strong art community of gracious hosts who never shorted on what I have NEVER experienced here in Nashville - Southern Hospitality.
True when you are guest you are less likely to be critical or perhaps even more so. I went to the legendary Brown Hotel but passed on the Hot Brown as well it was too hot for such a rich dish but just sitting in the bar in the glorious lobby listening to the Piano player and having a club sammie (my almost always first day arrival meal regardless of where I go in the world) I felt at peace and full in many ways. I realized that just being in the moment is a moment well lived. And this is not how I live in Nashville as I live in the darkness, always waiting for another sleight or insult in which to propel me into either depression or rage.
And that is what defines the South, repression, oppression, rage and wealth. The lack of it, the omnipresence of it and the concept of revenge. They are obsessed with their ratings, the growth numbers and their designation as a city of import. I was never sure of it until I compared the two cities and saw both trying to find their place in modern society. The current Governor of Kentucky, Matt Bevin, is as corrupt and scandal plagued as the EPA chief, Scott Pruitt. The Teachers of the State took to the Statehouse and in turn were like the other red states in walking out demanding funding and yet here in Tennessee we sit stupified as normal as conflict is a dish never served. But this is still the South and across from my hotel was an abortion 'counseling' provider but the best part was the Sex shop immediately adjacent. One could not help but laugh as I passed wondering if one just after leaving the clinic made a quick pit stop for a harness or some other device. Self pleasure is always safe sex but as this is the South one wonders if that is a choice? And they are not advocates of choice in any sexual identity.
But yes oddly in the middle of this I wandered from one art shop and gallery to another and encountered ample Gay men who were as charming as they were Gay and it was a relief that I enjoyed my conversations with them as I meet so few here in Nashville comfortable in their skin to just be. But this is Nashville and no one is frankly comfortable or secure in their skin here. And yet here in the buckle we love the booze and Bourbon country runs deep like the hoofs of the horses in Kentucky. Funny how that works out. I would definitely return to explore the Bourbon belt as Louisville is a great place to visit but I would not want to live there. But then again I don't think I could say the same for Nashville and I do live here.