Monday, February 3, 2014

Ten Reasons I Love Louisville More Than Ever

It's tough to live somewhere ten years and call it short term. This dawned on me a few months back when I passed the decade mark as a Kentuckian. It's easily the longest amount of time I've lived anywhere — including Vermont, Indiana, Ohio and Oregon — since childhood. And while I've been restless from time to time, the truth is I love Louisville and Kentucky more with each passing year. Cue the drum-roll for my Top Ten List of reasons to dig the River City that have nothing to do with Derby. 

10. The Highlands. Just when I think I’ve checked out every restaurant, pub, and art gallery, something new pops up. I’ve lived in this funky neighborhood for all ten of my Louisville years, and it keeps getting better. My wife and I met friends over the weekend for drinks, and our theme was “places we’ve never been” that are close to our houses. We started at El Camino (see photo below), a hip new taqueria with a surfing vibe. We hit three other new places nearby, and probably could do the same thing again next weekend. Other great neighborhoods: Crescent Hill, Clifton, Germantown, NuLu.

9. Outdoor Rec. I’m an outdoor junkie, whether it’s biking, kayaking, running, or skiing. You might think, after ten years, that I’d have a good handle on all the local hidden gems for outdoor recreation. Not true. In just the last year, I’ve discovered half a dozen new whitewater kayaking surf holes (lower pool, McAlpine Lock and Dam), and a bunch of new cycling and running routes (tip of the hat to the new Big Four Bridge and the new sections of the Ohio River Greenway in Indiana).

8. A Terrific Job. The market for new lawyers is generally terrible, but that’s not the case in Louisville. Most of my colleagues from the Class of 2012 at U of L's Brandeis School of Law are gainfully employed in jobs that we love. I count myself in this group. I love my job as a trial lawyer at Jones Ward PLC, fighting for people who are injured by big corporations. It brings new challenges every day, and I can’t imagine doing anything else. 

7. Urban Living. One of my pet peeves is waiting in lines. Same goes for sitting in traffic. In Louisville, I get the benefits of living in a big city without the hassle of a terrible commute. My drive to work down East Broadway lasts about five minutes. The coffee in my to-go cup barely gets touched. 

6. Great Public Schools. JCPS gets a bad rap for long bus rides, and its Rube Goldberg student enrollment system. I  have no complaints. My kids attend a magnet school a mile from our house, where the test scores are among the best in the nation and kids call teachers by their first names. There are no hall passes, no dress code, and very few discipline problems. 

5. U of L. A few years ago the University of Louisville unveiled a giant billboard along Interstate 65, proclaiming the school as the best college sports town in America. Some people laughed. But not anymore. The school’s sports teams won so many titles in 2013 that national media dubbed it the “Year of the Cardinal.” I grew up in a pro sports town, but I’m now a full convert to the hysteria of March Madness, plus college soccer, football, and baseball. Bring on the ACC in 2015. 

4.  Progress, Progress. Kentucky might not be known for left-leaning ideals but Louisville a pretty progressive place. We’re pushing for more bike paths, creating arts districts, reinventing downtown, expanding parks, and preserving our heritage of great architecture, from the Victorians of Old Louisville to the cast-iron facades of Main Street.  Don’t get me wrong, the city could be more progressive. But it’s pretty good right now, and getting better all the time. 

3. Booming Business. The River City has always seemed like an easy place to launch a new venture. In my time here I’ve managed rental property, flipped houses, run a tree removal business, and started a law practice. My wife runs a bed and breakfast, and she recently launched herown self-run business as a clinical social worker. In all these endeavors, we’ve met people who provided us with advice, encouragement, and ideas. The city’s business vibe is friendly and supportive, about as far from cutthroat as you can get. 

2.  Family Friendly. For all the cool grown-up stuff to do here, the bigger draw for me is how easy it is to raise a family. The low cost of living allows us to have a house with plenty of room that’s close to almost everything we want to do. The kids’ basketball and soccer leagues are just a mile or two from home. Same with Cub Scouts, church, indoor soccer, Lakeside Swim Club and other family-friendly venues. 

1. A hometown for the wandering spirit. Louisville, and maybe to a larger extent Kentucky, has a Southern sense of hospitality and charm that is easy to take for granted until you spend time elsewhere. If you are a military brat, a gypsy, or just don’t like where you’re from, chances are Louisville will change your mind about the concept of home. This place, with its amazing people and independent funky spirit will make you want to settle in and stay awhile. And it’s home to bourbon, lots of bourbon. Come on.