It is a belief we have, as strong as any religion, that home can be preserved and life made everlasting if only we stay put.
—Denise Giardina, The Unquiet Earth
Columnist Jimmy Breslin describes New York as the place of his birth, and the place he both loves and hates… equally.
When we interviewed peripatetic food author Ronni Lundy a few issues back, one of the things we talked extensively about was Kentucky’s boomerang effect — the fact that natives can’t seem to leave, and when they do, they almost always come back. She attributed it to the state’s magnetic field — which she says is stronger than what’s found elsewhere. We believe it.
Maybe it explains why so many of us — while finding much to complain about — prefer to stick things out and try to make it better, as opposed to moving on to some mythic greener pastures.
This year’s Real Best Of Lexington ballots were clearly in tune with Breslin’s sentiments. There’s a time to celebrate… and a time to bitch and moan. (That’s a paraphrase of Ecclesiastes, not the actual quotation.)
The ballot is mostly about the former — though this year, we gave in and included a forum for the latter in the essay question, “biggest obstacle to Lexington becoming a real city.”
While a couple readers argued that it already is — and a darn fine one too — most offered substantive complaints ranging from the lack of a “real” airport, unchecked sprawl, tepid arts and culture, no nightlife, and a downtown that clearly needs work.
Various reader responses and quotes — pro and con — are included throughout the issue.
The experience of putting together this issue always makes for an interesting summer, and this one’s no exception.
Our congratulations to the winners (and runner-ups — some of the races were very close) on the following pages. And our thanks to everyone who took time to vote.
And a special memo to the reader who wrote this succinct essay in LAST year’s poll, for the best reason to leave Lexington: “No Starbucks” — Hey, now you can stay.
ARTS AND CULTURE
I have learned not to read reviews. Period. And I hate reviewers. All of them, or at least all but two or three. Life is much simpler ignoring reviews and the nasty people who write them. Critics should find meaningful work.
Arts and Culture drew a surprisingly light voting crowd this year. Cocooning seems to be the trend du jour, as the Best Book by a Kentucky Author drew the heaviest response of any category – resulting in an unprecedented three way tie for first place. (Chris Offutt makes a repeat performance in this year’s win.)
Voting in the visual art category was notoriously vague – readers seemed to remember venues more than they did specific art, artists, or shows. Nude 99 certainly benefited from brand name recognition and won “best show” in an absolute landslide.
The response to dance was anemic, aside from Stomp (another landslide), which was assuredly not a local production.
The rest of the voting could be described as desultory at best. Except for the vigorous traffic in the most overrated local artist category – which we elected not to print – as it seemed to consist primarily of artists airing grudges against other artists. Though there was a persistent and somewhat perplexing groundswell of support for Ashley Judd, who doesn’t strike us as local (any more), or an artist. (We actually had visual in mind, though readers took the time to trash dancers, authors, actors, filmmakers, songwriters, and so on.)
1. Nude ’99
2. Gordon Gildersleeve
3. UK’s downtown gallery shows
BEST place to buy original art
Galyle Cerlan of the Tower-Cerlan Gallery
1. Tower Cerlan Gallery
3. Tie: Galerie Soleil; Heike Pickett
BEST performing arts group
1. Actors’ Guild
2. Lexington Children’s Theater
3. Ballet Theatre of Lexington
BEST arts group with worst leadership
1. Lexington Ballet
2. Actors’ Guild
3. Art League
BEST book by a Kentuckian in last year
1. My Vita if You Will, by Ed McClanahan
1. Out of the Woods, by Chris Offutt
1. The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver
A three-way tie for first place.
BEST local theater production (in last year)
1. Lady Day
2. How I Learned to Drive
BEST local dance performance (in last year)
(not a local group, but a clean sweep nonetheless)
2. Ballet Theatre
3. Rakadu Gypsy Dance
BEST local filmmaker
1. George Maranville
2. Guy Mendes
3. Jeremy Horton
Lexington has no downtown. At least, the downtown it has is either dead at 10 o’clock or limited to a few places. There is no place to go and have a late dinner after a theater performance or a few drinks without having one’s ear blasted off. In fact, the entire downtown is lack the charm of a normal city… I would argue that this is also the number one reason to leave Lexington—the vibrancy of a real city is missing. One could argue that it has been deliberately blocked, so that the town remains provincial to the point of decay. It is a sad situation when all the development is limited to outlying areas, which people do not seem to want, and the downtown languishes.
BEST Martini goes to Jonathan. Jenn Shank (L), Jonathan Lundy, Dan Ricci, Larry Flanagan, Greg Hart (back row) and Sherry Hurley
2. Pacific Pearl
BEST PLACE TO EAT WITH A HANGOVER
3. Waffle House
BEST BIG SALAD
3. Desert Moon
BEST RESTAURANT THAT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE LEX
1. Pacific Pearl
2. Atomic Cafe
BEST RESTAURANT WORTH A ROADTRIP
1. Amelia’s Field
2. Lynn’s Paradise Cafe (in Louisville)
3. Lilly’s (in Louisville)
1. Rock a Billy
BEST RESTAURANT SERVICE
1. a la Lucie
BEST (MOST ORIGINAL) MENU
2. Atomic Cafe
3. Roy and Nadine’s
BEST DATE RESTAURANT
2. a la lucie
3. Bella Notte
BEST NEW RESTAURANT
BEST PLACE TO EAT HEALTHY
BEST PLACE TO TAKE YOUR TUMS
1. Tolly Ho
2. Waffle House
3. Taco Bell
1. Common Grounds
2. Coffee Times
3. Joseph-Beth Cafe
BEST WHITE-TABLECLOTH FARE
1. a la Lucie
BEST LIQUOR STORE
1. Liquor Barn
2. Big Daddy’s
3. Shopper’s Village
Dupree Catering Inc. wins for Best Caterer. Claudia Hatfield, Harriet Dupree, Sara Lord, Eileen McCormick, Barry King, Elfreda Ragllain and Lissa Sims
1. Dupree Catering Inc.
2. Phil Dunn
3. Tie: The Kitchen at Chevy Chase; Donna Potter
BEST NEW LOCAL CD
2. The Hub
3. ACE Holiday Party, Vol 1
DTAphoto by Forest Payne
BEST NEW LOCAL BAND
1. Delicious Trip Attendants
2. The Hub
3. Damn Rathers
BEST VETERAN LOCAL BAND
2. Rabby Feeber
BEST LOCAL SONGWRITER
1. Paul K
2. Otto Helmuth
3. Matt Patterson
Crown Electric photo by Forrest Payne
SEXIEST LOCAL BAND
1. Crown Electric
BIGGEST SUPPORTER OF LOCAL MUSIC
2. CD Central
BEST LIVE SHOW IN LAST YEAR
2. Steve Earle
3. Velvet Elvis Reunion
Steve Baron of CD Central picks up the double crown for best record store and best place to sell your used CDs
BEST $$ FOR YOUR USED CDs
1. CD Central
2. Cut Corner
3. Bear’s Wax
BEST RECORD STORE
1. CD Central
2. Cut Corner
3. Disc Jockey
Best reason to live here: Being forced to stop drinking and partying at 1:00 AM…for my health.
Amid celebrating the best shopping in town, we always like to pause in this category and examine the Ghosts of Retail, Past/Present/and Future.
For example, Starbucks got quite a few votes (again) this year as the establishment people WISH would come to Lexington. Maybe they don’t get out much – or like many of us – simply view New Circle Road as not just a perimeter, but an impenetrable barrier, which surrounds the city, never to be violated. But sources tell us there IS indeed a Starbucks out there.
And for everyone who voted for Woodland Park Bookstore: hey, next time, vote with your checkbook too – they seem to be out of business. (Much like Sine Qua Non last year, which was Sine Qua Gone by the time the issue appeared.)
Past wishful thinking has included Williams-Sonoma and Home Depot – and lo, they came to pass.
This year, everyone’s got visions of IKEA, REI, and Crate and Barrel dancing in their heads. Maybe by this time next year, they’ll have a shot at Best New Retail Outlet. (A few readers also took the time to fantasize about Barney’s and the like, but we’re not holding our breath. We’re ordering catalogs.)
BEST antiques dealer
2. Heritage Antiques
3. Room Service
BEST new retail outlet in last year
1. Old Navy
2. Barnes and Noble/Starbucks
BEST auto dealer
1. Don Jacob’s
2. Green’s Toyota
3. Freedom Dodge
BEST store for Mr./Ms. Fix-It in you
2. Home Depot
3. Botkin True Value Hardware
BEST used/neighborhood bookstore
1. Woodland Park
2. Black Swan
3. Morgan Adams Bookstore
BEST pet store
3. Most Valuable Pets Inc.
BEST nursery/garden supplies
BEST outlet for the 4-star chef in you
Betty Spain of Bella Rose displays an example of their big win in the “best place to buy a little black dress” category.
BEST place to buy that little black dress
1. Bella Rose
3. Isle of You
BEST place to buy jewelry (funky)
2. Bella Rose
3. Tie: Isle of You; Paisley Peacock; Sqecial Media; Natasha’s
BEST place to buy jewelry (fine)
2. David Hungerford
BEST place to shop for person who has everything
1. Joseph-Beth Booksellers
3. Delaware River Trading Company
BEST outlet for the Iron John/ outdoors person in you
1. Phillip Gall’s
2. J&H Landmark
3. Dave’s Outdoor Outfitters
BEST store you wish would come to Lexington
3. Crate and Barrel
BEST OF LEXINGTON SERVICES AND PROFESSIONALS
This was a category that very nearly began out of sheer desperation – who among us hadn’t been in dire need of a good dentist, an honest lawyer, or a fair mechanic, at some point?
It’s stayed around out of sheer popularity, however. And every year, we always uncover a few more recommendations in the “best category we haven’t thought of.” (We always pore over the previous year’s suggestions as we formulate the ballot for the current year.)
It’s also the category we get the most calls about long after the issue is off the stands. Mid-December, we’re still fielding calls from readers, “I lost my Best of Lexington issue! Quick, who’s the most honest mechanic in town? Where’s the best veterinarian? Who can fix my computer?”
Before, we’ve simply looked up the winners (careful not to make any endorsement – this is a READERS’ poll, not an editorial one). But now, if you don’t want to take up valuable fridge space by taping up the winners, you can always visit and revisit the results online at www.acemagazine.com. NOT that we don’t enjoy having the chance to chat.
BEST mechanic (foreign)
2. Perfect Auto
3. Rotary Connection
BEST mechanic (domestic)
1. Tom Tomlin
2. East Vine Radiator
3. Don Jacob’s
1. UK Daycare
3. St. Michael’s
BEST hair salon
1. Hairport (Angie, Charlotte)
2. Ivos Ishmael
3. Monogram (Mickey, TeeGee)
1. Lexington Professional Massage
2. Kim Armstrong
1. Ky Trade
2. Andy Hicks
3. Comp USA
BEST local web designer
1. Charlotte Caldwell (WideEyed.com)
2. Buzzword, Inc.
3. Andy Hicks
1. Jim McKeighan
2. Scott Ackerman
3. Kathy Davis
BEST house painter
1. Mike Tevis
2. Steve Melton
3. Steve Reeves
Now I want you to tell me just one thing more. Why do you hate the South?
-William Faulkner Absalom, Absalom!
Local color means different things to different people. Obviously.
For reader Brett Gray, nothing says Lexington quite like, “Inbred Fraternity boys, Sorority girls, and Bible thumping basketball fans.”
Another is disturbed by the proliferation and infiltration of soccer moms, complaining, “You get tired of dodging middle-aged women in Chevy Suburbans and decide to get a better job in a real city, one with real pizza and REAL bookstores.”
Still others compliment Lexington for its smalltown charm, combined with at least a few of the accoutrements that go with a city (like, uh… malls).
The opposing camp is put off by all the travails of a city (traffic, suburban sprawl, and outrageous local taxes for insufficient services), with almost none of the benefits of an urban culture (bustling downtowns, and a restaurant row comparable to Bardstown Road in Louisville). Same story as last year.
When I think of Local Color, I try not to dwell on things like the Sports Museum (or the taxes I paid to fund it).
I try to think of the things I’d miss if I moved. Subtle things that I barely register, but which I would notice if I left. Like all the “extras” I’ve grown accustomed to seeing on my way to work every day – they’re in my life, but I don’t know them, and they have no dialogue. “Shouting/pointing guy,” for example. What’s his story? I’ve heard at least a dozen.
“Running guy” (he’s very slow, but he never misses a day). He used to run with his girlfriend, but one day she just disappeared. I always wonder if maybe he killed her. (Because sometimes my imagination gets the better of me.)
“Umbrella guy” was omnipresent when I was in graduate school then faded for a while. I thought maybe he just went inside. Then I heard he was abroad. Why did I hear this – I don’t even know this person. Is it true he speaks eight languages and is a scholar on Japanese culture? I don’t know. Good rumor though.
I wonder whose life I’m an “extra” in. My big city friends certainly think the only reason anyone would live in this town, or the south in general, is out of misguided martyrdom or the lack of anywhere else that would have us.
I think what eludes them is the fact that we’re all free to go.
That doesn’t mean you can’t find us spinning in our desk chairs from time to time, quietly and occasionally reciting Quentin Compson’s immortal lines of denial from Absalom, Absalom! “I don’t hate it, I don’t hate it, I don’t hate it… I don’t. I don’t! I don’t hate it! I don’t hate it!”
Well, you get the idea.
ACE readers found Marvin Bartlett to be the Most Eligible Bachelor in Town. And he lives at 538 North… (just kidding).
Most eligible bachelor in town
1. Marvin Bartlett
2. Paul K (is he still in town?)
3. Steve Cherry
Most eligible bachelorette in town
1. Anita Madden
(sorry, we should point out she’s taken.)
BEST beloved character/personality
1. Christopher Platt
2. Gatewood Galbraith
3. Anita Madden
BEST new building
1. UK Library (won last year)
BEST example of local leadership
1. Pam Miller
2. Ernesto Scorscone
Most embarrassing member of local govt
1. Pam Miller
2. Ron Berry (that was Micro City Government)
3. Judge Rebec
Best actress to play Pam Miller in the TV Movie of her life turned out to be… Sally Field. (You LIKE her. You really LIKE her.) Initially skeptical, we ran it through the ACE morphing labs and it seems to be true.
BEST actress to play Pam Miller
in the TV Movie of her life
1. Sally Field
2. Kathy Bates (KY native)
1. New courthouse construction
2. Hamburg Pavilion
3. Suburban Sprawl
1. Ron Berry
2. UK Basketball
3. Charles Wethington
BEST public bathroom
(who probably don’t want this advertised)
BEST kept secret
1. “If we told you, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
2. Kentucky Theatre concessions
3. McConnell Springs
BEST cheap thrill
1. Video Max
Best reason to stay:
just the other day a total stranger said “Hi” to me. It still blows me away to know we live in a city small enough to be friendly, big enough to be fun, strong enough to be safe and diverse enough to be sane. All this in the south too!!!
Best Reason to Leave:
Right wing conservative, two-faced, back-stabbing, ignorant asses that seem to ruin every political discussion I’ve ever been in!!
—from the same reader
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… And this is a category that virtually defines paradox. How else to explain that, in many readers’ eyes, ACE is the best local example of a RIGHT wing conspiracy AND the best example of a LEFT wing conspiracy. So is the Lexington Herald-Leader.
This is also a good chance for us to find out what stories and issues – as a community – people remember, and find meaningful. And it’s a good opportunity for readers to register “enough is enough, give it a rest.”
Last year, Tubby Smith, virtually swept the Best Of ballot (we can’t even remember all the categories he won, from “sexiest” to “local leadership”). A sports writer from the daily actually called to ask me to speculate on why that would be. (Hell, I didn’t know then and I don’t know now. I didn’t vote. I do know the “quotes” that were used didn’t bear much resemblance, in my memory, to what I’d said about the process.)
THIS year, readers voted overwhelmingly that “Sports,” (and specifically UK sports) is the story they most wish would go away. I wonder if anybody’ll call to ask us to speculate about that.
BEST local news anchor
1. Tom Kenny
2. Barbara Bailey
3. Sam Dick
BEST local example of the vast right wing conspiracy
1. Ernie Fletcher
2. Chevy Chaser
3. Southland Christian Church
BEST local example of the vast left wing conspiracy
1. Gatewood Galbraith
2. Ace Magazine
3. Leftist Student Union
Local news story you are most sick of
1. UK Sports Anything (Wildcats)
(at double the votes of the next closest contender)
2. Strip Bars
BEST locally produced website
3. Honorable mentions to (CD Central, Lexmusic.com, Lexingtondiscovery.com, realitytruck.com, z103.com)
Most improved local website
BEST local deejay (talk)
1. Jack Pattie
BEST local deejay (music)
1. J.B. of WRVG
3. Laura Shine
Most memorable ACE cover in last year
1. Bend Over
3. Ace COOKS
BEST ACE cover Story in last year
1. Chris Offutt
(Back to the Woods, November 98)
2. Christopher Platt
(This Year’s Models, December 98)
3. The Have Nots
(homeless family profile, by Dan Elkinson, December 98)
[“Salvation in Salvisa”
(on Home at Last Animal Sanctuary, by Rob Hulsman) received numerous votes in this category — as it did last year. It was disqualified, as the story is now almost two years old. But we’re glad to see any story strike such a chord with readers that they remember it this long. The profile on photographer Shelby Lee Adams was also disqualified for being over a year old]