copyright Bill Widener 2000

The Empire

Dear Editor, and the Implied, Collective You:

The campaign for a "living wage" is waging hot and heavy all over our country.  Religious and civic groups alike are clamoring for justice for the low-wage workers of America. I don't know if I had fully absorbed the impact of our society's emphasis on the cheap and plentiful until I read "Total World Domination" (Tamara Straus, Ace May 31, 2001).  Whew.  What a load of guilt you (the collective "you") and I must be carrying. We must be sagging under the weight of a million blue translucent plastic bags imprinted with happy faces. Let us lay down our burden!

Happy faces indeed, pouring out of countless Wal-Marts/Super Wal-Marts, into vast parking lots filled with shiny new minivans or beat-up LTD's, lugging large bags of donuts and pallet-loads of toilet paper.  I am ashamed. I have been known to frequent Wal-Mart; in fact, all the giants that put individuals out of their family businesses.  Kroger, Barnes and Noble, Meijer, Target, whatever.   

I don't know if I am ready to assert that these businesses are ruining our economy; not just by undercutting the little guy, but by offering little opportunity to those who have so little choice already; namely the working poor who are unable to meet their basic needs through employment with these outfits, ruining us by offering too many choices, ruining the planet because of the mirage of plenty that they present, while obscuring the image of sweatshop labor that stocks the shelves with novelty T-shirts, all manner of plastic accoutrements, and the accessories of what we wrongly deem necessary for survival. But everyone knows it's true.  Our consumerism makes us barbaric. For is it not barbaric to let people starve and go without, for the money saved on coffee and shampoo?

Steps can be taken on the individual level to right the wrongs we perpetuate. We might make efforts to shop more carefully, and evaluate our needs more modestly. I am struggling, too, but will be made of even less if I take part in the madness.  I am willing to make the effort to shop elsewhere.  It is out of shame, and a sense of responsibility, that I am willing to exercise a bit of conscience in my consumerism. Join me- not as a comrade in guilt, but as a civilized and responsible consumer. The best we may hope for is action on a personal level, to instill by example a different set of values in our children, who may already be lost to the lure of plenty.   Lexington is a precious and dwindling commodity, and our local businesses need support.

Thanks for the outlet, and regards,

Kimberly T. Kelly

Livin' Shmivin'

Dear Ace Weekly,

Regarding last week's "Take this Job and Upgrade it" [May 31]: living wage laws are evil, and here's why. Suppose you run a large business in Santa Monica's tourism district, and I want to work for you. We sign a contract where you agree to pay me $9 per hour. Starting July 2002, this is illegal: you will get fined, and if you refuse to pay the fine, you will go to jail. Think about what's happened: I've agreed to benefit you, and in return you've agreed to benefit me, and we both think it's a fair arrangement (otherwise we wouldn't have entered the agreement), and we aren't hurting anyone else with this agreement, and yet you can go to jail as a result.

Part of the argument for the living wage law is that the government spent $170 million to improve Santa Monica, and businesses are benefiting from that government investment. But two wrongs don't make a right: the fact that the government forced taxpayers to cough up $170 million to do things like renovate an amusement park is at least as evil as the living wage law.

On the very next page of last week's Ace [Reality Truck], Rhonda Reeves admitted to having "pathological problems with authority." I commend her for that (except perhaps for the pathological part).

I encourage the people of Lexington to be distrustful of government heavy-handedness, and I encourage those who aren't - such as the members of Lexington's Living Wage Campaign to move to Santa Monica.

Bradley Monton

Shelby Fan

What a great zine!

I was wondering if you have any other photos of Shelby Lee Adams and his work that hasn't been released or even the larger photos of what you have in the report [Ace archives online].

Adams has had a great impact on my life, as I'm Appalachian thru and through.

Any help would be great!

Brent Burke

Adams has two books, which can usually be found at Joseph-Beth or online. He also sells prints of his work. Contact his publisher for more info about gallery representation.

Monkeying Around

Dear Ace,

On behalf of Arc of the Bluegrass, I would like to thank Ace Weekly for sponsoring our fundraiser Memorial weekend at the Lexington Legends' Applebee's Park. The [support] was integral in promoting our fundraiser. Graphic Designer Michael Geneve was fun to work with and did an excellent job designing our ads. Calls began coming in the first time the advertising ran, only hours after the issues hit the stands.

Currently, figures are being put together on the total amount raised from our live and silent auctions, VIP tickets and from our portion of all ticket proceeds that weekend. From the figures we have right now, it appears our fundraiser was a success (we received over $4,100 from our auctions alone, excluding the car).

We appreciate your support of our organization. Without the generous donation of [your sponsorship] and your staff's time, we would not have been able to promote our event. For this we are very grateful.

The money raised at the fundraiser will go toward the purchase of a handicap accessible shuttle bus or van for client transportation. We plan to solicit the additional money needed to reach our goal from grant resources.

Your contribution has made a significant difference for our organization. Thanks again in your part in making our fundraiser a success!


Jennifer Mattox

Development Director

Letters Policy: Ace LOVES to publish our mail (250 words or less please); please include name and daytime phone. No photocopies. No bulk mail. First come, first served. We may edit for space and grammar; we will limit frequency; and, on popular issues, we may print one or two letters to represent a segment of public opinion. Private correspondence should be labeled “NOT FOR PUBLICATION.”

Mail: 486 West Second St , Lexington, Ky 40507


Baby Days

For me, the act of marriage has proven, like most of the other disastrous acts of my life, little more than a hedge against any future lack of good material.
-Michael Chabon

Fridays are Baby Day at Ace.

It's pretty much just like it sounds - if you have a baby, they can come to work with you that day.

Same goes for dogs (natch).

This isn't new. For at least the last six or seven years, we've generally had a baby or two in residence on a sporadic basis.

We're not really set up for toddlers or kids (or teenagers), but I've discovered babies don't hurt anything. They sleep most of the time. And if it makes life easier on their parents - from a purely selfish management perspective - that makes for a more efficient workplace. (Lest anyone think I've gone soft.)

The truth is, though, I HAVE gone soft in some ways. And I think it's made me a better boss and I'm certain it's made this a better workplace.

Some of the happiest, most content moments of my life this year have been spent with Sam Shambhu snoozing on my lap on Friday mornings. I eventually worked out a system where I could cross my legs; stretch him out across my knees; give him a bottle with my left hand; and type and answer the phone with my right. (Sadly, he's too big-boy for that now.)

He is my little slice of angel food cake. He has this amazing way of soaking up all my stress and tension, and that, in turn, improves my concentration, which helps me do a better job.

I know there are plenty of longtime readers (and friends of mine) who never dreamed there'd be a day when I would bark into the intercom, "STOP calling in here! You'll wake the #*$&%* baby!! "(Hey, I haven't gone that soft. And I shudder to think what Sam's first word will be. But if it starts with an "F," I'm pretty sure Bitter Aunt Rhonda is in BIG TROUBLE at the Shambhu house.)

But my point is Sam's presence doesn't impede our efficiency in any way. If anything, he enhances it.

We're not building bombs. We're not doing brain surgery. We're generally engaged in creative endeavors; we have a really big building; and babies and dogs don't disrupt the process. Our system might not work at IBM or a bank or a munitions factory, but it works here.

Parenthood is a fact of life in most workplaces. As a business owner, I can find a way to creatively accommodate that, or I can bitch and moan and enforce a lot of rigid policies, and lose some of my best employees. The choice is a no-brainer.

My mom and stepdad - of the post WWII generation - often seem HORRIFIED by the "touchy-feely" way I've elected to run this company.

They grew up with jobs, not careers, and their general philosophy could be said to be, "It's not SUPPOSED to be fun, missy. That's why they call it WORK!!"

When I recently took a few days off IN A ROW to stay with them at the hospital for Pops' surgery, they were SCANDALIZED.

First, they didn't want to be a burden.

But their most insistent question was, "What kind of EXAMPLE are you setting for the people who work for you?" (As if I was cracking the whip in absentia so I could goof off by the pool for a few days.)

My answer was, "Hopefully, the kind where - if one of us has a sick parent or a sick child - we leave and we go take care of them."

That's what Family is.

I have responsibilities as a daughter, a sister, an aunt, a friend And they will occasionally outweigh the responsibilities I have here. And truth be known (in a crushing blow to my ego), the place still runs like a well-oiled machine in my absence.

I'm happy to work with a team of well-rounded, healthy, motivated people who are absolutely dedicated to getting the job done, but who know how to prioritize. It's part of what makes them so great at what they do.

This issue of "balance" is one of the things Robyn Rabbeth Leach and I have been talking about over lunches and dinners for about a year now. I've always been impressed (and admittedly, a little jealous), by the way she certainly seems to have it all - adorable children, perfect husband (local radio personality, Tom Leach), and a rewarding career in journalism over at WLEX (now part-time).

She certainly makes it LOOK easy. But over the course of getting to know her, I began to realize that nothing is as easy as it looks. She's someone who's obviously made smart and healthy choices - but it's just as obvious that some of them have been difficult, and that she and her family have made various trade-offs and compromises along the way.

That's what I asked her to write about in this week's cover story.

Because I think the issues and themes are universal.