A Death in the Family

Thanksgiving was a sad holiday here, accompanied as it was by the news of author Larry Brown's death.

He was a longtime friend to Ace, and to many of us personally as well (1996 interview photo below by Peggy Blythe).

On his last visit here, he had switched from his trademark Wild Turkey to Maker's Mark (so that's what you should be drinking if you decide to toast in his honor). Still chain-smoking his usual Marlboros—still carrying a pack of Merit Lites in his pocket for his "non-smoking friends." His reading (from Rabbit Factory) lasted awhile and his well-wishers lingered so long that we were reduced to a late night supper picked up from Wendy's open-late drive-thru…bacon cheeseburgers.

More than anything else on that visit we talked about how worried we were about Alejandro Escovedo's failing health (who he always called Al-A-Hand-Ro)—never dreaming for a second that Alejandro might outlive Larry. We talked about his Hank Williams screenplay—a lot of which had been lost to his computer.

In retrospect, maybe not so terribly shocking that so many years of hard living might catch up with him (as it has so many of his idols) at such a young 53—but it still felt like shock when the bad news came. Still does. It was as bad as hearing about Townes Van Zandt (who also left a legacy of genius that flew just a little under the mainstream radar).

We talked about son Billy Ray's farm and the dead cow blues. His book of essays on the farm and Tula remain one of my favorites. I told him it was the only book I'd ever seen my Uncle Don read, and that Don had offered the highest literary praise I'd ever encountered (after a lengthy discussion on the perils of calf-pulling) which was, "I'd say he wrote you a purty good story."

My uncles always served as sort of "technical assistants" whenever I wrote about Larry—as they all know his terrain—and certainly so much more about carpentry, firefighting, drywall, the marines, and farming than I ever will. He always asked after them and was always unfailingly gracious in his inscriptions to them.

I mourn him the way I would any death in the family. My heart breaks for the literary community of readers and writers. Silas House tells me that the first chapter of Larry's final work in progress A Miracle of Catfish was some of his strongest writing ever. And we especially mourn all the stories he had left to tell—that now we'll never get to hear. n

The More You Know

“Unbridled Spirit” is Kentucky’s official “new brand,” cruising by less popular suggestions such as “At least we’re not Arkansas!” —a shamelessly condescending bid of gratitude toward other southern states who’ve occasionally managed to keep Kentucky from ranking dead last in categories such as Education. Governor Fletcher would (of course) like to change the license plates to accommodate the new brand—and who among us doesn’t enjoy more time at the DMV? At least they’ll be an improvement over the current Sunshine Plates, which appeared to be an inexplicable yet amusingly spiteful dig at Florida for trying to co-opt our “Thoroughbred Capitol of the World” title.

An expatriate Lexington reader now living out west sent this info: “According to the Morgan Quitno Press (authors of State & City Ranking Publications), the 2004-2005 Smartest State ranking show the following: Dumbest—50. New Mexico; 49. Nevada (Both unchanged from last year); 48. Arizona; 47. Mississippi 46. Louisiana. Smartest—1. Massachusetts; 2. Connecticut; 3. Vermont; 4. New Jersey 5. Wisconsin. Kentucky ranked 37th, again, and Arkansas rose by 2 to 36th. (Texas, BTW, was up by one on the dumb-scale, to 33rd).”

Reader Mary Smith writes in to recommend The Control Room documentary DVD, featuring the behind-the-scenes operations of the 7-year-old Al Jazeera news network (Al Jazeera was profiled by a University of Kentucky writer for Ace in the ‘90s). She says, “This documentary is a must-see for anyone who thinks, just maybe, we’re not getting ALL of the news from Iraq, and, just maybe, we’re not getting ANY of the truth. As the mother of a Sgt with the Army’s 101st Airborne Division—who was deployed for a very long year in Mosul, Irag—and as an erstwhile journalist in my own right, I was prepared to be very pissed off when I watched this movie. I was not prepared to cry.”

Ain’t that Lonely Yet? Kentucky boy Dwight Yoakam’s “Bakersfield Biscuits” brand of frozen food products are now available in Kroger grocery stores throughout most of the country (including Kentucky, according to the chain’s spokesperson). Yoakam says, “I originally had some biscuits made up for some friends of mine in Bakersfield, and they liked ‘em so much, we had to keep on makin’ ‘em, which led to even more items like Chicken Lickin’s and Buffalo Bites!” You may know him better as a popular purveyor of the Bakersfield sound…or for his roles in Sling Blade and Panic Room (as the underrated Raoul)—now you can try his chicken and Paul Newman can live in fear. n

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World AIDS day

Undergraduate and graduate student members of UK’s International Federation of Medical Students Association and the Student Global AIDS Campaign staked the lawn in front of UK’s William T. Young Library with wooden crosses to commemorate and dignify the deaths of 8000+ people each day from AIDS-related illnesses on World AIDS Day, observed on Wednesday, December 1.

The group encouraged the community to write a letter to Senator Mitch McConnell (KY-R) in response to recent cuts to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, TB, and Malaria, which the Senator largely oversaw.

Watch It!

The annual Christmas parade takes place in downtown Lexington Saturday, December 4 morning at 10am. Bundle up. And if you’re just attempting to pass through downtown early Saturday, take an alternate route.

Give, and You Shall Eat

Lexington Firefighters and Chipotle Mexican Grill have partnered to support the 70th Annual Firefighters Toy Program. Now through December 15th, Chipotle will dish up a free 20-ounce burrito to anyone who brings in a new, unwrapped toy (for ages infant to 10 years) to one of the three Lexington-area Chipotle locations. Captain Ed Davis, Fundraising Coordinator for the Firefighters Toy Program remarks that “over the years, the requests for toys have increased ” You can also drop off toys at selected firehouses.

Over There

The National Guard unit that helped Lexington during 2003 Ice Storm departed for Iraq earlier this week. The 940th MP Company was one of the more visible National Guard units deployed to help direct traffic and aid Lexington residents during the Storm. Approximately half of the National Guardsmen in the 940th are from the Lexington area.

To submit an advocacy/activism activity or event for Quickies, email, or

To submit an advocacy/activism activity or event for Quickies, email, or