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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Letter from Jeffersonville, Indiana. Day One. A new life.

Today I landed in the Louisville, Kentucky airport and was met by the husband of the woman who runs the bed and breakfast where I shall sleep for the next four nights.

I have come to Louisville because I am attending a convocation for the American Academy of Osteopathy. The last time I attended such a gathering was in 1997 in St. Louis, Missouri, when I was a featured speaker. Following my presentation I was officially banned from any future involvement as a presenter.

Maybe it was something I said. Or my breath. I can't really say but the feedback I received from the organization's administrators was uniformly negative.

I figured that after a wait of fifteen years I would revisit this group because some of the presentations seemed of interest.

The Galt Hotel, in the center of Louisville, is the official venue for the convocation. However, after reading the online reviews on TripAdvisor which were very unflattering ( thin walls, farting patrons whose eructations were to be heard via the smelly thin walls, cigarette smoke from 30 years ago, a major highway next door, rude staff, no visible attempts at service, etc.) I searched for another place to stay.

All the adjacent hotels, motels, flop houses, and Jesus revival tents were unavailable. As I searched a digital hint appeared on my screen; You may be interested in the following places which are nearby.

One of them was the Market Street Inn, just across the Ohio river separating Kentucky and Indiana. The inn is located in downtown Jeffersonville, Indiana.

Besides advertising lower prices, home cooked breakfast, peace and quiet, and very personalized service, this B&B, is run by two exceptionally nice people.

In addition, for a mere $12 a day the husband would ferry me in his car with license plate, Inn #1, to any place I wish. Today he picked me up at the airport. Tomorrow he will take me to the Galt Hotel and then pick me up when I wish in the evening.

After having looked at some of the tourist brochures available upon entering the Market Street Inn, I am planning on having him drive me to Chicago and back for some decent food. Since he is originally from there I figure he will know where to eat. I just need to find some down time in the conference schedule ( probably when the people who banned me will speak) before I let him know my plans.

For $12 why not?

I was given a tour of Jeffersonville ( a total of four or so blocks) when I first arrived. Actually, it is much more but I notice that the map I was given omits about 90% of the streets. This much I gathered during my after supper stroll.

Restaurant row is located along the river. It is near or under the suspension bridge for Highway 65, a busy thoroughfare for traffic between here and the rest of Indiana.

The highpoints were Hooter's and some other equally upscale spots. I settled on Clucker's which advertises itself as the ultimate in chicken-related dining.

The history of Clucker's is detailed on its menu . This chronicle begins by stating that the owners wish they could say that the name came about as a result of a major copywriter effort but , actually, it did not. It resulted from the fact that one of the owners lived on a chicken farm. That was the extant of the history.

I told one of my two waitresses, a young blonde woman with a pink Clucker's T-shirt, that I wanted some good, home-style fried chicken. She told me, We don't have that. I asked if they had any dark meat chicken. Nope, we don't have that. We don't have none of that stuff.

Well, what exactly did Clucker's serve?

Wings.

Lots and lots of wings and even more beer.

She also allowed that they would make a hamburger for me though it wasn't on the menu.

I asked if there was any place that did serve fried chicken nearby.

I was told that there was a place, the Light House, but it would take a long time for me to walk there. They both were shocked when I told them that I had wandered in to Clucker's on foot.

Will I be able to make it if I walk there, I asked.

Yeah, but it's a really, really long walk.

How long?

Their faces went blank. It was as if I had asked them to recite the alphabet or write cursive or display some other unknown skill.

Finally, the non-pink Clucker's T-shirt woman offered, Well, maybe about three quarters of a mile.

I got up to leave and then told them I would have a hamburger.

I asked for medium rare.

We don't have medium rare. You can only have medium well done or really well done. USDA laws, we can't do nothin' about it.

I asked if I could have medium well done with the meat pink inside. She agreed that was possible.

Then I was asked which type of cheese I wanted on it.

I never eat cheese on a hamburger but decided that when in Rome....

American cheese, velveeta, cracker barrel, and something else was my choice.

I chose the something else.

Did I want potato salad, slaw or crinkled fries with it?

Tell me about the potato salad, I purred.

Well, it's complete, the pink T-shirt server offered.

Does it have meat?

Sure, it has bacon.

I took the slaw.

I sat next to the window and watched the assembled diners who were eating on the adjoining deck. They all appeared to be enjoying themselves immensely. One woman ran up behind a diner and yelled in his right ear. He jerked forward, spit out his food and almost choked. The entire group roared with laughter.

This is America, I thought.

A Jew comes to Jeffersonville.

An historic occasion.

My hamburger and slaw arrived. I was invited to ask for anything I might need to complete my dining experience at Clucker's.

The hamburger meat was raw inside. There was no cheese. The catsup bottle was almost empty.

I was so hungry that I didn't care.

The two waitresses came back and asked me how everything was. I told them about the absence of cheese in my cheeseburger.

Well, that's strange. You ordered cheese. You want a slice of cheese? I can go back and bring you one, OK?

I told them that everything was fine, that I was in gastronomic heaven.

They ignored my attempt at levity.

In all fairness, I must mention that at Clucker's one may also dine on fried pickles and fried mac and cheese. If you are interested they have every type of sauce for your wings. A bucket of fifty wings is a prime offering on the menu.

About five minutes later they arrived with the bill and asked if I wanted anything else.

I fished in my pocket for a credit card,paid and left Clucker's.

Earlier on my tour of Jeffersonville I had been driven down Spring Street, the absolute ground zero of this burg. So I decided that since I had come this far I would head on downtown to this street.

Spring Street is a fascinating composite of the many attractions that have made Jeffersonville such a tourist mecca.

First stop was Ann's Cafeteria which advertises food the way mother cooked it. Since my mother does not cook anything much less the way the typical Ann's Cafeteria mom might cook, I was curious to experience this new eating spot.

Ann's is a real cafeteria. The food sits in metal trays under neon lights, swimming in the appropriate liquid that accompanies it. Immediately I noticed that they had fried chicken. It comes with two sides all of which are prominently displayed under the lights. Also, there are breaded and non-breaded fish and large pieces of baked ham.

I cheerfully bid the woman who answered my questions a good evening and left Ann's Cafeteria.

There are several comfortable metal chairs outside the cafeteria and I relaxed into one of them.

Since I was now at what may be one of the major intersections of Jeffersonville, Spring and some street whose name I somehow have forgotten, I felt entitled to just hang out and take it easy.

This is, after all, the first real vacation I have taken from a busy medical practice of cracking backs and saving lives, in a long time.

The street before me offered a seemingly endless procession of humanity in all its diverse forms.

Mainly pick up trucks with wheels the height of a tall midget.

Also, many, many freed male slaves wearing dew rags on their heads and driving cars with turbo, tinted windows, very loud music, and equally loud mufflers.

Did I mention that this town is also a hang out for Harley-Davidson aficionados?

Well, not only does Spring St. have more than one gathering spot for these folk but they are prominent drivers around the many streets of Jeffersonville, fearsome looking in their bikers' regalia, tattoos, leather vests, and shaved heads.

Lots of young, white men, driving revamped cars, all wearing wife beater shirts and little fake jeweled studs in their ears passed me by. When I looked at them they inevitably would look away. I assume that they are shy and may be reticent to speak with those whom they do not know well. When I attempted to smile at one of them he froze and gunned his motor. Well, I didn't personalize it. These things do happen, you know. I only wanted to let him know that I, too, have feelings and wish to commune with him on some level albeit fleeting.

As I walked up Spring St. toward what I was told by my tour guide was an excellent hardware store, should I need any nails or a chain saw during my visit, I passed Schimpff's Confectionary on my right. This enterprise, founded in 1891 when Jeffersonville was a thriving community, houses a candy museum and provides daily demonstrations of how they make candy. My tour guide told me that untold numbers of buses from everywhere drop off crowds of tourists anxious to undergo the Schimpff experience during this lifetime. The store was closed when I looked in the dusty windows.

The Locker Room was another place which I passed shortly following Schimppf's. It was an entire building that , except for the sign on its front, bore no evidence of what activity actually took place within. A large sign did mention that no one was permitted to park in their parking lot.

As I got to Court Ave where coincidentally a court was located, I turned left. Immediately I saw Adrienne and Co. which, according to a prominent sign on the front of the building, specializes in Italian-American food.

I am fond of Italian food and hoped that this might be a place I would look forward to returning to some evening.

The very friendly woman who greeted me informed me that tomorrow night was their weekly 9 cent spaghetti night. If I were willing to spend two dollars on some item on the menu then I could receive a large plate of spaghetti, three meat balls and red sauce for nine cents extra.

I asked if they took American Express and she escorted me to the door.

As I made my way back to the Market Inn I decided to return on Mulberry Street which runs parallel to Spring. Many of the properties I passed were festooned with signs from a local realtor offering them as hot buys. One vacant lot sported a white sign in red letters that warned, Do not feed the dog because he has a medical condition.

Thus passed my first night in Jeffersonville, Indiana.

As I gather more information to share with you I shall scurry to my little room, across from the Bridal Suite on the second floor, and type it up.

The excitement is more than my feeble little form can take.

Oh, my.