May 25, 2020

Gabrielle Gray’s Last ROMP

OWENSBORO, KY. — Around noon on the last Saturday of Gabrielle Gray’s long run as the founder and director of ROMP, this Ohio River City’s signature bluegrass music festival, a moment of pure love and remembrance unfolded unexpectedly. Standing alone on the festival stage with her fiddle, Phoebe Hunt, one of the singularly great young artists that ROMP has featured in the last several years, prepared to open her set as a solo. A striking …

Gabrielle Gray Shifts Over to Weave A New Story in American Bluegrass Music

OWENSBORO, KY — There was a big change today in American bluegrass music here in this Ohio River city, which over the last decade has established itself as a global center of the quintessential American music born in western Kentucky. The board of trustees of the International Bluegrass Music Museum announced that Gabrielle M. Gray,  the museum’s chief executive, ends her exceptional 12-year tenure as the museum’s capable and creative leader and steps down as …

Alien Nation In Time of Virus

SOMERSET, KY — On February 29, 2020, a day after President Trump headlined one of his cult rallies in South Carolina and called the coronavirus the Democrats’ “new hoax,” I was in New York City with my wife, Gabrielle Gray, celebrating my mother’s 90th birthday. The timeline, as you’ll see, is crucial to understanding the dimensions of an emergency that has unfolded in New York and the United States in the 15 days since, and …

Bill Milliken Was A Great Leader And A Good Friend

William G. Milliken, the longest serving governor in Michigan’s storied history, died in October at the age of 97. One of the rare gifts of my life was knowing Bill and his wife Helen as friends and mentors. Both were terrifically helpful in getting our new northern Michigan land use policy group going in the 1990s. Helen was a board member. Bill was an active supporter. In 2000, when I stepped down as director of …

Lessons From The Garden

BENZONIA — The tiger lilies are fading. But the pink blossoms of the rose of Sharon began to bloom this week. So did the blue blossoms of the butterfly bush. It’s mid-August. Just as in every month since early May when I raked the leaves out of the gardens, taking care not to injure the yellow daffodils, flowers are coming into view while others slip away. Odes to gardens and gardening almost always are exuberant …

TII: This Is Italy, A Beautiful Den of Thieves

SOMERSET, KY — A traveler’s story. One I wouldn’t wish on anyone. It was 6:30 p.m. about 12 hours before our scheduled flight home from Rome to Chicago. Gabrielle, Maggie, and I had just gotten off the train from Florence and I was exchanging dollars for euros at the central Rome station. The shoulder bag I’ve carried across six continents lay on the floor at my feet. Inside was $1,000 cash, my camera, glasses, IPad, …

What Keeps Us Sane – Family and Friends

SOMERSET, KY — This is the week that Robert Mueller, the special counsel, is supposed to make public sentencing memorandums for three Trump allies who pled guilty to various illegal acts committed in and out of service to the president. From what’s been made public, and from what I know from fact-checking Seth Abramson’s book, Proof of Collusion, it’s not going to be pretty or something to celebrate. The country has been in a state …

Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum Opens in Owensboro, Kentucky

OWENSBORO, KY. — This flourishing city of more than 59,000 residents has occupied the high ground on a big bend of the Ohio River so long that its history includes being the winter encampment for the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804. Owensboro’s famous sons include Johnny Depp, who was born here in 1963. Among its notable achievements is surviving the loss of 6,000 General Electric manufacturing jobs at the end of the 20th century, …

Listen to Our Kids’ Call to Disarm America

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Republican right is unnerved in the days following Saturday’s March For Our Lives in Washington and hundreds of other cities across America and the world. Stricken with grief and stirred by the passions of love cut short by bullets, the students from Parkland, Florida stood up, stepped forward, and found a mass movement to end gun violence waiting for them. Hundreds of thousands of people were on Pennsylvania Avenue on Saturday, …

Our Covered Wagon Stopped in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY — Almost all of Utah’s 3 million residents — some 80 percent — live within ten miles or so of the Wasatch Front, which extends north to south for about 100 miles in the state’s northeast region. At the center lies Salt Lake City, a surprising city of 180,000 that is as modern, pleasant, and well situated as any in America. Near the city are magnificent trails that wind up into the …