07 May 2010

The new digs

The new job is going to be a challenge.

You who know me well know I'm at my best when I'm churning out words. I have never met a software application that could defeat me, but a couple have come close - namely, Access and Microsoft Project. Not that they're especially intimidating, but they do more than I've ever needed, and they require an equivalent degree of focus. My theory is that the software is supposed to make it easier, not harder.

However, I am process-oriented. I want to know the steps. Give me the directions from Point A to Point D, and I'll get there. And then I'll go back and look at the maps and bike the route and find a more efficient way.

This job is all about the process. Five different applications in at least three different platforms, with anywhere from six to 10 windows open at any given time, and you have to remember which is which and what the steps are as you zoom back and forth between this app and that. I sense a Six Sigma project to be worked up - which is great, because I've been looking for one for two years. After I learn the current route...

Meanwhile, I'm in a whole new space. To paraphrase one of my favorite heroines, "Toto, I don't think we're in Corporate anymore..." The building where I've moved has a beautifully restored, early-20th century facade, a hip, 1990s-industrial-materials-artsy lobby, and fabulous, Hitchhiker's Guide-worthy electronic elevators that shuffle people about from floor to floor in the most efficient way conceivable. Beyond the lobbies and elevators, though, it has plain beige walls, massive industrial columns stuck in the middle where you'd least expect them, and hundreds of cubicles - just like everywhere else, only more so.

My new space doesn't have the light my old space had, up the street in the Tower. There's no 9-inch glass panel at the top of the cube wall to create an airy feeling or a sense of awareness of one's neighbors. (There's also no piped-in "white noise" to mask the loud voice of the guy one row over.) And I have to walk halfway across the floor to get to a window.

On the other hand, that window has a river view - even clearer than the one from the Tower window. I have a wide-open shot at the Second Street Bridge, which is the central platform for the fireworks during Thunder Over Louisville, at the kick-off of Derby season. (The secondary platforms are two barges parked on either side of the bridge. It's pretty amazing. Fourth of July in D.C. can't hold a Roman candle to it. Honest to God.)

Up at the Tower, on West Main, we have the Kentucky Center for the Arts across the street. We have the Bristol a block up - a lovely mid-priced lunch, equally nice for dinner. Upscale casual. Two blocks up is the place with the red penguins... What is it? Oh, yeah. 21C. The 21C Museum and Hotel. Seriously upscale-but-casual. (I mean that in the most upscale sense.) Art to Be Reckoned With. Spendy drinks in the bar. I don't want to know the price of a room.

A block east of the Tower, there's Z's. They have "signature" martinis - need I say more? Great location for a Girls' Friday - where you sit in trendy upholstered chairs that don't let you get up 'cause they're so soft and squashy, set your martini on a glass-topped coffee table while you dish the dirt, bitch about whatever needs bitchin' about, and laugh for a couple hours - but not a particularly cozy hangout. Or one that fits into my budget more than once a month or so.

I'd never ventured much to East Main. When I was at Riverview Square (the Building That Time Forgot - and that Metro Louisville imploded to make room for the new arena) at the foot of the Second Street Bridge, there was nothing down there except the Marriott Courtyard, the sandwich stand inside the LG&E building, and a couple blocks of abandoned buildings that once were glorious. As far as I knew, there wasn't much to see at that end of the street. Even after I started passing through regularly a couple summers ago, when I started biking to work, it didn't look especially different. The businesses still mostly had that "old dive" look - bars and sandwich places, holes in the wall. My bike shop was down there, but on Market, a block south, and still surrounded by empty storefronts and second-hand stores.

Farther down, east of Waterside, were a few new buildings - sleek, windswept architecture between the old industrial places and Slugger Field - and businesses were moving in, taking over the old places and making them into antique emporiums, ad agencies, landscaping concerns. Some of them - the ugliest, most disreputable - were becoming luxury condos. Gentrification rules, right? But between Second Street and somewhere east of Slugger Field, it was still a mess - a falling-down, waste-of-space, could-be-wonderful mess.

This week, I've been settling into my cubicle in the Waterside Building. I've been establishing what I know, what I don't, what I'm going to have to work at. And yesterday and today, I went to lunch with other Tower expatriates on the east end of Main.

Thursday, Denise and I ate at O'Shea's, the new "Irish pub" in the 100 block of East Main. We've been there before - it's the new location of choice for getting-laid-off parties and crying-in-your-beer parties. Yesterday was the first time I'd had lunch there, and I promise you, the French onion soup is divine and the Caesar salad is ginormous. (And the overdose of fiber almost killed me later in the afternoon... but it was worth it. I think.)

This morning, I ran into Alex, my urban-gardening friend, on the way in from the garage. (BTW, the garage where I'm now assigned is worlds better than the one up on the "upscale" end of Main. It has light, cross-ventilation - and no mildew.) Later in the morning, I shot her an e-mail asking if she had plans for lunch, and we ended up at DeVino's, one of those "old dive" storefronts a block west. Inside, DeVino's is spacious, funky, and the decor is - what? Industrial Euro-Punk Urban Country. Perfect. Real. I want a set of lights like they have over the counter - a string of purple and gold grape clusters. Can't you just see 'em encircling the patio I'm going to build when this old deck finally falls down?!

And incidentally, I'm no longer willing to swear on a stack o' Bibles that Boomer's Canteen, up on the west end of Main, has the best BLT in town. DeVino's is damn good, and I got it with a side salad that rivals the one at the Come Back Inn. And that says a lot.

In recent weeks, I've also experienced another place I knew was there all along, a blues bar called Stevie Ray's. I'd always wanted to check it out, and I finally had the chance last month. It's another "dive-front," with - as it turns out - a good bar, live music, and an actual dance floor. And of course, there's Slugger Field - a favorite of my son's and mine, and we're meeting there after work next Wednesday - and a block west of there is the original BBC (Bluegrass Brewing Co.) location, where I've also never been. (I have been to the newer location on Frankfort Avenue, and BBC microbrews are available in stores hereabouts. They're excellent.)

So given my experience so far, I'm looking forward to checking out some more of the disreputable-looking places on my new end of Main Street.

I guess what it boils down to, at the end of my first week East of Second, is I'm starting to get it: the west end of Main is uptown. It's trendy. It's hip. It's upscale-urban artsy. Down here on the east end of Main is downtown. Funky. Dive-fronted. And wide-open inside - expansive and homey in an eclectic, indefinable way. Uptown was good for wearing heels and making sure everything matched (but not too much) and California Club salads at the Bristol. Downtown, DeVino's has the new Best BLT in Town. Stevie Ray's is the best venue for Girls' Night Out All Night Long Until They Call "Last Call." The cafeteria in the Waterside Building doesn't have low-fat ice cream, but O'Shea's has a lunch menu to die for, if you want to die for a lunch menu.

And - bottom line - downtown suits me fine.

1 comment:

  1. what an excellent tour of town during lunchtime and I get a sense that you're quite
    comfortable with the changing landscape!

    You city's travel and entertainment bureau could use your slant!