REWIND: A personal rant from the author (newly updated for October).

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A friend once observed that I’ve successfully made a career out of annoyance, and I suppose that’s true.

My annoyance with the culture of insipid mass-market beer was a direct impetus to fashion a business out of the alternative, and now, having branched out to specifically local issues with the assistance of the global information superhighway, I can share my many and varied annoyances with hundreds of readers each day.

Judging by the number of hostile reviews that NA Confidential continues to receive at the spitwad blogyard and Erika’s playhouse, it is apparent that even those who disagree continue to read – and that’s the whole point of the exercise.

As confided on numerous occasions since the inception of NAC in 2004, a powerful but latent annoyance with the state of affairs in New Albany had suddenly come crashing to the surface the previous year, when my wife and I purchased a house downtown. Only then did New Albany’s inexcusably degraded condition finally made the impression that it should have long before, as I drank my way through lost years in the suburbs, managed to built the beer and brewing business, and generally ignored the remainder of the city.

In retrospect, 2004 was the pivotal year. Diana and I became involved in the neighborhood association, began reading and discussing “creative class,” New Urbanism and strategies for renewal, and most importantly, began making (and remaking) friends with like-minded people. Almost overnight, an unofficial constituency for progress coalesced, for all intents and purpose uniting numerous city residents into a bloc of potentially forceful influence.

Two years have passed. Have we really achieved unity?

As one well versed in the multitudinous manifestations of annoyance, the most frustrating and self-defeating cuts of all have been a consistent and paralytic inability to get locals who otherwise openly agree on broad community goals to surrender just a smidgen of autonomy for the sake of the discipline that would enable the progressive bloc’s potential strength to take form.

As Yogi Berra surely would say, recent weeks have been “déjà vu all over again,” and accordingly, I’m reminded of an earlier bout of discontent that prompted the following. I’ve been sitting on this “rewind” for a while, and now seems like the proper time to purge lest Harvest Homecoming leads us into an artificial sense of accomplishment … and, with elections approaching, it’s a fine time to contemplate the good and the bad emanating from political clans.

It was originally published on March 30, 2006.

I try to cultivate a semblance of detachment when it comes to these chronicles of the life and times of New Albania, not so much in the sense of refusing to take sides (as you’ve no doubt noticed, I do this on widely scattered occasions, mostly when bored), but owing to a recognition of imperfection in the world.

Which is to say that although we humans may strive for qualities like objectivity and fairness, we come into the game from the scorer’s table knowing that these ideals are elusive at best. With hard work, diligence and commitment, attainment can some times be reached – but not always.

People are social creatures, and they love to talk … some people plan ahead, while others don’t … there are leaders, and there are followers … and so it goes, on and on, as we navigate the highways, byways and the random muddy path of the varied human tapestry that surrounds us.
Detachment, accompanied by an appreciation of nuance, a dash of contemplation, and a resigned acceptance of random absurdity, can assist in the endless endeavor of determining ultimate meaning from the multitude of daily experiences.

But there are times when you’ve no choice except to throw your hands in the air and express exasperation with the seemingly random vagaries of human experience.

Now is one of these times, at least for me.

At the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Benjamin Franklin is said to have observed, “Ay, we must all hang together, else we shall all hang separately.”

Apocryphal or not, it is a sentiment to be carefully considered by every person in New Albany who truly wishes to make the city a better place.

From the inception of NA Confidential, I have held that irrespective of previous experience, even a stopped pre-digital clock is right twice each day. Accordingly, owing to a confluence of circumstances, a window has been left ajar, and the citizens of New Albany must determine whether they will make an effort to crawl through it in search of the achievement and the success that has for so long eluded the city.

Unity of purpose is the key to any game plan of sustainable action with a remote hope of facilitating renewal and revitalization, and unity is utterly dependent on communication. We – myself included – tend to pillory our elected and appointed officials for their failures in communication, even as we commit the very same mistakes and pay little heed to the damage that such dysfunction does within the circle of residents who want to believe they can make a difference.

Alas, while it may be the saddest and most inexcusable cliché in all of sports chatter, nonetheless, it’s entirely true: There is no “I” in “team.”

Right now, we have one whale of a reformist “tiim,” and not much of a “team.”

Consequently, I’m sick to death of “he said, she said, they said” being offered as a reliable substitute for dialogue between presumed equals – and be aware that I’m not referring in this instance to our so-called “adversaries” at places like the spitwad blogyard.

I’m referring to those people who have the capabilities, intelligence and talents to spearhead the urban renaissance … if they would just raise their games, check their egos at the door and make a genuine effort to be a little less like the malign problem that has characterized New Albany for so long, and a little more like something that resembles a feasible solution.

Those in New Albany whose preferences are with the moribund status quo – because it’s profitable, because it’s the only way they know, or because they lack the imagination and vision to see another way – surely must revel in the inability on the part of those fancying themselves to be reformists to eschew the gossip, the backstabbing, the impulsiveness and the overall lack of cohesiveness and discipline that to this date have prevented the “movement” from gaining anything approaching critical mass.

The elements for success in our quest to make New Albany a better place to live and work are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle that must be fitted together – not separately. Make no mistake; all the pieces to the puzzle are here, waiting to be linked.

It isn’t about political parties, social classes and petty feuds. It isn’t about who gets credit. It is about what each of us is prepared to do toward accomplishment, improvement and progress.

I’m not at all sure what it will take to forge this consensus: Banging heads together, gentle persuasion, locking us in our rooms until the homework is complete, bringing new blood into the fold, ritualistic public embarrassment, a show trial or two … or maybe just another cup of coffee.

But right now, it isn’t working the way it should, and the clock’s ticking. Are we going to run an organized, patterned offense with the ultimate goal of winning the game, or are we going to dribble and shoot fall-way three pointers? Is there going to be a coach, a plan, a strategy – or a series of movements with no coordination? Long-term, or whim? Do we want to win, or not? Are we going to start acting like we do?

Discuss if you wish … I’ll be examining my own conscience for clues as to how I can improve my performance with respect to the topics considered in this admitted rant.

Go to your corners … and come out thinking.

Or risk losing.

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