Monday, April 17, 2006

The Britches Debate
Our town is abuzz with a very important debate, one that might determine the future of our entire city and region. The question, simply put, is this: Exactly how big are we in relation to our britches? Louisville writer Bradford Cummings argued in the C-J that we are too big for our britches, a contention anyone who's seen us from behind would probably agree with. But writer Christopher Hall countered that our britches might actually fit if we would only follow poet Robert Browning's advice to "buy one's pantaloons at the Big and Tall Shoppe."

It seems to me that both of these thoughtful pants-watchers are missing the point, which is that if Louisville would only forgo britches altogether, we could grow infinitely with neither belt nor buttonfly to hold us back. At the very least, let's consider investing in a roomy pair of lounge trousers for our city -- ideally something in a lightweight knit with an elastic waistband, easily expandable to make room for an arena, a few new Ohio River bridges, and maybe another six or eight hundred Walgreen's.

Despite the bulbous contents of our britches, it's hard to argue with the success of city-county merger. Not only do we now have a Factory at The Mall devoted exclusively to Cheesecake and a pool hall with La-Z-Boys, but we also suddenly became the 16th largest city in America. Sure, some people get all hung up on technicalities like census data, but the truth is as plain as the signs that travelers entering our city probably can't see because of the terrifying, white-knuckle grip they must endure while driving on our crumbling highways: "Welcome to Metro Louisville, 16th Largest City in America, If You're Not a Stickler for Accuracy."

I believe that we should poke a new hole in the belt holding up our britches and expand merger. For context, I did some research at Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia anyone can edit. After editing Wikipedia and reading what I'd written, I learned that by simply annexing Elizabethtown, Shelbyville, LaGrange, and Ft. Knox, we could rocket past Denver, Milwaukee, El Paso, Boston and Charlotte to become a top-ten American city.

But why stop there? We should take a cue from South Dakota and include in our population all the Metro fetuses currently in development. Doing so would push us past Indianapolis, Detroit, and (depending upon the "Alito factor") San Jose.

Even better, we could follow the advice of the Vatican and count every Metro sperm, which would put us in the company of Shanghai and Tokyo. That kind of population would finally get us on The Weather Channel's rotation, for sure.

But no matter what future census shenanigans we come up with, it's important to think of ourselves not simply as a city with free parking, $1 longnecks, and a couple of churches large enough to compete for the Final Four. Instead, we must reach for any remaining stars we can still see twinkling through the toxic haze that hovers over a world-class community friendly to job growth.

And to do that, we must do what American educator and proctologist Sidney Finkelstein referred to as "quit taking yourself so seriously and pull down those britches, for crying out loud." Only then will the rest of the world truly see all we've got to offer.

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