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Constance Alexander: As 2018 comes to a close, looking back on a year of Main Street columns

Usually depicted with two identical faces looking in opposite directions, the Roman deity Janus gave his name to the month January. The god of gates and doorways, Janus acknowledged the past and the future at the same time. That said, it seems appropriate for the first Main Street of the year to reflect on the highlights of 2018 and peek into the future.

Starting with the basics, Main Street 2018 can be summed up as fifty-two columns, averaging 712 words each, for an annual total of about 37,000 words, covering a range of people, places, and things.

Early in January 2018, the spotlight was on former speaker of the Kentucky House, Jeff Hoover, and three other Kentucky lawmakers. The trio secretly paid $110,000 to settle a sexual harassment claim by a young female legislative aide.

Politics was center stage again February. After the tragic school shootings at Marshall County High School, the column from the week of February 26 asked: Would arming teachers really prevent tragedy from happening?

Also touching on politics was an account of this year’s winners of Governor’s Awards in the Arts. Unlike past years, when recipients were given a few minutes to share their reflections with the audience at a celebratory luncheon, this year the meal was presented without their remarks. Instead, they were asked to submit a 1-minute artist statement.

Recipient of the National Award, jahi chikwendiu — Lexington native and a celebrated photojournalist — posted his insights online. He explained that he would have liked to hear the voices of the other honorees, but “our eleven 1-minute speeches seemed to be ‘sold’ for at least one of two relatively lengthy Governor’s remarks.”

Main Street observed April as National Poetry Month by showcasing Christopher Collins, Kentucky native and Kenton County resident. The former Captain and 12-year veteran of the U.S. Army Reserve completed three overseas combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Dr. Collins’award-winning poetry book, “My American Night,” takes readers on a journey that travels between the graves of the dead and the conflicting emotions of live soldiers, who witness the human destruction of war and its effect on civilian populations, including children.

Other books featured in 2018 include Kentucky poet Frank X Walker’s “Turn Me Loose: The Unghosting of Medgar Evers,” Rick Bragg’s “The Best Cook in the World: Tales from My Momma’s Table,” and Rita Dragonette’s “The 14th of September,” a ‘coming of conscience’ novel about the Vietnam era.

Occasionally, columns lapsed into a memoir. A story about my Aunt Agnes and her bookie was timed to coincide with the Kentucky Derby. Thanksgiving yielded a tale of my sister’s ambrosia, a family tradition served on holidays in spite of the groans and complaints of everyone at the table. Reveries about perfume, hydrangeas, and springtime inspired other columns throughout the seasons.

The Calloway County Public Library and its role in civil society was a repeat topic. Several stories about accessibility and issues affecting people with disabilities highlighted projects of the Murray Art Guild and Murray’s Center for Accessible Living. Playhouse in the Park’s production of “Next to Normal” was praised for delving into the difficult topic of mental illness and its impact on the family.

The column closest to my heart was about 15-month-old Max Lindberg. Twin to Major, baby brother of Malena, son of Megan Scholl Lindberg and husband Mike Lindberg, Max was part of the Precious Baby project, a photo series for medically fragile babies. In his stunning portrait, Max is attired in a baby flight suit, complete with cap and goggles. He floats on a plush bed of clouds, jumping into an uncertain future.

In an era when some describe journalism as an “enemy of the people,” I am proud to raise a toast to the Murray Ledger & Times, KyForward and NKyTribune. In July, a column about Annapolis, Maryland’s Capitol Gazette, reflected on the essential role of community news after five of its employees were gunned down in the newsroom by a shooter who held a years-long grudge regarding the paper’s coverage of his harassment of a former classmate from Arundel High School.

Just days after the carnage, when photojournalist Joshua McKerrow was asked what plans the newspaper had for going forward, his answer was simple: “We’ll just get back to work,” he said. “You know, July 4 is next week.”

So there you have it, a view from Main Street past and present. Like Janus, I look back with gratitude for the honor of writing a column for the past thirty years. Regardless of what the future brings, I’ll stick to Joshua McKerrow’s advice: “We’ll just get back to work.”

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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