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Louisville To Do List: Muhammad Ali Center

Last Friday, I fiiiinally crossed off this destination on my Louisville list. I knew very little about Muhammad Ali and prefer many sports to boxing (golf is not one of them). Still, the man is called “The Greatest” for a reason, and I heard positive things about the museum. Here are some highlights:

  • If you are a AAA member, you get a $1 off admission (it’s usually $9 for adults).
  • The visit begins on the fifth floor with an orientation video. It’s very inspiring and may have made me tear up a little.
  • Although the exhibits on Ali’s life and career are text-heavy, there are plenty of videos to break up all the reading
  • Ali did NOT throw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River because he was refused service at a restaurant. It was just misplaced.

My favorite part of the museum was the Howard L. Bingham gallery. Bingham is a photographer and Ali’s best friend. Through the years of their friendship, he has made over a million images of Ali. The gallery highlights his other work — shots from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s funeral, protesters at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, a Watts’ resident’s stash of weapons. And then there is a video about Bingham that includes him talking about his friendship with Ali, and this is where I cried again at the Muhammad Ali Center.

I liked that the museum puts Ali’s life into the context of historical events. Rather than just noting that Ali dealt with discrimination in his hometown, there are sections on segregation in Louisville and the Civil Rights movement. Ali’s refusal to be inducted into the army is presented with an overview of the Vietnam War. I can always use a review of anything I learned in history classes.

Even though photography is verboten (I think. I lied when asked if I had any cameras), I took a picture of this on a walkway of drawings on the theme of “What is Your Wish for the World?”


That’s a good wish.

While I wouldn’t call the Muhammad Ali Center a Louisville Must, I recommend it to anyone with some time and even the slightest  interest. The building is beautiful, and even if you can’t get to the sixth floor, you get lovely views of the river on the other floors. I left with a new respect for Ali — I learned a lot about the man, a little about Louisville, and a little more about history.

A Summer Swimming Wish

I think it’s safe to say summer has arrived in Louisville. Despite the fall-like temperatures last week, I’m looking at temperatures in the high 80s and 90s for the next few days. I don’t mind the heat if I don’t have to be anywhere looking presentable, and I usually don’t. But if I’m walking around in it, I start craving oceans, lakes, rivers — any body of water. Given the geographical location of my current home (and the drugs and sewage in the Ohio River), a pool is really the best I can hope for without driving too far. And while I have at least one pool connection, I am after one particular pool — the Lakeside Swim Club.

Melissa at voiced this desire last year: “Lakeside has become my Xanadu. My Dulcinea. My Holy Grail…I want to be invited to Lakeside just to see it.”

She’s right — Lakeside IS the Holy Grail of pools. When I first moved to Louisville, I was in good swimming shape. My Peace Corps roommate was once a swim instructor, so he helped me with my form and taught me a few tricks. I love the water, and I wanted to figure out where in Louisville I could practice my recently acquired flip-turn skills. So I turned to Google and learned about Mary T. Meagher and some Y pools. At the time, I was jobless and carless, so getting to these places often seemed like too much of a commitment. If I had the money to buy a membership, I didn’t have the time, and vice versa. I briefly read about Lakeside, but wrote it off quickly after taking in their membership requirements.

Later that year, I was in the Highlands Kroger when I saw this aerial photo of a pool surrounded by high rock walls. It looked beautiful, and unlike any pool I’d seen. I determined this had to be Lakeside and that I had to go. I mean, the club is built out of an old rock quarry. There’s a pool, a “lake” with swimming lanes, and a float area. Last year, Melissa and I visited the quarry in La Grange. No memberships required there, just $8 (maybe $9?) and a float. But it has creepy fish (minnows but also monsters) and pond scum (quarry scum?). Lakeside has chlorine. I don’t just want to see it. I want to swim in it.

But again with the membership. You have to be a member to get in, and to become a member, you either have to live in the neighborhood surrounding the pool (certificate membership) or be sponsored by a certificate member (associate membership). Members can bring guests, and that’s where my ticket is. But as far as I know, none of my acquaintances are members. But this is a small town, right? Who do I have to buy drinks for in exchange for a guest ticket to swim in that “lake”? I only want to go once. I promise I won’t abuse your connections. We can swap stories about fabulous places we’ve been swimming.

If you don’t know anyone with a sweet connection, at least leave me some other suggestions about fantastic swimming holes — anywhere in the world.

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana

This one's nice, but it's in Ghana

Louisville To Do List

I have a bad habit of living places and failing to visit major sights. I saved St. Louis’s Arch for the last half year of college and have yet to see Cahokia Mounds. While studying abroad in Geneva, I went to two museums and never set foot in the UN (although I did have lunch at the UNHCR). I planned for a year to bike from my village in Togo to nearby waterfalls in Benin, but never did it. And the major venues, restaurants and historical sights I missed in my six months in New Orleans make up a list too embarrassing to even begin listing.

I’ve been in Louisville for almost a year now and I’ve seen the Colonel’s grave, been to a Bats game, listened to live music at Waterfront Park, eaten at Proof on Main (and been in the men’s bathroom at 21C), bet on races at Churchill Downs (no Derby, though) and picked blueberries at Huber’s. Yet there are many places I keep thinking about that could easily get pushed aside and go the way of the Beninese waterfalls.

So as Gabe and I headed out of state for our 4th of July weekend, we made a list. I’ve added to it, taking some recommendations from Louisville Magazine’s “50 Things Every Louisvillian Should Do” (June 2010). We’ve since been to Frankfort and Lexington (despite the title of this post, the list includes things outside of Louisville).

Kentucky's capitol (in Frankfort, in case you forgot)

Kentucky's capitol (in Frankfort, in case you forgot)

These To Dos remain:

- at least one distillery tour. We’d like to do the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, but I think visiting at least one distillery is a more realistic goal.

Jefferson Memorial Forest

Bernheim Forest - I like hiking. I’ve done zero hiking since last August.

Falls of the Ohio – I’d like to see fossils, since I can’t see any falls.

Mammoth Cave - According to the website, this is the world’s longest known cave system. True story: I’ve never been in a cave. Ok, that’s not a true story, but I’ve never been in a cave like this.

- Cincinnati – they have Trader Joe’s there

- the Old Seelbach Bar – F. Scott Fitzgerald drank here and featured it in The Great Gatsby. Louisville Magazine says I’m supposed to drink a Manhattan here, but I think I’ll just have the bourbon on ice.

- both the First Friday Trolley Hop and the Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop (beware of the trolley clang if you follow this link)

- a drag show at Connection

- bike at least part of the Louisville Loop, which will one day be a connected 100-mile trail

- the Muhammad Ali Center

- the Louisville Zoo -  I always have mixed feelings visiting zoos, but I’ll go to any city’s zoo at least once.

What else? The Kentucky State Fair is on the agenda for August, but am I missing something you love about the area (notice that “the area” can extend to Cincinnati)? And if any of my three readers are interested in helping an item on this list happen (Gabe has been to some places and is less interested in others), let me know. I plan on being here for a while yet, but that’s the same thing I said about the waterfalls.