John Y. Brown, III

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Recovering Politician

THEN: Secretary of State (KY), 1996-2004; Candidate for Lieutenant Governor, 2007 NOW: JYB3 Group (Owner) -public affairs consulting firm; Miller Wells law firm (Of counsel) Full Biography: link

John Y. Brown, III: Sunday Morning Worship

sunday morning worshipSunday morning worship is for humans trying to do better not for people trying to pretend they aren’t flawed.

Great Sunday school class this morning: Biblical, spiritual, practical and relevant.

Left me feeling connected to my faith a little stronger than when I arrived this morning –and with a slightly larger calling for the week ahead.

JYB3_homeAnd even gave me the spiritual strength to try to forgive that asshole I wasn’t going to forgive until next week.

And maybe even apologize myself to people who were planning to wait until next week to forgive me.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Trending Thoughts (In My Head)

trending1) I can’t remember the other thing I forgot to do yesterday.
2) Oh, yeah, that was it.
3) Ooh! That reminded me of the other two things I had forgotten
4) I can’t believe he had the nerve to say that to me in at the meeting this morning…asshole…but I’m not going to say anything but he was being an asshole.
5) I need to workout again at some point. Maybe tomorrow. Or Saturday. Or sometime soon.
6) I’m starting to get hungry.
7) Need to listen to my voice mail messages.
8) Why is it taking them so long to get such a simple answer to a simple question?
9) Oh God! I am a nervous wreck about…something…oh yeah, paying for college for my daughter– 2 and a half years from now. That’s a ways off, though …But still….
10) I hope my wife appreciates how hard I work and all the things I worry about during the day. I don’t think she fully appreciates all the stress I am under.
11) God, that guy really was an ass this morning. Maybe I should say something to him.
jyb_musings12) I am probably going to need to get an extension on my taxes this year.
13) I’m getting really hungry now.
14) I hope I don’t get attacked by a gang if I go out for lunch. Zoe’s Kitchen is probably pretty low risk.
15) My life isn’t really as stressful as I want my wife to believe it is –if I am really honest with myself–but I want her to think it is anyway.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Beverly Hillbillies in Boca

10006221_10154036606585515_1122170479_nTonight my wife and daughter and I couldn’t decide if we should order room service for dinner or go out. We decided, since we were in Boca Raton, to go out –to our favorite Italian restaurant after driving by the old apartment complex where Rebecca and I lived briefly when we were newlyweds in the early 90s. I was fresh out of law school and working for Kenny Rogers Roasters. It was an exciting time in our lives and our son was born in a Boca Hospital just down the road from our apartment a few months before we moved back to Kentucky.

Lots has happened since then and tonight our daughter was with us and we wanted to share our memories with her. Unfortunately, our favorite Italian restaurant was no longer around but we found an excellent substitute, Trattoria Romana, a 4 1/2 star restaurant nearby. The problem was we were looking a little ragged and unkempt after driving 5 hours from Key West. We were wearing sweatpants and, in my case, was unshaven and wearing a rumpled shirt. But we were determined to retrace our steps the best we could for old times sake.

As we walked into the elegant restaurant we could tell we stood out in an awkward and uncomfortable way. We felt like the Beverly Hillbillies had just walked into the Boca Raton country club and at any minute we would be asked to leave. We joked among ourselves that maybe we were making other people uncomfortable that they may had overdressed tonight. After some uncomfortable self-conscious banter we were seated. Not beside the kitchen door–which was what I expected– but in a secluded corner tucked away from visibility from anyone save the waiter. It was obvious but not offensive if were willing to suspend disbelief long enough to get through an appetizer and entree.

We continued to chuckle and joke among ourselves as the waiter brought bruschetta to our table. I tried to eat the bruschetta while ordering but ended up dribbling oily chunks of tomato in an orderly pile beside my plate instead of inside my mouth. My daughter was laughing almost uncontrollably at how deftly I was fulfilling the stereotype we assumed our waiter had of us–and I wasn’t being self-deprecating. Just self-fulfilling.

I wanted to play it up with the waiter and ask if they served possum and grits. But I didn’t. We ordered rigatoni and ravioli, two entrees easy enough to pronounce–and split the two entrees among the three of us. So far, so good. We skipped dessert and asked for the check before something really embarrassing happened.

jyb_musingsAs we slinked out I joked with Rebecca and Maggie that maitre ‘d was probably expressing relief that we were leaving quietly and not creating a spectacle. We laughed again amongst ourselves and filed in line behind several older regulars at the restaurant who were chatting and chuming it up loudly and proudly–and a little intoxicated. One, a distinguished looking man of about 70, turned to me and peering over his bifocals couldn’t decide if he should give me his car parking stub or not. So he just held it out in my direction in an uncommitted way so that if I were the valet I would know to take it but if I wasn’t it would look like he was just making it known he had a parking stub but wasn’t directing it at anyone in particular.

I was laughing to myself at yet another slight– but also, by this time, getting a little irritated. So I responded by pulling out my parking stub and offering it to the distinguished 70 year old man. “Could you, uh, please get my…Oh wait! I’m sorry” And then the man’s friend interjected laughing, “He thought you were the valet and tried to give you his parking stub” We laughed together and I said I would be happy to get their car if they were good tippers and not in a particular hurry.

Then some other friends from their party came out and we tried to chat but one of the other gentleman, also about 70 and distinguished looking, said to his group just loudly enough for us to hear, “Open the door and anyone can walk in.” He was referring, apparently, to us–the riffraff in sweatpants and, in my case, unshaven and with a rumpled shirt.

I thought to myself. “Surely, he’s not referring to us.” But my wife and daughter assured me he was.

I looked at him agog and thought to myself, “What do you say to that?” I didn’t say anything. And at that moment the valet pointed to where our car was parked across the lot rather than deliver it to us. We, staying consistent, only had $1 of cash left and used it as our tip. I was very discrete in handing it off hoping the valet would think he got a larger single bill than a $1 and wouldn’t notice until we had pulled off the property.

The drive back home we joked about our dinner experience as outcasts and I tried to think of something clever I wished I had said to the man who made the rude comment about opening the door and anyone walking in. But nothing at all came to me. Which confused me. I am usually good at telling people off after they offend me and I am driving home having an imaginary conversation with them and putting them in their place. I was offended but other than fantasizing what it would have felt like to punch him (which, of course, I didn’t), I couldn’t come up with a clever or funny retort. And didn’t really even want to. It just felt like any way I could respond to such a rude comment would automatically devalue me more rather than put the other person in his place. (Especially if I haven’t shaved.)

And that, I suppose, is the lesson I learned tonight.

In the future when I go to a nice restaurant, I will try to dress more appropriately. If I do that I won’t feel as awkward and have to make inside and self-deprecating jokes about myself. Or pretend I don’t know who the valet is. And if someone treats me rudely by making an insulting remark, there’s nothing I need to say at all in response. Just let it lie and leave it with the rude person un-responded to. And just fantasize about punching the rude guy in the face (even though I really don’t) as I drive off the lot–after tipping the valet $1.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Key West

key westKey West, Florida… Forever and always the year ’round spring break city for ages 18 to 88–but a city that really isn’t a city at all and more like a narrow corridor off of an alcove off of some real city (but nobody is sure which one) that just happens to be located somewhere between an ocean beach and the end of the world.

It’s a real place where real characters like Ernest Hemingway once briefly lived but feels more like an imaginary place where imaginary characters like Jack Sparrow would permanently live, if he was real.

The daily rumblings of the town aren’t anything like back home and resemble instead something akin to an outdoor rave–the morning after the actual rave. And the evenings are like the night after a bad hangover after you have been resuscitated with a hair-of-the-dog concoction.

And as shady and delirious (even if you are sober, like me) as all this might sound, it is kind of wonderful and mysterious, too. And even restorative –in a kind of mischievous and decadent way.

Time seems to stand still –or at least move in slow motion– not because nothing is happening but because the locale is so disconnected from anyplace where workaday things are happening you forget the need to keep track of time. Which is such an unusual–and enlivening– sensation to experience in our hustle-bustle nation.

And so glad to have found a place where, for a few days, you can remember what life is like without the push and pressures of ticking clocks in this narrow corridor off of an alcove of some city in this mysterious but wonderful place somewhere between an ocean beach and the end of the world.

Things that can happen in Key West…

While waiting for a Cuban coffee you can overhear an older white-haired Irish-looking man introduce himself to the mail carrier as “Tip O’Neill’s nephew.”

jyb_musingsAnd you can wait for the mailman to leave and introduce yourself and tell the man you overheard him say he was related to Tip O’Neill and wanted to say how much you admired the personalized approach his uncle had to politics and think often of the story of President Ronald Reagan getting shot and the first person to visit him in the hospital was the democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, and the two men talked and prayed together–and how you wish we could someday get back to those times in American politics.


Things one thinks to oneself while in Key West:
“Do you realize you are 50 years old and have never been to a transvestite show?”
10245415_10154030010180515_1283347388_nDolphin art show

What we did tonight instead of going to the transvestite show–next door

Dolphins are great and all, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t fabulous!


New thing I learned tonight in Key West….

Even if you are a blissfully happily married 50 year old man, it is still nice to be checked out by a younger woman.

Even after you realize it is actually a younger man who is dressed up as a women.



John Y. Brown, III: Maddie Yates

maddie yatesI didn’t know Maddie Yates or her family but my heart goes out to them tonight.

Maddie is the Louisville high school student who committed suicide yesterday after posting a video explaining her plan to kill herself and why.

The video is no longer on the internet but the transcript is. I just read the transcript and was drawn to this part:

“Remember how bad of a person I really am. I say awful things. Even if I don’t mean them, I say them. You don’t even want to know the things that I think; I am not a good person. I’m doing literally the whole world a favor.”

I was drawn to these words because I wish more adults would say from time to time –and say it so a young person can hear it:

“I say awful things that I don’t mean and later regret saying. I think thoughts that no good person would think. I sometimes wonder to myself how someone like me could ever be a ‘good person.’  But that doesn’t make me a bad person. It makes me about average–and the same can be said for everyone else who has thoughts like this. We just aren’t very good at talking openly about the uncomfortable parts of ourselves… but maybe one day we’ll get better at it.”

JYB3_homeAnd I think if each of us adults would say something like that from time to time –and say it so a young person can hear it–I think we would be doing literally the whole world a favor.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: A Couples App

appA smartphone “couples” app I’d like to see.

I’ve got an app to count calories and steps taken in a day.

Other apps help me gauge my business travel and finances and even help me manage dietary choices.

But what I could really use is an app that would help me determine how long I need to pout to equal or “get even” for undeserved slights from my wife Rebecca. For example, if Rebecca says “You never do such and such” when, in fact, I do occasionally do such and such –I just don’t do such and such all of the time– that is worth approximately 5-7 minutes of pouting.

How do I know?

I don’t.

That’s the problem.

jyb_musingsIt’s just a gut feel.

And if I overestimate the necessary pouting length, that can lead to a retaliatory slight from Rebecca to level set things. Which then leads to another pout and another slight and so on.

Hence why an app that could tell me more accurately how long I should pout would be so handy. And like all good apps, it should be cross-functional allowing Rebecca to calibrate the precise counter slight for when I over pout.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Life lessons from the Billy Joel concert

Billy Joel Concert

The author at the Billy Joel concert with some nudnick and two beautiful women

Billy Joel The StrangerThe first two music albums that I fell in love with were Billy Joel’s The Stranger and Steely Dan’s Aja. I was 13 years old. Over time I came to like Aja better but initially The Stranger was my favorite. First favorite albums always have a special place in your heart and which is why I was so excited to attend my first Billy Joel concert at the YUM center last week.

The first thing I noticed was Billy Joel looks a lot different today than he did when I was first introduced to him in 1977. He even joked when introducing himself that he was really Billy Joel’s father. A lot of time has passed since The Stranger was released –37 years to be exact. But as I was treated to a generously long lifetime of songs from the legendary Billy Joel I couldn’t help but notice that –at least in my opinion—almost all of Joel’s greatest songs came from The Stranger (1977) or earlier works.

The 37 years that followed had produced some memorable and even exceptional songs but none that rated, again in my opinion, as classics or truly extraordinary pieces of music.

jyb_musingsWhich made me think to myself that perhaps in music—and other professions—the key is to have a huge creative burst in your late 20s and then you can coast the rest of your life by replaying your greatest hits, so to speak, to sell out crowds. In other words, I asked myself, Was Billy Joel and so many other of our greatest artists their own version of Orson Welles –who stunned the world with his prodigy and prodigiousness in his early career before falling relatively flat during the ensuing decades?

But as I remained entertained and even entranced by Billy Joel I knew something more was at play. Perhaps for some artists they do flame out early and coast for many years after that. But that is not what we were witnessing with Billy Joel. Yes, his greatest music perhaps was written when he was a younger man but we were not watching a man who was past his prime. He had matured from a great song writer to one of the greatest entertainers of our time. Joel may have been at the apex of his creativity in his 20s but now in his 60s Joel was still peaking as a performer and master musician.

So, as we were slowly filing out after the concert, I wondered to myself what this all meant. Perhaps it was that great creativity and breakthrough originality are breathtaking to experience but like all things that take your breath away are hard to sustain. But real passion and dedication that lasts not for months or years –but for decades –and is nurtured while honing your life’s work, may not take your breath away, but does elicit something even greater—an awe and respect as well as a record of sustained excellence that is even rarer and more special than moments of genius.

The author at the Billy Joel Louisville concert with some nudnick and two beautiful women

The author at the Billy Joel Louisville concert with some nudnick and two beautiful women

I learned, I suppose, that the depth of our devotion is more profound than the height of our creativity. In music. And in life. The former can create one of the great albums of a generation. But the latter can establish one of the greatest entertainers of our lifetime. And made me glad that the Billy Joel I finally got to see live wasn’t the brilliant 28 year old at his creative flashpoint, who would have still been very exciting to see, but rather was the 65 year old master of his craft and consummate musical performer, who truly was amazing to behold. And who also taught me an important lesson about life.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: “Survivor: For Real”

reality tvIdea for a new reality TV show

“Survivor: For Real”

Twelve companies that provide online services (e.g. reservations, etc) –and then make it nearly impossible to ever reach a human by phone and, if you do, it is only to talk to a well-trained call center worker who has memorized every conceivable polite way of telling you you will get absolutely no help— will have their CEOs and call center employees transported to a marooned island with no food or shelter or cell phones.

jyb_musingsAlso on the island are the frustrated customers of these 12 companies and they will have much more food and shelter than they need –as well as having cell phones. But this group will be unable to talk live to any of the CEOs or call center workers who are begging for food and shelter because they will be on their cell phones and can’t be bothered. But they will be very polite about explaining why they can’t talk or help right now. And tell them to have a nice day and ask if they would agree to participate in a customer service survey.

The ensuing fun will be something most every viewer will be able to appreciate.

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Car Alarms

04car-alarm-manDon’t you hate it when you are trying to work in your office and someone’s car alarm goes off…..?

And blares on…..?

And on….?

And you start to wonder if the owner knows their car is driving everyone within earshot crazy …..?

jyb_musingsAnd then finally give in and go outside and try to figure out how to determine which car it is in your office parking lot that is going off and hope you can find someone who knows the car owner and they can get hold of them to turn off the annoying and offensive car alarm……?

And realize it is your car?

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Diet Update

Diet-Meme1Week 10 of my diet and down 14.7 lbs (oh hell, let’s just day 15 lbs!)

My goal is 12 more pounds. Not sure why that is my goal other than Kent Oyler, who is my height and much fitter than I am, told me what he weighed when I was starting my diet and I decided I wanted to look like him. We were at an event at the Kentucky Science Center and talked about it. I never told him that because it sounds kind of creepy but it’s the truth.

I lost 12 lbs the first 6 weeks and only 3 lbs the past 4 weeks….but I am moving in the right direction–just slowly.

It may be summertime before I have my Kent Oyler-esque bod. But I looked at a picture of Kent and I on Facebook just now and I think it will be worth the wait. And that sounds really, really creepy and is probably something I should have just kept to myself. But dieting finds the strangest motivators and that is all I am trying to say.

And if Kent sees this post please know that just because I imagine your physique in my mind daily as an idealized motivator for my diet, I am not imaging your body in any kind of weird way that should concern Kathy. I swear. It is just a dietary tool and totally normal, I am sure. I hope. And thanks for being my inspiration. And I don’t mean that in any kind of weird way either. I really don’t. I swear.

jyb_musingsLook, all I am trying to say here is I have lost 15 lbs and have 12 lbs to go. And when I get there perhaps Kent Oyler and I can dress up like twins one day just for fun. OK, I know that is really, really weird and I am totally joking. Promise!!

Although…I suppose it could be kinda cool. But probably not. Not “probably not” that I will lose the additional 12 pounds but “probably not” that when I do Kent and I will dress in the same outfit one day. Unless, of course, Kent insisted on it. Out of respect for him I would have to consider it then. But it would have to be his idea. And even if I ageed to do it I would pull Kent aside and tell him I thought his idea was a little weird and I wasn’t completely comfortable with it. But I would do it anyway because Kent’s a good guy I respect a lot and I feel like I owe him.


Diet update: For the first time in 3 months, I went shopping for a new pair of pants.

3 months ago I wore a 38×29 (and was pushing it at 38 in and measured 39″) –but today fit comfortably into, get this, 35×30 pants.

That’s right. I have lost 4 inches in my waist.

But perhaps even more impressive, I have –apparently–grown an inch as well. And I wasn’t even trying to grow. Buying a pair of medium boxers ….well….that was just showing off.

John Y.’s Video Flashback (1995):