Wednesday, December 31, 2003



Instant Message to all of you making New Year's resolutions: What are you waiting for? Go ahead and start keeping them now, to get a running start....

It's the final day of 2003 - and it's obviously an important milestone. If the Muscogee County Sheriff doesn't name the deputy who shot Kenneth Walker today, civil rights groups will complain they've waited an entire year for an answer.

Columbus Assistant Police Chief Rick "Don't-Call-Me-Ricky-Anymore" Boren told WRBL Tuesday officers will be out in force, checking high-visibility areas. You can help keep things peaceful, by keeping your hands visible at all times.

Many news reports have noted this will be the first U.S. New Year's Eve under an "orange alert." The Bush administration announced this a bit too late - before Columbus city officials could arrange to have a giant orange drop downtown at midnight.

They tried a few years ago to have a "First Night" celebration in downtown Columbus, but that's apparently fizzled out. Instead, several restaurants and clubs on Broadway are joining in a one-ticket-for-all "New Year's crawl." We'll see how many people wind up so drunk they do that literally....

(Don't forget you can call SafetyCab to get a free ride home, if you have too much to drink. And also, please don't forget to leave your taxi driver a big tip - to make up for the money he's losing on you.)

Miriam Tidwell made a TV tour Tuesday, promoting a fundraising party for her husband's cancer treatment center at Port Columbus. We hope she ties everything together, by offering liver check-ups throughout the evening.

The Civil War cannon will be fired at Port Columbus to mark the start of 2004. BUT Miriam Tidwell says that won't happen until 12:25 a.m., after people watch the countdown to midnight on TV. Once again, Columbus shows it's behind the times - even at the start of a new year.

The Panamanian Association of Columbus is holding its own New Year's bash tonight on Forrest Road. We assume in good Latin American tradition, at midnight a giant piñata will drop to the floor and break in pieces.

(Come to think of it, what WOULD we drop in Columbus to mark a new year -- a giant-sized AFLAC duck?)

What gets me is how much some of the New Year's bashes cost. The Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center party at Port Columbus costs 75 dollars a ticket - in ADVANCE! The Tidwells say that cost is tax-deductible. But for that price, they could throw in a chest X-ray or something.

Many churches in the area will mark the end of 2003 with "Watch-Night" services. I've never been to one of these things - so do the ministers repeat their best sermons of the year, for people who fell asleep the first time?

(And who came up with the name "Watch-Night," anyway? I could do that at the Space Science Center almost any weekend....)

The Civic Center is hosting a rock concert tonight, featuring the band "Three Doors Down." That group also is appearing on ABC's New Year's Eve program, which started rumors the Columbus show would be televised live. Sorry, it's not -- why, nobody even bothered to show Tuesday's high school all-star football game live.

Second Baptist Church's service will be a bit different - with a Christian rock band and FREE FOOD! You'll be able to tell the non-Christians in the building, because they'll be throwing the food at the band.

By the way, did I hear WMLF Radio correctly? Several local churches will serve black-eyed peas and collard greens at midnight? Why hand out foods which supposedly bring good luck, after the ministers preach against gambling?

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: October in Columbus found the newly-named "Festival at South Commons" in full swing, and Mayor Poydasheff calling one side of town "Columbus South." Way to go, Mayor -- now they have to change the signs next fall to "Festival at Commons South."

Columbus's two big television stations marked their 50th anniversaries in October. Several news reporters have worked at both those stations over the years - and we think there's still time for Al Fleming to pull the grand slam, by moving from NBC-38 to TV-16.

Debate raged in October over a Muscogee County school sales tax - and related somehow to that, whether Wal-Mart wanted to build a SuperCenter at the old Sears building on Macon Road. Can we finally be realistic about this? Wal-Mart could have bought out Columbus Square Mall for years, and never did....

Columbus staged a "Parade of Heroes" for the military in late October. Too bad Larry's Giant Subs wasn't open yet on Broadway, to provide the soldiers with hero sandwiches.

Then came November - and Westville became a movie set for the horror film "2001 Maniacs." The director miscounted the number of SOA Watch protesters by about 8,000.

November was a decisive month for many areas of government. Muscogee County schools wound up with a one-cent sales tax. Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore wound up out of a job. And now Moore can't even get a job as Muscogee County School Chief of Staff.

Russell County's Commission voted to rehire Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan in November. Maybe it's just me, but since that vote Probate Judge Al Howard has acted a lot like a villain on "Xena: Warrior Princess."

Months of hope and hard work fell short in November, when the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau learned it will NOT host a presidential debate at the RiverCenter. In fact, things have become so bad the RiverCenter isn't even hosting a debate on police brutality.

The Georgia Baptist Convention came to Columbus in November. The Georgia Republican Party will hold its state convention in Columbus next May. We estimate about 1,000 people will occupy the same seats at both events.

November will long be remembered at Auburn University for the trip trustees and officials made to Louisville, Kentucky. How many mint juleps did these men drink BEFORE deciding to go there?

December brought a vote in Phenix City on whether to change the form of government -- and out of about 2,000 voters, the majority voted no. Most of the other residents probably were at the Wal-Mart SuperCenter, doing holiday shopping.

December was a quiet month in Columbus - until that sheriff's deputy opened fire one night along Interstate 185. It seems the Sheriff's Office still doesn't get it. It took two weeks for an officer to answer the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's call for sensitivity training - by saying the department already does that.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: After an off day from blogging Thursday, we'll hand out year-end awards to people and things around the area which deserve them. If you have a suggestion for an award, write us ASAP....

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 30, 2003



In my list of items for which I'm thankful [26 Nov], I mentioned the start of Scrabble nights at the Playwright Café. But the last few weeks I've felt guilty - because I hadn't actually attended one of those nights. It's like being thankful for a spare tire when you never pull it out of the trunk.

So Monday night I decided to drive down Broadway, to play Scrabble at the Playwright - and what happened? As I stood at the corner waiting for the light to change, a man clearly walking against the light greeted me from the middle of 11th Street.
Uh-oh - not even the downtown clean-up workers in purple shirts are this friendly.

"How're you doing?" said the man standing in the middle of 11th Street.

"Good evening," I replied quietly.

"Do you have any spare change?" Surprise, surprise. Sometimes I feel like a homeless person sprayed my jacket with dollar signs which beggars can see, but I can't.

"Let me cross the street first," I told the beggar in the intersection -- and then the light changed to cross 11th Street. That man should be thankful it was Monday night. On a Saturday night with a RiverCenter concert, he might have been run over -- but then again, he might have stood in the middle of a parking space and tried to sell it.

"What do you need the change for?" I asked the beggar after crossing 11th Street. I don't simply hand out money to anyone who asks -- well, unless it's April 15th.

"Get a sandwich," answered the beggar in condensed English.

"The Playwright Café's right down the street here. It's Scrabble night, and I can buy you a sandwich."

"All I want is a sandwich at Burger King," the man semi-protested. In this beggar's view, a dinner at the Playwright would have qualified him for Monday night's Robin Leach TV special "Life of Luxury."

(Speaking of that special - what's the deal with Russell Simmons and his wife having all those top-dollar mansions and Bentleys in New York? Why aren't any of those luxury items back home in Atlanta? Are they afraid Bobby Brown will knock on their door, and ask to borrow something?)

"I'm sure they have a sandwich at the Playwright," I reaffirmed to the man - and he accepted that idea. But then I noticed something curious. The 1000 block of Broadway was busy. The 1100 block had no cars at all. Is downtown zoning that restrictive -- putting all the gaudy-looking clothing stores here?

At 1109 Broadway, there were no lights on inside the Playwright Café. In fact, the door was locked - and the restaurant's hours of service appeared covered over with paper. I don't know if this was merely a shutdown for the holidays, or if Larry's Giant Subs already claimed a victim.

At least the beggar had stated his dream for dinner -- and so as a second choice, I decided to give it to him. We walked back to my car, and I drove the man to Burger King near 13th and Veterans Parkway. He hardly said a thing as I drove -- so maybe word is spreading downtown that I have an answer for the Salvation Army line. [Dec 18-19]

"A Whopper Junior and a senior drink," the beggar told a woman at the Burger King counter. He turned down a value meal - which is amazing, because I've met many homeless people who try to turn a request for a sandwich into a four-course banquet.

The sandwich and drink for this admittedly-broke man cost me $1.21 with tax - and with a thank you from him, I stepped outside and drove home. Once again my evening hadn't turned out as planned. But come to think of it, a burger and drink at the Playwright Café probably would have cost me five times more.

Monday night marked at least the third time in seven years I've bought food for beggars at the downtown Burger King. So why doesn't one of these fast-food chains open a restaurant inside a shelter? Homeless people would get both cheap food and job training....

The most memorable beggar I've helped at that Burger King was an overweight woman who first needed breakfast, then told me she also needed money for school supplies for her children. I was reluctant to take her to a store to buy those supplies. For one thing, she asked for them in late May -- two weeks before the school year erded.

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus NAACP President Edward DuBose called Monday for a federal investigation of what he considers systematic police brutality. Since Columbus has an African-American police chief, the betting may now begin on which civil rights leader will be first to say "Oreo" in public.

Edward DuBose called for Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson to resign. But at the same time, he encouraged all "good law officers" to keep doing their job. So which ones are these - the ones patrolling upper-class streets on the north side of town?

Edward DuBose has called a public hearing for January 21 at the Liberty Theater, to record what he calls a pattern of police racial profiling. We agree that this should end - only take the front mugshots, after arrests.

For a change, a Muscogee County Sheriff's officer talked with a TV station Monday. He stated deputies are NOT trained in racial profiling - but are given "sensitivity training." For instance, how to hug people and check their pockets for weapons at the same time.

The Muscogee County Sheriff's Office provided WRBL with a one-page report on the shooting of Kenneth Walker -- but NO videotape or name of the deputy who opened fire. Reporter Jessica Clark openly predicted on the air others requesting those items will not succeed. If that's true, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation should end its work any day now.

(Sheriff Ralph Johnson is playing the game of "Cover-Up" so well, he ought to head to Hollywood and appear on "The Price is Right....")

One TV report revealed when it comes to law enforcement in Columbus, the number of white personnel tops the number of African-American personnel by more than two to one. But we think there's a way to balance out those numbers - by counting all the recruit soldiers at Fort Benning.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: August was quite an international month in Columbus. The Houlihan's Old Place restaurant opened downtown. The Civic Center hosted the International Festival. And I think it was about this time that Mike and Ed's barbecue went back to selling french fries, instead of "freedom fries."

A Columbus radio announcer gained national attention in August. Courtney Rollins of FM-92 "The River" tried to persuade her boyfriend to marry her at Dodger Stadium, on the reality show "Anything for Love." He said no - and we fear since then, Rollins has been saying "Anything for no more crank calls from hard-luck single guys."

Former Columbus Police Chief Jim Wetherington switched careers in August, becoming headmaster of Calvary Christian School. He's learned his new duties well - as he's kept as quiet about the handling of the Kenneth Walker case as any other white man in Columbus.

Miram's held the grand opening of a new restaurant in August, called "Tapas at the Village." This is not to be confused with her weekly talk show on TV-16 - "Tapes at the Village."

Meanwhile, the Columbus Chamber of Commerce announced in August the Germany company Heckler and Koch would open a gun factory in town. Once it opens, there will be two lines - one for the law officers, the other for African-American drivers.

The Atlanta Falcons took the field in August -- and Michael Vick broke his leg before the regular season even started. As a result, the Wardogs now have the golden opportunity to hire Dan Reeves as an assistant coach.

Then there was the Auburn football team -- which was shut out on opening night by Southern California. Isn't it strange? If the Tigers had played up to their pre-season hype, the Trojans might be playing for the B.C.S. national title after all.

August brought the big showdown over the Ten Commandments monument in Montgomery. It ended with the monument in a closet, Chief Justice Roy Moore out of a job - and Senate Democrats still unconvinced that Attorney General Bill Pryor was sincere, and deserved a judgeship.

(How strange a summer it was - with "Queer Eyes for the Straight Guy" out of the closet, and a Ten Commandments monument IN one.)

In September, Alabama voters rejected Amendment One -- what Governor Riley called his "tax and accountability package." The Governor now says he'll offer the legislature merely an "accountability package" next year. And if that fails, he'll try simply a "package" - maybe something from a package store.

WRCG Radio pulled a surprise in September, by giving Edward DuBose of the NAACP his own Saturday talk show. So when is Jerry Laquire going to make his debut on Foxie-105?

The new NAACP talk show began as WRCG marked 75 years on the air in Columbus. That's the diamond anniversary - so that's why you never hear Atlanta baseball games on any other station.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North came to Columbus for a book-signing and speech in September. Miriam Tidwell is trying to book him for a return trip next November - to tell off those SOA Watch protesters once and for all.

Best Buy opened a big new store in Columbus in September, up the hill from Peachtree Mall. How many of us wish Best Buy and Rich's-Macy's would trade places - so the traffic and parking jam near Manchester Expressway would clear up?

(Best Buy built its store where the Kinnett dairy used to be. After what we've heard lately about Kinnett's new owner Parmalat and its alleged accounting fraud, Columbus looks very smart -- even if it's by accident.)

COMING WEDNESDAY: Our year-end wrap-up concludes.... and good thing, because the year is wrapping up with it....

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, December 28, 2003



It's a busy couple of days for me, so I only have time for a few quick notes:

+ The Columbus Target store apparently has an internal radio system, which employees can hear but customers cannot. I happened to hear a bit of it Saturday night, as staff members were told to offer "guests" Target credit cards. It's always better to prepare your "no" answer in advance.

The Target store's in-house radio also said closing quickly Saturday night should not be a problem, because business was light. I could understand why. From what I saw, most of the leftover half-price chocolate was grabbed Friday.

The store with the most obvious "inside radio" system for employees is Old Navy. The checkout staff wears headphones, and even seems to answer customer phone calls while they check you out. It's too bad companies can't afford to hire switchboard operators anymore.

+ A row of nice new trees has been planted along the Riverwalk in the last couple of weeks, near the Trade Center expansion. Now if city crews please will plant a few lights as well, so joggers don't run into them in the dark....

+ This morning's "Beginning of a New Season" broadcast on WEAM Radio featured a Phenix City preacher declaring, "The only person who can deprive you of your blessing is YOU." This is the first preacher we've heard siding with the Muscogee County Sheriff's Office, against Kenneth Walker.

(Instant Message to WEAM: In Georgia the town is called BYOO-na Vista, not "Buena Vista." As long as you've been in town, why doesn't your announcer know that?)

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: Phenix City made history in July, when the City Council approved Sunday liquor sales. Before you start any conspiracy theories - the Russell County Commission vote to reinstate Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan took place on a Wednesday.

Mayor Bob Poydasheff announced in July the "Vice Squad" is coming back to Columbus. The way things are going, they'll be joined sometime in 2004 by the Guardian Angels from New York.

Members of the Third Brigade began returning to Fort Benning in July, after liberating Iraq. It must have felt good returning to those all-American, trustworthy tattoo parlors on Victory Drive.

Talk surfaced in July about a new one-cent sales tax for Muscogee County schools. Several months later, the School Board should be thankful the Sheriff's Department didn't attempt any drug stings for months.

A new monthly publication came to Columbus in July - "La Voz Hispana," with items in both English and Spanish. I'm still waiting for Ritmo Latino Radio to offer this same sort of thing on weekends, so people can understand more than "O-K" and "Party time."

Direct Optical Center unveiled a unique new TV ad in July - where a woman gives a message in sign language, and there's no sound for 30 seconds. How I wish the guys at King Ford would borrow this idea....

The South Georgia Waves named a new General Manager in July. Then within a week, Dan Madden slipped out of a game early and was never seen again. Not even the owner of the Wardogs could make a clean getaway like that.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: We want to hand out year-end awards in a few days to noteworthy people in the Columbus area. If you have a suggestion, write us in the next couple of days.

Saturday, December 27, 2003



Instant Message to Mark Pickert of Bill Heard Cadillac: Did you know Publix sells PREMIUM bread? It says so right on the label - perfect to go with that premium steak you like in those commercials.

I picked up a loaf of Premium Bread at Publix on Bradley Park Drive Friday afternoon, along with milk and cookies - then was appalled by what I saw in the checkout lane. The man in front of me in the "10 items or less" lane had about 14 items in his cart! This is what happens when our students do poorly on math exams.

The cashier didn't seem to do a thing about this "express lane" scofflaw - but as his checkout began, room opened for me to use an adjoining lane. I pointed out the violation to my new lane's cashier. But much to my chagrin, she didn't make a citizen's arrest on the spot, either.

But I was put in my place moments later, by a man who came up behind me. He joked about having a bunch of bananas in a bag, and said each banana could be counted individually. Suddenly I felt guilty - because my cookies were in a 36-count box.

(Back in the original line, this man really was over the 10-item limit - even with his case of Budweiser not counting as 24.)

In a moment which would have made any supporter of the Clinton administration proud, I told the cashier only half-humorously, "We need a ruling on what the legal definition of ONE is."

To be fair, the Publix cashier tried to settle the matter as politely as she could. "Let's just say you shouldn't have a buggy full of groceries." I accepted that explanation and walked out with my bags - but think about that a minute. Eight packages of plastic diapers might be too many.

(By the way, did you notice the Southernism in the cashier's answer? All these years I've been pushing CARTS around grocery stores....)

Dave Barry wrote a newspaper column years ago, in which he speculated the U.S. Supreme Court might have to settle the issue of express lane counts someday. Lower-level judges certainly aren't helping resolve it -- when they order lists of Ten Commandments removed from courthouses.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: May was memorable for all the flooding along the Chattahoochee River. The river
was the highest I've seen it since moving to Columbus - and if that didn't bring out the whitewater rafters, why does the city think removing dams will do it?

And if that wasn't scary enough, much of Columbus felt an early-morning earthquake during May. It was about the only rattling of the year that could NOT be blamed on exercises at Fort Benning.

Several AM radio stations did some shifting during May - and as a result, ESPN Radio no longer is on the air in Columbus. That means no Tony Kornheiser show. And that should end the rumors about Jews controlling all the media.

A broadcasting legend left us in May, when Auburn sportscaster Jim Fyffe died. Who could have guessed the football team would remain in mourning through the first two games of the season in September?

Bill O'Reilly discovered Columbus in May, when some Taylor County High School students decided to have a "whites-only" prom at The Estate. If students try this again next spring, we're not sure who they should fear more - O'Reilly coming to tell them off, or civil rights leaders looking for revenge.

Several Columbus high schools had to move their graduation ceremonies to Columbus State University in late May, because the Civic Center was booked by the Wardogs for an arena football game. If you think about it, C.S.U. is a better location - because the teenagers can go to Peachtree Mall afterward and hang out.

Work went on all through 2003 for a new Phenix City hospital. But a big surprise came in June, when the Chief Executive was fired for not wanting to live in Russell County. How ironic that a school chief of staff IS interested in living there - but he's still waiting for the Muscogee County School Board to hire him.

A Columbus teenager received national television exposure in June. Ben Shuler appeared on "Nightline," as he took part in a national competition for high school-age preachers. So why doesn't he have his own half-hour telecast on TV-16 yet?

On the other hand, the RiverCenter hosted a production of "The Rocky Horror Show" during June. Alabama's football team staged its own version several months later - the "Rocky-Top Horror Show."

Andrea Bailey was crowned Miss Georgia at the RiverCenter in late June. Her replacement as Miss Savannah now faces charges of murdering her boyfriend. So what's her platform - protecting the second amendment?

Long John Silver's returned to Columbus, opening several restaurants mixed with KFC's. This gave a whole new meaning to the phrase, "combo meal."

(If you want to make the staff of those restaurants smile right now, all you have to say are three words: "Mad Cow Disease.")

Former Georgia Governor Lester Maddox died in June. We're now waiting for white people in Taylor County to declare his birthday a holiday.

June had a happy ending for many Columbus drivers, as the new Veterans Parkway Bridge opened downtown. Six months later, it seems safe to predict this bridge never will be named after Sheriff Ralph Johnson.

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, December 26, 2003



Talk about a city getting no respect! Columbus didn't win a Presidential debate. Only today is a Presidential candidate finally coming to town - and the campaign isn't even the main reason why he's coming.

Al Sharpton will wear his "National Action Network" hat, as he appears in Columbus to talk about the shooting of Kenneth Walker on I-185. If you think about it, that civil rights group has a curious name. Most of the time they're complaining about wrong actions people do....

(So if there's a network, where's their broadcasting division - with the "National Action News?")

I didn't realize until the other night that Al Sharpton has connections to a famous Georgia musician. He spent several years as a manager for James Brown's concert tours. Isn't this amazing? Brown had close contact with a minister, and STILL he went to prison.

Al Sharpton's appearing at the Spirit-Filled Church in Columbus. As it happened, WRBL cancelled its 12:00 noon news Thursday to show a program from that church. Pastor Wayne Baker admitted sometimes he has trouble remembering people's names. If Sheriff Ralph Johnson ever names the deputy who shot Kenneth Walker, that'll be an exception.

The Wayne Baker "Pastor's Corner" telecast apparently was taped a few weeks ago. He never mentioned the Kenneth Walker case, and spent most of his time explaining the Bible. If Baker hopes to become a civil rights leader, he'll need to unlearn that habit....

LAUGHLINE RERUN: Al Sharpton made news often during the LaughLine era - and here's some of what we wrote about him in recent years:

24 Mar 00: Religious reconciliation may have hit the U.S. House Thursday, when a Catholic priest became Chaplain. You may recall Democrats accused Republicans of prejudice, for offering a Presbyterian minister for the job. A potential
compromise candidate lost his chance - because Al Sharpton has jail time to serve.

16 May 00: As new TV shows come in, some old ones must go. One of the programs NBC canceled was "Profiler." This gives Al Sharpton one less thing to boycott.

14 Sep 00: African-American "Cassandra" was kicked out of the "Big Brother" house Wednesday night -- leaving four "white folks" and the Asian-American Curtis. If they think the megaphones and banners outside the house are bad now, just wait until Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton show up.

30 Oct 00: Then there's the [political] ad by the group "Americans Against Hate." It claims Albert Gore was endorsed by Al Sharpton, who once called Adolf Hitler "a great man." Commercials like this must scare some people away from politics. Who knows if they'll kiss a baby whose ancestors owned slaves 200 years ago?

1 Jan 01: White House aides announced Sunday President Clinton will accept a treaty to create a permanent "International War Crime Court".... Opponents of this treaty fear other countries will take the U.S. to the International War Crime Court, and accuse our leaders of genocide. Other countries?! We suspect Al Sharpton or Louis Farrakhan would do it first....

19 Jan 01: Jesse Jackson had been organizing a big election protest in Tallahassee this weekend.... Another leader of the Florida protest, Al Sharpton, dared to say Thursday the timing of the Jesse Jackson affair [announcement] was "a bit suspect." What time would have been better -- Monday, on Martin Luther King Day? Or February, during "Black History Month?"

4 May 01: The [Survivor 2] reunion show revealed "Survivor Three" will be staged in Africa. Uh oh -- now Al Sharpton will be calling for "minority set-asides...."

21 May 01: The weekend was filled with interesting political rumors. Al Sharpton told "Time" magazine he plans to run for President in 2004. It would help if Rainbow/PUSH gave Sharpton a donation -- but he might have to make someone pregnant first.

Al Sharpton told "Time" he got the idea about running for President while sitting under a tree in Sudan. How many
Democrats wish he'd double-check that idea - and run for President OF Sudan?

24 May 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton was ordered jailed in Puerto Rico Wednesday. He's already taking Democratic politics to a new level. Bill Clinton was only accused of criminal offenses -- while Sharpton's actually serving time.

Al Sharpton must serve a 90-day sentence for trespassing onto a U.S. Navy base, to protest bombing practice on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. This may be an early clue of Sharpton's position on the military - against it.

Al Sharpton complained about Puerto Rico's court system. He says he was informed only Tuesday about his hearing on
trespassing charges, and never had time to obtain adequate counsel. Given the things Sharpton does, we're amazed he doesn't keep a full-time lawyer on his staff

31 May 01: Jesse Jackson visited presidential candidate Al Sharpton in a Brooklyn, New York jail. Jackson left announcing
Sharpton is on a hunger strike. Critics considered Sharpton's waistline, and said he's prepared a long time for this....

5 Jun 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton rejected an appeal to stop his jailhouse hunger strike - from his mother! Mom's
apparently concerned Sharpton will lose so much weight that he'll finally see what's inside his belly button.

8 Jun 01: How's Presidential candidate Al Sharpton doing on that jailhouse hunger strike? Well, Sharpton's lawyers now
admit to "Newsday" he's actually been eating soup! And since it's Al Sharpton, no doubt it's "Chunky" soup.

C'mon, now: how can Al Sharpton's lawyers actually claim he's still on a hunger strike, while he's eating soup!?!? Wellll - maybe for him, the meat in the chicken noodle soup FEELS like a hunger strike. Those church dinners tend to serve big chicken thighs.

(Al Sharpton's eating soup on a hunger strike, eh?!?! That's a bit like Vice President Cheney saying he's watching his health by eating doughnut HOLES.)

13 Jun 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton told the "New York Times" he's lost 14 pounds on his jailhouse hunger strike. We're not sure how Sharpton came up with this precise number - unless he's finally able to tighten his belt half-a-notch.

22 Jun 01: One of television's best-known actors died late Thursday.... Carroll O'Connor broke new ground in TV comedy on "All in the Family." He played a bigot who actually used racial slurs and swear words. Today, of course, Archie Bunker couldn't live in New York. Al Sharpton would have protested outside his house too many times....

2 Jul 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton ended a 30-day jail-cell hunger strike. Aides say he lost 29 pounds. This is a warning to New York's "all-you-can-eat" restaurants -- stock up now.

10 Jul 01: The Wimbledon men's champion was quite a longshot - Croatia's Goran Ivanisevic, ranked 125th in the world. To give you some comparison, imagine Al Sharpton actually winning the Presidency in 2004....

18 Jul 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton threatened to sue the U.S. Navy. He says when he was arrested for protesting bombing practice in Puerto Rico, he was strip-searched. This WOULD be cruel and unusual punishment - at least for the people who had to see Sharpton naked.

17 Aug 01: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton gets out of jail. He's ending a 90-day sentence for protesting Navy bombing
practice on Vieques - AND he's lost 30 pounds behind bars! Look out, Republicans! Sharpton now has the endurance to be even MORE long-winded.

21 Aug 01: Al Sharpton confirmed Monday he's considering a campaign for President in 2004. The first step is to form an "exploratory committee," to see if a run is viable. Until Sharpton lost those 30 pounds, a "run" from him obviously was not.

(What exactly will Al Sharpton's exploratory committee do? We can see it raising money for long road trips, to ask church groups to clap their hands if they want him to run.)

Al Sharpton told reporters he's qualified to run for President, because "I've been in public policy all my life." He noted Jesse Ventura had NO such experience. Well, yes - but Governor Ventura looked like he could pin lawmakers to the floor, to get his way.

Al Sharpton defended his possible campaign by asking, "Are we going back to a United States of only white male landowners engaging in the political process?" We thought this man had met Colin Powell and Hillary Rodham Clinton....

Al Sharpton's main issue is that the Democratic Party is drifting too far to the right. Of course, Sharpton probably believes Conservative Republicans are SO far to the right that they're rolled over belly-up in a ditch.

Al Sharpton's announcement came only three days after he ended a 90-day jail term, for protesting Navy bombing drills in Puerto Rico. Will this hurt Sharpton's chances of becoming President? Probably not -- he'll argue compared with Bill Clinton and Newt Gingrich, at least he SERVED time for the sins he committed.

2 Oct 01: Our main [vacation] destination is Panama City Beach -- in an area where the tourist bureaus love to boast about "white sand beaches." We keep waiting for Al Sharpton to complain about this, because it's obviously a hint about what sort
of visitors they want.

17 Oct 01: Al Sharpton promised to file a lawsuit, challenging the results of the Democratic runoff for Mayor of New York.
So much for all those "America Stands United" signs and T-shirts. People forgot Sharpton was still around....

25 Dec 01: Al Sharpton ended a 90-day jail term in August - leaving 30 pounds lighter, and talking about running for
President. Keep this in mind for 2004: if Sharpton gets elected, the White House kitchen staff probably will have to double in size.

9 Jan 02: Meanwhile, the Maryland State Police played a "cop-cam" videotape of a suspected skyjacker Tuesday. Ziad
Jarrah was stopped by troopers two days before the Tuesday of terror, and received a ticket for speeding. If Al Sharpton had kept his big mouth shut, some good racial profiling might have prevented a disaster....

15 Jan 02: Presidential candidate Al Sharpton announced he'll soon travel to India and Pakistan. He hopes to steer the
countries away from war, by reminding the leaders of Martin Luther King Junior's message of nonviolence. Two words, Pastor Sharpton - Mahatma Gandhi.

26 Mar 02: The Associated Press timed Halle Berry's Oscar acceptance speech, and found she talked and sobbed for nearly four-and-a-half minutes! Well, would YOU have interrupted her at that moment - and risked having Al Sharpton march outside your house?

3 May 02: Possible presidential candidate Al Sharpton addressed the National Press Club in Washington. He said in 2004,
African-American voters should "renegotiate their relationships" with the major parties. How much more money does he want?

4 Jun 02: The world breathed a bit easier Monday about a possible nuclear war - when Al Sharpton announced he will travel to India and Pakistan within two weeks. We fear Sharpton will come down on the side of India, since its food tends to be higher in fat.

(Come to think of it, Al Sharpton just might be the man to bring peace between India and Pakistan. He disrupted the U.S. Navy's practice bomb-dropping in Vieques - so this is the next step up.)

Al Sharpton admits he doesn't know who will go with him on the trip to South Asia - and in fact, he has no meetings set up yet. This is one reason why Sharpton's considering a campaign for President. He'd get a government-paid staff, to handle all those little details....

State Department officials say the U.S. government can handle the India-Pakistan tension without Al Sharpton's help. For one thing, the catering bill ought to be substantially less.

8 Jul 02: Michael Jackson told a Harlem news conference Sony Music's Tommy Mottola uses racial slurs.... At one point during the media event in Harlem, Michael Jackson actually kissed Al Sharpton! If Sharpton goes ahead and runs for President, the tradition of candidates kissing babies might be reversed.

11 Jul 02: Possible presidential candidate Al Sharpton has been around Michael Jackson for many of these race-related claims. Sharpton seems unsure what to think of this - first supporting Jackson, then backing away. After all, he'd have to support so many rappers currently in jail....

Curious quote of the day: Al Sharpton told his New York music summit the other day, "Record companies are like the Rocky Mountains. The higher you go, the whiter they get." Excuse us, PASTOR Sharpton - but didn't God create the
Rockies that way in the first place? Or did the white settlers foul them up?

25 Jul 02: Al Sharpton filed a billion-dollar defamation suit against Home Box Office Wednesday. Win this case, and he'll have more than enough money to run for President....

Al Sharpton is suing H-B-O over Tuesday's "Real Sports" program, which showed a 19-year-old F.B.I. tape. The tape shows Sharpton talking to a federal agent about a cocaine deal. Even then, there was one overriding issue for Sharpton - would this drug help him lose weight?

Al Sharpton says H-B-O's playing of the 1983 F-B-I tape was "defamatory and irresponsible." That's strange - we haven't heard him say that to Michael Jackson, about that feud with Sony Music.

Home Box Office calls Al Sharpton's lawsuit "silly." The cable channel claims Sharpton never provided a second F.B.I. tape,
which he claims cleared him of wrongdoing. How nice of Sharpton to think of Black Entertainment Television first....

An H-B-O spokesperson adds Al Sharpton was invited to appear on "Real Sports," but declined. That's a shame - because finally a minister could appear, to balance out all the smut on "Sex and the City" and "The Sopranos."

BUT.... lest you think I have a one-track mind, let's play a holiday game of "open or closed." A Thursday afternoon drive around town found:

+ Jumbo China Super Buffet on Wynnton Road - open. Does this prove the owners are closet Communists?

+ Peachtree Mall - closed. You missed your best chance in four weeks to get a parking space near the door.

+ Walgreens stores - open. With all the supermarkets closed, they made a killing from people who run out of chips.

+ Pop Austin Recreation Center - closed. What's this about?!?! People can only watch basketball on Xmas night, instead of playing some to work off dinner?

+ Waffle House on Macon Road - open. On holidays like this, these restaurants are covered and smothered. With hungry customers....

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: OK, so the Blue team beat the Gray Thursday in the big all-star football showdown in Troy. Remember, I was the same guy who thought Kansas could beat North Carolina State the other night -- and K.U. lost by 30 points.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW will continue this weekend....

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, December 25, 2003



It's Thursday, December 25th, and many of us in Columbus know what that means. Only seven more weeks remain until they race for the pole at Daytona....

Does it seem like the radio is filled with nothing but holiday music on Christmas Eve? Since I don't have cable TV, I decided to dial around in the 8:00 p.m. hour Wednesday night to see if there were other options:

+ 880 AM: WCBS in New York offers 24-hour news. I can't help laughing at the story about Mexico banning U.S. beef imports, to guard against mad cow disease. What do they call it there, "Bush's revenge?"

+ 1000 AM: WMVP in Chicago (I think) is airing a baseball game - the seventh game of the American League Championship Series, between the Red Sox and Yankees. Apparently the "hot stove league" is out, and the Yule Log league is in.

+ 1120 AM: Jackpot! KMOX in St. Louis is broadcasting the Las Vegas Bowl. For one night, having too many bowl games is a good thing.

The local options at 11:00 p.m. this year were a bit different from other December 24th nights. The live St. Luke United Methodist Church service was only on NBC-38 and two radio stations. Only a couple of years ago, it was on four TV stations at the same time. So how many people decided to stop tithing?

I suspected the St. Luke Pastor might bring up Monday's "healing rally" he attended at the Government Center. Dr. Hal Brady didn't let me down, saying it was a time for "renewing our investment in each other and the community." Compare that with Al Sharpton, who might urge people to stop investing in Columbus entirely.

Pastor Hal Brady felt it was an appropriate time in Columbus to ask the question: "Is this city any better because we live in it?" After you answer that, the next question might be: "Would Columbus be any better if sheriffs' deputies let people live in it?"

WRBL showed a holiday service from First Presbyterian Church - which included a minister reading a wordy statement about how the night's offering money would be used. Was this statement really necessary? I think all the downtown bars shut down for the evening.

By the way, did you see Rabbi Max Roth from Shearith Israel synagogue talk about Hanukkah during the 5:00 p.m. news? He kept calling Hanukkah a "minor festival" - but he couldn't stop talking about its meaning and its traditions. Even Judaism can have long-winded preachers.

BLOG UPDATE: The Georgia state chairman of the National Action League apologized Wednesday for some of his comments at a protest against the Muscogee County Sheriff. Well, then again A.D. Carter never put "apology" in his statement. He's apparently in a showdown with Ralph Johnson, over who will say that word first.

During Tuesday's protest at Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, A.D. Carter referred to Monday's "healing rally" downtown, and described the speakers as "Bootleg Leadership." Now hold on a minute here! We've never seen Columbus State University President Frank Brown receive any payoffs from liquor stores.

The Wednesday statement by A.D. Carter admitted his criticism of the Monday rally "was derived out of anger, emotion and the heat of the moment." So you see, Columbus IS uniting -- because an unnamed sheriff's deputy probably experienced those very same things.

A.D. Carter's short statement did not take back everything he said on Tuesday. He writes: "It is still my stance that there are people portraying themselves as leaders of an entire community when they only speak and represent a select few...." Will someone please remind this man that Bob Poydasheff was elected Mayor in a citywide vote?

Meanwhile, your blog learned Wednesday night relatives of Kenneth Walker do NOT want his picture shown on TV until further notice. It apparently only adds to the family grief, we're told. We can understand this request - especially since the picture of the Sheriff's Deputy who shot Walker hasn't been shown on TV at all.

BIG PREDICTION: The Gray will beat the Blue by at least 14 points in today's Blue-Gray Game in Montgomery. When the Blue can pick players from Notre Dame, Penn State and Syracuse, yet the best quarterback they can find is from Evangel University of Missouri, this team is in trouble.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: April brought a new baseball team to Columbus, the "South Georgia Waves."
Considering how small the crowds were at Golden Park, it's a wonder they didn't wave goodbye.

Perhaps the only reason the South Georgia Waves are still in Columbus is that a deal for a new stadium in Evansville, Indiana fell through. It's just as well, because people would have scratched their heads about the name "South Indiana Waves" just as much.

The Third Brigade from Fort Benning moved into Baghdad in April, and Saddam Hussein went into hiding. How many soldiers became frustrating, looking around Iraq's capital for a place to pawn their car title for a loan?

At around the same time, top cyclists moved into Columbus as part of the "Tour de Georgia" bike race. The local stop was sponsored by Tidwell Cancer Treatment Center - which was disappointed in November, when SOA Watch protesters didn't pass through town that quickly.

Columbus's only local radio talk show gained a new host in April. Russ Hollenbeck moved from Producer of WRCG's "TalkLine" to the microphone. And unlike other hosts of that show, Hollenbeck probably doesn't feel the need to spray the mike for germs after Edward Dubose's show on Saturdays.

COMING FRIDAY: We welcome Al Sharpton to Columbus, by going through the LaughLine archives to check his record....

Wednesday, December 24, 2003


24 DEC 03: C-AND-E

IN MEMORIAM: Today marks 20 years since my mother died in Kansas City, Kansas. Maxine Burkard had a brain aneurysm at age 59. If you find me working too hard on this blog, give her the credit - because I'll never forget the times in my youth when she called me lazy.

My next-door neighbor has no car, so she asked me to take her to Kmart Tuesday afternoon to have her blood pressure prescription refilled. The big question, of course, was whether a crush of last-minute shoppers would make the blood pressure of both of us boil over.

Parking at the Kmart on Macon Road turned out to be pain-free. An open spot was easy to find, and not one person cursed us out. Now if they had offered me money for that spot....

As my neighbor walked to the pharmacy for her prescription, I spotted an amazing deal at the front of Kmart. They were selling nine-inch pumpkin pies for 99 cents! I had to check the label - and no, they were NOT made in China.

Lines at the checkout seemed small at Kmart - and especially at the snack bar, where I asked for a large bag of popcorn. Amazing deal #2: if your snack bar is out of bags, they'll put the popcorn in a plastic SHOPPING bag for you. I think I wound up with EXTRA-large....

But my next-door neighbor had a different experience. She said the line at the Kmart pharmacy was so long, she had to wait 15 minutes for her blood pressure medicine. Imagine if she had been out of anxiety drugs....

My next-door neighbor said she wanted to get her prescription filled Tuesday because rain was in the forecast for Wednesday. The upcoming holiday apparently had nothing to do with it. For older people on fixed incomes, sometimes the greatest gift can be a full medicine bottle.

I'd never stopped to think about people lining up to get prescriptions filled before major holidays such as Christmas. And I can't help wondering how many older people will wake up Thursday to find a bulky, wordy Medicare drug coverage bill in their stockings.

But enough of this Christmas stuff. Before I left home on my Tangerine Bowl party junket Monday afternoon, I was shocked - SHOCKED! - by what I found in my mailbox. It was a 2004 EASTER gift collection catalog! The last time I checked, Jesus was NOT hatched from an egg.

The Easter catalog came from a company I'd never heard of before, ABC Distributing. I apparently landed on their mailing list from my years operating - but I'm sorry, I don't need a catalog offering bunnies in embroidered dresses. [True!]

I called ABC Distributing in Miami Tuesday afternoon to ask about this catalog coming so early. The customer service said believe it or not, the "Holiday Gift Collection" catalog for NEXT year will reach me before long! C'mon, folks - even NASCAR takes a couple of weeks off between seasons.

The customer service woman said ABC Distributing encourages people to order quickly when its catalogs come, because some items sell out very quickly. So what are we waiting for? Let's have Christmas next year in July, and swap Easter and Valentine's.

BLOG UPDATE: Critics of the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department rallied again Tuesday - this time at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park on Buena Vista Road. Perhaps they figured one more gathering outside the Government Center might get them arrested for stalking.

The Vietnam Veterans Park is one of Lonnie Jackson's pet projects - so imagine his surprise when a TV reporter called him Tuesday morning to ask about the anti-Sheriff rally. He said he knew nothing about it! Was Jackson too busy lining up groups of children to pick up trash?

Several signs and speakers at the Vietnam Veterans Park demanded Sheriff Ralph Johnson resign, in the wake of the Kenneth Walker case. Hopefully these protesters realize that would solve only half the problem. Then they'd have to convince Councilor Nathan Suber to change positions.

An estimated 60 people attended the anti-Sheriff rally - and someone who was there told me only six of them were Caucasian, half of them journalists. Perhaps the people at Monday's "healing rally" feel cured already.

One speaker at the anti-Sheriff rally dared to declare the shooting of Kenneth Walker two weeks ago "a murder. It was no accident!" Yet these protesters are demanding the release of the Sheriff's "car-cam" videotape from that night -- so what psychic hotline does this speaker operate?

The National Action Network confirmed Tuesday night Al Sharpton will visit Columbus Friday, to talk about the Kenneth Walker case. And oh yes, you can help the healing process by writing a check to his Presidential campaign....

I checked the Presidential campaign web site of Al Sharpton late Tuesday night, and his calendar said nothing about an upcoming trip to Columbus. In fact, the only event marked on his calendar in the next few weeks is the Iowa caucuses. Maybe Sharpton takes the Jessica Clark approach to his trips - and throws darts at a map.

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: March marked a breakthrough for one Columbus community, as Ritmo Latino Radio went on the air a few weekend hours a week. But we're still trying to figure out why they don't call Bill Heard "Señor Big Volume" in Spanish.

March 3 was declared by Columbus Council "News Three On Your Side Day" - apparently because it was 3/3/03 on the calendar. So where was the outrage in September? The Council made no move at all to declare "Kissin' 9/9/3" day.

Georgia's basketball team was in turmoil in March, as head coach Jim Harrick was fired. Right now, of course, it's being upstaged by undefeated Georgia Tech - and if the Yellow Jackets keep winning games, some Columbus radio station might actually broadcast them.

My grocery shopping plans were blown up in March, when Save-A-Lot closed its Phenix City store. At the time, staff members said three new stores would open in Columbus within a year. I'm still waiting - unless they're all disguised as nail salons.

But the big event of March, of course, was one which had many people watching television intensely. They hoped and they prayed for a quick victory, yet there were some anxious moments. And when all was said and done, we could celebrate - because my alma mater Kansas made the NCAA men's basketball finals, and nearly won the title.

No wait, I forgot: IRAQ was the issue that almost everyone talked about in March. President Bush timed the invasion well -- as it was six months before anyone would think about postponing the Emmy Awards.

Crowds of anti-war protesters gathered at Toomer's Corner in Auburn in the days before Operation Iraqi Freedom began. I haven't heard anyone go back to them and ask what they have to say now - not to mention whether they're working on a plot to smuggle Saddam Hussein to exile in Cuba.

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003



For the first time in eight years, my old alma mater played in a college football bowl game Monday night. I mentioned here awhile back the game tickets cost $45 - but I didn't realize that was going to compute to 50 cents for every point scored.

Kansas went to Orlando for the Tangerine Bowl, and got eaten alive by North Carolina State's Wolfpack. But at least the Jayhawks can reflect on the way home about the thrill of the trip, the day at Disney World - and the extra $750,000 for the athletic department budget.

North Carolina State was led to victory by senior quarterback Philip Rivers. He's an Athens, Alabama native - and who knows? If he had never gone to Raleigh, those Auburn trustees might never have gone to Louisville.

I chose to save the travel time and $45 ticket for the Tangerine Bowl, and went to a Columbus sports bar. Trouble was, I was seemingly the only Kansas fan in the place - except maybe for the server at the bar, who had some mercy on me.

Pre-Game: A man sitting near me at The Sports Page bar hears about the Tangerine Bowl matchup and declares, "N.C. State should win this game." I put my finger in front of my mouth, asking him to quiet down. He sees the Kansas sweatshirt I'm wearing - and amazingly, he does.

13:56/1st Qtr: North Carolina State scores a touchdown on its first drive. A second man at the bar makes his own declaration: "No team with a 6-6 record should be in a bowl game." Uh-oh, Kansas does. Sometimes we consider it a victory not to lose.

"Hey, we need the money," I tell the second man of the bowl appearance.

"Then you should have paid the $45 ticket price."

10:46/1st Qtr.: Kansas scores in about three minutes to tie the game. Challenged by skeptic #1 to sing the school fight song, I start to do so - but he turns his head to someone else before I even get to the "sis-boom-hip-hoorah" part.

8:47/1st Qtr: The Wolfpack come right back in about two minutes for a second touchdown. I start to wonder if they're really playing basketball, only with strange uniforms.

The second skeptic at the bar now takes on Kansas's Big 12 Conference. "If you don't win your conference, you shouldn't be playing for the national championship," he says regarding Oklahoma's upcoming Sugar Bowl trip. I point out it happens all the time now in the college basketball tournament, and no one complains.

But a few minutes later, this man finds a kind word to say. "I like the name Jayhawk. It sounds like they have a bad reputation." Apparently he hasn't seen the Kansas logo - with the big blue bird smiling.

Both skeptics say during the next K.U. drive if the Jayhawks can't score and N.C. State then does, "the floodgates could open." Too bad one of them left before the prophecy came true - so I could get some Mega Millions lottery numbers from him.

Start of 2nd Qtr. Skeptic #2 looks at the Kansas cheerleading team on ESPN and finds it superior to the opposition. "There's no way a flat-chested woman should become a cheerleader," he declares. So for him, a "36" must not mean a perfect ACT exam score....

As the second quarter wears on and North Carolina State rubs it in, skeptic #1 notes I haven't sung the Kansas fight song in awhile. Skeptic #2 responds, "He didn't sing it the first time with much enthusiasm." Well, I would have - had you paid

(Now you can see why I didn't even bother to sell my debut CD there....)

Kansas head coach Mark Mangino is a - well, heavy-set man. Skeptic #2 openly complains it's not fair for people like him to pay for only one ticket aboard airplanes. Huh?!?! Do you want him stored below the seats, as luggage or something?

Halftime: N.C. State has a commanding 28-10 lead, so I look around at the Sports Page scenery. This is my first visit here since the restaurant caught fire in the spring - and about the only difference I noticed in the menu was a "hot" category for the wings.

(One artifact which apparently survived the fire was a banner in the rafters saying, "Braves contend for penant." Too bad, because it was spelled wrong both then and now.)

6:03, 3rd Qtr: A touchdown toss extends the Wolfpack lead to 42-17. I fold up my sweatshirt so the Kansas doesn't show anymore.

The ESPN production team noticeably turns against Kansas Coach Mangino. In the first half, his coaching record was shown this way: "2002 - 2-10. 2003 - 6-6." In this half, it's shown as "8-16 - .333". Biased reporters....

13:00, 4th Qtr.: A P.A. announcement inside the Sports Page declares "the biggest video screen in the world" is being lowered for Monday Night Football. For some reason, I think the jumbo-trons at the Georgia Dome are bigger.

10:45, 4th Qtr: N.C. State runs for a touchdown, to make the score 56-26. I've seen enough. The white handkerchief I pulled out to cry about the last score now turns into a flag of surrender.

I say good night to the men I met around me at the bar. I would have said, "Wait until next year" - but given Kansas's football tradition, the next bowl game might not come until 2011.

BLOG UPDATE: Yet another "healing rally" is planned in Columbus today, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park. If some doctors made this many attempts at healing, they might be sued for malpractice.

For the second Monday in a row, a "reconciliation rally" was held outside the Government Center. This was quite different from the Monday before - because for one thing, Mayor Poydasheff attended it. His presence apparently prevented "Orange Alert" rules from kicking in, and moving the rally a block away from the building.

Pastor Hal Brady of St. Luke United Methodist Church apologized for not speaking out sooner about the death of Kenneth Walker on I-185. Perhaps if someone had told him Walker also was a United Methodist....

Columbus State University Frank Brown attended Monday's Government Center rally as well. He especially wants to see racial divisions heal in Columbus - if only because it's better for recruiting basketball players.

By the way, we're still waiting for a date when Al Sharpton will visit Columbus to speak out about the Kenneth Walker shooting. He can't really think New Hampshire primary voters will have give him THAT much attention....

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW CON'D: February was a month of major change in Columbus. They included WRCG Radio's
new owners dropping talk show host Doug Graham for New York's Don Imus. The editors at the Ledger-Enquirer love Imus's humor - but at least Graham didn't use any dirty words on the air to get HIS lame laughs.

(So where is Doug Graham now? Someone told me recently he's working in the office of U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss -- so at least he's still promoting conservative propaganda.)

February also was the month U.S. Airways stopped service to Columbus, leaving the city a one-airline town. Look on the bright side, though. There's still a choice of several shuttle buses to Atlanta.

Not only that, Doppler radar arrived in Columbus in February. Some people were disappointed when Mr. Doppler did not hold a book-signing session at Barnes and Noble.

COMING WEDNESDAY: The worst-timed item I've ever received in my mailbox....

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, December 22, 2003



Always looking for ways to promote my debut CD, I drove Sunday to the Lee County Flea Market. If Paris Hilton is reading this blog - no, I did NOT see any fleas on sale there.

(And no, I did NOT hear any corny twisted holiday song called, "Flea's Navidad.")

My theory was that a good crowd would be gathered at the Lee County Flea Market, for the final weekend of holiday shopping -- and if people are there, they HAVE to be desperate for something new like my album, right?

I arrived at the Flea Market a bit before 1:00 p.m., and indeed a big crowd was on hand. But I quickly found a parking place and opening my trunk to set up shop. I read John Gresham got started by selling books from HIS car trunk - and I must admit, many people think the things I sing about are just as fictional.

My strategy involved showing up after noon, to get business from the "after-church" crowd. But as time went on, I realized many of the merchants were there most of the morning - so it was more like a NO-church crowd.

To get a sheltered table at the Lee County Flea Market, you need a reservation. To get in the row of outside merchants near U.S. 280, you apparently show up early in the morning. To get people to stop at my parked car, I needed a giant attention-getting loudspeaker - because not that many people stopped.

Several people passed by my car, and a few stopped to ask about my album. But in about two hours, I made no sales - even though I played the album through four times on my in-car cassette. Maybe I should have done what another merchant did, and offer a table full of stuff for ten dollars.

Most of the interest in my album came from Hispanic people, with whom I exchanged Spanish conversations. I can't help wondering if they were surprised to find someone in Smiths Station actually speaking their language.

I knew it was about time to give up for the day when a booth near my car called "Confederate Boulevard" shut down. It sold Civil War-era flags and such -- and not even Howard Dean supporters were there, trying to win the merchants' votes.

Now let's check some other items from the first weekend of Hanukkah, and the last weekend of shopping madness:

+ A big smoke cloud covered downtown Columbus during mid-afternoon. Either Fort Benning had a controlled burn under way, or Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputies were eliminating evidence.

+ My pastor read something from an unnamed source at church, claiming the flu vaccine is made with formaldehyde, aluminum and mercury. In other words, he said, it has embalming fluid, an item which can give you Alzheimer's Disease and a poison! The next time I see him, I can't wait for him to read the ingredients of TheraFlu.

+ The "First Born Ministries" telecast on TV-16 showed a man declaring "you can't do anything right without the Holy Ghost." Then how do so many non-Christian drivers keep their cars on the right side of the road -- and make it to work on time?

+ Former Alabama football coach Mike Price finally found work, taking the head coaching job at Texas-El Paso. Those wild golf outings will be much easier to hide in Mexico....

BLOG YEAR-IN-REVIEW: Columbus began 2003 by swearing in a new Mayor. Bob Poydasheff already is in the Chamber of Commerce's doghouse -- for daring to say we could do without the SOA Watch protest.

The new Columbus Council which took office in January included former pro baseball player Glenn Davis. Sometimes we wish he would show some leadership, and buy the South Georgia Waves to keep them in town.

New Republican governors also took office in January, in both Georgia and Alabama. Both Sonny Perdue and Bob Riley already have upset G.O.P. supporters, by not shutting down their state governments for lack of money.

The weather was weird at times in Columbus during January. We had a 71 degree day - then about two weeks later we had a 13-degree low. Come to think of it, has anyone invented a pair of thermal Bermuda shorts?

The first big entertainment event of 2003 in Columbus was a Bill Gaither "Homecoming Concert" at the Civic Center. Some people left scratching their heads, because a Homecoming Queen never was crowned.

Regular blog readers also will recall I declared war on North Korea in January. Almost a year later, that government has not responded in any way, shape or form. So when do I get my "Parade of Heroes" downtown?

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our review of 2003 will continue over the next several days....

COMING TUESDAY: My old college goes bowling for the first time in years.... so let's party!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

Looking for a musical gift with a meaningful message? Consider my debut CD with songs to inspire you. Click the link to order online, or head for Mustard Seed in Columbus and ask for "One God Many Moods." And while you're here, enjoy some humorous thoughts about the area I call home.



LAUGHLINE RERUN: In light of our taking in a homeless man this past week, we remember the last person we tried to help get into the Salvation Army. Here's what we wrote for the LaughLine of 14 Sep 00, with some updated thoughts to follow:

As we took a walk near LaughLine World Headquarters [my apartment] Wednesday afternoon, a man wearing a blue bandana on his head approached us.

"I'm trying to get a dollar, to buy a hot dog."

We didn't have any money on us, but offered to walk the block back to World Headquarters to provide help for him.

"I've got some hot dog buns," the man clarified, "so all I need are the wieners." We had three leftover franks in our refrigerator, which could make this simple. But the man didn't stop there.

"I need to get five dollars, to get into the Salvation Army for the night." We're still a block from our wallet, yet the stated need has changed twice.

"I need you to make up your mind, about what you want. A hot dog, wieners for the hot dog, or a night at the Salvation Army?"

"The Salvation Army," the man said, adding he was homeless and had spent two months on probation. (For what he didn't say.)

I stepped inside World Headquarters and grabbed my wallet with nine dollars in it. The man waiting outside explained as we walked to my car that he hid a tote bag in the neighborhood overnight, but forgot where. If we simply give him the five dollars, he can walk to the Salvation Army and find the bag on the way. But we offered to save him steps on a 90-degree day, and drive him there.

As we began the ride, the homeless man said, "I didn't know you lived around here." Well, I pointed out, we'd never met before - so you didn't know anything about me in the first place!

The man recalled hiding his tote bag behind a bush near a downtown hotel. We drive by the bush, but the bag is gone -- containing, the man claims, all his identification. (And, we can only assume, his hot dog buns.) The beggar left it there Tuesday night, when he got drunk after someone bought him a six-pack of beer. "I can get a new tote bag for six dollars," the needy man said.

"But you don't even have a dollar for a hot dog...." I pointed out. We rolled on toward the Salvation Army, but the beggar's mind changed again.

"Can you give me six bucks for a tote bag?" He decided a tote bag is more important than the Salvation Army, even though the lack of identification is the real issue. I decided to draw a line, since the Salvation Army might be able to provide a tote bag and other assistance. That's what the man said he wanted, so that's where we're going.

One problem: the homeless man doesn't want to go there anymore. "Take me back downtown," he demanded I noted we WERE downtown. "Then take me to BTW!" -- the Booker T. Washington housing complex, where he claimed to have friends.

"But you said you needed to get into the Salvation Army!" I argued. "They're able to help you, and that's what you want, isn't it????"

No, it's not. The man then tried to get out of the car - while it was in motion - as he demanded I pull over and stop to let him out. I explained we were close to the Salvation Army - and in fact, we arrived at the parking lot with the man practically surfing along on the passenger's side open door, as we crossed a high bridge. We stopped in a parking spot, and the man got out - then started walking in the other direction from the door.

"We're at the Salvation Army! Don't you want help?"

"Pay me the five dollars, to get in!"

"I can go in and pay the five dollars...." Not good enough. The man walked back toward downtown, and never turned back.

Since I was there, I went inside the Salvation Army and asked a man how much it REALLY costs for a man to stay there overnight. For the first three nights in a 90-night period - nothing. It's eight dollars a night after that, but they won't turn away anyone with a financial need. Hmmmmm......

BLOG UPDATE: As I review this true story from three years ago, I wonder why both the homeless man and I didn't think about going into the then-Hilton Hotel and asking it the staff had that tote bag -- and if they helped themselves to any money inside, as a tip.

Why didn't I simply give the man one dollar for a hot dog? For one thing, he said he had hot dog buns. If I cooked the franks sitting at home, it would be a match made in sidewalk heaven.

So why didn't I give the homeless man five dollars to enter the Salvation Army? Because if I do that and walk away, there's no guarantee the man will use that money for what he says. For all I know, his idea of "salvation" on a hot day may come from a six-pack of beer.

To this day, I can't tell you why the homeless man stood up in the passenger-side doorway as we crossed the Second Avenue bridge. He wasn't holding a camera or anything....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our "moral dilemma" about a Piggly Wiggly gift certificate [14 Dec] has brought this suggestion:

Hey Richard - I'm writing in response to your "pig" dilemma.

I'm sure that this will not help matters much, as they are a subsidiary of the Pig, but you can redeem said certificate at any Lewis Jones Store in lieu of walking into the Pig.

Otherwise, buy up all their filet mignon...and live like a king!

Best wishes,

Cory O.

Thanks for the suggestion, Cory - but as I think any farmer would tell you, a "Pig" by any other name is still a Pig. Any other thoughts?

COMING MONDAY: How the "fleas" live.... and our year in review begins....

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, December 20, 2003



After thinking so much about homeless people for a couple of days, let's send some Instant Messages to make up for what we've missed:

+ To Anthony Carter of the National Action Network: What do you mean some suspects in killings of African-American men in Columbus were "unsuccessfully prosecuted?" Don't you know how to say the wods, "not guilty?"

+ To the Columbus Chamber of Commerce: That's a good deal you have - buying a brick on your new "Business Walk of Recognition" for $100. Any old rap star with a criminal record can put his name there....

+ To whoever owns the Central Park hot dog stand on Macon Road: You can reopen it now. The construction is over - like about six months over.

+ To WHAL-AM: I'm glad the "Feed 98 Families" event went well Friday at Crawford's Cafeteria. But did you really mean to ask on the air for donations of "warm WEATHER clothing?" How many layers of tanktops do these families need?

+ To the Shearith Israel synagogue: Thank you for having a public menorah-lighting ceremony Friday evening, to mark the start of Hanukkah. Rabbi Friedmann at Temple Israel is such a killjoy about that festival.

+ To the Walgreens store on Veterans Parkway: How did you wind up with Time magazine covers of Jesus and "The Lost Gospels" - the cover that supposedly was changed for the capture of Saddam Hussein? Was this a special request, because Columbus is a Bible Belt town?

+ To Fort Benning: Thanks for the alert that you're closing two entrances to add security checkpoints. The folks at "SOA Watch" especially thank you - because they didn't know they could go in that way.

+ To the Atlanta Falcons: What are you guys doing - beating Tampa Bay this afternoon? Don't you WANT the top draft pick again?

+ To the Columbus Riverdragons: My apologies for claiming your games were not on radio this season. I didn't realize they were on "Boomer 95.3" FM - and I thought that part of the FM dial was playing nothing but Christmas songs this month.

+ To Columbus High School girls' basketball coach Ashley Powell: Are we seeing things -- or you are the second coming of Jill Arrington? (Yes, you may consider this a pickup line.)

COMING SOON: We'll begin a "year-in-review" series, with new perspectives on 2003's most interesting events....

To offer a tip or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a reply.

Friday, December 19, 2003



Our efforts to help the homeless New Jersey man named Herbert ended before dawn Thursday - but of course, it wasn't simple. Even seemingly simple-minded beggars can complicate things, by being quiet and forgetful.

12:00 m: Herbert has been sleeping on my futon on the living room floor since Wednesday evening. Now I go to bed -- but I
can't close the bedroom door, because the only heat source in the apartment is in the living room. So I quietly roll my standup vacuum cleaner into the doorway. If Herbert tries to come for my wallet in the dark, he'll give himself away.

5:50 a.m.: I can't sleep, so I decide to get out of bed and start the day. The lack of sleep in part is due to a chilly night (61
degrees F. in the apartment at wake-up time), and in part due to wonder about what might happen. I heard a pop of some sort around 5:00 - and wondered if Herbert was taking lightbulbs to sell at bus stations.

6:00 a.m.: Herbert knocks at my bedroom door as I finish a morning prayer. "Do you have any jogging pants?" He wants a change of clothing for the bus ride -- and apparently has not lined up any job interviews along the way.

I rotate four pairs of jogging slacks -- which in a way is strange to write, because I never go "jogging" in any of them. I wear them on days when the temperature should climb high enough to run, then take them off for the running shorts underneath to exercise. Trouble is, Herbert hasn't asked for running shorts as well....

The pair of running shorts I'd be most likely to give Herbert is a Bulldog-red pair with "GEORGIA" running down the side. They were given to me by a former roommate 14 years ago - and they'd be perfect for police to find, if Herbert became desperate.

Trouble is, I wore those Georgia jogging slacks in the last week, and haven't washed them yet. Besides, they have no pockets - and Herbert's experience with his wallet has shown this man needs every pocket he can get.

Of the three remaining pairs of jogging slacks, Herbert selects the grayish-white ones. "I'm going to throw these things away," he then says as he puts the pants he wore Wednesday in a little plastic bag. I strive in vain to talk him out of it - but the word "laundry" doesn't seem to get through.

6:05 a.m.: I stumble across the futon-filled living room, and find a can of diet cola on the floor. That explains the popping
noise. Herbert reached into my refrigerator for it - but to his credit, he never touched the two bottles of wine inside.

"Are you ready?" Herbert asks.

"Whenever you are," I answer. How strange is this? He wants to hustle out the door as fast as I want him to.

6:10 a.m.: We drive to the empty house Herbert called home for nine nights. It's across Third Avenue from Fourth Street Baptist Church. He tells me he's stashed a couple of plastic bags with belongings there. Is THIS what guest preachers have to go through, during revival weeks?

6:15 a.m.: We walk into the Greyhound bus station on Veterans Parkway. As we approach the ticket counter, Herbert
greets a man he apparently knows. They talk about a couple of things, including TSYS. I somehow doubt Herbert applied for work there - unless he tried to wash cars in the parking lot.

I ask Herbert where he met that other man. "Some time back," is all he'll say. For all I know, they may have been kicked out of a shelter together.

The bus for Camden, New Jersey will leave at 7:30 a.m. With a two-and-a-half-hour layover in Atlanta and another one in Philadelphia, he should reach Camden sometime Friday morning. Given the smell of the underwear he's still wearing, he'll probably have plenty of privacy on the trip.

("What can brown do for you?" In this man's case, I fear it gets him ostracized....)

The bus ride for this near-stranger costs me $133. A trip to New Jersey is only 33 dollars cheaper than the ticket I bought to send a man to Northern California last spring [16 Apr] - and it's a shorter trip in terms of mileage. I'd suggest you fill your gas tanks quickly, before prices jump back up.

As I turn to leave, Herbert follows me outside. "I want to smoke a cigarette," he says. Herbert told me Wednesday evening he does NOT do drugs -- and he said this as he tried to bum a cigarette getting into my car. I'm not sure where he got THIS one, but it appears he actually knows a little about savings.

I give Herbert a booklet about the church I attend, to help him understand why I tried to assist him, and offer a last apology for Wednesday's wild goose chase. But as I try to leave, he's not finished yet. "I'm gonna want something to eat.... Can I have two dollars to get something to eat in Atlanta?"

"I would have given you breakfast, had you asked for it!" But then again, it might not have thrilled Herbert - because no one makes chicken-flavored cereal.

6:30 a.m.: Returning to my apartment with no more Herbert, I decide to sketch out an outline of this blog entry before
going back to bed. But I discover one of my two combs is gone from the bathroom. Well, he knows what he needs - as the container of dental floss still is there.

7:45 a.m.: As I enjoy a much sounder sleep, I dream of reaching down below my car's steering wheel - and finding my green pair of jogging slacks stuffed underneath, blocking a heating vent. Truly my Pastor is right, when he says sleep time is when your thoughts get processed.

12:45 p.m.: The bus is long gone, but I have unfinished business. I return to the Salvation Army, to inform the staff the Task Force for the Homeless office moved December 1. The woman at the desk (different from Wednesday) didn't know, and her office resource book doesn't have the change. They must have been too busy serving dinners over Thanksgiving weekend to notice the moving trucks.

I give a brief summary of my experience with Herbert to the older woman at the office desk. "Well, you tried to help...." she says, "and you reap what you sow."

"I just hope I don't reap the whirlwind." At least at the Salvation Army, they get Bible humor.

12:55 p.m.: I roll up the hill to the Task Force for the Homeless office, to ask about their strange office hours. It IS open Thursdays from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. - but a sign on the window by the door says they're out until 2:00 p.m. Maybe this
"task force" has too many tasks on its hands.

2:45 p.m.: I call the Metropolitan Task Force for the Homeless, to ask some questions about what I found the day before. A woman tells me the shelters around Columbus WERE notified of their move to Second Avenue. It would help, of course, if their sign wasn't leaning half-hidden against the wall of their building.

Why is the Task Force office closed on Wednesdays? The woman says it's been "meeting day" there for three or four years - because they have a grand total of three staff members, and one of them currently is on leave. With a staff that small, you'd think they could meet anytime they pleased.

The Task Force woman also clarifies some of the rules about getting help for the homeless. Her office provides METRA bus I-D passes for people on Tuesdays and Thursdays, IF they have a letter from a shelter explaining their need. So you really CAN'T go there first for a picture I-D, before entering the Salvation Army! Perhaps Nathan's Feed and Seed needs to add a new department....

(Several people recommended I get the picture I-D for Herbert at the driver's license office - which is at the northeast edge of town, on Macon Road. Whoever decided to put the office out there must not want people to stop riding METRA buses.)

What about that "eight-dollar legend" spread by Columbus Police? The Task Force woman says that's actually half-right. The Salvation Army will keep people for FREE three nights per month. After that, the eight-dollar rule applies -- and at a maximum $232 a month, you probably could get a Booker T. Washington apartment for that price.

5:15 p.m.: It's warm enough for a late-afternoon run - and I take a course in the opposite direction from Golden Park. No
"Groundhog Day" movies for me, please....

So what conclusions and lessons have I learned from having Herbert in my life for more than 14 hours?

1. If you're travelling to Columbus, keep your wallet with you - tightly, at all costs. If you lose it here, you might never get home again.

2. Some shelters which claim to offer "mercy" to needy people seem to give them a set of legalistic rules instead. But let's face it, the "House of Justice" doesn't sound very appealing.

3. If someone approaches your car asking for help, please don't pull out your gun unless the homeless person shows his first.

4. Columbus Police need to be re-taught in the rules for shelters. This may occur right after Sheriff's Deputies review the rules for "shoot-don't shoot."

5. Columbus Police headquarters needs to start accepting credit cards, since exact change is required for criminal background checks after 5:00 p.m. This way, they can do an instant check for identity theft at the same time.

6. The Task Force for the Homeless needs more money, for staff and expanded hours. Now who wants to open a discount clothing store for it?

7. Can at least one of the new restaurants on Broadway remind people of how things used to be - and install a corner photo booth?

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Are the other lessons or suggestions Columbus can learn from Herbert's plight? Write us with
your ideas.

COMING THIS WEEKEND: We'll catch up on news stories we've missed the last few days, present the LaughLine rerun we promised about another encounter with a beggar a couple of years ago, and check e-mail about our moral dilemma....

If you quote from this in public somewhere, please be polite enough to let me know.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, December 17, 2003



As I write this, I'm ashamed for the city of Columbus - not to mention frustrated, and nearly outraged. My efforts to help a homeless man Wednesday were loaded with roadblocks. And no, this man did NOT have a small cloud hovering over his head.

3:45 p.m.: As I take an afternoon walk around South Commons, a man named Herbert is sitting on the black Olympic monument near Golden Park. "It sure is cold," he says to me.

"Yup. That's why I'm walking, and not in my shorts running." I tried running in my shorts one windy day recently when it was in the 40's F. -- and it was OK, as long as the wind was at your back.

"Say," Herbert asks as I walk by him, "do you know where the Salvation Army is?" Uh-oh. The only people who ask questions like that are beggars. Not even a single guy like me would think of going there for free food.

"It's at Second Avenue, about 18th Street," I reply. Then Herbert begins a rapid-fire story about what he's doing sitting on that monument - so fast that I ask him to rewind his tape and start over.

"I came down here for my father's funeral," Herbert of Camden, New Jersey explains. Pointing to a Spectrum store across 4th Street, he continues: "I was over there this morning asking to wash someone's car to get some money. He pulled a gun on me and told me to get away from the car." I should have asked if that man was an off-duty Sheriff's Deputy.

"Another woman I asked threw a cup of ice in my face." Yes, sir - Herbert is finding out about Columbus's good old Southern hospitality.

Herbert adds a third person turned him down for a money-making car wash, then "spat on me when my back was turned." He's in a Bible Belt town - and getting belted all over the place.

Herbert finally explains he's trying to get into the Salvation Army shelter, out of the cold. I offer to drive him there, and he accepts - but first says: "You need eight dollars to get in there."

"I've asked them about that, and it's not true." I asked during another encounter with a beggar a couple of years ago - a man who walked away from the Salvation Army building unhappy, after we arrived there. [BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll share the rest of that strange story in a "LaughLine Rerun" this weekend....]

"A police officer told me you need eight dollars to get in," Herbert contends. This proves you don't need the Internet to start an "urban legend."

"We'll find out," I reply, and we walk around Golden Park and under the Oglethorpe Bridge to reach my car. I walk well ahead, because Herbert says he has bad feet. It's a wonder at this time of year they're not frostbitten.

4:00 p.m.: After getting my wallet with ten dollars in it, Herbert and I drive to the Salvation Army office. No, I was NOT lying to the beggar. It's called "reward food" after a good deed.

Herbert only has the clothes on his back. He tells me he received a warm winter coat earlier in the day from Fourth Street Baptist Church. If he became a baptized member, he might even get free day care - separate from the children, I'd presume.

Herbert admits he needs a good shower, and he smells like it. He's spent the last nine nights in an empty house in the Historic District. You mean there's still one which has NOT become a law office?

"I turned 38 last Thursday," Herbert says as we drive - only his speech isn't very succinct.

"You saw your Grandma last Thursday?" That's how it sounded to me.

"You have trouble hearing, don't you?" No, I heard you. You simply need a clearer mouth.

4:10 p.m.: We arrive at the Salvation Army, walk around to the "emergency shelter" in back - and find it doesn't open until 4:30. Maybe in Florida, there would be an early bird special.

Not sure what else to do, we walk around to the Salvation Army office facing Second Avenue. Does Herbert simply sign in? No, the woman at the front desk gives us a page of rules. "You need a picture I-D, and a sheet from the Columbus Police saying you passed a criminal background check." It sounds like you have to be a certified homeless person.

Problem #1: Herbert has no photo identification on him. "I misplaced it," he admits - apparently losing his wallet on the bus ride from Camden to Columbus. Why he put that in his checked luggage, I may never know.

The Salvation Army worker pulls out one of the "homeless hot list" cards that you may have seen around town, with instructions on where to go for aid in the Columbus area. She tells us to get a picture I-D at the Task Force for the Homeless office, at 1000 9th Street. Someone without a car would have an all-day marathon walking to all these places.

As we head down Veterans Parkway, Herbert asks, "Can you buy me something to eat?" I remind him after the two-step requirement is met, the Salvation Army will provide him something to eat. Never let your stomach sidetrack you from your job.

"By the way," I ask Herbert, "does that sheet say anything about paying eight dollars to get in?" Sure enough, it does NOT. Apparently the eight dollars are "sweat equity" from meeting all the other requirements.

4:20 p.m.: Herbert and I drive to 1000 9th Street, a door well hidden on the other side of Tenth Avenue. It's almost as if the Task Force doesn't want Columbus to know there are homeless people in it - and let's face it, you don't even see them that often in Valley Rescue Mission commercials.

Problem #2: a sign on the window says the Task Force for the Homeless moved its office December 1. It's now at 2221 Second Avenue - only a few blocks up the hill from the Salvation Army office. Didn't the woman at the Salvation Army realize that? Then again, does the United Way realize that yet?

4:30 p.m.: We retrace our tracks by car, and go back to Second Avenue. The Task Force for the Homeless office is a small one, on the corner of 23rd Street. I can understand the change of location - now close to all three main Columbus shelters, in the heart of "down-and-out-town."

Problem #3: The sign outside the Task Force for the Homeless office says it's CLOSED on Wednesday! This leaves me flabbergasted. Is the staff out playing golf with wealthy doctors and bankers, trying to get donations?

I'd told the woman at the Salvation Army office about my past experience calling the Task Force for the Homeless, and how that phone seldom is answered. Now I understand why -- and I see why compared with other cities, this task force doesn't have much force.

(C'mon, Task Force staff - it's a cold afternoon in mid-December, and you're not open to help homeless people? The time for you to take vacation days is in July....)

Back in the car, I apologize to Herbert on behalf of the city of Columbus for the wild goose chase this has become. Maybe this is where some Uptown Columbus bars got the idea for an annual scavenger hunt.

So where would YOU go for a photo I-D card at a time like this? I vaguely recall Broadway has pawn shops - so maybe they do that sort of thing. The H.L. Green store used to do it, but it's now become "Larry's Giant Subs." Come to think of it, Herbert might have preferred stopping there first.

4:35 p.m.: Somewhat in desperation, I stop at a loan office on Broadway and ask where Herbert might be able to get a
photo I-D in the neighborhood. Problem #4: the office staff is stumped - and probably stunned that I'd walk in asking such a question. They'd rather I asked for help in buying a plasma TV for a Christmas gift.

Herbert is ready to give up and sleep one more night in the empty house -- but I talk him out of it. His need has turned into my personal quest. Besides, I realize there's an alternative to the Salvation Army - and my apartment is too messy right now for visitors.

4:40 p.m.: I try thinking outside the box, and drive to the Public Safety Center. Perhaps Herbert can get the criminal
background check first, and the police staff can help us find a photo identification place. After all, the Salvation Army was wrong once already today....

I remind Herbert as we walk into the Public Safety Building there are other shelters in Columbus besides the Salvation Army. Does he HAVE to stay there? Herbert doesn't answer the question - and I presume he's finally been overwhelmed by how wonderfully compassionate this city is.

Problem #5: No, you need a picture identification to have a police criminal background check conducted. The woman at the police counter suggests as a last resort, Herbert can get that I-D from the Sheriff's office on the fourth floor of the Government Center. He can get in line behind the deputies, being screened by the F.B.I.

(By the way, a criminal background check by Columbus Police costs five dollars. So if a picture I-D costs three, maybe that officer was right after all.)

Back in the car, I explain to Herbert I understand why the Salvation Army has its rules for admitting people into its shelter. But is the agency consistent with this -- for instance, when it hands out doughnuts and coffee outside apartment fires?

4:45 p.m.: We park the car on Ninth Street near the Government Center. But after an hour of fruitless driving in and
around downtown, Herbert has had enough. "I'll be all right," he says -- which I cannot believe, given all that's just gone wrong for us.

I ask Herbert about the other Columbus shelters - and he finally reveals he's stayed at both of them, and got kicked out. He doesn't explain why, so I presume he might have preferred a different Bible translation than the House of Mercy uses.

After going to all this trouble, I'm not willing to give Herbert up to that cold, empty house. "You can stay with me tonight," I tell him - and Herbert quickly accepts. Even homeless people can reach the point where they CANNOT be choosy.

(If worse came to worst, I was prepared to buy Herbert a motel room for the night. I did that in Atlanta several years ago - when a woman walked up to me at a gas station claiming to be a pregnant "virgin Mary.")

As we drive to my home, Herbert asks about dinner. I mention several options in my pantry and freezer - and he chooses canned chili. It certainly beats the last 24 hours, when he had to settle for "just plain chilly.

4:55 p.m.: I let Herbert into my apartment, and get a washcloth and towel so he finally can take a shower. "Do you have a spare pair of underwear?" he asks. I stockpile socks and slacks I see on special -- but the only time I overload on undies is when I go on vacation.

While Herbert showers in my bathroom, I make a few phone calls. The journalist in me spots an amazing news story here - and my supervisor is stunned I'd let this beggar stay with me at all. It's so much safer and neater, after all, to drop a couple of food cans in a barrel.

I also get out my Yellow Pages, and look under "photography." A call to Camera One finds they're open until 6:00. Compared to other places I'd visited today, this counts as expanded holiday hours.

5:15 p.m.: Herbert is out of the shower, as a TV reporter calls back. I let my guest talk with her directly - and she asks him
tougher questions than I'd asked all afternoon. My afternoon walk followed a series of computer problems at home, and I was thinking the meeting with Herbert was like the TV show "Joan of Arcadia."

Herbert tells the TV reporter he was kicked out of one Columbus shelter for missing a curfew by a couple of minutes, and booted from another for breaking rules relating to medications. Some of these missions apparently go beyond giving people a helping hand -- they practice faith healing as well.

Herbert hangs up the phone, and says the reporter wants to talk with me tomorrow (Thursday) for an interview. Once again my blog breaks news....

5:20 p.m.: I tell Herbert Camera One is still open, if he wants to get that picture I-D matter settled this afternoon. He senses Problem #6 and asks, "You don't want me to stay, do you?" No, he CAN stay - but he can learn a lesson in effective time management.

"You can eat now and get the photo I-D tomorrow, or get the I-D now and eat after that."

"That'll work."

"WHAT will? I gave you two choices."

After some hemming and hawing, Herbert says we can go get the picture I-D now. The can of chili I'd opened while he showered will stay in a pan on the stove - and it seems too cold for the cockroaches to come out of hiding and devour it first.

Back in the car we go, to head up Wynnton Hill -- but as we get in, Herbert asks a passing man at the apartment complex if he can have a cigarette. I'm not sure which statement Herbert heard first: the stranger turning him down, or me saying it's a no-smoking car.

I ask Herbert out of curiosity if he has a home back in Camden, New Jersey - and he says he does. I offer to buy him a bus ticket in the morning back north. That's probably more than all the shelters would do combined.

But minutes later, I realize if I buy Herbert a bus ticket, the TV reporter won't get her interview the next day. "She missed out on the story," Herbert replies. I couldn't have put it better myself.

As we pass Wendy's and Los Amigos on Wynnton Road, Herbert says, "Those places are making me hungry." Considering Herbert's claim that he hasn't eaten since Tuesday morning, any burger wrapper might have done that.

5:30 p.m.: We park behind Camera One, walk in the back door (or is that the front?) - and we're assisted by this year's winner of the Ashley Nix look-alike contest.

"This man needs a photo identification card," I explain.

"OK, but it won't be ready until tomorrow." Problem #6. Did you know trouble can come in six-packs?

It would be the lunch hour Thursday before a picture I-D would be ready from Camera One. You'd think a shop like this would have heard of digital cameras by now -- or at least Polaroids.

Turning to Herbert, I give him a choice: "Do you want to do this now, and get the I-D card tomorrow -- or go back to New Jersey without a card?"

"That'll work."

"WHAT will? I gave you two choices."

Herbert seems stunned by this, so the Ashley Nix look-alike suggests he think about it for a minute. She must be a holiday "temp" employee -- because my guest decides to do without for the night, costing her a sale.

Back down Wynnton Hill we go, and Herbert wants to know "what's happening with the chili?"

"What's happening with it? I opened the can while you were in the shower. I haven't turned the stove on yet, so it's sitting on the stove right now."

"But what's happening with it?" Either HE'S the one with the hearing problem - or he must think the chili is made with Mexican jumping beans.

Herbert finally explains he's wondering what I'll serve with the chili. I wonder if he has anything in mind. "A sandwich," he says - and with no lunch meat in the refrigerator, all I can offer is peanut butter and jelly. When you're a beggar, simple pleasures become much easier to accept.

"Let me ask you a question...." Herbert continues.

"You ask so many questions. Maybe YOU should be a TV reporter."

"Have you ever heard of the Tip Top Café?" Of course I had. It's on Ninth Street, one block from the Public Safety Center. "Can you buy me a couple of pieces of crispy chicken?"

This time he's finally crossing my line. "I'm making you dinner. I don't know why that's not sufficient for you...."

"It's sufficient. I'm just hungry." How DID Jesus do this in the Bible for 40 days and 40 nights?

Chili and a sandwich aren't enough for Herbert -- but I remember I have a frozen chicken dinner in my freezer. This will do for him. "I'll eat it," he assures me. Perhaps I should be thankful he hasn't eaten the carpeting on the car floor by now.

5:50 p.m.: It doesn't take long to heat the chili and bring out the sandwich items. I lead a dinner prayer, giving God credit for working in "mysterious ways" during the day. Only as I write this do I wish He had worked in OTHER ways - like keeping task force offices open five days a week.

Herbert lives up to his promise, and the chili and sandwich go quickly. He twiddles his thumbs at the kitchen table, while waiting for the chicken dinner to heat in the oven. He's fascinated by the cute kitchen timer I picked up as a gift, during the days when Peachtree Mall had a Ward's store - especially when I tell him tonight it's a "30-minute cow."

6:40 p.m.: With dinner eaten and Herbert sitting in my recliner before the TV, he asks: "When can I lay down?" Once again Peter Jennings has bored a news viewer....

I pull out a foldable futon I was left by a former roommate in suburban Atlanta years ago - and with a spare blanket on top, Herbert rests his head for the night. I go ahead and listen to the rest of "ABC World News Tonight" for him. He'll never believe that woman is the daughter of Senator Strom Thurmond -- or after this afternoon, maybe he just might.

COMING FRIDAY: What will morning bring, in our helping Herbert? We'll let you know, and offer some
conclusions/vents about this unlikely adventure....

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.