Thursday, July 31, 2003




It was time Wednesday to get our car tag renewed -- and one nice thing about where I live is being able to walk to the Government Center's tag office. It did feel strange, though, getting a necessary car tag without driving to do it.

People who pay for tags in person get a taste of the Government Center's security system. You empty all your pockets - but the man on duty said I did NOT have to take out my change. Is this really a good idea? What if I'm hiding a small blasting cap?

We noticed one big change as we waited in line at the Tag Office, which showed Columbus now has a Republican Mayor. CNBC isn't on the lobby TV anymore -- Fox News Channel is.

(Fox News had a top-of-the-hour news update as I waited -- and big words appeared on the screen: "CALL CONGRESS." As if they're going to make the line for my local license tag shorter?!)

I did NOT spring for any of the extra-charge "vanity plates" Georgia offers. There are other ways to show your support for wildlife - like swerving in the middle of the street, to dodge squirrels.

You may not know Georgia will hand out new metal license plates next year, for the first time in a decade. What state prison inmates have been doing during that ten-year gap, we're not really sure.

It's amazing how the same word can have different meanings to different people. For me, "tagging" means putting a license on my car. But only a few blocks away, it can mean putting spray paint on an enemy's car.

I've noticed the other sort of "tagging" recently in an unlikely spot - the Historic District. The latest came last week, when "B-T-W" and at least one profanity was spray-painted ON the Riverwalk at Sixth Street. How many miles am I going to have to jog, to rub that out?

The graffiti actually spread downhill to the Riverwalk, from the south end of the Chattahoochee Promenade. Someone spray-painted swear words and symbols on the sidewalk, as well as a Front Avenue traffic sign. This is NO way to handle the debate over expanding the Wyndham Hotel.

Is this odd spray-painting a sign that gang trouble is spreading to the Historic District, from nearby housing complexes like Booker T. Washington? Or does it prove another theory I have - that home computers are ruining everyone's handwriting

PAIN-O-RAMA: We finished our one-week survey of logging pain cases early Wednesday. The final score: 44 reports of pain in seven days - and they didn't even count the pains on my wallet from buying gas and groceries.

All of the pain cases were mild, and most of them came and went in less than a minute. I think most of them could be summed up with the old gag about the guy who goes to the doctor and says, "It hurts when I do this" - and the doctor replies, "Don't do that."

I think the point of the survey was to count the ways I handled pain, and see how effective they were. Only one problem: almost all of the pain was so mild, I did nothing! The survey had a "meditation/yoga" option -- but I was even more passive than that.

One of the "exit questions" in the weeklong survey asked if I thought most pain cases are mainly in people's minds. In some cases, that may be true - but how many folks race to the bathroom every time that "gotta go, gotta go right now" jingle is on?

SONG OF THE DAY: We're starting a four-day Georgia sales tax break, so that calls for reworking an old December tune made famous by Andy Williams:

Happy holiday! Sales tax holiday!

Sales taxes you're not paying, as this holiday's for you.

Happy holiday! Sales tax holiday!

School projects we're delaying,

If September's vote comes through.

COMING FRIDAY: Cigarettes and booze... consider yourself warned....

Wednesday, July 30, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. (Well, other than a 15-year-old high school student, and who knows how much he pays attention to the news?) So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views
are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



The city's newest barbecue restaurant opened Tuesday night at Columbus Park Crossing - "Smokey Bones." If there's anything the South needs right now, it's another new barbecue place....

(Let's see, this should reduce the waiting time for a table at Olive Garden by about five minutes - down to 55 minutes on weekends.)

To borrow a David Letterman term, I was NOT Mr. Opening Night at Smokey Bones. Instead, I had dinner at the "Four Points Sheraton" hotel on Sidney Simons Boulevard. I think one of the four points is that you tip the maid every morning.

I was invited to dine for free at the Sheraton, by the promoters of an "Internet Cash-Flow Conference." In fact, I was invited to this via e-mail and postal mail at least six times. I should have accepted ALL the invitations, and filled a van with hungry people from the House of Mercy.

The mailing for the Internet Cash-Flow Conference promised to show me how a home business on the web could make me amazingly wealthy. As someone whose old web site folded in less than three years without ever turning a profit, I went prepared to slither under my chair in embarrassment.

Bad sign #1: My confirmation e-mail said "directional signs will be posted in the hotel lobby." There was only one sign, for a company I'd never heard of - and the Sheraton didn't know how to spell "Azalea Room."

(By the way, Instant Message to the Sheraton: You need to check your brochure rack. The Tour de Georgia ended three months ago....)

Bad sign #2: The confirmation e-mail warned "all materials will be handed out before 6:00 p.m." Ha! The free business organizers we were promised were given us only as we walked out the door at 8:15.

Bad sign #3: The sign-in guy promised the Azalea Room doors would open at 5:50 p.m. They let us in at 5:55 - and the last several rows were cordoned off with yellow tape. As I said to the woman next to me, "Thankfully the tape didn't say 'Crime Scene' on it."

Our presenter was a man named Jason, who admitted right up-front his goal was to get us to sign up for a SECOND seminar - an all-day affair near the Atlanta airport in two weeks. We could avoid the $2,995 tuition by paying a mere $20 "processing fee" at this conference. How big is Jason's commission if some sucker pays full-price?

Jason admitted he'd read life-planning books by people such as Stephen Covey, but they didn't work for him. He says he arranged his life strategy, "and then life happened." Tell me about it -- I just got booked to work an all-night shift for the next several weeks.

Jason listed the results of some survey (I think it was his own) on the top ten reasons people make extra money. The bottom reason was to donate to charities - which I guess at number 10 makes it the tithing principle.

At one point Jason had everyone in the room close their eyes and "daydream" about what they could do with thousands of dollars in extra money. I did this a bit half-heartedly - because I thought he might sneak by and steal all the notes I was taking.

Jason declared the popular saying "knowledge is power" is NOT true. He said the proper equation should be "knowledge is value, and value equals income." Especially when you have knowledge of which stores off the best values....

Jason listed four characteristics of successful people - then had everyone in the room stand and affirm, "Yes I do" have those characteristics. Considering the first one is "a burning desire for money," [true] I felt awfully guilty and greedy.

As for making money on the Internet, Jason said anyone can have a web site - but the key is successful marketing. This was about as big a revelation as learning the key to winning car races is gasoline.

Another key to Internet success, Jason revealed, was offering things for free -- because it beats buying things. Absolutely! So our thanks to Jason for the free dinner - and we invite you to make this free blog a success by sending us a donation of any size.

Bad sign #4: Jason declared anyone can sell anything online, no matter what your skin color - because "the Internet can't discriminate." So why does the agreement to attend the second workshop rule out web sites which spread hatred?

It was 7:45 p.m. before the Sheraton staff brought out dinner - pasta salad, followed by turkey, ham and cheese sandwiches. After reading and hearing testimonials making thousands of dollars in monthly sales, I was expecting at least a sirloin.

SUMMER RERUNS: It happens I'd attended a different Internet business conference before, at what used to be called the Columbus Hilton -- and it made Tuesday's event look honest and virtuous. What follows is some of what I wrote about the previous one, for the LaughLine of 1 Nov 2000:

The free seminar was offered through one of those late-night half-hour infomercials. In fact, it promised a free buffet dinner before the seminar! We showed up and found a few slices of bread, ham and cheese, along with crumbs from a big bowl of potato chips. How disappointing - we figured these wealthy entrepreneurs would spring for at least one can of Sterno.

The seminar host was a man named "Dean," who had us all start by writing down these words: "Multiple Streams of Income!" When it comes to the Internet, the only things that came to mind were streaming audio and streaming video.

It was amazing to sit through a seminar about online income -- from a man who didn't illustrate it with a laptop, not even for "Powerpoint." Dean explained he used an overhead projector because modem lines in hotels tend to kick him off the Internet. So THAT explains those extra phone charges for calls we didn't think we made.

Dean suggested you could bring more visitors to your web site by getting free web pages from Internet companies, then simply putting links on them. We'd feel a little guilty doing this. We'd get 25 megabytes of web space, and use only five KILObytes of it?! Can we give the rest to charity or something?

The program promised to discuss "making money online" - yet somehow, Dean offered us special deals on gumball machines, discount travel plans and 18-karat gold chains! We attended a seminar on the Internet, and a flea market broke out.

About those gumball machines: Dean told the story of a friend who claims space in new businesses merely by wheeling in a machine and telling the person at the front desk: "I brought this for your snack room. Where do I put it?" We plan to test this trick this weekend - by taking two suitcases to a new subdivision.

Dean told the seminar we needed lots of web site "hits" to maximize our online income. As he put it: "The Internet is a numbers game." We agree - but how many are 0's, and how many are 1's?

The big deal at the seminar was a vending machine contract, a discount travel plan, membership in an online merchandise program AND a full-package business with a web hosting company. A $2,000 value, we were told - for 300 bucks! We left not buying anything, then drove to Burger King for an appropriate dinner: a Whopper.

BLOG UPDATE: Uh-oh -- the Sports Page signs promising to show football this Saturday night suddenly have changed to, "We're trying." Are all the city building inspectors on vacation this week?

COMING THURSDAY: Our week of pain concludes.... and a little bit of "tagging"....

Tuesday, July 29, 2003




Before we break some news, a dedication. Today's blog items are dedicated to the late Bob Hope, who has died at age 100. To borrow an item we wrote on LaughLine in 2000, it's too bad Jesse Jackson couldn't get out to California in time - to help "keep Hope alive."

But to our topic: a competing local blog claims we are now at the start of "fair season." Maybe in some places, but not
Columbus. We confirmed Monday the "Greater Columbus Fair" no longer exists! It's gone the way of that annual Ma Rainey blues festival -- which only lasted about one year.

Billboards for the Columbus Civic Center are promoting "The Festival at South Commons" in late September and early October. A spokeswoman for the Civic Center confirmed to me that's the new name of the Greater Columbus Fair. So for fair fans, the new rule apparently is B.Y.O.B. - Bring Your Own Blue-Ribbon.

Why drop the "fair" name for The Festival at South Commons? The Civic Center spokeswoman explained it several ways. For one thing: "It's not a fairground." So? When was the last time the Springer Opera House actually had an opera?

The woman also explained there's no "horticulture or agriculture" at the South Commons event, which would make it a fair. Apparently that petting zoo the last couple of years wasn't as popular as I thought.

(No horticulture at the Fair? All they'd have to do is invite florists to bring a few displays....)

C'mon now -- who says you have to have agriculture to hold a fair? Those farm animals in auction barns simply make things smell funny....

Look at some recent big events with "fair" in their names. There was the rock music "Lilith Fair." Well, then again, maybe something agricultural WAS passed around there -- marijuana.

Then there are the cities which hold annual "psychic fairs." They don't have agriculture -- unless you ask one of those psychics to predict how big the pecan crop is going to be.

The Festival at South Commons is a matter of "rebranding" the fair for changing times, the Civic Center spokeswoman told me. Well, at least this new name is understandable. I wonder how many visitors stop and scratch their heads when they see a "TSYS."

We'll have to wait and see whether the Civic Center's electronic sign will change along with the name change. For years the words "Greater Columbus Fair" were followed by three curious-looking circles. I guessed they symbolized the pawn shops people visit, hoping to get enough money to win a big prize.

PAIN-O-RAMA: Believe it or not, Monday was virtually pain-free for me. My biggest concern was dodging lightning during an afternoon thunderstorm - since a strike would have made it very hard to report my pain at all.

COMING WEDNESDAY: My chance to become an Internet millionaire.... again....

Monday, July 28, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



Sunday marked the first time in perhaps 30 years that I played badminton - and I beat a man about half my age 21-16. Yes, it looks like this will be a VERY good week....

The badminton game was part of our church congregation's annual picnic, which an Elder hosted at his country home in Chambers County. I had to go back home to pick up the map he prepared to find his house, because I forgot it - leaving me wondering if Abraham's wandering in the wilderness happened the same way.

This local Elder has a VERY nice house about six miles outside LaFayette. He has satellite TV, with a big-screen set. He has an outdoor swimming pool. And my Pastor especially raved about his outdoor sink -- which beats the pool for cleaning your hands, after eating barbecued chicken.

Grilled chicken was the main course at our church picnic this year - and there was so much chicken, a giant trailer-sized grill was borrowed from "Farmers and Merchants Bank." Is this what banks do now, instead of giving customers toasters?

A short while after we enjoyed the grilled half-chickens, out came four pails of homemade ice cream. The "Center for Science in the Public Interest" would have faced a tough decision: either head for the car, or play badminton until dark to work off all the calories.

Between the main course and the ice cream, something strange happened. A rain shower developed at the house - and young people in the swimming pool got out and ran for cover. Huh?! They were wet from the pool already....

It was your typical church picnic in many ways - but one thing happened which made it memorable. A man went to his car, and brought out to display his brand-new, still-in-the-box shotgun. For a minute, I thought we were going to have to shoot dinner ourselves.

After the first man pulled out his shotgun, another man went to his car and grabbed what someone described as a ".41-caliber pistol." Is this a Southern thing -- showing off weapons at a picnic? At most picnics I've attended, the most lethal weapon was a horseshoe.

All in all, it was a wonderful old-fashioned Sunday in the country. You would have felt right at home with our group - and you wouldn't even have heard any preaching from the Pastor.

(REMINDER: our church congregation is having an open house next weekend -- and blog readers can join us. Please write me for the time and location.)

Away from the picnic grounds, here are other things I discovered on a Sunday drive in the countryside:

+ The scaffolding is finally gone, outside the Chambers County Courthouse in LaFayette. Too bad it hasn't been moved down the street -- because some downtown brick buildings look so empty, you could house half of Columbus's homeless people inside them.

+ The basketball goals outside Chambers Academy are noticeably rusty. I thought these "academies" were for wealthy white families, trying to escape declining public schools.

+ A sign outside the Salem Volunteer Fire Department urges you to "number your house for 911." That sounds like a good idea - but if everyone in the neighborhood believes his house is number one, who's going to settle it?

+ Since memos are SO old-fashioned -- Instant Message to the Opelika Kroger store: Why do you insist on playing sound of cackling chickens in your egg section? The mooing cows at the milk case were bad enough. What's next - tapes of people speaking Spanish at the taco shell shelves?

(A Kroger employee admitted to me she's annoyed by those cackling chickens erupting every two minutes or so. The sooner "KRGR-Kroger Radio" buys Norah Jones's album, the happier everyone will be.)

PAIN-O-RAMA: I told a couple of people at the church picnic about the pain survey I'm doing. They seemed puzzled - perhaps because I've now blown away their claim that they don't know anybody who gets asked poll questions.

My total pain count was three for Saturday, and four for Sunday. Thankfully, the jaw pain seems to be almost gone - perhaps because I can't talk back to the radio when good music is playing.

SONG OF THE DAY: Speaking of road trips, now that WRBL has taken us to a giant dollhouse in the middle of a Lanett cemetery, it seems time to give this weekly feature a theme song. To the tune of "My Darling Clementine" (add your own banjo):

Brian's Backroads, Brian's Backroads,

Brian Sharpe will take a trip.

He'll see spots so unfamiliar

You'll ask why you give a flip.

He'll go all around the valley,

Searching high and searching low.

He might find historic potholes

On the backroads he will go.

Brian Sharpe might go to Griffin

Or to Westville or Lanett.

But we're hard-pressed to remember

All the people he has met.

Brian's Backroads, Brian's Backroads,

He makes trips so far away

That he ought to check the restaurants

And get more work done that way!

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, July 27, 2003

Saturday, July 26, 2003




Friday marked the 30th anniversary of the Columbus Times "Summerfest," and my first time visiting the event in person. It obviously was created for a growing, busy city - because you could have experienced everything in about 15 minutes.

The Liberty Theatre was less than half-full, when I walked into Summerfest at about 2:45 p.m. It was NOT a packed house, and parking wasn't that difficult to find. Of course, I made sure I didn't park in front of Chuck's Bonding Company - because those web-cam jokers can start the strangest rumors.

Summerfest featured several different talent contests. When I stopped to look in, a little girl was walking back and forth on stage wearing a T-shirt, jeans and bright-white tennis shoes. Either this was a contestant in the "Miss Summerfest" pageant, or the new fashions this fall are going to be quite ordinary.

Moving to our left from the auditorium, we found the "Summerfest Health Fair." It consisted of a grand total of four tables, two of them staffed - and three of them with excellent opportunities to pick up free ink pens.

One of the staffed tables offered surveys on chiropractic care. I'll never forget the church deacon in Atlanta years ago, who kept pronouncing it "Choir Practice" - and baffled an entire speaking club.

The other staffed table actually offered a health test - consisting of a blood pressure check. "We were going to do cholesterol screenings, but we decided not to," a woman explained. She must have read the line in the flyer about a chili-cooking contest, too.

The strange thing was that NO chili or dessert cooking was going on while I was at Summerfest. I found three hot dogs in a pan, cooked who-knows-how-long ago. I didn't take one - since the health fair didn't have botulism testing.

The only dessert to be found inside Summerfest was a couple of trays of Little Debbie snack cakes. We should note this was at 2:45 p.m. - so maybe a big crowd gobbled down everything at the 1:00 opening time, then went back to their Government Center jobs.

Booths were offered to organizations and businesses for Summerfest. But other than the health tables, the only "booth" I saw was a table with WRBL pencils and refrigerator magnets. How amazed I was to find none of the magnets had Blaine Stewart's picture on them.

All these years I was led to think Summerfest was a big event in the local African-American community. Yet the turnout seemed so small that a Hispanic community event back in March might as well have been a state fair.

Maybe it was a matter of bad timing this year - as Summerfest fell on the same day as an Ohio Players concert at the Civic Center. The lack of radio stations at Summerfest seemed to show what THEIR priority was....

Now for some other things we saw, read and heard while out and about on a summer weekend:

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported Jeff Foxworthy and his wife have bought 2,000 acres of land in Harris County. To borrow from his own TV commercial - give it a ZIP code!

(Jeff Foxworthy reportedly will use all that Harris County land as a "hunting preserve." As in hunting for new material, we presume....)

+ The Rich's-Macy*s store at Peachtree Mall is selling "Moments," an album of traditional "American music" - and one of the tunes is "Dixie." Do African-American groups not care about these things anymore? Or is it what I suspect - nobody's buying the album, so nobody's noticed it?

(To make things worse, two songs on the "American music" CD as Rich's-Macy*s feature the "Dixieland Stompers" - only it's misspelled "Dixeland" twice! Yes sir, education is what made our country so great.)

+ Memo to the Hardee's on Airport Thruway: Why are you calling it a "new pork chop biscuit" when your restaurant has sold these things at least twice before? Is it "new" because you slaughtered a different pig?

+ A giant new billboard on South Lumpkin Road declares: "Saturday is God's Day! Sunday Laws = Mark of the Beast!" What's going on here? Was all the billboard space in Phenix City taken?

+ The Columbus Wardogs lost to Florida, and finished the season again at 4-12. If this arena football team winds up moving to Albany, the Civic Center turf will look great in the new Cottonmouth coach's office.

+ We spotted an old man pushing a junk-filled shopping cart on the corner of 12th and Veterans Parkway. We think we've seen this man in other parts of town - and sooner or later, he'll find that open flea market.

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: If you spot this man or a lookalike pushing a similar cart around Columbus, please write us with a location - as we'd like to track their progress.)

PAIN-O-RAMA: Nine pains Friday, but only ONE Saturday -- as my jaw's been hurting most of the day. Do you think all the other aches decided to merge?

Friday, July 25, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



Am I the only one who's reaching the conclusion that some intersections in our area are too wide? It's getting to the point where the pickup trucks are three-wide in some turn lanes -- and they all look like they're waiting for someone to wave a green flag.

I used to jokingly call Atlanta the "creative driving capital of the world." But I've seen signs lately that the Columbus area is gaining, especially at intersections. For instance:

+ U.S. 431 in Phenix City, just south of U.S. 280. The Citgo truck stop has so many people turning in and out that the Waffle King next door ought to hand out maps with directions.

I passed through that intersection Thursday afternoon and found three different vehicles in the median, waiting to move. I'm guessing two of them were turning left in opposite directions - and the third was hoping to get hit, for insurance money.

+ 7th and Veterans Parkway. As I waited in the median to turn left recently, another car came up from the rear and turned ahead of me! This isn't exactly how "drafting partners" are supposed to work at the race track.

It turned out that car was going to the same place I was going -- only that driver didn't pull into the parking lot of the Mildred Terry Library. He parked in the driveway, got out and walked in a side door! The man wore some sort of work badge - but I never noticed an emergency in the reference section.

(I resisted the temptation to go inside the library and ask the man about his driving. That place doesn't have much open space, to prevent damage to computers and bookshelves in a brawl.)

+ 18th Avenue and Wynnton Road. Coming upon a wreck in the intersection from the east, I signal to turn left and use Buena Vista Road as a detour. A driver gets annoyed at my waiting for traffic in the other direction to clear - so he crosses
the center line, and drives around my car right in front of paramedics. So he was cutting in line in two different ways....

One of the EMT's was on my side at the intersection. He yelled something at the driver behind me, after that driver honked his horn and before he made the pass. That yell may have saved me from serious bumper damage.

It seems to me some drivers need a refresher course in what to do at intersections. For starters, your turn signal really doesn't change the sound of your car stereo THAT much - so you CAN use it.

Now for some other items of interest, as the weekend approaches:

+ Brian Curran was named the new head coach of the Columbus Cottonmouths - and promised a hockey team "that will not be run out of the building." We hope the team owner was listening to that, and doesn't move them out himself.

(Brian Curran also declared the Cottonmouths will not be "a country-club hockey team." Uh oh -- does that mean Maple Ridge isn't the team's official golf course anymore?)

+ Fort Benning played host to a collegiate competition of flying robots. Boy, did this bring back memories of my youth - but none of the teams talked into a wristwatch, to send their robots to Tokyo to save the world from invading Gargoyles.

+ Brian Sharpe's "Restaurant Report Card" revealed the Fresh Fish Joint on 17th Avenue keeps its refrigerator temperature at around 60 degrees F. Aw, c'mon -- the sign says FRESH fish, doesn't it? Lowering the temperature to 40 might hurt them.

+ A report on WRBL asked the question: "Where's West Nile?" You'll be pleased to know the answer has not changed in recent months -- it's still across the river from East Nile.

(LAUGHLINE RERUN: Please don't be confused about this disease. People who are addicted to "Frasier" reruns have West NILES virus.)

BLOG UPDATE: I received an update Thursday on the Jehovah's Witnesses convention at the Civic Center [18 Jul]. Of course, I received it from two Witnesses knocking on my door without my inviting them.

The two women reported 51 people were baptized during last weekend's Columbus convention -- out of more than 6,000 people who attended. I should have asked them how many visitors walked out in frustration, after being mobbed by people offering literature.

(Isn't Christianity a curious thing? We're supposed to have faith for walking on water - but some say we have to go totally underwater to be baptized.)

Tonight at the Civic Center, there's an "old school" concert featuring the Ohio Players. Hopefully someone has told the Wardogs this group does NOT play arena football.

The Ohio Players concert is a "make-up show," because a performance at Riverfest was cancelled by bad weather. If there's any justice, everyone with a ticket should get a free funnel cake.

PAIN-O-RAMA: Day two of our week-long survey found the number of pain incidents down - from 13 to 10. Maybe I'm not as paranoid as I thought....

COMING SOON: Gang lines are drawn in an unlikely neighborhood.... and the festival season in Columbus officially begins....

Thursday, July 24, 2003




I missed a great opportunity Wednesday afternoon to do a good deed. As I waited for the light to change at 11th and Veterans Parkway, a man in a car two lanes over got my attention: "Do you have a spare lighter on you?" I forgot I had one, attached to the car dashboard - one I've never even used to warm a cinnamon roll.

"I don't carry a lighter with me because I don't smoke," I told the man two lanes over. "I need to quit myself," the man replied -- if only to avoid starting fires, from people throwing lighters in the middle of a street.

The request was a curious diversion on a challenging day. An online survey company has asked me to keep a one-week diary of all the times I experience pain. For the next week, I'm staying away from all my school yearbooks -- and all those pictures of good-looking women.

But seriously: beginning Wednesday, I was asked to jot down all my incidents of pain - then report them online in detail. How long do they last? Do I take anything to treat them? What was I doing? Oooo, there's the challenging part - not getting hurt doing anything that might get me reported to police.

Why should I save my pain information for the survey company? Thanks to blogging, you can be in on this week -- and maybe feel my pain:

1. Wednesday morning - I turn the car ignition on, and my right thumb hurts for a moment. Yet on the survey, this will be scored as pain for "an hour or less." Am I taking this survey too seriously?

2. While sitting at my home computer, my neck aches for a few seconds. I suppose this is "pain." But I'm reminded of where my Mom worked in the 1940's - the place she called "Aches and Pains," A&P.

3. Around noon, a mild hurt flares up for a moment in my right arm. I'm at the computer again - so maybe the answer is not to play so much "FreeCell."

4. Walking around the apartment, I feel a slight hurt in my left leg. And I wasn't even jumping around in anger at an Al Fleming commentary.

5. I reach up with my left hand to check some documents, and my right hand aches for a moment. I start to feel guilty for being left-handed.

6. Walking into a library, my left leg aches a bit again. Maybe this is why I'm getting all sorts of e-mail offers for motorized wheelchairs.

7. Inside the library, I'm working on documents at a computer when my right wrist hurts for a few seconds. I think the name for this is "Repetitive Stress" - and reporting all these aches online will only make things worse.

8. My right shoulder hurts for a few seconds as I drive. Now THIS can be explained - there's no woman in the passenger seat to hug.

9. I get home from my errands, and record all these things at the home computer - when the right wrist aches for a moment again. Maybe I'm a more sensitive guy than I realized.

10. As I write all this for the blog, my right shoulder aches a little more - yet I refuse to solve the problem, by adjusting the bag of tortilla chips on my desk.

(That ache came and went for more than an hour. Does that make it continuous? Shouldn't there be an option on the form for "rheumatism?")

11. As I stand in front of the TV, my left foot starts to hurt a little. So much for the healing power of radiation from those sets.

12. I go back to the computer, sit down - and my right toes hurt for a few seconds when I cross them. Oh boy! These survey people are going to think I work for Michael Moore or something....

Wow - 12 different pain reports, in less than 19 hours! Maybe I should give up on this survey, and apply with Social Security for disability checks.

Remarkably, I went running shortly before sunset - and didn't feel any pain at all! If the shortness of breath had turned into burning lungs leaving me keeled over on the Riverwalk, that might be a little different....

(NOTE: We'll keep you updated on how this "pain-o-rama" survey is going.)

Now for some odds and ends we discovered on Wednesday:

+ A group was formed to challenge the proposed Muscogee County school sales tax - the "Committee for Good Government." We're now waiting for Republicans to form their own group: the "Committee for Small, Mediocre Government."

+ Arrest warrants were issued for seven people accused of stealing thousands of dollars in Girl Scout cookie money. The lesson here is obvious -- the secret to successful cookie sales isn't always in the "dough." (Ahem....)

+ Memo to Eckerd Drugs on Wynnton Road: Why are you having a "Spring giftware" sale in late-July? Have you forgotten what season it is - or are you selling things like spring-loaded shock absorbers and clicking ink pens?

+ The ticket manager of the South Georgia Waves announced he will live in Golden Park until the team draws 1,500 fans for a home game. The fact that he's been doing this for a week, and it only now has become public knowledge, explains the
problem in a nutshell.

(By the way, we searched on "Google News" again for missing General Manager Dan Madden - and all we could find was a postal hauler on a bicycle in Philadelphia. Is the Waves job THAT bad?!?!)

+ The Senate Judiciary Committee endorsed Alabama Attorney General Bill Pryor for a federal appeals' court seat - after several Democrats denied they're anti-Catholic. If more Alabama Baptists had known Pryor was Catholic, they might have voted for someone else in the first place.

+ The winner of the "Alabama Deep-Sea Fishing Rodeo" was disqualified, because he failed to pass a polygraph test. [True/Troy State Public Radio] If they're going to give lie detector tests to fishermen, before long hardly anyone will qualify for a license.

(Lie detector tests for fishermen? Hey, there's an idea - let's have one waiting for pro basketball stars after games.)

Wednesday, July 23, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



We're approaching two years since the September 11 attacks - and journalists have done plenty of news stories about places with security problems. But there's one small puzzle about that. Some of the journalists work in offices where there's no security AT ALL. But, of course, we all know how expendable reporters can be....

I discovered the security holes without even trying, as I distributed a church news announcement around the area. The biggest one was at the biggest paper, the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer. The woman at the front desk pointed me toward a second-floor office, without any checks at all. Of course, I wasn't wearing a backpack - or even top-dollar sneakers.

You could walk right into the Ledger-Enquirer's main newsroom on 12th Street without getting stopped by anyone. That's especially dangerous in this era of computerized newspapers. The editors don't have straight-edge copy knives waiting for
potential terrorists anymore.

(At least I was courteous enough to stop at the newsroom front desk. Imagine what School of the Americas protesters might do, while practicing for their November march.)

I found the same situation a short drive away, at the Phenix Citizen. There's not even a receptionist there - allowing me to walk right into the Editor's office. Why, any meanie could threaten his way right into the "Good News" section.

The security is a bit tighter at the Columbus Times -- beginning with the fact that the building on Buena Vista Road is almost impossible to find as you drive by, and it's near-impossible to park near it. Sometimes I wonder if the entire staff rides METRA.

There's a doorbell outside the Columbus Times for you to ring - but once I did that, I found the front door was open for me to enter. It's a good thing I only carried a piece of paper. Anything heavier might have made me a potential hate crime suspect.

It turns out I was welcomed to the Columbus Times office by Publisher Carol Gertjegerdes. With a last name like that, you can understand why she's in newspapers and not television.

In exchange for my church news announcement, Carol Gertjegerdes gave me a current issue of the Columbus Times - and a flyer about this Friday's annual "Summerfest." The list of activities includes a chili-cooking contest AND a health fair. We suggest you sample the chili first.

By the way, that issue of the Columbus Times had a front-page photo of the opening of Columbus State University's Center for Commerce and Technology. It showed Mayor Bob Poydasheff and "Ms. Debbie Buckner." Will someone please tell this newspaper Rep. Danae Roberts lost the election eight months ago?

The security is tighter at Columbus radio stations, with coded office doors and receptionists behind glass windows. That's understandable, since a terrorist could get on the radio right away.-- while he couldn't get attention at some newspapers for seven days.

Now let's review some other mid-week items, which passed my personal clearance:

+ Columbus State University unveiled plans for a $40 million "art and theater complex" downtown. Excuse me - but didn't we just build that? It's called the RiverCenter, and it has the C.S.U. name on part of it.

+ The new Houlihan's restaurant in the downtown Wyndham Hotel posted an opening date of August 4. Huh - they're not waiting for Notre Dame to start the football season?

+ Authorities searched for a suspect in the shooting of an animal at Pine Mountain Wild Animal Safari. Maybe we can help prevent this from happening again. In our part of the country, "big game hunting" refers to football.

+ Taylor County teachers prepared for the opening day of school - which thanks to a modified calendar is this Friday. It was stunning to watch a report on Taylor County schools, without the word "prom" coming up even once.

(Or is this new calendar a ploy to hide from news reporters -- and Taylor County's going to have its next prom in February?)

+ WLTZ commentator Al Fleming compared the Kobe Bryant case to "the garden of Eden." I can see the comparison a little - but does that mean Bryant is a serpent?

COMING THURSDAY: The start of a "painful" week....

Tuesday, July 22, 2003




The Governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia gathered at the RiverCenter Monday, to discuss water-sharing issues. If they'd been here a few weeks ago and seen all the flooding, they might have concluded there's nothing to discuss.

Governors Bob Riley, Jeb Bush and Sonny Perdue examined an "agreement in principle" for the states to share water on the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee, Flint and Tallapoosa Rivers. After that's settled, the next challenging step will begin - finding a river name the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee can share.

(Some Columbus residents will be saddened the outside governors did NOT complain about what a waste that new fountain is outside the RiverCenter. For now, it can stay.)

I've promised for months to talk about the "flow of the river" on this blog, and today I finally will. The proposed tri-state water agreement includes a section on flow requirements. We now await the important details - of whether they will allow kayaking before or after noon.

It's thought Monday marked the first time the Governors of three different states were in Columbus at the same time. And on top of that, they're all conservative Republicans - in a county that tends to vote for Democrats. So where were all the protesters outside the RiverCenter? Were they all stuck at the bus station or something?

(So three Governors discussed river-sharing at the Columbus RiverCenter - and 92.7-FM "The River" didn't have live coverage?!?! What an outrage....)

Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue traveled from Atlanta to the Columbus water talks by helicopter. In fact, he reportedly landed it on top of the Government Center! That must have made the Doppler Radar images look strange for awhile....

Florida Governor Jeb Bush didn't spend much time in town -- but couldn't he at least have said something about expanding I-185 to Tallahassee? His group probably would have saved some travel time.

Alabama Governor Bob Riley, of course, has much more on his mind than water. His tax and accountability package is at stake - but it just gained a key endorsement from former college football coach Gene Stallings. Ziegler hot dogs simply went downhill after Mike DuBose took over at Alabama.

Just what's IN the water the Governors talked about, anyway? We pulled out a recent "Water Quality Report" from Columbus Water Works, and found the Chattahoochee has all sorts of curious things:

+ "Turbidity." Some of us can remember when computers had a special button for this.

+ "Bromodichloromethane." OK, who's been taking all the Bromo-Seltzers?

+ Haloketones." That looks it should be the name of a gospel choir.

Have you seen the latest issue of "Columbus and the Valley" magazine? It has several dramatic photos of the Chattahoochee flooding from May, including water almost covering the 1492-1992 Riverwalk arch. Someone ought to record that high-level point for history -- late at night, of course, with spray paint.

But one big question for many people remains unsettled: what does this proposed water-sharing agreement mean for fishing on the Chattahoochee? After watching Monday's news, I don't plan to go "phishing" on the Internet anytime soon....

It turns out I was nearly hooked by Internet "phishing" a couple of weeks ago. An e-mail from "" claimed
the web site's computers were overloaded, and my account would be terminated if I didn't confirm it was active. It was all a fraud, apparently by identity thieves - maybe to use my name for some other fine Internet offers, like pills to enlarge sex organs.

I actually clicked on a link in the phishing e-mail - and was bounced to a couple of places other than PayPal, the second one a web site "temporarily disabled." Perhaps the F.B.I. showed up only a few hours before.

The "PayPal Police," for lack of a better term, confirmed for me the e-mail I received was a hoax. After all, if it HAD been accurate, I never would have heard from this company again.

(By the way, PayPal is how we accept donations to this blog. Write me if you'd like to make one - and after watching the cyber-begging story on CBS News Monday night, I'm expecting you to do your part.)

Monday, July 21, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



He came home from Iraq to Fort Benning, and was welcomed with a cheering crowd and the Infantry Band. When he walked into our church service over the weekend, he was welcomed by only one person applauding - me. I guess when it comes to religion, I AM a liberal.

A Third Brigade tank commander was away from church for months, while his wife and young child stayed behind. So it seemed strange when "Johnny came marching home" to such a quiet, reserved church welcome -- little more than handshakes. If this group had been told to shout after circling Jericho seven times, it would have needed dozens of

I half-joked to the tank commander it must be nice to be back in "cooler weather." He agreed -- after you've been in 130-degree F. Iraqi heat, an afternoon of 90 must feel downright refreshing.

So why was my congregation so cool and quiet about the tank commander's return? The reason is rather complicated. The church I attend is against members serving in the military - so I guess you can call his wife a member, while he officially isn't. "Hero soldiers" are just extras and "prospects" to us.

While the church I attend opposes members serving in the military, my Pastor asked our congregation over the months to pray for U.S. success over Iraq. He's also a staunch defender of second-amendment gun ownership rights -- and we all know how that approach has made Iraq such a peaceful place.

I happened to be Worship Leader at the weekend service, and said something I never dreamed I'd be able to announce to a church congregation. "They've come from as far away as Iraq, to worship here today...."

My Pastor has a two-church circuit, and he and his wife walked in the door as we sang a hymn moments before the opening prayer. They went right over to where the tank commander and his family stood -- just as that hymn ended. I blew it two ways: not repeating the first verse, and not stretching the last line out a little longer.

My Pastor DID officially welcome home the tank commander from Iraq - but briefly, as he moved on to other announcements. He didn't ask for congregational applause, because that's a controversial issue in the denomination I attend. The Bible says floods and trees can clap their hands -- but some are offended when people do it.

After the service ended, I overheard the tank commander talking to an older member of the congregation about media coverage of Iraq. The soldier said: "Bad news sells newspapers." Apparently the commander didn't pay attention when my Pastor read an article about how California has become "a sewer" - and seemed to agree with it.

(Oh, before I forget: did I mention the congregation I attend is having an "open house" service in a couple of weeks? Write me if you'd like details - and maybe you'll actually get a warmer welcome.)

By the way: now that the entire Third Brigade officially is back at Fort Benning, is it safe to take down the yellow ribbons? Or do they stay up until the Presidential debate people come back to Columbus, and say we've won?

Let's wrap up some other details from a midsummer weekend:

+ The Census Bureau added Marion County to the official Columbus metropolitan area. It's apparently because hundreds of people drive from Columbus to Marion County for work - thus spreading the wrong pronunciation of "Buena Vista" all over the place.

+ We learned Best Buy is hiring employees for its new store on Manchester Expressway. If only there was an electronic gizmo to move away those huge piles of dirt at the construction site.

+ The NAACP ended its national convention, with NO announcement of an economic boycott of Alabama. Apparently Alabamians celebrated Sunday by flocking to Phenix City convenience stores to buy beer.

+ As we post this edition, Pacelli High School is starting pre-season football work - by holding a practice session at midnight. On any other day of the year, the players would be at confessional for staying up so late.

BIG PREDICTION: OK, it's not local -- but I predict Matthew Broderick will play Ben Curtis, in the movie about Curtis's surprise British Open victory. If Curtis is smart, he'll sell the movie rights to Disney in the next week.

Sunday, July 20, 2003




A happy National Ice Cream Day to you. Columbus residents can feel free to burn all their Baskin-Robbins flavor lists and napkins, in protest of the chain leaving town.

The weekend started a bit early for me Friday morning - as I went to the laundromat and found the premiere edition of "La Voz Hispana." It's the new local Spanish-language publication. Yet after looking at the cover, I have to ask - since when was Pamela Anderson Hispanic?

The big picture on the cover of the first "La Voz Hispana" shows the U.S. Capitol dome - only with little flags of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Colombia and other nations all around it. In other words, it's Pat Buchanan's worst nightmare.

La Voz Hispana is a bilingual publication, with articles in both English and Spanish. It's an ingenious way to avoid getting arrested, for plotting to overthrow the government.

We looked carefully at La Voz Hispana for one particular name - and yes, Councilor Mimi Woodson IS mentioned once. So much for our theory that manager Jose Ricci is preparing to run for public office....

La Voz Hispana has plenty of advertisements for a premiere issue. Take the full-page ad in the middle for Brito's Market - while somehow the rest of the paper never mentions the recent arrests there for making illegal ID's.

(We won't give away details, but one of the ads in this issue has a hidden offer of free pizza! NOW don't you wish you'd paid more attention in Spanish class during school?)

Among the articles in La Voz Hispana is an interesting interview with business owner Kike Seda. He reveals he's preparing to retire from A-1 Postage Meters - and we can understand why. It must be frustrating making things for other people to turn around and cancel.

(Kike Seda has struck us over the years as the most surprising advertiser on Cottonmouths hockey broadcasts. Did someone trick him into thinking the players spoke Spanish, instead of French?)

La Voz Hispana includes local sports coverage. For instance, did you know Columbus has a local men's soccer league playing games on Sundays? We assume the "Municipal" and "Real Columbus" teams are for players who don't know a lick of Spanish.

(Judging from the newspaper, this league apparently has at least one team in LaGrange. Of course, Harris County won't be able to have its own team until the players find a two-acre field.)

The "deportes" in La Voz Hispana deal with soccer -- and ONLY soccer. This raises a good point, about subtle segregation in local summer sports. The Hispanic community has soccer. The African-American community has "midnight basketball." And the white folks get all the media attention, by playing golf.

I say the weekend started early with this new publication, because it officially begins for me now at 1:00 p.m. Friday. That's when "Ritmo Latino Radio" goes on the air for the weekend. With all due respect to Jim Foster, those Southern Gospel tunes on WMLF during the week are simply not good for dancing.

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: What signifies the start of the weekend in the Columbus area for you? Please write us - and we'll post some of your replies in coming days.)

Ritmo Latino Radio's "Viernes Social" program Friday was understandably filled with music by the late Celia Cruz. She truly was the queen of salsa music - and also outrageous wigs. We hope she left all her blue hair to Marge Simpson.

E-MAIL UPDATE: When I saw the title "Blog This," I knew it was trouble -- but I bravely opened it, and found this message:

In response to your comment about News 3 not offering live coverage of Thursday night's troop return [18 Jul] ...the same could be asked of your station during last weekend's coverage... where were you? By the way, pass on to your new reporter Ashley Nix... the Phenix City Mayor is Sonny Coulter, not Sonny Culbert... as she mentioned three times during Tuesday night's live shot.

From your friends at News 3

Oh dear - and I thought News 3 was on MY side.

(Hey, wait a minute - why don't they correct the reporter personally? Their e-mail addresses are shown on the TV screen most of the time these days.)

True confession: I personally have NOT attended any of the welcome-home ceremonies for the Third Brigade. I guess I'm waiting for the big parade Mayor Poydasheff is organizing. How this route is going to go down Veterans Parkway AND pass Lonnie Jackson's Vietnam Veterans Memorial Park, I'm not sure.

BLOG UPDATE: We're pleased to report the Rob Doll Nissan billboard along I-185 at Farr Road is now repaired. [10 Jul] Cissy Doll's face is back in one piece again. Did that take glue - or Botox?

COMING MONDAY:A weekend wrap-up, including one place where a Third Brigade homecoming was unusually quiet....

Friday, July 18, 2003


I searched on the Internet months ago, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



A warm welcome to thousands of Jehovah's Witnesses, who begin a weekend convention today. You won't object, of course, if a group of us knocks on the Civic Center doors and offers you literature....

As someone who lives near the Civic Center, I can assure you the Jehovah's Witnesses do NOT go door-to-door in the neighborhood while they hold weekend conventions. Then again, maybe I shouldn't disclose that. Now the cable companies and magazine salespeople will be out in force.

(But then again, it leads to a question. Why DON'T Jehovah's Witnesses go out and about during their conventions? Some Baptist conventioneers feel like it's mandatory.)

A Jehovah's Witness spokesman was on TV Thursday, promoting the weekend convention. He says the meetings are open to the public. Please note he did NOT say the Witnesses are open to criticism of their teaching.

(One phrase I doubt you'll hear from any preacher at the convention is: "Can I get a witness?")

If a Jehovah's Witness group comes to your door, there are many strategies for befuddling them. One I've tried for years is to offer literature from the church group I attend. The visitors tend not to take it - even if you offer it free, after they ask for a donation.

Sometimes Jehovah's Witnesses show up at unexpected times. A couple of them knocked on my door in April, only hours before their annual Lord's Supper service. I couldn't help wondering if these were backsliders, doing some last minute catching-up on good works.

The Jehovah's Witnesses listed some of their main "distinctives" in the Ledger-Enquirer the other day. Some of them are unusual, compared with other Christian denominations:

+ "Christ died on a stake, not a cross." So do they have their own health insurance company - Blue STAKE Blue Shield?

+ "Only a little flock of 144,000 go to heaven and rule with Christ." Yet the Witnesses have 94,000 congregations in the U.S. alone. They MUST believe in lotteries -- at least at the God-level.

+ "A clergy class and special titles are improper." Yet the book of Ephesians lists various titles of ministers (4:11-12) - so do they draw names out of a hat every week?

BLOG UPDATE: Am I the only one a little confused by Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia? He wanted U.S. troops to be in Iraq to finish the job, over the long haul - and now he's written the Secretary of the Army, asking for the Third Infantry Division to come home as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, several Columbus restaurants report their business has jumped since the Third Brigade started coming home a week ago. Did THAT many soldiers go over to Iraq? Or do all the other residents feel unsafe to dine out, unless someone in uniform is there?

Memo to WRBL: Why didn't you bother to show Thursday night's latest homecoming ceremony at Fort Benning? It happened during the 6:00 p.m. news, after all. Did it look too much like the other ones? Or was it more important for Brian Sharpe to rate the restaurants soldiers are thinking about visiting?

COMING SOON: Security holes at some big-name Columbus businesses....

Thursday, July 17, 2003




What else could go wrong for the South Georgia Waves? The new General Manager hired from Memphis last week has decided to take another job! Maybe the team should rotate the job, among the 400 fans showing up for every game.

Dan Madden came from Memphis to Columbus last week, claiming he was committed to turning around the South Georgia Waves. Now he's disappeared - only adding to the bad reputation guys have about commitment.

Dan Madden apparently left in the middle of a Waves game at Golden Park last week, and vanished for days without a trace. It was like he was another face in the crowd - except the Waves haven't really drawn "crowds" this season.

Dan Madden joins a list of team coaches and managers who agree to change jobs, then change their minds. Bobby Cremins did it when he coached Georgia Tech basketball. Glen Mason pulled that stunt on Georgia football -- only to go back to Kansas and find people still preferred the basketball coach over him.

True confession: when I was offered a TV job in Columbus six years ago, I thought for a short time about turning it down. I'd been doing "temp" duty with the Red Cross in Atlanta, and won the friendship and respect of a lot of co-workers. But it IS nice to be in a city where the commute is ten minutes, instead of one hour.

Meanwhile, a review of my e-mail Wednesday night included this offer: "Look great in a new powered wheel chair." Woo-hoo! I'll head to The Ralston and blow those older folks right off the sidewalk....

Did you see that story about the "Wheelchair Brigade" at the Ralston? People roll around downtown Columbus in motorized chairs, and even cross the river to Phenix City. It's only a matter of time before these folks get their own night at East Alabama Motor Speedway.

Controversy developed because the business which sold chairs to the "Wheelchair Brigade" claimed Ralston residents abused them. For one thing, you probably should always get your motorized chair tires rotated every five years, or five miles.

THIS JUST IN! Someone else in Columbus is blogging, too! Well, a little competition never hurts, I suppose....

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

Tuesday, July 15, 2003


I searched on the Internet, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. (Well, other than a 15-year-old high school student, and who knows how much he pays attention to the news?) So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as
well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



Phenix City's Council voted today to legalize Sunday liquor sales -- as the Columbus Mayor announced the "vice squad" is coming back. Hmmmmm. Maybe for the next few Sundays, we should avoid the Oglethorpe bridge.

Phenix City's Council voted three-to-two to allow Sunday liquor sales. So if the Baptist church services seem to drag on longer and longer from now on, it's probably not a coincidence.

Several Phenix City ministers urged the council to vote against Sunday liquor sales. Of course, their churches could always try to compete with the alcohol sellers - by serving real wine in the communion tray.

Phenix City Mayor Sonny Coulter explained Sunday liquor sales will help bring nice new restaurants to town. What he didn't mention is that the Sunday economic boost will go away, when some of those restaurants close on Monday nights.

Meanwhile, Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff has decided to bring back the police "vice squad." The chances of Bobby Brown and big-name rap acts ever performing at the Civic Center just dropped to about zero.

(Something doesn't seem quite right about this - since Columbus doesn't officially have a "Vice Mayor.")

One goal of the newly-revived Columbus Vice Squad is to crack down on prostitution. Maybe that woman who complained about the "low-life military" yesterday called the Mayor's office, too.

If you think about it, a new Columbus Vice Squad is a "win-win" situation. If only a few arrests are made, it shows we're in a civilized city. If a lot of arrests are made, some TV network will want to shoot a crime series here.

Of course, other places have tried to cut down on vice over the years -- with varying degrees of success. For instance, you don't hear much now about "Viceroy" cigarettes compared with the 1960's.

The puzzling thing is, Republican governments sometimes oppose efforts like this. Remember the country with a committee for "Preservation of Virtue and the Elimination of Vice?" The Taliban in Afghanistan wound up bombed out of power.

Which reminds me: they're fuming at Fort Stewart, because homecoming plans for the Third Infantry Division's First and Second Brigade have been put off indefinitely. How many Third Brigade soldiers at Fort Benning want to volunteer to go back to Iraq, and replace them?

(This news apparently shows the Army practices LIFO accounting - last in, first out.)

Monday, July 14, 2003




As another group of Third Brigade soldiers arrived back at Fort Benning this morning, I heard about one woman's complaint. This woman watched the live television coverage, and said she was tired of the "low-life military" receiving so much attention. Low-life?!?! Why, some of those soldiers may have stayed inside a Saddam Hussein Presidential palace.

The female viewer declared all the Third Brigade soldiers were going to do was go out with some "whores." Now hold on a minute! As steamy as that Kelley Hill gym is, I have yet to see any woman welcome home a soldier with a striptease.

Businesses along Victory Drive certainly are glad to see the Third Brigade back in town. I've seen "welcome home" signs outside Ranger Joe's and the Denny's restaurant. Why the Pussy Cat Lounge hasn't done this, I'm really not sure....

I can't help wondering what anti-war protesters in Auburn think about what's happened in Iraq since March. Are they happy to see the Third Brigade arriving back home at Benning? Shouldn't some of them be in Baghdad - now acting as human shields for the U.S. soldiers?

Another thing that strikes me about the homecoming ceremonies is how all the soldiers carry look-alike, large and heavy bags. We hope the troops don't get their bags mixed up - because their fiancees might ask questions about those photos of other women.

Meanwhile, did you WRBL's report Monday night on the Phenix City Sunday liquor debate? It was stunning to learn Phenix City now has an Outback Steakhouse. At least, the report showed one where liquor might be sold....

Sunday, July 13, 2003


I searched on the Internet, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. (Well, other than a 15-year-old high school student, and who knows how much he pays attention to the news?) So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as
well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



DISCLAIMER/WARNING:Today's blog topic could be a bit preachy at times. If you'd rather avoid religious issues, millions of other web sites are waiting to welcome you.

The popping began outside my window around 8:00 Saturday night. Someone in my apartment complex was setting off firecrackers. Either this person is:

A> Secretly French and marking Bastille Day weekend.

B> In bad need of a calendar, because he missed the Fourth of July by a week.

C> Mistakenly thinking the Third Brigade's return route is going through my neighborhood.

We've mentioned before it's illegal to set off fireworks in Georgia without a permit. So the person in my apartment complex probably was breaking the law -- and I had a decision to make. Do I call police on the offenders? Do I go outside, and try to talk them into stopping? Or do I go searching for that Columbus woman who discovered a 1950's bomb shelter buried in her backyard?

Earlier in the day, my Pastor preached at church about David - and how he turned to God with boldness, in times of trouble. Within hours of that sermon, I faced a similar situation. The neighbors had firecrackers. All I have is a garden hose and a waterbed.

In addition, I've been going through the book of Jeremiah in my denomination's Bible reading program. Jeremiah was a prophet who often preached gloomy messages, and was threatened and ridiculed for it. Now I feared I might wind up in the official journal of Christian martyrs - the "I Die Daily."

On top of that, a senior writer in the church I attend posted a web site item saying the U.S. wound up in the sorry shape it's in today because people said incremental lawbreaking was "OK." If I let the neighbor shoot off fireworks, will he be testing shoe bombs next?

With all this bouncing in my brain, I prayed for urgent wisdom and help as the Sabbath ended. Then I decided on a "step one" strategy: take my regular Saturday night twilight run, go to dinner - and then see what was happening. That way, at least I'd be at home if the neighbors tried to booby-trap my doors with firecrackers.

After stretching inside, I opened the front door to go out - and my next-door grandmotherly neighbor was sitting on the porch, practically in front of my door. She informed me she'd warned the people about fireworks. But she added police hardly ever patrol our neighborhood anymore. Well, except for the officer overseeing the inmates who mow the lawn....

I told Ms. Wilson since she'd talked to the neighbors about the fireworks, I would call 9-1-1 if the problem persisted when I got home. At least she took care of the Biblical "go to your neighbor" portion -- but I felt a little like a Baath Party member hiding in Iraq.

So I tried to relax and run -- and found I still get weary climbing stairs, at the spot on the Riverwalk that's closed for the Trade Center expansion. At least Governor Perdue could provide money to finish the Riverwalk side, so joggers and bikers might go a bit farther.

Then I hopped in the car to pick up dinner - and heard the last minute of the Wardogs' win over Birmingham on the radio. I've decided arena football is a lot like pro basketball. Tune in with about two minutes left, and you'll get the part that matters.

An amazing, wonderful thing happened as I took dinner to the car to drive home. It started raining - and it was pouring when I returned to the apartment complex. God intervened to stop the fireworks! Both the kind you light with a match, and the kind deep inside people's brains.

A tense evening ended peacefully -- with rain and lightning until well after midnight, which suspended any firecracker festivities. How strange it was to feel safer from loud rumblings in the heavens, than little pops outside my apartment complex.

To 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.

Saturday, July 12, 2003




"HOMELESS VIETNAM VET" read the man's sign as he sat on a corner outside the Phenix City Wal-Mart Friday afternoon. Well, it wasn't really a sign. Those words were written with a marker on a gray plastic trash can. At least he's an optimistic homeless man -- expecting BIG donations.

It had been three months [16 Apr] since I saw a street-corner beggar in the Columbus area. What a switch from the Atlanta area -- where I seemed to encounter one every three days.

The Homeless Vietnam Vet was on the passenger's side of the corner as I drove by. I thought about stopping to help him, but I had a trunk filled with groceries - and when it's summer in the South, we all know how vital it is to get the ice cream home in a hurry.

A moment of conscience struck me, though, as I rolled down U.S. 280. I decided to drive back to Wal-Mart and help the Homeless Vietnam Vet after I'd taken in the groceries. If the man really is homeless, it's the Christian thing to do. If he's not - it's another great moment in blogging.

The closest parking space to the Homeless Vietnam Vet's corner was the Companion Animal Hospital, on an access road. I decided this was a wise place to park - since they'd have powerful sedatives ready, if the beggar went ballistic.

(I admit I also took a felt-tip marker with me - so if the Homeless Vietnam Vet told me he had a home and never served in Vietnam, I could mark out those details on the trash can on the spot.)

"Sir," I said to get the Homeless Vietnam Vet's attention. He turned left and right, then realized I'd come up behind him. The man said nothing, so I proceeded. "I live in Columbus, and you can stay with me tonight." I figured he might take me up on this offer - especially since, for some strange reason, the weekend rate at Motel 6 is up to 50 dollars.

"Where in Columbus?" the Homeless Vietnam Vet replied to my offer

"First Avenue. Downtown."

"I can't stay in Columbus," the man said turning away - sounding like so many TV and radio personalities who dream of becoming millionaires.

"I'm trying to get to the V.A. Center in Atlanta," the Homeless Vietnam Vet explained. That location was written at the bottom of the sign/trash can. After thinking about it, I wonder why he didn't sneak through a corner of Columbus and beg in Harris County. It's the shorter way....

"Why can't you stay in Columbus?" I asked.

"I was in an altercation with a couple of women there -- and they live around Third, First, Second Streets," the Homeless Vietnam Vet said. So those women are not far from Victory Drive, where they probably could make good money beating up guys night after night.

Before I could bring up the possibility of staying in a shelter, the Homeless Vietnam Vet ruled it out. "Anybody can get into a shelter," he said - so apparently these brawling women disguise themselves as cooks at the Valley Rescue Mission.

It quickly became apparent we were at an impasse. The Homeless Vietnam vet wouldn't stay overnight with me. He wouldn't stay anywhere in Columbus. And I had no plans to suddenly clear out four hours of time, to give him a ride to Atlanta. Even worse, there's NO Phenix City-Hartsfield Airport shuttle service.

I walked away from the Homeless Vietnam Vet, having done all I could to help - and instead of offering a compromise or a thank-you, he wrote something on the top of a styrofoam food box. You don't think he was a performance artist, keeping a blog of his own.... ?!?!

I'll remember the Homeless Vietnam Vet (he never gave his name) not only for his mannerisms, but his long-sleeve white dress shirt. Several things were marked on his shirt in blue felt-tip pen -- including "Kojak's Lounge 1981." If you're looking for work and run out of resumes, simply wear one.

Checking some curiosities, which sit as leftovers at the end of the week:

+ Ameris announced a new top officer for the proposed Phenix City hospital. Frank Schupp, the head of development at Ameris, made the announcement on WRBL wearing a long-sleeve dress shirt, a fancy tie -- and a pair of walking shorts, exposing some wide legs! There ARE appropriate times to interview guests at the anchor desk.

(There's good news for that new top officer - Phenix City Superintendent Tom Hackett's house may be going up for sale.)

+ Mayor Bob Poydasheff told the Ledger-Enquirer he wants to bring the PBS "Antiques Road Show" to Columbus. What a brilliant idea! Russell County residents finally would learn how much those old cars on concrete blocks are worth.

+ We dropped off a church news announcement at the new "Hallelujah 1460" radio station - and the General Sales Manager told us he didn't know Jim Foster at "Solid Gospel 1270" charges $90 for such things. Isn't it wonderful to know the Clear Channel radio stations work together so well?

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Boy, was I wrong about my Pastor. He returned to the pulpit this afternoon - and the Supreme Court sodomy decision never came up! Well, the Pastor just returned from a church youth camp. Maybe he didn't want to give the teenagers any ideas.

The only news item my Pastor mentioned was a clip from the Ledger-Enquirer, about a 4-H camp in Virginia. Several camp leaders are accused of staging fights among male campers - then not only charging admission, but betting on the outcome. These camp leaders should be ashamed of themselves, for not selling the idea to Fox for a reality show.

COMING SUNDAY: Faith, boldness, martyrdom and firecrackers....

Friday, July 11, 2003


I searched on the Internet, and found no one keeping a blog about events in Columbus, Georgia. (Well, other than a 15-year-old high school student, and who knows how much he pays attention to the news?) So being the hip web-savvy guy that I am, I decided to start a blog of my own - chronicling happenings in the town I've called home for some six years, as
well as my experiences in it.

But be warned.... I used to have a humor service called LaughLine.Com, so my views may be a bit amusing. And the views are my own; no one has paid me to present theirs. Pressured, yes - but paid, no.



Before we break some news - first things first. A warm WELCOME HOME to the first of Fort Benning's Third Brigade soldiers, who came back Thursday night from Iraq! In your honor, we're offering a military appreciation discount - and you can read this blog absolutely free.

(You mean military people actually offer PRAYERS at Army homecoming ceremonies? We thought the American Civil Liberties Union had stopped this sort of thing....)

Now, as we were: The good news for conservatives is, the public access computers at the main Columbus library now have the filters they want. The bad news is, they're filtering out the churches those conservatives attend.

Really! Your blogger discovered Thursday afternoon the Bradley Library's public computers will NOT allow you to call up web sites of church denominations -- or even The Salvation Army's site. Now there's a unique way for the librarians to get even with the Bush administration and the Supreme Court.

The "WebSense" filter displayed this message when we tried to call up the Salvation Army's web site: "The category 'traditional religions' is filtered." What's the reason for this? Is the library afraid Pentecostals are going to start a revival, in the middle of the reference area?

The WebSense filter offered a "ten-minute quota" option if I really, really wanted to check the Salvation Army's web site. I decided NOT to try it - especially since I got burned by a time clock the other night, and "resigned" a tight game of Yahoo Literati.

(For all I knew, clicking the ten-minute quota button might have raised a giant red flag above my terminal, and started a loud clock ticking.)

For the record, the Bradley Library's computer filter also restricts access to web sites about "alcohol and tobacco." No, you may NOT ask which one I was interested in - or why.

I asked the man at the computer check-in desk why "traditional religions" were filtered, and he seemed surprised by it as well. He didn't have an explanation, and suggested I talk to a librarian. I didn't bother -- since the librarian might have quoted the Bible verse about "nothing shall offend them," and trapped me.

So I drove home from the library, barred from checking Christian web sites - and just in time for the July TV ratings month, I learned Jerry Springer's topic on Fox-54 was: "I'm Pregnant By My Brother!" Now THERE'S a place where category filters could come in handy....

Speaking of TV: have you seen the new commercial for Direct Optical Center - where no one says a word for 30 seconds? It leaves me wishing the overweight guys at King Ford had thought of it first.

(Wait a minute - "have you seen the new commercial?" If no one says a thing, you HAVE to see it. You certainly can't HEAR it.)

The Direct Optical Center ad doesn't even have music. It silently shows a woman presenting a message in sign language about laser eye surgery, while words appear on the screen. Excuse us for asking this - but if words are on the screen, do you need the woman signing? Aren't most hearing impaired people able to read?

A friend pointed out to me awhile back that Dr. D.L. Gold of Direct Optical Center wears glasses on TV when he talks about lenses and frames - but does NOT wear them when he talks about laser surgery. Maybe these new ads with sign language mean the doctor's about to start selling hearing aids.

Of course, that brings up another pressing issue when it comes to Direct Optical Center's Dr. D.L. Gold. Some people insist he has no ears! In some commercials, you certainly can't see them. But I really don't believe he keeps those glasses on, by gluing them to his head.

BLOG UPDATE: My latest Georgia Power bill arrived Thursday - and it's under 30 dollars. I feel sorry for you folks in West Point, but all the rain lately has been like pennies from heaven for my budget.

BIG PREDICTION: My Pastor returns this weekend from two weeks at a church youth camp. I predict he'll talk about the U.S. Supreme Court's sodomy decision. The "over and under" time is three minutes. Oh -- and I predict he'll be against it.

Thursday, July 10, 2003




"I have a one-person household," the cashier at the Phenix City convenience store told me, "and I work here most of the time. My electric bill is about $125 a month." All we could conclude was that this woman must take the hottest showers in Russell County.

The store cashier lives in Fort Mitchell, and gets her electricity from Tallapoosa River Electric. She's even more frustrated because she says the power company has no office for filing complaints. "All they have is a drop-off box!" Or in her case, it may be more like a "drop DEAD box."

Sure enough, the phone book only has a telephone number in Fort Mitchell for the Tallapoosa River Electric Co-Op. There's no address -- but then again, it's Fort Mitchell. Do people NEED an address there, when everything and everybody in town are just a couple of blocks down the street?

The Tallapoosa River Electric Cooperative's web site brags about how convenient its drop-off boxes are in several area counties. It leaves you wondering if electric line workers are allowed to drop off their time sheets every week, and never show up on the job.

The cashier made her comment during a conversation with a Phenix City police officer. That officer talked about visiting one of the fanciest homes in town, and seeing a notice that Alabama Power was disconnecting service for lack of payment. If only utilities were willing to refinance loans, the way mortgage offices do.

The convenience store cashier doesn't have any choice when it comes to electric service in Fort Mitchell. Of course, that's true almost everywhere. In Columbus, it's either Georgia Power on Veterans Parkway -- or The Kandle Shoppe on Moon Road.

We shouldn't be surprised to see electric rates go up at this time of year. In fact, I used to stun the staff at College Park City Hall when I paid July and August municipal power bills in the 20-dollar range. If only they knew how much I was sweating, in a duplex with floor fans and no air conditioning.

As it happens, Alabama Natural Gas revealed Wednesday it increased rates back in March. But Alagasco claims customers won't really notice the increase until next winter. We didn't realize that many Alabamians cook outside with charcoal grills all summer.

Local utilities are trying other approaches to get more of your money. I received a letter from Atmos Energy this week, inviting me to join an auto club. Yet for some strange reason, there's no discount for driving a natural gas vehicle.

If I join this auto club, "my membership dues of $7.99 per month will be conveniently charged to my Atmos Energy account." And even more amazingly, the club promises NO added fee if I cut off service. This is a brilliant idea! Why don't the club leaders suggest that to Atmos?

Speaking of autos, here's some of what we found while making a steamy Wednesday afternoon drive around the area:

+ Before we even hopped in the car, a Georgia corrections officer walked by our apartment complex - as three apparent inmates walked down First Avenue. Do you really think we need to train new Historic District tour guides?

+ We stopped by the Phenix City library -- and for the record, we found NO Spanish-language magazines in the racks. [7 Jul] But you'll be relieved to know the shelves have plenty of Lewis Grizzard books, so newcomers can learn to speak Southern.

+ What ARE those huge piles of dirt doing outside the "Best Buy" store construction site on Manchester Expressway? Do we have to guess which one has Kadie the Cow buried underneath it?

+ Memo to Cissy Doll: Your face is peeling badly. Well, at least your face on the billboard along I-185, at Farr Road....

BLOG UPDATE: The new two-year contract for the South Georgia Waves to play at Golden Park was announced officially Wednesday. City Manager Carmen Cavezza told area baseball fans: "The ball is now in our court." Hopefully someone reminded him that's a TENNIS analogy, not baseball.

The South Georgia Waves hope to turn their attendance problem around quickly. For starters, the team has hired a new General Manager from Memphis. So at least the "Flying Elvises" will be coming back....

SONG OF THE DAY: In light of the Food and Drug Administration's announcement Wednesday that nutrition labels will change, we offer this calorie-free number - to the tune of "O Come, O Come Immanuel:"

They're in your cookies and your chips of corn.

You've likely eaten them since you were born.

But now a crackdown by the F.D.A.

Means you'll be warned, and they'll be on display.

Transfats! Transfats!

They are not good for you!

So read the labels, or you'll soon be through.

COMING FRIDAY:The quietest surprise to hit Columbus in some time....

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.