Tuesday, September 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.



For the first time in about a year, I took a Sunday drive down Georgia Highway 520, south of Columbus. Some of you may know it as "Corridor Z" - perhaps because the scenery is so boring, passengers can get plenty of them.

Corridor Z between Columbus and Albany has several little towns, with things that can get your attention. Take Cusseta, where two gas stations sit one mile apart. The Coastal station offered regular unleaded for $1.43. The Chevron wanted $1.59. Shouldn't the Coastal station cost more - since Cusseta isn't near the coastline?

If you drive north toward Columbus and you're desperate for gas, you'll probably stop at the Chevron in Cusseta. It's the first station you'll see. Then you'll drive a mile farther north, pass the Coastal station, and feel like the biggest sucker in Georgia.

(I didn't stop at either Cusseta gas station to ask about the 16-cent price gap. For all I knew, Coastal might have jacked up the price of 20-ounce sodas to make up the difference.)

A few miles south of Cusseta sits the "community" of Brooklyn, notable by only a few businesses. At least in THIS Brooklyn, people who see your car stopped and walk up to your window probably won't try to sell you something.

Richland seems to be a growing little city on Highway 520, perhaps because it's a short drive for tourists from Plains. In fact, it has the only traffic light between Columbus and Dawson - which means either the number of cars is growing, or the police department is trying to catch as many traffic violators as it can.

(Please don't be confused while you're traveling. Richland has a "Wall Street" only a few miles from Brooklyn - but the lack of skyscrapers other than silos should tell you you're NOT in New York.)

On south we went - and Weston in Webster County had nothing significant to note. When the big sport in town is harvesting pecan trees, it's truly a small town.

A few miles later we came to Parrott -- which invites you to visit a big country store and gas station along the side of Highway 520. Why a place with this name isn't endorsed by Jimmy Buffett, I have no idea....

The biggest city between Columbus and Albany is Dawson, the Terrell County seat. Dawson was famous for historic buildings and peanut-shelling - but the current Mayor has changed all that, by getting arrested several times.

Even though it's 20 miles away from Albany, Dawson acts like it's a suburb. There are businesses you don't expect in a town that size - such as a big FoodMax supermarket. How can that stay open, when FoodMax couldn't cut it on Airport Thruway near I-185?

Dawson even has a small airport along Highway 520, adjacent to several baseball/softball fields. It gives a whole new meaning to hitting a "big fly."

Dawson also put the Terrell County Jail along Highway 520. No wait, it's called the "Correctional Institution and Work Facility." It's nice to know there's a place for unemployed people to go - for a couple of different reasons.

The last little town between Columbus and Albany is Sasser. It's in a stretch of highway where you go back and forth between Terrell and Lee Counties several times. They need Confederate battle reenacters to come to the area, and settle this once and for all.

BLOG UPDATE: The Columbus Symphony's "Beethoven Festival" continues tonight with a "champagne and dessert" concert. I'm assuming the RiverCenter finally obtained that liquor license, to do this legally. [1 Aug] Otherwise, the cheesecake is going to taste VERY different.

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

Sunday, September 28, 2003




One nice thing about living in the Historic District is being able to walk to nice restaurants for dinner. Friday night, I walked to the new Houlihan's Old Place on Broadway -- only to find a stray dog walking parallel to me for about two blocks. Was this dog looking for dinner, too? And might it be me?

The dog gave up the slow-speed chase at Eighth and Broadway, and I proceeded to dinner at Ninth Street. A sign outside Houlihan's Old Place said "Proper ID Required" -- yet the greeters laughed for some reason when I showed them my driver's license at the door.

My server for the evening at Houlihan's was Melody, who's been quite a traveler. She graduated from Knox College in Illinois, served in Americorps, and not long ago finished a one-year stint in Kenya. See what all that education and public service gets you? A waitress position in a hotel restaurant....

The thing that struck me the most about Melody was her telling another customer she grew up in Kansas. It turns out she's from Wellington -- a half-hour drive south of Wichita, and a town which gained a reputation when I was in college for having good-looking young women. I even wrote a high school student I saw in their daily newspaper. Yes, even then I was that desperate for romance.

(Names of these attractive women are available on request - if you're even more desperate than me, since I've given up on them.)

Several odd things struck me about Houlihan's Old Place. Take the giant-sized posters on the walls - old advertisements in French and Italian. This European Union stuff is getting out of control....

Then there's the Houlihan's menu - where Irish items are a bit hard to find. The main alcoholic beverage of the house is Absolut. As far as I know, its Ireland background is an "Absolut Zero."

The most Irish thing I noticed on the menu at Houlihan's Old Place was the "Red Bliss mashed potatoes." Only later in the weekend did I realize why Houlihan's has no restaurants in Alabama. For Crimson Tide fans, there hasn't much red bliss lately -- such as losing to Arkansas.

The nicest touch I noticed at Houlihan's was a menu where you could have smaller portions. I settled for a single chicken br**st (not spelled out so no readers are offended) instead of a double. To borrow a line from the late Groucho Marx, "When you've seen two, you've seen them all."

The dessert menu also was filled with "mini" items, perfect for a nearly-full waistline-watching guy like me. The "chocolate cappucino cake" had vanilla ice cream on top, and cappucino icing on a cake slightly bigger than a cupcake. I was offered coffee with this - but doesn't the cappucino fill that need already?

Continuing a rather bad habit at restaurants these days, several televisions were on above the main dining room. I was situated in a booth where a Mets-Marlins baseball game distracted me all evening. For one thing, why are the ESPN commercials captioned while the game is not?

(If I had sat the other direction, it would have been CNN and Fox News - but at least that would have been Irish, with "The O'Reilly Factor" on.)

With a generous tip, I had a nice dinner for less than $20. And as I pointed out to Melody, I had NO "to-go" box to take home - or if that dog showed up again, halfway home.

COMING THIS WEEK: A NASCAR driver, a wheelchair, and one angry mom.... as well as a quickie tour of Highway 520....

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daily blogging may diminish in the next few weeks, as we prepare for a fall vacation....

Friday, September 26, 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.



The new, improved "Festival at South Commons" opened Thursday evening at the spot of the old "Greater Columbus Fair." So where's the official mascot of the event - a weird-looking creature called "Festive Al?"

Your blogger was first to report about the name being changed from a fair to a festival. [29 Jul] Remember what the Civic Center's spokeswoman said - about no agriculture? So why did they bring in racing pigs, and a park with giraffes?

Greg Hudgison with the Columbus Consolidated Government assured a morning TV interviewer some things have NOT changed, at the new Festival at South Commons. "The foot-long hot dogs are still there," he announced. That's strange - since you'd think the sponsoring Columbus Exchange Club might BE exchanged for something else.

The Midway is also back at South Commons for the festival. I'm not sure what to think about that. A former Pastor of mine said his wife loved roller coasters - but my current Pastor talks them down so often as risky and harmful, I'm starting to think they're sin.

One of the new items at the first Festival at South Commons is a "Wing Fling" on Saturday. For those of you who haven't heard - this does NOT mean you can win a date with a Cottonmouth hockey player.

One of the bigwigs at the Festival at South Commons has challenged Columbus Councilor Glenn Davis to a "bobbing for chicken wings" contest at the Wing Fling. Truly Davis is turning into a politician - going into a challenge, wide-open mouth first.

The Festival at South Commons is trying to bring in famous musical acts. Saturday night's schedule includes a Civic Center concert by Foreigner - which in this day and age is sure to bring a boycott by military veterans.

Next week's Festival agenda includes open auditions for the CBS reality series "The Amazing Race." Remember, this is a pairs' competition. Come by yourself, and the producers might team you with Brian Sharpe.

(The production crew moves on from there - and next Thursday will look for "Amazing Race' contestants at King Ford in Valley. You'd think they'd simply take Frank and Bubba from the King Ford commercials, without looking for anybody else.)

The Festival at South Commons happened to open on the same night as the RiverCenter's "premier series" concert season. The opening show featured Wynton Marsalis and a jazz orchestra. This wouldn't work at the Festival, of course - unless maybe Marsalis played a banjo, or started rapping.

(And another thing: why did the RiverCenter staff bring Wynton Marsalis to town in the first place? Don't they realize he misspelled the "Wynnton Road" name?)

In another strange bit of timing, the Festival at South Commons opened as NASCAR driver Kevin Harvick made a guest appearance at Bill Heard Chevrolet. Why not have Harvick on the Festival Midway? It's just about as loud as a racetrack....

Before the Festival opened, crews were busy at Benning Hills Park. They built a new children's playground in less than a day! We need to hire these people to build those unfinished Muscogee County schools.

The Benning Hills Park addition is described by developers as a "passive playground." It's a WHAT? Does this mean children sit around, complaining about how bored they are?

(This is the very problem our country faces today! Children are growing more obese - and people build passive playgrounds, instead of active ones.)

The Benning Hills playground was organized by an agency in Washington with the curious name, "KaBoom." How much do you think that place has been investigated, after the September 11th attacks?

Believe it or not, the name "KaBoom" brings back fond memories for me. During my years at CNN Headline News, I worked with the late and great anchor Don Harrison. Some mornings he'd press the microphone "cough switch" when an explosion appeared on the air during a newscast - and yell, "Ka-BOOOOOM!" It was a surefire way to wake up the newsroom.

Previewing other things on the agenda for this weekend:

+ Plains, Georgia will hold its annual "Peanut Festival" - and former President Jimmy Carter reportedly will be there to play softball. As old as he's getting, I assume this will be SUPER-slow pitch.

+ Cusseta Road Elementary is having a parade today, marking the school's 50th birthday. Given the school's recent test scores, what slogan can we use here - "last then, last now?"

+ Sunset tonight marks "Rosh Hashanah," the Jewish New Year. Some Christians mark the holy day as the "Feast of Trumpets." That reminds me - I need to buy some Bugles snacks for church this weekend....

Thursday, September 25, 2003




Today is a big day for WRCG Radio, as the station celebrates 75 years on the air -- yet I'm puzzled about something. Why was it several years ago, the station marked its anniversary in May? Did someone there forget this year -- for four months?

WRCG-AM is marking its diamond anniversary with a three-hour "TalkLine" live from the Government Center. This alone shows how times have changed in Columbus. This never would have happened if Bobby Peters was still Mayor.

(The first hour of TalkLine should be quite interesting -- with people calling, asking where the final hour of Don Imus is.)

WRCG went on the air in 1928, under the call letters WRBL-AM. The ownership changed hands over the years - and only this year did the station decide finally to mend fences a little, and let WRBL meteorologists give the weather.

(Many explanations have been offered for why the station had the call letters WRBL. Yet I've never heard anyone mention the most obvious, politically incorrect reason - that we're in the South, and R-B-L is short for "rebel.")

For most recent years, WRCG was owned by the McClure family. Even the casual listener realized this - as Chuck McClure's "Emphasis" commentaries seemed to be on the air more than Rush Limbaugh was.

The McClures were obviously conservative, during their years owning WRCG - but even then, they were occasionally contradictory. Their on-air commentaries backed the Southern Baptist boycott of Disney. Yet when I asked Chuck McClure Junior about taking ABC's Paul Harvey off the air, he said that wouldn't happen. Money first, morality second....

When I first moved to Columbus, I became a regular listener to WRCG's "Morning Magazine." Doug Kellett and Scott Miller proved to be a good pairing - especially when Miller slipped in little slaps, like WRBL News's "Strike Three You're Out Team."

In the last year, of course, WRCG has made a major transition. Archway Broadcasting bought the station, brought in their own managers, changed several of the programs - and now for some odd reason, the station web site gives more attention to D.J. Jones than TalkLine.

I didn't realize until a few weeks ago that WRCG's broadcast tower is NOT in Columbus. It's along Highway 280 in Phenix City, near the Wal-Mart SuperCenter. It's a wonder WRCG hasn't broadcast Phenix City Central games all these years, like the other stations do.

The McClure family apparently still owns the land around the WRCG tower. But it reportedly wants to sell the land, so a new Phenix City Home Depot can be built. The radio station may have to find a new spot for its tower - unless, perhaps, it drops that Saturday morning talk show with the NAACP.

BLOG UPDATE: A second trip to Kinko's proved successful Wednesday afternoon, as the first covers for my CD were printed. My proofs needed a second round of liquid paper, to blot out noticeable stains from the first test copy. Maybe next time, I should use Spray 'N Wash instead.

Since Lake Oliver was a short drive away, I went there for a late-afternoon Riverwalk run. But just like earlier this year [22 Apr], a female jogger with her big unleashed roaming dog made me keep a safe distance away. My pacing improved a bit - going slower so the dog didn't get masters mixed up.

(Instant Message to this female jogger: If I see you on the Riverwalk with this unleashed dog again, I'm going to demand you SHOW me the leash you claim to have. Then I may give you a lesson in how to use it properly.)

Wednesday, September 24, 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.



Tuesday began as if it would be a triumphant day for me. I finally had the drafts ready for the cover of my upcoming album. Now all I needed was one thing my home computer system lacks - a printer with working ink, which actually accepts paper.

My Xerox printer has been a pain since the day I bought it four years ago, as a "demo model" at OfficeMax. First I had to ship it off for a replacement. Then I had to ship an ink cartridge off for a new one. Then the last straw came - when the "Tech Support" man had me bang an ink cartridge on my desk several times to make it work. [True!]

The preparation of my CD cover was not easy. I have a WordPerfect system at home, but had to transpose my cover to Microsoft Word at another computer for printing. As you might guess, the systems didn't quite match - but at least the things I typed didn't wind up looking like smiley-faces.

The drafts I made of the CD cover still had borders and outlines I didn't want - so I used a good bit of "Liquid Paper" the last couple of days to remove the black lines which don't look right. I refuse to call it by the Bic name "Wite-Out," on grounds it might incite some Taylor County readers to anger.

I had to buy a white "correction pen" to cover some of the microscopic tight spots -- outlines between words in the CD title. That pen worked so well, I recommend it as the perfect gift for Ben Affleck and Jennifer Lopez's marriage license.

With a cover, cover back and CD case as ready as I could make it, I drove to Kinko's Tuesday afternoon. But trouble soon developed, as the woman behind the counter told me my cover and cover back "would come out crooked." They wouldn't be straight, she said, on separate pages -- and we all know how much Christian music fans prefer straight things.

To have a Kinko's expert mount the pages for printing would cost $20-30. For some reason, I hesitated at this. Can't I put the cover together myself, and save that charge? Well, yes - but I could have recorded the album at home onto a cassette for almost nothing, and I didn't do that.

My Tuesday night project was to try to put two pages onto one page, and do it in a professional and straight manner for a CD cover. If it works, the cover will be ready to print. If not, my credit card company will be ready to try to charge me extra fees.

I need a cover for the CD because some of the songs use an accompaniment track - and the man who plays on some of the tracks required me to mention his ministry on the packaging. Unlike some artists, I put that courtesy mention in a size of type you actually can read without a magnifying glass.

But enough about me - let's check some "signs of the times" around town:

+ A big billboard on Veterans Parkway urges you to buy an H-2 Hummer - BUT the Hummer dealership is in Byron, Georgia, a few miles south of Macon. How embarrassing! No Hummer dealers in an Army town like Columbus? Do all the Fort Benning soldiers prefer Jeeps?

+ The Muscogee County School Board posted a "no trespassing" sign in the parking lot of the old Sears building, near the site of the new library. Oh no - where will the busloads of Biloxi gamblers gather for trips now?

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported the "Old City Jail" bar on Broadway has changed its name to "Bonehead's." This should make the weekend drunks a lot easier to find - they'll be at a club named especially for them.

+ D.J. Jones was selected to the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame. This must be for how Jones played football - because his broadcasting and front-office work with the Wardogs couldn't even get him a management job at the Archway stations.

COMING THURSDAY: A diamond on the dial....

Tuesday, September 23, 2003




I have no answers for today's questions. Maybe you do. I'm merely asking them....

+ In the BellSouth commercials where everything in town is cut in half, why does the dog have four legs? Shouldn't it only have two?

+ Why does WRBL need three anchors for its new hour of news at 5:00 p.m.? Most networks can get by with one or two. Is this a sign of weakening bodies in this part of the country?

+ Why wasn't Kinnett Stadium's name changed after the dairy was sold a few years ago? Couldn't the school district charge a fee for "Parmalat Stadium" and make extra money?

+ Do stores such as Winn-Dixie and CVS realize their "customer card" programs with big discounts unwittingly fulfill the "mark of the beast" prophecy of the book of Revelation - or at least bring it awfully close?

(If you're like I was Monday, and you don't realize until you're inside Winn-Dixie that you left your customer card at home, don't you feel like the biggest idiot in town?)

+ Why are Phenix City Central football games televised on TV-16 by tape-delay, while Shaw High School games aren't? Hasn't Shaw had the better overall record in recent years?

+ Who is Sidney Simons, and why does he have a boulevard named after him? Shouldn't there be signs along streets like this, explaining who the people are?

+ Why is Jim Foster giving away albums of what he calls "cowboy music" these days during his morning gospel show on WMLF-AM? Couldn't this reasonably be called backsliding?

+ Why is NASCAR having a second weekend of races at Talladega before having its weekend in Kansas City? Do they want blowing leaves covering the drivers' windshields?

+ If WRBL is so thrilled to have Rozelle back on the air, why are her "classic" shows appearing at 6:00 on Sunday mornings - when hardly anybody is up to watch them?

Sunday, September 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.



When I drove down Manchester Expressway around 10:40 a.m. today, the line of people outside the new "Best Buy" stretched almost to the back of the store. It was hard to believe -- that many folks waiting outside on a Sunday morning, and NOT at a breakfast buffet.

Best Buy promised "free gift bags" to the first 500 customers today, so I decided to join the crowd to see what happened. I went to one of these free giveaways several years ago at a Circuit City in Gwinnett County, and wound up with a nice CD organizer. Maybe in a few years, I'll finally fill that thing with compact discs.

(If so many people would line up on a Sunday morning for a mysterious "free gift bag," maybe some churches should try this stunt. Simply fill the bag with a paperback New Testament....)

"Reckon they're up to 500 yet?" asked the man in front of me in line, in the driveway at the back of Best Buy. I didn't count heads as I walked back, so I wasn't sure. What concerned me more were the children running laps around the long line -- and with me as the ar turn, who knows what collisions might happen?

The people kept coming to lengthen the line as the 11:00 a.m. opening time approached. Thankfully a couple of Columbus Police officers were on the scene - and hopefully they received gift bags as well, since future pay raises aren't guaranteed.

I came prepared for a wait in line, by taking a magazine to read. In front, one family had a full Sunday Ledger-Enquirer. But what REALLY concerned me were the people at the front door in folding chairs. For all I know, they may have sat there all night like it was the day after Thanksgiving.

The Best Buy doors seemed to open promptly at 11:00 a.m. - and I apparently was well within the first 500 in the door. So what was in my gift bag? The main item was a video of "Tony Hawk's Trick Tips." I need to learn skateboarding about as much as George Del Gobbo of the Columbus Symphony does.

The gift bag also included a Best Buy -- well, besides the logo, I'm not sure WHAT it is. It looks like a combination compass, clock and stopwatch for your key ring. But it apparently needs a battery to run - and the instructions in five languages never tell you what you have.

(The instructions for this device don't even tell you what sort of battery it takes. Apparently Best Buy wants to buy something a bit more expensive than that.)

One other item was in my gift bag: an application for a Best Buy credit card. The bottom of the application ALSO allows me to apply for a MasterCard - but if I have the second one, why would I need the first one?

I needed a new set of computer speakers, so I picked a low-priced pair - and found the checkout lane at Best Buy included three different turns, then a sign telling me to wait for the next available attendant. I told the attendant it felt like a giant-sized Wendy's.

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.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, September 20, 2003




Several months ago I won a gift certificate to the China Star restaurant near Cross-County Plaza. Friday night I went there to use it - only to find it no longer exists. Lesson #1: He who hesitates can go hungry. Or at least goes lighter in the wallet.

There IS a Chinese restaurant on Auburn Avenue, under the lit China Star sign. But it's under construction, to re-open under new management with the name "China Coast Restaurant." Crews were working on the interior as I walked to the door -- so for the moment, the Coast is clear.

Someone saw me at the door, and brought a manager up front. When I showed her the China Star gift certificate, she didn't seem to know what had happened to it. I don't recall any crime reports there, so it wasn't a case of a "Shooting Star."

Unable to use my gift certificate for anything other than a bookmark, I had to decide on the spot where to eat dinner. CiCi's Pizza was just down the hill and inexpensive - but I know from experience the Friday night crowd tends to be more scattered and smothering than a Waffle House order of hash browns.

Then I remembered the new Chinese restaurant back up the road - "Jumbo China Super Buffet." It's at the site of the old Olympic Health Spa on Wynnton Road. With "Jumbo" and "Buffet" in its name, this is a completely different clientele.

The first thing that struck me about Jumbo China was the music on the P.A. system -- as Andy Williams sang "Danny Boy." I'm already planning to visit Houlihan's Old Place next weekend, and I can't wait to eat dinner to "Sukiyaki."

Lesson #2: Chinese restaurants don't always play Chinese music. I recalled a night in 1992 when I dined at a Chinese place in Bournemouth, on the south coast of England - and of all things, the P.A. played a Patsy Cline record. Only that night was worse, as the waiter suggested Patsy Cline was coming to England soon on tour. He apparently didn't know she was dead.

Lesson #3: Managers of Chinese restaurants are not always the best spellers in the world. I couldn't help noticing how some of the items at the Super Buffet were labeled. For instance:

+ "Egg Foo Young." Apparently it's fresher than egg foo old.

+ "General Tso's Chicken." At most Chinese places, it's General TSU - so maybe there was a coup, and I missed it.

+ "Chicken on Stick." Sure enough, the piece if chicken was on a stick - but is this any way to kill a chicken?

+ "Italian Squid." Italian food at a Chinese restaurant? Truly the spirit of the International Festival goes on....

(No, I don't know what makes the squid Italian. Are Mafia members hiding in town, taking payoffs?)

One item at the Super Buffet was NOT marked - but surely looked like slices of pizza. This must be a hidden surprise, for children who can't get Mom and Dad to take them to CiCi's.

All in all, the meal at Jumbo China was nice - but I couldn't help noticing rice was in only one bin on the buffet, and it was yellow. As some meanies I lived with in college kept calling it - it was flied lice.

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Once again Miss Alabama and Miss Georgia fell short tonight at the Miss America pageant, not even making the final ten. To be honest, though, the woman I wound up wanting to date was Linda in the announcing booth.

Thursday, September 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.



His name is Edward, and he claims to have a drawer full of papers documenting how Russell County corruption has ruined his life. Of course, other people probably could make this same statement - if they collected newspapers from Phenix City in the 1950's.

Edward called to ask for an investigation of events dating back to June 17, 1980 at 5:35 p.m. At that very moment, he says he was injured when a defective Russell County dump truck he was driving crashed and flipped over on Sanford Road. Such an investigation might prove difficult. For one thing, the truck's probably been moved away by now.

Edward says the dump ruck wreck left him "100-percent disabled." I've heard this phrase several times in Columbus, and it leaves me a bit puzzled. I suppose you could lose a leg and be 50-percent disabled - but can you be, say, 62-percent disabled? Can non-thinking teenagers be called "100-percent" disabled?

Even though Edward was disabled by the wreck, he claims no doctor will pay attention to his problem. He blames this on a "very bad doctor's write-up" within a year of the crash. Keep in mind this was around 1981 - when you still had to trust a doctor's penmanship.

As it happened, Edward says Dr. Richard Dodeling, who gave him a bad write-up, wound up claiming a State of Alabama dump truck on his tax records! What sort of a racket was this? It's a bit like a chiropractor sponsoring a race car, then tinkering with the brakes on all the other racers.

Edward tells me Dr. Richard Dodeling was put on trial twice for claiming a state dump truck on his tax records - but in both trials he had heart attacks, and the second attack killed him in 1985. So what's the point of investigating this again now? Does he think some Russell County Commission yelled at the doctor on purpose, to stop the trials?

Edward suspects Russell County officials HAD to know something about Dr. Richard Dodeling's listing of a state dump truck on his tax records. Maybe so, but how do you prove it 20 years later? Most of the officials back then simply can claim to have Alzheimer's.

Edward's issues are not only confined to the 1980's. He says Dr. Jack Blaylock falsified his medical records two years ago. Edward gave no specifics, but I'm assuming the doctor did NOT make him 200-percent disabled.

Edward's frustration doesn't stop with Doctor Blaylock. He says the statute of limitations for filing a complaint over the falsified records ran out last January, because attorney Roy Agnew claimed to be "too busy to take on the caseload." This is truly an amazing claim. Maybe we don't have enough lawyers in this area after all.

There's one problem with this part of Edward's complaint. The Columbus phone book shows a few attorneys named Agnew - but NONE of them are named Roy. And there's no listing in the white pages for Dr. Jack Blaylock. Maybe they're also conspiring against Edward, and they've fled to Florida.

In short, Edward is upset about what he calls "the system falling apart from within, of corruption within our own ranks...." Yet as lengthy as his story is and as long as it took for him to learn this lesson, he doesn't need a TV news investigation. He needs author Mark Fuhrman to write a book blaming it all on the Kennedy family.

Meanwhile, it's a big weekend around Columbus - for several reasons:

+ The new Best Buy store opens today near Peachtree Mall, on the site of the old Kinnett dairy. Kadie the cow even has been repositioned outside the store - and she'll look so cool wearing headphones, with an MP-3 player dangling from her neck.

+ The movie "Fighting Temptations" opens nationwide, a film shot partly in Columbus. But what's with all these scenes involving Beyonce Knowles? I thought the Temptations was an all-male singing group.

+ An annual "Men's and Women's Health Expo" is planned at the Civic Center Saturday. If the organizers really are serious about this, everyone should be required to walk or jog around the building before they go inside.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003




"I used to work for Oliver Davis here -- he used to play pro football," explained the woman behind the counter at a central Columbus drugstore. "He would carry this really nice Louis Vuitton handbag...." Football players carrying HANDBAGS?! That female kicker at West Alabama College, maybe...

I'd happened upon a discussion of handbags between two employees at this drugstore. One woman told the other she could easily spend $150 for a nice handbag. To many men, this would sound silly - but then, how many spend $150 for a pair of basketball shoes they never wear on a court?

But back to Oliver Davis: the woman who told me about him said this ex-football player apparently got away with carrying handbags because he stood more than six feet tall. He probably could load one with bricks - and if anybody made fun of him, WHAM!

The woman at the drugstore actually suggested I consider getting a handbag. She didn't see the overloaded "soft briefcase" I had in the car - the one with so many things, sometimes apples sit buried under paperwork for weeks.

(I don't know how many store clerks I've puzzled in recent years over this. They ask if I need a bag, and I say, "I have one in the car." Does that make me come across as homosexual?)

Have you seen the Sonic commercial with the two police officers eating burgers? A female officer tells a male he should put the rest of his big sandwich "in your purse, so you can finish it later." If a male police officer was caught carrying a purse around here, a co-worker would plant drugs inside it to get him fired.

COMING FRIDAY: A call to review a 20-year-old Russell County scandal....

Tuesday, September 16, 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.



Former Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North visited Columbus Tuesday. A long line greeted him for a book signing at Columbus Park Crossing - and amazingly, not one of them was a Democrat or a Nicaraguan Sandinista looking to get even.

Oliver North was the guest speaker at a banquet Tuesday night, marking the 40th anniversary of the Valley Rescue Mission. The mission has several discount stores around the area - to rescue shoppers from the slavery of wearing trendy fashions.

Oliver North told a TV reporter the U.S. government has been wise to fight back against terror in Iraq in recent years. But he admits there's not very good "intelligence" there now. Talk about a slap! Just because many U.S. soldiers volunteered straight out of high school....

Speaking of terror: my Pastor dared to declare over the weekend the leaders of a small Christian denomination are "terrorists!" And the strange thing is, this group never has marched outside a single women's clinic.

My Pastor left the Worldwide Church of God eight years ago, after the group's leadership suddenly changed a number of important doctrines. In his weekend sermon, he compared it to having a "spiritual twin towers" come down. This sounded like a brash, harsh thing to say - especially since he claimed for years only the foundation of the church had been built, not the superstructure.

The Pastor claimed "God allowed terrorists to infiltrate the old organization." If this is so, now I understand why the "holy city" described in the book of Revelation has walls so thick and high. God doesn't plan to make the same mistake twice.

My Pastor didn't apologize for his terrorist comparison after the church service was over. In a private chat, without my even bringing it up, he told me the old church's changes left large numbers of people spiritually ruined. And to make matters worse, the denomination didn't even refund their tithe and offering checks.

As it happened, my Pastor made the terrorist claim in a sermon titled "Moral Courage." It took some courage to make a statement like that - especially since tapes are made of his messages, and sent to the denomination's Home Office in Ohio for review.

Will my Pastor be admonished for comparing another Christian denomination to terrorism? If he is, it should send a message about ministers emphasizing love. If he isn't, I may finally have to join the rest of the congregation and buy a shotgun.

BLOG UPDATE: In another stunning break from the old ownership, WRCG Radio now has a Saturday morning talk show hosted by Edward DuBose of the NAACP! If this keeps up, local conservatives will be outside Doug Kellett's door in Nashville, begging for his return.

COMING THURSDAY: The former pro football player, and his handbag....




Instant message to WRBL: I see you're finally going to a 90-minute news block, from 5:00 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. How many years did it take for you to figure out how to do this?

WRBL has decided to dump "Judge Joe Brown" in the late afternoon at the end of this week, and start showing 90 minutes of news. This is a shame - because some days I wish court reporter Jacque Kessler was "on my side," instead of those news reporters. (Ahem....)

Blaine Stewart apparently is going to be one of the anchors in WRBL's new 90-minute news block. Stewart said farewell to the weekend team early Monday, in a newscast that didn't begin until after midnight I was a bit surprised his departure wasn't the top story - the way Roslyn Giles's baby was a couple of years ago.

Blaine Stewart lived up to his on-air reputation, by giving weekend co-anchor Mara Kelly a parting gift - an autographed glossy picture of himself! [True!] I can't wait for November ratings month, when planes fly overhead and drop thousands of them on the city.

(While giving this gift, Blaine Stewart actually admitted he'll still be in a cubicle next to Mara Kelly. He'd better be careful, or someone at WRBL will mount one of those glossy pictures on a dartboard.)

Curious quote of the weekend: Which evening news anchor actually said something like this? "The east coast is waiting to see where Hurricane Isabel will make LANDFILL."

Over on the radio side, did I hear "Hallelujah 1460" correctly Monday afternoon - when the announcer said she was with an ATLANTA station? Sometimes I wonder if "Clear Channel Radio" has that name because it wants to have only one channel for the entire country.

BIG PREDICTION: Miss Alabama will go farther at this week's Miss America pageant than Miss Georgia does. For one thing, Miss Alabama knows the right way to do that "combover" look....

Sunday, September 14, 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 few flags around town were still at half-staff this weekend. Either some people and businesses care deeply about the victims of the September 11th attacks - or they used it as an excuse for a four-day holiday.

I attended a "Service of Prayer and Remembrance" Thursday night at St. Luke United Methodist Church downtown. The prior Sunday, an estimated 2,000 people packed into a new "Ministry Center" for its dedication. But on this night, only about 200 people showed up - and it seemed about one-third of them sang in choirs.

A bulletin board in a hallway says St. Luke United Methodist Church currently has 2,895 members. So why were only about 200 people on hand for a September 11th service, in which several churches were combined? Do people not care about this anniversary anymore? Are they fearful of something else -- and think an offering would be collected? (There wasn't one.)

The September 11th service had several inspired songs, including a couple from the "Rock Presbyterian Korean Choir." How stunned I was when I actually could understand what they were singing - because it was English.

Three people read Bible passages at the September 11th service. The strangest was a woman reading Matthew 6:6 in both English and Spanish: "When you pray, enter into your closet, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in secret...." If that's where we're supposed to pray, what were we doing HERE?

Several speakers gave a "word of testimony" at the September 11th service. A Fort Benning Chaplain warned against divisive criticism, over how the fight against terrorism should be handled. In other words, apparently we should be more like Iraq under Saddam Hussein.

Minister Sharon Billins admitted she likes interactive worship - so she asked us to arm-wrestle with a neighbor for a moment, to symbolize wrestling for a blessing. The elderly gentleman down the pew from me simply didn't want to cooperate with me on this. Maybe I'm in better shape than I realized....

(What did people do in her church last Sunday - get ready for WWE Wrestling by throwing chairs across the aisle at each other?)

Sharon Billins told the special service the last year has been challenging for her - as she lost her husband, her home and her mother. There's a lesson here that many Christians could learn. When you ask for a blessing, God CAN say no - no matter what some of those TV preachers say.

The third speaker was Susan Lawhorne, who said she came from a family of ministers - but works now at a museum. It's nice to know someone is working to keep weird works by artists like Robert Mapplethorpe out of town.

Susan Lawhorne told the special service a "spirit of vengeance" is evil. Oh really?! The Bible says vengeance belongs to God - and I really don't think any of the worshippers considered God evil.

Once the Service of Prayer and Remembrance was over, a reception was held with nice cheesecake samples. People were urged to sign up for a "24/7 Prayer Wall," a group which prays one hour a week for a godly "hedge of protection" for the Columbus region. People who have lost their jobs in recent months will be pleased to hear this....

COMING THIS WEEK: A local minister compares a Christian denomination to terrorists.... and one man's story of corruption in Russell County government....

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Daly blogging may diminish in the next few weeks, as we prepare for a fall vacation....

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.

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 12, 2003




I reached into the kitchen pantry Wednesday evening, and was shocked - SHOCKED! - by what I found. A box of crackers I'd purchased last week was already unsealed, reclosed, and had more than half the crackers in the top package missing! I never realized the cockroaches in my apartment were such neatness freaks....

This tampered box of "butter smooth" crackers came from the Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Phenix City - the same place that lost my roll of film earlier in the year. Is this store employing sneaky terrorists? Should the photos of employees in Wal-Mart ads also appear on wanted posters?

(If someone who breaks into a safe is a "safe cracker," was what happened to me done by a "cracker cracker?")

This cracker-cracking discovery came only hours before Patriot Day, marking the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attack. It's a good thing our lives have calmed down since then - because I came close to calling police, and having them check the box for anthrax and fingerprints.

But that's not all! I developed a bit of a cold Thursday, after eating some of the crackers from an unopened package. If any of you have Cipro prescriptions about to expire, please write me -- I may need them.

I can only guess as to what happened to that missing half-pack of crackers. Perhaps a Wal-Mart employee sneaks down the snack aisle for something to eat during work time. It's yet another reason why Sam's Club needs to share its "free sample" food tables with surrounding stores.

Let's see what else has been happening this week, which we both probably have overlooked:

+ A 61-year-old Columbus man was convicted of molesting a teenage girl he met at a Baptist church. This is truly sick and sad -- and shows why there's a time and a place to lock the prayer closets from outside.

(What are churches going to have to do - require ID cards to get inside singles Bible studies?)

+ Phenix City Councilor Gail Brantley encouraged residents to clean up their yards, and "take some pride in their community." There's only one problem with that. It's PHENIX CITY! The only thing to make people proud for years has been the Little League baseball team - and people bickered back and forth about that.

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley quipped at least his mail against Amendment One hasn't been as negative as Coach Tommy Tuberville's at Auburn. This again proves an old point about the South - taxes are only money, football is everything.

(Remember Bob Riley's campaign ads last fall, promising "heroic leadership" for Alabama? It appears voters don't want that in Montgomery - they want it standing behind the center in Tuscaloosa.)

COMING THIS WEEKEND: A remembrance service that many seemed to forget....

Thursday, September 11, 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.



President Bush has declared this Patriot Day, the anniversary of the day the World Trade Center fell. May you spend some time in personal reflection - if only about proper ways to pack your bags, to get part airport security.

A lot has changed in the last two years, of course. Fort Benning personnel now are on duty in the Iraqi region - some of whom probably put down former President Clinton for sending U.S. forces to places such as Kosovo.

The cost of fighting terrorism in the last two years has led to a big U.S. budget deficit. I computed the other night the President's latest financial request for Iraq costs about $298 per person. Thankfully, the government will pick up the money for this directly - by tapping into your computer, and checking for illegally downloaded songs.

Along those lines: a mysterious letter landed in my "snail mail" box this week. It said: "Tax Increase Impact Survey: Columbus, Georgia Area." Two things crossed my mind: either Nathan Suber still opposes the school sales tax - or Alabama's Tax Accountability Coalition wasted money on Amendment One, too.

It turns out both thoughts about the letter were wrong. The Heritage Foundation sent me a two-page, 11-question survey about potential federal tax hikes. "Liberals in Washington" are threatening to do all sorts of scary things. Why, some of them actually want a balanced budget....

The letter brags about how the Heritage Foundation supported recent tax cuts, "by providing unbiased analysis of the benefits to all taxpayers and our economy." It claims to do this with "political spin" or "media bias" - yet its cover letter mentions "liberals" eight times, and conservatives none at all.

The "Tax Increase Impact Survey" really has a misleading title. Five of the 11 questions about whether I'm "aware of" certain statistics in proposed tax changes, or whether the news media are keeping me informed of them. So it's really more of a "Brain Impact" survey.

The Heritage Foundation's survey has a question warning "one out of four small businesses will have to shut down" to pay the "Death Tax," unless it is repealed permanently. Aw, c'mon - I know from my own experience what shuts down a small business. It's called a lack of customers.

(In fact, the letter never explains what the "Death Tax on families" is. People who don't know better might conclude weirdos walk into small businesses and keel over, just to make you pay damages.)

Oh yes, the Heritage Foundation hopes you'll send a tax-deductible donation back with the Tax Increase Impact survey. Your gift will help protect tax cuts, so you're not forced "to send more of your money to Washington to pay for new Big Government spending." But hold on - I'm sending money to Washington anyway. To YOU.

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: The vote against Alabama's Amendment 1 was more lopsided than I expected - as only 32 percent of voters were for it. So when does Don Siegelman plan to announce he's running for Governor again?

Governor Bob Riley met with political supporters in Montgomery Wednesday, and the conclusion was that serious budget cuts are coming. Someone even suggested the scariest cut yet, which could be the last straw for many people - no more middle school football teams.

COMING FRIDAY: Did a terrorist strike an area supermarket? We stumble upon a strange clue....

Tuesday, September 09, 2003




"No hats, sunglasses or helmets are allowed inside the bank," says the new sign on the door at the downtown SouthTrust Bank. So what's a Hollywood star to do now - use the drive-through lane?

SouthTrust is the latest bank to join a trend which I believe started in Missouri. Your face cannot be obscured inside the building, so security cameras can get clear pictures of suspected robbers. And you can go one step farther - wave at the camera with a goofy grin, to give the camera monitor a good laugh.

I have NOT been brave enough to test this new policy at SouthTrust. That's because I don't normally wear hats at this time of year, I leave my sunglasses in the car for driving - and I don't even own one of those helmet ice cream cups from Dairy Queen.

(No, I don't know if SouthTrust's new dress code applies to drive-in bank lanes. I'm not taking any chances, though -- so my windows won't be tinted for a long time to come.)

What SouthTrust is doing is simply a reminder of how much times have changed in the banking business. Banks used to offer you nice gifts such as toasters for opening new accounts. Now it's reached the point where they might take away some of your clothing.

That's not the only curious change going on at SouthTrust Bank. For one thing, the downtown branch now has little cans of "Ensure" nutrition drink between the teller windows. I asked if the bank was selling these for some reason. After all, if supermarkets can open bank branches, why not the other way around?

But no: SouthTrust has set out Ensure cans as a reminder that this bank also sells life insurance policies. Perhaps the managers don't realize they're also a reminder that the staff doesn't know how to spell "insure."

A teller asked me if I needed life insurance - and I said, "No, not today." She then asked if I'll need it in the future. Once again, people unwittingly give a single guy like me a guilt trip....

On my latest trip to SouthTrust Tuesday, a different teller invited me to start online banking. "It only takes five minutes, and we'll credit five dollars to your account," she said. I passed up this offer, too - because I might want to wear a hat at my computer.

COMING THURSDAY: A provocative letter about my taxes....

Monday, September 08, 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.



While making calls to rent a car Monday, I suddenly was struck by the ad for National. Its "downtown" office is listed as 4231 Macon Road. They call that address downtown?! Who works at this place - failed cab drivers?

C'mon now - 4231 Macon Road is east of Interstate 185, and even east of Columbus State University. If C.S.U. already had a downtown campus, why would it buy up all that land near the river?

This listing reminded me, believe it or not, of a killing several months ago outside a Shell station at Britt David Road and Veterans Parkway. A passerby was quoted on TV as saying he didn't expect such violence to occur "here - downtown." Well, that address seems closer to downtown -- with "Main Street Village" right up the street.

(Before you point it out -- yes, a man made that last "downtown" comment. Once again, a guy doesn't check a map and gets embarrassed for it.)

Come to think of it, where in Columbus will you find "Downtown Optical and Eye Care?" It's in Cross-Country Plaza! If the eye doctors can't see their way down Wynnton Hill, should you trust them with your vision?

Why should there be such confusion over where downtown Columbus is? After all, Tenth Street has the Government Center, the Springer Opera House, the RiverCenter, the Public Safety Center, Recorder's Court - and of course, the TRUE centerpiece of downtown, Ruth Ann's Restaurant.

Perhaps the confusion stems from the fact that "Uptown Columbus Inc." likes to call it "uptown" all the time. And if Broadway is up, something has to be down - even though in recent years, other parts of town were the real "up" places economically.

I also put part of the blame for downtown confusion on veteran basketball announcer Marv Albert. How many times has he described players hitting three-point shots "from downtown," when the skyscraper players are 25 feet away under the basket?

There's a woman in the church I attend who lives in Columbus, but admits she only goes downtown once every few years. Maybe someone told her the prison workers who mow lawns in the Historic District aren't wearing balls and chains.

BLOG UPDATE: I forgot a couple of items in our "Big or Little" quiz Sunday - so if you failed before, here are your makeup questions:

6. The city's first Krispy Kreme doughnut shop is planned on the north side of Columbus. Big or little?

Answer - LITTLE. Krispy Kremes are in town already. Doesn't anyone stop at Spectrum and Racetrac stores?

7. WWE Wrestling appeared at the Columbus Civic Center Monday night. Big or little?

Answer - BIG. It's the closest thing to a sellout the arena's likely to have all year.

Meanwhile, less humid air and slightly cooler weather is making it much easier to dry out the water-logged carpet. But went I stepped out to the back porch Monday evening to bring in some dried-out towels, wouldn't you know - I locked myself out of the apartment again! [Aug 8] A cure for Alzheimer's disease cannot come soon enough.

I hurried back to the same neighbor I visited a month and a day before, and called the same locksmith I'd called before. Thankfully, I still had the sticker he gave me last time for a ten-percent discount. I'm now calling this the "frequent stupidity discount."

"It's good to see you again," the locksmith said as he walked toward my back door. To which I replied, "That's easy for YOU to say."

(The locksmith pointed out I'm supposed to put his sticker on my car window, for the ten-percent discount. In return, I pointed out the car hasn't been my problem lately.)

BIG PREDICTION: Alabama's Amendment One will fail today - but the yes side will wind up at about 40 percent, higher than the polls indicate. Certainly that many government workers WILL go to the polls, hoping to keep their jobs.

So, you ask, where do I stand on Amendment One? The same place so many people in this area do - on the Columbus side of the river, simply shaking my head.

COMING WEDNESDAY: We're finally going to that bank, with the new security rules. We promise...

Sunday, September 07, 2003




Today let's play a game where I mention a development, and you decide if's a big thing or a little thing. We promise -- NO (ahem) male enhancement questions.

1. The first phase of the Columbus Trade Center expansion is declared finished. Big or little?

Answer - LITTLE. Because they still haven't given joggers like me our Riverwalk back.

I went running with hope Saturday night to the Trade Center, but fences still were up at the Riverwalk on either side of the building. They must still think I need to climb those 40 steps near the Space Science Center.

The Trade Center expansion is also a little thing for pedestrians, because you can't walk behind the building as you did before. The "Chattahoochee Promenade" ends at the building, and there's not as much room to have a picnic lunch outside. But maybe that's the plan - to encourage more downtown dining.

2. Fort Benning's new security checkpoints. Big or little?

Answer - BIG. They're so far back from the main gate that S.O.A. Watch protesters can advance about a mile onto post, without being stopped.

We drove to Fort Benning today for the first time in three years, and was surprised at how far we could go on Benning Drive before reaching the checkpoint. Terrorists could sneak into the woods, and even pitch tents.

The security checkpoints we saw consist of giant overhangs over the road, for soldiers to check your photo ID. The last time I saw overhangs like that, they were in Atlanta shopping centers - for doing quick emission inspections.

Considering September 11 isn't far off, it was surprisingly easy to move past the checkpoint and drive around Fort Benning. The soldier who checked my identification didn't even ask what I planned to do on post! Despite all those complainers on radio talk shows, sometimes being a white guy has benefits.

3. The fall mailing from American Town Marketing is out. Big or little?

Answer - BIG. After all, it arrived in my downtown mailbox even though the envelope says it's for "North East Columbus."

The American Town Marketing mailings have all sorts of interesting offers. This time, there are three coupons for Yellow Cab rides. I should keep these in the car, for when beggars demand rides up the street from ME.

The Mustard Seed Christian Store also has a couple of coupons in the fall mailing. But one of them is a discount on "Yankee candles" - trusting Columbus Christians won't discriminate on the basis of national origin.

4. WCGT TV-16 seems to have dropped its shopping channel broadcasts. Big or little?

Answer - LITTLE. The religious programming and infomercials replacing those broadcasts probably will get the same number of viewers - and those aren't many.

5. A new Chevron station on Macon Road had an opening-day special Friday, lowering its gas price to 99 cents. Big or little?

Answer - BIG. Because it showed how, at their core, many Columbus residents are greedy cheapskates.

BLOG UPDATE: Definite progress was noted today in the drying-out of the carpet, after the water heater leak. For one thing, some waterlogged areas now feel a bit dry. For another thing, one of the towels I used on the carpeting Thursday finally is dry enough to use a second time.

Saturday, September 06, 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.



BIG PREDICTION: The next time Auburn's football team plays a team named the "Trojans," it will be Troy State. They might win that one....

Auburn failed to impress again today, losing at Georgia Tech. This was a Tiger team that at least one publication predicted would be "number one." Now Tommy Tuberville may be the number-one candidate for firing.

Troy State didn't do much better tonight, losing big to Minnesota. I have a new nickname for T.S.U. - the Wiregrass Whipping Boys.

WSWS-TV 66 televised the Troy State-Minnesota game live - but it took awhile. At kickoff time, the station showed Texas A&M's Dennis Franchione, who was about to play Utah. Maybe someone in the control room was trying to see how many calls he could get from angry Alabama fans.

TV-66 obviously had trouble tuning in the Troy State-Minnesota game on "ESPN Plus." For a moment, we saw the ABC network line of Florida-Miami - then a mix of a black picture and promotions for UPN shows. Given what UPN tends to show, many viewers might not have noticed a difference.

(C'mon now - is it really a "PLUS" for ESPN to show Troy State-Minnesota? That matchup seems more like a minus.)

Auburn losing to Georgia Tech, Troy State losing to Minnesota, Alabama losing to Oklahoma - just imagine how much worse college football in that state will get if voters reject Amendment One on Tuesday.

BLOG UPDATE: I must have caught the Old Mill Towne on a slow night earlier this year. [8 Jun] The restaurant is opening a second Columbus location -- inside the Days Inn on Victory Drive. This easily will become the classiest place to eat on that road, topping the V.F.W. lodge.

(So shouldn't the second location be called the NEW Mill Towne?)

As for my apartment: a big wet spot remains where the old water heater leaked Wednesday night. I'm trying to point a floor fan at spots, to speed the drying-out process - but the way things are going for me, I'll probably produce an indoor rain cloud.

COMING SUNDAY: The other side of the Trade Center construction story....

Friday, September 05, 2003




A prelude to our topic: One blessing of a blog is the opportunity to offer personal tributes. Today I salute my older brother, Mike - who's turning 54 today. Unlike the Columbus TV station, he is NOT a "Fox-54." He's now a grandfather, after all.

WEDNESDAY, 9:03 p.m.: As I watch the opening tribute to Celia Cruz at the Latin Grammy Awards, I hear a strange noise from my hot water heater. I didn't think I was salsa dancing to the music that hard.

9:10 p.m.: The noise keeps happening - and I suddenly realize the problem. The hot water heater is leaking, only minutes after I stepped out of the shower. The leak apparently is hidden at the bottom so well, I turn off the pilot light -- fearful I might have a manufactured Old Faithful on my hands.

9:15 p.m.: The next task is to figure out how to shut off water to the heater. There's seemingly nothing to turn down below, as there was the last time I seriously handled a water heater at a College Park duplex. Also, the water controls below the kitchen sink are stuck -- and I fear a turn in the wrong direction will leave four flooded apartments, instead of one.

9:20 p.m.: The area below the heater is puddling, and starting to moisten the carpet nearby. Semi-panic sets in - so I try turning on the bathtub faucets, thinking that might divert the leak. It doesn't, and Columbus Water Works makes more money.

9:23 p.m.: I try calling the only man I know well in Columbus who might offer help in shutting off the leak. But one of my co-workers can't offer guidance beyond calling a plumber. Sometimes I wish I had followed the rest of my family into blue-collar work.

9:25 p.m.: I open the phone book and start calling plumbers with "24-hour emergency service." One has an answering machine. Roto-Rooter has an actual night operator, but the plumber who calls back reveals his company doesn't do water heaters. And away go my belongings, down the drain....

9:28 p.m.: Thankfully I bought a long garden hose several years ago, for draining my waterbed. I hook up one end to an attachment at the bottom of the heater, and toss the other end in the bathtub. I should note this is NOT a recommended way of cleaning bathtubs at all.

9:32 p.m.: The pressure is off somewhat - but the leak below the heater goes on, now soaking the bathroom floor and nearby carpeting. I try again to turn the knob atop the heater to the right. Yet as far as I can turn it, it sounds even louder. Lesson #1, which I should have learned watering cars at home when I was young: an open spigot is always loudest just before it shuts up.

9:45 p.m.: A bit of desperate extra turning with help from a cloth starts getting results. The flow through the water hose goes down. The level of water in the bathtub starts dropping. I start thinking I might actually get to work at 10:30 p.m. on time, leaving puddles all night.

I dismiss the thought of calling out from work, because it's simply not feasible. I'm a "temp" at this job, between full-time company hires - and the only other person in the company trained to do the overnight job is a management-level man, who has a second job already. Those of you getting layoff notices at Precision Components should give my bosses a call....

9:50 p.m.: One or two more hard turns, and it sounds like the flow of water through the heater has stopped. Now, however, there's a small bubbling-up of water from the knob itself. I resist the urge to use it as a drinking fountain.

9:55 p.m.: I find a big wrench in a drawer, and use it to stop the bubble-up. I still hear a tiny bit of dripping inside the heater, and see a tiny flow of water through the hose. This will have to do for now. I must prepare for work - and constantly dry my feet with a towel as I do. It's unscheduled practice for a foot-washing service at church.

10:15 p.m.: I fall to my knees before heading out the door. I'm actually thankful in this moment, because at least the water heater leaked when I was at home. If it had happened during the night while I was away, I would have come home to find most of my furniture about two inches higher - due to flooding.

10:35 p.m.: I arrive at work, and questioning begins from co-workers about my leak since I'd called the office for help. To save time on my job and keep it from being an all-night bother, I decide to get up and give a single explanation to everyone within earshot. Truly news conferences can break out at any time.

After I give this group explanation, the second person to ask me about my heater declares: "I don't give a d___ anymore, Richard. I ask you a simple question, and you act like a complete a______ about it!" See Lesson #1.

(This also brings Lesson #2: Some people prefer more personalized service.)

Learning from this (ahem) constructive criticism, I decide not to tell a soul about my leaking heater the rest of the night. For one thing, I might upset more people. For another thing, talking in vagaries about my problem might bring more blog readers.

THURSDAY, 7:50 a.m.: The workshift over, I walk in the apartment and find my prayers answered even more than I expected. There's no further leaking, no further carpet damage - and the bathroom floor actually is almost dry. Sometimes it pays to have an apartment with no central air. The heat and humidity of the bathroom air soaks up more water.

(Well, then again, the two bathroom mats seemed to do the soaking-up. They're so wet it might take weeks for them to dry - in the Iraqi desert.)

8:00 a.m.: I begin a planned hour of mopping - but my mops are old and unworkable. Two of them actually shed their sponges a bit, under the pressure of all the water. Is this a sign fall is almost here?

8:15 a.m.: I get back in the car and drive to Kmart in Phenix City for a new mop. There are refills for mops in the store rack, but none of them match what I have at home. They needed a hole in the middle for screwing in the handle - which should have been a lesson to me about having a screw loose.

9:05 a.m.: The mop bought and back at home trying to soak near-standing water off the carpet, I finally dial my landlord. He keeps "bankers' hours" at his Armour Road office, has no answering machine - and I don't even know his home phone number. This is SO Columbus! It's an approach right out of the 1970's -- "take two buckets, and call me in the morning."

(Lesson #3: Always ask your landlord for a home phone, cell phone, pager number - anything to make him think you're a little bit paranoid, so he'll provide better service.)

9:15 a.m.: The first call to the landlord brought no answer, so I dial again. This time Jerry's in, and I explain my plight. He promises to call a plumber, and have one come out as soon as possible. Since Jerry pays the bill, apparently he has much more clout.

9:20 a.m.: I've been up all night and decide the damage can't get any worse, so I try to get ready for bed. But before I can, the landlord calls back. "How tall is that heater?" he asks - showing how often he visits the complex to check on his customers.

Is the heater "short and stubby," or tall? I tell him it's tall - about four feet high. At least I consider that tall. But then again, I don't play basketball at Auburn.

9:23 a.m.: The landlord calls AGAIN, to report the plumber has been contacted and will be out as soon as possible. In the meantime, he suggests I use towels to soak up the water on the carpet. I think ahead eight days, and my laundry hamper is getting heavier and heavier.

If the landlord is going to call this much, I reason, I'll simply turn off the answering machine and try to sleep while waiting for the plumber to show. But the phone keeps ringing, as people return calls from days ago to book morning TV time for next week. Sometimes it simply does NOT pay to do some of your work from home.

9:55 a.m.: The phone rings again, with a telemarketer calling "LaughLine Enterprises." I explain the web site was sold 11 months ago, but the caller still offers to set up a secure web site for accepting credit card payments. I tell the man to send me information in the mail to consider, but he has to set up appointments on the phone. I declare I won't commit to such things, while only half my brain cells are functioning.

10:45 a.m.: A horn honks outside my back window. The plumber? Nope - a man who gives my next-door neighbor rides all over town, and honks all the time to get her attention. If you're going to take the trouble to roll up to the back door, at least get out and knock on it.

12:45 p.m. (estimated): The phone rings to wake me up once more. This time the Wall Street Journal is looking for subscribers. Yes, I HAVE noticed the new look of your newspaper. No, I'm NOT interested in subscribing right now with a major credit card. Why? Still in a blur, I say:

"Because as I said, the only reason I'm talking with you is because the answering machine is off, because I've been up all night and waiting on the plumber to replace a broken water heater and...."

"I'll try another time." Click. I would go back to Lesson #2 - but this WAS a one-to-one conversation.

3:20 p.m.: I decide to officially get out of bed and start my day. But as I begin to express thankfulness for it on my knees, the phone rings again - this time from Jerry the landlord:

"Did the plumber get it fixed?"

"The plumber hasn't come yet."

"Oh dear. That's not right." He calls the plumber, then calls me back to report the new heater will be out within an hour. Plumbers apparently keep phone and cable installers' hours - 3:00 p.m. until dark.

3:55 p.m.: As I'm in study waiting for the plumber, another telemarketer calls. Advance Business asks, "How are you today?"

"Dreadful, but what do you need?"

"OK, I'll call back another time." The woman hangs up before I can ask her to finish her spiel. But you know what - I may have stumbled onto a way to get some of these people off the phone.

4:20 p.m.: The plumber at last arrives - from Watley Plumbing, according to his T-shirt. There, now it's written down. I know who to call six hours before the trouble happens next time.

4:25 p.m.: The old heater is detached -- but as the plumber tips it over, a little red-colored water leaks onto the carpet from the bottom. That's why I only ran a fan toward the wet carpet during the day, and didn't spread towels. All that work might have been a waste.

4:35 p.m.: A new heater is pushed into the apartment - only it's about a foot taller than the old one. The plumber says my old heater WAS short and stubby after all. Maybe I should pay more attention to those ads about shrinking bones.

It appears I might have to give up one of two shelves located just above the new heater. But by using a variety of tools including a portable gas torch, he's able to make the new heater fit. My items on the lower shelf will only have to lean left a LITTLE bit.

5:02 p.m.: It takes awhile to install a new hot water heater - and as the plumber keeps working, the 5:00 p.m. news tells about a Columbus woman who died from West Nile virus. Beware the signs of West Nile, the reporter says, including "flu-like symptoms." To which the plumber responds toward me: "I could have West Nile all the time, based on that!"

5:15 p.m.: The new hot water heater is in - but the plumber isn't quite finished. "I need to get in the attic," he says. Attic? I actually HAVE an attic?? I show the plumber there are no doors in the closets to get into one. So much for him staging a sit-in, demanding immediate payment.

5:20 p.m.: "You should have hot water again in about 30 minutes," the plumber assures me as he leaves. I thank him for his time -- and pull out a few towels to try to soak up water from the carpet. For some reason, my towels don't work as well as the sponges the Tax Accountability Coalition shows in those commercials against Amendment One.

Thursday, September 04, 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.



We paid a visit Wednesday afternoon to the place with the lowest gasoline price in Columbus. Amazingly, it's a bread store! It almost makes you wish someone invented a propane-fired toaster.

The Dolly Madison bakery outlet on Victory Drive normally has gas prices lower than anyplace else in Columbus. This has to frustrate the big oil companies - since it apparently pays off the OPEC countries with Twinkies and cup cakes.

So how does Dolly Madison keep its gas price so low? The best guess I can make is this: the outlet store does NOT accept debit or credit cards. It's still accepting personal checks, though - so maybe it makes the extra money from bounced-check fees.

Since the Dolly Madison outlet is next to the bakery, it's still first and foremost a bread store. Trouble is, the bread shelves were quite empty when I stopped by Wednesday. Instead of whole wheat, there was simply a hole.

(I could have bought "Wonder Family Wheat" bread, but I didn't. The church I attend has something against that brand name. About 20 years ago, a Pastor declared during a Bible study: "The Wonder is that it's bread....")

The bakery outlet store on Victory Drive sometimes stocks a surprise or two. The donut shelf happened to have boxes with a Kroger label - which made me feel good, knowing I'm not the only one in Columbus making those runs to Opelika.

I tend to avoid the Twinkies, fruit pies and other products with Dolly Madison brand names at the outlet store. It's because they're made with beef fat. If I want that artery-clogging extra, I'll head to McDonald's - and order large fries.

BLOG UPDATE: While I was out, I finally picked up the first ten compact discs of my album. The man who runs the recording studio has been out of town for days - either on vacation, searching for new talent, or running from a group of rappers.

(So who should get these first ten CD's, which have NO box cover on them? My family's getting a few - but I guess it's too late to look up the address of "American Idol.")

SONG OF THE DAY:Habitat for Humanity opened its own university in Americus Wednesday, for training organization leaders. Now it needs a fight song - and with apologies to Michigan's "Hail to the Victors," we're ready to offer one:

Plywood, it is abounding!

Hammers, we are a-pounding!

Here's, here's to Habitat,

The houses they build!

Sweat equity required,

Hours of work perspired -

Here's, here's to Habitat!

You don't have to be skilled!

BREAKING NEWS! And we mean breaking! Hot water heater leak! Details Friday, IF we're able....

© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 03, 2003




Wynnton Elementary School has a lot of history - but it also has some problems. It certainly didn't help that Davis Broadcasting moved its studios down the street, putting youngsters dangerously close to all that corrupting rap music....

But seriously: Wynnton School students are preparing to present a musical program for the public next week. But a source tells me some teachers are upset, because PRIVATE performances are planned first - and they're barred from attending them! There's an easy way to resolve this. The teacher should invite the dancers over for a backyard show, followed by a wiener roast.

The way the source explained it to me, a private performance of "Wynnton Dazzle" was held for community bigwigs beginning Tuesday - supposedly because the Wynnton School auditorium is being named after one of them. I can understand why some people
would be upset by this. After all, Bill Heard probably doesn't get private previews of RiverCenter concerts.

The fuss over private musical shows should be the least of Wynnton School's problems. Several news reports have shown the school in disrepair, and needing improvement. But maybe the answer is only a week away. If Alabama voters approve the tax and accountability package, angry opponents will come to Columbus and pay for all the work.

Wynnton Elementary's test scores also landed it on Georgia's "needs improvement" list this year - meaning parents can transfer children to better-performing schools if they wish. Better performing? How many other grade schools have their own musical troupes?

BLOG UPDATE: From another source comes more details on the possible future of "Bagel Break." [31 Aug] A staff member tells this source the owners are thinking about deserting downtown completely, for a new location near St. Francis Medical Center. Line up enough bagels, and you might match some patients' bills.

Where will downtown diners go for breakfast or brunch, if Bagel Break moves several miles away? After all, you can only eat at Ruth Ann's Diner so many times a week....

Speaking of dining, the "City Grill" on the Phenix City side of the Dillingham Street Bridge reopened Tuesday after being closed for months. The format seems to have moved away from basic barbecue - to pork chops, fried chicken and other things that can clog your arteries.

At the other end of the scale, we only now realized the Italian restaurant "Luna Azzurra" on Weems Road has closed. Several months ago, the owners posted a sign thanking Columbus Park Crossing and proclaiming, "We're here to stay." Apparently that was not Az-zurr-a thing.

Luna Azzurra is being replaced on Weems Road by the "Bavarian House." You can test how smart the staff is by asking for a "Bavarian Beer" - and expecting a can of Busch.

Tuesday, September 02, 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.



Here's hoping you had a nice Labor Day. I'm on the job all week long - so for me, today is "Labor Some More Day."

It wouldn't be Labor Day without several traditional things. People cooking outside on the grill, the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon - and of course, the displays of Halloween costumes in stores.

I went to Eckerd Drugs on Macon Road Monday afternoon, and the Halloween displays of candy and costumes were already there. Really, now - how many people buy Halloween costumes during the first week of September? Unless, maybe, the back-to-school clothes already were ripped on the playground?

Eckerd apparently made a big mistake with its advertising flyer this week. Some of the coupons were supposed to say "limit one offer per customer" - but instead they say limit TEN! At that rate, Eckerd might as well have donated cases of food to a homeless shelter.

Some of the Eckerd coupons were quite good, though. Free granola bars! Free cans of Vanilla Pepsi!! Three cans of tuna for the price of one!!! And then people wonder why prescription drugs are so expensive.

I'm sorry to say this, but the Eckerd on Macon Road looked quite dissheleved and messy when I stopped by Monday afternoon. This was Labor Day, after all - so no Pacelli High School students would have stopped after school to overrun the place.

It's hard to mark Labor Day without running into the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon. This year there were NO firefighters along my drive, holding out boots to fill -- and giving beggars an excuse to do the same thing for the next six months.

I even turned on the "Deutsche Bank Championship" golf tournament on ABC Monday afternoon - and there was Jerry Lewis during commercial breaks, asking for M.D.A. donations! Doesn't he realize if I'm watching golf on a holiday, I might be trying to avoid him?

Instant message to WRBL: Why did you start your 11:00 p.m. Sunday newscast by saying, "The M.D.A. Telethon is officially underway" - but your station didn't join the telethon until 8:00 a.m. Monday? Do you WANT me to turn the dial to WGN, to make a pledge?

It's been a curious tradition for several years that WRBL doesn't start the M.D.A. Telethon until 8:00 a.m. on Labor Day - almost 12 hours after the national telecast begins. It only reinforces Columbus's reputation as a sleepy Southern town.

(And besides: if Jerry Lewis can stay up 20 hours raising money in the condition he's in, you'd think Jack Rodgers and Teresa Whitaker could do it.)

No matter where I've lived, it's been striking to see TV news teams urging you to give to the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon on Labor Day. For 24 hours, the begging is blatant - while during rating months, they have to be more subtle about it.

(Come to think of it, it's a good experience for the newscasters and weather forecasters to do this. They might need to work in public television someday.)

I cared about the Muscular Dystrophy Telethon when I was a boy, and I appreciate Jerry Lewis's dedication to it. But I confess I don't give to M.D.A. anymore. After all, we've supposedly been SO CLOSE to a cure for some 20 years - and yet despite all the money, the answer remains as elusive as Nicole Brown Simpson's real killer.

Now for some other discoveries we made over Labor Day weekend:

+ "The Wayne Brady Show" is now airing twice a day -- on TWO different stations. It's added a 2:00 p.m. appearance on Fox-54, which means the chances of pre-emption for a breaking infomercial will go down.

+ TV-16 began showing taped broadcasts of Phenix City Central football games. You can tell it's an all-Alabama team when the sideline reporter says, "Back up to y'all, guys." [True!]

A commercial on Foxie 105-FM announced, "The Boom Boom Room is back!" Back from where? A sting by the Metro Squad, for guns and drugs?

COMING THIS WEEK: That postponed trip to the bank.... and reports of a school dancing scandal....

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© 2003 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.