Sunday, October 31, 2004



Uh-oh - trouble has struck two local political races on the weekend before Election Day. Well, the residents of one Columbus neighborhood would say trouble from a political race actually struck THEM....

Columbus Police confirm a truck driven by Sheriff Ralph Johnson's teenage son hit a four-year-old girl Friday night. From there, the story gets fuzzy. Was Adam Johnson speeding? Was he attacked by people nearby? And why hasn't Robert Taylor taped a campaign commercial at the scene yet?

Several "witnesses" on Oates Avenue claimed Saturday Adam Johnson was far above the speed limit when he struck the girl. Yet the Columbus Police report says there was no indication of speeding. Perhaps your door has to come off, like it does for Ryan Newman in that TV commercial.

People on Oates Avenue noticed a Muscogee County Sheriff's Department car arriving at the scene before a police car did - and they declared Adam Johnson received favoritism. Well, hold on a second. Did they REALLY want the Sheriff's
officer to put Johnson on the ground and shoot him?

Saturday's Ledger-Enquirer suggested Adam Johnson was arrested twice before this year. We covered his arrest for marijuana and D.U.I. in May -- and he pleaded guilty in August to violating the open container law. You'd think Sheriff Johnson would have grounded his son until after November 2nd.

A Sheriff's Department spokesman responded to the complaints at an impromptu Civic Center news conference Saturday evening. He said Adam Johnson called his father the Sheriff, because members of Bethany Worship Center came out and attacked him. Apparently the Friday night service failed to focus on the "prince of peace."

The Sheriff's Department spokesman also asked why a four-year-old girl was out in the street unattended at 9:00 p.m. on a Friday night. It sounds like we may have found a caller to WRCG's "TalkLine."

So we have a neighborhood blaming the Sheriff's son, and a Sheriff's Department spokesman seemingly blaming an injured girl's parents - and it's all happening less than a week before the Sheriff stands for re-election. I've seen county fairs with less spinning than this....

The collision involving the Sheriff's son actually was the second curious incident of the day. Before dawn Friday, fire erupted at the LaFayette home of Alabama Congressional Candidate Bill Fuller. Hopefully no newspaper printed a headline, "FULLER BRUSH WITH DEATH."

Bill Fuller had to jump out a second-story window to escape the fire, and broke his leg. But he checked out of a Chambers County Friday night - perhaps with new evidence of why health care costs need to be brought under control.

Aides to Bill Fuller promise he'll give a Monday morning news conference in LaFayette, and keep running for Congress. Well, with a broken leg he might be hobbling....

Aides to Bill Fuller claimed this fire was the third one at his LaFayette home in six months. In one case, campaign signs on the lawn reportedly were torched - which we have to say is a creative alternative to simply stealing them.

The Bill Fuller campaign claims in another case, an "incendiary device" was thrown on the Democrat's porch. We have NOT been able to confirm this incident - in part because many people in Chambers County don't know how to say incendiary, much less know what the word means.

Alabama fire investigators say as of now, the fire at Bill Fuller's home appears to be accidental. But he IS running for Congress, and all those explosives supposedly are missing from an Iraqi munitions base....

Bill Fuller is running for the U.S. House seat currently held by Mike Rogers. Rogers has run several TV commercials in this area, while Fuller has not. But as the TV news experts will tell you, people always are attracted to fires....

Congressman Mike Rogers issued a short statement, saying his thoughts and prayers are with opponent Bill Fuller. Well, at least for now they are - since Alabama doesn't have early voting.

Now some other quick things, before we turn out the lights for that extra hour of sleep:

+ Which well-known weathercaster informed his audience Friday night they should move their clocks AHEAD for standard time - when they should have been moved BACK one hour? We only hope this man reads his barometer better than his clocks.

+ The Lumpkin Library was closed until further notice, because a group of young people reportedly threatened a librarian with brass knuckles and a knife. Yeow - how many extra books did they want to check out?

+ The Auburn Tigers clinched the Southeastern Conference Western Division title by mashing Mississippi. We wonder if Coach Tommy Tuberville has an incentive clause in his contract for this - such as President Ed Richardson making him fire
only half his staff.

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths opened their new season in a new league, by splitting a pair of home games. They lost Saturday night to the Macon Trax - whose players are easy for music buffs to identify. There's track 1, track 2, track 3....

(Hopefully this team doesn't get caught with too many players on the ice. "Eight Trax" are SO out of style.)

+ Instant Message to the man who saw Nation of Islam members handing out literature on the Phenix City side of the 13th Street Bridge: There really was no reason to be concerned. As long as they didn't throw bean pies at cars, it's legal.

COMING MONDAY: That orange thing hanging from my mailbox.... and another blog-reader quiz (can you guess the category?)....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 29, 2004



Today would have been my mother's 80th birthday. She was born in the Missouri Ozarks - but before rumors start: no, she did NOT marry her brother.

Our family business was located in "the bottoms" area along the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, between the two downtown Kansas Cities. My mom would drive through there in the summer when I was a boy, and warn me to keep my window up. She never explicitly said why, but people in that neighborhood fit the area's name - the bottom rung of life.

What would my mom think if she could see my last few years in Georgia? So many beggars have approached me that sometimes I think they've hidden a G.P.S. device in my car, and they plot ways to track me down.

Take the other afternoon, outside the Bradley Library. As I drove out the exit to Wynnton Road, a woman with a limp and using a cane crossed the road in my left-turn lane. The sidewalk was on the other side of my lane - but as I so often say of
non-thinking pedestrians: why walk on the sidewalk when you can walk on the street?

"I'm sorry, sir," said the limping woman as she passed my car window, "do you have five dollars?" FIVE dollars? Are beggars drinking lattes instead of regular cups of coffee now?

The woman explained she needed five dollars to get something to eat - and as it happened, I had a few minutes left in my lunch break. I offered to drive her up the hill to Wendy's for lunch, and she accepted. No, she did NOT give herself away at
that moment by breaking into a sprint.

I had met this older woman before outside the Bradley Library [30 Apr] - and she turned down my offer of Wendy's then. But this time, she accepted. What do you know? Sometimes beggars really CAN'T be choosy.

"I want three bacon cheeseburgers," the woman said as we started the drive up Wynn's Hill. Apparently she's a regular - though somehow I doubt her escorts into the restaurant are.

"How long have you been begging?" I asked the woman.

"For awhile," she answered - sounding as vague as a candidate for President.

"How long? Weeks? Months?"

"About two months," the woman said - so apparently she took a summer break, after approaching me in late April.

"Welfare doesn't treat me right," the woman continued. She eventually told me she gets a welfare check for about $500 a month. But at least her relatives probably won't have to worry about paying the "death tax...."

I must confess this older woman did NOT smell very nice. Either she had alcohol on her breath, she hadn't bathed in days - or that new Britney Spears perfume isn't worth the money.

It was a short drive up the hill to Wendy's - and as the woman got out of my car, I confirmed she has both a wooden leg and a wooden cane. Maybe she can't afford food because she's too concerned about termite treatment.

As we entered Wendy's, several of the personnel said hello to this woman like they knew her. She ordered three bacon cheeseburgers and fries - and I settled for one "double stack with cheese." Come to think of it, she made me look like the
starving one....

I returned to the Bradley Library Thursday for the lunch hour, and the limping woman did NOT show up in my sight. If she begged me for lunch money again, I was prepared to remind her slavery was abolished in the U.S. about 140 years ago.

BLOG UPDATE: Your blog now has been contacted by Ed Richards, the main assistant to Marshal Ken Suddeth. Richards told me he's handling the messages for Suddeth - and it's nice to see someone is screening those firebomb threats.

Ed Richards wanted to respond to some comments Marshal challenger Greg Countryman made on WRBL. Countryman claimed the Marshal's department suffers from a "lack of specialized training." I'm not sure exactly what that means -- but I'm sure someone could come in and offer Spanish lessons, if Eduardo Diaz can't.

Ed Richards told me the complaint about a lack of specialized training was "ridiculous" and "way out in left field." He went on to say Greg Countryman has exactly 684 hours of training. When the campaigns are checking each other's day-planners, this is one serious race.

Ed Richards admitted the Marshal's Department is small, and lacks the staff that other law enforcement agencies do. There's an easy way to correct that -- but this time, I think Marshal Sudden should get city approval for a fund-raising

Meanwhile, a separate e-mail to the blog promises to look into the matter of Eduardo Diaz. The only clue I have to the writer's identity is the acronym "SSPVLC." I admit I don't know what that stands for. I have enough trouble remembering what all the letters in AFL-CIO mean.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION ended late Thursday night, and wasn't even close. You are unanimously against Columbus State University doing what LaGrange College is doing, and starting college football (3-0). Scott Miller is too busy handling Troy University games, anyway.

One writer in our poll expressed concern that college football at C.S.U. might attract more students - and the university really doesn't have room for more. The good news is that the situation could change in a couple of months. Wouldn't the
emptied Bradley Library make a great college dorm?

Now some quick kicks to wrap up the week:

+ Someone left a flier at a Columbus restaurant showing three black faces. It suggests African-American candidates for Marshal, Sheriff and District Attorney are banding together to take over all law enforcement positions. Whoever prepared this flier must not have heard the news - come Monday, the Columbus Police Chief will be white.

+ Auburn Police were called to the university library, because a man was flashing people. Apparently this guy doesn't quite understand what it means to "expose yourself to great literature."

+ A check on Victory Drive revealed Drive 1 of Columbus has closed - the car dealer Fort Benning put on its "hit list." If I was Carl Gregory, I would be VERY careful....

+ Georgia Tech gave away a second-half lead in Thursday night football, and lost to Virginia Tech. If these teams are going to play each other every year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, shouldn't they have a special trophy? Since they're
both "Tech" schools, have them battle for a giant beaker or something....

+ Instant Message to State Senate candidate Mark Trammell: OK, you "support the Ten Commandments - period." So will you try to make adultery against the law in Georgia again? And how will you enforce the one on coveting my neighbor's house and field?

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.84 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... Milk for $1.99 a GALLON at Publix.... but sorry, no one's come up to me and offered any flu vaccines....

COMING SOON: The first e-mail our blog has received about a book....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 28, 2004



Before we get to our topic -- an Instant Message to the driver at Wynnton and Buena Vista Roads, who turned right from the LEFT lane Wednesday night: That was MY car you apparently never saw. And I wanted to go straight, in the lane next to yours. Be thankful your insurance company didn't buy me a new Honda -- fully-loaded.

A few drivers apparently don't realize at "the crossroads of central Columbus," as I call Wynnton and Buena Vista, only ONE lane in each direction is for turning left. I hereby declare NASCAR to blame for all these drivers wanting to go "two-wide into turn one."

I was THISCLOSE to going straight ahead in the right lane Wednesday night, and letting that left-lane turner whack me. Instead, I turned right with him, avoided a crash and changed my trip home by a couple of blocks. Besides, Ken Nugent seems more interested these days in representing Vioxx patients than drivers like me.

With thanks still to be alive - on to our topic: The candidates for Muscogee County Sheriff came together in a televised debate Wednesday evening. Ralph Johnson and Robert Taylor came across as so soft-spoken and polite, you'd think they were running for the lead role on a "CSI" series.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Perhaps both men were sobered by news that former Sheriff's Deputy Travis Schnoor was killed in Iraq Wednesday. Our sympathies to Schnoor's family, friends and colleagues.)

Challenger Robert Taylor says you should elect him Sheriff because he wants "one Columbus," with a united community. What do you think he means by this? Maybe a "north office" for the Sheriff's Department near the J.R. Allen Parkway?

Robert Taylor kept emphasizing a unity theme during the debate. He said you "can't take two halves and call it a whole, until we all come together." So "we" are sort of like steak and cheese, in a McDonald's bagel....

Asked why you should vote for him, Incumbent Sheriff Ralph Johnson began by saying he grew up in Columbus. If that's the top criterion, Mayor Poydasheff and Councilor Mimi Woodson should resign sometime today.

Ralph Johnson has been Sheriff five years, but noted his law enforcement career began as a jailer at the old county jail. That was a different time in Columbus - when a "lock-in" had nothing to do with high school students at Hollywood

The obvious issue in the Sheriff debate was the killing of Kenneth Walker by a deputy last December. Ralph Johnson tried to defuse it by saying he couldn't talk about the case, because it's still in the hands of investigators. Well, maybe it is - or maybe they're all keeping their hands off it....

On the other hand, Robert Taylor declared Ralph Johnson "failed to unite the community" after Kenneth Walker was killed. Well, why didn't Mr. Taylor take action to do it himself? Anyone could have organized a "Kum Bah Yah" sing.

Sheriff Ralph Johnson actually admitted during the debate he could have handled part of the Kenneth Walker aftermath better. This may explain why he's running as an independent. Republicans like President Bush never admit making mistakes.

Ralph Johnson says he regrets not "reaching out" more to Kenneth Walker's family after last December's shooting. That's now been left to family lawyers - who are reaching out to take $100 million in damages.

But Sheriff Ralph Johnson says he was right to call in the Georgia and Federal Bureaus of Investigation after Kenneth Walker was killed. That was right because both agencies are too bogged down with other cases, so the blame can be passed on to them.

(Just between you and me - do you think the F.B.I. would announce conclusions in this case if Kenneth Walker had been killed in Ohio? Or Pennsylvania? Or some other battleground state?)

How would Robert Taylor have handled the Kenneth Walker case? He says he would have called in Columbus Police, to do an initial investigation, then called the G.B.I. We couldn't help noticing Taylor never said he would have fired David Glisson on the spot -- so he would have upset civil rights leaders, too.

Robert Taylor also said he would have gone to the Medical Center, to meet with Kenneth Walker's family. That would have been a show of compassion - and also a great opportunity to get a legal settlement signed on the spot.

Another interesting divide between the Sheriff candidates came on the issue of accreditation. Robert Taylor wants the department to seek national accreditation. Ralph Johnson says he'd rather seek state certification. But far-right conservatives were disappointed neither man spoke against United Nations authorization.

When the Sheriff debate was over, a man sitting near me said his mind was made up. "I'm not voting for either one of them." This man left me with the feeling he wants a 19th-Century Sheriff - who will challenge criminals to duels, and shoot them before asking questions.

Now other items of interest from another warm Wednesday:

+ Advance voting in Columbus became so popular, some people waited more than two hours at the Government Center to mark a ballot. Some of us plan to wait for a less crowded time to vote - like November 2.

+ The evening news was live in Americus, reporting on four arrests in the brutal beating of a convenience store worker - but I kept getting distracted. That Flash Foods store has unleaded for $1.87?! That beats most of Columbus by at least four cents.

+ "Fox-54 Idol" David Rainer revealed he was NOT invited to Hollywood, when he auditioned for "American Idol" in San Francisco. But apparently he wasn't insulted by Simon Cowell - which means he can't follow in William Hung's footsteps, either.

+ The Boston Red Sox shut out St. Louis to win the World Series - and I recalled Atlanta Hawks sportscaster Steve Holman, who said on WGST radio in 1986 he had champagne ready to open, until Bill Buckner's error changed everything. With the Red Sox finally winning, I fear Holman will go back to whining about N.B.A. referees again.

(I've never been to Boston, so why am I so giddy about the Red Sox? For their remarkable comeback against the Yankees, the end of all the complaining by Boston fans -- and the fact that the Kansas City Royals still have a more recent World Series title than the St. Louis Cardinals.)

COMING FRIDAY: A follow-up call, concerning the Marshal's race....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004



It was only a matter of time, I guess. The boldest e-mail yet in the fall campaign reached us the other day. Eduardo Diaz writes about the Marshal's race:

MR. Suddeth is on of the biggest liers in Columbus, not because he lied about his service record. But he lies about hiring spanish speaking officers because he promised me a job in his office.To make things worse he lied to my wife by saying " your husband is going to be my next deputy marshal." These empty promises went on for 6 months until my wife and I saw him getting out of his unmarked city patrol car.He walked into Chef Lee's went straight the bar and fixed himself a large mixed drink.Then I approched Suddeth, he didn't want to speak to me since I caught him in so many lies.I then looked in the face and walked away.There has been four other hispanic officers who had applied and they also got empty promises.Suddeth had a hispanic working for him when he first got into office.The officer had to resign due to marital problems which affected his job, ever since then he will not hire any spanish speaking deputies.I guess he doesn't like us. Suddeth had a African American working for him who got involved in a little scam at the city barn in 1999, and the deputy doesn't work there anymore. Ever since then Suddeth refuses to hire African Americans, now a White officer got into trouble by being unprofessional. So now he's not going to hire blacks,Whites,and Hispanics. Is he going to hire Koreans? NO! the Korean population in Columbus knows how he is. So the only thing he can do is step down before Gregory Countryman really takes a bite out of his Nasty,Stinkin,Dirty,Lying ASS.
Thank You

And we thank YOU, Mr. Diaz. That's what we like about political campaigns -- a lack of name-calling.

Eduardo Diaz claims Marshal Ken Suddeth is excluding deputies from almost all ethnic communities. But there's one group he may have overlooked. Assuming the Marshal can get a mixed drink at Chef Lee's, maybe he's hiring Chinese-American

Obviously Eduardo Diaz's complaint called for a reply - and it came Tuesday night from the Marshal himself. In an exclusive interview with your blog, Ken Suddeth recognized Diaz's name as soon as I mentioned it. After 12 years as Marshal, either that means you're very good - or you're under investigation.

Marshal Ken Suddeth confirmed Eduardo Diaz once applied to be a deputy. But he said when a background check was conducted, Diaz turned out to be "atrocious." That's the sort of "A grade" no worker wants to have....

Marshal Suddeth went on to describe Eduardo Diaz's mental health as "very questionable." He recalled a trip to Albany a few years ago, when an aide told him Diaz had threatened to burn down the Marshal's house. Maybe Diaz had a change of plans, and dreamed of becoming a firefighter.

So what about that trip to Chef Lee's? The Marshal says Eduardo Diaz claims to have a videotape of him "staggering" - but Diaz never has produced it. The thought that Columbus has paparazzi such as this is staggering enough....

Was that a mixed drink Ken Suddeth was drinking? "I doubt I even stagger," the Marshal told me - saying at places such as the V.F.W. lodge he never drinks more than Sprite. So much for suspects using the "over-caffeinated officer" defense.

Ken Suddeth was ready to answer Eduardo Diaz's complaints, apparently because Diaz wrote the Ledger-Enquirer as well. I missed that letter in Sunday's paper - because I stopped at the Quizno's Subs coupons.

Marshal Suddeth warned Eduardo Diaz he "should be very careful," because he's making statements which are close to slander. There's nothing like a big damage award in court to get your mind off public safety pay issues.

But enough about Eduardo Diaz personally - what about the bigger issue of minorities and the Marshal's office? Ken Suddeth says at one point, 62.7% of his staff were either female or minority employees. Perhaps that was when Republican Party officials told him to stop acting so much like a Democrat.

Marshal Ken Suddeth estimates about half his current staff consists of females and minority group members. The number would be higher, but Greg Countryman decided to run against him this fall....

The Marshal admitted to me he's felt pressure to hire Hispanic deputies, especially from Columbus Councilor Mimi Woodson. We have yet to learn if Woodson has felt pressure to recruit Asian-American candidates to run for Council.

Ken Suddeth says anyone can apply to work with the Marshal's office, no matter what their background. But he notes "they have to be qualified" to be hired. If the applicants aren't qualified - well, new restaurants are opening around Columbus Park Crossing all the time.

Ken Suddeth told me he's had three main goals as Marshal - to improve education, training, and staff pay. He said education and training are better, but he admitted he's failed with the pay issue. Yet for some reason, the Marshal skipped
that final sales tax forum at the Government Center Tuesday night....

I found Marshal Suddeth at a different Government Center event - the annual candlelight vigil to remember domestic violence victims. Thankfully, no deaths of battered women have been reported in Muscogee County in the last 12 months. Politically-divided couples may be yelling at each other right now, but nothing more.

Two police officers chatted at the Government Center Tuesday night about the domestic violence vigil. One of them said, "They ought to have one for battered men. We get just as many calls about them." For instance, after the wife finds the
hidden porn pictures on her husband's computer....

Anyone who thinks downtown Columbus is dead after 5:00 p.m. should have been at the Government Center Tuesday night. Between the sales tax forum and the domestic violence vigil, about 150 people were on hand. And at least the domestic violence group had the money to offer refreshments afterward.

But I digress: Ken Suddeth says he's tried as Marshal to move Muscogee County away from what he calls "fifties and sixties law enforcement." I'm not sure if that's a subtle endorsement of a candidate in the Sheriff's race or not....

Marshal Ken Suddeth says he'll keep campaigning on the issues up to Election Day, and not engage in what he calls "mudslinging." When your opponent has a last name like Countryman, he may be thankful for any mud he can sling around.

COMING THIS WEEK: Who was that woman who limped out of my car?....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004



Which U.S. Senate candidate's campaign called Columbus in advance, asking if a makeup artist could be provided for a televised debate? Here's a hint: it was NOT the Democrat....

A Columbus debate among the three Georgia U.S. Senate candidates was telecast Monday evening. It was incredibly confusing to watch - because there was Democrat Denise Majette on the right side of the screen, and Libertarian Allen Buckley on the left.

I'm hearing Republican Johnny Isakson's campaign asked in advance for the desk to be clean for the Columbus debate. Staff members reportedly claim Denise Majette has taken inch-thick notebooks to debates, and turned to pages on specific issues. Well, at least you can show her what she promised years later.

But back to makeup: Johnny Isakson's staff apparently didn't realize Columbus TV stations don't have staff makeup artists. Well, at least I don't THINK they do -- but Rozelle sure looked good when she made that recent comeback.

Saddened by the discovery of a lack of makeup artists, I'm told the Johnny Isakson campaign asked if there was a local makeup specialist that Columbus debate organizers could recommend. So if you saw the Republican sitting at a counter at Dillard's Sunday afternoon, it was NOT a ploy for female voters.

With those preliminaries out of the way, the Senate debate was taped Sunday night and telecast Monday. Libertarian Allen Buckley started things off, saying he was the candidate with a plan to "live for today and tomorrow." So? What about that new DVD movie, "The Day AFTER Tomorrow?"

Allen Buckley says he's committed to "kill every terrorist, wherever they may be." If he's like the country's most famous Libertarian, Atlanta talk show host Neal Boortz, we may find Navy SEALS at some Columbus mobile home parks.

Allen Buckley says his platform will let the U.S. "go on indefinitely." In other words, he'd filibuster in the Senate against anything he doesn't like....

But of course, Allan Buckley was a sideshow to the debate's main event. Johnny Isakson and Denise Majette disagreed on prescription drug coverage, education, military spending - well, there's probably one area where they agree. They'd oppose Zell Miller's proposal to have the states appoint all Senators again.

Denise Majette said a proposed 23-percent national sales tax would leave 80 percent of Georgians paying more tax overall. I think that means 80 percent of Georgians are so poor, they don't pay much income tax now.

Denise Majette accused her main opponent of voting against "fully funding Head Start." So what's wrong with that? Doesn't that mean everyone starts equally?

Denise Majette said it's a shame that veterans today have to wait six months to get an appointment at a V.A. medical center. Tell me about it! I used to have a health plan where months of waiting for a physical was routine -- and I shuddered to think how long the wait would be if I became ill.

Denise Majette also promoted her proposal to have a national "lottery for education." Whenever I hear this phrase come up, I wonder if any of the lottery money goes to courses in statistics and probability - to teach how absurd are the chances of winning lotteries.

Rep. Majette says a national lottery would show our country is committed to education. Yet the question is HOW committed it would be. Would children learn to count to 49 on a lottery ticket, or 54?

Johnny Isakson opposes a national lottery for education. He says the idea never came to a vote in the U.S. House because he doesn't want to hinder the HOPE Scholarship in Georgia. Many college students do a good job of that now, by not
keeping up their grades.

Johnny Isakson says while the money from Georgia's lottery is committed to education, money from a national lottery might not be. For one thing, there's that big deficit Republicans have run up the last few years....

In his closing statement, Johnny Isakson warned TV viewers: "In political campaigns, people can say anything." I suppose that means we shouldn't trust the ordinary people in his campaign commercials.

Rep. Isakson went on to promise if he's elected to the U.S. Senate, he'll give the job "150-percent effort." As I said, there's that deficit mindset among Republicans....

Johnny Isakson closed his comments by saying: "I'm your employer, and this is our country." So who are all the donors to the campaigns -- so many sponsors on a politician's race car?

There was one more issue Denise Majette apparently wanted to bring up at the debate, but could not. Her new campaign ad accuses Johnny Isakson of making an $800,000 profit, after buying cheap lakefront property from Georgia Power. Imagine how much more he could have made, had rain from hurricanes not refilled the lake.

A friend of mine calls the new Denise Majette ad misleading. He says anyone can lease a lakefront lot from Georgia Power - and while the utility owns the land forever, you can build on it and sell what you build. Is this why I've never seen any homes two blocks down the street from Lake Harding?

I'd tell you more about the Senate debate, but a group of people around me kept talking over the sound as I watched Monday's telecast. Some of their comments were revealing, in and of themselves:

+ "I don't care about the Canadians, eh?" Either this guy was talking about prescription drugs, or Day 13 of a pro hockey lockout.

+ "She has gained weight.... a little chubby around the jaws." Maybe if Denise Majette ate from china plates instead of the paper ones she prefers in commercials, this problem wouldn't have happened.

+ "Johnny's so smooth.... he ought to be; he's been at it for 100 years." Oh, so THAT explains the phone call about makeup.

+ "I thought Denise Majette was nervous." That's easy to understand. If the polls are right, she'll be out of work in a few weeks.

Now let's check other fun and games from Monday:

+ Early voting began in Muscogee County, and about 1,000 people showed up at the Government Center. Some of them no doubt remembered each other from two weeks ago, when they lined up for flu shots.

+ Speaking of which: flu shots arrived at the Russell County Health Department for distribution beginning today. No big crowds were waiting for the vaccines to arrive - so apparently older people don't want to recreate their swooning over Frank Sinatra years ago.

+ The Columbus Fraternal Order of Police made another endorsement, backing Bob Borel for Superior Court Clerk. That way, all the elected judicial officials can go on deer-hunting retreats together - without feeling guilt pangs and stopping at a
shopping mall on the way home.

+ The Lee County Commission unanimously rejected a proposal to accept Atlanta trash at the Salem landfill. After all, how many jerseys of former Atlanta Hawks players can this place hold?

+ The Columbus Cottonmouths opened training camp - only four days before their first game of the hockey season. Why, some players might not be over calling the coach "Garber" by then.

+ Instant Message to WCGT-TV 16: Why did your Monday night high school football "game of the week" show Auburn at Smiths Station for the second week in a row? Was last Friday your bye week? Or wasn't the wind blowing the low-power station signal the right direction last Monday?

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 25, 2004



For some unknown reason, a man decided to throw away a compact disc at the church I attend this weekend. After he did it, I reminded him people in the Bible burned such things....

The man tossed the C.D. in a trash can at the back of our hall -- and it shattered in several pieces, around several members. This man sings solos from time to time, so I couldn't help thinking of the old "Laugh-In" line about a record-breaking performance.

Then a boy in our congregation made an unusual suggestion. "He should put it in the microwave." Huh?! I don't think the turntables move quite fast enough to play compact discs.....

This boy knew the metallic content of the C.D. would cause it to disintegrate. He wanted to see it break in a thousand pieces. This reminded me of a minister in Oklahoma 20 years ago, who warned us against watching the microwave oven scene in the movie "Gremlins."

"Of course, you might have to clean up the microwave," I reminded the boy.

"No, that wouldn't be fun," he admitted. But after a compact disc disintegrated, at least the inside of the microwave wouldn't have that plain white look.

"It almost sounds like you've tried this," I suggested to the boy about putting a C.D. in the microwave.

"No, I haven't," he replied. "I saw it on TV." One of those quality programs on Spike TV, no doubt....

"But I'd like to," the boy added. He's a typical boy, I suppose - wanting to watch a compact disc melt down in a microwave. Perhaps I should sell him one of my CD's. At least I'd get the money from the sale.

My house really doesn't have a big CD collection. In fact, the majority of my discs come in the mail without my asking for it - from companies such as AOL and Earthlink.

(I may have mentioned here before what I ultimately plan to do with all those CD-ROMS from America Online. They'll make a truly unique set of coasters.)

Now let's unplug the headphones and check other things which crossed our ears and brain on Sunday:

CORRECTION: + Loachapoka, Alabama will hold its annual "Syrup-Soppin' Days" Saturday, October 30. I guess this is the Southern way of doing things. When I was a boy, I gulped down the leftover maple syrup from Sunday morning pancakes with a fork -- and my mother didn't want me doing that, either.

+ The Atlanta Falcons were crushed by Kansas City 56-10. My hometown Chiefs scored an N.F.L. record eight rushing touchdowns - which only makes sense, since the Kansas City Stockyards handle so much GROUND beef.

+ Instant Message to WHAL Radio: What do you mean, you're number one "from Baker to Peabody?" I listen to your station, too. Is your music only for residents of housing projects?

COMING THIS WEEK: An e-mail so scathing that we called the Marshal about it....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 23, 2004



Less than two weeks before the big sales tax vote, we've found out Columbus City Manager Carmen Cavezza has applied for a job at Columbus State University. So it turns out city government might be "LOST" in more ways than one....

Mayor Bob Poydasheff confirmed to WRBL Friday City Manager Carmen Cavezza has applied to lead a new business management center at Columbus State. So is running a government like running a business? That's what Republicans like to say - yet Cavezza supports sales tax increases.

Carmen Cavezza has been City Manager almost exactly as long as I've been in Columbus -- approaching seven-and-a-half years. Mayor Poydasheff suggested Cavezza may think he's "reached a plateau." Then he should go apply in east Tennessee - where the Cumberland Plateau is much bigger.

(There's an alternative for the City Manager reaching a plateau - but the sales tax discussion hasn't included anything about adding more stories on the Government Center.)

The City Manager is refusing to comment on all the stories about applying to work at C.S.U. We could interpret his silence to mean he did it. But then again, maybe he never told his wife about it....

Carmen Cavezza is one of 16 candidates to lead the C.S.U. business management center. The university will NOT comment on who's in the running - so who knows how many Columbus Councilors applied for the job against him.

Let's assume for a moment Carmen Cavezza leaves the City Manager's job for Columbus State. The city has two Deputy City Managers - and dare I mention they have different skin colors?! Will civil rights leaders dare to examine their resumes, before making a recommendation?

Speaking of colleges, did you hear about the big surprise at LaGrange College? The trustees have decided to start a "small college" football program. This could keep most of the LaGrange High players in town - since keeping grades high won't be as big an issue.

LaGrange College plans to start a college football program in 2006. Which means, of course, Auburn will try to schedule it as a homecoming opponent in 2007....

LaGrange College will play home football games at Callaway Stadium, where three Troup County high school teams already play. Well, ESPN has started a new college football tradition - with occasional games on Wednesday nights.

Perhaps the biggest surprise is hidden deep in the announcement of LaGrange College football. The college will help pay to remove the grass at Callaway Stadium, and replace it with artificial turf. How many Auburn horticulture majors will this put out of work?

Don't be surprised if objections are raised about artificial turf at LaGrange's stadium. Haven't the decades shown players seem to become more injured on turf? There are banged-up knees, "turf toes" - and you can't even spike the ball any higher.

So if LaGrange College can have a college football program, why not Columbus State? C.S.U. thought about it a couple of years ago - but let's face it. The closest stadium is at Pacelli High School, and there's not much parking.

Albany State drew more than 11,000 fans per home game this fall, at the new Albany Municipal Coliseum on campus. Maybe a new football field could be built close to C.S.U. - for instance, after the new Wild Fish Bar and Grille goes under,
like two other restaurants in that building have.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION thus asks you if Columbus State should start a college football program. At the very least, Carmen Cavezza could become an assistant coach there if he doesn't get the business management position....

By the way, I write this as Georgia plays Arkansas in college football - and during a commercial break, the Georgia radio broadcast told me about the fun promotions at Atlanta baseball games this season. These Bulldog fans simply are TOO narrow-minded at this time of year.

So what else can we give free publicity this weekend? Let's see....

+ Which south Georgia radio newscaster just took a job with a top-rated station in Jacksonville - yet his co-workers didn't give him any sort of going-away tribute at all? Are the ratings so bad that everyone else is bailing out, too?

+ Britt David Elementary School held a celebration, to mark being named a "Blue Ribbon School of Excellence." Thankfully no parent thought about bringing any Pabst Blue Ribbon beer.

+ Instant Message to Judge-Elect Bobby Peters: What's going on down there? Did you take the "Greg Countryman for Marshal" signs down from your lawn simply to mow the grass?

COMING SOON: Final showdowns before the November election.... and what to do with old CD's....

To offer a story tip, make a donation or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post a

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 22, 2004



The nightclub is still on North Lumpkin Road. I drove by it Thursday night. But the budding "Ritmo Latino" empire seems to be in major decline. Now it's been kicked off Columbus radio - meaning about the only salsa you'll find in wide distribution is in grocery stores, next to the taco dinners.

A check of WSHE-AM's "church news" confirmed Thursday that Ritmo Latino Radio is no longer on the station. It's now "southern gospel" seven days a week - so does that mean the prayers of Southern Baptists work better than those candles burned to "lucky" saints?

(WSHE's Jim Foster hosted a big fundraising concert Thursday night for the Valley Rescue Mission. Apparently the Republicans were too busy campaigning to provide a mouthpiece like Oliver North this year.)

But back to Ritmo Latino: I noticed something was different at AM-1270 last Sunday morning, when gospel music was on instead of the usual Spanish-language weekend hosts. For one thing, southern gospel music doesn't tend to have any
accordion players....

Since I didn't hear any Spanish-language music, I suspected something was up. Certainly Ritmo Latino's entire staff couldn't be here illegally, could it?

Acting on my suspicion, I called Clear Channel Radio Monday and asked what happened to Ritmo Latino Radio. But the people who answered the phone didn't know anything had happened. Maybe they thought those unusual-looking people on weekends were members of the cleaning crew.

Thursday's announcement on WSHE actually is the latest slip in a long slide for Ritmo Latino. Only 15 months ago, it had a weekly Thursday night telecast on TV-16. It lasted - well, it lasted about as long as most of the other shows on TV-16....

In the summer of 2003, Ritmo Latino Radio was on AM-1270 almost 60 hours a week. Now Jim Foster suggests it MIGHT return once in awhile on Saturdays. For instance, if the hosts are willing to say "hallelujah" at least once an hour....

Ritmo Latino dreamed of being a Spanish-language media conglomerate. But have you seen any copies of the monthly newspaper "La Voz Hispana" lately? All they had to do was bury a stack of them under copies of "Playgrounds."

Is it only coincidence that the reduction in hours and ads for Ritmo Latino Radio began right after founder Jose Ricci was indicted in July? Something told me back then I should have bought a couple of 90-minute cassettes - to record the music,
so I wouldn't feel the urge to buy any CD's for awhile.

This is actually the second setback in terms of Spanish-language radio in Columbus. I moved here just as "Radio Continental" was going off the air in 1997. Perhaps Ritmo Latino Radio was simply too much of a "Continental carbon."

But this is the strange part: Clear Channel Radio just announced a new commitment to Spanish programming, beginning in Atlanta. A good radio at the north edge of Muscogee County can pick up FM-105.3, now called "Viva!" Does a Columbus station really have to die, so this can live?

On Tuesday night, the Ritmo Latino nightclub on North Lumpkin had a van with a AM-1270 logo parked outside. I didn't notice that van Thursday night - but then again, maybe the owner was down the street at Brito's Market buying beer for weekend dances.

Signs on South Lumpkin Road businesses indicate the Ritmo Latino nightclub still has a dance concert planned Saturday night. And the annual "La Feria Hispana" fair is coming up October 31. After that -- well, has this staff considered shuttle
service between Columbus and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas?

Now some quick Instant Messages, as the weekend draws near:

+ To the Columbus Ledger-Enquirer: What's wrong down there? You didn't have a single article bashing Marshal Ken Suddeth anywhere on Thursday's front page.

+ To Winn-Dixie stores: I'll assume the Florida hurricanes are why lettuce costs up to two dollars a head right now. But calling Chips Ahoy cookies for $2.88 a bag a SALE price? We're in Columbus, not San Diego.

+ To the Hardaway High School football team: I know you've qualified for the playoffs - but what's with the switch to black home uniforms? Haven't you noticed the baseball trend? Red IS the winning color this fall.

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 21, 2004



It landed on the porch while I was out - and it came in a distinctive yellow wrapper. But thankfully, it was NOT a Georgia Tech basketball guide to remind me of Kansas's terrible loss last March....

The 2004-05 edition of the BellSouth Columbus phone book is out - or as the phone company loves to call it on the cover, "The REAL Yellow Pages." It's simply not politically correct for a utility to identify something as white.

As always, the new phone book is a real page-turner. But I guess I'm getting old - because I still haven't bothered turning to the page with my name on it, to see if it's spelled correctly.

Before you even reach the official white pages, there are the "Community Information Pages." Among other things, it reminds you that Columbus may be in the only divided area code in the country. Metro Atlanta chops the 706 area code in two - which I think is a subtle reminder to buy baseball tickets.

The Community Information Pages are always notable for what's included - and what is not:

+ The "Information Sources" column lists two Chambers of Commerce and the Convention and Visitors Bureau - but has absolutely no newspapers or TV stations.

+ The "Attractions" section lists the Phenix City Riverwalk as eight-tenths of a mile long. Then I've been cheating myself on my running log - because Peggy Martin was Mayor when it opened, and she called it a half-mile long.

+ The "Sports" section mentions the Columbus Wardogs - so the former arena football team didn't drop hints to anybody.

BellSouth added local maps to the Community Information Pages several years ago - but c'mon! Only three pages of maps, with NO Fort Benning or J.R. Allen Parkway? These must have been drawn by the Columbus South Revitalization Task Force.

I compared old and new phone books, and this year's Columbus White Pages have eight more pages of listings. Either that's a sign of local growth, or more companies are buying those "logo listings" which I consider cheating.

The last name in the white pages hasn't changed in several years - Irvin Zyskind, who lives on Cedar Avenue. In other countries, they have a very sporting tradition about this sort of thing. Since he's listed last, Zyskind should be given a wooden spoon.

One of my bigger complaints about the Columbus phone book continues this year. The listings for outlying cities are in no order at all. Can't BellSouth do it in alphabetical order - with Greenville in front of LaGrange?

At last we come to the Yellow Pages BellSouth emphasizes so much - because it makes so much money off the ads. This year's score: 53 pages for attorneys, 14 pages for churches. Is this REALLY a good thing?

The Columbus Yellow Pages is 70 pages larger than last year. I suppose that's a sign of a growing economy - either that or a lot of professionals and business people with big egos.

By the way, have you noticed the Columbus area has a zoo now? The Yellow Pages lists Pine Mountain Wild Animal Park under "Zoos." Until I see monkeys swinging in the trees, I'm going to be skeptical....

E-MAIL UPDATE: Uh-oh - I fouled up with something I wrote last weekend [16 Oct]. But we'll let this writer do the talking:

First I would like to tell you that there are not "women" running for superior court clerk, rather one woman, the incumbent Linda Pierce, and her opposition, a man, Robert "Bob" Borel. Is that your sexist opinion coming through in your blog, that a "woman" has to hold the position of clerk? If you're going to report on local politics, try to be more politically savvy.

After reading your blog, I contacted a friend of mine who is a member of the FOP, and you are correct in saying that the FOP has only endorsed one candidate in the November election. The FOP is endorsing Gray Conger after a vote by the general membership favored Gray over his opponent. This vote was taken after BOTH candidates spoke at an earlier forum at the FOP lodge. The lodge asked the membership to vote to endorse either Conger or Whitaker or none at all. Please also note that the FOP endorsed Bobby Peters for Superior Court judge at the same forum that the DA was endorsed. The public was invited to both political forums via radio and television. My friend also wanted to note that the FOP does not "shop" for candidates to endorse. The only time that the FOP will consider endorsing a candidate is when they are contacted and asked to do so, and will only make the
endorsement after both candidates have had a chance to verbalize their platform to the membership and a vote is taken.

You also said that you are not on Randy Robertson's Fraternal Order of Police mailing list. This mailing list does not belong to Randy Robertson, but rather the FOP general membership. Randy Robertson is an elected official of the FOP and simply represents the general consensus of the membership. The FOP mailing list is sent to all active FOP members. If you are not a member but are interested in receiving the FOP newsletter, the FOP offers an associate membership to those citizens that are not in Law Enforcement, but wish to be a part of that organization. All of this information is available on the FOP Karl F. Eidam Lodge 9 website,

The writer is right - there IS a man running for Superior Court Clerk. My apologies to Bob Borel. But hold on here - why IS a man running for this job? After voting out Judge Roxann Daniel, do men want to control EVERY office in the
court system?

I didn't mean to be sexist, really. Over the years, I've met County Clerks who were males. But that was 20 years ago in Oklahoma, in a place with a female District Attorney. Where is THAT in Columbus today? There's a "Gray," but no gray

It's comforting to know the Fraternal Order of Police does not "shop" for candidates to endorse. After all, that event in December is called "Shop WITH a Cop" - not "Shop FOR a Cop."

Oh yes: as for my not being "politically savvy" - hey, at least I'm smart enough not to run for office.

Now if you'll excuse me - where did I stash my red socks? Thank you Stein Mart, for being the only place in Columbus which seems to sell them.

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004



Tuesday marked two weeks until Election Day - and to watch local TV, you'd think the top Democratic candidate in Georgia this year is Cathy Cox. She's appeared in so many commercials, I'm starting to wonder if John Kerry is thinking about changing potential first ladies.

Georgia Secretary of State Cathy Cox traveled to the River Club downtown, to talk with a group of female lawyers about the upcoming election. Step 1: learn the name and phone numbers of the Democrat Election Board members. Step 2: call them with your challenge as soon as possible.

Cathy Cox came to Columbus as a statewide poll showed her even in a race against Governor Sonny Perdue. That's a political race, you understand. If they met in a footrace, Ms. Cox probably would blow Mr. Perdue right off the track.

Cathy Cox told reporters she's only thinking about the upcoming November election right now. But after that's settled, she says she'll take a "serious look" at possibly running for Governor in 2006. Of course, we remember 2000 -- and the November election might not be settled until the middle of December.

Cathy Cox admitted to reporters the commercials for the "Georgia Invests" web site are bringing a good response. The Secretary of State has been seen inside the Georgia Dome, at Centennial Olympic Park, in front of armored trucks - hey, wait a minute! How much DO all these ads cost?

(The most curious ad to me is the one with older people holding bulls-eyes at Centennial Olympic Park. You know right away something's different -- because that can't possibly be the audience Target stores really want.)

Read the fine print in the commercials, and you'll learn NO Georgia tax dollars are spent on all those ads. They're paid for by the "Investor Protection Trust." We think this title also could apply to the Atlanta Falcons offensive line....

A check of the Investor Protection Trust web site reveals it was created after a settlement of securities fraud cases in several states. It's somewhat like the well-known "tobacco settlement" - only here, the money really is used on something related to the settlement.

Secretary of State Cathy Cox explained the TV ads inform Georgians that her office handles securities complaints. She says her title doesn't really tip people off to that fact. Of course, Ms. Cox could do what John Oxendine does - changing his
state title based on why he's coming to town.

But it seems to me that these investment scam commercials allow Cathy Cox to test-drive a campaign for Governor, without spending a penny of her own money. Why, it almost sounds like some of the students at Auburn University....

Now some other quick notes from a gloomy Tuesday:

+ The Columbus Chamber of Commerce called a news conference to announce new ownership for Kendrick's Pecans. For some reason, not even a news release was written about Intermet's decision to shut down.

(Kendrick's Pecans apparently will remain as is, only with a new owner called "Columbus Gourmet." Someone had to take that title, after Miriam Tidwell sold her restaurant.)

+ Yet another forum was held on the proposed one-cent city sales tax - but WRBL reported only about ten people showed up for it at Reese Road School. With that much interest, it's no wonder we haven't seen any TV commercials promoting it.

+ A small plane crashed near the Atlanta birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Junior. One so-called "witness" told an Atlanta TV station it set a car on fire - but that never happened. He sounds like one of those downtown guys who offered me genuine 14-karat gold necklaces on street corners years ago.

+ Instant Message to the new H.H. Gregg store: Nice try with that new commercial -- but what do you mean, "Columbus is a big sports town?" Have you seen how many empty seats there are at a Riverdragons game? Do you realize how few "winners" Shaw High has had at McClung Memorial Stadium?

COMING THURSDAY: An e-mailer challenges my "savvy"....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004



It was about 11:15 p.m. on a Monday night, and the caller was annoyed. He wanted to watch the 11:00 news, but his favorite TV station was showing a football game instead. I'm really not sure if this man had his priorities in the right order - or if the fact that he was calling to complain meant he didn't.

"I want to see the news," the caller complained. "I can't stand football." This man sounded middle-aged -- and if he said that in the right bar, he could have any woman in the place.

This man actually called the TV station to complain about Monday Night Football interrupting his late local news. The person in the newsroom who answered the phone actually offered to look up the phone number of Green Bay's Lambeau Field, so the man could call and ask one team to walk off the field.

"I've got this dream," the caller continued. "When I hit the lottery, I plan to buy your TV station." One of his first changes would be to take Monday Night Football off the air, so the 11:00 p.m. news starts at 11:00 p.m. every night. I hope he's there personally the first time it happens, to handle all the phone calls against him.

And what would sports bars do with no Monday Night Football to show? Well, they'd get by. They can dial in network satellite feeds and show games that way - and for many fans, those satellite dishes matter more than the ones holding wings on their tables.

This caller/dreamer says he'd contact the National Football League, and ask them to move up Monday night kickoff times so games could end by 11:00. Trouble is, the N.F.L. has done that only one year out of 35 - so a change like this would be like allowing players to honor fallen war heroes like Pat Tillman.

I might have suggested this man start watching Fox-54's "News at Ten" - but the baseball playoffs games have been going even later that the football games. Sunday night's New York-Boston game didn't end until about 1:45 a.m.! Then came
Fox-54 News "FOUR Hours Earlier" -- earlier than the morning reports.

(It turned out Yankees and Red Sox played another marathon Monday night, which started at 5:00 p.m. That meant no Jerry Springer Show on Fox-54 - but I'm told no one called to complain about the change. A friend of mine noted Springer fans probably expected a fight during the game.)

If this man is watching carefully, he might have a chance to take control of a Columbus TV station. At least one of them has its license up for renewal right now, and is inviting public comment. Whether "I can't stand football" counts as a convicting comment remains to be seen....

BLOG UPDATE: I'd better get moving on this vacation report, or it's going to last longer than the vacation itself....

DAY 5: Lexington, Kentucky is the first city I've visited with Meijer stores. They're mega-stores similar to Wal-Mart SuperCenters - only not without a long list of discrimination suits against them.

I go to Meijer's for a few groceries on a Saturday night, and see an older woman to my left sitting in a motorized wheelchair. She seems stopped, to I walk past her.

"Gentlemen before ladies! Gentlemen before ladies!" the woman pipes up. I try to apologize and explain what I thought I saw, but she rolls away unimpressed. As we've said, Lexington is a "designated singles site" church convention -- and I
again show why I've been single all these years.

A couple of minutes later, I come upon an able-bodied woman to my right -- and this time I freeze, in case SHE wants to walk by. Well, Lexington IS a Southern city. About 90 minutes north in Cincinnati, the manners probably don't matter.

DAY 6: A seniors' luncheon is held after church at a nice hotel in downtown Lexington. I've been asked to sing a couple of standards there, and one of them is "When I Fall in Love." How ironic for a singles site....

No, I didn't find love at the seniors' luncheon. But an older couple shows up at our table, which officially is reserved for entertainment. When they find out this detail, I ask, "What did you bring?"

DAY 7: Between the seniors' luncheon and singing a solo at a church service, people are growing interested in my CD. Compliments and business pick up in the parking lot after services. It feels good to come home with more cash than you carried out the door.

DAY 8: The singles group holds a "dance" at a motel in the evening - but not many people dance, and most of them head upstairs to a game room. Some play a card game I've never seen before called "Kings in the Corner." I think this also refers to political donors at Columbus Council meetings.

At one point a group of singles begins talking about true love and marriage - and I dare to ask how many have lived through that sort of thing. All the people at the table are either separated or divorced. Their "family values" may be worth about the trade-in values of their rings.

The only person younger than I at this singles night seems to be a 20-something man, who's helping provide music. The main reason for my selecting Lexington turned out to be a lost cause. And to make things worse, I never saw a single thoroughbred horse.

I still left Kentucky feeling satisfied, though. A record number of CD's were sold. Plenty of people expressed delight with how I sang. And I made it through east Tennessee without getting in one of those fog-shrouded 40-car pileups.

DAY 11: I stopped on the way home at a nice motel in Sweetwater, Tennessee. The economical price includes a free hot breakfast at a restaurant next door - and I walk in wearing a Peachtree Road Race T-shirt and red Georgia sweatpants. Big Mistake #3: totally forgetting it was the weekend of the Tennessee-Georgia football game....

COMING SOON: She only looks like she's running for office in November....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, October 18, 2004



You can identify some towns by their architecture - but you can also spot a few by their smells. I visited one of those places Sunday, only this time it let me down. Did that many south Georgia peanut farmers lose their crops to the hurricanes?

We took a trip down Highway 520 to Dawson, the Terrell County seat. There's a big peanut processing facility at the north edge of town, but on this Sunday you couldn't smell any peanuts as you drove by. I suppose it's because the plant was closed - or they'd switched to making corn for all the deer hunters.

(A side point for newcomers who may not know, it's pronounced TERR-ell County. It was NOT named after football star Ter-RELL Davis. I never even saw any ads with his mom, for Chunky Soup.)

Deer hunting season was obviously underway, because signs promoting it to some extent were up all along Highway 520. I even passed what I assumed was a deer stand out in the open - either that, or the crescent moon on the outside made it the state's only elevated outhouse.

When I stopped at a convenience store at the north edge of Dawson, several men were inside wearing camouflage outfits. I assumed they'd been out hunting deer all day long. Of course, they could also explain the military discounts offered by some Dawson stores.

I took a drive down Main Street in Dawson, which is normally a safe bet for seeing the downtown area. Unless, of course, you're in Columbus - where Main Street is little more than a Village.

Dawson's Main Street seems rather nice, with few rundown buildings at all. At the key intersection of Main and Lee Streets, you can see faded paint on a brick wall for "Cosmopolitan Insurance." Dawson -- Cosmopolitan?! I'm not sure anyone would admit reading that magazine in this city.

Not many streets in Dawson are marked with paint, and many of them seem only about one-and-a-half lanes wide. Apparently the Mayor hasn't donated much of that half-million dollar lottery prize he won several months ago....

Dawson has turned into sort of a distant suburb of Albany. I was surprised to find several businesses open in the noon hour on a Sunday, including a Harvey's supermarket and a Family Dollar store. Come to think of it, I never spotted a big Baptist church in town to oppose such things.

Listening to the radio is a bit confusing in Albany. I could hear traces of Columbus's "Rock 103" three turns down the FM band from Albany's "Rock 103." I thought Clear Channel would have combined all of them from coast to coast by now....

All in all, we had a nice time in Dawson - but for mid-October, the bugs certainly were flying around outside at some of the places we visited. Didn't anyone tell them the hurricanes were past, and they can return to the swamps south of Tallahassee?

BLOG UPDATE: Speaking of road trips, we now return to exclusive coverage of our trip to Kentucky - exclusive because no one else rode with us in the car:

DAY 4: The church convention we attend has a "drop-in" room for singles one hour before the daily church service. I drop in and find about 25 single people there - practically all of them older than I. If it's my "hunting season," the meat is really tough.

I'm not allowed to sell my CD inside the convention hall, so I open my trunk in the parking lot after the service and try to sell it there. People walk by staring, as if I'm selling books on why they really should become Catholic.

In the afternoon, the singles gather at the most unique miniature golf complex I've ever seen. It has 54 holes, and all of them have Biblical themes. The only problem is that no one is on duty, to explain the two or three I disagree with theologically.

In the midst of this Christian golf course is the most difficult mini-golf hole ever created. It illustrates Mount Sinai, and the ball has to climb a five-foot-high volcano-shaped hill. As many strokes as this hole took me, it's no wonder Moses was up there 40 days.

That night is a Friday night, and the coordinator of the convention promises "a Bible study for everybody" at the hall. But as I mentioned, the hall in Lexington is attached to Rupp Arena - and much to our surprise, Kid Rock is booked there for a concert. Well, at least you can tell the concertgoers and convention visitors apart....

I have to park a couple of blocks from Rupp Arena, to avoid paying seven dollars in a lot - and when I take the short walk to the convention center, I find another competitor for Kid Rock: an elegant fund-raising dinner for a Children's Advocacy group. I can't resist walking to the entrance and asking: "So it's Children's Advocacy - or Kid Rock?!"

After dinner from a Chinese restaurant in the food court, I head to the part of the center where Bible study is scheduled - only to find signs revealing it's been cancelled. Apparently our ministers simply can't preach loudly enough.

(This cancellation admittedly disappointed me? Don't our ministers have enough faith that God can shut Kid Rock up -- even if Zell Miller couldn't?)

Saddened by this development, I head back to my motel and turn on a Lexington Christian TV station. The minister is so into his message on Revelation that he forgets what verse he's reading a couple of times - because somehow he's turned it into a complaint about purple-haired children in Knox County and earthquakes in Appalachia.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: More notes from our Kentucky vacation as time permits in coming days....)

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, October 17, 2004



"Find anyone?" That was practically the first question a friend of mine asked at church this weekend. He's single like me - so I knew he wasn't asking about how many people I converted to Christianity.

"I met about 650 people," I answered in response. That's how many attended the church convention in Kentucky. It was an attempt to be humorous and deflecting - but I think my friend saw right through it, to the lack of a ring on my hand.

As I mentioned before I left [28 Sep], I went to Lexington, Kentucky for a "Feast of Tabernacles" church convention because it was a "designated singles site." Come to think of it, some might see that and declare me a designated hitter -
trying to hit on the available women there.

DAY 1: I drive from Columbus to Lexington in eight hours, 20 minutes - making only three stops on the way. The Pontiac I rented from Alamo Rent-a-Car has a sensational stereo. But why does Georgia Public Radio only play one movement of a symphony or piano piece at a time? Do we all have short attention spans?

The only real traffic jam I face on the trip is in the Kennesaw area, northwest of Atlanta. Interstate 75 drops to two lanes each way - but no, they were NOT checking to make sure I had a gun.

But a troublesome sign develops at the Georgia-Tennessee line, as the "service engine soon" light comes on. I put up the hood at a rest area near Chattanooga, and find nothing wrong. Maybe the rent-a-car company has a secret deal with Jiffy

The only drama of the trip is whether I can make it to Lexington on one tank of gas - and I make it, traveling about 502 miles! But after all that gain comes the pain. In the evening, I fill the 16-gallon gas tank for $29.90 - the most expensive tank I've ever had.

Then it's on to dinner, and I choose to drive north of my motel. Big Mistake #1: north of Interstate 75 in Lexington, there are NO restaurants at all. I do well to turn around my car at the closed gate of a horse farm, before I wind up somewhere in Ohio.

Back toward town I go, and wind up at a Fazoli's. I order a broccoli chicken dish. Big Mistake #2 - as it has ham hidden on the bottom, and I don't eat ham. It's called full disclosure, folks....

DAY 2: I've agreed to sing in the choir at the church convention, and we're meeting in a small convention room attached to Rupp Arena. The door is open during rehearsal - so during a break, I walk over to that big basketball hall and admire all the Kentucky banners. Then I do the proper Kansas thing and say, "Rock chalk! Jayhawk! K.U.!" Man, that felt good.

The convention's opening service is that night, and it goes well. But afterward, I try going north of Interstate 75 on another Lexington road. The scenery's probably great there by day - but at 9:00 p.m. looking for dinner, you might as well drop off the edge of the universe.

DAY 3: Our choir sings to a taped accompaniment during the afternoon service -- but in the middle of the first verse, the audio from the tape disappears. The director lets us finish the verse, then stops us to wait and see what happens. After about a five-minute wait in silence on stage, we start again. Strangely, I hear no one blame this on Satan.

I choose a Mexican restaurant called Jalapeno's for dinner, and it's a quite authentic place. So authentic, in fact, that the TV sets show Arsenal-River Plate international soccer from Argentina. Who needs to watch the first Presidential debate, anyway?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: What else did we encounter in Kentucky? Stay tuned to this blog, as the story unfolds in coming days.)

With the Bluegrass State in my rear-view mirror, let's check some home-turf items from the weekend:

+ A federal appeals court ruled Columbus police CANNOT require SOA Watch protesters to go through metal detectors next month. We can only hope none of those giant puppets will hide weapons of mass destruction inside.

+ The "Real Time" telecast on NBC-38 featured Pastor Bill Purvis on the Cascade Hills Church stage, in a $100,000 Porsche 911 sports car. It looks like all the members there have tithed faithfully this year....

(Bill Purvis told his congregation that top-dollar Porsche "can't heal a broken marriage." I'm not so sure about that. An even more expensive ring seemed to work for Kobe Bryant.)

+ Auburn's football team beat Arkansas to remain undefeated. Somewhere Ed Richardson must be saying to himself, "What if they beat Georgia and Alabama, too?! Then I CAN'T fire Coach Tuberville."

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.81 a gallon at Summit on Victory Drive.... M&M's on sale at three for 99 cents at Spectrum.... but why doesn't Zaxby's have a value menu?

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Saturday, October 16, 2004



Today certainly had all the signs of an autumn weekend. I went for a morning walk and noticed blazing yellow and orange colors. No, not on a tree - it was the first fire barrel of the season.

A house across the street from where I live has this thing about lighting fire barrels. Four years ago, there was one lit in the backyard on a Monday night in late July. It was the week of a political convention, so I assumed it was some sort of protest.

Even though the morning low was 45 degrees F., I did NOT turn on any heat - and in fact, I didn't even put a blanket on my bed. After working a full week on the overnight shift, I was so tired that I probably could have slept inside a tent in the median of J.R. Allen Parkway.

Another sign of fall is the series of candidate forums around the area. The Fraternal Order of Police hosted one this morning, with contenders for Sheriff, Marshal and Superior Court Clerk. Hold on - Superior Court Clerk?! Do police really care about which woman fills out paperwork best?

The Fraternal Order of Police has endorsed only one candidate in the November election - Gray Conger for District Attorney. For old-timers in the South, this must seem strange. Why would the Gray be endorsed by folks wearing blue?

I'm not on Randy Robertson's Fraternal Order of Police mailing list, so I don't know why they're backing "D.A. Gray." Perhaps it's because of Gray Conger's commitment to bring criminals to justice. Of course, he passed one case too tough to
bring to justice over to somebody in Albany who's too busy....

After a busy week, I need to catch up on some Instant Messages....

+ To Georgia Appeals Court candidate Howard Mead: I'm glad you chose to give up a job as a defense lawyer to enter public service. But it seems to me that's what your "high-priced defense attorney" opponents in the election are trying to do NOW.

+ To the Ladonia Piggly Wiggly store: Why does your store only have milk that's about to expire? Did the delivery truck break down along Crawford Road, after stopping in Phenix City?

+ To Extension Agent Joanne Cavis: My condolences to you. After all you've done to encourage area residents to save a million dollars, I thought sure you'd win the Nobel Prize for Economics.

+ To Russ Hollenbeck: I see you're back on the air, with a TV-16 morning show called "Reveille." Are you going to follow in the footsteps of Richard Smith in that time slot - and run for Georgia House in two years?

+ To Clear Channel Broadcasting: Thank you for finally finding a place to broadcast Georgia Tech football games. Now that they're on WHAL-AM, how about putting Alabama games on WSHE? I'd love to hear Eli Gold in Spanish.

+ To Landmark Church: What is this "Community Extreme" event you're holding Sunday? Are you trying to lure in people with extreme liberal viewpoints, so you can convert them?

COMING SOON: A new local book is out, and we'll have a review....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, October 15, 2004



At first I thought it was a cute sticker, like a child would put on an envelope. But no -- there on the couch next to my work desk sat a tiny green frog. It could NOT have been a wild dream, because the frog didn't start singing about the WB Network.

It wasn't really a tadpole near my computer the other night, because it didn't have a tail. This was a "mini-frog," sitting no larger than a quarter on the couch. It didn't make a sound - sitting there like the bump on the log it's probably supposed to be.

How did this little green frog get into my apartment - much less onto my computer room couch? I can think of a couple of possibilities. My bathtub faucet is leaking more than ever - but I haven't found any lilypad there for the frog to jump on.

The more likely "point of entry" for this frog was the computer room window. It's open a lot more on these cooler October days, but the window screen hasn't been on securely since I moved in seven years ago. The fix-up crew painted a lot earlier this year -- but maybe a paint can should have fallen through the window sill.

So what would YOU do if you found a small frog in your house? I refused to panic, since the frog didn't jump in my direction. But it didn't feel right doing what I've done so often with cockroaches -- since that might leave a green stain against the wall.

I reached for a piece of paper, hoping the small frog would jump on it and I could dump out the window. But the frog refused to cooperate, jumping into hiding between my desk and the wall. Maybe it's a French frog, which didn't understand my English.

Deciding the paper wouldn't work, I reached next for a couple of plastic cups. When the frog returned to a place on the couch, I tried to get it to jump in a cup -- but the frog jumped into hiding again. It must take months to train these creatures for the Festival at South Commons.

By the way, this little frog was a big jumper. At one point it leaped higher than my desk - or close to three feet off the ground. But maybe I shouldn't be stunned by this. Spud Webb once won an All-Star slam dunk contest, while Shaquille O'Neal never has.

This was becoming quite distracting and a bit annoying, so I changed my cup strategy. Next time the frog was perched along the edge of the couch, I decided to attempt a cover-up with the cup. We'd see once and for all if frogs are faster than mosquitos, in eluding these traps.

Slowly I moved the cup above the frog. And surprisingly, the first cover-up worked! Now it was trapped -- and for a young frog, it had enough smarts NOT to try to jump and bonk its head.

Then came step two of this risky plan. I turned the first cup over slightly and put second matching plastic cup inside it. The fit was so tight, no frog could get out -- but the plastic was so thick, I couldn't tell if the frog had tricked me and was hiding behind my back.

I carried the two stacked cups to the front door of my apartment, and shook the contents out on the porch the way some people would roll dice in Biloxi. Yes, the frog was inside -- and it seemed to land on its, uh, feet. It wasn't hurt. It hopped away. And I left the computer room window barely cracked open the rest of the night.

It's a good thing I didn't walk those cups a few blocks to the Chattahoochee River. The Georgia Public Interest Research Group warned Thursday parts of the river and several local lakes have increased amounts of mercury in them. So dropping a frog in them now might bring an animal rights protest.

Georgia PIRG blames the higher level of mercury in Lake Oliver and Lake Harding on coal-fired power plants. Yet WRBL pointed out Georgia has NO such plants! Did the "Help the Hooch" drive last weekend find any collections of

COMING SOON: One man's dream of owning a Columbus TV station.... and we might actually talk about our vacation....

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, October 14, 2004



More than 700 people lined up at the Columbus Health Department office Wednesday for flu shots. Maybe if the Columbus Wardogs had offered this at games last summer, the franchise would still be in business.

Did I hear it right, that nearly 200 people were in line for flu vaccine before 7:00 a.m.?! This group probably will be together again before long - outside Peachtree Mall on the morning after Thanksgiving.

The Columbus Health Department assigned people numbers, as they arrived for flu shots. Hopefully the person assigned number 666 will be monitored extra carefully through the winter. Pentecostal preachers will want to know if he or she dies, or turns into a beast....

Some people reported they waited more than three hours for a flu shot. I take a very different approach to this - by waiting all winter, watching the annual panic end and congratulating myself for saving about 20 bucks.

Apparently some people from Alabama went to the Columbus Health Department for flu shots. They were turned away, because the vaccine was only for people in several Georgia counties. Any little edge helps for the Auburn-Georgia game, you know....

Not everyone in Columbus is eligible for the Health Department's flu shots, either. They're offered only to "high-risk" groups of people:

+ Pregnant women. Come to think of it, Wednesday night's Presidential debate should have brought up whether those women need TWO shots -- one for each person.

+ Health workers involved with direct patient care. Can't they simply cover themselves with anti-bacterial soap?

+ Children on "chronic aspirin therapy." I'm not sure what this is - or even what Excedrin headache number it has.

The Columbus Health Department eventually suspended the lines for the day, but will restart the vaccination process this morning. This is good news for local beggars. They'll have a second chance to make money, holding the numbers of people who need to use the restroom.

A woman from Harris County told me Wednesday she wishes flu vaccine would be offered there. She says she has trouble walking, and the Columbus Health Department on Comer Avenue is so busy that "you can't find a place to park." Don't let Columbus Council know about that - or meters might show up in the parking lot.

But haven't we seen this fear of the flu before - like last winter? The vaccine ran out in December or January, but the flu season turned out to be mild. The way people are lining up this time, you'd think we're going to get one flu bug for every hurricane which came ashore.

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

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

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.