Friday, April 30, 2004



"I'm sorry.... I'm sorry," said the thin older woman limping along with a cane. She said this to me as I approached my car Thursday night, outside the Bradley Library - but what could she be sorry for? That she's walking down the middle of the
driveway, not using the sidewalk? That somehow she swung the cane and poked a hole in a taillight?

"What are you sorry about?" I asked - knowing full well a begging moment was beginning.

"I'm hungry," the woman said. Of all the times to meet this woman. The place where I work has been providing free food all week to the staff -- but I didn't think to put a hamburger or a hot dog in the car for my break time.

"Can you just give me a couple of dollars?" the woman asked. She appeared to be older than 70, but I refuse to play favorites when it comes to beggars. I have to assume EVERYONE will use that money for booze or cocaine.

Not knowing if leftover food was waiting inside my workplace, I tried the next-best spur-of-the-moment thing. "I can drive you up the hill and buy you something...." As thin as the woman was, she certainly did NOT need to wait for Wendy's to come out with its low-carb menu.

But I had to move quickly to help this woman, because I was at 40 minutes into my one-hour break time. When I explained I had to get back to work after helping her, she said, "That's all right, that's all right...." Apparently some beggars don't want food that's TOO fast.

"I offered," I said as I closed the passenger-side car door I'd unlocked for the beggar - and then as I entered the car on the driver's side, I heard another woman's voice nearby.

"I gave you some money the last time...." that woman told the thin woman. So it seems this beggar enjoyed hanging out with a well-read crowd -- or maybe the computer-addicted ones.

This quick surprise meeting was a memorable moment of Thursday, the seventh anniversary of my moving to Columbus. In many ways, it brings back memories of the metro Atlanta area I left in 1997 -- only there, the number of potential beggars around the main library seemed like so many pop-up Internet ads to avoid.

I don't think I ever thought seriously about it, but one good reason to leave Atlanta was to get away from the beggars. I encountered one only two days before I moved in April 1997 -- on a rainy Sunday afternoon at the drive-thru speaker of a McDonald's near Morehouse College. He was NOT happy when I told the attendant I was ordering for him as well.

That Sunday session led to the beggar getting an order of fries, a short ride around the West End area of Atlanta, a discussion of him staying in some kind of halfway house after serving prison time - and a Bible discussion. And in a fast-paced city like Atlanta, it all happened in about five minutes.

The man at McDonald's said back then it's dangerous for me to offer shelter to beggars. I told him he expected me to buy him food - and part of the same Bible verse mentioning that includes taking in strangers. He was more "picky and choosey" with the Bible than he was with his free food.

As often as beggars have asked me to help them over almost 20 years in Georgia, they so often leave me frustrated and grumbling under my breath. Try to meet a need without giving them money, and they reject it. Meet their need to the letter, and they suddenly need something else. It's almost like they're money-hungry oil executives....

But let's not get distracted from the main event: my seventh anniversary in Columbus. I arrived in April 1997 to a city rebuilding the Second Avenue Bridge - and now crews are hard at work rebuilding First Avenue, right outside my door.

I arrived in April 1997 to a city protesting "Ellen" announcing she's a lesbian - and now some in the city are protesting "American Idol" dropping what one caller called a "little red-haired boy."

I arrived in April 1997 to a city with 11 commercial radio stations. Now there are about five more - but only three companies own them all.

I arrived in April 1997 to a Phenix City with a nice convenient Wal-Mart store on the 280 Bypass. Now that spot is the best place in the Columbus area to park your trailer for weeks at a time.

Of course things change over seven years -- but some things in Columbus have not. Gray Conger remains District Attorney. Red McDaniel remains a Columbus Councilor. And my love life remains nonexistent.

This time of year happens to mark the convergence of a lot of anniversaries for me. For instance, five years ago today I bought the computer which brings you this blog. In the world of computers, this means it's almost ready for donation to the
Columbus Museum.

Your blog comes to you through a special-discount "E-Machines" from Office Depot. It replaced a Compaq I still have in a closet, which a church friend woman in metro Atlanta gave me in 1996. It's SO OLD you can lock the keyboard into the small monitor panel and carry it around - an early "laptop" so heavy it would leave your lap numb.

For seven months after I bought this PC, I never used it to go on the Internet. I'm still behind the Internet curve in some ways. For instance, I am to "broadband" as most of Columbus is to Starbuck's....

For almost all of 1999, I was content to use my PC for writing documents, figuring my gas mileage and playing the four built-in computer games. I've actually kept track - and sometime this summer I should play my 7,000th game of FreeCell (winning percentage above 75 percent!).

The problem with my computer now is that Microsoft is phasing out programs for my "Windows 98" operating system - and even the Millennium Edition is still pricy at more than $200. Instead of watching Windows Media Player video, I'm waiting for the DVD version to reach stores.

We'll mention another big anniversary in a few days - but now let's catch up on things I've missed in a busy week:

+ Muscogee County Democrats announced attorney John Martin will challenge Gray Conger for District Attorney. They can find two people for D.A. - but as of Thursday night, they still had no one to replace Rep. Tom Buck?! It IS becoming too expensive to drive to Atlanta....

+ Longtime Rep. Jimmy Skipper of Americus announced he'll retire from the Georgia legislature this fall as well. I wish him the best - but to me, that name never seemed right for a politician. Shouldn't "Jimmy Skipper" host an after-school cartoon show or something?

+ The Boom Boom Room on Cusseta Road was fined a second time for overcrowding. The first offense was $1,000. The second offense Thursday was $300. If it happens a third time, the owners might be eligible for a city grant to relocate in an industrial park.

+ Instant Message to Clear Channel Radio: Do you really mean to have announcements urging me to "wear protection every time" running on WHAL-AM - the gospel music station? Shouldn't the message be a little different there??

+ And how could we forget the new official "brand" for Columbus? It's "what progress has preserved." Watch for a variation of this at Callaway Gardens: "What progress - our preserves."

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, April 26, 2004



The sign for the restaurant was missing, showing only the fluorescent lights inside it. But I didn't think anything was wrong. After all, this was Victory Drive -- so maybe Fort Benning sniper school students were using it for target practice.

But a closer look showed this was no mistake. The "Denny's" restaurant sign was missing on Victory Drive, east of Fort Benning Road. Perhaps a modern sign was going up, like the one on Macon Road? You know, "modern" as in retro-1950's looking?

Alas, my thoughts were wrong. Your blog confirmed Sunday Denny's is gone from Victory Drive for good! What makes this surprising is I've heard nothing about a new one opening near Columbus Park Crossing.

An employee of the former Denny's told me the restaurant chain sold out last Tuesday to a new set of managers. That's why the sign is gone, and a new name is atop the Victory Drive building: "Grits -n- Sweet Tea." Yes sir, the staples of the
Southern diet -- well, maybe along with country ham.

The attendant at Grits 'n Sweet Tea didn't know much more about the sudden change. "All I know is, I'm still getting a paycheck," she told me. For all she cared, Tony Soprano could be running the place.

So what about the other Denny's in Columbus? We called the restaurant near Cross-Country Plaza Sunday night, and were assured it WILL remain open under that name. Since it's on the north side of Macon Road, we officially can put this chain on the "abandoned the Southside" list.

This change on Victory Drive has to be a blow to the "Columbus South Revitalization Task Force." Denny's was the best-known sit-down restaurant name on that road. Now the best-known name left on Victory Drive is Pizza Hut - and with the right coupon, you save money with carryout.

Not even "Ritmo Latino Restaurant" stayed open long on Victory Drive - the one owned by the operators of Ritmo Latino Radio. They abandoned it for a nightclub on North Lumpkin Road, where "Benson's Jam Zone" used to be. This may explain why the radio station seems to play more Spanish rap on weekends now.

And if that's not enough, have you noticed Victory Drive doesn't have a Waffle House near Interstate 185? Isn't there a federal law of some sort, which says there has to be one at every exit ramp across the South?

There's another noteworthy thing about the decision to sell out on Victory Drive. Columbus is now a one-Denny's town - which I guess some African-American people will consider good news. It means one less restaurant to give them bad service.

Columbus used to have about three Shoney's restaurants - and now it has one. (I'm not counting the one in Phenix City.) Columbus used to have two Denny's restaurants, and now it has one. If you're a big Wal-Mart shopper, you might visit the store on Buena Vista Road while you can....

BLOG UPDATE: After debating it much of the weekend, I decided to try to sell my debut CD Sunday near Riverfest. My goal was to reach visitors before they went inside the gate - because they'd probably leave with a lot less money than they took in.

But where should I set up my sales position? I decided on the corner where I expected the most traffic: 9th and Broadway. After all, people were urged to park in the RiverCenter's parking garage -- though as I mentioned in Sunday's blog, not that many people did.

Since Riverfest opened at 12:00 noon, I drove to 9th and Broadway about 11:55 a.m. - and amazingly, I was able to park right on the northwest corner. That way my sales table would face pedestrians directly. The table you'd probably know
better as my trunk....

Several Columbus police officers passed by me during my two-hour stand selling CD's from my trunk. But none of them bothered me about it. They were too busy heading to Quizno's Subs, which apparently was the official "cop-food" supplier of Riverfest.

With about two hours allotted to stand by my car selling CD's, I noticed all sorts of unusual things:

+ A skateboarder in bare feet seemed to trip over the paint in the 9th Street crosswalk, and fell flat on his face. If only my camera had been out at that moment - I could have sold the pictures to "Punk'd."

(Someone driving by honked a car horn at the sight - and the flattened boarded scrambled up to say, "If my family wasn't here, I'd moon you're a*s!" As far as I was concerned, his bare feet were enough....)

+ A railroad runs down the middle of 9th Street - and the crosswalks are very bumpy around the tracks. Several families struggled to roll baby carriages over them. And it's a wonder Tour de Georgia cyclists didn't have a big spill the other day.

+ Countless Riverfest visitors crossed 9th Street at Broadway AGAINST the obvious traffic light. It looks like we've found Elizabeth White's next big investigative project - "Big Red: Pedestrian Edition."

BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll probably be too busy to blog for the next few days - but we'll have plenty to celebrate toward the end of the week, once we're through....

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, April 25, 2004



So, you may be wondering, can I hear the music and fun at Riverfest from where I live? No, I can't. My apartment complex neighbors with their loud radios are making sure of that.

I'm not sure what music the neighbors were playing Friday night, but Saturday morning the station of choice was WOKS. Admittedly, some of the Motown songs on the radio were so old that they belonged in the Historic District....

Every time I leave home this weekend, I take a bit of a chance. So many cars are in the Historic District that I might run into someone. And if I don't, I risk having those cars park in every spot of the complex -- forcing me to take a South Commons spot away from a needy Columbus Catfish fan.

Take Friday evening, for instance. I went out for pizza, and found First Avenue packed with parked cars from Fifth Street north. Thankfully, I've prepared for this - because worshipers at Fourth Street Baptist Church double-park for a couple of
blocks every Sunday morning.

If Columbus Police wanted to, they could have a field day ticketing cars in the Historic District this weekend for double-parking. In fact, that fully-funded retirement program might become a reality.

Since it appears many of you visiting Riverfest don't know what double-parking is - you don't park on the other side of a two-way street directly across from a parked car. For one thing, there are much better ways of persuading your neighbors to start riding bicycles....

Bad parking seems to be hip and trendy this weekend. At the famous-name "Hut" where I picked up Friday's pizza, someone decided to park their car right outside the door - despite markings in the driveway against it, and open spaces in
the parking lot nearby. Some people must have a drive-thru lane mentality.

Then at church Saturday afternoon, someone with a big SUV straddled two parking spaces - and I had to park my humble Honda off to a side. Well, humility IS supposed to be a virtue....

(I don't want to say the congregation I attend is unusual - but someone put a newsletter on the information table this weekend from the "Gun Owners of America." Really! If this happened at Pastor Wayne Baker's church, he'd be
complaining about the Sheriff's Department all over again.)

But anyway: at least I was able to see and hear the fireworks which ended Saturday night's fun at Riverfest. In fact, there were TWO fireworks shows - with an earlier display after the Catfish game. For a little while, I understood how residents of Baghdad felt last year.

By the way, did you Riverfest visitors notice the fresh layer of pavement on 8th Street this weekend? That was put down literally at the last minute - as city crews had the street carved out for work late Friday morning. If only they were this fast with the sewer line in MY block.... (ahem)

E-MAIL UPDATE: The death of football player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman is stirring many emotions - and apparently our thoughts about him this weekend did as well:


I started to think I was just weird. I broke down and sobbed when I saw the news on my computer screen. I'm still crying today. There are few stories that have affected me as much as Pat Tillman's story. The last time I cried like this it was September 11, 2001. I'm comforted reading your blog today Richard because I know there are other people in the community who feel the same way I do. I must say, I was extremely disappointed to see that neither local television station viewed the death of a Fort Benning Ranger worthy of their lead story Friday at 6. Your station led with rising gas prices. In a word, Stunning! One of the most revealing interviews I saw ran on CNBC. A former teammate described the ultra secretive Pat as very intellectual, interested in history. Andre Wadsworth recalled how Pat read the Bible THREE times during road trips. The WHOLE Bible. Pat Tillman is in God's army now.


If it makes you feel better, Robbie, WRBL made Pat Tillman its "top story" at 5:30 p.m. Friday - and another station led off the 11:00 p.m. news Saturday night with an interview with Tillman's lead Rangers instructor. But what struck me was ABC News -- where apparently you have to die before Wednesday to be "Person of the Week."

If Pat Tillman read the Bible on football road trips, truly he was a different sort of man. It also tells me the movies on those N.F.L. charter flights must be really boring.

It only occurred to me Saturday that Pat Tillman's death was announced on the weekend of the "Best Ranger" competition at Fort Benning. It's been around for decades, while a Fox military reality show called "Boot Camp" lasted only one season. Of course, real Rangers realize they can't afford to vote each other off.

By the way, that "rising gas prices" top story Friday night actually was about a Columbus Chevron terminal running out of regular unleaded gas for several hours. I didn't notice anything different as I drove around town. If someone had marked down their price below $1.25, I would have noticed that....

Now some more uplifting thoughts on an active spring weekend:

+ "World Tai Chi Day" was marked by a group of people at Lakebottom Park. Drivers rolling by and seeing them in action probably thought the Columbus High School drama department was working on its next project.

+ The Atlanta Falcons made Virginia Tech cornerback DeAngelo Hall their top draft pick. If recent history repeats itself, Hall will break his ankle two seasons from now as Michael Vick did.

(Another top draft choice from Virginia Tech? If this keeps up, the Falcons' new mascot will be "Hokie Wolf" or something....)

+ Instant Message to Hae Won Foods on Fort Benning Road: After shopping at your "supermarket" Friday, with its total of SIX aisles and prices well above the competition - sorry. Too Hae. You Lost.

COMING MONDAY: The Southside loses another one....

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, April 23, 2004


24 APR 04 (early edition): THE PAT-RIOT

Friday was a beautiful, warm spring day - until I heard the 1:00 p.m. radio news. Then it all changed.

"Pat Tillman, who gave up a multi-million dollar football contract to become a soldier after the September 11th attacks.... has died. "

What a shame. What a sad shame. And it hits a little harder because Pat Tillman reported to Fort Benning when he left pro football's Arizona Cardinals.

Tillman went through Ranger training in this area. I suspect every journalist at Columbus and Fort Benning wanted to interview him - along with a lot of sportscasters from coast-to-coast. Yet Tillman wouldn't talk to the news media after he enlisted. From what we could tell, he simply wanted to serve his country. He wanted to take on the terrorists who tried to destroy our country - and take them on far more than any N.F.L. quarterback.

Pat Tillman gave up millions of dollars - though after his tour of duty, he probably could have returned to pro football and reclaimed them. Tillman gave up fame on the field - only now to have it for a very different reason.

How many other pro athletes would do what Pat Tillman did? In this day and age, have you heard of any? In years gone by, athletes didn't have a choice. The military draft forced stars like Ted Williams to become G.I.'s during World War II. In
recent years, Roger Staubach and David Robinson became sports stars AFTER attending the Naval Academy and fulfilling years of service.

Would I do what Pat Tillman did? I never had to face that question - having come of age after Vietnam, and before the reinstatement of mandatory registration with the Selective Service. I'm thankful to God that events happened that way for me -- and I never felt compelled to make a choice.

Yes, you could say I'm spoiled -- perhaps as spoiled as other pro athletes, though I earn much less money than they do. Perhaps Senator Zell Miller would declare me a "wimp" instead of a warrior. But I'm grateful for the ones who are warriors, defending wimps like me The "some" who "gave all," to borrow from a Billy Ray Cyrus song. And if you're more like me than Pat Tillman, I hope you're grateful as well.

May God bless Pat Tillman's family. And may all of us -- especially professional athletes -- think long and hard about what he did, and the example he set.

If you came here looking for jokes -- I'm sorry, please scroll down for them. Right now, I'm not in the mood.............


23 APR 04: THE U.C.

"Riverfest Weekend" begins this evening in the Columbus Historic District. In fact, it's a short walk from my apartment - so maybe I should join the fun. Anyone who wants to come to my front porch and hear me sing can do so for five dollars.

This year the Historic Columbus Foundation decided to move Riverfest away from South Commons, back to where it all began - the green space in the middle of Broadway. You may be surprised to learn during the rest of the year, that nice wide
median is NOT used by law firms for touch football games.

Thursday's Ledger-Enquirer had a map showing which streets are closed for Riverfest - but there's one they did NOT mark. It's the block of my apartment complex on First Avenue, which is closed to thru traffic for a few days. If you wind up at the corner of 4th and Broadway, you could be stuck there until Sunday night.

For some reason, the city of Columbus has picked this week to do major sewer work in my block -only one block from the Riverfest action. How crazy is this? How am I supposed to make a small fortune charging people for parking spaces?

When I say major sewer work, I mean MAJOR sewer work. The concrete tubes on the corner of 5th Street and 1st Avenue the other day were about six feet high. I like to go jogging, but hurdles like this simply are too tall.

(I won't be surprised if some family which lacks money for Riverfest decides to let the children play on those concrete tubes instead....)

They've been digging up First Avenue in my block for a couple of days, apparently replacing the sewer line. While the city is going to all this trouble, could someone please take a break and fix the longstanding leak in my bathtub faucet?

Amazingly, that's not the only project "Under Construction" in my block. All week long a crew has been at my apartment complex replacing worn-out wood frames. My first thought when I saw this work was - who's about to buy this complex, and how much is the rent going up?

The work crew began Monday morning, spraying high-pressure hoses all over the complex. It was designed to strip peeling paint off the wood frames - but in the process, it ruined the nice paint job on my new back door from a month ago.

Then crew members started walking around on the roof of the complex, prying away old boards along the side and hammering in new ones. Maybe while they're up there, they can show me a secret attic door for storing some of my piles of junk.

The sound of footsteps on the apartment roof actually brought back memories for me. I used to live in a one-bedroom duplex in College Park - and every fall and winter, squirrels somehow found a hole and raced around the attic, sounding like they were storing food. I didn't mind this, because it might have scared burglars into thinking the place was haunted.

I'm assuming the work crews around and at my apartment complex is going to take a break for the weekend. But come to think of it - are they hoping for plates of "Pig Jig" barbecue from sympathetic chefs?

That thought brings me back to Riverfest. While you hear lots of stories each year about how wonderful the weekend is, I've heard several complaints over the years:

+ People who live near the river in Phenix City say the music violates noise ordinances. Now there's something missing from the sales booths - earplug stands.

+ Others get upset because they can't bring their pets with them, to walk around the Riverfest grounds. Do these same people complain not being allowed to expose their pets to other animals at the circus?

+ Of course, parking is always a problem on Riverfest weekend. I've seen parts of Broadway get so filled with cars, I almost think El Vaquero opened a new restaurant there.

Riverfest always features a couple of star musical acts. Tonight's special guest after dark is the band "Blues Traveler." Thankfully the St. Louis Blues are eliminated from the hockey playoffs, to make this possible....

Saturday morning of Riverfest will include free classes in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and a 5,000-meter run. If they really want us to put the C.P.R. skills to use, they should make the run a marathon.

It occurs to me as I'm writing all this that I ought to get in on the Riverfest action. I should set up a table on a street corner, and sell my CD's as people walk by. Maybe if I hurry, I can find a monkey to dance to the songs.

So what will South Commons have to offer in place of Riverfest? A three-day sale which starts today, offering all sorts of electronic items at big discounts. But if you have to pay five dollars just to get into the Civic Center's sale, won't you feel guilty if you decide it's all worthless and leave empty-handed?

Riverfest is not the only "fest" in the area this weekend. Kiesel Park in Auburn will host "CityFest" on Saturday. It's promising music, arts, crafts, games - and perhaps for the first time, a job fair for fired Auburn University employees.

Now some odds and ends from the Thursday news:

+ Rep. Tom Buck of Columbus announced he'll retire from the Georgia House after 38 years. But he apparently announced this with a written statement, because reporters couldn't track him down for a comment Thursday night. Did Mayor Poydasheff kidnap Buck, to talk him out of this?

(Only three weeks ago, Tom Buck told a TV reporter he planned to run for re-election. So what happened here? Why all of a sudden do we have "Buck on Ice?")

+ Greg Countryman announced he's running for Muscogee County Marshal. So what was that "Countryman for Marshal" sign I saw on a car, on the day of the M.L.K. parade in January -- a well-planned news leak?

(I asked it before, and I'll ask it again - why isn't Greg Countryman running for Sheriff, instead of Marshal? Maybe he saw those Rainbow/PUSH Coalition recall petitions, and decided there aren't enough names on them to make it worthwhile.)

+ The ABC News web site reported the Army has ordered Fort Benning chaplain James Yee NOT to comment on his recent legal troubles. Hmmmm - how curious this is. The same military which can get civilians fired for taking pictures of caskets may be threatening to make the chaplain's downloaded pornography public.

+ Publix announced a recall of "Dutch Apple pies" because the labels say Dutch apple on top, but strawberry rhubarb on the bottom. That will teach this supermarket chain to sell half-pies in the bakery section....

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, April 22, 2004



Wednesday was one of Columbus's biggest sports days in quite awhile. Baseball Hall of Fame member Hank Aaron came to town. The Tour de Georgia had its finish line downtown. And attendance at the Columbus Catfish game swelled to almost 700.

The big event of the day was the Tour de Georgia cycling race, which traveled from Thomaston to Columbus. It may have been the one day of the year when people in this military town didn't mind trying to sound a bit French.

(It may be called the "Tour de Georgia," but have you noticed the course doesn't go south of Columbus? If some of those European cyclists went through rural Sumter County, they might come under fire.)

Stage two of the Tour de Georgia included the first "mountain stage" of the race, in the Callaway Gardens area. You call that area mountainous?! A tougher challenge might have been to have the cyclists dodge roadside peanut stands.

A four-bike breakaway developed in the Pine Mountain area, and continued into Harris County. Obviously this shows the Tour de Georgia organizers don't know what they're doing - because there should have been a "competition caution flag" somewhere, like NASCAR's trucks have.

The breakaway did NOT go all the way, however - as the main pack caught the leaders by the time they reached downtown Columbus. It almost felt for a moment like Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputies were pursuing all of them....

The Tour de Georgia course in Columbus was changed a bit this year. The finish line was downtown, NOT at South Commons. This not only allowed for a bigger crowd to watch - it prevented the cyclists from getting Continental Carbon soot all over their jerseys.

(And another benefit: the cyclists didn't have to inhale leftover car exhaust from last weekend's AutoFest....)

The winner of stage two of the Tour de Georgia was Italy's Mario Cipollini. If he was a native of the U.S., he might have his own chocolate chip cookie named after him.

Some people only cared about one thing in the Tour de Georgia: where Lance Armstrong finishes. Well, some people DO care about a second thing - whether Sheryl Crow is anywhere nearby, so they can flirt with him.

Lance Armstrong finished 41st in Wednesday's stage of the Tour de Georgia - but he's only a few seconds off the lead, with five stages to go. I still say if he wins the title, his sponsors at the U.S. Postal Service should lower stamp prices for a week in celebration.

The Tour de Georgia moves on today, as stage three heads from Carrollton to Rome. It doesn't even restart in Columbus - which may explain why motel managers will have sour looks on their face today.

(Before I forget: Instant Message to whomever issues the parking advisories at the Government Center: It's Front AVENUE, not Front Street. Maybe one of these days, you should step outside the building and walk around.)

Before the Tour de Georgia rolled into town, Hank Aaron visited Columbus. He's opening a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop on Veterans Parkway this summer. If you think about it, this business DOES make sense - because baseball players used to put "doughnut weights" on their bats in the on-deck circle.

Hank Aaron visited Columbus for a construction kickoff event of his Krispy Kreme doughnut shop. Maybe this explains why he was too busy to attend any of the "Weigh Down Columbus" events earlier this year.

Somebody's gotta ask it: are any local civil rights leaders upset over where Hank Aaron is building his Krispy Kreme shop? It's on Veterans Parkway, near Columbus Park Crossing - and NOT along Victory Drive or Buena Vista Road. If none of the doughnuts have chocolate fudge icing, that will settle the issue....

(A friend of mine explained Hank Aaron is building his Krispy Kreme shop near Columbus Park Crossing because that's where the money is. That's funny - last time I checked, the Columbus banks all had their main offices downtown.)

Someone else asked aloud Wednesday why no one's come up with a "low-carb" doughnut yet. Well, be patient - because I can remember when Dunkin Donuts sold "oat bran" versions during that food fad. Thankfully, I've never seen a doughnut
made with aloe vera or "Noni juice."

(THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: Who has the best doughnuts in Columbus? Click here to vote on this important issue!)

Amidst all this sports-related activity, I took a call Wednesday evening from a woman complaining about something the reporters missed. The district high school tennis tournaments have been held for two days at Cooper Creek Park, and she claimed not one TV station was there. Now if Columbus detectives will kindly hand over the surveillance tape....

Now let's catch up on other things from the last couple of days:

+ WRBL's web site posted a correction, about a story on an alleged scam at a tax preparation office. "We didn't do our homework," the article bluntly says. In this Internet era, maybe the guilty party should have posted the story 100 times as

+ Fort Benning's commanding general announced 20,000 soldiers will come to this area this summer, to train for the fight against terrorism. If I was Roy Bourgeois, I'd move to an underground bunker as soon as I could.

+ Instant Message to the new "Taco Star" stand on Macon Road: Are you planning anything like "Nashville Star" on TV? Will there be a contest to find the best mariachi band?

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, April 20, 2004



Monday was homecoming day for country singer and "Nashville Star" finalist Brad Cotter. He returned to Auburn-Opelika for a one-day tour of autograph-signing, music-singing, interview-giving - why, it was practically everything Eminem refuses to do.

Brad Cotter came home to Lee County as part of the hype for cable TV's "Nashville Star." All four remaining finalists were allowed to go home for a day - and since the singer with the most votes wins, they learned how it felt to be politicians.

(Speaking of cable TV -- Instant Message to the USA Network: Are you TRYING to annoy people with the music at the "Nashville Star"home page? Or are simply making us longer to hear the singers?)

I mentioned the other day that one of Brad Cotter's cousins is a local elder in the church I attend. How interesting that he calls the phone number every weekend and votes several times for Cotter, after years of preaching about how Christians
should NOT vote in elections.

The high point of Brad Cotter's day was a free evening concert outside the "Lodge and Conference Center at Grand National." But you could tell Cotter still is NOT a full-fledged "Nashville Star" - because his audience couldn't have filled the Opelika High School football stadium.

Brad Cotter's concerts in Opelika and Auburn were fund-raisers for the Lee County chapter of the American Red Cross. Remember: we need trained Red Cross lifeguards this summer -- because boomboxes and CD cases don't float.

Brad Cotter gave several interviews while he was in downtown Auburn. Living in Nashville as a songwriter, Cotter admitted he misses Auburn University football games in the fall. Of course, there's plenty of time between now and August for A.U. President Ed Richardson to fire the marching band and have Cotter replace it.

Brad Cotter also admitted he does NOT think he'll wind up being the final "Nashville Star." He believes that title will go to Canadian singer George Canyon - perhaps because he has the most country-sounding last name.

Whether he wins the "Nashville Star" title or not, Brad Cotter certainly has made a lot of fans over the last several weeks. Why, they might just develop a dance in his honor - the Cotter-Eyed Joe.

(Hey, wait a minute! I have my own CD in area stores - so maybe I should try getting on one of these singing contests! If only I had a twang in my voice, and a smaller waistline which needed a big belt buckle....)

SPAM-A-RAMA: We now return to our Monday topic of "Jesus junk." It was, uh, "inspired" by several sad sights in my e-mail over the last two days - spam offers from the Christian Children's Fund. If you donate enough money, perhaps CANS of Spam can be sent to starving children.

The Christian Children's Fund asks me to sponsor children such as Maria - youngsters I'm told "desperately need food, health care, education and more." Maybe this spam should be sent to Spain's new Prime Minister. After all, he's moving troops out of Iraq - and he's socialist.

The Christian Children's Fund tells me "thousands of children in 30 countries" are looking for a helping hand from people like me. Appeals like this admittedly make me feel guilty - because I should be helping children in low-income Columbus housing projects, and I don't even do that.

Other Christian businesses sadly have become spammers in recent months. "Christian Debt Management" of Boca Raton, Florida has sent me e-mails several times, with this Bible quote: "....and forgive us our debts." The company never quotes the next verse, about "lead us not into temptation...."

I'm thankfully not in debt, so I have NOT checked this business. But I can't help asking what IS a Christian approach to debt management:

+ When bill collectors in trench coats come to your door, do you give them gospel tracts?

+ Do you follow what the New Testament-era culture did - and lock yourself in a debtor's prison, until you work off your imbalance?

+ Does this company have a stack of "anointed prayer rugs," like the one mailed to me the other day?

In short, I'm disappointed when a "Christian" junk mail offer shows up, either by snail mail or e-mail. Somehow I suspect most of these things wind up on the W.W.J.D. list. You know - What Would Jesus Delete?

Now let's clear out other unfinished business from Monday:

+ The Muscogee County School Board approved the use of wireless phones by students before and after school. I refuse to call them "cell phones" because one TV station put the words "cells in schools" on the screen Monday, and I thought of

+ A morning jog down Broadway revealed a couple of state prison inmates were in the wide median, near 7th Street. Either they were starting to set things up for Riverfest -- or they had dousing sticks, looking for a place to build one more fountain.

+ Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry made a campaign stop in Atlanta - and during a visit to The Varsity, he proceeded to spill a soft drink all over himself. [True/CNN] I predict Fox News Channel will show this tape at least 100 times between now and Election Day.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll take Wednesday off, then face an action-packed few days in our home neighborhood....)

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, April 19, 2004



"Two homes are about to be blessed," says the envelope on my desk. "Yours first! Then it must go to another dear friend." I think I've heard of these things before - and somehow I've survived not passing on chain letters.

This letter, though, is different in many ways. For one thing, a short prayer to Jesus is written on the back of it -- asking that "the one whose hands open this letter" receive "the desires of their heart." I appreciate their concern. But a main desire of my heart married a building contractor on the West Coast nine years ago....

I'm familiar with this letter, based on its address. "Saint Matthew's Churches" in Tulsa, Oklahoma sends mailings like this all the time. If you reply in faith, somehow a "blessing" is bound to come your way. And of course, if you include a
contribution, a blessing is bound to head THEIR way.

The mailings from St. Matthew's Churches are suspicious, though -- sometimes without even opening the envelope. For instance, the letter on my desk shows the ministry's zip code as 74121. But the other side shows it's "mailed from zip code
52641." Somehow it isn't blessed quite enough to have a connection with "90210."

Another feature of the St. Matthew's Church mailings is the little trinket or gimmick inside. Over the years, they've sent me all sorts of things:

+ A gold-laminated number seven. Too bad my apartment number never has matched this.

+ A key ring with a green plastic cross attached. Amazing - I didn't even have to go to the church carnival to win it.

+ A tiny vial of "holy water." Just the right size, I suppose, for watering your mustard seed so it will grow....

There's a phrase in the world of ministries for these little trinkets, and it's not very polite. They're called "Jesus junk." For the believers who like to say, "God doesn't make any junk" -- I agree with you. But God doesn't make these things, men do.

Oh yes, did I mention this letter is from Tulsa - the same city Oral Roberts has called home for so long? As far as I know, the ministries are NOT related. But my mother stopped listening to Oral Roberts after she was offered vials of anointing oil in exchange for a donation. I think it was because she tended to cook with shortening.

So what's inside the latest letter from Tulsa? As I write this, I'm opening the envelope - and it's an ANOINTED PRAYER RUG! Well, that's what it SAYS it is. Others might dismiss it as a 17-by-11 inch folded sheet of paper.

"God's holy blessing power is in the enclosed anointed prayer rug we are loaning you to use!!!" So says a letter accompanying the rug - but wait a minute. You're only LOANING it?! Over the weekend the church I attend mailed me a 120-page booklet on Jesus - and they're letting me have it for free.

Believe it or not, I'm supposed to pray on the "anointed prayer rug" for whatever I need - then leave it overnight in my Bible at Philippians 4:19, then mail it back to Tulsa the next day. The letter explains there's "another family that's in need of a blessing." And I get the feeling this ministry is in need of reducing copying costs.

Hasn't this church in Tulsa ever heard of the Internet? Thanks to computers, I can share this "anointed prayer rug" with all of you. Well, I can share MOST of it. This rug of blessings from God is bigger than my scanner....

A testimony letter with the "prayer rug" has the story of one woman who prayed with only $50 to last until pay day. Somehow (the letter doesn't say how), now "$46,888.20 has me out of debt." Don't you wonder which horses she bet on?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll have more thoughts on "Jesus junk" in the next few days....)

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: Voting closed early Monday on our question about the proposed one-cent sales tax. The public seems divided: half in favor, half against. But since only two people voted, the biggest winners seem to be the ad agencies which will create the "yes and no" commercials.

Former Columbus Mayor Bobby Peters endorsed the one-cent "sales tax for operations" Sunday night. He also revealed he's "90-percent sure" he'll run for Muscogee County Superior Court Judge. Of course, if the other ten percent holds all the money....

I didn't realize until Sunday night that ex-wife Susan Peters might be the former mayor's campaign manager, if he runs for Superior Court Judge. [True/] You'd think a former spouse would want a political husband to run for Congress - to get him as far out of her life as possible.

Now some other quick things from Sunday:

+ The Columbus State University choir performed on stage at New York's famed Carnegie Hall. So? If Donald Trump didn't hire them, it's no big deal anymore.

+ Ritmo Latino Radio kept calling itself WMLF-AM - even though 1270 AM calls itself WSHE-AM during its other programming. I knew this station had a split personality, but this is getting ridiculous....

+ Former Columbus Cottonmouth Brian Idalski made a brief appearance on CBS Sports. He coached the Wisconsin-Stevens Point women's hockey team to the NCAA Division III finals this past season -- a team nicknamed the "Pointers." If they're female, shouldn't they be the "Pointer Sisters?"

+ Instant Message to Chester's Barbecue downtown: I saw your sign - but exactly what is a "HILIDOG?" Are you finally bringing jai alai north of Florida? I assume we wouldn't be allowed to gamble on it - but what sort of dogs play jai alai, anyway?

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, April 18, 2004



It took four months, but Kenneth Walker's family finally may have seen the "cop-cam" video of his death. One lawyer for the family is talking as if he's seen it. But then again, I've seen "The Practice" enough times to know attorneys don't always tell the truth.

Former Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, who's part of the legal team for Kenneth Walker's family, says Walker did NOT resist arrest on the night he was shot. To which former deputy David Glisson's attorney probably is saying, "Of course not.
He was too stoned."

While Bill Campbell says Kenneth Walker did not resist arrest last December 10th along Interstate 185, the Muscogee County Sheriff's Department contends he showed "some level of resistance." This sort of dispute sounds familiar - for instance, if your four-year-old child is sitting in a corner for misbehaving.

Bill Campbell says the Sheriff's Department dashboard camera reveals Kenneth Walker was surrounded by "two or three officers" at gunpoint. Well, David Glisson's lawyer DID say the camera's view was obstructed. So which officer is overweight?

Bill Campbell also says Kenneth Walker was pinned to the ground when he was shot -- which seems to be a point on which all sides agree. Now all we need is for costumed sailors at Port Columbus to develop a reenactment....

WRBL's interview with Bill Campbell did NOT address the rumor that's been spread by law officers - that David Glisson shot Kenneth Walker after tripping over something. Even though it was December, TV news footage indicates the side of
Interstate 185 seemed open. No one was selling recliners, scooters, or even Confederate flags along the roadside.

One of the biggest sticking points in the Kenneth Walker case probably will NOT be resolved by the "cop-cam" tape - whether Walker's right hand was open or closed. If we knew that, we'd obviously have an open or closed case....

Meanwhile, WRBL is going back to court to seek access to another tape - this time a "bus-cam" view of whether a Troup County bus driver ordered a student off, and made him walk for a couple of blocks. Considering WRBL's legal appeals for the Kenneth Walker case went nowhere, the station's lawyer must be quite a salesman.

Now other, nicer notes from a picture-perfect spring weekend:

+ A little girl went skipping through the foyer at the Captain D's in Phenix City - and her mother warned, "It's not easy to skip in your flip-flops." Mom has a good point. If you don't watch your step, you'll simply flop.

+ The country band Alabama's farewell tour stopped at the Columbus Civic Center. Somehow this didn't feel quite right. If the ministers hadn't reserved the Phenix City Amphitheatre for a crusade, the band actually could have played IN Alabama.

+ Alabama state regents voted to change the name of Troy State University to simply "Troy University." I can already hear the refrain from struggling college football coaches - if at first you don't succeed: Troy, Troy again.

(Is this really a good sign for the state of Alabama - that Troy University doesn't want people associating it with the state at all?)

+ The Columbus Wardogs whipped Cape Fear in their home opener, and scored a record 62 points. This arena football team may be ready for the big time - and may be able to outscore the Atlanta Hawks.

(C'mon, Cape Fear - in 2004, the best team nickname you can come up with is "Wildcats?!" My old high school had that name 70 years ago. How about "Wild Bunch" or something?)

+ Instant Message to area Walgreen's stores: Thank you for selling milk this past week for $1.99 a gallon. With supermarket prices going above three dollars, and reportedly heading even higher, I urge you to quarantine your cows - and take special care with them.

(CBS News warned milk prices may hit four bucks a gallon by summer. It's almost enough to drive a middle-aged man like me to drink coffee for breakfast, after all these years....)

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, April 16, 2004



The late news Thursday night revealed Davis Broadcasting of Columbus is buying WIOL-FM "The River." This will give Davis six local radio stations. I keep worrying one of these days, the signals are going to get crossed -- and gangster rap will be on in place of Joyce Meyer's religious show.

The sale of 92.7-FM "The River" is noteworthy because it was the last of its kind in Columbus - an independent commercial radio station, not part of a chain. For a comparison, imagine if Spectrum took over all the small convenience stores in town. No wait, you don't HAVE to imagine that - it seems to be happening.

How independent was "The River?" While other Columbus radio stations are in nice midtown buildings, this one has its studios in a modified house on University Avenue. If you didn't know better, you might think Columbus State University students used it to play songs banned from MTV.

Do you realize this sale will leave ALL the commercial radio stations in Columbus in the hands of three big companies? Davis Broadcasting will have six. Archway Broadcasting has four. And Clear Channel owns so many that announcer Val
McGuinness seems to work there 24 hours a day.

Come to think of it, even the public radio stations in Columbus are "chain" operations. The religious FM stations are run from Charlotte and Oakland. WJSP-FM is part of Georgia Public Broadcasting. And with only three stations, Troy State Public Radio may be the next group Davis tries to buy.

The sale of "The River" has to be approved by the Federal Communications Commission - but assuming it is, the classic rock station probably will move into the Davis Broadcasting complex on Wynnton Road. That ought to be interesting. The staffs of WOKS, WEAM and Foxie-105 will have to work around white people.

(This deal strikes me a bit like Clear Channel operating WHAL-AM and "Magic 98.3." The big chains make themselves look diverse, even if their individual stations are as segregated as the South in the 1950's.)

A statement from Davis Broadcasting claims no changes are planned in the "classic rock" format -- but we'll see about that. Rock stations such as "The River" have a reputation for only playing white musicians, and Davis is African-American owned. But then again, who was the last white singer on WOKS?

(In fact, I listened to "The River" for an hour late Thursday night - and not one song by an African-American artist was played. They didn't even balance things out by playing "Black is Black" from the 1960's.)

The fall radio ratings for Columbus showed WIOL-FM near the bottom of the list, below even a station based in the Atlanta suburb of College Park. Either this station really needs a new owner - or "Rick and Bubba in the morning" had more fans than we thought.

Even before this sale was announced, a friend of mine wondered the other day why community groups aren't challenging the license renewals of the big radio chains. Maybe it's because people are believing this "One Columbus" talk from Mayor Poydasheff - and they want the three remaining companies to merge, too.

Is it good for only three companies to control all the radio stations in Columbus? I think the answer depends on your perspective. If you grew up with a choice of only three TV stations, it's no big deal....

Over the years, a lot of things in our country have been controlled by only a few companies. There are the "big three" U.S. carmakers. There are only two big names in the cola business. And for awhile there, Columbus survived with only one
shopping mall.

In this case, we're going to have 18 different Columbus radio stations controlled by only three companies. But in this modern era, you can spend money on alternatives. There are satellite services such as X-M radio. And there are Internet
channels -- where sometimes I actually miss the local commercials.

BLOG UPDATE: The attorneys for Kenneth Walker's family are taking an interesting strategy. They want U.S. District Judge Clay Land to dismiss their original $100 million lawsuit - so they can file a more expanded one. Let's clear this up right now. I was NOT driving down Interstate 185 on that night in December....

The attorney filing this motion in the Kenneth Walker is Bill Campbell, who used to be Atlanta's Mayor. Sheriff Ralph Johnson and former Deputy David Glisson won't want to hear this - but Campbell supporters used to play the old doo-wop song "Don't Mess with Bill" on election nights. [True!]

SPAM-A-RAMA: The In-Box subject delivered to me the other day began with: "Stupid Will Only Buy Softwares From Shop, Heheh...." Maybe so - but will Smart Only Buy Stuffs From Spammers?

For some reason, more and more spam offers contain random words. This one began with: "spotty smirch commentate uttermost distance softcore acreage sorority upcast employe." Why do I get the funny feeling some college athletes have submitted term papers looking like this?

(There are advantages to these "randomizers," though. For one thing, the next time I play Scrabble, I plan to win big....)

The reason for this amazing offer is discounted computer software. One line of the e-mail explains:

"What you will get from us is The full WINDOWS XP Pro s.o.f.t.w.a.r.e & serial number. It works exactly the same, but you don't get the manual and box and the pri .ce is onlly 32.00 . That is a s-aving of 254.00."

Maybe this offer comes from the "Video Professor" guy - because for some items, a manual would be awfully helpful.

As it happened, a new neighborhood computer center opened on 35th Street in Columbus Thursday. It offers free computer training classes to anyone who wants to sign up. Apparently there are still people in town who think "Windows X-P" refer to extra protection from break-ins.

One staff member at the new center says some older people actually are afraid of computers. In a way, I can understand this. The wrong pop-up ad might give them a fatal heart attack.

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, April 15, 2004



An old restaurant reopened at Callaway Gardens Wednesday - "The Gardens." Please do not be confused by this. There is NOT a Columbus version, called "The Gardens at Calvary."

The Gardens Restaurant actually is more than 50 years old, but it's been shut down for several years. The Callaway family must have tried and tried to re-open it during that time - but when Waffle House says no, it means no.

One unique feature about The Gardens Restaurant is that you can travel there by water taxi, across Mountain Creek Lake on the Callaway Gardens property. So much for my theory that the Chattahoochee Princess tour boat moved there....

Another nice-sounding feature is an outdoor porch for dining -- with the porch facing west, offering what a fact sheet calls "incredible sunset meals." Finally, there's fancy twilight dining in this area for people who will never be invited to join the River Club.

Your blog has obtained a copy of The Gardens Restaurant's menu - and it has some unusual items on it. For instance:

+ "Fried Oyster Salad" for lunch. I've never heard of this one before. Does the frying leave a dripping-gold pearl inside?

(Why the fried oyster salad doesn't include fried green tomatoes, I have no idea....)

+ At dinner, the Grilled Sirloin of Beef comes with "Thyme-Marsala Reduction." At 18 dollars per serving, that's not much of a reduction.

(I went to my American Heritage Dictionary on this, and found a biological definition of reduction: "The first meiotic division, in which the chromosome number is reduced." Ohhhh - so this dinner may be a genetic engineering test.)

+ The dessert menu includes a "Passionberry Duo." Either the berries are whipped with chains until the juice comes out of them - or Nick Lachey and Jessica Simpson are about to start doing Callaway Gardens commercials.

BLOG UPDATE: The founder of the "Restaurant Report Card" has posted a farewell message on WRBL's web site. The fact that Brian Sharpe was allowed to do this indicates the managers there actually liked him.

Brian Sharpe's online message confirms he's taking a job with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce, to bring new business to town. No doubt his old boss's last instructions to him were: "No more TV stations. We have enough of those."

Someone reminded me Brian Sharpe wore many hats during his years at WRBL. He reported on sports. He anchored the news. He even helped fly "Chopper 3" - which I guess Fort Benning needed to fight terrorism, because you hardly ever saw WRBL use it.

Now a scattering of seeds to consider from a blustery April day....

+ Which member of a Fort Benning Ranger detachment almost caused an international incident recently, by firing across the Korean demilitarized zone? I'm told the soldier is now back in this area - telling strangers he served in Iraq.

+ How many Fort Benning soldiers are getting out of speeding tickets, by telling police they've just come back from Iraq and haven't seen their spouses in months? I've heard at least one report of this - involving the same guy who fired that weapon in Korea.

+ Russell County fire crews were called to a Fort Mitchell mobile home park - only to find a residence was NOT on fire. It was really someone burning trash. Wow! There IS a difference in Alabama between the two....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer's web site reported former Columbus Mayor Bobby Peters is thinking about running for Superior Court Judge. When you're as short as he is, you look for superiority anywhere you can find it.

+ Instant Message to the Georgia Department of Revenue: Why did my federal tax refund check reach my mailbox before my state check? Is Governor Perdue outsourcing this work to Asia, too?

COMING FRIDAY: Something we haven't done in awhile.... a round of "Spamarama...."

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, April 14, 2004



Go ahead, call me a hypocrite. Tuesday I went to the Wal-Mart Supercenter in Phenix City, breaking a boycott of several months. [16 Jan] Sometimes it pays not to post my picture on this blog, so hardly anyone can point fingers at me in public.

There was a reason why I broke the Wal-Mart illegal immigrant boycott. It was time for me to get my car's tires rotated -- and since I bought my tires at Wal-Mart stores nearly two years ago, the rotations and wheel balancing are free. So if anything, I'm taking money from them.

The high-tech items they use at Wal-Mart these days are amazing. I gave a man at the tire center my phone number - and with his hand-held computer, he told me the make and model of my car. Why weren't these things given to Bush
administration staffers, to help them prevent the terror attacks?

(Speaking of the President: the call count at my job Tuesday night was two to one - two calls asking about "American Idol," to one about Mr. Bush's news conference.)

It would take about an hour for the Wal-Mart crew to work on my tires, so I walked down the access road which becomes South Railroad Street. While heading to The Covenant to check on my CD's of inspiring songs, I noticed several things:

+ It was an unusually cool April day. It took me approximately two seconds to notice that.

+ The "Ramada Limited" motel along U.S. 280 must not have a heated swimming pool - because no one was in it.

+ The Splash Car Wash had absolutely no business. Has anyone ever studied how long it takes after a rainstorm for people to need a car wash again?

I returned to Wal-Mart from my chilly walk and faced the "in-or-out" question. Walking around to the tire center door, my car was nowhere in sight. It was "in," I concluded - forgetting this Supercenter lost a roll of film I left last year, and never found it.

So what do I do now? I walked back around to the main Wal-Mart entrance and - uhhhh, well - I caved in. It was time for the final round of half-price chocolate for this season. I can't help noticing the candy eggs are marked down at this time of year, but the matzos never are.

I didn't spend much inside Wal-Mart, really -- less than four dollars. That bought me two bags of chocolate eggs, two allegedly-gourmet cookies and one big bag of tortilla chips. I needed the chips because whoever cleaned the kitchen at church Monday threw away my jar of salsa, and left me with a slightly-filled bowl of it.

Then it was time for one more walk back around the building - and this time my car was OUT of the tire center. All that remained was the paperwork. But the woman at the counter struggled for a minute to make the bar-codes for each tire register as "no price." I could relate to this - one of the in-store scanners didn't work for me, either.

I drove him in a car which felt better, and felt only a little guilt about spending money with the alleged Wal-Mart job cheaters. After all, no executive there has gone on trial yet - while Martha Stewart of Kmart fame is waiting for sentencing.

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, April 13, 2004



At first glance, the walls appear to be solid black - and they're right in the middle of the Baker Village neighborhood. When I saw them, they made me wonder if the city is trying to market handball and racquetball as hip, gangster sports.

Last summer we took you to the outdoor racquetball/handball courts at Benning Park [23 Jun 03] - and revealed they were graffiti-covered and sad-looking. A return visit Sunday was surprising, as the graffiti is gone and there's fresh paint all around. OK, which group of college students on spring break was given this assignment?

The racquetball (for me, since that's what I play) improvements have occurred since February 22, which was the last time I worked out there. This was done so quietly that I'm not sure anyone noticed except the construction crew working next

I was concerned if anything happened to the racquetball courts, they'd be torn down. There's a new building going up next to the Benning Park gym, and construction fencing practically surrounds one of the two courts. Stacks of concrete blocks sit there, just waiting for a church "muscle team" to break them in two.

But the good news is, the racquetball courts now look practically new. The big wall actually is dark green, not black - so does this mean Spencer High School is adjusting its colors?

The front half of the racquetball courts isn't concrete gray anymore, either. They've been painted white, and you have to look VERY hard to see that outline of a child's body which was obvious before. There goes city government again - whitewashing the crime problem.

I suspect the biggest problem in keeping these racquetball courts in good shape comes from children, heading to and from nearby Baker Middle School. Some of them seem to enjoy throwing rocks onto the courts. I know this, because they did it toward me one afternoon while I was practicing.

For the record: I've had racquetball workouts several times at Benning Park - and every time I've been there, the tennis courts nearby have been vacant. Maybe girls in the neighborhood only want to be like Serena Williams for her clothing.

BLOG UPDATE: The radio station which plays my CD from time to time changed its call letters Monday. AM-1270 is now known as WSHE. For Jim Foster's sake, I hope those letters don't stand for "Se Habla Español."

Let me see if I have this straight: WMLF has changed to WSHE - yet the web site for the "Solid Gospel" part of the station is still "WPNX Radio," the call letters which were dropped almost a year ago?! Is Clear Channel running some sort of racket here?

But let's be honest: AM-1270 badly needed a change of call letters. WMLF may have worked when the station played something like "the music of your life" a few years ago -- but nowadays, those last three letters sadly have become (ahem) an
X-rated abbreviation.

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Congratulations to Phil Mickelson, who proved me wrong and won the Masters golf tournament by a - oops, wait. We need to do this the proper golf way. "The Masters....... (pregnant pause for drama) in Augusta."

I did NOT watch the final round of the Masters on Sunday. For the second year in a row I boycotted it, because I believe Martha Burk has a point. The Augusta National Golf Club should do something to accommodate female golfers. Of course, I attend a church denomination where women aren't allowed to preach....

Instead of the Masters, I went back and forth between the NBA and arena football - where the Georgia Force lost to the Austin Wranglers. You'd think for "arena ball," the folks in Austin would come up with a more creative nickname. Like the "City Limits," for instance.

Now let's send some scattered Instant Messages here and there:

+ To the youngster who sang the national anthem badly off-key at Golden Park Monday night: At least you brought rain - so thank you.

+ To the crew which installed the new back door on my apartment: When that rain came, water STILL got into the kitchen. Can you come back and lower the door about 1/8 of an inch?

+ To WRBL's Jeff Donald: That was some spiffy new radar you showed on TV Monday night, as the storms moved through. So why didn't you have a big news conference at the RiverCenter to introduce it, like other stations do?

+ To Tara Darby, Miss Alabama-USA: Congratulations on doing so well Monday night! No, not making the top ten at the pageant - but winning the "Miss Fear Factor" show which preceded it. [True!] It took plenty of poise to eat those sea cucumbers.

+ To the managers of Columbus Burger Kings: Why have you already introduced new salads at a location in Macon Road - but they don't arrive at your downtown store until Wednesday? If Carmike Cinemas did this, there would be talk of discrimination suits.

+ To the attendant at the downtown Burger King: No, really - I couldn't eat those crackers you offered me until after 8:00 p.m. It was the end of the Biblical "Days of Unleavened Bread." Why do you think I avoided all the sandwiches in your non-air conditioned restaurant, and ordered chili?

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, April 11, 2004



It was a dinner truly "across the tracks." When U.S. 27 is on one side of the railroad and the restaurant parking lot is on the other side, diners really have no choice.

The restaurant which fits this location is one of the most prestigious in the area - Victorian's, near downtown Hamilton. What does it say when this restaurant gets higher ratings from travel guides than anyplace in Columbus? Do people in Harris County really know how to cook better?

I joined a group of friends at Victorian's for dinner the other night -- my first trip there in a couple of years. Some things have not changed about this restaurant. For one thing, there's still a dog on the front porch waiting to greet you - which somehow thinks customers bring "doggie bags" IN this place, not out.

The restaurant is called Victorian's because it's inside a large Victorian-era home. Talk about old-fashioned - the management still hasn't put a giant TV set up in the main dining rooms.

But some things ARE different at Victorian's these days. One of my friends pointed a change out practically before I took my seat - the menu was labeled on each page "Menu 7." These friends were just brazen enough to ask the attendant to see Menus 1-6 instead.

(Before you ask - no, there was NOT a "Corn Dog 7" on "Menu 7." This restaurant is fancier than that....)

The Victorian's menu not only is numbered now - it's significantly smaller, with only two pages of options. We were told the managers decided awhile back to shorten the menu, and change some of the items every few weeks. Someone should
have suggested this approach to the Cottonmouths.

We noticed something else different about Victorian's - the restaurant's name. It used to be called "The Victorian Oak Tree." Now the oak tree isn't in the name - and apparently environmental groups haven't heard about it, because no one was protesting outside.

Rest easy: there still IS an oak tree outside Victorian's Grill, which is now the proper name. The attendant told me a shorter name is easier for people to remember. Are the attention spans of customers growing THAT short?

While our group waited for dinner, all sorts of topics came up for discussion:

+ One man said over the last few days, as many U.S. citizens had been killed in Lee County, Alabama as in Iraq. If the Marines moved into Beauregard with weapons, I wonder if they'd get the same sort of welcome as in Fallujah.

+ One woman said every time she turns on Columbus TV news, all she sees is "somebody getting killed or getting shot." And then people wonder why there's so much emphasis on the weather.

+ A disagreement arose over who should win "Nashville Star," the cable TV country music singing contest. A friend of mine is a cousin of Opelika singer Brad Cotter - but another friend says she votes for Georgia native Matt Lindahl, who wears overalls every week. Maybe if he put an area code on those overalls....

+ A reporter at the table shared the curious story of a recent arrest in Valdosta. A burglary suspect was stopped in a backyard - and a police check of the man revealed a bag of marijuana was in his pocket. But the suspect explained: "These aren't my pants!" For some reason, he was NOT arrested for stealing the clothing.

But back to dinner: Victorian's Grill had three "nightly specials" for our group. I chose the Chicken Marsala, which came covered with thick robust mushrooms. It was very good - but I forgot to ask whether the mushrooms grew near that oak

(Another special on this night was "Bourbon Salmon." But I had to drive all the way home from Hamilton - and surely there's a better way to catch fish than by getting them drunk.)

Then came dessert time - and several of us dared to have chocolate mousse. I think it was actually enough to declare a mousse stampede....

No dessert menu was shown to our group - and perhaps that's by design. When the check came, the tall parfait glass of chocolate mousse cost $6.50! I could have stopped at Walgreen's on the way home and bought two pints of ice cream for
less than that.

Regular diners probably realize at many restaurants, desserts are the most overpriced items on the menu. It's as if the chefs get even with those of us who avoid the oversized entrees.

With a gratuity thrown in, my dinner at Victorian's Grill cost close to $35. And curiously, the credit card receipt said "Oak Tree Inc." at the top. If a tree falls off the restaurant sign, it still may spring to life somewhere else.

All in all, Victorian's Grill is a nice place for a special occasion -- and great if you want to impress a date with the size of your bank account. Just don't be surprised if that special woman makes you spend a little extra, on an appetizer for the dog on the porch.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Speaking of restaurants, we have another clue to the Brian Sharpe mystery - but not from the man himself:


I heard last week that Brian Sharpe is leaving WRBL for a job with the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. They've probably announced it on the air by now, but if they haven't, now you know why he won't be passing out the giant forks any more!


If this is true, Sharpe will welcome new businesses to town -- and exchange those golden forks for giant red carpets.

A check of WRBL's web site indicates the "Restaurant Report Card" will continue, but Blaine Stewart will take over the duties. Since he's one of the "Problem Solvers," perhaps Stewart will actually go into a restaurant and put the lids on open food containers himself.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION: We've posted a new question this weekend, about the pending one-cent city sales tax question in Columbus. It could almost be marketed like soda -- are you ready to make "seven-cents up" yours?

BIG PREDICTION:I'm as left-handed as Phil Mickelson is - but I simply can't see him winning the Masters title Sunday, even though he's tied for the lead. I have this funny feeling a streaker will run across the course and ruin everything for him....

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, April 09, 2004



For many Christians, this is "Good Friday." But as I heard a radio personality in Atlanta say years ago - as far as I'm concerned, all Fridays are good.

Speaking of Christians: Have you seen the new commercial for New Life Tanning Center? It has a group of women endorsing the business - and one of the women is a church co-Pastor! What will we have next, Bill Purvis endorsing hunting

The co-Pastor who endorses tanning centers is Darlene Swilley of North Highland Assembly of God. I guess for this group, a good bronze tan is as close as they come to Moses's face shining atop Mount Sinai.

Does it seem strange to you that a church Pastor is endorsing something like a tanning salon? After all, it was probably all some ministers could do to encourage members to see "The Passion of the Christ."

(Before I forget - Instant Message to Carla Plazas of New Life Tanning: What do you mean, you have "Columbus's cleanest tanning center"? What are customers doing to the beds at the OTHER ones? Are they smoking as they tan - or something worse?)

I happened to see the North Highland Assembly of God telecast last Sunday morning, as Darlene Swilley gave the sermon. She said when husband Jim saw her sermon title on an outside sign, he was puzzled by it. If she won't practice the message in advance on her husband, maybe he needs it the most.

(Give Jim Swilley credit for one thing - he has one of the best voices for a minister you'll ever hear. It's so deep, rich and serious that you wonder why some cartoon hasn't used him to portray God.)

North Highland Assembly of God likes to do things a bit differently. For instance, it began a weekend evening service called the "Saturday Night Search." For too many sinners, this phrase means something else - like the hunt for an open
liquor store.

North Highland Assembly of God also has a fancy electronic sign on the corner of Moon and Whittlesey Roads. I've never seen a CVS store have so much competition at an intersection....

If that's not enough, North Highland Assembly of God staged its own version of the "Passion play" last weekend - not at the church, but at the RiverCenter's Bill Heard Theatre. Oh, I get it now! Jim Swilley is going to appear in Chevrolet

Several area churches have unusual events planned for Easter weekend. In fact, First Presbyterian Church will hold a sunrise service Sunday morning - on the top deck of a downtown parking garage! So don't be surprised if instead of a stone, they roll away an SUV.

BLOG UPDATE: Remember the question I had for my Pastor, relating to recent flooding in Massachusetts? [4 Apr] I finally asked it the other day - and he said his comment about the flooding was "just a note." He admitted the floods were NOT necessarily caused by the recent court rulings on same-sex marriage. Now I feel better about Thursday's rainstorm.

The Pastor explained God can pour out all sorts of end-time punishments - not only floods, but earthquakes and plagues. And if those don't work, God could get REALLY tough. He might force everyone to watch Jerry Laquire's talk show.

Now other notes from a Thursday in which many prayers for rain were answered:

+ Brian Sharpe presented his final "Restaurant Report Card" on WRBL. I didn't catch the reason why his weekly reports are ending. Perhaps Sharpe's career has reached the "golden fork" in the road.

(No, no, no -- I will resist the urge to write: "Stick a golden fork in him; he's done....")

+ WRBL also announced reporter Anna-Marie Gregory is leaving after two years. Her last act was presenting a teacher a "Golden Apple Award" - thus potentially giving away her severance package.

+ The Columbus Catfish opened the baseball season with a 5-4 win over Capital City. It was opening night for the new Catfish play-by-play announcer, too - which explains why he said, "We're still early in the season" in the fourth inning of
game one.

(A Muscogee County Sheriff's Deputy parked a car outside Golden Park, near the Riverwalk. If a batter hits a foul ball off that car, he might want to check his hospitalization insurance.)

+ Jeff Lebo was named the new men's basketball coach at Auburn University. Lebo told reporters he likes teams that are fast. Considering he only spent two seasons coaching Tennessee-Chattanooga, he apparently likes to change teams that way as well.

(I can see his first endorsement deal now - Lebo for Beebo pecan spins.)

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, April 08, 2004



Tonight is opening night of the season for the Columbus Catfish baseball team. The management asks you NOT do "the wave" at home games - because it'll only remind everyone of the old, tired nickname.

(Isn't baseball a refreshing break from all the election-year political talk? This may be the only place where people openly support OUT-sourcing.)

Golden Park looks different this season, and it's not only because the South Georgia Waves changed their name to the Columbus Catfish. The main outfield wall is brick-brown, and no longer has advertising on it. Either this is a move to look retro-1980's - or this team is having trouble getting corporate support.

I was happy to learn Wednesday most Columbus Catfish games will be on WDAK radio this season. Maybe if WDAK had worked this out with the hockey team, Columbus still might HAVE a hockey team....

And that was the bad news Wednesday: the Columbus Cottonmouths announced they're suspending operations for a year, then moving to the Florida Gulf Coast. Should we really be surprised by this - a team nicknamed the "Snakes" coming back to bite us?

Cottonmouths owner Shelby Amos explained the team has lost too much money over the last few seasons to be a viable member of the East Coast Hockey League. NOW he tells me this! I might have left a donation at the ticket window, when I watched that free third period last week.

The curious thing is that Cottonmouths managers denied news reports in February about a suspension of operations and a planned move to Florida. So if the Wardogs owner talks about moving, he's bluffing - and when Cottonmouths officials deny they're moving, they really are. Would someone please put the Riverdragons President on a lie detector?

In fact, WRBL tracked down Riverdragons owner Barry McMullin Wednesday night. He said the basketball team WILL be back next season, and ticket sales are up "in some areas" this season. Given the economy, those areas probably in the
nosebleed sections.

Meanwhile, Cottonmouths officials held out hope a new hockey team might form, playing in a different league. One option is a league called "W-H-A-2" - which sounds more like the frequency of a ham radio operator.

What does this announcement say about Columbus sports fans? They once dreamed of being in a major-league softball city. But with the RedStixx and Cottonmouths leaving in a three-year span, it's starting to look like Columbus may not even be a MINOR-league town. What's left?

(There's one small consolation about the Cottonmouths moving to Florida. My souvenir puck from the 1998 Central Hockey League finals Columbus won over Wichita should keep increasing in value.)

While we're talking sports - Instant Message to the sound effects person at Columbus State University's Ragsdale Field: Did I hear what I thought I heard Wednesday night? When an Albany State outfielder chased a deep fly ball, did you really play sound of a speeding hot rod? Not even minor league teams distract from the action like this....

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Because of the breaking sports news, our restaurant (and dog) review will be postponed until this weekend....

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.