Thursday, September 30, 2004



All I wanted to do was drive to Publix for milk, soda and stamps. But as I went to the car Sunday afternoon, a woman walked by saying or asking for something. She seemed to have food in her mouth, so it took about five times to understand her. Lesson 1: if a beggar can't speak clearly, his or her mind may be just as fuzzy.

Finally I determined the woman wanted a ride to 744 Broadway. Yet strangely, she walked SOUTH on First Avenue to talk with me about it - when 744 Broadway is NORTH of my apartment. Then again, this IS Columbus - named for a man who went west to reach the "Far East."

It's only a five-block drive from my apartment to 744 Broadway, so I agreed to let her get in. That's when the fast-talking started.
"I see you drink beer."
"I have...."
"Do you...." She interrupted to change the topic before I could explain the empty flattened can of Budweiser on the floor of the passenger seat was there because I picked it up Saturday night to keep from running over it with my tires. That's what women want, you know - a deep, detailed conversation.

"Will you let me finish, please?" I said to the woman - then said she had ADHD. She didn't know what that was, but she was acting like a co-worker who admits he has adult Attention Deficit Disorder. If that man ever met this woman, the fragmented sentences would be an English teacher's nightmare.

The woman in the car probably didn't have ADHD after all. As she explained, "I've had a couple of beers, it's Mother's Day...." Oh really?!?! What until Miller High Life hears about this - because those catfighting commercials might need some children added to them.

As we started the five-block drive to 744 Broadway, the woman asked more questions:
"Are you police?"
"Do you date?"
"Not in a long time." Questions like this make me wish I had a little more 20 years ago, though.

The woman then stated her name, which I admit I didn't catch. "I'm 37 years old, and I give good...." Weellllll, let's just say she didn't offer me her HEART. (Ahem)

I sat quietly and kept driving during this unusual introduction - so then the woman reached for my right leg, and my shorts. "What are you DOING?" I exclaimed. What episode of "Sex and the City" did she get this first-date idea from?

At this point we were on Broadway - and I hurried as quickly as I could. If ever there was a time the brick streets of the historic district needed paving over, it was now....

"Don't you want a date?" she asked, a bit surprised.
"No, I'm doing what you said you wanted. A ride to 744 Broadway." Lesson 2, which I should have realized long ago: a beggar seldom wants the first thing he or she requests. She wanted a ride - but apparently NOT in a car. (Ahem)

At this point we were in the 600 block of Broadway, and the woman started demanding I drop her off. I refused, noting 744 Broadway was very close. "That's not what I want," she argued. Why is it if men pull this stunt, they're guilty of a lack of commitment?

At last I slowed down the car at 744 Broadway, and she cursed me as she got out of the car. The whole incident lasted about two minutes -- and it showed why I'd probably fail at those "speed-dating" club nights.

(Come to think of it, this encounter was appropriate for Mother's Day. So many times I did what my late Mom asked me to do - only to be criticized for only doing it because she told me to do it.)

I finally drove on to Publix at Cross-Country Plaza - and found one pick-up truck driving BACKWARDS in a parking lot lane, and another running a stop sign in front of the entryway. That's why I'm glad I went ahead and bought the milk and stamps -- to prove I didn't have a wild nightmare.

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004


28 SEP 04: K-WHY?

With apologies to a TV station in Los Angeles for our title -- I head on vacation today. I timed this 11-day trip perfectly, to ignore at least two presidential debates.

The church denomination I attend has convention sites around the world. The Columbus congregation normally is assigned to Panama City Beach, Florida - but several months ago I applied to visit Lexington, Kentucky instead. After four Florida hurricanes in two months, I'm looking like a genius....

But it was not an inspired sense of meteorology sense that moved me to visit Kentucky. Lexington is a "designated singles site" for our denomination this year. For a guy like me, it's a bit like Alabama legalizing crossbow hunting a few weeks ago.

So admittedly, I'm going to Kentucky partially in hopes of meeting new single people - and whatever might (ahem) follow from that. That is, if the women ALLOW me to follow from that....

There's only one problem with my grand strategy. A friend of mine at church told me several weeks ago that many single women are avoiding Lexington, and heading for Panama City Beach instead. I hope they took toolboxes to help repair buildings.

There's one other challenge I face in taking a trip to Lexington. It's the home of the University of Kentucky, or U.K. My alma mater is Kansas, or K.U. For my own protection, I'm only taking one Kansas T-shirt with me....

(At least I'm going there at the end of September. Kentucky is a lot like Kansas in one way - when college football season starts, it means one thing for the fans. The college basketball season is only a couple of months away.)

My figuring shows it'll take about eight-and-a-half hours to drive from Columbus to Lexington. It's interstate highway all the way - and I'm renting a car, so I won't risk having to get out and push my humble Honda up the Smoky Mountains in

Which reminds me: have you heard the new radio ads for Callaway Gardens? They praise the park's location "in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains." Is it really a good idea to connect the gardens with the Appalachians - and imply Harris County has all sorts of backwoods hicks?

So if you'll excuse me -- I'll post this, get some sleep, then finish packing and hit the road. I MIGHT be able to post blog entries from libraries in Kentucky. Presumably the public access computers are somewhere amid the stacks of books on
bourbon and racehorses....

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, September 27, 2004



A trip to Peachtree Mall stunned me Sunday - as ads promoting an upcoming movie were all over the place. I don't think Victoria's Secret ever has been allowed to advertise its TV fashion show like this....

Ads for the movie "Taxi" hung from the ceiling of Peachtree Mall, near Rich's-Macy's. Not simply one poster, but several of the same poster. I knew right away it had to be a movie, because SafetyCab won't be in business again for a couple of months.

The movie promotion didn't stop at the ceiling. A giant billboard for "Taxi" was on a stage. Little signs were on the Peachtree Mall doors. Even the trays in the food court had "Taxi" placemats on them! Some political campaign is missing out on a golden opportunity here....

I didn't walk from end to end through Peachtree Mall, but I saw enough at the west end to get the message. There's a new movie coming out called "Taxi" - and Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah must be switching names for it, because Latifah's name is below Fallon's head on the ads.

Yet here's what struck me as strange about all this: dozens of ads promoting a movie are in a mall with NO movie theatre inside it! Yes, there's the "Peachtree 8" across the parking lot from Penney's.-- but still, that's a discount house! Instead of "Taxi, October," they'll do well to have it by January.

(There were so many ads inside the mall that I started to wonder if "Taxi" was filmed in Columbus without anybody knowing it. Does someone hijack a cab in Atlanta, and drive it to Dothan?)

The makers of "Taxi" must have left Peachtree Mall a big tip to promote this movie so much. So why isn't there some kind of promotion with Columbus cab companies? You'd think only one of them would be "yellow" about accepting an offer like that....

Is this how the new owners of Peachtree Mall plan to improve it - by putting up annoying ads all over the corridors? I suppose it beats raising the rent for tenants. But where would a Parisian or a Penney's go - back downtown? Some bars on
Broadway would have to close, to make room for them.

Now some other items from an eye-opening weekend:

+ Which area grocery store is selling boxes of Cheerios with Canadian labels on them? I know this is happening, because one was passed on to me. Are cereals becoming like prescription drugs -- cheaper to import from Canada?

(And another thing: do the managers stocking Cheerios from Canada realize the second language on the box is French, not Spanish?)

+ A high wind watch was issued for Columbus, as Tropical Storm Jeanne moves north. Today should be a great day for a long run outside - but turning around and jogging home into the wind will be another matter.

+ Atlanta's baseball team beat Florida 6-3. Atlanta's football team beat Arizona 6-3. About the only thing missing in Georgia sports was having the Davis Cup semifinals at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center....

+ David Rainer was named "Fox 54's Idol" at the Bradley Theater. He now heads for the San Francisco "American Idol" auditions. If Rainer winds up in a "worst singers" TV show this winter, all the local judges should be required to get a
hearing exam.

(David Rainer is only 17, and now he'll go to San Francisco. If he doesn't make the cut for "American Idol," he might still attract interest from guys looking for boyfriends....)

+ Instant Message to St. Luke United Methodist Church: Did you really mean to do that Sunday? I mean, singing the song "Morning Has Broken" during the service -- only days after the former Cat Stevens was barred from the U.S.?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: If you want to avoid the Cat Stevens version of "Morning Has Broken," I sing it on my album.)

COMING TUESDAY: Where I'm going, and why I'm going there....

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

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, September 26, 2004



Muscogee County Democrats opened a new headquarters on Macon Road Saturday. It's in the old Pier One Imports Building -- and we all know how well that worked for Judge Roxann Daniel during the summer.

Meanwhile, Russell County Democrats are trying to regroup from an important court ruling. A judge kicked Commission Chair Cattie Epps off the November ballot, even though she won the primary in June. Republicans now are racing the clock - searching for a way to get John Kerry disqualified, too.

Russell County Probate Judge Al Howard declared Cattie Epps ineligible for the November election because she filed campaign finance documents after the June 1 primary. This ruling gave an amazing new meaning to the religious song, "One Day Too Late."

Cattie Epps sued Probate Judge Al Howard, attempting to stay on the November ballot. For some reason, Epps never argued that the handling of election ballots has nothing to do with probate cases.

Al Howard admitted to the Ledger-Enquirer last month even if Cattie Epps was barred from the ballot, Russell County voters still could write in her name for Commissioner. We'll see if Epps tries to organize this sort of campaign. She'd help
her chances by changing her first name to "Cat" for a few weeks.

(I can hear Commissioner Epps borrowing an old Richard Gephardt line now - "It's your CAT-fight, too!")

Remember Al Howard's words several months ago, after Russell County Commissioners such as Cattie Epps voted to reinstate Administrator LeeAnn Horne-Jordan? The judge warned Horne-Jordan's backers risked a possible recall drive. It turns out there was a bigger risk - a man with both a gavel and a bad mood.

By the way, the chair of Russell County's Democratic Executive Committee is a familiar name - J.W. Brannen, who lost the mayor's race last month. If Cattie Epps winds up losing her Commission seat, Brannen might want to consider retiring to Lake Eufaula.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION is back, based on the entry we posted Saturday night (just below this one). Now you can tell me whether I should hold beggars accountable for their claims - or whether my wallet pocket and heart have cast-iron buttons on them.

Now let's check other findings of the weekend:

+ The chief executive of St. Francis Medical Center resigned, telling the Ledger-Enquirer he had unspecified "management differences" with the board. You don't think someone actually suggested renaming the hospital "Hurricane Frances...."?!

+ Albany's City Manager told Police Chief Bobby Johnson to leave, only days after he announced plans to retire in January. Now I finally understand why Columbus Police Chief Willie Dozier doesn't want to talk on camera....

(The interim police chief in Albany happens to be named Bob Boren. Is this some new "police and fire games" competition or something?)

+ WXTX "Fox 54" held open auditions for a local version of "American Idol." One judge from Foxie-105 FM described some of the candidates as "great shower singers." Or as Simon Cowell might call them - losers.

+ Atlanta's baseball team clinched its 13th division title in a row. Considering how much this team changed from last year, I think Bobby Cox finally should win the "Manager of the Year" award. If he doesn't, I think Cox should argue about it until he gets ejected -- since he's so good at that, too.

+ Auburn's football team breezed to a 33-3 victory over The Citadel. Coach Tommy Tuberville hopes to build on this next year, by finding a college called The Country-dell.

+ Columbus State's women's soccer team lost 2-0 to the renamed college "South Carolina-Upstate." Is this really a good name for a university? Won't jeering fans accuse all the players of taking "uppers?"

+ Instant Message to Buck Ice and Coal: Your "official" Confederate flag on Talbotton Road looks tattered and torn. Too bad all the street-corner vendors around town only sell the politically incorrect version.

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, September 25, 2004


25 SEP 04: NO CAN DO

She wore a white scarf over her head, and "ALABAMA" on her orange T-shirt. As I walked toward my car outside the downtown Taco Bell tonight, our conversation went something like this:

"Excuse me, sir?"

"Yes." The new season for beggars begins.

"Do you have two dollars? I'm out of gas. I've got a gas can around the corner...."

This is the Taco Bell-Spectrum combination store at 14th and Veterans Parkway. "There's a gas pump right here. I can use my credit card...."

"Can't you just give me two dollars?"

"Well, go get your gas can, and we'll go to the pump and fill it up."

"But it's not here."

"I know. You said it's around the corner."

"But I'm waiting on my sister-in-law's brother [or somebody like that] to pick me up."

"Well, when he shows up, maybe he'll have the two dollars."

"But he DOESN'T have the money, you see."

"Oh. Well, how long will it be before he shows up?"

"I don't know."

"Well, I can wait until he comes."

"I don't want you to do that. Just give me the two dollars."

"And I'm saying we can fill your gas can at the pump now."

"But I'd have to go get it."

"Yes. You said it's just around the corner."

"But I don't want to do it until he comes."

"Then I can wait until he shows up."

"Just forget it. I'd don't need it."

"But if you don't need it...."

"Have a blessed night, sir."

"....Then why did you ask me for two dollars?"

"Never mind, sir! I said: have a blessed night!"

I stared at the woman in frustration for about five seconds. Then I walked on to my car, saying nothing. For the second time in 36 hours, my attempts to please a woman were rejected coldly - and neither of them had anything to do with a date, much less sex.

(For reasons we cannot discuss here, we will NOT get into details of the first incident. Let's just say this: some people seem to prefer objecting to things that are wrong, then have you make them happy by adjusting things to be right.)

Regular blog readers know I seem to attract beggars like Wal-Mart attracts lawsuits. So why did this two-dollar request end in a two-minute stalemate? Let's analyze the conversation:

1. To my knowledge, I'd never met this woman before. If I simply give her two dollars and walk away, her "gas can" might turn out to be a thermos jug to hold beer from Spectrum.

2. I've heard the "secret gas can" line before. It happened eight years ago at an Exxon station on University Avenue in Atlanta. The man at that case wouldn't even tell me where his gas can was. You never know when you'll come across an undercover C.I.A. agent.

(That gas trip was bizarre, as it seemed half the customers were on a happy hour from the asylum. Another man backed off in far when I merely waved hello to him.)

3. Beggars tend to see only one solution to their problem - and if your solution isn't exactly the one they want, it cannot possibly be done. So it's a lot like national energy policy....

4. Most beggars don't want anyone waiting around with them to get their need met. It's as if they're afraid they'll forget their story, and you'll catch them.

5. The scene of this discussion was walking distance from the House of Mercy - and beggars tend to show up in this corner of town. Yet somehow they don't seem to gather outside Columbus Water Works, asking for help paying their bills.

6. Why did this woman seem afraid to get a gas can filled before her relative showed up? Did she somehow think the fuel goes stale after 15 minutes?

By the way, I went to Taco Bell to end the fast I mentioned Friday. I loaded up for it Friday evening at Cici's Pizza on Macon Road - where you get a pizza buffet and a drink for only $4.75! This place must make all its profits from the
children playing video games.

(You can tell who the target audience at this restaurant is right away - because the TV sets tend to show nothing but Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network.)

A children's birthday party was in progress as I dined on pizza. The youngsters sang "Happy Birthday," and one even added a second verse. Who needs a karaoke night when you have singers like these?

COMING SUNDAY: The Russell wrangle....

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© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, September 24, 2004



When the sun sets on this Friday, I plan to stop eating for awhile. Now don't get wrong ideas about this -- and start calling me "Mary-Kate."

Tonight is the start of the Biblical Day of Atonement, or what the Jews call "Yom Kippur." Believers go without food and drink for 24 hours. They'll also gather to worship -- as well as trade old jokes about offering to take each other out to lunch.

No, I'm not Jewish - but there are Christians who keep the Day of Atonement as well, and I'm one of them. It's our one "expected fast" of the year. The rest of the time, many people aren't fast to start fasting at all....

Please note the Day of Atonement starts at sunset, under the Jewish tradition. So if the rest of you can avoid going to restaurants until after 7:30 p.m., we believers would appreciate it. We'll be "carbo-loading" like marathon runners, from 6:00 on.

I've heard stories from friends over the year about how they have to prepare for a fast like this. Some coffee drinkers have to ease off the stuff for a couple of days in advance, or they develop headaches. And then people get so upset about alcohol addiction....

(Since I don't drink coffee, I can't really relate to what these people face. And in this era of Starbuck's and five-dollar cappucino, I also feel a bit wealthier.)

During a fasting time such as Yom Kippur, I don't develop headaches at all. The only big change is that I tend to get sleepy. Considering our church service doesn't start until 2:30 p.m. Saturday, I hope the Pastor doesn't mind if a few people snore during his sermon.

But here's the strange thing: I've found I can go jogging at the end of a fast, and travel a good distance. Someday I'll learn the hidden lesson of this - and stop nibbling on all those chocolate chip cookies between meals.

My most memorable Yom Kippur was one of the first I ever kept. It was the early 1980's in Oklahoma, and I hurried to down dinner at Taco Grande just before sunset. Yes, I had spicy Mexican food on a deadline - and 23 hours later at the end
of the fast, I felt nearly dead as a result.

(I'm not exaggerating about this. I was crawling on the apartment floor and throwing up in the final hour of that fast. Looking back, I guess I needed humbling much more than I realized.)

Did you hear about the major league baseball player who keeps Yom Kippur? Shawn Green of the Dodgers plans to miss at least one game this weekend for Atonement, even though Los Angeles is fighting for first place near the end of the season. Green's teammates may be hoping Barry Bonds converts to Islam, and makes a pilgrimage to Mecca.

How ironic that on the Day of Atonement, auditions will be held downtown to find a Columbus contender for "American Idol." Instead, believers will be at church or at home - being more like American IDLE.

So chew on these Thursday items for awhile, while I eat up and prepare my body for the weekend:

+ Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine announced he'll investigate whether other military bases pressured soldiers to buy expensive life insurance plans, like what happened at Fort Benning. So when do Benning's generals plan to add State Farm and Allstate to their off-limits list?

+ "What's New, Miriam?" on TV-16 spent a half-hour focusing on the Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. Miriam Tidwell showed she had a little knowledge about this topic - as she never asked any guest to reveal exactly where the river is kept. Jerry Laquire probably would have asked that.

+ Stuart Sappington won the Georgia Senior Amateur golf title at the Country Club of Columbus. Sappington broke a tie for the lead by hitting a hole-in-one from the 16th tee! Is he really from Alpharetta, Georgia - or the Republic of Georgia, and trying to make the next Ryder Cup team?

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, September 23, 2004



Hello, I'm Dan Rather. Well, I might as well be. I've fouled up enough things in the last few days that someone's probably asking the Drudge Report to demand my resignation.

You may have noticed a couple of corrected items in this blog this week, and that's bad enough. But the biggest blow yet came Wednesday, when I discovered I'd spread incorrect information at my regular job. At least it wasn't that chain letter
spam about Microsoft awarding money for an e-mail test....

Here's what happened: someone called my office twice recently with important information to pass on. I took down the important information, passed it on - but it was really meant for people in another state! This is what happens when people
move around the country, but never change their cell phone area codes.

The caller with the important information was confused because several states in the South have the same county names. So many Sumters, so many Clays, so many Lees - which I think are preferred around here over Levi's....

I tried to make sure the caller's important information applied to our area, and she said it did. But I blew it, because I neglected to double-check other sources to make sure it's accurate. I suppose that's why many people listen to two or three conservative talk shows a day.

If I simply had gone online to check the caller's important information, I should have discovered it did not apply to our area. But I believed the caller was accurate. After all, isn't the customer always right -- unless you're the former Cat
Stevens, and you're trying to fly to the U.S.?

With the CBS News debacle about Alabama National Guard records fresh in my mind, I decided during the day Wednesday I'd offer to resign from my job. Since so many co-workers want Dan Rather to quit, I might as well join him at the unemployment office.

(During the lunch hour Wednesday, I was even talking like that woman in the Office Depot commercial shopping for supplies. Several times I said to myself, "I am SO suspended....")

To make sure false rumors didn't spread about what I was doing, I offered my resignation as publicly as I could - well, short of doing it on the business phone intercom....

I offered to resign at an afternoon meeting on the job - but a surprising thing happened. Everyone around me said it wasn't necessary! Why is it that so many people who talk a hard line actually display a soft heart?

One supervisor explained I was different from Dan Rather's case at CBS News because no one was harmed, and I had not tried to defame anyone. Imagine if the caller had given me a hot tip about Bobby Peters....

I'm grateful that the bosses decided NOT to accept my resignation. But I still feel like Dan Rather, because I ran with information without double-checking it first. Now I know how the Fort Benning generals felt when they banned that closed

This is why I haven't joined the online and conservative crowd, pointing fingers at Dan Rather over those National Guard documents. I've spread incorrect information at times myself, usually without meaning to do it. Take the times I've
answered October 31st greetings with "Happy Halloween," even though I can't stand it.

But before you point a finger at ME as well, listen to Bill Cosby's advice for a moment and "turn the mirror around." If you've ever spread incorrect information or rumors about anything, aren't YOU also a Dan Rather? And if you were fan of the old game show "To Tell the Truth"....

E-MAIL UPDATE: As if I wasn't feeling forlorn enough about all this, look at what the Wednesday e-mail brought me:

I NEVER stated or suggested that Chief Dozier has not been able to improve the police force. All I stated was that Chief Dozier was an excellent leader who had to deal with the obstacles of a manpower shortage and poor compensation which led to moral issues brought on by city leaders. I think it is important, if your goal with your website is to inform people, that you give them correct information.


Randy Robertson


Fraternal Order of Police

Karl F. Eidam Lodge #9

Memo to self: don't drive over the speed limit for awhile - ANYWHERE in Columbus....

Thank you, Mr. Robertson, for clearing up any misunderstanding of what you said. This puts you ahead of Police Chief Willie Dozier - who still won't talk on tape at all.

(At least Randy Robertson didn't challenge one small part of what we wrote Tuesday. He IS a blog reader....)

Yet this clarification raises a question - wouldn't a fully-staffed, well-paid Columbus Police Department BE an improvement? At least the morale on the force would be better. And imagine how the unemployment rate would go down -- because officers would open up those second jobs for former mill workers with none.

Related to that: has Chief Willie Dozier been able to meet the concerns of law enforcement organizations such as the Fraternal Order of Police? You could blame Columbus Council for tying his hands. But look at what happened what Marshal Ken Suddeth asked for donations for new weapons

Oh yes, about the "goal of our website." That should be in the top-right corner of the blog when it comes on your screen. Sometimes what we write may inform you. Many times we try to amuse you. And hopefully we don't make you so upset that you break your keyboard in two across your knee.

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2004



Phenix City officials admitted Tuesday crime has increased on Sundays, since alcohol sales on that day became legal last year. The timing of this announcement couldn't have been better - four weeks after city elections.

The Phenix City Council decided to change the rules for Sunday liquor sales a bit. It won't be allowed at nightclubs anymore. This means guys will have to romance their gals on Sundays the old-fashioned way - with one milkshake and two

One business which will be affected by this rule change is the "Red Barn Game Room" on the 280 Bypass. The management admits it's upset with the Phenix City Council barring Sunday alcohol sales there. But look on the bright side - the pinball scores are likely to go up.

WRBL talked Tuesday night about the change with the manager of Phenix City's "O and J Lounge." Or as it now will be called on Sundays, the "OJ Lounge" - as in orange juice.

(Maybe these nightclubs should organize a protest of some sort. Get together with the used car lot owners, and you'll change Phenix City for the better.)

Phenix City Council members still will allow restaurants to sell alcohol on Sundays, under the "50 percent rule." More than half the business's income will have to come from food. And you can guess what that probably means - smaller portions, bigger prices.

Phenix City motels also will be allowed to keep selling alcohol on Sundays. After all, it would be too difficult for maids to knock on doors at 2:00 a.m. to lock up the mini-fridges.

Related to this, Phenix City police announced Tuesday they've suspended the licenses for Ann's Sports Bar downtown. I'd forgotten there even was a sports bar near the river. This may explain some of the weirdos I've seen walk inside Piggly
Wiggly, in the same shopping center.

Phenix City Police Chief Preston Robinson says they've recorded more than 80 criminal complaints at Ann's Sports Bar in the last year. Perhaps high-definition TV's inside made the hockey fights and boxing cards too lifelike.

Perhaps it isn't fair to connect them, but Ann's was located right down Third Avenue from the Riverview Apartments. With this sports bar closing, I hope the disputes between neighbors don't move back into the parking lot.

So with all this news, what's a Phenix Citian to do for fun? Don't worry - officials also revealed Tuesday they're negotiating to bring an International House of Pancakes to town! If the city can convince IHOP to show first-run movies during breakfast, Mayor-Elect Jeff Hardin will claim victory.

(So some of you Phenix City residents don't become confused -- just because it's called "International" House of Pancakes, that does NOT mean they'll serve a Yankee version.)

The proposed IHOP would be built across the street from Phenix City's Wal-Mart SuperCenter. And with a Zaxby's restaurant only a short walk away, this could become East Alabama's version of the Mall of America.

This reminds me of a question which has bothered me for years. So often I hear people talk about products "selling like hotcakes." But how fast do hotcakes sell, really? In Columbus and Phenix City, it would seem waffles do much better....

Now let's see what other great opportunities presented themselves Tuesday:

+ Ground was broken for the new National Infantry Museum and Heritage Park on South Lumpkin Road. The complex will have 200 acres - which is just about the right size for a morning run during basic training.

(The complex will have more than the National Infantry Museum. I'm hearing it could have an IMAX theater. And planners will include space for a parade ground -- a perfect place for SOA Watch protesters to meet every November.)

+ Mayor Bob Poydasheff told WRBL he has someone in mind to replace Columbus Police Chief Willie Dozier, and he plans to present that name to the Council within two weeks. Before rumors start, let's settle one thing right now - I am NOT the "R.B." the Mayor probably has in mind.

+ The National Rifle Association presented a 30-minute "infomercial" on WLTZ. It found so many things wrong with John Kerry that you wonder why an N.R.A. member didn't speak up to object at his last wedding.

+ Mike Gaymon's guest on WDAK radio's "Viewpoint" was the general manager of the Columbus Catfish. Now that's perfect timing - to bring on a baseball team executive three weeks after the season ends, and six months before the next one.

+ Atlanta's baseball team announced plans for its own 24-hour cable channel called "Braves Vision." It promises to show classic games from years gone up - which will be a great opportunity to chart Don Sutton's receding hairline.

CORRECTED: + Chattahoochee Valley Community College scheduled an evening of "Georgia Championship Wrestling" for Thursday. But sadly, the card may not include the bout many Russell County residents really want to see - Cattie Epps and LeeAnn Horne-Jordan vs. Tillman Pugh and Al Howard.

+ Health officials revealed a Columbus man is recovering, after testing positive for the West Nile virus. This doesn't seem fair. For one thing, Columbus is on the EAST side of the river....

+ Instant Message to Dr. Robin Pennock: Congratulations on being appointed Deputy Superintendent of Muscogee County Schools. Does this mean you'll get that $300,000 home in Russell County?

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, September 21, 2004



Is he shy? Is he embarrassed about something? Why won't Columbus Police Chief Willie Dozier talk to TV stations on camera about his upcoming retirement? If his school district employee wife wants to write a statement for him to read, we won't object....

Chief Willie Dozier puzzled some local journalists Monday, by refusing to talk on tape about his retirement plans. Maybe he's following the example of that other law officer who's been in the news this year -- but why copy David Glisson?

Willie Dozier makes it sound like his departure October 31 is no big deal. But c'mon now - he's been in charge of one of Georgia's largest police forces for almost five years. And it's really not his fault if most of those officers moved to metro Atlanta for more money....

Blog reader Randy Robertson of the Fraternal Order of Police suggested Monday Willie Dozier's leaving because he hasn't been able to improve the police force. Columbus Council turned down one request for 25 new officers -- perhaps hoping 25 new neighborhoods would hold drug marches instead.

. It's interesting to compare the approach of some of the "top cops" in this area. Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones has been willing to talk with reporters for years, and handles it very well. Yet leading law officers in Columbus seem unwilling to go "on the record" unless their Miranda rights are read first.

Think about it - Police Chief Willie Dozier won't talk on TV about his retirement. Sheriff Ralph Johnson didn't want to comment much about the Kenneth Walker case. So it's no wonder when Marshal Ken Suddeth announced the acquisition of
new weapons, some Columbus Councilors demanded an investigation.

The retirement announcement by Chief Willie Dozier raises questions about his successor. Does Mayor Bob Poydasheff promote from within the force? Does he conduct a national search for a chief, which has caused controversy in Montgomery? Or does the Mayor simply post something at

If Mayor Poydasheff chooses a chief from within the Columbus Police Department, the top contender could be Assistant Chief Rick Boren. That choice has one hidden advantage - the fact that wife Nancy Boren works at the Election Board, and the Mayor's term is up in two years.

One issue which could bubble up in the search for a police chief is the race issue. Willie Dozier is the first African-American chief in Columbus history. Will civil rights groups call "even up," and demand that job stay African-American for the next 165 years?

BLOG UPDATE: Monday was a day to bask in the glow of Kansas's big double-overtime soccer win over Auburn. But two things tempered my enthusiasm. It was a very busy work day - and besides, practically no one around me cared.

In our last posting I mentioned the sign at the entrance to Auburn's soccer complex - where no food, drinks, pets or weapons were allowed. Yet a few people brought in large cups of soda, and one person carried in a chihuahua! So much for today's college students being more conservative and traditional....

One of the few Kansas fans with me in the crowd at Sunday's women's soccer game planned the trip to Auburn long ago. He lives near Fort Walton Beach, Florida - so he was grateful his home escaped serious damage from Hurricane Ivan. By comparison, Pensacola may gather enough wood to set a world record for the biggest marshmallow roast.

After Kansas beat Auburn in the second overtime, a Tiger fan along the rail next to the field twice said the Jayhawks "got lucky today." Lucky?! Those psychologists are right - grieving people go through a denial stage first.

Now let's face some other facts, which we learned Monday:

+ Gas stations around downtown Columbus hiked their prices about ten cents a gallon. Did THAT many people from Florida evacuate here, because of the hurricane?

+ On the other hand, area Dairy Queen restaurants are offering FREE ice cream cones today! All you have to do is make a donation to the Children's Miracle Network. If this seems unfair, remember something - hardly anyone leaves a tip at Dairy Queen the rest of the year.

+ Instant Message to Alabama quarterback Brodie Croyle: The timing of your injury was really clever - but I regret to tell you Miss America 2005 Diedre Downs wants to be a CHILDREN'S doctor.

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, September 20, 2004



Before we get to our main topic - our best wishes to Columbus Police Chief Willie Dozier. The city's first African-American police chief revealed in Sunday's Ledger-Enquirer he plans to retire soon. That way, he'll finally be free to admit if he thinks the Sheriff's Department is full of racially-profiling rednecks.

It's easier than you might think for a white guy to feel like a minority group. I certainly felt that way Sunday - when I went to Auburn University, and rooted for the visiting team.

I didn't realize until last Friday that my old alma mater Kansas was bringing a women's soccer team to Auburn. In fact, I'm not sure I realized Kansas even HAD a women's soccer team. When I attended Kansas, we did well to have intermural
soccer teams....

The first time I knew Kansas was playing soccer at Auburn came when I checked the Auburn web site, to see if the football game was still on for Saturday. After all, Auburn cancelled Friday's soccer match with Nevada-Las Vegas - and we all know how popular "Rebels" are in the South.

"You ought to go," a co-worker said to me when I mentioned Kansas was coming to Auburn. I told him there are plenty of things I "ought" to do. For one thing, he hasn't seen the stacks of magazines I haven't had time to read lately.

"It's free," the co-worker told me about the women's soccer matches. "They're that desperate for a crowd." Now this I couldn't believe. An Auburn sports event that's FREE? Why, it cost 20 dollars simply to park close to the football stadium on Saturday.

My old loyalties took over at that point - and I decided I had to make the trip Sunday to Auburn. That's loyalties, plural. Kansas Jayhawk sports - and the fact that I haven't shopped for groceries at Kroger in three months.

I encountered a surprising traffic jam on the way to the soccer pitch. Downtown Auburn was jammed with cars Sunday, during the noon hour Central Time. The only place in Columbus with traffic that slow at that time on a Sunday is Fourth
Street Baptist Church, with cars double-parked for more than a block.

Apparently the Auburn students were out for a Sunday drive because they were still savoring the Saturday win over L.S.U. The "rolls" still were on the trees at Toomer's Corner - and for all I knew, young fans may have been cruising ever since the final whistle, 18 hours before.

Thankfully the crowd of cars cleared once I passed Toomer's Corner. I was growing concerned the long line of cars was heading for the soccer field - and I was being set up for an ambush.

The Auburn soccer field is located not far from Jordan-Hare Stadium, but the two places are very different. For one thing, the soccer field has an old farm building overlooking it -- and the building doesn't have a single ad painted on it.

Sure enough, admission to the Kansas-Auburn soccer match was free. All you have to do is cross a bridge over a creek to reach the pitch. But a sign at the entrance warns no food, drinks, pets or weapons are allowed. That explains why no soccer fans from England were there.

By the way, Parkerson Mill Creek next to the soccer field was at a normal low level - so I guess Auburn University safely can have class again today....

(The only unusual thing I noticed in the creek was a big blue piece of wood. Did someone lose a ping-pong table when Hurricane Ivan came through?)

I looked around the crowd at the Auburn University soccer field, and quickly discovered I was a loner. No one else had on a Kansas cap or sweatshirt like I did. And the field only has bleachers on one side of it - so I couldn't even go to the other side, and get autographs of all the players.

Undaunted by my situation, I took a seat and started cheering for Kansas anyway. I quickly discovered I was making more noise than 90 percent of the fans in the bleachers. Perhaps that's because I didn't have a hangover from Saturday night's
post-game parties.

There aren't any cheerleaders on the "touch lines" at Auburn women's soccer games, rooting on the Tigers. Aubie the mascot didn't show up, either. Maybe he was committed to appear at a Sunday church service, to help illustrate the story of
Noah's ark.

So during the first half of the Kansas-Auburn game, I did a few short "rock chalk" chants as the Jayhawks tried to move forward. They had the better chances at scoring - but one led to a yellow card, when an attacker collided with Auburn goalie Megan Rivera. For you female readers: the cards women's soccer players get are a canary shade of yellow.

Halftime came and neither side had scored. So I walked back to my car for a swig of soda during the break. Since the game had no tickets, no "pass out" rules were in effect - and you might as well go have some tailgate food every time a
player is injured.

Not until halftime did I meet someone else who's a Kansas graduate. He didn't have on any Jayhawk gear - instead wearing a Pebble Beach golf course sportshirt. Well, that WOULD make him less of a target after the game ended....

"One of my buddies just donated two-and-a-half million" to Kansas, the man told me. "Another buddy is about to give a million for the second time."

This talk of high-rolling donors was far out of my league. "I'm still working on my first HALF-million."

As second-half play unfolded, I figured out what made this Auburn crowd different. Some students were there - but so were parents with young children, especially little girls. For a young family, any kind of free entertainment truly is a blessing.

I saw something in the second half I'd never seen at a soccer game before. A Kansas player threw the soccer ball in from the sideline by somersaulting - really a forward handstand, before the making the throw. This is what happens when a college has no women's gymnastics program.

(Either that, or this young woman must have enrolled at Kansas after appearing in the cast of "Mighty Morphin Power Rangers....")

Auburn began to have the better of the play as the second half wore on - but after 90 minutes, the game remained scoreless. In baseball, this is called an exciting "pitcher's duel." For too many baseball fans, this score in soccer is called a reason not to watch.

A tie game in college soccer means two ten-minute "sudden death" overtime periods. In the first overtime, a woman finally spoke up in the bleachers above me: "Please, somebody score." I didn't bother to ask if the woman forgot to bring
sunscreen to the game.

CORRECTED: I'm thrilled to report there was a happy ending in the second overtime. Kansas scored at 102:34 for a 1-0 win over Auburn! That may help the Jayhawks keep a top ten ranking.-- something I don't think the K.U. football team has had in about 20 years.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We have more to say about the Auburn soccer match, but we're out of time for today. Watch for that Tuesday.)

Now other quick kicks from Sunday:

+ President Bush toured the damage from Hurricane Ivan, spending some time in Orange Beach, Alabama. His aides obviously briefed him well about this trip - because the President never mentioned the city's ruined orange crop once.

+ A friend of mine at church revealed something strange about the recent storms. He says Hurricane Frances put half of Waverly Hall in the dark for awhile. Then Hurricane Ivan put the OTHER half of Waverly Hall in the dark for awhile. Now
the town is even - and hoping Jeanne isn't the tiebreaker.

+ The Atlanta Falcons remained unbeaten by stopping St. Louis. In a post-game radio interview, Coach Jim Mora Jr. declared Jay Feeley "is not a kicker. Jay Feeley is a football player." Maybe that's what's wrong with college football this
fall. Too many football players are kicking extra points.

+ Instant Message to Timberline Homes of Opelika: That is SO cruel of you - that sign you have outside promoting an "after-hurricane sale."

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, September 19, 2004


Saturday was a day which found many closed things re-opening in Columbus. For instance, gates were opened on Chattahoochee River dams to handle floodwaters from the Atlanta area. We're waiting for word about how many kayaks passed through.

The higher river level left the Phenix City Amphitheater flooded - hopefully cleaning away all the sinful stuff which happened there over the summer, like music concerts....

The Columbus side of the Riverwalk did NOT appear flooded, so I went for a Saturday morning walk there. The stairs to Golden Park were open -- but red tape blocked the bottom of the stairs at the Civic Center. Only later did I realize why this was probably done. Animals from the Shrine Circus may have been lying in wait to eat me.

The obedient side of me refused to climb over the red tape, even to walk up the flights of stairs. To set a good example, I'd turn around and walk back to where I entered. Besides, an even tan on each arm looks much better....

Only one thing delayed my turning around at the Civic Center. A woman was walking my direction with her beagle - a beagle rambling around without a leash, which suddenly decided to make me the center of its attention. It walked up to me and started sniffing my legs. I stood there wondering if I looked like a fire hydrant or something.

I tried to dismiss the dog by holding up my hands and showing a grit-my-teeth grin. The beagle backed off, and began running around me in semicircles - all the time staring at me. It's great practice if I ever have to deal with Hollywood

"He wants to play," said the woman who by this point had walked by the stairway. The beagle kept circling me - totally ignoring the Civic Center red tape. It turns out we had not one rule-breaker here, but two.

The woman kept walking east, but the dog wouldn't let me go. It kept circling me, barking on occasion. I kept my position at the bottom of the stairs, turning around only to keep the beagle in my sight. If it lifted its leg, I was ready to do
the same - only to kick away.

"Are you afraid of it?" the woman finally asked. I refused to answer the question, instead offering what seemed to me the more obvious one.

"Are you aware of the new animal control rules in Columbus?"


"The dog is supposed to be on a leash."

"It's OK. I have my leash here." It was in her hand, it was purple - and it had nothing attached to it at all. She might as well have been carrying keys to a car she traded in five years ago.

"Perhaps I'm misunderstanding the rule," I told the woman, "but I think the dog is supposed to be ON the leash." It's sort of like explaining to the "Click It Or Ticket" cop that your seat belt IS buckled - and you're sitting on top of it.

"I'll put the dog on the leash," the woman said. Then she turned around on the Riverwalk, tracked the beagle down and put the leash on it. At last, they had made a connection - and I was no longer a candidate for brunch.

Long-time blog readers will recall I've had other encounters with dog-walkers on the Riverwalk, who let dogs run all over the place and think merely holding a leash is enough. Do these adults let their children get away with this at busy
supermarkets, too?

Since I didn't answer the woman's "fear" question, I suppose I should settle it here. If a dog is running loose around me, I do get a bit concerned. Enough stories have made the news of dogs attacking people, and even killing them. At least during a hurricane, I have time to hide in a shelter if I wish.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Our comments on the LOST (Local Option Sales Tax) last Sunday brought a surprising reply, from Fraternal Order of Police President Randy Robertson:

To find out about the F.O.P. and their support of this tax please go to

Thank You

Thanks to YOU, sir, for alerting us to a web site which apparently only came online September 1. Don't be confused by that name, though. The Fraternal Order of Police is NOT taking over a TV station.

You have to click on the "President's Page" to find details of the mid-August Fraternal Order of Police vote to back the LOST. Randy Robertson writes Mayor Bob Poydasheff has promised to "solve all of the F.O.P. concerns." Maybe the Mayor will ask Oprah Winfrey to provide a free set of new squad cars.

Randy Robertson explains the Columbus Chamber of Commerce acted as a liaison with Columbus Council, to get an assurance LOST money would provide for "financial needs of law enforcement officers." Aren't there professional negotiators on the SWAT team to handle this sort of thing?

In addition, the F.O.P. web site reveals the Chamber of Commerce plans to do a study of the wages and benefits for all Columbus government employees. Maybe now we'll find out why the operator of the Government Access Channel makes more money than a police captain.

Randy Robertson promises the Fraternal Order of Police will continue its campaign for improved public safety benefits. For one thing, the F.O.P. wants "an end to Compression." Exactly how victims of muggings would have their bruises treated remains unclear.

Let's see what else we need to catch up on this weekend:

+ Alabama's Diedre Downs won the Miss America pageant. It HAD to be those eyes - which seemed to keep staring into the distance, like she was looking for the perfect man to date. Too bad I was stuck at home, watching television....

The Miss America final showdown came down to Miss Alabama versus Miss Louisiana. Given how the L.S.U.-Auburn game turned out earlier in the day, I figured the judges would give Miss Louisiana a couple of extra points.

(Miss Georgia made the list of ten semifinalists at Miss America, making this the best showing for our region in years. Maybe we need more hurricanes to move through, to get sympathy votes.)

+ Alabama Governor Bob Riley gave a pep talk in the wake of Hurricane Ivan - declaring, "Nothing can defeat an Alabamian!" Obviously he hasn't been watching Crimson Tide football games the last couple of seasons....

+ Columbus shut out Jordan in high school football 19-0, and the WOKS announcers counted only 27 Jordan players in uniform. Either a lot of Red Jacket players are injured, or the band suddenly is a lot more cool.

+ Kendrick spanked Spencer 33-14 at McClung Memorial Stadium. I walked by this game at quarter-time, and was stunned by how empty the stands were. After all, the students had two extra days to work on their homework....

(I look at empty stadiums like that for local games, and can't help wondering if the presumed interest in high school football around here is overstated. Golden Park seemed to have more fans on Thirty Thursdays.)

+ Fencing already is up around the west end of South Commons. Either preparations for the Festival are under way very early - or the Shrine Circus is concerned an elephant might escape.

+ Instant Message to the woman who called to express concern about Columbus flooding during a hurricane: We're 396 feet above sea level - so the storm surge would have a VERY long way to go.

COMING MONDAY: Look out, Auburn, my Kansas Jayhawks are coming....

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, September 16, 2004


(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We realize Hurricane Ivan has caused a lot of disruption for a lot of people. Our sympathies to those of you with repairs to make or power still out - and we suggest you bookmark this post for that time when "we'll all look back on this and laugh.")

You know there's a hurricane threatening the Columbus area when you walk into a restaurant for dinner - and EVERY TV screen in the place is showing the Weather Channel. Either something serious is coming, or everyone is bored by September baseball.

The Columbus area felt some of the force of Hurricane Ivan Wednesday night and Thursday. The rain sometimes fell so hard that it seemed the entire city was moving through the Fourth Avenue Car Wash.

Hurricane Ivan was so powerful that more than half of Alabama Power's customers statewide lost electricity. That's 700,000 homes and businesses - a lot of people to demand the company reach a contract agreement with electrical workers

Alabama Power warned in advance some customers might lose power for two weeks because of Hurricane Ivan. Thankfully, this is a state where an electric can opener still is considered a luxury item.

Alabama sports officials prepared for Hurricane Ivan by cancelling all high school football games statewide this weekend. Many families will need that time for more important things - like driving their RV's to Auburn or Tuscaloosa right before
Saturday's kickoffs.

Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum in Auburn was turned into an evacuation shelter. The Red Cross was prepared to use dorm rooms, in case the arena reached capacity - but as we all know, that only happens when Kentucky's basketball team comes to town.

The Canterbury Nursing Home in Phenix City lost power for several hours - which allowed residents to talk about the "good old days" when hardly anyone had electricity at all.

So how was my day Thursday, as Ivan caused a fuss all around? Don't worry, I kept track for you....

8:20 a.m.: I head out the door to go to breakfast, amid light rain and gusty wind. The church I attend still is planning a special "Feast of Trumpets" service for mid-afternoon, so I'm treating it like a regular worship day. Besides, listening to FM religious radio means you never hear a school cancellation.

(That reminds me: Muscogee County schools are CLOSED Friday and Saturday! Hopefully this announcement will reduce the dozens of calls to radio stations -- maybe by two or three.)

A few small scattered limbs are in the streets of the Historic District - and one trash can is tipped over along First Avenue. Those jail inmates on garbage duty can be SO sloppy and careless....

I'd picked the spot for this special breakfast a long time ago. I've heard a lot about Booth's Corner Café in Phenix City - but hardly any cars are parked outside when I arrive. When school is cancelled in Phenix City, it seems like the entire town sleeps in until 9:00 a.m.

There's only one couple eating in the restaurant, and Fox News Channel is showing reporters live along the Gulf Coast on the TV. Jonathan Serrie looks like he's on a video-phone - yet he says lights are still on in downtown Mobile. Truly that's a Democratic city. They won't let Fox News use electric plugs.

(By the way: if Fox News Channel is so pro-Republican, why did they have reporters along the Gulf Coast at all? You'd think conservative reporters would be as far inland as Montgomery.)

French toast is served by the one-armed chef/manager - and then the power flickers for a moment, but stays on. "Thank you, Jesus," says a woman in the corner booth. Perhaps she only had a credit card for paying the bill.

As I eat breakfast at the counter, who should walk in Booth's Corner Café but Thomas Weise - the best-known Catholic priest in the area. But the power keeps flickering occasionally off and on, so I'm not sure if he crossed himself before walking inside.

"You'd think being next door to the power company, they could keep your power on," Pastor Weise says to the manager.

"Yeah," the manager answers. "I also thought I could get a discount on my bill."

The Booth's Corner Café manager says he called Lowe's Monday about an electric generator, but "they just laughed at me." I wonder how many businesses became so desperate, they thought about hooking up mice and treadmills.

Thomas Weise recalls 25 years ago this week, when Hurricane Frederic ripped through south Alabama. He served with a Catholic charity, which helped evacuees at the Mobile Civic Center. So mark your calendar now - when September 2029 comes, take your vacation somewhere else.

I count 11 times the power flickers off and on during breakfast - yet only later do I realize Pastor Thomas Weise never once said thanks to Jesus when the power stayed on, while the earlier woman did. So who IS the more religious person of
the two?

10:45 a.m.: As I rest at home, the first storm warning I've heard today comes from the National Weather Service computer system. The voice on the radio these days sounds very human-like - but someone should tell it the Lee County seat is not called "Oh-PELL-ika."

A tornado warning is issued after a possible tornado is spotted on radar in the "Holy Trinity" area of Russell County. Huh? You mean there's still something religious in Alabama the atheists haven't removed?

11:05 a.m.: The tornado warning siren sounds at South Commons. I move under my computer room desk for cover - only to find I don't completely fit. So much for feeling so good about losing ten pounds.

11:50 a.m.: After a second tornado warning ends, the phone rings. The Local Elder from church tells me the special service is cancelled. And here I was all set to point fingers at everyone else, for lacking faith and wimping out.

The decision to call off the service goes against what I was praying in the hours before. Doesn't the Bible have examples where God protected His people, when they stepped out in faith and didn't show fear? And this was well before someone
invented mobile homes....

Since my power is still on, I decide to go online. The denomination I attend has several congregations which offer "cybercast" services - but the one I visit in Indiana won't let me in due to some kind of "missing component." I'm paying Real Networks $9.95 a month, and they left something out?!

So here's a special Holy Day for the church I attend, and I have no place to worship. I decide to listen to various radio preachers during the day - and they could get the offering money my congregation didn't want.

12:50 p.m.: During one of these radio programs, I decide I should eat out for lunch - just as I would have gone out to dinner after the scheduled afternoon service. If I wait until 5:00, all the nice restaurants might be closed. And on a special day like today, a bag of Cheese Krystals doesn't seem quite fitting.

1:00 p.m.: "You're gonna get wet!" says one of my neighbors safely on a porch as I head out the dinner for lunch. I have on a jacket with a hood. He offers me an umbrella - but I point out the wind will only blow it the other direction and tear it apart.

(I'm foolish, you say? Well, I was still being faithful even if my church congregation was not. To borrow a phrase, I won't let any hurricane steal my joy. Panhandlers maybe, but not hurricanes....)

Broadway has plenty of restaurants, I reason, so I'll pick a place there for lunch. I drive past Minnie's at Eighth and First -- which appears to be open, but probably has its smallest lunchtime crowd in months. When you can actually drive down First Avenue at lunch hour without worrying about hitting cars, that's small.

But there's a problem with my choice of a restaurant area. Almost all the stores along Broadway from 10th to 12th Street seem to be closed, with fire hoses on the street. I don't notice any damage - so perhaps this is the city's way to make sure The Loft doesn't become a giant swimming pool.

While many restaurants are closed, an old reliable remains open - the "bus station" Country's near 14th and Broadway. But the city's "streetscape" project makes me go practically around a block to park. Officials should be thankful hardly any TSYS employees live downtown.

After parking my car, I race for Country's in strong rain and wind - but when I reach shelter, I'm disappointed. It's the drive-through lane, and the two women standing outside are NOT guarding a door. Some smokers can't kick a habit, even in the worst of weather.

Through a muddy patch I walk to the FRONT door of Country's - and several people are eating there, but the restaurant isn't full. It turns out Country's plans to close at 3:00 p.m., because TSYS shut down for the day. So can we all pay our next credit card bills a couple of days late?

For some reason, the financial channel CNN-FN is on the big TV at Country's. But at a diner's request, it's changed to the Weather Channel. At the risk of losing some fans, I have to say it - drop-dead gorgeous meteorologist Alexandra Steele can show me a "warm front" anytime.

(In all the restaurants I've visited since Wednesday evening, I must note none of them had a Columbus station on. When bad weather comes, "First Alert" winds up in second place.)

One of the commercial breaks on the Weather Channel promoted United Methodist Churches, with their slogan: "Open hearts, open doors, open minds." Well, not quite - St. Luke's closed its school program for the storm.

The barbecue at Country's is as good as always - and as I leave, I tell the cashier it's definitely a "memorable day." She reluctantly agrees. Perhaps she only brought an umbrella, and didn't think about those high winds.

2:30 p.m.: At service time for our congregation, the rain almost has stopped and the wind isn't blowing too hard. I resist the urge to call the Local Elder and say, "I told you so." We're supposed to be "under authority" in this congregation.

3:15 p.m.: I post a few items to a church-related web site I have, and check for other online services. A San Diego congregation offers one at 5:30. Los Angeles has one at 6:00. I never guessed going to church would become like going to the multiplex.

4:05 p.m.: While waiting for one of these services to start, Pastor Terry Jefferson's broadcast begins on WHAL-AM. He says the only names given for churches in the Bible have cities in them, from the book of Revelation. Then why is HIS church called "Word of Revelation Ministries" - with no Columbus in the name at all?

Pastor Terry Jefferson goes on to say whether believers drink or smoke is "up to you" - then later calls it a shame that so many preachers today drink and smoke. His message was against church division, yet sometimes he sounds like his own
mind is in two parts.

4:30 p.m.: I call up an online service from Minnesota - but I show up in the middle of it. It turns out the 3:30 starting time on the computer screen was adjusted for my time zone from Central Time. Once again, you can't trust everything you read on the Internet.

The sermon speaker talks at length about the risk our country faces from climate change, a potential "super-volcano" off the west coast of Africa and mad cow disease. Truly a trip to church can offer comfort from stormy times....

5:30 p.m.: It's still relatively calm at the end of the online service, so I walk down the street to Spectrum for a snack. The Villa Nova package store has its mailbox blown off the wall, and seems to have part of its sign blown off as well. Across the street, it's a good thing baseball season is over - because Golden Park might have wet grounds for a month.

Inside Spectrum, an attendant says: "No one in Phenix City has any power." I tell her during the morning, some people did. She seems rather stunned by this. Maybe she meant the new mayor hasn't taken office yet.

(WXTX "News at Ten" reported about 6,000 Phenix City customers were without power Thursday night. That compares to about 12,000 in Auburn - apparently proving it pays for Phenix City to have only a two-year college.)

6:12 p.m.: Finally the power flickers at home for the first time. But it stays on all evening, despite a few momentary glitches at awkward times - such as right after I turn on the computer, meaning I have to let it restart for six minutes.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Do you have a humorous "Ivan adventure" to share? Please e-mail us, and we'll share it with our readers....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004



Auburn University has cancelled classes for the rest of the week, because of Hurricane Ivan. But as of Tuesday night, the Saturday football game against L.S.U. was still on. That's what I like about Auburn - its priorities are in order.

People across South Alabama have plenty of reason to be concerned about Hurricane Ivan. But c'mon - no classes for three days at Auburn? Is Interim President Ed Richardson's budget-cutting becoming THAT desperate?

The forecast track on Tuesday night indicated Ivan could plow right up Interstate 65, from Mobile to Montgomery. If Federal Judge Myron Thompson is reading this - there still could be time to change your mind, and let that Ten
Commandments monument go back in the rotunda.

Governor Bob Riley ordered residents of five Alabama coastal cities to evacuate Tuesday. If people aren't careful, "Orange Beach" may wind up more of a Seaweed Green.

People even were ordered to evacuate some mobile homes in Chambers County and Eufaula. The homes might not be strong enough to take hurricane-force winds - but if they start rolling over after they're blown off foundations, at least they WILL be mobile.

At least five evacuation shelters were open in east Alabama Tuesday night, for people escaping Ivan. They included Philadelphia Baptist Church in Smiths Station - which I guess leaves the Roy Martin Center in Phenix City for all the atheists.

Ivan still could bring heavy rain and strong winds to Columbus - so Tuesday night I took an inventory. I have one gallon of water, as well as a 12-pack of Dasani cans. There are seven cans of chili in the pantry. And if all else fails, there's an unlimited number of roaches in the kitchen I can catch and cook.

(True confession: the Dasani 12-pack is a gift from the Columbus Wardogs - handed out to journalists the day the arena football franchise first was announced several years ago. Wouldn't it be sad if the water lasts longer than the team?)

Some Columbus residents rushed to Wal-Mart and similar stores Tuesday, stocking up on essentials in case the hurricane moves this way. Bottled water and batteries sold quickly - and if Ivan doesn't show up here, bored teenagers can pour the water on the batteries for a cool chemistry experiment.

The church congregation I attend is two weeks away from an annual convention. Many of the members plan to head for Panama City Beach, so they're thankful Ivan may be heading west of there. And if the hurricane comes ashore in Biloxi - well, that'll teach those sinners to have casino gambling.

Ivan is nothing to laugh at, you say? OK, let's try some other topics:

+ Rainbow/PUSH leader Jesse Jackson spoke to students at Columbus State University. He urged them to register for the November election by saying, "Vote for lower tuition!" Someone should tell Dr. Jackson the Georgia Governor isn't up for re-election this year.

(WRBL showed two guys outside the C.S.U. Lumpkin Center backing President Bush, with a giant cardboard cutout of him. If it's cardboard and not a blow-up doll, are these guys REALLY better off today than they were four years ago?)

+ The Ledger-Enquirer went before the Georgia Supreme Court, asking for the release of some evidence in the Kenneth Walker case. You'd think after nine months, the newspaper would have some sort of "undisclosed source" who would leak these things.

+ Shaw High School softball coach Debbie Ball was among five people named to the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Well, it's about time! A sports hall of fame HAS to have a "Ball," to even exist....

+ Instant Message to the two tired soldiers I outran for several blocks on the Riverwalk Tuesday morning: I don't mean to rub it in - but my age is now 46, and my weight is still above 190 pounds.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $1.66 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... batteries as low as 39 cents with a coupon at Walgreens.... but why did the $1 McChicken sandwich disappear from the downtown McDonald's?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: We'll probably have no entry Thursday, as we mark the Biblical "Feast of Trumpets." Please stay safe from the storm....)

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, September 14, 2004



We're reversing our usual order today. Before we get to the main topic, we simply MUST comment briefly on several other things:

+ Since I mentioned it for Bobby Peters, I must be evenhanded - there's now a "Suddeth for Marshal" campaign sign posted on the outside wall of the "Boom Boom Room." Of course, Ken Suddeth can do that with a clear conscience. Deputy marshals don't raid places such as this.

+ I was shocked - SHOCKED! - to read online Monday night that Rich's-Macy's will drop the "Rich's" from its name. My old joke about entering Peachtree Mall with "Rich's" and going out with only "Penney's" is about to go out the window.

Rich's and Macy's were merged by Federated Department Stores several years ago - and now the company has decided to call all its stores Macy's. Next thing you know, these New York Yankees will try to take the sugar out of sweet tea.

Rich's Department Stores are more an "Atlanta thing," I suppose. But I used to shop at Rich's quite a bit - and I can name you at least one CNN anchor who bought "Finale on Five" discount items downtown and wore them on the air. Which I guess says something about CNN salaries, doesn't it?!

Macy's certainly will be a classy-sounding name at Peachtree Mall, to go with Dillard's and Parisian. Now if we could just find a fancy-named buyer for "Dollar Tree"....

+ The Chattahoochee Valley Regional Library System decided Monday NOT to close the Lumpkin branch. So which one will get axed instead - the SOUTH Lumpkin branch? As in Road?

Some people say there's nothing for children to do in Lumpkin, besides visit the library. There's no city park, no playground, no video stores - and apparently no parent with a big backyard for playing ball.

The local library system thought about closing the Lumpkin library because teenagers were causing trouble there, and only one full-time librarian was on the staff. Maybe this librarian should go down the road, borrow an old-time whip from
Westville, and keep these rabble-rousers in line.

Lumpkin residents decided to volunteer their time to keep the library open and staffed. Now that's the community spirit! So who will be next -- and buy a basketball goal at Wal-Mart, so the children can get some exercise?

The plan is to hire a second staff librarian in Lumpkin - but whoever takes the job will need a high school education, and be willing to work for less than eight dollars an hour. The way some residents describe this town, the high school education might be the biggest hurdle.

A person who attended a Monday public hearing tells me one man made a BIG deal about the use of jail inmates to clean the Lumpkin Library. If he thinks that makes the library unsafe, he'd better not come to Columbus. On trash days, he'll have to avoid entire neighborhoods.

AND NOW.... for our main event: Jesse Jackson of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition is scheduled to visit Columbus State University today. He's encouraging college students to vote in November. But this might be difficult at C.S.U., which doesn't pick a homecoming queen until basketball season.

Jesse Jackson is coming to town with the "Hope Is On the Way" tour -- as in the Democratic ticket. Some of us would feel more comfortable if a Republican was with him on this tour. You know, we just may have found Dylan Glenn's next

The Jesse Jackson visit to C.S.U. comes on the same night that Columbus city officials hold their second public forum on a proposed one-cent sales tax. Tonight's forum is at Baker Middle School - so if no supporters show up there, I guess we'll know where to find them.

LAUGHLINE FLASHBACK: Jesse Jackson's last visit to Columbus occurred three years ago. He visited a church near downtown, only three months after confessing to an adulterous affair. Here's how we reported on it in the LaughLine issue of 23-24 Apr 01:

Jesse Jackson came to our town Sunday afternoon. The organizers of his visit told the local newspaper they hoped to attract a mix of "labor, college students, young and older...." Strangely, they never mentioned a mix of black and white.

We'd guess about 200 people showed up to hear Jesse Jackson speak - and more than 90 percent of them were African-American. The "Euro-American" audience included a man wearing a seersucker jacket, a straw hat and a military-style "buzz cut." When WILL our police learn to disguise the undercover officers better?

Our white Mayor showed up to welcome Jesse Jackson to town, calling the visit an "honor." He said we should focus on Jackson's message, instead of tearing down the messenger. That sounds fair - but why didn't he talk at all about reducing the
number of single mothers?

Jesse Jackson and his tour buses arrived at a church near downtown about 55 minutes after the program started. They left about an hour later, before the closing song was finished. Either Jackson's Georgia tour has an incredibly tight schedule - or he's found a very clever way of avoiding reporters' questions.

But seriously: Jesse Jackson explained he was late because the tour buses missed a turn - and wound up taking a round trip around the metropolitan area. It's no wonder Jackson encourages young people to stay in school. That way, someday someone in his entourage will be able to read a map.

(Maybe also, someone would spell the song title on Jackson's program correctly - so in "We Shall Overcome," the "C" isn't capitalized.)

We were a bit surprised to learn Jesse Jackson's WIFE is on the bus tour with him. Jackson introduced her as "the mother of my five children...." Now hold on a minute! Is that child with Karin Stanford NOT his? Did the Rainbow/PUSH payoff
somehow change the father?

Jesse Jackson's 25-city tour of Georgia is called the "New South Tour for Hope, Healing and Shared Economic Security." How nice of Jackson to be concerned about those laid-off dot-com millionaires....

Jesse Jackson urged his audience to move beyond the "race gap" to the "resource gap." He says the South is filled with low-income workers, such as motel housekeepers. OK, then shouldn't Jackson tell us how much he tipped the motel maid last night?

Jesse Jackson IS a "Reverend" - so he asked "What Would Jesus Do" with the 1-point-5 trillion-dollar budget surplus. "Would he give half to the rich young ruler?" Maybe so. But has Jackson checked that OTHER part of the Bible - about taking from the guy who buried the talent, and giving it to the guy with ten? [Matt. 25:20-28]

Jesse Jackson argued it makes no sense to give part of the tax cut to Bill Gates - since he "lacks the capacity to spend the money." Now hold on a minute! There's all that Microsoft stock available right now, at reduced prices....

Jesse Jackson asked rhetorically how someone could lack health insurance, earn less than 10,000 dollars a year, live in a trailer, and somehow call themselves conservative. Two words, Dr. Jackson -- Home-Based Business.

Jesse Jackson couldn't resist bringing up last week's southern flag vote. "Mississippi voted to secede from the union again! One America, one flag shouldn't be that difficult." Will someone please remind him the vote was about the state flag -- NOT the Stars and Stripes?

(Jackson went on to ridicule Mississippi lawmakers for putting all their energy into the state flag issue, instead of jobs and education. Did we miss something -- or did Jackson WANT South Carolina's legislature to put some energy into a flag last

Jesse Jackson noted the success of African-American athletes - then dared to quip about the Masters: "If commentators had the vote, Tiger wouldn't have won!" We're not so sure about that. If certain white PLAYERS had the vote, maybe....

LaughLine tried to be merely an observing reporter during Jesse Jackson's speech. But then he asked everyone to stand who's at least 17-and-a-half years old, and NOT registered to vote. We had to get up - the only one in our section who did! Of course, Jackson never asked WHY we weren't registered -- such as our RELIGIOUS reasons, from the Bible....

(We'll get into those reasons another time, if anyone is interested. Let's just say we don't buy the argument, "If you don't vote, you can't complain." If the government takes our tax money without asking us, are we supposed to simply grin?)

Take it from us: Jesse Jackson is a very LOUD speaker. He spoke into the microphone with such force that big speakers near us rattled. And when he emphasized how many families have no health insurance, we got downright scared....

Jackson was introduced by a state House member, who declared him "the Moses of the 20th and the 21st century." How interesting. Didn't Moses LEAVE the people for 40 years, after committing a serious offense?

A local director of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition tried to give Jesse Jackson credit for the E-P-3 spy plane crew coming home from China. He said when Jackson offered to go to China, "Bush heard up! - and settled it." Next time this happens,
WE'LL offer to go to China -- then apply for the Nobel Peace Prize.

The local Rainbow/PUSH director also praised Jesse Jackson for having an "independent mind.... He carries out what the Spirit of the Lord tells him to do." We wonder if MRS. Jackson would agree with that - especially after that expose in the National Enquirer.

A local TV reporter claimed Jesse Jackson drew a "massive crowd." We're not sure what she saw, but the church we attended was NOT full - with a couple of almost empty pews at one side. Could it be Jesse Jackson is losing popularity? Or does he need to come to town on a day when there are no NBA playoff games?

Jesse Jackson's trip is partly a fundraising campaign for the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition. The donation envelope we received has a 35-dollar membership level - but for 100 dollars, you also get the "Jacks-Fax." Why spend 65 extra bucks to hear from Jesse Jackson when he's on TV so often?

Jesse Jackson's appeal for funds made the tour seem like a tight-budget affair. "Macon pays for Columbus, and Columbus pays for Americus...." Yet the Rainbow/PUSH New York office is located on the 27th floor of the Empire State Building! How does the group afford this -- with beggars going one subway station at a time?

(C'mon, Bill Clinton. You can put some pressure on Rainbow/PUSH - to come home to Harlem, where your office is.)

Before the program began, we overheard two men discussing Jesse Jackson in the row behind us. One said, "Don't judge him on what he did in the past, but he's doing now." This man needs to be hired as Timothy McVeigh's P.R. agent. After all, McVeigh hasn't set off a bomb in six years now....

Jesse Jackson's admission of an adulterous affair was the "500-pound gorilla" that hardly anyone in the room wanted to discuss. We asked four people at random how they'd explain allowing an admitted adulterer to speak in a church -- but only one would even admit Jackson IS an adulterer. We guess the rest really DON'T read those tabloids at the supermarkets.

(One woman answered our adulterer question by saying, "I'm glad he encouraged young people to vote." HUH?!?! Maybe Jackson unwittingly has angry George W. Bush supporters signing up....)

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: If you plan to attend Jesse Jackson's C.S.U. presentation, we'd appreciate your thoughts about it. Please e-mail us....

© 2003-04 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, September 13, 2004



"FINAL NOTICE" warned the outside of the envelope which landed in my mailbox over the weekend. It was a letter from the National Rifle Association - so I was a bit worried. If I didn't respond the right way, this group might send gun-toting lobbyists to my apartment.

The "final notice" warning was puzzling, because I didn't recall getting a FIRST notice from the National Rifle Association. But then again, isn't this how you might expect a pro-gun group to act? Shoot first, and take questions later....

I finally opened the N.R.A. envelope Sunday night, and found a letter inside from Executive Vice President Wayne LaPierre. He warns: "unless you act now, your Second Amendment rights are certain to be dismantled and destroyed by anti-gun politicians." Is that why the ban on 19 types of assault weapons is expiring tonight?

"Little-by-little they are stripping us of our Constitutional freedoms," the N.R.A. letter warns. Huh?! There's not only the expiring ban on semiautomatic assault weapons, but more cities and states are allowing you to carry concealed weapons. Can the government really ban what it can't see?

"The gun ban lobby is critically using tragedies.... as political springboards," Wayne LaPierre writes. Of course, the National Rifle Association is cynically using a surplus of deer to seek more hunters....

He adds the anti-gun groups "are attempting to pass laws which harass and isolate law-abiding gun owners" - such as higher gun and ammunition taxes. Now this is a revelation! I never considered the proposed one-cent Columbus sales tax harassment before.

The National Rifle Association warns if anti-gun legislation passes, "you and I will be the last generation of gun owners...." We will?! Does this mean all police officers will be armed with billy clubs and tasers?

(By the way, why isn't the N.R.A. outraged at the N.F.L.? Pro football games never end with a "final gun" anymore.)

As you may have guessed by now, Wayne LaPierre's letter really is a sales pitch. He wants me to join the National Rifle Association for at least one year. But there's one small problem with this - don't you have to OWN a gun first? I don't....

While several members of the church I attend own guns and delight in using and collecting them, I've never owned one and have no interest in them. If the deer population grows too big, I'll try to help out by hitting one with my car.

True confession: my late father owned a couple of guns. But I never knew he owned a handgun until we were in a car wreck one Saturday afternoon in Hutchinson, Kansas - and we had to wrap the gun under the front seat in a pillow, so we didn't get in trouble with police.

So why don't I own a gun? I simply never have seen a need for one. I lock my doors and windows and pray before I head on a road trip - figuring at least "One" of those protective measures won't let me down.

I'm sorry, Mr. LaPierre, but I won't be joining the National Rifle Association this time. That means I won't be a subscriber to your magazine "America's 1st Freedom" - especially since the Bill of Rights mentions freedom of speech and the press BEFORE gun ownership.

(That reminds me: does the N.R.A. support the creation of state militias? "A well-regulated militia" is the context of that second amendment it loves so much....)

It also means I won't receive the extra incentive of an "NRA Shooter's Cap." The letter says people who wear it "are recognized around the world as defenders of the U.S. Constitution...." And I thought you needed to wear an Army uniform
to be recognized this way.

No, I will not be taken in by the right-wing scare tactics of groups such as the National Rifle Association. And no, I won't be taken in by the left-wing scare tactics of other groups, either. The only time it pays to drive from one side of the road to the other is in a miniature car, in a parade.

BLOG UPDATE: For the record, the big flag outside the Columbus Civic Center WAS at half-staff Sunday - for awhile, at least. It was halfway up at 2:15 p.m., but all the way up at 4:30. Maybe the managers weer making up for what they missed Saturday.

Now other noteworthy news from Grandparents' Day: (Uh-oh, did you forget YOURS?)

+ Columbus Police announced five arrests, in the theft of nine vehicles from Extreme Motorsports near the J.R. Allen Parkway. So you criminals don't get confused: a "poker run" does NOT mean you steal a motorcycle, and take it to your
late-night poker game.

+ A Unitarian Universalist church in Camp Hill, Alabama fired its pastor, after members learned he was supposed to be registered as a convicted sex offender. I thought these people were supposed to practice tolerance in cases like this....

+ McClung Memorial Stadium hosted its first high school "Battle of the Bands." So many people marched at this event that S.O.A. Watch might be challenged to meet there in November and match it.

(Instant Message to WRBL's Chris Sweigart: Please don't tell me the Battle of the Bands had "hundreds of fans packing the stands" -- especially when you're standing in front of noticeably empty bleachers.)

+ The Atlanta Falcons edged San Francisco in the season opener 21-19 - and fans held their breath every time Michael Vick was sacked. Former Columbus sportscaster Erik Stone used to call Chris Chandler "crystal chandelier." Now people
are treating Vick like he's gold-plated to boot.

+ A man from Americus was one of 200 finalists in the Pepsi "Play for a Billion" contest, but failed to win. Could you imagine a billionaire living in Americus -- and all the Habitat for Humanity homeowners knocking on his door, asking for loans?

COMING TUESDAY: Speaking of "left-wing scare tactics" .... a special "LaughLine flashback" edition about a big-name visitor to Columbus....

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.