Monday, February 28, 2005


The drivers in front of me went through the gates, so I tagged along behind them. I'd seen ads promoting Johnston Mill Loft apartments, but until my visit the other night I didn't realize it was a "gated community." Perhaps the residents have lofty incomes to match.

An old textile mill on First Avenue was turned into Johnston Mill Loft apartments over the last couple of years. Yet some aspects of the conversion have me puzzled. There was a ramp into the main building for disabled people - yet once you walk inside, you have to climb flights of stairs which might not be suitable for current college dorms.

I wasn't looking for an apartment when I visited the other night. I was seeking the sports bar promoted as part of the complex - the one which required special city zoning to be built. No signs pointed to it inside the main building. And there was no noise to give it away -- and you couldn't blame the TV schedule for it, since the Westminster Kennel Club show was over.

After getting my exercise climbing up and down flights of stairs, a resident steered me in the right direction. "The Draft" was one block down from the loft apartments on First Avenue. Residents on upper floors must have fun, watching people try to walk home after having too much to drink.

It was a slow weeknight at The Draft, as the few parking spaces along the side of the building were mostly open. Who knows what this place is like around the first of the month -- after some people at the nearby Wilson Apartments get their government checks....

Several billiard tables were active as I walked inside The Draft, but otherwise the spacious sports bar was mostly empty. I took a seat at a center table, so I'd have a good view of a basketball game on the main big-screen. With a full-sized basketball court on the floor, I could start my own game if the one on TV became boring.

There was no one at the door to direct me to a table, and I wound up waiting several minutes before a server noticed me. But at a sports bar, that's really no big deal - especially if the TV screens have channels with "crawls" on them, so you can prepare for an informed conversation when the server shows up.

At last a server named Sierra showed up, apologizing for the wait. At my request, she brought out The Draft's menu -- and proceeded to brief me on most of the items. If someone had turned down the sports bar's sound system, I could tell you what she recommended.

The sound system at The Draft struck me as odd. This sports bar did NOT have audio from any games turned up - but instead played a lot of "techno-pop" music more common at European discos. If one of the TV screens was showing soccer, I might have understood this....

"The Draft mix," the music was called by a recorded voice at one point. For all I knew, the managers were waiting for Columbus State University cheerleaders to show up and start a routine.

I ordered a chicken breast sandwich for dinner, and it was worth the $6.95 price -- as the chicken was much bigger than the bun. Are you paying attention, Burger King? Your "chicken tenders sandwich" does NOT have to be in three or four pieces....

Unlike other sports bars, The Draft also has a small dessert menu. Yet a problem developed when I asked Sierra for the brownie and ice cream dish. The can of whipped cream apparently ran out, and completely covered the brownie. But I went ahead and took it - since I don't normally check for meat inside fast-food burgers.

"I heard it was buy flowers for your server day," Sierra told me toward the end of the evening.

"But I - I thought Valentine's Day was...." I presumed she was playing with me. Wasn't a four-dollar dessert with an added tip enough for her?

Sure enough, she was having fun about buying flowers. I doubted anyone with a flower cart would roll into First Avenue sports bars after 10:00 p.m. on a weeknight - but then again, I've had someone knock on my door at 2:00 in the morning selling beer.

All in all, The Draft seems like a nice place to visit to watch a sports event. It's closer to my house than the Sports Page or Smokey Bones. The food prices on the main menu seem reasonable. But you'll have to make up your own play-by-play for the games on TV - and try to make them match the beat of the music mix.

BLOG UPDATE: More details emerged Sunday about Advance Fast Tax manager and suspected criminal Clarence Martin Jr. It turns out he spent ten years in an Alabama prison for attempted murder. We hope none of his tax customers wound up owing money to the I.R.S.

An Auburn police officer says Clarence Martin Jr. almost shot him in the head in 1988. Yet Martin was able to leave prison on parole after ten years, after a doctor convinced officials he had less than a year to live because of leukemia. There's either a quack doctor somewhere in Alabama, or we all need to find Martin's faith healer.

So how did Clarence Martin Jr. get a business license to operate Advance Fast Tax on Second Avenue in Columbus? Because it was in the name of his dad, who runs a tax office with the same name in Phenix City. We expect police there will check for tanning beds sometime today....

BIG PREDICTION UPDATE: Jamie Foxx DID win the Best Actor Oscar Sunday night for "Ray." And the Best Picture of 2004 was "Million Dollar Baby" - which I mistakenly thought was about the children of Bill Gates.

Now other items from a wet weekend:

+ A security firm was hired to watch over Habitat for Humanity headquarters in Americus. After all, those Millard Fuller supporters know how to swing hammers with great precision....

+ The new tower for WSWS TV-66 near Cusseta came crashing down, one day after the front-page story about it in the Ledger-Enquirer. So did the rain cause this - or some upset Lee County advertisers?

+ The final day of the college softball "Leadoff Classic" was rained out - and even though Georgia was unbeaten, the championship was awarded to Oklahoma. Who made this decision, a bunch of spiteful Auburn graduates?

+ Instant Message to Americus pastor Bobby Fawley: Last year's Super Bowl was played on February 1, not the third. In Houston, not New Orleans. And the federal fine was $550,000, not 550 million. If your guest "greatest preacher" on WHAL can't get the basic facts right in his sermon, maybe he's not so great after all.

Your donations can keep this blog ad-free and independent-thinking. To make a donation, offer a story tip 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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 27, 2005


Federal, state and local agents busted a tax preparation shop on Second Avenue this weekend. Among other things, they found tanning beds inside the business. So what's the big deal about that? After three busy months preparing tax forms, you want to look presentable at the beach for summer.

I first learned about this tax office on Second Avenue Friday, when a woman called to complain about it. She told me she received a "rapid refund" check, and it bounced. For all I knew, she may have tried to cash it too rapidly.

It turns out the Metro Narcotics Task Force had been watching Advance Fast Tax for weeks. Police say owner Clarence Martin Jr. sold drugs not only from his office, but from a "Days Inn on Macon Road." Maybe that's why that motel covered up its signs the other day... [True!]

Authorities say Friday night's raid on Advance Fast Tax led to the discovery of cocaine and methamphetamine, valued at $50,000. Clarence Martin Jr. will have to file this under Schedule A - a "miscellaneous deduction" for gambling losses.

(Talk about confusion! Tax offices are supposed to specialize in math, not meth....)

It's feared Advance Fast Tax pulled scams on hundreds of customers, who presumed their tax returns would be handled properly. For the moment, they're left only with a tongue-twister -- their "rapid refunds" were rubber and rubbish.

So why were tanning beds inside Advance Fast Tax? Police believe Clarence Martin Jr. also was running a prostitution ring - as if after dark, desperate men only look for women who use SPF-15 or higher.

It's hard to imagine a prostitution ring could exist at 36th Street and Second Avenue. For one thing, it's the heart of Bibb City - and hundreds of potential customers left the neighborhood when mills closed.

News such as this reminds us it's sometimes safest to prepare your own tax return. I've discovered a wonderful hidden deduction in the last couple of years - Form 8880, a credit for "Qualified Retirement Savings Contributions." If you don't have a lot of income, you could get your entire federal withholding money back. Make a lot, and you may not need to save for retirement....

E-MAIL UPDATE: We always have first-time visitors to this blog - but I wonder if that first visit sometimes puzzles some people. Consider this message we received the other day:


This is the first BLOG i have ever seen. Provocative?

It is too early to tell if you are serious, seriously ill, on something, need to be on something, or have an unmentionable genetic mutation.

Obviously, I am very grateful that you have enough free time to provide such diversions, but I must ask:

Have you read "The Purpose Driven Life"...

But, then again, if you have a purpose driven life it escapes me in the BLOG, but like the psychedelic guitar, I am sure there are some ramifications, though they now escape me.

Don't worry you are not participating in "wasted efforts" ... you have a purpose, and i am going to keep reading until I figure it out!

Very Interesting! When i get it figured out i will let you know, unless the reasons fall into the "lessor factors" category, in which case I would start thinking about existential psychoanalysis for you. No, forget about'd want sex on the couch! LOL.

Please tell me who you are so I can tell my daughters to avoid you and warn the neighbors that your rare, (praise GOD), intellect is on the loose! Are you local, loco, locked up or in a minimum security facility?

Thank You,

Deb Owens

PS I am sending a copy of this to Robbie Watson, it is her fault I found you.

If I am Deb's introduction to blogging, it's no wonder she's confused. This is one of the 10 or 12 blogs which hasn't tried to drive Eason Jordan or that Republican "Talon News" reporter out of their jobs.

Provocative -- ME?! I suppose some people think so. But if I ignore the comments of "IsOurCitySafe" completely, that writer still will conclude I don't care about public safety.

No, I have not read Rick Warren's best-selling religious book, "The Purpose-Driven Life." I'm too busy reading another book which reminds me of my purpose - and sometimes, it even shows me where I'm falling short of it. You may have heard of the Bible....

Deb is the first person to compare our blog to a "psychedelic guitar." And after thinking about it, she's almost right. The blog changes color -- but I don't play guitar on my CD.

As for "sex on the couch" -- uh-oh, now I'll have to avoid the furniture stores on Victory Drive, too....

Deb's concluding question gives me a great idea. Finally I can replace "my funny motto" atop the blog with an actual motto - "First. Almost live. Loco."

(Oh yes, I AM in a "minimum security facility." Police officers haven't visited my apartment complex in weeks.)

Only days after receiving this rather rough message, Deb sent a follow-up:

Oky Doky... I am now up, or down, to Feb 16 and Grandma Susie's Pampers supplies are running low...if she doesn't stop laughing I'll have to write a bad check.

Oky Doky, you are so good i sent a link to my daughters, but don't you dare contact them.

Very good. Very funny.

Your purpose is to make people laugh.

Thank You.

Deb Owens

Maybe I missed my REAL purpose in life. I should have been a teacher, to catch the "moment of discovery" such as this.

(Or did Robbie Watson write Deb back to explain what this blog is about - the way she sometimes has to explain the remarks of callers to "TalkLine?")

I'm glad Deb finally figured out we're trying to be humorous here. But Deb still won't let me contact her daughters?! Sigh -- once again, the single guy is left on his own....

I was prepared to stop today's e-mails there - but to my surprise Saturday night, I found Deb had written the blog a third time. This message was dated 12:48 a.m. Saturday:


It's midnight....spose i need to stay up later to get the blog?

If you would just do your job during the day it would be mush (sorry my spell ck doesn't this time of night) easier to meet your deadlines!

Deb Ownes (i have got to teach it my name!)

I appreciate Deb's enthusiasm. But it's so tempting to ask a question in response to this - has SHE read "The Purpose-Driven Life?"

While Deb stayed up late Friday night to read my next post, I was sound asleep in bed. Since I keep a seventh-day Sabbath, Friday night is an off night for the blog - and as I sometimes tell co-workers, at sunset I turn back into a pumpkin.

But Deb, I actually DO "my job" during the day - which is why I tend to write blog entries late at night. Sometimes they're even later than Jay Leno's monologue. But that's OK, because I avoid repeating his material.

One of the nice things about blogging is that there actually are NO deadlines. I can skip a day if I choose - or the computer chooses to skip a day, by refusing to work quite right....

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: In our small church congregation, members volunteer to clean the bathrooms in the hall. Saturday it was my turn - and as I stood outside the women's restroom, a woman came up to me.

"Are you in there?"

I quickly checked my body. "No, I'm right here."

"No, I meant are you working in there?"

"No, I can wait." I rested from cleaning a restroom, because I didn't know how restless that woman was.

So what else is happening this weekend? Plenty of things, actually....

+ A Neighborhood Watch meeting was called at Blanchard Elementary School. Fliers promoting the meeting explained "incidents" in the Windsor Park area jumped by more than 300 percent last year. And imagine what could happen if there actually WAS a Windsor Park....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer reported WSWS TV-66 is building a new tower near Cusseta, and soon will move its office from Opelika to Columbus. Well, it's about time! We single guys who don't have cable want a good close-up look at UPN's contestants for "America's Next Top Model."

(How do Lee County officials feel about losing their only TV station? They could arrange a swap with a Columbus station - and not many people here would miss TV-16.)

+ The RiverCenter canceled a scheduled performance for the first time. A comedy show with Harvey Korman and Tim Conway was called off because Korman needs back surgery. Couldn't Conway come by himself, and give "Dorf on Golf" lessons?

+ The college softball "Leadoff Classic" was played at South Commons. Once again, city property is being used for openly underhanded activity....

+ Instant Message to Georgia Championship Wrestling: It's nice to see you're now on TV for an hour every weekend. But do you really think those giant posters belong inside the Columbus Public Library?

BIG PREDICTION: Jamie Foxx will win the Best Actor Oscar for "Ray" tonight - if only so emcee Chris Rock won't go berserk complaining about it for the rest of the show.

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 25, 2005


The son of Muscogee County Sheriff Ralph Johnson pleaded guilty Thursday to marijuana and drunk driving charges. After he's served his time, Adam Johnson may follow his father and run for office - probably also as an independent, because I'm not sure even the Democrats would take him.

Adam Johnson pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a police stop last May on Victory Drive. Isn't it finally time to change the name of this street? Between nightclubs, prostitutes and traffic stops like this, many a man has gone down to defeat on Victory Drive.

Adam Johnson admitted guilt in court to possession of marijuana "with intent to distribute." We're left to wonder who might have received pot from the sheriff's son. Did Ralph Johnson send notes to all his deputies, saying it was time to have "that little talk?"

For pleading guilty to D-U-I, Adam Johnson's drivers' license will be suspended six months. He'll also have to do 40 hours of community service. If civil rights leaders get their way, Johnson will pick up a lot of trash along Oates Avenue - along with any leftover "Taylor for Sheriff" campaign signs.

Prosecutors say Adam Johnson will serve a complicated sentence, which includes three years of "intense probation." Does this mean his father will call two times a day, or three?

The phrase "intense probation" apparently includes a curfew for Adam Johnson, along with regular urine tests. This could give a whole new meaning to that classic song by The Police -- "Message in a Bottle."

(If you're wondering why it's not called "extreme probation" - that probably would involve using stun guns, and that's quite controversial right now.)

Adam Johnson will spend only 24 hours in jail for drunk driving, but he'll be in a boot camp 90 days for the marijuana charge. Reversing those sentences would mean too many face-to-face meetings with his dad, the Sheriff - and that might be cruel and unusual punishment.

Hopefully Adam Johnson will learn valuable lessons from all this, and stay away from illegal substances and drunk driving from now on. But Sheriff Ralph Johnson may be wondering in the back of his mind if his son will do something even more rash - like contributing to the "Friends of David Glisson Fund."

I'm a tired guy for some reason - so let's pick up the pace and close Thursday out:

+ The Exchange Club of Columbus named Jimmy Bloodworth and Caleb Elder the city's "firefighters of the year." Both men receive nice plaques - and when the Festival at South Commons returns, they SHOULD receive free foot-long hot dogs for life.

+ The Alabama House debated whether to designate American Sign Language as a "foreign language." Excuse me for asking this - but if it's American, how can it be "foreign?" Have THAT many immigrants moved to Alabama from Mexico?

+ Ground was broken in Macon County for a memorial honoring the World War II "Tuskegee Airmen." The Moton Field memorial will cost almost $30 million - which almost matches the reparations damages the pilots could have sought in a lawsuit.

+ The Alabama Legislative Black Caucus urged African-American athletes to boycott Auburn University, until two associate athletic directors are rehired. Or as they call this approach in Tuscaloosa - "old school."

+ Columbus State University held a campus dodgeball tournament, with six-person teams. This sounds like good, old-fashioned fun - and it was SO old-fashioned, Dodge trucks didn't sponsor it.

+ The Atlanta Hawks traded Antoine Walker back to the Boston Celtics, less than a year after trading FOR him. Remembering what happened after Rasheed Wallace's one-game appearance in Atlanta last season, Boston may win the N.B.A. title for the next 20 years.

(In exchange for Antoine Walker, the Hawks receive three players -- including veteran Tom Gugliotta. For those of you who don't know basketball, the Italian version of Google is NOT named after him.)

+ Instant Message to the older man who told me he wanted to talk with "meteorologist Cloudy Smith" - you WERE joking with that name, weren't you? Or did you hit the bottle a little early in the day?

(And by the way: the meteorologist whose name is closest to "Cloudy Smith" tells me no, you're wrong -- the "R" in Rome is NOT backward on his weather map. Dr. Gold at Direct Optical will be waiting for your call.)

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 24, 2005


The e-mail to this blog gets more interesting all the time. Take this recent message:

Mr.Burkard thinks the problems in Columbus are funny. What would you expect from someone who walks around looking at his colon all the time?

We'll get to that part about "funny problems." But the writer will be thrilled to know I took a break from looking at my colon the other day - and I went to look at someone else's.

With amazing timing, this e-mail reached me as the "Colossal Colon" arrived at the Columbus Public Library. It's on display for only a couple more days, before it's loaded back on the delivery truck - which I guess we could call a "semi-colon."

The Colossal Colon is so colossal that it comes in 18 parts, and takes 90 minutes to put together. It's a bit surprising Habitat for Humanity volunteers weren't called in to do all this work....

Columbus Regional brought the Colossal Colon to town to teach lessons about colorectal cancer. I didn't realize it's one of the deadliest forms of cancer in the U.S. So where is the tour showing off the Larger-Than-Life Lung?

Bulges inside the wall of the Colossal Colon show the growth of polyps. But the color scheme inside the colon is in such faint shades of red and orange, I looked at them and saw doughnut shop pastries.

If the polyps develop too far, the Colossal Colon shows the inside and outside damage which colon cancer can cause. Anyone who can eat cherry pie after seeing this part of the display probably is a prime candidate for "Fear Factor."

A small child might be able to walk through the Colossal Colon - but adults have to crawl inside it for a clear look at its displays. It only took me a couple of minutes. And I'm thankful to report I've kept my weight down, so I didn't get stuck inside.

(Of course I had to crawl through the Colossal Colon. The last time I recall seeing something billed as "colossal," it was a loaf of Hillbilly Bread back home in the Midwest.)

One main goal of the Colossal Colon tour is to persuade people to undergo a colonoscopy. An alternative colon check is the "double contrast barium enema" - which I think is a 21st-century version of the "barbed-wire enema" George Wallace reportedly endorsed.

The good news is that colon cancer is preventable. It can be as simple as regular exercise and eating a high-fiber diet. It turns out the Public Library's parking lot layout and stairway should give one of these - but they'd better not start serving raisin bran brownies in the café.

After thinking it over, it's only fitting that the Colossal Colon tour came to town. In Spanish, the name "Columbus" is translated as "Colon." Now if only our city will become as colossal....

E-MAIL UPDATE: The message which began today's entry admittedly was taken a bit out of context. It actually is from one of the latest items about public safety from "IsOurCitySafe" - an e-mail answering what we posted Sunday about police complaints:

You will continue to see a rise in reports of misconduct at the Columbus Police Department if the pay and benefits problem is not addressed. You get what you pay for and we are not attracting quality Police Officers.

Be sure and check out the website. Mr.Burkard thinks the problems in Columbus are funny. What would you expect from someone who walks around looking at his colon all the time?

Now let's get something clear here! Kansas has lost three basketball games in a row -- which is a problem for me and not too funny for Kansas grads. Call it "laughing not to cry."

There's a theory behind this e-mail -- that at least when it comes to public safety, low pay means poor-quality work. But that's not always true. The Atlanta Hawks have several well-paid players....

An earlier set of messages from "Is Our City Safe" revealed an exchange between a Columbus resident and Mayor Bob Poydasheff, based on last month's civil rights march:

With millions of people in this world, you can't please everyone. Then again, some people look for any opportunity to complain. An individual from Atlanta was in Columbus and was "offended" by a police officer eating a banana. Well, I guess people in Atlanta don't eat bananas. When was the last time this person ate a banana? Maybe she needs to get a life or maybe she needs to stay in Atlanta.

Even worse than the complaint is the fact that the mayor of Columbus responded with a verbal and a written apology to this complaining individual. What was the apology for? The officer did nothing wrong and the mayor said so himself. Is the mayor talking out of both sides of his mouth, again? Don't apologize for something that is not wrong.

If banana eating is offensive, get over it. Mayor Poydasheff, show some backbone. Columbus needs a leader, not a follower.


+ + + +

Dear Mr. Ellison

cc: Is our city safe

Thanks for your letter. You are however in error and don't have the facts,

so here they are;

1) I didn't apologize for the behavior of the Columbus Police Dept. nor for

the City of Columbus. I stated that " I apologize that she was offended"

and Nothing More!

2) No one was reprimanded. Quite the contrary my police were complimented.

Further more since she sent another letter through Chief Boren, this past

Friday demanding again the names of the officers, I have again responded to

her that not now, nor in the future will she receive the names of the

officers, there was no intent to embarrass her, and as far as I'm concerned

this matter is closed.

Thanks you for your concerns.

The title of the first e-mail I received in this series was blunt: "Poydasheff is spineless." It's nice to see people are concerned about ALL the body parts of our residents....

I used to live in metro Atlanta - and I can confirm: people there DO eat bananas. In fact, I was served some after a five-kilometer run downtown in 1989. But I don't recall seeing any police officers eat them - and this was before anyone knew what "political correctness" was.

It's interesting that this Atlanta woman apparently keeps pressing the issue with Columbus police, weeks after the march. Maybe she's trying to cause a government-sized version of a "banana split."

Since we're back on the banana debate - do civil rights groups plan to present a lunch menu, for officers assigned to the next march on April 30? Police will need to buy everything several days in advance, because of the days of abstinence. Or is catering from Phenix City allowed?

Now a look at other interesting items from the last couple of days:

+ A Columbus Planning Commission meeting about a proposed Wal-Mart SuperCenter on Manchester Expressway was postponed a week. If there's no guarantee of that rumored second store next to the main library, someone's going to have questions to answer - if it's not too late to track down critics of the school sales tax.

+ Winn-Dixie, one of Columbus's biggest supermarket chains, filed for bankruptcy protection. Apparently that new movie with the dog didn't sell enough tickets....

(I was surprised to read Winn-Dixie has stores not only in the Southeast, but in the Bahamas. It's nice to see the corporate executives figured out where to land those "golden parachutes.")

+ The cable network Nickelodeon provided an $8,200 grant to Southview Primary School in Opelika, to build a new playground. So does "Nick at Nite" add some money, to put a new TV in the teachers' lounge?

+ Your blog had an unexpected day off Wednesday, because of mysterious Internet connection problems. It finally was solved when a computer shop removed a firewall - one a different shop installed when I had similar trouble in December! Uh-oh, I'm smelling a racket here....

COMING SOON: E-mail about psychedelic guitars.... and the sports bar that wants to be a disco....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

22 FEB 05: OH!-BAMA

Instant Message to all Congressional Republicans: Have you REALLY thought through that constitutional amendment on selecting Presidents? If you change the rules so Arnold Schwarzenegger can run, Barack Obama may go crashing in with him.

Immigrant-turned-U.S. Senator Barack Obama spoke at a Black History Month breakfast at the Trade Center Monday. He claims he receives 300 invitations to give speeches every week. Either he's that impressive a politician - or a lot of groups are trying to meet a "minority guest" quota.

Senator Barack Obama said he chose to come to Columbus because the proceeds from the Black History Month breakfast went to the House of Mercy. By comparison, Oliver North spoke at a banquet for the Valley Rescue Mission - so now we may have red shelters and blue shelters.

But the Columbus visit also was convenient for Barack Osama - as Monday night, he attended a 65th-birthday party in Atlanta for Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Hopefully he bought lunch somewhere in between, so he spent a LITTLE money in Georgia....

Senator Barack Obama took a moment during his breakfast speech to thank all members of the U.S. military. It's something all of us really should do. Thanks to them, Iraqis now debate who should run their country as much as U.S. residents do.

Barack Osama encouraged his Columbus audience to "promote universal values." [True/] Perhaps someone gave the Senator wrong information - because TSYS doesn't handle AT&T Universal Cards anymore.

After his speech, WRBL for some reason asked Barack Obama for his thoughts about the Kenneth Walker case. Isn't he too busy being a Senator, to have time to serve as a new special prosecutor?

Senator Obama was polite enough to respond that it's always good to do a full investigation, in a case such as the death of Kenneth Walker But let's face the facts here - with Republicans controlling Congress, the Walker case wouldn't even get a Washington hearing if he had died after a taser shock.

A capacity crowd of 1,300 filled the Columbus Trade Center for the Black History Month breakfast - but Francine Foster told WRBL she was able to get a ticket from her uncle. That's surprising, considering Foster used to be news director at Davis Broadcasting. Simply reclaim that title, and Foster could get in for free.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: As we ask a Big Blog Question on the late-April civil rights "days of abstinence," we're also asking if there might be a better name for them. That question brought this seemingly unsympathetic e-mail:

Four for Fools

Quad for Quacks

Ed Joyce

Hmmmm - "Quad for Quacks," eh? I guess people should pay their AFLAC insurance premiums early, before these days begin.

Now other things you may have missed while shopping at Presidents' Day sales:

+ The "Sisters in the Spirit" concert brought several big gospel stars to the Civic Center. But apparently none of them were in a mood to give media interviews - and I know because I called and asked. It's that individual attention which makes some ministers so special....

(Then again, I should give these women the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they were praying all day, before the concert.)

+ "Inside Edition" interviewed an East Cobb Middle School student who was accused of taking a tainted cake to class. The show revealed Amy Duke has recorded a "demo tape" of music in New York -- and as we know, they're always searching for the next "ad girl" gangster rap star.

+ My beloved Kansas Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma, losing three games in a row for the first time in 11 years. So let's rephrase that - THE Kansas Jayhawks lost at Oklahoma....

+ Instant Message to Fountain City Coffee: I didn't realize until Monday you'd opened a coffee bar inside Peachtree Mall. But shouldn't it be located NEAR the indoor fountain? At least we'd know you're using pure water.

COMING THIS WEEK: E-mail about... my colon?!....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 21, 2005


So how is YOUR President's Day weekend? We missed you at my congregation's chili supper and karaoke night on Saturday. Maybe if I had put FREE CHILI in capital letters at the top of the blog page, I would have seen more of you....

You missed me singing a song from my CD at a weekend worship service - but I'm sorry to report the karaoke night didn't quite turn out as planned. In fact, the turnout overall was below normal. I'm not sure if the members were afraid to sing, or if they were afraid to hear other people sing badly.

Two weeks ago when my Pastor offered a possible karaoke night, another single man in the congregation announced he had a home karaoke machine which he could bring. It's by practicing at home that you can win the fast $50 at those nightclub contests.

"Saying you can't sing is no excuse on this one," the Pastor told us with a smile as he decided to schedule the karaoke night. He figured it would be good fun. But maybe some older members decided it's simply another way Japan is preparing for a second Pearl Harbor.

When the Pastor asked who would be willing to sing at the karaoke night, of course I put up my hand. But come to think of it, I didn't see anybody else do it - not even the man bringing the machine. I suppose he planned to hide behind the CD player and wiring.

So here's a quick summary of what you missed on this special afternoon and evening, besides a song from my CD:

+ The Pastor put down an anti-herpes drug called Valtrex, suggesting science isn't urging people to avoid sexually transmitted diseases in the first place. This came during a sermon on our feelings - and I guess that included feeling other people, too.

+ The man with the karaoke machine brought a two-CD set of Tom Jones's greatest hits. I had to explain to the Pastor they were NOT my songs. Besides, I've been fighting a cold - and unbuttoning my shirt as I sang would reveal all the Mentholatum ointment covering my chest.

+ Our chili supper featured three crock pots full of chili, along with jumbo beef hot dogs. They were SO jumbo that I think two of the budget-priced hot dogs in my freezer would have fit inside one of them.

+ I decided to sit down for dinner next to a group of three teenage girls. Within ten minutes, they seemingly evaporated from the table and never returned. Really now - I was NOT planning to ask any of them out....

(So what am I doing wrong? As the people would say in TV commercials, I use a leading antiperspirant....)

+ Before evaporating, one of the teenagers described a dog she'd seen as being "cute as a biscuit." I'd never thought about biscuits being cute before - but I haven't seen a Montgomery Biscuits baseball game yet.

+ During dinner, I felt a need to explain to the teens something the Pastor said during his sermon. My pastor is a native of Ohio -- and when he talks about wild drivers acting "like they're at the Indianapolis 500," that's what people up north consider an important car race.

+ A "Bible Q&A" discussion followed dinner -- and as it ended, the Pastor recalled our church denomination splitting from another one ten years ago due to doctrinal changes. "They tried to take us to the cleaners," he complained. He apparently prefers Someone else do the sin-cleansing (ahem)....

+ When it finally came time for karaoke, the Pastor asked who was ready to sing - and I was the only one who put up a hand. The other people were willing to carry out or carry away, but not kara-oke.

The Pastor probably would have joined me in singing -- but for lack of interest, he decided to call it a night and postpone the music for another time. This makes two church occasions in three months where my planned music never happened. Do you think God is telling me to stick to blogging?

All in all, I must confess I'm disappointed in my church congregation for not taking an interest in karaoke. It was something I'd never done before -- and we could have been a springboard for bringing "Karaoke Kraziness" back to Columbus television.

Sometimes my congregation talks about godly bravery and fearlessness -- then at an event such as this, people back away from participating or don't show up at all. Maybe this explains why we don't have a church basketball team. We might face Goliath-sized centers....

BLOG UPDATE: Columbus NAACP President Bill Madison said Sunday night he's expecting 30,000 people for an April 30 civil rights march -- double the number who marched in January. Of course, if every store in town is closed for the four "days of abstinence" there won't be much else to do....

Bill Madison told WCGT's "Out of Order" his main concern right now in the Kenneth Walker case is for a new special prosecutor, with the "power of subpoena." Did the D.A. from Albany lack that last year? Or did his "e-invite" invitations to testify get blocked by Internet spam filters?

The new NAACP President used the appearance on TV-16 to introduce himself to Columbus in general -- by calling himself "Strictly Bill Madison." Perhaps his years in the U.S. Army (now retired) made him so strict. Or perhaps he gets annoyed by Southerners calling him "Billy" out of habit.

Bill Madison admits he's a high school dropout. In fact, he quit Catholic school in ninth grade - a place where in his words: "you learn or else." Of course, times have changed since he was in school. Nowadays the phrase can be, "learn or get an athletic scholarship."

Now let's take advantage of reduced holiday rates, and send some Instant Messages:

+ To the organizers of today's Black History Month breakfast: You did well to bring Sen. Barack Obama to Columbus to speak. But did you consider moving this to Phenix City -- to take advantage of that last name "O-Bama?"

+ To Carl Gregory Dodge in Auburn: I'm glad you want me to "save Presidents" at your President's Day sale. But last time I checked, the Benjamin Franklin you showed to illustrate this was NOT a President.

+ To WRCG Radio: OK, I give up. Why did you play a soulful Christmas song Sunday morning around 10:00? I think the last trees and lights finally have come down.

+ To friends and acquaintances of the late Tom Mann: Did you go fishing in his honor at Lake Eufaula, after the Saturday memorial service? And did anyone win an award for the biggest catch?

+ To Columbus State University's baseball team: Were you as surprised as I was over the weekend - when South Carolina-Aiken came to town, and didn't have pictures of Clay Aiken on their uniforms?

BLOGGER'S NOTE: Internet connection problems may reduce our blogging over the next few days....

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

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

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


I wondered to myself this past week if the fervor about the Kenneth Walker case had settled down. Apparently the answer was yes - because Columbus civil rights leaders called a news conference Friday to make sure that changed.

Local civil rights leaders have called four "days of abstinence" around the end of April. So if you broke your New Year's resolution and you simply can't give up something for Lent, here's yet another chance to get it right.

During the days of abstinence, Columbus residents are asked NOT to buy anything in the city. Some businesses should look on the bright side about this - and start planning "Christmas in April" sales.

(Instant Message to Phenix City Mayor Jeff Hardin: If Chambers County cities can declare local sales tax holidays, you can as well. You may have just been handed four great days for doing it.)

The days of abstinence are planned from Thursday, April 28 to Sunday, May 1. I'm not sure exactly why those dates were chosen, but a check of the calendar is revealing:

+ That's the weekend after Riverfest -- so apparently these activists DO have a bit of heart.

+ It occurs during the last few days of the Passover season. So if you're already abstaining from leavened bread, you have a jump on everybody else.

+ Another protest march is planned on Saturday, April 30 - day seven of the Passover season, marking when Moses and the Israelites crossed the Red Sea. If God truly doesn't change, maybe the marchers can walk through the Chattahoochee while singing "Wade in the Water."

+ The abstinence period ends on "May Day" - and if the economic boycott works, that's what business owners will be yelling.

(Oh yes, the days of abstinence end on a Sunday. Does that mean I can go to a civil rights activist's church, without leaving money in the offering plate?)

Pastor Wayne Baker of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance says the four days of abstinence will "increase local unity." I guess I can see what he's saying - as the wealthy business owners draw closer to the bank accounts of the protesters.

Columbus Mayor Bob Poydasheff said you're free to do as you please during the four days of abstinence. But he claims he's "not taking sides" on it. Maybe he's thinking he can charge everything for those four days, and it won't count as "spending money."

(C'mon now, Mr. Mayor - if you shop in Columbus during those four days, you WILL be taking sides. And if we see you at the Phenix City Home Depot, we'll KNOW you have....)

There's one big problem I have with this four-day economic boycott. It's the name of it -- "Days of Abstinence." The way most people use the word "abstinence" today, it's (ahem) NOT about money. Well, except perhaps at some Victory Drive motels....

(BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: Do you have a better name for this four-day protest? Write us with your suggestions.)

Civil rights leaders might have a point about public safety misconduct in Columbus. WRBL found statistics showing the number of police complaints filed last year jumped from 71 to 92 - an increase of almost 30 percent! Did police officers think they could get away with misconduct, while everyone was watching the Sheriff's deputies?

The report went on to show 29 of the police complaints last year were sustained - which means an officer violated the rules in some way. That number was up 81 percent from 2003! Police Chief Willie Dozier's retirement suddenly looks very well-timed - like starting Social Security reform after President Bush leaves office.

THE BIG BLOG QUESTION returns from a long absence, to ask about abstinence. Will you join in this four-day economic protest at the end of April? Or do you plan to use it as "hunker-down" practice, for when the terrorists attack?

Let's see what else there is to examine on this President's Day weekend:

+ Hughston Orthopedic Hospital hosted a "Soccer 1-2-3" seminar for parents. This was especially valuable for Southern dads, who are more likely to think a "header" is something on a race car.

+ Columbus firefighters were called to the Cannon Brew Pub on Broadway, when an oven used to bake pizza caught fire. As long as the beer coolers weren't harmed, 99 percent of the customers probably never would have noticed a difference.

+ Instant Message to the new "International House of Chicken" on Fort Benning Road: I listened to your menu carefully on radio - but it seems to me the only "international" thing you're serving is an Asian sauce for wings.

COMING MONDAY: What you missed at the church karaoke night.... like the songs which never were sung....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Friday, February 18, 2005


This is one of those days when no big topic comes to mind. So instead, let's address a lot of little ones....

+ Harris County High School received several careful searches, after someone left a message inside threatening it would "blow up February 17." You don't think this came from an insecure chemistry student, do you?!

(What struck me as strange about this threat is the reward being offered for information about it - only $300! What if the high school HAD been blown to bits? Would the payout jump all the way to $500?)

+ Lanett police arrested a West Point landlord, accusing him of throwing a tear gas grenade into the home of a tenant. I've heard of bad customer service, but this takes it to a new low....

(The landlord reportedly was upset because the tenant was behind in paying the rent. But isn't tear gas the LAST thing you want to use? The tenant's "sob story" simply gets worse.)

+ A ceremony in Plains marked the commissioning of the U.S.S. Jimmy Carter nuclear submarine. That's funny - I thought a couple of years ago, Mr. Carter received the Nobel PEACE Prize....

+ Russell County Commissioner Ronnie Reed wrote a letter to the Ledger-Enquirer, claiming all sorts of people are trying to drive African-American commissioners from office. Reed even blamed the "Historic Commission." What did that group do - tell him his meetings aren't at the Seale courthouse?

+ Supporters of the Ma Rainey historic house on Fifth Avenue announced yet another restoration plan. Remember when James Brown came to Columbus about eight years ago, for a fund-raising concert for that house? To drive by it today, they apparently didn't raise enough cash for a good coat of paint.

(We're told this time, the $300,000 restoration of the Ma Rainey house will be paid by government money - half from the city, half from Washington. Current local blues mogul JoJo Benson must be too busy, trying to get his house on the waiting list.)

+ The rhythmic Broadway musical "Stomp" begins a weekend of shows at the RiverCenter tonight. TV ads Thursday declared "great seats" are still available for this show - probably down front by the stage, where your eardrums will be blasted.

(I have a theory about why "Stomp" apparently is NOT selling out the RiverCenter. When people in this area hear "stomp," they think of a gas pedal on their cars.)

+ A half-hour ad-fest called "A Day to Remember" was telecast, all about wedding planning. But there's only one thing this single guy will remember about this show: good-looking host Michelle Bush, with NO ring on her left hand. Hopefully she took notes on everything else -- for me....

+ The radio talk show "D.J. and Friends" returned to WCGT, after being off TV-16 for weeks. I watched carefully -- and host D.J. Jones certainly doesn't look like he underwent cosmetic surgery.

+ The Auburn University "game day committee" held a meeting in downtown Columbus, on how to improve the atmosphere at football games. First of all, it's nice to see we've already moved past the Auburn men's basketball season....

(The discussion apparently was about topics such as parking at Auburn football games. Anyone who suggested the team needs improving must have been a graduate of Southern California.)

+ Meanwhile, Auburn football coach Tommy Tuberville signed a new seven-year contract. It starts at $2 million a year - which means he finally can afford to get an unlisted home phone number.

+ The Columbus Riverdragons played an 11:00 a.m. game at the Civic Center, especially for schoolchildren. Yet SpongeBob SquarePants isn't appearing until Saturday. No doubt some Baptists arranged this, so youngsters wouldn't be corrupted by that alleged homosexual.

(It's not only SpongeBob SquarePants coming to town - but "his sidekick Patrick." This reminds me I'm NOT yet a celebrity blogger. You know you've made it as a celebrity when you have your own sidekick.)

+ An Atlanta woman showed off the tattoo she received to advertise an online casino - on her pregnant belly! [True/WXTX] She's receiving about $9,000 to do this. And suddenly, I'm rooting for my bald spot to expand....

(So where is the pregnant woman going this weekend, to show off her tattooed tummy? To the Daytona 500, of course! Somehow, I think the N.B.A. All-Star Game is more appropriate for this.)

+ Cascade Hills Church held its annual "wild game supper." Sometimes, this event includes everything from deer to alligator meat - so I hope they provided plenty of seasoned salt, to cover up strange tastes.

+ Instant Message to the Grill Outlet on Second Avenue: About your big weekend sale - what did you mean in the radio ad when you suggested customers "gear up for Saint Patrick's Day?" Can you really grill a side of corned beef?

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


It's one thing when a retail store holds a "quitting business" sale. But when a motel has one, it raises questions. For instance: are the "one-night stays" cut in half, so checkout time is 4:00 a.m.?

Yet a "going out of business" sale is on right now at the Sunset Motel on Victory Drive. You have until March 3 to buy everything from beds to pillows, along with other motel furniture. And for a change, you probably don't have to feel guilty about not leaving a tip for a maid.

Before you get wrong ideas -- no, the Sunset Motel NEVER was put on Fort Benning's "hit list." The Candlelight Motel and Cellars Lounge next door have been there. But you know what they say in the military about "collateral damage...."

"We're clean," Mrs. Patel told me when I stopped by the Sunset Motel Wednesday. She and her husband co-manage the motel, and clearly are natives of India. Their rooms probably were so clean that you could watch "Bollywood" movies via satellite.

The Patels aren't exactly sure when the Sunset Motel opened, but they say it was before 1960. It was so long ago that a sign high above the office brags about having "color TV." These days, motels are more likely to brag about having multicolored iMac computers.

The Patels say the closing of the Sunset Motel is NOT really due to Fort Benning soldiers heading off to Iraq. They say G.I.'s stopped staying at that motel a long time ago. And I never heard about SOA Watch offering any discounts there....

Mr. Patel says the Sunset Motel simply fell victim to a weak overall economy. "It's all in a circle," he told me - helping me finally understand why cities such as Dothan and Montgomery have main highways with that shape.

A Moon Family Properties agent told your blog Wednesday once the Sunset Motel changes hands, it will be leveled for a new Sonic drive-in. The carhops will have a distinct advantage over other women on Victory Drive - they can roller-skate away when someone tries to proposition them.

Mr. Patel says the change from a "Sunset" to a "Sonic" reflects a new face coming to Victory Drive. He speculated development in North Columbus is becoming full, so now developers are looking to the south side. I'm not so sure about that theory - because Veterans Parkway still has a few old trees standing, north of Weems Road.

The Patels are in their seventies, and plan to retire after the Sunset Motel's final sale ends. Mr. Patel has trouble walking around - and the Veterans Cab Company is too far on the other side of the Lumpkin Roads to show him any sympathy.

If you're planning to visit Columbus or Fort Benning, don't worry - several "budget" motels still will be available for you after the sun sets on the Sunset. Simply stop by the I-185 security checkpoint first, to see which places are banned this month.

As I ended my visit to the Sunset Motel and waited to turn back onto Victory Drive, a man down the sidewalk waved at me. I waved back, and then the man started walking toward me. Honestly now - my humble Honda isn't even painted like a taxicab.

"What do you need?" I asked the man a couple of times -- but he'd tell me only after getting near the driver's side window.

"Oh," said the man who had been standing in front of Cellars Lounge. " I thought I could fix you up."

"Fix me up?!"

"Yeah, with a girl." And then you wonder why the Sunset Motel stopped having customers.

"No," I quickly explained. "You waved at me. I waved back at you. We're a friendly town here in Columbus, aren't we?!" Silly me. In this part of town, friendship usually doesn't have much to do with it -- much less love.

The man laughed a little at my explanation. "I like you. You're a good comedy guy." He walked away before I could tell him about this blog. Then again, I suspect there are other web sites he finds much more interesting - starting with Playboy.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: Last week in the New York Times, my friend Lisa Napoli wrote about new web sites posting funny and strange "overheard" quotes. Before those webmasters head this way, we start this new occasional feature to stop them. We take you today to a Walgreens store, where a woman has two giant Valentine's stuffed dogs at the checkout:

"I thought those were 75 percent off."

"Well, they WERE 15 dollars...." The clerk shows the customer a sales tag.

"Yeah, I guess so."

"So do you want only one of them?"

"No, I think they're only right when you have twins."

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Have you overheard something unusual around Columbus? E-mail us, and we'll share it here.)

Now for other scattered showers of information from Wednesday:

+ Students at Talbotton Central High School staged a walkout, protesting the ndefinite suspension of Principal Emma Huff. Several students accused faculty members of slapping and verbally harassing them. Sad to say, that may be good news -- because teachers aren't trying to get them in bed.

(To borrow a classic line from Groucho Marx: they left for a day, they left over a Huff -- and if they do it again, it'll be a day-and-a-Huff.)

+ Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue signed a tort reform bill, putting limits on damage awards in medical malpractice suits. A group of lawyers promises to challenge this in court - proving old lawsuit habits truly die hard.

+ The Georgia Senate passed a bill creating a state board of massage therapy. Yet somehow, I don't think the Metro Squad is going to let massage parlors reopen in Columbus.

+ WRBL's Dan Edward showed tape of the seven laps he drove around Atlanta Motor Speedway in a stock car. His top speed was 140 miles per hour - which might almost match some of the drivers on U.S. 431 in Russell County.

+ The National Hockey League canceled its entire season, due to a labor dispute. That's good news for the Columbus Cottonmouths, which has seen its attendance jump ten percent this season. Or is it because you can only hear Snakes games on a weak Troup County radio station?

(I'm still wondering why the N.H.L. team owners and players didn't settle this dispute in the classic hockey way - with a bench-clearing brawl.)

+ Instant Message to Georgia basketball coach Dennis Felton: I don't get it. Did you schedule Wednesday night's non-conference game against Clemson -- in Greenville? During African-American History Month?? With that NAACP boycott against South Carolina still on??? Did you want to play Bob Jones University instead?

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005


The Phenix City Council approved a major plan for downtown redevelopment Tuesday. It will cost tens of millions of dollars, mean a lot of construction - and when it's all over, buying a car in Phenix City probably will be harder than ever.

The map shown on TV is quite detailed about what's planned for downtown Phenix City in years to come:

+ An expanded Russell County Courthouse. There's one obvious reason for this -- to provide extra room for Judge Al Howard's ego.

+ A new campus for Chattahoochee Valley Community College. C.V.C.C. already has a main campus in south Phenix City and something small on the 280 Bypass -- so why build this downtown? To say you have as many campuses as Southern Union?

+ Renovations to the Phenix Plaza shopping center. Only the most state-of-the-art Family Dollar store will do....

+ An unnamed "new restaurant" west of Broad Street. Well, this IS one part of the area which doesn't have a Waffle House.

+ A "new supermarket" with an unknown name on 14th Street. Considering Phenix City has lost two nice grocery stores in the last three years, I'm wondering if a flea market might attract a bigger crowd.

(OK, Columbus transplants -- this is the moment we've been waiting for! Let's start a flood of e-mails to Kroger headquarters in Cincinnati, and get the grocery prices down around here....)

One big issue in the debate over downtown Phenix City is the future of the Riverview Apartments. They're being turned into a "mixed-use" housing development. Of course, the old apartment also fit that description - as some people used them for living, while others used them for committing crimes.

A man complained to me several years ago Phenix City Police made it a habit to arrest people walking out of the Riverview Apartments. I've never confirmed whether or not that's true - but I hardly ever see anyone walking on the old 14th Street bridge.

Critics of the downtown Phenix City project call it a government land grab, which hurts private land ownership. But I doubt city officials will go too far with this. The KFC at 13th and Broad simply is too convenient a lunch spot for government employees.

Now other Tuesday topics, from both sides of the river:

+ WXTX "Fox-54" presented a "To Serve and Protect" plaque to a Columbus police officer. It looks like someone has been reading Columbus Councilor Gary Allen's e-mails [8 Feb] - but couldn't A-Com Security give some of its sponsorship money to the officer, too?

+ Members of the Alabama National Guard landed at Fort Benning, returning home from Iraq. One of them admitted the thing he missed most was Wal-Mart. [True/WXTX] Some of us would consider this a good reason to take a short-term Iraqi job.

+ Mike Gaymon of the Columbus Chamber of Commerce admitted due to increased traffic, a ride across town which used to take 15 minutes "now takes 20." It's not because speeders on the J.R. Allen Parkway aren't trying....

+ The Georgia House passed a bill giving farmers a tax exemption, if they set aside land for "corn mazes." How ironic would this be? It's state government providing a tax break, if you build an illustration of how state government works.

+ WFRC-FM finally came back on the air, 17 days after the ice storm. It returned with Family Radio in the middle of a "letter month" for listeners to contact the network. Letters asking about the slow work of the technical team probably are discouraged.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas falls to $1.67 a gallon at Dolly Madison on Victory Drive.... 20-ounce sodas for 33 cents with a Walgreens coupon.... and half-price Valentine chocolate at Target has some of us truly seeing red....

COMING THIS WEEK: This could be the most unusual "quitting business" sale we've ever seen....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Tuesday, February 15, 2005


Instant Message to all Democrats: It's safe to come out of hiding now. Valentine's Day is over - with all those reminders of Republican "red states."

Valentine's Day is a fascinating day for me, because of how many people suddenly change. Take Al Fleming, whose NBC-38 commentary Monday was a loving tribute to his wife. At last we've found the one topic Fleming doesn't dare grumble about on TV.

This Valentine's Day was special for one of the local "blog competition." Chuck at "Redneckin'" married his longtime girlfriend - an unnamed woman he abbreviates "GF." Maybe he'll keep that shorthand, and change her online name to "General Foods."

Something amazing has happened lately with local blogs. Since 2005 began, three bloggers (including Chuck) have become engaged. Two of them are engaged to each other, and just started a new blog on their wedding preparations! At some churches, reproduction before marriage like this would be denounced as scandalous sin.

So is this blog going to join this marrying trend? Not right away, I'm afraid. For starters, I don't have a "GF." In fact, most women over the years seem to have graded me simply an F....

You see, doctor (where IS that couch, anyway?), I made a promise to myself when I was a teenager -- I wouldn't date any young woman who drank, smoked or swore. I was so naive about this, I never realized I was eliminating 99 percent of all the women on Earth.

So unsuccessful was I that during my senior year of high school, I put an ad in the school newspaper seeking a date for the prom. The ad had our new home phone number, no name and a midnight deadline to call. But the only interested women turned out to be liars, when I checked what they said. Even then, I was interested in journalistic truth.

My first date didn't come until I was a college sophomore, when I took a high school senior to her "winter formal" dance. We never dated after that, and hardly even talked. It didn't seem right to have the only people older than me be faculty members.

There were a few scattered dates in college - but the woman I felt was the closest match for me surprised me, by revealing her engagement to somebody else. She was an advertising major, and she REALLY knew how to keep an ad campaign secret.

A couple of years during college, I tried to meet new women by sending surprise Valentine's Day cards to them. They didn't know me, but I had seen them on campus or in a yearbook and was interested in them. Today, I'd probably get arrested for violating federal spam laws.

(No, the scattershot approach did NOT work. Only a couple of lunches resulted from it. And imagine how upset some women were when I made "follow-up calls" a few days later, and found out they were engaged.)

After college, a potential romance with a Kansas City radio announcer fizzled out after I moved to another city. My only real romance occurred in Atlanta during the 1980's - "real" in that a woman actually said "I love you" without referring to my jokes or big spending.

That woman was ready to rush to the altar - but after thinking things over, I decided I was NOT really that interested in her. I didn't think I was ready for marriage then. But looking back, I didn't see something important. If the "fish in the sea" won't date you in college, they're more likely to be chicken after that.

For more than 20 years, I've mostly played by the dating rules of the church denominations I attended. This meant only dating someone "in the church" - and when those churches claim they're right and everybody else is wrong, you start feeling a bit like an official in North Korea's government.

(When I did NOT play by the rules and dared to date "outside the church," it also didn't work. From a current talk show host in Miami to a TV reporter in San Francisco, they liked me only as a friend. Remember: female friends don't let male friends buy engagement rings.)

What do the church rules mean in Columbus? In the congregation I attend, it means no dates at all - as there are no available single women in my age range. I wait each weekend for God to send the "right woman" in the door. But when they show up, they're always brought in by fellow Auburn University students.

Regular blog readers will recall I dared to attend a different Columbus church's effort to start a singles group last year [3 May 04]. But that group hasn't met since that Sunday night - I assume. It's either that, or the organizers decided I ate too much food from the snack table....

A blog reader actually sent me e-mail last fall, offering to connect me with a single woman. But of course, there were problems. The message came while I was vacationing in Kentucky, I became busy with projects after returning home - and for all I know, that woman might have married an AFLAC executive by now.

So after all this, you may be asking what I did for Valentine's Day. Thankfully, the church denomination I attend preaches against the day -- calling it "pagan" and wrong for Christians. So I sought love elsewhere Monday - the love of money, as I started on my income tax return.

By the way, I guess no one took WXTX "News at Ten" up on its offer to show a live marriage proposal during Monday night's newscast. The offer never was mentioned - which ought to end any rumors about Roszell Gadson and Deborah Singer playing "footsie" under the anchor desk.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A variety of things are on your collective minds today - starting with that nice-looking new building along Macon Road:

Well, I finally visited our sorely needed $50,000,000( is that really SEVEN ZEROES?) public library to look for a book on fiscal responsibility. Wouldn't you know it, they didn't have one. Anyway, while there, I notice in their self promotional material, a section on endowing the library operating fund with <<<<<>>>>> of dollars. For a few million dollars, you could put your name on a room and live in infamy.Immediately, I noticed an AFLAC children's room, smack dab in the middle of OUR public library. Well, when I saw that, I had to sit down. So I walked through the doors of the SYNOVOUS-CB&T; meeting room right in the middle of OUR public library and plopped down. After I caught my breath, I turned only to see the BARBARA & DAVID ROTHCHILD II technology room,which was next to the ROBINSON room,next to the WADE room, next to the HART room , next to the SHUSTER,FRIEDLANDER,AVERETT,THOMAS,TSYS rooms as well as the granddaddy of them all, THE W.C.BRADLEY MEMORIAL READING ROOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ENOUGH ALREADY. Is this a public library or just a monument built with the taxes of many for the memorializing of a few?.... we keep GOD out of our public buildings, but the DUCK gets a free pass. What's wrong with this picture folks? These public/private partnerships have taken a pure and innocent plan for a public venue for higher learning and turned it into an exclusive memorial to those with money and power. These people are shameless when it comes to being recognized. Their self worth knows no bounds. Columbus' ruling regime has sold out to the highest bidder, again.


Now now, William - quiet down! You're supposed to talk in hushed tones, even ABOUT a library....

Are you kidding me - you can't find a book on fiscal responsibility at the new library? I figured Bill Clinton mentioned his budget surpluses in "My Life" somewhere.

William's obviously concerned with the "corporate sponsorships" inside the new library. But should we really be surprised by this in 2005? Miles of highway have been sponsored for years - or do you think groups spend money merely to pick up the trash there?

And what about the bricks with names and businesses on them, near Golden Park and outside the Phenix City Amphitheater? Well, I guess those are different - because you can walk all over a business's name, if you wish....

I suppose you can "live in infamy" and sponsor a library room for millions of dollars. But look at it another way. You could write a book on fiscal responsibility, get it published - and it'll have a place in the library at a much lower cost.

And why all the exclamation points for the "W.C. Bradley Reading Room?" Back near13th Street, that name was on the library building. So maybe downsizing was underway, even before the Char-Broil announcement.

(Don't tell William, but God IS in that new public building. Under the Dewey Decimal System, the 200's are the religious books.)

Come to think of it, we could expand the sponsorships at the Columbus Public Library. How about a nice fountain outside the building - sponsored by Callaway Blue water?

But not all the e-mails are in negative tones:

YOU are too cool !!! I look forward to reading your blogs. I stumbled across your page about a year ago ... I admire your willingness to share your personal feelings and opinions... Thank you!!! Keep it coming...

-Dave Arwood

: )

You're welcome, Dave - and I can't remember the last time someone described me as "too cool." Lately, people have been more likely to consider me hot under the collar.

BLOG-BLAH-BLAH: The e-mail also brings more suggestions for naming the successor to the Boom Boom Room -- as the owner seeks to open a new club near South Lumpkin Road:

Doom and Gloom

Womb to Tomb

Consume and Fume

Exploding Plume

Bob Robert Poydashef is the mayor I assume

And with names like these, big trouble could loom....

Some South Columbus residents aren't pleased about the plans by the Boom Boom Room owner. They met over the weekend to start a petition drive, so a new club doesn't come to their neighborhood. After all, Columbus Park Crossing can't possibly be out of space yet.

Now other fast facts from Monday:

+ Several Auburn University faculty members called a news conference, to claim two African-American associate athletic directors had their jobs eliminated based on race. A.U. responded by revealing it has students from more than 100 countries -- but the students' grades never were announced.

(The African-American faculty members ought to talk to Auburn's Olympic medal-winning swimmer from Zimbabwe. If Kirsty Coventry's parents owned a farm there, they might have fled to Auburn by now.)

+ The "Getting on Top of Life" broadcast on WHAL found Pastor and School Board member Joseph Roberson urging his congregation to tell each other, "I'm pregnant!" So much for him speaking at the Teenage Parenting Center.

+ WFRC-FM was off the air for a 17th consecutive day. The "Family Radio" Christian station still hasn't come broadcast since the ice storm. If all the Baptist pastors who preach about "the rapture" are still here, and this station isn't -- uh-oh....

+ The Alabama Republican Party named its new state chair - Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh. OK, she's female and that's historic. But a state political leader named TWINKLE?! She'll probably have to talk about the song "Stars Fell on Alabama" a lot....

+ LaGrange Police arrested a man on charges of selling alcohol from his home. Officers say they became suspicious when several people left the man's house carrying brown bags. Plastic grocery bags have blown a lot of people's covers.

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Milk for $2.49 a gallon at Spectrum stores.... gas for $1.69 a gallon at several Victory Drive locations.... and free crushed flower petals at Anne's Porch, after that weekend fire....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.

Monday, February 14, 2005


Imagine going to Columbus Bank and Trust, and finding a TV lounge with Internet computers. Top managers say that day is coming - which sounds to me like the wait for loan approval could become even longer.

Synovus Financial was the subject of a lengthy article the other day in the Atlanta newspaper business section. It disclosed a $10 million renovation plan is in the works, to change the look of all its bank branches. We don't know how many will get those handcrafted tables, showing details of Columbus history.

Synovus President Richard Anthony told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution the branch makeover will include several new things. Quoting from the article:

+ "Self-service kiosks." I remember when these things were called deposit slip tables.

+ "More open floor space." For $10 million, I'm not sure you can buy much marble flooring.

+ "Coffee bars." Now here's a big change! Years ago, banks gave you coffee-makers when you opened accounts.

+ "Lounges where customers can watch television or surf the Web while they wait." And if CNBC announces a Federal Reserve interest rate hike, you'll know it's time to leave.

Richard Anthony says the new look of Synovus banks such as CB&T will include bank personnel "walking the floor," and acting "as concierges." You could make a TV show out of this: "Extreme Makeover: Security Guard Edition."

Another Synovus executive explained the changes are needed because bank branches have been built with employees in mind, as opposed to customers. But really now - are bank customers asking for Internet computers to use? And what if they browse around, and find another bank has a better mortgage deal?

In other areas, Synovus plans to put its corporate logo on all its ATM's across the South. But we're told the names of community banks across Georgia will NOT change. It's tempting to offer a two-word response to that promise - Rich's-Macy's....

I didn't realize until I read this article that Synovus is the second-largest banking company in Georgia, in terms of assets. Imagine if it ever becomes number-one - the Synovus sign above the Riverwalk might go atop the building, and start blinking.

E-MAIL UPDATE: The rush of public safety messages seems to have eased in the last few days. Maybe that means everyone is back to doing their jobs as usual - the police officers, the Columbus Council members, and especially the e-mail writers.

We have a few leftover public safety e-mails to clear from the InBox. We begin with the now-famous "IsOurCitySafe," who obviously has cable TV:

I was watching City Council on television the other day when I began to notice that they had spent almost twenty or more minutes discussing how to better the process for the citizens of Columbus to complain about Police services. I tried to remember a time when they spent that much time discussing how to retain experienced officers, provide better pay, offer better retirement and other benefits. You know what? I don't think I have ever seen them spend even a quarter of that amount of time trying to figure out how to solve any of the problems with the Police Dept. I keep hearing that we have a plan for this and a plan for that. The truth of the matter is that there is no plan. CITY COUNCIL DOES NOT CARE! Have you ever thought about what would happen if a school shooting occurred? If you ask the Mayor, he will tell you that we have a plan. My question to the Mayor would be...Well sir, I understand that we have a plan to go in and get this school shooter. How are we going to go into a school and save the children when we don't have the equipment, there are only 12 Police Officers in the entire city, and we still have to answer 911 calls while saving the children? Are we going to call in off duty Police Officers to help? Good luck with that sir because moral is so low in the department, you aren't going to get any officers to come in on their off time to help out unless is it one of their children in the school. This is just one example of incidents that could occur that we aren't prepared for. But our fine city government says we have a plan. Would you please inform the Police of the plan because we aren't aware of any plan. So I ask the question...ISOURCITYSAFE?

Our writer seems to have an awfully short memory - because he/she spread an e-mail last month about off-duty officer McCarty actually stopping a kidnapping from a Columbus school. [23 Jan]

Perhaps IsOurCitySafe missed the analysis of public safety pay and benefits because it's more likely to occur away from Columbus Council meetings. Isn't that sort of thing done in private discussions in the City Manager's office -- with the ripping apart coming outside the Government Center, at a news conference?

As for "what would happen if a school shooting occurred" - I recall seeing local law officers doing drills over the years, to prepare for that very thing. Of course, all the officers we saw were AT the school. Their worried spouses might be at the 911 call center, staffing the phones to make sure they're OK.

From the same source comes another e-mail anecdote:

People are obviously talking about the cities problems. This citizen approached me out of the blue while I was out on a call at Walmart:

Giving the City Council more money with which to work would not necessarily solve our problem. They have not been good stewards of the money they have had to use in the past. They have lied to the citizens of Columbus about the amount of money that was available to get a sales tax passed and then suddenly discovered $14,000,000.00, they didn't know they had the week before. The first thing needed to straighten out the problems in public safety is honesty among the city leaders.

Now let's be fair - haven't YOU discovered money you didn't realize you had? The Government Center has all sorts of chairs and copying machines, where loose change can hide.

So what can be done to improve the lot of public safety workers? Our next e-mail goes quite a bit into detail:

i just received an email from a friend who wishes to remain anonymous...their response is as follows...i understand that this was put up to a vote and turned down but...

i am pretty sure, Columbus is the only city in the country that grandfathers (locks) property tax rates. I know it is on residential, and knowing the mentality, it could be on private and corporate as well. If the tax rate was changed to charge accordingly for property value on all citizens, in line with today's standard for surrounding cities of our size, the amount of money collected would more than settle the cities financial concerns. Case in point, he pays $1900 a year and it has been unchanged for 6 years. His neighbor residing for 17 years, similar property worth, pays $600 a year, year after year.

Done right, economic, sick and age exemptions could be attached to protect the less fortunate, sick and aged from an increased burden.

several other suggestions that i have pondered:

1. the super cars (fully equipped patrol cars) supposedly fully funded by the last splost. were they budgeted as a whole or just the vehicle without the equipment. Several new cars are on the street with outdated sirens, cages, and lights that were salvaged from previous fleet. Where is the extra money going from these parts that were budgeted for? Also, it is widely known that you get what you pay for. The video / audio systems are faulty, having to be placed in the shop on a regular basis. The audio feature is almost non existent. Of course it wasn't a concern until the Kenny walker shooting when city council was shocked that they could not hear what was on the video... The AVL (automatic vehicle locater) doesn't work. It is the norm that when attempting to activate this feature, it shows that the car is still in the parking garage or at the officers home. Some may try to say that it is not being activated properly, try it and you will see...

2. Why did the city invest in the Chevy impala as a patrol car? whomever was in on this, did they do their homework. Michigan St. Police, the leaders in the field of research, have done study after study on which vehicle holds up the best. Yes, the Ford crown Victoria cost more up front, but in the long run, with durability and functionality, it is cheaper. Also, maintenance is cheaper on the crown vic. the impala just will not hold up to the wear and tear of the daily activities of a patrol vehicle. Also, with all the equipment that we carry, it is nearly impossible to place anything else in the rear of the impala...for those of you that have one as a personal vehicle, do you have a donut spare tire or a full size? I am not saying that they are not good personal or administrative vehicles, just not patrol vehicles.

3. nearly every officer that has a supercar, has experienced this, nothing is more frustrating than having to start you work week by jump starting your patrol car because the battery is dead. The supposed experts advised the city "experts" that at least a second battery or larger alternator was needed to run the extra electrical equipment installed in the vehicle. Of course our "experts" thought otherwise. Again, was this feature included in the budget for the supercar?

4. why does the city allow its officers to wear equipment that is shown to be flawed? i.e, second chance body armor. they have recently declared bankruptcy because of a flaw, yet we continue outfitting our officers. has the city done any research on the safety of the body armor that it uses, and provide it to the officer to ease their concerns.

5. why is it that the only time the city council darkens the doorsteps of the public safety building is during election time? this goes back to my original suggestion, why do they not ride along. as a citizen i find it interesting that they refuse to even ride in the district that they represent.

6. why is the department still preforming funeral processions? don't the funeral homes charge the families for this, yet we take an officer off the street to provide this escort. It doesn't seem like a lot but there would be at least one more officer on the streets today if the police department did not escort funeral for free. why can't this be handled as a part time job....

7. why does the city continue to detail officers to manage the traffic at the fair...yet, those working inside the venue are doing so as a part time job, paid for by the fair. if the city forced the fair to hire off duty officer to handle the traffic think of the extra money that could be saved. or is this a case of the city charging the fair an exorbitant fee then paying the officers overtime.

8. why can't the city do like others and pay officers a percentage over their base pay who speak a second language. there are several nights that no one on the streets speak Spanish. if the city gave an incentive to the officers to speak a second language then we could provide a better service to the citizens.

9. not really a suggestion but, have you thought about this...because officers are working long hours to make ends meet do you think that they are taking care of themselves physically, not to mention do you think they have a chance to eat properly. yes, we have an over abundance of the stereotypical round officers who dine on fast food and donuts. but do you think that they are getting any physical exercise other than cinching up the gun belt or getting in and out of the car. not really a concern of city council what happens when this out of shape officer gets in a foot chase, gets in a fight, or simply gets injured on the job. when you are not in good shape you take longer to recover, thus you are out of work longer and disability rates rise. so does the cost of health insurance. Now you have an officer that is not only injured but receives disability from the city, and they are paying a percentage of his/her health costs since this happened on duty. this is a hidden cost that very few think about until the family pays the ultimate cost...loss of a loved one from assault, injury, or health problems...

now for the question, the department has a budget for salaries for a full staff top to bottom. for years, there has been up to 40 shortages thoughout the police department alone. most of the time it is an average of about 20 a year. where is the money budgeted for those salaries going? and why is it when there is a budget crunch, and there is something the city wants they find the money for it, yet everything else is heaved on the backs of the citizens....

Uh-oh -- someone suggesting an end to the Columbus property tax freeze. Isn't that a little like the President suggesting changes to Social Security?

I didn't realize our police officers were riding in squad cars with "outdated sirens." What's the new thing in sirens for 2005? Can police play Green Day's "American Idiot" as they pull over a dumb criminal?

It's truly a problem when a police AVL isn't working properly. But if Columbus city officials negotiate properly, perhaps they can work out an alternative -- and get a group car discount from OnStar.

When it comes to using Impalas as patrol cars instead of Crown Victorias, this sounds like a good old "Columbus business" decision. After all, Bill Heard has dealerships from here to Arizona -- and it simply wouldn't look good for tourists to come to town and see police not supporting someone so famous.

Don't forget the safety questions that have surrounded Ford police cars in other cities, and which national newscasts have mentioned for years. Do "Crown Vics" lead to officers being "Vics" - as in victims?

Someone else suggested by e-mail that Columbus Councilors ride along with police officers on a busy shift. Muscogee County Judge Doug Pullen did this 30 years ago, as an Assistant District Attorney. I know this because Cascade Hills Pastor Bill Purvis had him say so on videotape recently - and I don't think Purvis plans to enter politics at all.

Talk about a touchy suggestion - no police handling funeral processions?! In Columbus, some of those processions might start rolling so fast that officers will have to show up to handle wrecks....

Bonus pay for speaking a second language is an interesting idea. Of course, officers might gain a different sort of fringe benefit - free dinners at El Carrizo restaurant.

We know plenty of police officers are in good physical condition, because we've seen them put to the test at the Georgia Police and Fire Games. Let's face it: the obstacle course runs look a lot more interesting on TV than the police billiard and bowling tournaments....

Now other fun and games from a springlike Sunday:

+ Seven buildings from the World War Two era were rolled from Fort Benning to the site of the new National Infantry Museum. Until the museum is ready to open, those buildings will make excellent hideouts for homeless veterans.

+ WCGT-TV 16 presented the live talk show "Out of Order." Host Nate Sanderson proved he was in charge, by banging a gavel on the talk show table! I can't wait to see former Judge Roxann Daniel fill in, when he goes on vacation.

(Nate Sanderson renamed North Korea's dictator several times, calling him "Lil' Kim!" I shudder at the thought of Kim Jung Il wearing a miniskirt....)

+ An annual celebrity quail hunt in Albany featured an appearance by TV's "Beaver," Jerry Mathers. This had to be a challenge - because if he shot over the daily limit, he couldn't blame any of it on Eddie Haskell.

+ The 47th annual Grammy Awards featured an all-star cast singing "Sweet Home Alabama," and a performance by the Blind Boys of Alabama. Yet once again, the "Million Dollar Band" from Tuscaloosa was snubbed....

+ Instant Message to arena football's Philadelphia Soul: What do you mean, quarterback Tony Graziani is a "special player?" When he was with the Atlanta Falcons, he was a third-string player on a so-so team.

COMING TUESDAY: Why I'm avoiding the most obvious topic for this day.... and an e-mail complaint about the new library....

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.

© 2003-05 Richard Burkard, All Rights Reserved.