Wednesday, April 30, 2008

30 APR 08: 11-ALIVE

Don't worry, Atlanta-area readers - I am NOT talking about a TV station with that nickname today. I'm not even talking about the new Columbus low-power station at channel 11. After all, most of the actors it shows in movies are dead.

BLOG SPECIAL EVENT: No, we're talking about your blogger today - as Tuesday marked 11 years since I moved to Columbus. In keeping with an annual custom, I marked the anniversary with a run downtown Tuesday evening. The good news is that I improved substantially over last year. But then again, last April I had pneumonia and couldn't even run around the block.

My estimated running distance for this year's anniversary run was 2.15 miles non-stop. I still have the records from 29 Apr 97, and on that Tuesday night I ran about 1.7 miles. So I'm better off today than I was 11 years ago - but I'm not sure if makes a difference in which way I vote.

The anniversary run came three days after the end of the "Walk Georgia" project, where people across the state were encouraged to exercise for eight weeks.
My effort ended with a whimper, more than a bang - and a Saturday night run by car to Golden Donuts can be a bit fun.

(But I had a couple of three-mile early-morning jogs last week, in the final days of record-keeping. Get up with the chickens, and you might wind up feeling like a roadrunner.)

If you didn't follow our "Trudge Reports" at the bottom of each entry, my final total over the last eight weeks was 185.6 miles of running. That includes regular jogs, as well as racquetball workouts computed by the Walk Georgia web site. The racquetball numbers were so generous that I think one whack equaled six steps.

Take out the racquetball days, and my computer log shows 54.6 miles of actual running over eight weeks. But the Walk Georgia computer figured it a bit higher, based on the number of minutes I ran. They must not realize I run at a slow pace - the better to avoid tripping over uneven sidewalks on Broadway.

My walking total during Walk Georgia actually was small, at 20.1 miles. By comparison, the "Walking Divas" who led all Muscogee County teams went 2560.8 miles. They're probably the four women who have NOT noted gas prices going higher.

Our Blog of Columbus team is placed in the middle of the Muscogee County pack -- 12th out of 25 teams, with 874.4 miles of exercise. One of our members started strongly, but Samantha suddenly stopped making entries in week four. I hope she wasn't seriously hurt -- especially since I didn't ask anyone to sign liability waivers.

The Walk Georgia scoreboard shows me 37th out of 182 Muscogee County entries, at almost 350 miles. The local leader is Teresa S., at an astounding 2948.6 miles. Last Tuesday alone, she recorded about seven hours of exercise -- and I hope the other Columbus Lions cheerleaders appreciate how slim and trim she is.

The grand finale celebration for Walk Georgia will be next Monday at Lakebottom Park. But an e-mail I received from the program this week indicated it may come back in September and October. I recommend it not only for getting in shape, but seeing how much you're really working out. Who knows - come fall, you might find you're ahead of Third Brigade soldiers.

E-MAIL UPDATE: Monday's report on "Mr. Big Volume" in Texas brought one big idea from a reader....

Hello Richard,

Your story about a local car dealership was great. Many of us who have lived in Columbus for many years are of the opinion that you just do not do business with the big volume dealer. It is the general opinion of many of us old folks in Columbus that mr big thrives off the Military and the foolish. Don't get me wrong, I am not suggesting that the Military are foolish, they just have not been in Columbus long enough to know the tactics used to sell a car at some of those large dealerships with the fancy signs.

I find it ironic that many of the same practices are used in the religious community in this town also. Maybe this is why many refer to the congregation at one of these large churches as "Bill Heard Baptist" (Bill Heard is a large car dealership in Columbus). Many believe that both organizations use deception to sell their products. Maybe there should be a Better Baptist Association in Columbus...Oh wait, there is. Its called the Columbus Baptist Association. However, just like the BBB, who wont touch the big volume dealership in town, the Columbus Baptist Association is just as frightened of the big volume church.

Lets look at some similarities between two big volume organizations in Columbus.

They both have really nice showrooms with flat screen tv's etc.

They both have smooth, fast talking salesmen in expensive clothes.

They both have fancy digital signs along major roadways

They both have annoying advertisements on the radio

They both have annoying advertisements on Television (mind you one of the organizations are broken up into 30 second spots while the other is in thirty minute doses)

They both allegedly don't mind lying to accomplish their goal or put money in their pocket

They both allegedly have state and city officials in their pocket

The leaders of both organizations live in very fine houses

The leaders of both organization drive very fine cars

Both organizations are a family business

Both organizations have leaders who are members of the country club

Both are large profit centers, although one is tax exempt

They Both have great attorneys and love to use them

They Both have leaders who travel in wealthy circles and have little contact with their customer base

Neither of the leaders are likely to be seen visiting their customers in a hospital

One might suspect Jesus wouldn't do business with either organization

Very few people bring their bibles to either showroom

They both have had cars in their showroom at some point, although I doubt you would ever find a Porchse at one of the organizations

I would not be out of the question for either of the leaders or their spouses to have had "enhancement" surgery

They both have parking lots filled with expensive cars, although one is only two days a week

They both thrive on the military, because the military isn't around long enough to know the truth about the organizations

Neither get much repeat business

Neither have very good service "after the sale"

Both leaders spend VERY LITTLE TIME in their Columbus showroom

Both have great "closes", when it comes time to buy

There is music in both showrooms (although the music at one organization is not nearly as loud and is generally better quality)

Both have many marginal employees who are allegedly willing to do whatever necessary to keep their jobs

Both have coffee in the lobby, but only one has starbucks, and only one charges money for it

Both organizations have leaders who still manage to sleep at night regardless of what they have done during the day

Neither organization has a clue what the letters WWJD, nor would they care if they did

etc etc...


Now hold on a minute! Some of these comparisons simply don't fit - because the Cascade Hills Church worship team actually warned people that last weekend's guest speaker was a fast talker, compared to Bill Purvis.

And since when has Cascade Hills Church run radio ads? I haven't heard any - but maybe I'm listening to the wrong stations. Pastor Bill Purvis would sound quite normal around John Boy and Billy.

When Pastor Bill Purvis marked 25 years at Cascade Hills a few weeks ago, he mentioned how he used to visit hospitals. He explained there's now a "pastoral team" which takes care of that. The only time Bill Heard Chevrolet's staff might visit a hospital is when "Repo Joe" spots a long-time patient who missed a payment.

As for Bibles "in the showroom," I actually saw a church ministry business card on a Bill Heard salesman's desk a few years ago. But I think the best "bible" for customers to take to Bill Heard Parkway is a copy of Consumer Reports.

And what would the Bill Heard staff give those initials WWJD - maybe "whitewalls just delivered?"

We'll stop the Bill-paying there, and move on to a comment on our Tuesday blog exclusive:

Hey Richard;

For more information - the Truth's website is up, somewhat....

Plans are for local announcers to go on the air once the station can support itself (IE: generate ad revenue).

H. Lynn Page suggested to me that could happen. But beginning Thursday morning, the focus apparently will be on music - so you'll hear The Truth, and nothing but The Truth.

Now for some facts and fun from the Tuesday news....

+ Mayor Jim Wetherington submitted his city budget proposal for the next fiscal year. At $210 million, it's up 2.5 percent from the current budget - but did I hear it right that the 2.5 percent reflects higher fuel costs? If the city's gas price is increasing that little, I want to know where that pump is.

(The proposal budget includes money for seven new city positions. Will the potential sewer workers please get in line, behind all the dozens of police officers?)

+ A program at Columbus Technical College honored Manchester's John White, who was cleared of a rape conviction last year through DNA testing. If White isn't careful, he might wind up in custody again - being hauled all over the state by the Georgia Innocence Project.

+ Six Flags Over Georgia announced it's cutting ticket prices by ten dollars for the rest of the year, to $39.95. Now THIS is a sign of a tight economy. And if things get any worse, the park's name might change to Five Flags.

+ Columbus bashed Benedictine 5-1 in the boys' high school soccer playoffs. The Benedictine goalie tried to punch one high ball off his goal line - but it wound up in his own net. And then people ask why Georgia high schools need boys' volleyball programs in the winter....

+ Instant Message to the woman I passed in the 600 block of Broadway, begging to a homeowner on a porch: If you only need a dollar for "gas money," you obviously have no clue what the current price of gas is.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 663 (+ 24, 3.8%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008


Scan around your FM radio in Columbus right now, and you may hear the voice of James Earl Jones reading the Bible non-stop. His voice is in between "Rock 103" and "Foxie 105" -- which makes you wonder if someone is trying to cleanse that part of the dial.

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: That voice is coming from a new radio station we learned about last month through e-mail [26 Mar]. WBOJ-FM 103.7 is now on the air, calling itself "The Truth." With a name like that, you'd think it was owned by a group of attorneys....

"We're shaking it down right now," the majority owner of WBOJ told your blog Monday night. H. Lynn Page actually is retired from Synovus -- where I would hope the phrase "shakedown" isn't in anyone's vocabulary.

WBOJ went on the air last Thursday. H. Lynn Page says the Bible-reading will end and regular programming officially will begin Thursday morning. No, James Earl Jones will NOT end with the dramatic announcement, "This... is CNN!"

H. Lynn Page told me WBOJ will play "contemporary Christian music" as of Thursday. For those of you who only go to church occasionally, that means songs you can't find in the standard hymnal....

Uh-oh - there are some religious radio stations in Columbus which openly attack contemporary Christian music, and almost declare it demonic. "That's their problem," H. Lynn Page said of such criticism. Of course, the critics would say they're on God's side and HE is the problem.

Thursday happens to be the National Day of Prayer - but H. Lynn Page did NOT realize the matching timing of his station's start-up date until I mentioned it to him. This may explain why the noon-hour prayer event in Phenix City draws embarrassingly small crowds for a "Bible belt" area. I mean, you can find more people at Columbus Catfish games....

H. Lynn Page indicated WBOJ will sound a lot like WVFJ-FM in Manchester. "J-93.3" used to be heard easily in Columbus, but now is aimed toward the southside of metro Atlanta. Local residents hearing that station late at night might be surprised to learn John Tesh is a Christian.

Unlike some radio stations, H. Lynn Page told me WBOJ will NOT rely on a satellite network for its music. The music will play locally, but will have NO local announcers for now. Perhaps that means all the out-of-work DJ's from other stations have to repent first.

And unlike most of the religious radio stations in Columbus, WBOJ will have advertising. So the station is "The Truth," at least until you hear a car commercial....

WBOJ hinted at its music plan in early March, when it co-sponsored a RiverCenter concert by the Christian band Third Day. H. Lynn Page told me it did "marginally OK" financially, so his station might not do that again for awhile. Which reminds me - where's the big news release with final numbers from Broadway Springfest?

H. Lynn Page believes there's room in Columbus for a contemporary Christian music radio station. In fact, there already is one - but Beacon University's WBUE-FM is a low-power station, and hard to hear on the south side of town. Of course, loud trucks and drivers turning up rap tunes can make ANY station hard to hear there.

By my count, the launch of WBOJ gives Columbus seven religious radio stations. So if "The Truth" is not for you, you can try some variations:

+ WYFK at 89.5 FM - playing old-time hymns, and loudly against contemporary Christian tunes. If a song has a drumbeat, you should flee from it.

+ WFRC, at 90.5 FM - where the music is traditional as well. This station's President says Jesus definitely will return in 2011, so go ahead and buy that car with a five-year lease.

+ WBUE, at 96.1 FM - a station so modern that I've heard Christian rap tunes here. And the rappers are NOT reading from the Bible.

+ WURY, at 97.1 FM - the Seventh-Day Adventists' station, playing a network based in France. That may explain why the February evangelistic outreach at Columbus State University was never mentioned on the air.

+ WEAM-FM, at 100.7 - the Davis Broadcasting station playing "black gospel" music. Federal documents suggest it may have tried to block WBOJ from going on the air. As if there's a limit to stations playing Yolanda Adams songs?!

+ WSHE "AM 1270" - the "Southern gospel" station. I almost didn't count it, because you never hear "Duke and the Doctor" giving testimonies about anything except supplements.

While we're talking about radio, WIOL-FM has announced its new on-air staff as "Mix 95.7." The afternoon voice is somebody named "Nudge." [True/] I haven't met this guy - so maybe he's that "gentle little Nudge from your United Methodist friends" I hear about on other stations.

E-MAIL UPDATE: A reader is puzzled about the right side of the screen....

What happened to your archives?

They used to be there, listed first by the week and then by the month. But for reasons beyond me, they disappeared from the blog several months ago. It's not like I've been paying a monthly storage fee or something.

The good news is that the search device at the top of the page seems to work very well now. So you can type in a word of phrase, and find all the items we've written about it. Who knows how many potential Columbus Council candidates are doing it, during qualifying week?

And speaking of candidates, here's one more item from that Russell County Commission contender -- responding to what we wrote here Sunday:

Sir Richard:

Since the caw of a crow, the screech of a peacock, and the bray of a jackass; often interupt the CALM of "Hurt'sboro, I paid little heed to the raucos sounds of "Little" Sam!!

One thing piques my interest though! Why was he so interested in involving my "Ex." without presenting the names of his past spouses to extol his virtues! I'm sure your BLOG is just like the FOX NETWORK - you report - we decide!! But, unlike Bill O'Reilly; the spin starts here, You are truly a thought provoking individual!!

Constable R. J. Schweiger

Now, now - if you guys want to settle this in a proper forum, apply to go on "Divorce Court." Maybe you'll be on next week, right after Gary Coleman.

In terms of this blog, the updated score in the Russell County Commission District 7 race is now: Robert Schweiger three e-mails, J.D. Upshaw one interview, Larry Screws no contact. The school year can't end soon enough, for Screws to show off his principal's paddle at campaign appearances.

Now for a quick swat or two at Monday news headlines:

+ WLTZ reported the city Human Resources department has expressed "concern" about the recent process of hiring a Deputy Fire Chief. If two candidates filed EEOC complaints against your office, you might be concerned as well - at least about the legal bills.

(The latest complaint to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is from a woman who says inappropriate questions were asked, when she interviewed for a Deputy Fire Chief position. C'mon now - what's wrong in asking how the mayor spells his last name?)

+ The Georgia Court of Appeals found in favor of the Muscogee County School District, when it comes to land around the central library. It does NOT have to build a park, even though some say it was promised in a sales tax vote. The Education Park Coalition now might have to go to WRBL, and demand "Green Week" be followed by a Greenspace Week.

+ The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it's legal to Georgia and other states require identification cards with photographs at the polls. I never quite understood the arguments by civil rights groups against this. You can still buy disposable cameras for less than five dollars.

+ Instant Message to Eli Gold: It was good to see you at Green Island Country Club Monday night, pumping up Alabama football. But I'm a bit surprised you didn't bring any undrafted players along, so they can network for jobs.

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 639 (+ 39, 6.5%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, April 28, 2008


Uh-oh - yet another TV station is taking on Columbus's "Mr. Big Volume." And once again, they are NOT challenging the loudness of his TV commercials....

We mentioned last April [25 Apr 07] that a Nashville TV station had investigated the Bill Heard dealerships there. Now a Houston station is doing the same thing, and making amazingly similar discoveries. And in Houston, Bill Heard is quite a respected name -- since it's been on the outfield wall at Astros baseball games.

In a TV report last week, two former employees of Bill Heard Chevrolet in suburban Houston accused managers of ordering them to forge documents to sell cars. One salesman even admitted preparing bogus drivers' licenses. But of course, this dealership IS much closer to the Mexican border.

One former salesman accused Houston's Bill Heard Chevrolet of ordering him to drive a car 43 miles to a woman's home, and leave it there with the keys inside -- even though the woman merely had taken a test drive, and wasn't ready to buy. Take the car back, and face a sales attack....

Of course, Bill Heard Chevrolet denies doing anything wrong. The Texas dealership even claims the 43-mile drive to drop off a car wasn't illegal. As long as the customer wasn't billed for the gasoline burned on the round trip....

Another Houston-area customer claims after she bought a truck, Bill Heard Chevrolet ran her credit application four more times -- to buy cars for other people. If this was the Jay family of about seven dealerships, this might be understandable.

Bill Heard Chevrolet promised to work on restoring the Texas woman's credit record. But as of last week, the problem reportedly still wasn't resolved. You almost get the feeling it's because the dealership's attorneys have too many things to do.

Last week's reports actually were a follow-up, about Bill Heard Chevrolet of suburban Houston. Last fall, the TV station revealed 911 is called to the Texas dealership about three times a month - and not because people are collapsing, at the tremendous values.

Customers actually called police to Bill Heard Chevrolet of suburban Houston, claiming the staff took their car keys and wouldn't give them back. And here's the worst part - this was NOT the work of the service department.

One customer reportedly became so fed up with Bill Heard that she demanded her trade-in back. It finally reached her, only with a missing radio antenna. So while "Mr. Big Volume" may not speak softly, it still might carry a big stick.

So many people have complained about Bill Heard Chevrolet that the Houston Better Business Bureau refuses to let it become a member. That tells me one thing - the Houston BBB office must be in far better financial shape than the Columbus branch.

(We should note Bill Heard Chevrolet is located in the suburb of Sugar Land, Texas. If word gets around about these news stories, the country music group SugarLand might have to post a disclaimer on its web site.)

So whatever happened to the complaint against Bill Heard by the Georgia Governor's Office of Consumer Affairs? Apparently nothing has happened. An online check Sunday night found nothing new about the case -- but the office still bragging about the lawsuit on its web site. No new suits in nine months must mean more Georgians are upright and ethical than even some preachers think.

Cars are involved in our review of the Sunday news, but not at the top....

+ Who broke a big window pane near the front door of the Columbus Civic Center over the weekend? Did Tinkerbell wave her wand in the wrong direction, during a "Disney on Ice" performance?

+ Ledger-Enquirer Executive Editor Ben Holden offered another front-page explanation for last week's reduction in the number of pages. I'm wondering if the people complaining about this reduction are the same ones who think city government is too big.

+ Lakewood Elementary School in Phenix City presented a student art show. The school has no art teacher - so if students draw something exceptionally well, either they're gifted or the profession isn't really necessary.

+ Kyle Busch won the NASCAR race in Talladega. The race ended under a caution flag, after two crashes occurred on the last lap - and countless fans from Birmingham are likely to see the same thing today on Interstate 20-59.

(WRBL reported more than 20 Russell County Sheriff's officers helped with security at the Talladega race. Perhaps they had the dangerous task of standing on the track after the checkered flag, looking for angry fans throwing beer cans.)

+ The National Football League draft ended, with the Atlanta Falcons selecting Louisiana State tight end Keith Zinger in the final round. If he drops passes during games, angry fans will nickname him Raspberry.

(Did you notice not one player from Alabama was drafted this year? This is likely to change in 2009 - assuming Nick Saban jumps back into pro football coaching by next April.)

BURKARD'S BEST BETS: Gas for $3.55 a gallon (shudder) at Marathon, 36th Street and Second Avenue.... tangerines for 20 cents at Piggly Wiggly.... and early sales of large signs in Atlanta asking, "Where in the world is Matt Ryan?"....

SCHEDULED TUESDAY: Is something missing from this blog? A reader asks about it....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 600 (- 15, 2.4%)

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008


"It's kind of slow tonight," the restaurant server admitted to me. It was around 8:00 Saturday evening, and only about one-third of the tables were taken. And you thought only die-hard sports fans watched the pro football draft.

I looked around the wide-open spaces at this Airport Thruway restaurant, and wondered if that meant Broadway Springfest was filled with people. Uptown Columbus tried a new version of Riverfest this weekend - only this one had free admission to the grounds. And, I assume, at least one small table taking donations for the Historic Columbus Foundation.

I drove down Tenth Street on the way home from the restaurant, and found a couple of open parking spaces around the Government Center. That told me Broadway Springfest was not completely packed - at least not to the point where people were griping about walking entire block-and-a-half to the action.

This trip down Tenth Street occurred while a play was in progress at the Springer Opera House's little theatre, and the RiverCenter presented a concert by the country group "Cowboy Crush." We'll know those women have made it big if their name is applied to the Dallas Cowboys' defensive line.

Of course, a big sign on Tenth Street alerted drivers to free parking for Broadway Springfest in a parking deck. I didn't drive on to see how crowded it was. I didn't want to risk being the one-millionth driver - and lose my car in a sinkhole.

The timing was terrible for a sinkhole to develop downtown - but one did Friday afternoon, not far from the Broadway Springfest site. All kinds of work was performed for Streetscape, but you wonder if below-ground SewerScape repairs should have been accomplished first.

Broadway Springfest actually kicked off Friday, with artistic events for children. I had an errand to run at noon, and found plenty of students around a jazz band - while others did art work on the sidewalk a couple of blocks away. Maybe if Broadway businesses hired chalk artists, people who stare down a lot while walking might spend some money there.

The Friday night feature at Broadway Springfest was a musical tribute to Ma Rainey. Given her personal legacy, it's a bit surprising this wasn't staged one block away - at Club Odyssey on First Avenue.

Sonya Sorich's blog for the Ledger-Enquirer notes a new bar opened on Broadway, just in time for Springfest. It's a rock joint called "The Roadhouse." How many tourists are going to be embarrassed when they walk inside, and ask for steak dinners?

The biggest empty spot on Broadway right now may be the Bradley Theatre, near 13th Street. It's been empty for months, except for possibly housing the studios of WHAL-AM "Viva 1460" - but not even touring bands from Mexico perform there. It's as if the Ritmo Latino Club is their "green card zone" of safety.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We have two items in the InBox from the Russell-Bullock County line. This one reached us first:

I bought gas in Union Springs,AL for $3.34..When I got to Columbus it was over $3.50 .. Why so much more here?

I wonder if MCSD has considered going back to neighborhood schools to save fuel expenses?

I don't know about the second question, but I have a theory about the first one. Union Springs is well out in the country - and the news about a price hike needed a day or two to reach that town.

When I was in Montgomery last weekend, the gas prices seemed about the same as they are in Columbus. The standard price in Columbus has gone up about 20 cents a gallon since then. So when a Circle K store on Milgen Road was robbed Saturday, I think it was a mistake - as the robbers wanted the one giving away free gas for a year.

A few miles down the road from Union Springs, we find....

Sir Richard:

Just thought I would "ring your bell" with some news from "hurt'sboro. This week's Citizen has a front page story about the charter debacle. That thing should have been put to bed a month ago! Anyway; the wheels of justice are creeping forward - much to the consternation of the "powerful" in Phenix City!

Wednesday of this week it was reported that - The "Hurt'sboro police car was parked in front of an apartment complex in Phenix City! Chief Christian must be quite a man; he's seen headed in that direction on a regular basis.

One more thing - one of our city workers (Trash collection) is in jail. He is now; just another prisoner; with "time" on his hands!

Constable R.J. Schweiger

We should note that's Russell County Commission candidate R.J. Schweiger. He seems to have calmed down a bit, since entering the race - because you'll notice this e-mail doesn't call his opponents any names.

There could be many reasons why a Hurtsboro police car is parked in front of a Phenix City apartment complex. Let's see - maybe he was picking up a suspect to return to the city jail. Maybe the chief was consulting his attorney, about another mark on his police record. Or perhaps it's Hurtsboro's version of an undercover investigation.

We don't know the name of this Hurtsboro trash collector, who's reportedly under arrest. You don't think he stole parts from the Hurtsboro garbage truck....?!

By the way, we should note Robert Schweiger apparently has NOT been arrested since entering the Russell County Commission race. You'll recall former neighbor Sam Smith promised to have him arrested for harassment [30 Mar]. Perhaps Smith is waiting until he has more evidence - like one week before the Democratic primary.

After a couple of busy days, we have plenty of local news to catch up on....

+ More than 200 additional Third Brigade soldiers returned to Fort Benning. What concerns me as I drive around town is that I've only seen one sign welcoming the soldiers home - and that one is in front of the Cat Walk lounge. [True!]

+ Former deputy John Darr announced he'll run for Muscogee County Sheriff. No doubt he'll win the support of the drug education officers - who will put up "DARE FOR DARR" signs.

+ Firefighters were called to Peachtree Mall, after a sign above the old Parisian store burst into flames. This disappointed some customers, who were hoping Burger King had opened a restaurant in the food court.

+ A Lee County judge issued a "gag order" in the Courtney Lockhart case, based on the killing of Lauren Burk. As if I was writing jokes about this to begin with....

+ Some Auburn University students staged a "day of silence," in support of homosexual and bisexual people. I would have mentioned this event sooner, but nobody told me about it.

+ The male principal of Ladonia Elementary School wore a dress all day, because the school met a charity fund-raising goal. The timing of this seems terrible - since Q and U are barely back from their honeymoon.

+ The Atlanta Falcons used the third pick in the National Football League draft to take Boston College quarterback Matt Ryan. It's nice to see the team is bringing back that old soap opera - Ryan's Hope.

+ Instant Message to the woman who dressed her seven nieces up for the "Disney on Ice" show in princess costumes: Were you actually trying to get them on TV? And was it simply to show them off - or was this a sneaky plug for a costume rental shop?

COMING THIS WEEK: A familiar local name is under fire again.... and a final report on our Blog Special Event....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 615 (- 17, 2.7%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 55-56: Running, 1.9 miles; walking, 1.6 miles. Total: 185.6 miles run, 20.1 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, April 25, 2008


Play poker for awhile, and you learn the importance of the "poker face." When nice cards come up for you, don't do anything to give that fact away. That tends to come easily for me - which may explain my success at poker, but my lack of success in romance.

BLOGGER BEGGAR #7 presented me with that challenge late Thursday night. I wound up spending four hours at Lil Kim's Cove on poker night, earning the second-place prize. It was only a one-block walk home - but I couldn't even get to the corner. "Sir," said a young man approaching behind me.

"What?!" I said in a frustrated whisper.

"How you doing, sir?" At 12:15 a.m., it seemed safe to presume this man was NOT engaged in business networking.

"It's after midnight. What do you want?" I said to cut to the chase. The hour was late, a blog entry still had to be written - and two beggars in three nights on the same street made me wonder if Circle K stores were becoming satellites for the House of Mercy.

"I'll admit it, sir. I'm hungry and I'm homeless."

"Come on," I said as I pointed the man toward my apartment.

"Can I come in?" After what a neighbor told me about Tuesday night's beggar, I knew better than to allow that. If all else failed, some Motel 6 rooms now have nice hardwood floors.

"No. I'm going by the first thing you said. You're hungry, so I'll feed you." If local food pantries wonder why there's no donation at my mailbox on Mother's Day weekend, it's because someone beat the letter carriers to it.

As I walked toward home, the beggar stopped at the First Avenue corner. I had to motion him forward to join me -- as if neighbors had chased him away once as well. But at 12:15 a.m., the Welcome Wagon was asleep for the night.

"Do you live by yourself?" the man asked as he reached my front porch. It was time for another game of Hold 'em Poker - and this possible criminal had lost quickly, by asking for too much information.

"What difference does that make?" I said as I motioned him to sit in a chair on the front porch. It was admittedly an uncomfortable chair -- an office chair I was given from a workplace a few years ago, which has deteriorated badly. If the city would grant another waiver from landfill fees, I could take care of it once and for all.

"Why do you need to know that?" I asked the man again - and he didn't give an answer, quietly sitting in the chair. A possible criminal might want to know, so he could plan a break-in. And 12:15 a.m. is a lousy time to begin negotiating terms for taking in a roommate.

You'll recall I heated a microwave meal for the beggar earlier this week. But at this late hour, I felt compelled to move even faster. So locking the front door behind me, I reached into the pantry for a small aluminum can. I opened it, put a toothpick in the middle of it and took it to the porch.

"Vienna sausages," I said to the beggar - after he puzzled over the can a moment, as if I might be a second coming of Jeffrey Dahmer.

"There you are, sir" - and the beggar walked off the porch, quickly ending the transaction. If he really wanted a room for the night, he'd have to go back to Lil Kim's Cove and negotiate with the cash-game poker players. Except he probably didn't have the money to buy a seat at the table, much less bet.

This marked the first time a beggar had stopped me on the short walk home from poker night. Yet I guess it was inevitable. We've noted here often how beggars tend to frequent Fourth Street, near the Civic Center. It's enough to make you wonder why Fourth Street Baptist Church doesn't turn its day care center into an all-night shelter.

Yet other parts of Columbus which used to be beggar hotbeds are not anymore. I noticed that recently at 14th and Veterans Parkway. A Circle K station there posted signs against loitering - and all the potential beggars standing around after dark disappeared. Thursday night, of course, they were replaced by low-income people seeking a two-hour gas discount.

I know some Columbus police officers read this blog from time to time, and today I appeal to them. It's time for more patrols in the blocks around the Civic Center, to keep the "tramps" (to borrow from city code) away. Their begging might keep people away from the skate park currently under construction. But then, the skateboarders could outrace them - and even use their boards as defensive weapons.

As for poker night: second place marked my fifth finish "in the money" since we started playing at Lil Kim's Cove on Thursday nights last summer. I've been keeping track, and I've reached the final table 45 percent of the time. If only my math was that good, in figuring out my chances with two pair.

I'm finding drama classes in college are coming in handy - as I'm able to keep my mouth shut, and not give away too much at the poker table. Sad to say, the giveaways are waiting for me right outside the door....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 632 (+ 11, 1.8%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 54: Running, 2.7 miles; walking, 0.4 miles. Total: 166.6 miles run, 18.5 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008


"How high is it going now?" I asked the woman holding a long pole Wednesday afternoon.

"Three-57 for regular unleaded...." and the prices went up from there, to $3.77 for top-grade. You'd think that grade would be cheaper by now, with no one buying it anymore.

As you might guess, the woman with her long magnetic pole was outside changing gas prices at a central Columbus convenience store. They went up another eight cents Wednesday - making me glad I merely walked to this store to buy a bag of corn chips.

A church denomination I attended for years warned members to "prepare to reduce your standard of living." The high price of fuel seems to be making a lot of people do that - at least a little. But I still don't see a lot of people rolling down 13th Street during morning rush-hour on bicycles.

Fuel prices can cause the shipping costs of many items to go up. WXTX "News at Ten" found an East Alabama flower shop Wednesday, which now is charging a delivery fee. Money may not grow on trees, but it's now growing in bouquets of roses.

The Ledger-Enquirer reorganized its paper this week, explaining it was reducing the cost of newsprint. The editors seemingly forgot to add another reason - a reduction in the number of print advertisers.

Someone suggested in the newspaper's "Sound Off" column Wednesday that the city of Columbus could do more to save on fuel costs. Of course, city government engages in a good deal of car pooling already. Police officers ride in pairs, and firefighters go out by battalions....

But anyway: the Sound Off suggestion was for the city to cut garbage collection from two days a week to one. This presumably would cut fuel consumption by the Public Services Department. And it might inspire residents to do some experimenting - either by using more recyclables, or turning leftover chili beans into some kind of "natural gas."

But if trash pick-up is cut in half across Columbus, what will the garbage crews do -- as in the jail inmates? You know what they say, about how "idle hands are the devil's playground." There's only a need for so many license plates right now....

(And should we extend this idea even farther? If we pray for a drought to come back this summer, jail inmates won't have much grass in the parks to mow.)

Even military maneuvering is being affected by the high cost of fuel. The first group of Third Brigade soldiers returned to Fort Benning late Wednesday night - but those 100 soldiers arrived with 170 from another unit. I didn't realize the "One Columbus" phenomenon had spread this far....

Perhaps the scariest sign of the gas price squeeze came Wednesday from Sam's Club. It's joining Costco, in limiting sales of several kinds of rice. But thankfully, this won't apply to me - because I buy brown rice at the store. I'm simply not a Jasmine guy.

Commodity experts insisted on the TV news that there's NO rice shortage in the U.S. But some people may be panicking, because, uh, the rice price is not so nice....

(There's another side to this possible panic which still has to happen. It's a great time to sell Tupperware, and keep rodents away from the rice bags.)

BLOG UPDATE: Along these lines, Muscogee County School Transportation Director Randall Curry said Wednesday the district encourages a "no-idling" policy for bus drivers. So what a reader saw outside the RiverCenter last week [17 Apr] may have been a quick warm-up before children left the musical -- or it may have been a game of "first off the pit lane."

It turns out Muscogee County schools are spending about $1.5 million on fuel this school year. I could be wrong on this, but I believe the price is fixed by an annual contract. When a new school year begins in August.... well, you won't mind a fare box next to the bus driver, will you?

E-MAIL UPDATE: A couple of things we've mentioned already go hand-in-hand with this message....

Mr Burkard:

Being Earth Day, I have been recently notified about the Columbus Recycling Program's issues and I was wondering if you knew of it or know where to find it. The city of Columbus collects recyclable material and then brings it to the Goodwill Industries, from there Goodwill packages it and then it is implied they sell it. This is similar to what most cities and communities do with such material, however the other cities can provide citizens with financial information of revenue raised from the sale of such material. Columbus can not or will not provide that information. The City claims it is up to Goodwill to disclose the information and Goodwill claims it does not have to abide by The Freedom of Information Act. Additionally Fort Benning recycles material and then sells it for a significant amount of money and has sought to combine effort with Columbus and the community to create a more efficient 1 stop shop recycling center and sales center. Columbus refuses every time but claims there is no revenue from sales of material.

Where is the revenue from the Sales?

Do we just give the material to Goodwill and then they sell it, why? and what does Columbus get from that?

Why do we not collect Cardboard and other easily recycled and higher revenue materials?

Why are we not participating in the other Nationally encouraged programs?

Why do we not participate in the EPA voluntary programs?

What do we get from the sales of tires, how about shoes computers etc? All of these other cities are selling to save landfill space, collection resources and pollution/environment.

We have enough extra waste collection time and budget to collect twice a week at all residences and five days a week down town, but we can not collect cardboard due to manning constraints?

Seriously worried,


A check of the city web site Wednesday found very little information about the recycling program. There isn't even a picture of the mascot -- so for all I know, "Blue Ben" may be buried at the city landfill now.

Goodwill Industries has had a contract with the city since 2001 to process recyclable items. Perhaps John contacted the city official listed online, for more details on that deal. Betty Hughey must wish from time to time she had an "l" in her last name....

I found a Goodwill Industries financial statement online Wednesday night, which claimed "recycling revenue" for 2006 of about $297,000. By comparison, Goodwill stores sold about eight million dollars worth of merchandise -- so the aluminum can with recycling money isn't even half-full.

The latest Goodwill Industries annual report claims it shares "the net revenue equally" with the city, from the sale of recycled goods on the commodities market. So that would mean about $150,000 for Columbus in 2006 -- which you'd think would be enough to build the skate park with old water bottles.

. I take my cardboard to All-American Recycling near Marshall Middle School. Computers are collected on special weekends at the Civic Center. And as for recycling shoes - have you visited one of the Valley Rescue Mission's thrift stores?

Now let's move beyond the color green, for some other news from the last couple of days:

+ A report to Columbus Council indicated city employees lost about 19,000 work hours last year due to sickness. So filling the openings in the police department may only be half the problem.

+ Former Alabama Governor Don Siegelman told PBS's Tavis Smiley Show he was persecuted by the state's "Republican political machine." Machine?! Its parts for controlling the state legislature must have broken years ago....

+ Rodney Rutherford rewrote the record (say that five times fast) for Columbus State University home runs in a season. Rutherford now has 24 - so suddenly we don't miss that Fox drama with Keifer Sutherland at all.

+ Boston belted Atlanta in the N.B.A. playoffs 96-77. These teams once had a classic post-season series, pitting Larry Bird against Dominique Wilkins. So far this year, it's more like Paul Pierce against Dominique Dunne -- and she died 26 years ago.

+ Instant Message to WRBL: I'm shocked - SHOCKED! You showed a Fort Benning woman on your news with the title, "598th Wife." Not even that strange fundamentalist sect in Texas is accused of going that far....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 621 (+ 12, 2.0%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 53: Walking, 0.4 miles. Total: 163.9 miles run, 18.1 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008


"He's a thief. He's a liar. And he's a crackhead." So said one of my neighbors Tuesday night -- but no, he was NOT talking about Dr. Jeremiah Wright....

BLOGGER BEGGARS #5-6: Police were called to my front porch Tuesday night. But I never called them -- and it was all because I walked down the street to buy a gallon of milk. The man I met on the way back wound up being about as welcome as Bill Clinton at a John McCain campaign rally.

I've tried to change my strategy on recent walks down the street to my neighborhood Circle K. I go in one door, and go out the other side - admittedly to avoid beggars who tend to set up outside the west door while someone is inside. With gasoline at record-high prices, I fear the number of beggars at the door may increase.

So I bought milk at Circle K at dusk, stepped outside to walk around the door down Fourth Street toward home - but a man with a limp started hollering at me. "You helped me once! You bought me a soda, and something to eat...."

"And now you're yelling at me, to tell me I was wrong?!" After all, so many other people do.

"No," Beggar #6 for 2008 said. "I've got a hole in my head right here." He pointed to his temple - and that apparently explained why he was yelling. He's trying to overcome the echo in his brain.

The beggar then asked for "a couple of dollars, so I can get something to eat." I turned around and started walking back toward Circle K - but of course, things couldn't be that easy.

"I can't go in there."

"But there's plenty of food in there. They have hot dogs and...."

"But you can't get chili and onions on them, like you can at the shops on Broadway." It's called Uptown Columbus for a reason, isn't it?

At last I could ask a beggar about this pesky recurring issue. "You're begging for money for food, standing outside a store with plenty of food inside, but you can't go inside the store."

"No... they know I'm a bum." This may have been the most truthful thing the man said all evening.

"Then why aren't you standing on Broadway, outside those places?" I knew the answer, of course. For all the critics of that part of Columbus, it actually has a few regular security patrols.

"You're telling me unless there's chili and onions on your hot dog, you're prepared to starve?" The beggar answered these rather convicting questions as only a beggar would.

"I'm hurting...." and the man pulled up his shirt, to show me the aching spot around his waist. Not to mention a bit of his underwear.

"I think I've got cancer," the beggar continued. "And I'm only 48." He later said he planned to get checked today at the John B. Amos Cancer Center - so doctors should look for a nearly-bald man with a limp, a patched hole in his head, and a rundown blanket for covering any incisions.

"All I want is a couple of dollars...." and with that, the beggar reached into a pocket and pulled out 46 cents. Sad to say, you can't even get a pack of crackers from a vending machine for that anymore.

I had other things to do, so I made a final offer. "If I make you dinner, will you eat it?" The beggar agreed, and walked across the Circle K parking lot to get his belongings -- which included a couple of bags and a long wooden stick. He had the big stick, but he wasn't speaking softly.

"Slow down, you're walking too fast," the man said a couple of times as he limped behind me toward my home. My fast walk was a bit due to the BLOG SPECIAL EVENT, now in its final week - but it admittedly also was born of frustration, as my evening plans were interrupted for the second night in a row. Although I suppose this IS another Blog Exclusive....

"Hamburgers or hot dogs?" the man asked as we approached my apartment.

"Neither one. I'm serving you a microwave meal." I have no buns in the house, due to what Jews call the Passover season and Christians call the Days of Unleavened Bread. And even worse - I don't have a single onion to my name.

We approached the front porch, and I asked the beggar to have a chair while I made dinner.

"Let me come in," the beggar requested - but I wouldn't let him. Moments later, I understood why he wanted in. A couple of neighbors recognized the man -- as if they'd picked him out of a police lineup.

A little bowl of microwave ravioli takes about two minutes to heat. I used that time to prepare the man a beverage and take it to the front porch. "Here's some wa...."

"Juice," the beggar answered. Thankfully, he didn't insist on grape or cranberry.

I went back, poured a cup of apple juice for the man which he liked - then pulled the ravioli out of the microwave. I returned to the door just in time to find two neighbors giving the beggar something else. Only he didn't ask for a piece of their minds....

"What are you doing here?" one of the neighbors said. "You need to get out of here! I don't want to see you on my front porch again!" Actually, we share a small corner porch in the apartment complex - and I suddenly wondered if I should have asked for his permission to put out my plant for the warm weather.

The beggar had a small bag at his feet, as he sat in a chair. One of the neighbors lowered it, to reveal a can of Budweiser Select beer inside. This guy may have been as selective with his beers as he was with his hot dogs.

"You're lying to the man," the neighbor continued. "You'd better leave before I get mad!"

"You sound like you're mad already," I said quietly.

The beggar put the warm ravioli in his large bag, and shuffled away from the porch. That's when the neighbors told me they knew this man as a thief.

"He just wants to get inside," one said. "And once he's inside, he'll take it all." Wow -- a limping home invader, using a long wooden stick as a weapon.

"You can't help someone like that," the next-door neighbor told me as he went back inside his apartment. Personally, I don't agree with that. But maybe this neighbor was a closet member of the Columbus Baptist Association.

I went to my bedroom for about 15 minutes of study time - but then I heard a loud knock. It actually was for the neighbor next-door - but that's when Columbus police officers invited me outside to join them. The "National Night Out" against crime came extra-early this year....

"If you want to press charges, press charges," a neighbor was saying to someone I couldn't see. Apparently it was the beggar - who may have invested some of his 46 cents to dial 911.

"Do you have a gun?" one officer asked the two neighbors and me. None of us do. Yet the beggar apparently claimed someone pulled out a gun during the short argument. If any weapon came out at all, the beggar wound up with it -- and the plastic fork for the ravioli was in a wrapper.

I explained to the officers everything I'd explained above, about the encounter with the beggar. Well, it was the condensed version - because it didn't seem like the right time to include punch lines.

"Then these men started having a discussion...." I added. Well, a "discussion" on the order of a Republican and a Democrat on a cable news channel, discussing the fighting in Iraq.

"I appreciate you trying to do the right thing," a female officer told me. "But you have to be extra-careful" - hinting some people in my neighborhood may not have the best reputation. And I don't think she meant the fighters on the Columbus Cottonmouths, since they're out of the playoffs.

"Karma is good," the officer said to encourage me. Karma?! My hair is covering my ears a little right now - but it's certainly not hippie-length.

The officers decided against arresting or charging anyone. But the beggar apparently has been warned if he walks onto the apartment complex grounds again, he'll be charged with "criminal trespass." So if he sees me a third time and asks for food, I could have to borrow from Sonic Drive-Ins - and serve him dinner at the curb.

This incident comes only three days after Blogger Beggar #5 crossed our path. Only this young man dared to walk inside a convenience store, to make his request. As we noted the other day, things are a bit more progressive in Montgomery....

"Do you have a quarter, man?" the man asked as he walked through the door of a Shell station on East Boulevard. I'd just spent $1.09 for a bag of corn chips -- and now a stranger wanted the tip.

"What do you need it for?" I asked after a moment.

"To get me something to drink. I'm not doing drugs or anything." Hmmmm - how would he have known some people beg for that reason?!

"Go get the drink, and I'll add my quarter to whatever you have." I stood at the counter, and waited for the beggar to reach into a cooler and pull out a red drink similar to Gatorade. The man at the cash register watched it all, without saying a word. That cashier appeared to be of East Indian descent, so this scene might not be all that unusual.

But the joke was on Beggar #5 when he reached the register. He had about 90 cents, but the bottle of red drink cost $1.39. "But it's supposed to be 79 cents," the customer complained. Well, the price of gas at Shell is only supposed to be about $1.50 a gallon....

I tossed my quarter onto the metal counter, like I was calling a bet on poker night. The beggar tightened his hand around his change, and walked back outside as if to get some more. I didn't wait around for the outcome - leaving with my chips, before that man tried to raise my bet.

BLOG UPDATE: More details are out about the visit of Dr. Jeremiah Wright to Columbus in two weeks. St. John A.M.E. Church Pastor Debora Grant didn't return our call Tuesday - but she told WXTX "News at Ten" Wright has visited her church each of the last four years. Of course, this year is different. This time, a large number of people actually care that he's coming.

"Pastor Debbie" Grant said she's more interested in the revival meetings May 4-8, than any political views which Dr. Jeremiah Wright might present. So her concern is getting right - instead of comments from the far left.

By the way, our Tuesday exclusive on Dr. Jeremiah Wright resulted in the busiest day this blog has ever had. If you're new here, welcome. We hope you visit often, offer your input - and if someone's coming to YOUR revival meeting to order a curse from heaven upon our country, please let us know.

SCHEDULED THURSDAY: An Earth Day e-mail which will take a little research on our part....

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 609 (+ 30, 5.2%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 52: Running 3.25 miles, walking, 0.6 miles. Total: 163.9 miles run, 17.7 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Today is Pennsylvania Primary day in the Presidential race. So which Democrat should voters support - the one who can't her facts straight about overseas trips? Or the one whose longtime pastor can see the wrath of God in every Iraqi roadside bomb?

BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Your blog confirmed Monday night that Barack Obama's controversial longtime pastor is coming to Columbus. Dr. Jeremiah Wright will be the guest speaker at a series of revival meetings in two weeks. So his message may be tame the first night, and be worth recording for YouTube by the last night.

The appearance by Dr. Jeremiah Wright is NOT being kept a secret. His name is on the sign, outside St. John A.M.E. Church on Steam Mill Road -- a church which advertises in the Yellow Pages that it's "striving for.... reconciliation in our family, the church and our community." And what says reconciliation more than this minister? Maybe a lecture series by Bill O'Reilly?

For those who turned off the political talk shows after the Georgia Primary: Barack Obama disowned Chicago Pastor Jeremiah Wright to a large extent, after critics started reviewing some of Wright's sermons [29 Mar]. The minister suggested God should NOT bless America, because of its actions around the world. Yet Wright still has NOT been invited to preach in Venezuela or Iran.

Jeremiah Wright is scheduled to speak in Columbus at a four-night revival May 5-8. This could be the most well-attended revival this city has seen in years. Of course, the "overflow" crowd could be outside carrying picket signs....

(The revival falls during the week of the Indiana and North Carolina primaries. It's nice to see the longtime friend of Barack Obama has conveniently made himself too busy, to help with the campaign.)

Given all the fuss about Jeremiah Wright's sermons and writings, why would St. John A.M.E. Church invite him to Columbus? It actually seems to be an exchange trip - because the St. John's Pastor spoke at Wright's church in Chicago last May. Maybe that was one of the Trinity United Church of Christ services Barack Obama actually attended.

The church bulletin for that service last May declared St. John A.M.E. Church Pastor Debora Grant is "held in high esteem as a Leader in the Tri-City Area...." Maybe so, but I don't recall hearing her name before -- and even Ann Hardman beat her to a weekly service on TV.

We couldn't reach the minister known as "Pastor Debbie" Monday night, to comment on the Jeremiah Wright visit. Perhaps she was busy organizing police protection for his trip....

The connection between Debora Grant and Jeremiah Wright may go back even farther. Trinity United Church of Christ apparently sent a group to Columbus three years ago, for the SOA Watch protest. That'll teach some of you, who think that weekend is merely a showdown between the Catholics and the Baptists.

We've also learned where Dr. Jeremiah Wright will stay, while he's in Columbus. We're told it's not a minister's home, but the Hilton Garden Inn -- or as the source who tipped us off to this story said, "GLENN DAVIS'S Hilton Garden Inn!" As if the Columbus Councilor reviews the guest list every night, and mails customers autographed baseball cards?!

(Before people pin any blame on Glenn Davis, they should realize something. St. John A.M.E. Church is only a few blocks down the street from the City Manager's house.)

This source suggested something should be done to stop Jeremiah Wright from preaching in Columbus. But there's one small problem with this. Changing the Bill of Rights to ban freedom of religion and freedom of speech is pretty hard to do in 12 days.

I know some ministers at the other end of the political spectrum from Jeremiah Wright, who would declare his anti-war remarks treasonous and demand his arrest. But then, some Roman Catholics who heard their ridicule of the Pope might demand the very same thing....

BLOG CORRECTION: Speaking of religion, we need to clarify our entry of 16 April. We're now told the Columbus Baptist Association started to help Theresa Jones save her home, but then backed away. If she didn't say the "Sinner's Prayer," they might have wound up saying it for helping her.

Now we'll try to be a little less preachy, as we check the Monday headlines....

+ The Ledger-Enquirer unveiled a new streamlined look, which the editors say is designed to save on newsprint costs. All the better for having a special ten-page section of legal notices Monday -- listing nothing but home foreclosures. [True!]

+ The manager of Cowboys Steak Saloon on Airport Thruway told the newspaper if Governor Perdue signs the bill allowing concealed carry weapons in restaurants, he'll demand all guns be checked at the door. Aw c'mon - does this guy want an authentic Western steak house, or not?

(Even the owner of Country's Barbecue says he'll require all guns to be checked at the door. So I guess we'll have to trust these restaurants, and believe the chicken quarters are dead.)

+ The Muscogee County School Board approved higher lunch prices. Grade-school children will pay $1.75 for lunch next term - which is slightly more than their parents will pay for a bag of chips and a soda at vending machines.

+ About 200 Barbour County High School students stayed away from class, to protest the choice of a new superintendent. Or as they'll call it 20 years from now, "Senior Skip Day."

+ The new "Fortune 500" rankings of the biggest companies knocked Aflac down one notch from last year. It's now number 165 - which could inspire calls for a new campus near Fort Mitchell.

+ Tiffany Tootle ended weeks of rumors, by resigning as Columbus State University women's softball coach. We're still not sure why Tootle was placed on administrative leave. Perhaps someday she'll explain it to other coaches - in a Tootle Tutorial.

Today's main topic was the result of a blog reader's tip. To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 579 (+ 13, 2.3%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 51: Running 3.35 miles, walking, 0.3 miles. Total: 160.65 miles run, 17.1 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Monday, April 21, 2008


"Are you staying here another week?" An older man asked me that question Sunday morning, in a motel lobby - but no, I was checking out. He'd have to find a bridge partner elsewhere.

"I'm not sure I could stand another week in Montgomery, Alabama," the man continued. When I asked him why, he started making rambling comments about Victoryland in Macon County. Yes, some people really do seem to miss lottery tickets at convenience stores.

"I could spend a week there...." - and the man pointed at artwork on the motel lobby wall depicting Arizona. What does that state have, which Montgomery is lacking? Do the azaleas need some needles on them?

"Are you from Alabama?" I told the older man I wasn't, which forced him to do a little thinking. "You look like you're from Florida." I never knew a tan corduroy sportcoat was standard fashion in Orlando.

This was one of the surprise memorable moments of a weekend trip to Montgomery. I hadn't been to Alabama's capital in more than seven years - a city not much bigger than Columbus. But the difference between the two quickly becomes obvious. Montgomery feels and acts like a mid-sized city. Columbus still has a prayer tower among its three tallest buildings.

The weekend in Montgomery had a spiritual focus, and as a result I didn't visit that much of the city. But I was reminded anew of how Montgomery tends to be years ahead of Columbus in some business trends. For instance....

+ Montgomery has a Costco store. Columbus merely has a Sam's Club -- although we might have more Family Dollar stores.

+ Montgomery has a Lone Star Steakhouse. That national chain isn't in Columbus - but then, I was surprised to find it can't be found anywhere in Texas.

+ The Montgomery telephone directory divides its "white pages" into residential and business listings. The biggest division in our phone book separates Columbus from LaGrange.

Part of the difference, of course, may stem from the fact that Montgomery is a state capital. There could be plenty of pressure on companies, from lawmakers used to the amenities of Birmingham or Mobile. But then again, there didn't seem to be barbecue restaurants every couple of blocks.

Even the drive to Montgomery indicated how much bigger it tries to be. I was able to drive 70 miles per hour down Interstate 85, all the way to my exit at East Boulevard. Well, I mean legally. Not the way some drivers on J.R. Allen Parkway do it....

(The posted speed limit is a surprising 55, on East and South Boulevards around Montgomery. Why someone dared to sell Sunday papers in the median is a mystery to me.)

But the bigness doesn't stop with the speed limits. Montgomery's sales tax is a whopping ten percent. Yet new businesses seem to keep opening on the east side of town. And Montgomery even has two shopping malls - although Steve & Barry's seems to be all alone at Montgomery Mall, and in dire need of a library.

There's an age-old debate about whether it's faster to drive between Columbus and Montgomery by going "up and down" on U.S. 280 and Interstate 85 through Opelika, or east-west on U.S. 80 through Crawford. I tried both routes, and the time was about the same. But then, one slow-moving farm tractor on U.S. 80 could have changed everything.

As for the spiritual events we attended in Montgomery: they were thought-provoking in several ways. And the speakers had enough good taste NOT to make fun of the Pope's U.S. tour -- by calling him things like "Pope Benny Hinn."

Oh yes, I haven't mentioned that motel where I stayed in Montgomery. At one point in the weekend, a Jaguar was parked next to my humble Honda. That driver must be staying at a Motel 6, so he can pay off the Jaguar....

The Motel 6 on East Boulevard was a good weekend value, at $39.95 a night. And it was first motel room I've seen in years with a hardwood floor. The feel was very European - except the cable TV options were relatively small, and BBC America was missing.

E-MAIL UPDATE: We made it home safely Sunday afternoon, so we had time to check the InBox and find this waiting....

I thought it was sort of low down for the Ledger to bring up the negatives of buying the St.Jude House ticket just before the drawing...It is not about paying taxes on winnings just as if you won in Vegas,but it is about helping kids with cancer.

Another low blow from the Ledger was writing about the lady having a record who is having her house rebuilt by local volunteers.

Perhaps the newspaper's point with that front-page story was to have people "count the cost," before they spend 100 dollars on a Dream Home ticket. Even the winner of $6,000 worth of furniture might need to give a recliner to an accountant, to handle the financial details.

Lo and behold, a "Burkart" was on the winner's list from Saturday's St. Jude Dream Home giveaway. But she won a prize from Leisure Lifestyles, not the house itself - so it doesn't seem quite right for me to adjust the spelling of my last name, and demand a share of a swimming pool.

Let's see what else happened over the weekend, while we were out of town....

+ A parade was held downtown, to mark Kendrick High School's 40th anniversary and the state ladies' basketball champions. But why did this parade start in Phenix City? Did that many Kendrick grads move across the river, and consider it an improvement?

+ The annual Best Ranger competition at Fort Benning had 28 pairs of Army contestants - but only 16 teams finished the three-day event. I think those teams are the only ones who can advance to the next level, and submit a videotape to "Survivor."

+ Baseball's Toronto Blue Jays released Columbus native Frank Thomas. He has more than 500 home runs, yet now is a free agent - so maybe Thomas should look up Barry Bonds, and form a tennis doubles team.

+ Instant Message to the New York Post: Can't wait to see your coverage of the Yankee Stadium mass. What will your tabloid's front page headline be - "POPE TILL YOU DROP"?

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 566 (+ 3, 0.5%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAYS 49-50: Walking, 1.4 miles. Total: 157.3 miles run, 16.8 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Friday, April 18, 2008


The man on the phone simply couldn't believe it. I'd just told him about my annual custom of spending five weeks on what I call "Serious Spring Cleaning." That man admitted he hadn't touched some items in his home in years. I'm wondering if he should touch them now - or risk having the movement make a wall collapse.

Victory came around 11:15 ET this morning, in our annual spring-cleaning marathon. The final bag of trash was placed in a secure undisclosed location, not far from my home. I have to keep this location a secret, in case someone finds out and throws it back on my porch.

We've mentioned before that the goal of our Serious Spring Cleaning has a religious basis - to get all the leaven out of our home, for the spring Passover season. For some, this can be accomplished simply by cleaning the kitchen. For a blogger trying to overcome an addiction to chocolate chip cookies while typing in the computer room, this simply won't work.

To be "fair and balanced," I clean every room of the house during Serious Spring Cleaning. The bathroom doesn't take very long. Especially since ants aren't hiding under some of the tiles anymore, and attempting cliff diving stunts when I'm running the shower.

The bedroom can hold a few surprises during cleaning season. Don't laugh at me for this, but I still have an old-school waterbed. It's more comfortable than any other bed I've had -- and the mattress has NOT turned green with algae, after several years without draining.

The surprises come in cleaning, because I sometimes place items on the bed rail -- and if they fall between the sideboard and the water mattress, they can go into hiding. I found a hidden handkerchief there several weeks ago. Hmmmm -- maybe I should put my stash of travelers' checks there, too.

When Serious Spring Cleaning reaches the computer room, things get complicated. There are lots of papers accumulated here, which need to be sorted or dumped. But don't worry, you I.R.S. employees - I followed the warning on your letter, and I still have NOT thrown away the notice that a stimulus check is coming.

Plenty of dusting is done in the computer room. And my PC screen gets a good cleaning - only now I'm concerned that my eyes will be damaged, without that layer of dust for a filter.

In the living room, I confirmed my home has a new kind of insect problem. Spiders seem to have invaded some hideaways in the last year, leaving cobwebs in many places. If they took time to gobble up some of the cockroaches, I wouldn't mind it as much....

Spider webs were under a book cabinet, around a coffee table, and behind my stereo system. They should all be gone now - but why do I suddenly have to turn up my FM radio louder, to pick up some stations?

The grand finale, of course, is the kitchen. Leavening could be anywhere in there, which must be.... oops. Excuse me, I just realized something....

A man who purchased my CD recently says he enjoys listening to it "over and over." The inspirational music might get you hooked as well. Hear samples from One God, Many Moods and learn how to order it by clicking here.

OK, I'm back. The glass plate inside the microwave still wasn't rinsed off.

Amazingly, spiders may have snuck inside my toaster during the last year. But this turned out to be a good thing, in terms of cleaning. The webs collected a lot of crumbs....

We had the "tipping of the toaster" ceremony quite early this year - about ten days ago. That's when I stop putting bread in the toaster, and it's flipped upside-down to loosen the crumbs for cleaning. But no, I am NOT fanatical enough to do the same thing with the microwave and oven.

When Serious Spring Cleaning ends, it's quite a satisfying feeling to take out the last bags of trash. And yes, I remember to recycle -- everything from plastic and white paper to spare clothes hangers. But it's a shame that only Knight Recycling on Sixth Avenue is willing to pay me money for it.

(Did you know the going rate for aluminum cans is up to 50 cents a pound? The cans you collect from this weekend's picnic might wind up buying dessert for the next one.)

And the benefits of Serious Spring Cleaning might continue for weeks to come. That man on the phone who couldn't believe what I did invited me to come to his house -- and clean it for 15 dollars an hour. As long as I don't have to put on a "Merry Maid" skirt....

Because the end of cleaning season took top priority, we've had to gloss over some big local stories which could have led any other time....

+ WLTZ was first to report Columbus Fire Chief Jeff Meyer offered a recruiting job to an upset employee -- only the job didn't exist in the city payroll. Why do I have the feeling in a few weeks, Meyer will be in a similar situation? Only he won't exist in HIS job?

(Combine this incident with the still-unsettled Zachary Allen investigation, and Mayor Jim Wetherington seems to have two choices. Either the fire chief is "burnt toast" - or the one-percent sales tax question goes down in flames.)

+ Columbus Regional announced it will buy Hughston Orthopedic Hospital from HCA. But it's NOT buying the Hughston Clinic, and the hospital on Veterans Parkway will NOT change its name. Confused athletes will come to Columbus for treatment, and think it's a local version of Dale Earnhardt Junior and his mom.

(This comes only weeks after Columbus Regional took over Doctors Hospital. I don't want to say the other area hospitals are nervous - but don't be surprised if a giant statue of St. Francis appears on Manchester Expressway, staring toward the Medical Center.)

+ A drive along Wynnton Road revealed Shearith Israel synagogue is up for sale. In a way, I can understand why it wants to move. Passover begins this weekend - and the churches on either side of it can feel like a Jesus sandwich.

(A friend tells me she's never seen more than 12 people inside Shearith Israel for a worship service - even though its sanctuary can seat close to 300. Maybe the synagogue should hold a Passover dance to attract new members. You know, a matzo ball....)

+ Federal Judge Clay Land ruled the widow of a Fort Benning soldier can undergo artificial insemination, with sperm harvested from her husband's body. Imagine how this could change the language of romance in this country. "I love you with all my heart, all my soul and all my sperm."

+ Rep. Lynn Westmoreland called for a federal investigation of college football's Bowl Championship Series. I appreciate what this Georgia lawmaker is trying to accomplish - because he obviously thinks one-loss Kansas was slighted for the championship game, in favor of Louisiana State.

+ Instant Message to the Springer Opera House: Did you plan that? I mean, that current play called "Doubt?" Staging a drama about a priest accused by a nun while the Pope is in the U.S. seems nothing short of miraculous.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Now that the house is clean, we're taking a weekend road trip. Our next scheduled post will be Monday, and we'll try to get caught up on your e-mails then.)

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 563 (- 58, 9.3%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAYS 47-48: Spring cleaning, 210 minutes. Total: 157.3 miles run, 15.4 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008


Tenth Avenue in Columbus contains what might be called several "crossroads of decision." Turn in the proper direction, and you'll drive merrily on your way. Make the wrong turn at the wrong time, and you'll pay a penalty - by having to wait on crossing trains. And you'll probably wind up wishing the only trains in Columbus were high-speed Amtraks.

I was reminded of this Wednesday afternoon as I ran a few errands. I headed west to the corner of Tenth Avenue and Martin Luther King Boulevard. The way straight ahead looked clear, toward the Public Safety Center. But I needed to turn left - and when I did, several freight cars blocked the avenue. The hookups of those trains may explain why "speed dating" isn't catching on in Columbus.

Tenth Avenue was blocked between Ninth and Tenth Street for at least 15 minutes, as a long freight train apparently was brought together. When drivers in a hurry run out of patience, turn around and drive away from the crossing, they must think "railroad hobos" have been hired to run the lines.

My schedule wasn't that packed, so I relaxed at the railroad crossing for a few quiet minutes. But I turned off my car engine while I waited. It makes no sense to keep it idling and running during a long delay. And with gas prices as high as they are, it also doesn't make dollars....

Did you notice yet another gas price jump across Columbus Wednesday? The "low price" along Victory Drive is now $3.27 a gallon. It's enough to make you wish traders in crude oil futures would follow the lead of the housing market, and go into foreclosure.

The higher gas prices go, the more thankful I am for deciding to buy a high-mileage compact car 14 years ago. My brave little Honda only needed one gas fill-up during March - and its gas tank is much smaller than your typical SUV's.

While I'm trying to be wise with how I use fuel, an e-mailer Wednesday suggested other people in Columbus are not....

I was in your neighborhood today around noon and saw a convoy of school buses waiting for the 'Toad and Frog' to finish at the River Center. As a tax payer I was not pleased to see them idling waiting. I can't afford to run the A/C in my car while I eat lunch, I'd rather they save my gas money too.

Rock Chalk - Congrats

We should clarify something first - the children were seeing a musical called "A Year with Frog and Toad." This was NOT a presentation by school board members, about the proposed sales tax.

But anyway: I've noticed at other times what this reader saw - school buses parked and running, while children are inside at activities. I took a couple of guesses as to why. Perhaps the buses are old, and difficult to start. Or perhaps the drivers have to be ready for an emergency evacuation -- for instance, if a child mishandles a plastic knife during lunch.

I searched online for answers about this Wednesday night, and found there's a movement to reduce or eliminate idling by Georgia school buses. The "Georgia Clean Diesel Campaign" recommends engines be turned off -- only its main issue is reducing pollution. But aren't all the diesel fumes a great way to signal the school day is about to end?

Our searching found there are several states where school bus idling has been banned. But a proposal in Texas which was vetoed last year seemed to explain why they're left running -- to heat or cool buses, before students get on them. If you can't run your car air conditioner during the lunch hour, consider how not all school buses can park under shady trees.

The Environmental Protection Agency actually has computed how much fuel is burned by running a parked school bus. One hour of "idling time" typically burns one gallon of diesel fuel. Think about that, the next time the drive-through lane at McDonald's seems to circle the building.

I've actually tried to cut down on my use of drive-through lanes as well, to conserve as much gas as I can. But that can lead to other "crossroads of decision" as well. Turning off Third Avenue into the lane for paying Columbus Water Works bills can be.... well, a reminder of why I avoid gambling in casinos.

OVERHEARD OVER HERE: The church school teacher looks over his adult class. "You all seem to be in good physical health - except for this man with a cane, and he could be carrying that to look fashionable."

"Now hold on," that exception answers. "I could be making a political statement."

"A political statement?"

"That's Me-Cane."

With no political endorsement intended toward anyone, let's send some Instant Messages....

+ To whomever gave the Ledger-Enquirer that page-one headline, "There's No Such Thing as a Free House": Who said it was free in the first place? Those St. Jude Dream Home tickets cost 100 dollars each.

+ To WRBL: Who decided to ask Columbus shoppers if they would drive to Alabama, should that state remove the sales tax on groceries? Did anyone bother telling you Georgia removed its grocery sales tax more than ten years ago?

+ To Georgia Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine: OK, you're running for Governor. Thanks for confirming something we suspected 17 months ago [9 Nov 06] - and really suspected when you started making all those guest appearances on TV newscasts.

+ To Dougherty County District Attorney Ken Hodges: OK, so you're NOT running again. It should be safe for you to visit Columbus again next January - after you're out of office, and you can't be held accountable anymore for the Kenneth Walker grand jury.

+ To Columbus State Rep. Calvin Smyre: Wow - you were able to see the White House ceremony for the Pope! But were you as offended as he probably was, when they fired the 21-gun salute? Such violence....

+ To Columbus State University women's basketball coach Jay Sparks: What's going on here? You let the Kendrick girls' basketball players sign college letters with Lander and Savannah State. Is softball coach Tiffany Tootle throwing you THAT many curve balls?

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our next post will not occur until we are finished with our annual Serious Spring Cleaning. We hope this will happen by midday Friday - but we know from experience that anything could happen.)

To offer a story tip, make a PayPal donation, advertise to our readers or comment on this blog, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

BURKARD BULK MAIL INDEX: 621 (+ 19, 3.2%)

TRUDGE REPORT, DAY 46: Spring cleaning, 90 minutes. Total: 157.3 miles run, 15.4 walked

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author -- not necessarily those of anyone else in Columbus living or dead, and perhaps not even you.

© 2003-08 Richard Burkard, all rights reserved.

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