30 MAY 08: WHAT DID I MISS?
"You didn't miss nothin'." That was the answer my next-door neighbor gave Thursday afternoon, shortly after I returned home from vacation. And I automatically assumed he was right - since after all, this is Columbus and not Atlanta.
People also didn't say much about local news Thursday night, as I returned to Lil Kim's Cove for my first local poker night in four weeks. But at least that place had one advantage over Harrah's casino. We actually DID have a poker tournament -- and now if you buy a drink, you get 1,000 bonus chips.
So that just about does it for No, I can't do that to you. But I admit this was a real vacation from Columbus for me, as I didn't follow local developments much on the road. Blame my older brother, whose home computer's dial-up is SO SLOW that Columbus TV station web sites refused to come up. After five minutes of sitting and waiting, it's time to move on....
(I've become so spoiled by broadband Internet that I was stymied by my older brother's computer at first - until he showed me the "connect" button on the dial-up box.)
But perhaps it's only fitting - because my older brother in Kansas City was left with the impression that Columbus is a bit slow and behind the times. He pitied me when I told him we have NO 7-11 stores or QuikTrips. I should have told him that at least all the Circle K stores have large fountain drinks for 79 cents.
"Do you have moving pictures down there?" my older brother dared to ask with a touch of sarcasm. That's when I told him about Carmike Cinemas having its headquarters in Columbus -- a big movie chain which seemed new to him. I conveniently neglected to mention that Carmike's closest theater to the headquarters is a 15-minute drive away.
I'd already told my older brother about Columbus being the home of Aflac and Char-Broil (well, more or less). So he was surprised that our best convenience store in his mind was Circle K. And he was openly skeptical at the thought of Baskin Robbins ice cream coming back to town, combined with an Arby's restaurant. Roast beef on a cone simply won't impress him.
Columbus has added a lot of new businesses and restaurants in recent years. But it only takes one road trip to remind you of what we're still lacking. For instance, Columbus has no "HuHot" Mongolian Grill. Where I went, I found one. No, not in Kansas City - but Topeka, Kansas, which has 60,000 fewer people.
You might consider HuHot a regional restaurant - but there are other larger chains I saw in the Midwest, which have yet to link with Columbus:
+ Whole Foods Markets, which recently merged with Wild Oats. Some stores here do well to have "whole grain white" bread.
+ David's Bridal shops. Albany has one, while Columbus doesn't. Are that many local women marrying soldiers at the courthouse?
+ On the Border Mexican restaurants. Local critics would contend many of the employees at El Vaquero have crossed that border already.
But then again, perhaps the success of El Vaquero speaks well for Columbus. We don't need big national chains and "big box" stores to have a nice standard of living. Locally-owned businesses can succeed and thrive. Well, until a convenience store chain like Spectrum is bought out by Circle K....
E-MAIL UPDATE: We promised to return to a local e-mail feud. It started 19 May, with a complaint about the appearance of the old Georgia Welcome Center on Victory Drive. A reply 21 May said it's used by disabled veterans, so the first writer should shut up and clean it up. Now the first writer responds....
To the hothead RW: The individual complaining is a disabled veteran of several wars! Yes, the old Welcome Center is home to a disabled vets organization and several other vets organizations. And there are certainly many healthy vets in this area who are fully capable of maintaining the area around the building. How about all those 100 % Disabled veterans who are working full-time jobs? And on any day of the week you will find many disabled vets maintaining the lawns and landscapes around their own homes and businesses! And for those too old or in poor physical condition they could donate a couple of bucks to hire it done. And may I suggest an Anger Management class for you. They probably have one at the Columbus VA Clinic.
Here's hoping few of the returning Third Brigade soldiers need those anger management classes. If they're angry, it should be vented in the proper direction -- like the defense department officials who admitted Thursday army bullets might not be strong enough for Iraq.
We'll get to other e-mails this weekend - but we did get home in time to check the Thursday evening news highlights....
+ WLTZ became the first Columbus TV station (and only the third in Georgia) to present the news in high-definition. Some of us are old enough to remember when "high-definition" news meant you had to look up words in an unabridged dictionary.
(But did I hear reporter Maria Jones right -- that someone at WLTZ "suggested" the station go high-definition last summer? Considering all TV stations have to switch to digital programming by next February, I'm guessing the suggestion came from the staff lawyer.)
+ Common Cause of Columbus announced it's looking into recent ethics complaints against State Senator Ed Harbison. Georgia Attorney General Thurbert Baker reportedly tried to negotiate a settlement to some of the complaints, but without success. So watch for Harbison's campaign commercial proclaiming he's "tougher than nails."
+ An arrest was announced in Marion County, for a series of thefts of catalytic converters. A couple were stolen from vans used by Cascade Hills Church - so did that lack of converters inspire several recent sermons on soul-winning?
+ Muscogee County Junior ROTC students went to Fort Benning, to practice airborne parachute jumps. Did you see Deputy Superintendent Robin Pennock on TV, wearing her own Army uniform? That will come in handy later this year, when she begins consulting work for military academies.
+ Columbus Water Works announced it will begin supplying water to all of Fort Benning. Water Works officials say this will result in higher-quality water for Benning -- but is this really a good thing? How can a drill sergeant tell soldiers to "get the lead out" if it's out of the water system already?
+ WRBL reported the Muscogee County animal shelter has stopped taking new animals until further notice. Several animals have a respiratory infection known as URI. Why Uri Gellar hasn't tried to cure this, I have no idea....
+ Instant Message to all Columbus area gas stations: Thank you for showing some compassion over the last 48 hours. You could have seen that flipped-over tanker truck on U.S. 280, and hiked the price of regular unleaded above four dollars a gallon.
COMING NEXT WEEK: Our road trip scrapbook, and the Alabama Primary....
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