Monday, December 20, 2010

20 DEC 10: Busy Sidewalks

Longtime blog readers know I've had a longstanding rule when it comes to this season. Between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas, I would go to a mall only if it's an absolute emergency. That may sound tough, but it tops what a deacon in my church congregation revealed over the weekend. He tries to avoid going to the mall, period.

Since I stopped keeping Christmas many years ago, I've stayed out of the way and let the masses get malled crowd the malls on their guilt-edged shopping sprees. There was no rush for me, no lengthy search for parking spaces - and around the start of January, store clerks could appreciate my business much more.

But December 2010 may go down as the year everything changed. I've been at Peachtree Mall more in the last two weeks than in the preceding six months. And it's not because the prices are low, because I'm not stopping in stores to look at prices -- although if another cold wave strikes, I could be in the market for new court shoes.

Blame my rule-breaking on the early arrival of cold weather in Columbus. It's frequently been too chilly for outdoor running, and walking quick laps around Golden Park isn't really appealing to me. Young people at the skateboard park might figure out what I'm doing, and put a board in my path to see how far I fly in the air.

So with the days cold, I've dared to drive to Peachtree Mall for "speed walks" during the day. I maneuver around slow-moving and stopped shoppers inside the mall, racing the clock as I do. It's the one time I can feel the thrill of impatient drivers on J.R. Allen Parkway.

I take timed two-lap treks indoors, around the main concourse of Peachtree Mall. I walk around the edge, including all the main entrances. The only change I make is that one of the two laps goes through the food court. The food court lap tends to be faster for me, than when I walk around past Pacific Sunwear. Maybe it's because I know the smell of Sbarro will overcome me....

The weather has sent me to Peachtree Mall for five morning speed walks in the last two weeks. Yes, I did stop after one of them to purchase my first Columbus Cinnabon. It was my "welcome gift" - but at more than three dollars each, that will become a "special occasion" stop for me. Subway cookies are a better value, even if you can't lick a box for days afterward.

Then this past Friday, I decided at mid-afternoon it wouldn't be warm enough to run outside. So I dared to go to the mall after 2:30 p.m., and as expected found the biggest crowd I'd seen all month. The least traffic seemed to be at All-American Airbrush - which I guess means shoppers are choosing more upscale T-shirts this year.

Yet amazingly, my two-lap walking time Friday afternoon was 5.16 seconds faster than Wednesday morning's trek with fewer shoppers. It makes a difference during cold weather to avoid walking around a mall in a bulky sweater....

The good news for me is that daytime temperatures are expected to be more average this week. It should be mild enough for me to jog every afternoon. I won't face a huge decision about trying to walk inside Peachtree Mall at the end of the "holiday rush" - and risking a lawsuit from a collision, because I'd probably still be walking faster than almost anyone else.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: Uh-oh - the issue of Hurtsboro meeting its payroll may not be as simple as it seemed. We received two weekend messages along this line:

Hi Richard,

Regarding the above, The Citizen had quite an article on this in yesterday's weekly edition and as of their press time, which I believe to be Tuesday, the employees had yet to be paid. It would serve you well to get a copy if you haven't already.

I really enjoy your blog and visit every day. Please keep up the good work.


I reviewed the article Sunday - and sure enough, Hurtsboro Council member Donna Moss was quoted as saying 10 December checks were late at of last Monday, the 13th. That's one business day. And Moss indicated the payroll might not be met by Friday -- so maybe that "two weeks" line in Friday's e-mail reveals Robert Schweiger somehow has a prophetic gift.

A Tuesday town meeting on the Hurtsboro financial situation was canceled at the last minute, because Mayor Ray Tapley was sick. But Donna Moss indicated things aren't good -- with the town hoping property tax and business license revenues would arrive to meet the payroll, even for the Town Clerk who called the long delay a "lie." Was she confused by a check from a second job?

Since the phone book has no listing for Donna Moss, I tried again Sunday night to call Hurtsboro Councilor Charlie Tolbert. But I was told he was working elsewhere - proving Teresa Tomlinson should be thankful she'll only have one job to do in Columbus for the next four years.

The second alert about this newspaper article came with a former Constable's fourth e-mail to us in six days:

Sir Richard:

I read today's BLOG with more than casual interest. One thing that caught my eye in particular was your self imposed doubts about carrying the media banner on ALL matters in the Columbus and East Alabama communities.

Richard! You said it yourself. The major media outlets show little interest in "Hurt'sboro; until a crisis occurs. The rascals in "high" places rely on remaining unnoticed and it serves as a curtain for their unscrupulous activities.

Not that my opinion matters - but I think it's time for someone like yourself - to expose through credible complaints, the plight of those wronged. Please keep up the good work!

As for myself - I don't resent being called a liar by "Hurt'sboro's Town Clerk. It takes one to know one, and my record of substantiated facts speaks for itself. You might gain a bit of insight into the "payroll" situation in "Hurt'sboro by reading this week's CITIZEN; Council-woman Donna Moss speaks out clearly on the issue.

Keep your nose on the ground; Sir Richard; you are sorely needed!!

R.J. Schweiger

This set of messages is heading down a familiar path. Robert Schweiger sent so many e-mails a few years ago that we established "Hurtsboro Mondays" for them. Then blog readers voted in a Big Blog Question to do away with that. So do I go down this road all over again? Or should I recommend Schweiger to "The Courier," to share the writing load with C.A. "Brother Love" Hardmon?

This brings us to a quick check of Sunday headlines, which were dominated by sports....

+ Columbus State humbled Hiwassee in men's basketball 113-52. Hiwassee?! More like a low whupping....

+ The Atlanta Falcons clinched a playoff berth by sailing past Seattle 34-18. It was brother against brother, with Jonathan Babineaux scoring a touchdown for Atlanta and Jordan Babineaux intercepting a pass for Seattle. I assume neither one asked for the other's autograph after the game.

+ Instant Message to WRBL: What do you mean, the Baker High School candlelight vigil could be seen "only on three"? The Ledger-Enquirer posted a four-minute video on its website - and as common as the Internet is becoming, it might have gained more viewers.

2010 IN REVIEW: The past year was filled with political campaigning, and it began in January. Teresa Tomlinson began her race for Columbus Mayor one week before Zeph Baker did - and we all know how important that turned out to be at the end of November.

January brought the end to a long Columbus controversy, with an agreement to develop greenspace behind the Columbus Public Library. Yet I drove to the library last week, and didn't notice anything different. No one's even bothered to cover the asphalt parking lot with green spray paint, and declare it progress.

But a new controversy arose in January, with talk of moving mail processing for Columbus to Macon. That eventually became a reality -- but I'm not sure that was a bad thing. People now feel compelled to put their monthly bills in the mail earlier, so their credit lines might be better.

A teenager was arrested in January for attacking attorney Richard Hagler with a skateboard at Heritage Park. For some reason, Hagler never called fellow attorney Ken Nugent to get a big financial settlement.

Columbus Metropolitan Airport changed its name in January, by dropping the "Metropolitan." By summer, it had service from a second airline - so if the managers announce another name change next year to simply "The Airport," that should be good news.

At the other end of the economic spectrum, January brought the closing of Phenix City's CharBroil restaurant. I have yet to hear if it's reopened under the same name in Shanghai....

The downtown Columbus YMCA also closed in January, days after St. Patrick's School caught fire. The Y now has a new building facing Broadway - which seems to show Columbus Christians have more ready cash than Phenix City Catholics.

This blog revealed in January five TSYS executives have a "golden parachute" agreement worth millions of dollars, in case control of the company changes. By comparison, laid-off Victoryland employees couldn't even drop their gold at a greyhound betting window to regain lost income.

John Tyson became a famous name across Alabama in January, when he was chosen to head an anti-gambling task force. He showed so much fervor that I'm starting to think Auburn University selected the wrong person to coach men's basketball.

Area sports made headlines in January. Alabama won the national championship in college football. Then the Columbus Life won a couple of games, in a minor basketball league which didn't have much life at all.

(BLOGGER'S NOTE: Our review of 2010 will continue in the days to come....)

The Blog of Columbus had more than 38,000 unique visitors in the first nine months of this year! To advertise to them, make a PayPal donation, offer a story tip or comment, write me - but be warned, I may post your e-mail comment and offer a reply.

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