Friday, April 29, 2011

29 APR 11: Party Like It's 1997

The scenes of destruction from Alabama and Manchester Thursday were numbing and sad. But I'm trying to look on the bright side - as today marks an anniversary for me. If only I could mark it with a royal procession in London, and the taking of a princess....

Today marks 14 years since I moved from metro Atlanta to Columbus. People like to ask what brought me to Columbus in 1997. The answer's simple, really - my car.

But seriously: it was a new job in local television which brought me two hours down the interstate from College Park to Columbus. The move followed two trips for interviews and a "scouting trip" to look for a place to live. I could have wound up in an apartment near Fox Elementary School - but some landlords simply don't allow waterbeds on the second floor.

Instead, I've lived in the downtown area for 14 years - and I'm thrilled to report my landlord has NOT increased my rent in all that time. Then again, he hasn't needed to raise it. When the landlord makes you pay for water and cable television, his costs are practically set.

I had no utilities on my first day in town, so I spend my first night 14 years ago dining at McDonald's and sleeping at the Heart of Columbus Motel. It was on Veterans Parkway downtown, where EconoLodge is now - and my one-bed room cost 25 dollars. I'm not sure that can get you a room at the Salvation Army nowadays.

The 11:00 p.m. newscasts on that Tuesday night provided my first taste of Columbus media. "I did not say that, Wayne Bennett!" Robbie Watson said in a semi-scolding way at the start of the sports report. Karyn Shipman co-anchored the "Nightside" news then - and for all we know, someone may be lobbying her now to come back from St. Louis and replace Kurt Schmitz.

That news team's competition in 1997 consisted of WRBL's Brad Means and Amanda Rosseter. Means eventually was fired, and moved to Augusta. Rosseter worked in other cities, before settling down to work for an Atlanta hospital. And weathercaster John Bateman looked to me like he was stood outside in the rain before every newscast.

Even though I arranged for utilities to be turned on during that first week, my apartment was in the dark for two days - helped only by outdoor lighting nearby during the evening. That's not really possible in 2011, with no baseball team named the RedStixx playing at Golden Park anymore.

Only out of desperation on Thursday, 1 May 97 did I try flipping switches in my kitchen breaker box - and then the electricity came on. Then came Saturday morning, and a severe thunderstorm almost knocked it right back off again....

Someone challenged me online recently to compare how inflation has affected my bills in recent years. So Thursday night I found a box of checks from 2001. Yes, I still have checks going back decades. The moment you throw them away is the day the credit report bureaus demand them in an investigation.

I found not only has my rent not increased in 14 years, but my Columbus Water Works bill is lower now than in April 2001. It's dropped from $26.12 then to $20.15 this month. And imagine if I switched to bottled water, instead of drinking from the tap....

The United Cities Gas bill in April 2001 was $33.14. This month Atmos Energy charged me almost 39 dollars, or about 17 percent more in ten years. I probably reduced my inflation by switching some cooking to a microwave oven -- which explains why the Georgia Power has almost doubled.

My car today is the same one I drove into Columbus in 1997. That humble Honda has a lower insurance bill now than it did 14 years. A change in insurance companies helped with that. And I'm not sure who told my current company my car's distracting radio doesn't work anymore.

I didn't have Internet service when I moved to Columbus in 1997. The personal computer I had was a gift from a friend in metro Atlanta -- a Compaq "portable" with the weight of a suitcase at the airport. I still have that computer as a collector's item, and tell young people it's so old the MS-DOS for word processing is really an "uno."

When I moved to Columbus in 1997, I had no idea I'd still be here in 2011. There was no real long-term plan to leave town. Things simply happened along the way which have kept me here for 14 years -- and have had me blogging about them for more than eight. Now will some nice blog reader please match the salary I was offered in 1997? Plus a little for inflation?

Back in the present, here's a check of what happened Thursday....

+ Three days of construction work ended at Ninth and Broadway, to smooth the railroad track at that intersection. The timing of this work seemed peculiar - since construction from Friday to Sunday could have kept downtown thugs away.

+ The station van of WGSY-FM "Sunny 100" was displayed on Veterans Parkway downtown -- flipped upside down. It's supposed to be a visual reminder not to drink or use drugs while driving. But a few of us wondered if Clear Channel Radio was about to turn over its on-air personnel again.

+ Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed the bill allowing local-option Sunday alcohol sales in stores. There's still no word about when Columbus Council will discuss putting the question on the ballot, and which Councilor will make the proposal. Did they draw swizzle sticks at that executive session the other day?

+ CBS News showed a viral video from Atlanta of a police officer and a customer fighting inside an IHOP restaurant. Really now - every booth ought to have several syrup bottles, so there's plenty for everyone.

+ The Atlanta Hawks eliminated Orlando from the N.B.A. playoffs 84-81. The Hawks advance to play Chicago, beginning Monday. And if they're smart, they'll show former Kansas star Kirk Hinrich plenty of video of the Jayhawks defeating Memphis's Derrick Rose in the 2008 championship game.

+ The Atlanta Falcons traded higher in the N.F.L. draft order, then chose Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones. Jones will run routes with former Alabama-Birmingham receiver Roddy White - the closest these schools have come on a football field in many years.

(Auburn quarterback Cam Newton was the top draft pick, selected by the Carolina Panthers. One draft analyst says a big concern for Newton will be "his lack of humility, and his big ego...." If that's true, he should forget about football and join the Donald Trump presidential campaign.)

+ Instant Message to the "Clue Crew" of Jeopardy: Did I read this correctly online - you say Lucille Ball auditioned for a lead role in "Gone With the Wind"? Imagine if she had been selected. We could have seen Ball try to stomp out the Tara plantation fire with bare feet.

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