Monday, July 25, 2011

25 JUL 11: Couples Dance

Did you know Big Lots holds a "Friends and Family Day" twice a year, when everything in the store is marked down? I didn't know until a couple of weeks ago - and the 20-percent discount led me to buy a new bedroom pillow for the first time in many years. The old one had become flatter than a karaoke singer after three beers.

BLOGGER BEGGARS #6-7: I hauled a lot of items to my car from the Phenix City Big Lots sale the other day. But after returning my cart to the front sidewalk, a man passed me in the parking lot with a question. "Can you help me get something to eat?" Aw, c'mon - there were 20-percent-off discount coupons waiting at the door.

But I realized right away this man couldn't use a coupon if he had no money to spend. "Food in the trunk, sir," I told him as I pointed to my humble Honda. I was walking right toward it, so I went to the trunk and opened it - only to find the man didn't follow me. Was I disqualified for being too overenthusiastic?

In fact, the man was walking in the opposite direction - toward the Phenix Square shopping center sidewalk. Maybe he'd spotted a Phenix City Council member with extra city funds to invest....

I was so surprised that I closed the trunk - and then the beggar came over to the car. "Do you want this food?" I asked, noting he'd walked the other way from where his help was waiting.

"I wanted to talk to that man first," he said. Maybe he'd offer a better Sunday dinner down the street at El Vaquero.

That other man apparently didn't provide any help, so I opened the trunk again to pull out one of my small "beggar bags." But he suddenly seemed distracted again. Cans of chicken Vienna sausages simply don't thrill panhandlers as much as a Hartz Chicken buffet across the highway.

"Doreen [not her real name] will take it," the man told me -- pointing toward a woman two rows of cars away, carrying a small dog in her hands. No, I'm not really into bartering....

I presumed Doreen is married to the beggar, so this called for a second specially-prepared bag. Thankfully, I had three in the trunk - so I didn't have to stoop to giving the couple the nourishment-lacking super-stack of potato chips I'd bought moments earlier.

Doreen wound up taking both bags of food, while her partner walked around the Big Lots parking lot talking with people for another couple of minutes. If this was politics, we'd say he was "working the room." Except he was acting more like a campaign finance chair....

Doreen took the food with her dog to a dark blue Neon, which I could see across the parking lot from my Honda. She opened one of the bags, before her partner joined him. Thankfully, she didn't throw anything inside out the window in disgust.

I waited in my car, to see what the couple would do. They seemed to linger as well, until they noticed me - then they started the Neon to pull out of the parking lot. If they thought I was a plainclothes detective with the Phenix City Police, they were mistaken. For one thing, I don't think they'd wear a T-shirt and running shorts.

The Neon stopped for a moment for a window-to-window chat with another driver - then the couple went on their way. I noticed the car had a Muscogee County license plate. So the new Columbus panhandling rules may be spreading local abundance across the Chattahoochee Valley.

This makes the second begging couple I've met this year -- and both of them brought dogs along. Maybe I start buying small cans of dog food, and carry them for needy people as well. After all, a woman knocked on my front door one evening years ago looking for food - and after I gave her a plate of leftover spaghetti, she stooped down to feed it to a wandering cat first.

I'm left with the impression this couple knew there would be a crowd at Big Lots on a Sunday afternoon, so they showed up to get as much sympathy as possible. After all, 100-percent-off food is an even better deal than 20 percent....

Yet this couple obviously drove from Columbus to the Phenix City Big Lots. With gas prices above $3.50 a gallon, this could be a case where low-income people can't afford both transportation and nourishment. It's easier to hold a big of food in your empty hand than a pint of unleaded gasoline.

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E-MAIL UPDATE: We mentioned a recent message from one reader, which would require some digging....


I have tried to look at the CCRT scores for Rigdon Road but it is hard to find the information. I am curious to know if all the money they spent on the new school resulted in higher CCRT scores, level scores or declining scores. Your research skills are excellent. Maybe you could take a look at this.

Oh dear - it probably would be easier to find this information if you search for "CRCT" instead of "CCRT." Should I ask which grade school this reader attended?

But anyway: I found a private website with CRCT results at the fifth-grade level going back to 2006. And you can check a school's scores as far back as 2002 at the Georgia Department of Education site, by searching for a school's name. Given the current furor over AYP results, I should warn the process might only add to your depression.

Rigdon Road Elementary began having 100-percent standard-setting scores in three key areas (reading, English and math) in 2005. But it's fallen off that mark since 2008 -- and it was in late 2008 when Principal Phyllis Jones suddenly retired, only later to receive a one-year decertification for ethics violations [20 Nov 08]. If you can find the worn-out pencil erasers, take them to Governor Nathan Deal....

(The new Rigdon Road school building opened in January 2008, so it didn't seem to make a difference in the CRCT results that spring. But I don't think you can pin a decline in test scores on the loss of a "new school smell.")

As back-to-school shoppers began making their rounds over the weekend, we noticed this other news:

+ A trip down Victory Drive revealed the Carousel Lounge has a new white sign, mentioning it has "exotic dancers." Now there's the answer to those shootings in the parking lot....

+ Richard Hyatt's website reported the old Al Who's club on Armour Road is being bulldozed. Once Al Fleming sold that nightclub, police were called so often that the city shut it down. Somehow the 1100 block of Broadway has escaped that fate so far.

+ Rep. Sanford Bishop warned during a visit to Albany if something isn't done about the federal debt limit by next Monday, food prices will go up. It sounds like this will be the best week of the year to stock up on cans of baked beans.

+ WRBL reported Trees Columbus is challenging a new Georgia billboard law in court. The group is concerned in part because the law only permits the preservation of trees which are at least 75 years old. This could pose a problem - because Dick McMichael might not remember when certain trees were planted.

+ The St. Louis Post-Dispatch speculated two former high school baseball stars from the Columbus area could be swapped in a major league trade. Colby Rasmus could move from St. Louis to the Chicago White Sox, in exchange for Edwin Jackson -- and if there's any justice, Coach Bobby Howard would drive at least one of the moving vans.

+ Pro wrestling legend "Nature Boy" Ric Flair told the Albany Herald he'll return to the ring in September, at age 62. In Flair's classic words: he's going to have to walk that aisle -- even if it's with a walker.

(Flair made this major announcement while signing autographs in the garden department of an Albany Wal-Mart. What an unusual place for a wrestler "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" to be! Is Flair selling some new kind of "figure-four" soil tiller?)

+ Instant Message to whomever started the rumor about Robert Schweiger having cancer: That's news to him. The Hurtsboro activist tells me he tends to avoid doctors. Maybe you misunderstood some Hurtsboro residents, who consider Schweiger a cancer on the community.

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