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We’ve Gone From ‘High Pockets’ To
‘Pants On The Ground’
I WAS driving back to downtown when I saw a young man walking alongside the road with one of his hands plunged deep inside the front of his pants.
It’s a fairly common sight around our community.
Some of our readers have written to me, or called me about witnessing the same “fashion trend”.
THERE ARE variations of what the young man was doing.
Apparently, a young man’s hand can be either inside his pants or, in a more sanitized version, he can hold up his pants by grabbing the front on the outside.
I’ve seen a few young men with their hand holding their pants up when their pants were in a fairly normal position!
What’s that all about? Maybe they were “pants grab-trainees” who hadn’t quite mastered the technique.
I’VE OBSERVED a few young men with their pants so low (nearly knee level) that they can’t reach them so they have a hand inside their underwear!
If you or I did that, we would be arrested or taken for “observation”.
Some even wear a belt which apparently is useless because the belt is down around their knees along with their pants. I thought a belt was used to hold pants up, not ride down with them.
What’s that all about?
OBVIOUSLY, I’m a few generations away from some of the “fashion trends” of today, but I remember when I was in high school, there was a danger of some of the students wearing their jeans too high.
Remember when some students would be called “high pockets” because their blue jeans (is that phrase even used anymore?) and belt hit them about mid-way up their chest?
REMEMBER: “Hey high pockets! Pull down your pants a little. You’re shutting off your circulation!”?
Back then, some male students had a fear of their pants falling off, so they wore them as high as possible. That way they had a chance to grab them before they went all of the way to the floor!
Now, some young men wear pants that are halfway to the floor to begin with. Look how far our pants have fallen (no pun intended) in a few decades!
LIKE many of you I come from the generation where boys wore their hair in a ducktail style, or “Mohawk” (Is that politically correct today?) or the “buzz” when summer hit.
The hippy-style long hair came in the 1960s, I guess to show a “drop out, turn on” generation.
But, were talking about hair, not wearing pants that are about to fall off or walking around grabbing oneself in a socially-unacceptable place.
ALSO, what’s with the “underwear thing”?
I guess that’s part of wearing your pants real low, so that you can impress people with the color of your underwear.
Remember when we were in school and our moms always warned us: “Make sure you have clean underwear, in case you’re in an accident”?
Today, some mothers must be telling their sons: “Make sure you have clean underwear on in case your pants fall down!”
All I know is, that when I was in school, I would have been mortified if even a little bit of my underwear was showing and so would every other student at Roosevelt Jr. High or in high school.
BY THE WAY, most of the underwear that is exposed today doesn’t look anything like the underwear we wore back then.
Today, it looks like Bermuda shorts.
For the uninformed citizenry, maybe someone reading this can send me a letter or email and explain how all of this exposed underwear/ground hugging pants/crotch-grabbing trend started.
All I know is that it’s been hanging around (or not “hanging around”) for several years.
I ALSO wonder, since one arm and hand are being used to hold everything up, why not some other strange trend?
How about walking around with a finger up your nose to point to your brain, or a finger in your ear, to signify “I’m not hearing nobody telling me nothin’!”.
Some might say “that would be gross!” It wouldn’t be as gross as a young man walking around with his hand stuck down inside the front of his pants!
WELL, although I belong to a generation that doesn’t understand the underwear/low pants/strange grabbing symbolism, I guess guys could be doing something worse with that hand...
Remember when our generation used the expression “far out”? That’s now been replaced by “far down”!
Do you think our elders viewed us the same way in the days of ducktail haircuts and high pockets? Surely not!!!
Posted From 8/3/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Hatred? We’re Better Than That -- A Lot Better
THERE are some people who hate people who are different than they are or voice a different opinion than they do.
There are some people who hate most Republicans and there are some people who hate most Democrats and some people who hate the people in both parties.
There are some white people who hate black people and there are some black people who hate white people.
There are a few people who hate everybody including themselves.
However, the haters must not define what we are as a person and a nation.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
THERE are some conservatives who hate some liberals and have no problem in expressing that hatred time and time again on social media and in public forums.
I’ve read and heard outright hatred expressed for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton -- even to the point of a few demented souls wishing one or the other would die.
There is no such thing as a “righteous hatred” of someone -- it’s still hate.
It is the right of every American to support the candidate of his or her choice, but hating either candidate is not a part of the spirit that made this nation great.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
I’M NOT a big fan of President Obama, but I don’t hate him or wish any harm to come upon him.
Even though I disagree with him in several areas of leadership of the country, and don’t understand why he acts and reacts the way he does, I don’t come close to hating him or anybody else.
He is human like the rest of us, with a family he loves and who loves him, and he has one of the most difficult jobs anyone can imagine in an ever increasingly dangerous world.
Any American who hates President Obama, or our two candidates running to replace him, does not represent the America I know and love.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
OVER THE many past decades that I’ve published this newspaper, and the years I served in public office, I never fully understood “hate mail” and, when I received it, what bothered me the most was thinking about how miserable the people must have been who wrote such hateful words.
What they wrote was meant to hurt me but I hurt for them. What in life created such hatred that about every word they wrote was filled with venom?
Do we live in an America today in which strong disagreement ends up in hating the person who doesn’t agree with us?
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
TODAY, there is increasing hatred by some against law enforcement officers and in recent weeks police officers have been targeted and shot -- some fatally.
Only a fool would think that every single police officer in this nation serves with honor and enforces the law equally without regard to race.
However, the actions of the few, which reflect badly on law enforcement, should not create hatred towards all police officers even to the point that killing them is somehow justified.
No one who uses hatred to seek justice will create anything but more hatred.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
IT’S A tenant of my faith that my attitude towards others, even those who hate me, is not to hate them back.
Meaningful relationships and lives are not built on hate. Hate is a destroyer of understanding, not a builder.
Not only is it wrong to hate people, it diminishes the quality of our lives.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
I DON’T THINK there is much doubt that this nation is becoming more and more secular and God continues to be rejected and banished from so many areas of our nation that once embraced Him.
Some would argue that’s a good thing, but, in a world that seems so full of hatred these days, moving away from God is not the solution -- it’s part of the problem.
It’s not God’s love that is responsible for the condition of the world -- it’s people hating people, many times with a hatred that has lasted for centuries.
We’re better than that -- a lot better.
JESUS taught that all of the commandments are wrapped up in two -- love for God and love for your fellowman.
He said if you can’t love your fellowman whom you have seen, how can you love God whom you have not seen?
When I was a small boy I heard that a famous mayor once said, “Every night I ask God to forgive me for my sins and I forgive everyone who wronged me during the day.”
I never forgot the lesson and did the same thing as mayor and still offer the same prayer as a newspaper editor and citizen.
LIKE everybody else, I am not a person without fault or sin, but I cannot bring myself to hate someone. I may not agree or like what a person does, but I can’t hate that person.
I believe there’s more than enough hatred in the world without me adding to it.
We need to stand up for what we believe is right, speak out on our beliefs and keep our faith...and not give into hate.
Thankfully, the overwhelming majority of people in our city, and in our nation, do not let hate control their view of others.
That’s because, in America, we’re better than that -- a lot better.
--Posted 7/30/16 from 7/27/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
Spiderman, Christine And ‘Regular Fellows’
• ONE EVENING last week my right wrist started itching and when I looked down I saw that a sneaky spider had drilled me! (If it was a vampire, he had one fang missing because there was only one hole in my wrist.)
I figured the spider had read something I had written, disagreed with me and thought I deserved a bite or sting, or whatever spiders do.
It wasn’t long before I had a big red splotch a couple of inches in circumference. (I thought about coloring it and making it look like I was cool with a tattoo but figured some anti-spider cream would be a better choice.)
WHILE the cream was applied to my wrist, my mind began to consider the possibilities, like if I lost my arm, would subscribers understand if I reduced the number of pages in the Tribune to half, since I would only be typing with one hand?
Was the spider a messenger from God telling me it was time to retire?
Can spiders carry the West Nile Virus? (I had just received a news release earlier in the day stating that the virus had been found in Macon County.)
EXCEPT for “biting sarcasm” from a few readers, that was the first bite (mosquito, human or otherwise) that I had received in years and the urge to scratch it was almost unbearable, but I didn’t give in to spider bite scratching syndrome.
Coincidentally, one of my sons, who lives in another state, was bitten by a brown recluse spider a few weeks ago and had to get some medical treatment for it.
Craig knew what a brown recluse spider bite looked like because of his training of living off of the land as an Army Ranger in his younger days.
I knew the spider that got me wasn’t a brown recluse because I looked up a photo of a spider bite on Wikipedia -- the replacement for grandma’s remedy book.
AFTER a few days, the red area on my wrist started to fade leaving just the bite mark itself.
Why didn’t I go to the doctor or the hospital and get it checked out?
Easy answer: I’m a man and it is inherent in the gender not to seek medical attention for a cut or bite -- unless you have to be taken on a stretcher, or you have training to recognize different kinds of spider bites.
There seems to be only one lingering effect of my spider bite -- I can now climb the outside brick wall of the Millikin Court Building to get to my office on the fourth floor! (smile)
Just call me Spider Bite Man!
• CHRISTINE (my infamous possessed car) and I were heading north on Franklin Street when we had to stop at the intersection of Eldorado and Franklin.
One of those really big pick-up trucks with huge tires pulled up next to us and the music was so loud, plus the driver was gunning his engine, that my car was actually vibrating from the noise!
ALL OF sudden my radio speakers started blasting away “Surfin’ USA” by the Beach Boys as loud as I’ve ever heard them and, as the stop light was changing from red to green, Christine took off so fast that her tires squealed leaving the big, black truck behind!
I became a passenger in what seemed like a driverless car -- except the car was driving herself!
Bad Christine!...Bad car!
No Pennzoil for you tonight!
• ONE OF OUR readers, bless his heart, called on Thursday (July 14) to complain that he was just then getting his July 13th edition of the Decatur Tribune in the mail.
What was a little strange about the call, was Thursday, July 14, was the day he should have received the Wednesday, July 13th edition because they are always mailed out on Wednesday!
We sometimes get calls from a few subscribers who say they didn’t receive that week’s newspaper, but I think this was the first time that someone called to complain because they had received the newspaper through the mail on time!
I remember one time a subscriber called to argue that Wednesday was Thursday and he should have received his Tribune like he does every Thursday.
I think we finally convinced him that it was only Wednesday and he would receive his newspaper the next day.
• I’M THANKFUL that our readers look forward to the Tribune each week and even want it to be there a day early!
I mentioned sometime ago that one of our readers told the mail carrier (who told me) that he waits on his Tribune to arrive on Thursday so that he knows when to go to the bathroom.
Hmmm. Maybe that was the reader who thought Wednesday was Thursday.
Maybe he just couldn’t wait another day for the Tribune to arrive for a very good reason!
I love our readers.
Posted from 7/20/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
One Year Following Mayor's Death
Memories Of My Friend 'Tuna'
It will be a year on Monday (July 17) since Mayor Mike (Tuna) McElroy passed way.
I clearly remember that early morning phone call I received from City Manager Tim Gleason and how I didn’t fully understand his words: “We’ve lost the mayor.”
For a few seconds I thought he was referring to something that had incapacitated Tuna and it would take him awhile to recover so we had “lost” his services as mayor for a time.
I guess that’s what the mind does in trying to react to terrible news.
However, it wasn’t a temporary loss -- Tuna had died at 63 years of age and out of what happened that Friday morning, I not only lost a good friend, but we also lost our mayor.
The city manager told me that he knew “the mayor” and I were close and he felt Tuna would want me to know what happened immediately.
Macon County Coroner Michael E. Day said later that the mayor, after being involved in a one-car accident, was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital Emergency Room by ambulance in full cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at 8:38 A.M. by Emergency Room physicians.
His death was listed as “natural causes”. It is believed he had a massive heart attack which caused the car crash on 22nd Street. Efforts to resusitate him were unsuccessful.
The community was plunged into mourning because Tuna knew so many people and was a well-liked mayor. His death sent shock waves through the community and, a year later he is publicly remembered in a variety of ways including a golf tournament that is being held for the first time this year.
Tuna and I were the two candidates who were elected to the city council in 2003. Tuna was sworn in as a councilman and I started by first term as mayor.
Actually, I didn’t know Tuna that well until the campaign and we started serving on the council together.
We became good friends in 2003 and, as I’ve mentioned in the past, he was my closest ally on the council.
We talked often about city business and the issues facing Decatur.
Tuna served on council during the years I served as mayor and we both won re-election to another term.
I could always count on Tuna to call me after a council meeting to discuss what had taken place that evening.
When I left the mayor’s office, Tuna was chosen in the next election to serve in the position.
When he came to my office to tell me that he was going to run for mayor, he indicated that, if elected, he was going to continue the projects we had worked on together.
Obviously, I supported my friend because of the experience in working those years with him and I knew of his love for Decatur.
That mutual love for Decatur was the bond of the relationship. When we were together we seldom talked about anything other than the City of Decatur.
The relationship didn’t change a lot once I left office and he sat in the mayor’s chair.
We would talk quite a bit about the issues confronting our community and, if he saw me taking a walk through downtown, he would pull over his vehicle, I would walk over and we would carry on a conversation about city issues.
When he came to my office at the Tribune over the years, we always sat at the round conference table and talked, both when I was mayor and then, when he was mayor.
On some of the projects that were started when I was mayor and he was a councilman, and completed or started when he was mayor, he invited me to the ceremonies to sit beside him and cut the ribbon.
“You did the heavy lifting,” he would tell me, but he gave me too much credit. Still, it was nice for a friend to remember me when I was no longer in office.
I talked with Tuna in my office only a few days before he passed away and I knew he was under a lot of stress -- and he knew that I knew because he watched me experience a lot of the stress that he was going through.
Before he left, he told me that this would be his last term as mayor because he knew some good things were coming for the city and he wanted to be there to help push them through.
His “last term” comment proved to be true in a way that neither one of us expected -- in a matter of a few days he passed away.
I think Tuna and I bonded even more after I left office, because we had served together and he knew that, since I sat in the mayor’s chair for years, I could understand his feelings and emotions from having experienced them myself.
During the past year there have been countless times that I’ve reacted for a second to someone honking his car horn at me while I’m walking to a location downtown -- and think it’s Tuna... and then suddenly realize that it couldn’t be, because he passed away.
I remember one evening, years ago, when I was waiting in the left turn lane at the stoplight at Wood and Main Street when Tuna pulled up beside me.
We put our windows down and talked between our cars like two teenagers in an old Steak ‘n Shake meeting when they had curb service.
There were no other cars coming so we sat through the stop light a couple of times and chatted from our cars -- and then when cars started coming behind us, we waved and drove on.
There have been countless times during the past year that I’ve thought about that encounter when I pull into the turn lane at Wood and Main to head home.
I’ve even glanced over from time to time to see who is in the car next to me, and of course, there will be no more such conversations with Tuna.
I miss my friend, but so do a lot of other people in this community.
Although I still love what I do and promote this great city, it took a little wind out of my sails when Tuna passed away.
I not only “lost the mayor” -- like many others, I lost a great friend.
Posted from July 13, 2016 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
A ‘Rose’ That Is Not Blooming On Water St.
I ARRIVED downtown very early one morning last week as I usually do on the day this newspaper is published.
In fact, even with the extended hours of daylight during summer, it was still dark outside.
As I was getting out of my car, I saw one of the “street people” moving across South Water fairly far away.
I DON’T know her name, (I call her “Rose”, at least in my mind) although I’ve encountered her many times over the years and, in the past, this morning she quickly moved away from me and headed on down the street, looking over her shoulder to see if I was still there.
She turned the corner by the Orlando Apartments, and onto Wood Street.
Like so many times before, she disappeared into the early morning as if she wanted to hide before the sun came up and shed light on what she had become in her life.
I don’t know how long she had been roaming the downtown streets that particular night -- maybe all night.
She needed money for drugs and she would keep roaming the streets until she had the money to buy the drugs she needed.
I FIRST encountered Rose several years ago when the Tribune office was on North Park Street -- next to Subway.
Rose stopped me on the way to the post office one morning and asked if I could spare her a dollar because she hadn’t eaten and was “so hungry”.
I told her I would not give her any money, but we could go into Subway together and I would buy her what she wanted to eat and drink.
As we approached the door to Subway, she kept on walking and wouldn’t go inside with me.
Maybe she was ashamed. Before I could tell her that I could buy her a sandwich and bring it outside -- she quickly walked away.
A FEW weeks later, I encountered her as I was walking through Central Park and she asked for money.
I made the same Subway offer I had made earlier and, this time, she did accompany me inside and she ordered a foot long sandwich with everything on it, plus a drink.
The Subway cashier later told me that, as soon as I paid for it and left, the woman immediately tried to sell the sandwich to other customers and, when no one wanted it, she was trying to sell it across the street in Central Park.
OVER the years, she has approached me several times in and around Central Park to ask for money.
I’ve tried to be sympathetic and advised her about local services (a few only a block or two away) where she could get help -- and even offered to walk with her there, but Rose wasn’t interested in any help -- just money.
When I asked her first name, she wouldn’t say, and as I talked to her, in as understanding a voice as I could, and told her that she deserved a better life than what she was getting on the streets -- and there were people in Decatur who could make that happen, she walked away.
She just needed drugs -- that’s all.
ALTHOUGH I’ve seen her downtown asking other people for money, she heads the other direction when she sees me coming, except for one time, when she must have been really desperate because she asked me for money, adding: “I have cancer and I only have a short time to live.”
When I told her that she really needed help and I could help her find the people who would help her if she let me, she asked, “Are you going to give me any money? That’s all I want.”
She then walked away.
OVER the years, I’ve written about some of my encounters with people like Rose and, except for one gentleman who did get his life straightened out because of those who cared about him, they continue to walk and beg and live for the next fix.
Rose hasn’t approached me for a long time and when I saw her on Water Street that early morning last week she moved away quickly. She knew all I wanted to do was help her and the only help she needed was money for the drug habit that has destroyed her life in more ways than I will can ever imagine.
ROSE is somebody’s daughter. She may be a wife, mother, grandmother, sister...I don’t know, but she belongs to somebody. I’m sure that a lot of family ties have been severed due to her addiction and maybe no one cares any longer what she does with her life.
All I know for sure is that God loves Rose and cares about her, like He does all of us, even when we’ve made bad decisions in our life and stumbled and fallen.
God knows there is a “Rose” that is not blooming on South Water Street and may be roaming downtown at night -- but she doesn’t roam alone, even though she may not realize it.
Posted 7/8/16 from print edition of Decatur Tribune.
* * * *
Cars Are Getting Too Complicated To Drive
WHEN I WAS a kid, there was an elderly member of an area church who allegedly bought an automobile after spending his life up to that point, driving horses.
It was said, and I never heard the man deny it, that when he drove his new automobile home to park in a shed, that he drove inside the shed, yelled “WHOA!” and ran through the back wall of the shed!
That was when Brother Noah Smith of Sullivan learned the difference between driving horses and driving a car.
THE STORY about Brother Noah Smith’s first encounter with the automobile generated a lot of laughter and head shaking over the years -- and may still be part of a conversation every now and then.
However, the older I get and the more advanced our society becomes, I’m beginning to understand and be more sympathetic to Brother Noah’s difficult transition from horse to car.
I’VE WRITTEN in this column before about some of my experiences with my infamous car “Christine”, that, with all of its instrumentation, has made driving my car much more difficult.
Newer cars seemingly have more “buttons and whistles” on them than the cockpit of a passenger jet!
Christine has provided several embarrassing moments for me during the couple of years since I purchased her and I’ve documented those incidents in this column at different times.
The car seems to be “possessed”.
INCIDENTS such as Christine dropping dead in the middle of a parking lot (she had to be towed and resusitated by a mechanic) to attracting the attention of police and fire personnel because she started up on her own (I know I shut the engine off) and kept running in the street in front of the office building, make me unsure of what she may do next.
Then, there was the incident in the drive-through at a fast food restaurant on Pershing Road and....I think you know Christine’s “moody reputation” by now.
THE INFORMATION she tells me while I’m driving down the road (she even shuts off the radio so she can talk) is useless (at least to me) plus she’s got a real bossy voice!
I fondly remember the old days when I could take a drive to relax with the windows open, the wind blowing through my hair and the radio playing my favorite songs.
That’s why I love my classic Corvette. I drive it. It doesn’t drive me!
TODAY, I have countless radio stations to pick from (even a service that is willing to charge me $19.95 per month to offer me even more) and I’ve selected a couple of local stations because of how complicated it is to find any others.
I still have hair to blow back, but I don’t open the windows in the summer because the air conditioning (I know how it works) feels so much better.
I have a sun roof which retracts at the push of a button, but I’ve only opened it once -- to see if it worked.
I ACTUALLY love my car but I think it is a one-sided romance. I really don’t know much about “Christine”. I’ve mastered the air conditioner, heater, shift, accelerator, brake, windshield wipers, turn signals and a few other other services to make my life better.
I don’t know what purpose everything else on the car serves -- and I don’t care.
I’ve mastered the fundamentals to get me to and from a destination like I’ve always expected a car to do. I really don’t need the other “distractions”.
TODAY’S CARS have become entertainment/communication/yippy-yap centers.
We even have cars today that can drive themselves! Hopefully those robot cars don’t develop road rage with passengers on board.
I’ve had people tell me to read the owner’s manual to find out what all “Christine” can and cannot do.
Are they kidding? The owner’s manual is as thick as the Bible!
Besides, I’m a man and real men never read directions for anything -- at least that’s what I heard from a real man.
I’VE DECIDED to become more technology savvy with my car, you know like a three year old kid is smart about such things. (Interestingly, the only people who understand today’s technology are too young to drive.)
I’m going to train “Christine” to stop by my voice command. You know like “Stop. Go. Sit. Stay.”
That way, the next time I pull into my garage I’m going to yell “WHOA” in tribute to Brother Noah Smith who was obviously ahead, not behind, the technology curve.
I’m sure Christine will obey my command and stop, aren’t you?
* * * *
Observations On Two Places,
Five Unnamed People
I STOPPED to pick up an item at a local service station/convenience store on the city’s south side early one morning last week.
When I pulled into a parking space, I saw that two police officers had two young men handcuffed.
One officer was using one of his hands to hold one young man’s arm, while he used his other hand to check his pockets.
A short distance away, the other officer was processing the other young man in exactly the same way.
I WALKED past the officers and young men as I was heading to the door of the convenience store and I overhead one of the young men ask, “Don’t I have the right to free speech?”
He must have been responding to something the officer had told him, but I don’t know for sure because that was the only part of the conversation I heard.
When I got inside I asked the cashier what was going on outside.
She replied in one word: “drugs”.
WHEN I walked out the door and headed to my car, I again walked by the officers and the young men.
This time, I heard the same young man I had heard earlier say: “I’m not going to jail,” with a voice that sounded like he feared that happening.
I got into my car and drove off, catching another glimpse in my rear view mirror of the two officers -- and two young men with uncertain futures.
AS I GROW older it bothers me even more to see young men with the opportunity to be whatever they want to be, apparently throwing their lives away because of some wrong decisions.
Drug usage has become an epidemic in Decatur and across the nation and it’s leaving so many destroyed lives, families, and potential, in its wake.
If that was what was really happening to these two young men -- what a shame and what a waste!
AS I DROVE on towards the newspaper office, I also thought of the police officers who were processing the young men and how often they get little or no respect.
I’ve always felt our police department is the finest anywhere and while that judgement may be somewhat due to knowing so many of them over the years, it is also backed up by the positive statistics of crime reduction in our community.
May God bless them and their efforts -- and keep them safe as they keep us safe.
LATER THAT day, I paid a visit to the Secretary of State’s Driver’s License Facility on North Woodford.
Fortunately, I noticed that the sticker on the license plate of our newspaper van expired this month and, unlike earlier this year, when I had to pay a fine for not noticing the sticker on my infamous car “Christine” was due (the car didn’t warn me), I was much more aware of “sticker shock”!
I DON’T know anybody who gets up in the morning all excited because they have to go to the driver’s license facility for some reason. (Tooth extraction may be looked upon more favorably.)
When I entered the door of the facility, the line that I had to join to reach the person who could help me, looked like the TSA lines at O’Hare in Chicago that I’ve been seeing on television news lately!
THERE is a lot of “line bonding” that goes on when you are in a long line for the same reason everyone else is in the line and most of the people seemed pretty patient -- unless someone came into the facility and tried to crowd into the line.
He was told where to go immediately -- THE END OF THE LINE!
It seemed to me the facility was understaffed (there were a lot of numbered counter openings with no one working there) and I attributed that to no state budget and department cuts coming out of Springfield.
I’M SURE there’s a lot of stress and uncertainty on the remaining staff in handling so many people.
After what seemed like forever, I finally made it to a counter opening at the west end of the facility. (I think it was number 2, but not sure.)
The state employee who helped was the picture of calmness, friendliness and help and, after dealing with her, I left the facility with a very positive feeling.
Despite everything going on at the state level, she gave great service!
AS I move through our community each day, I observe a lot “unnamed people” experiencing different circumstances -- like the five I mentioned in this column.
I see some bad and some ugly, but I see far more good and beautiful in the people of Decatur, Illinois.
I’m proud to live and work here -- and feel the spirit of this community.
--Above article posted 6/3/16
Lunch Yields Study On Trash Receptacle Behavior
IT WAS lunch time and I pulled into the Taco Bell on East Pershing Road, went inside, bought my lunch and sat down in a booth in the southwest corner of the restaurant.
It was the beginning of an interesting lunch, although I was alone.
Located on the other side of the huge glass windows, and only about six or seven feet from where I was sitting, was a trash receptacle.
THE TRASH receptacle was part of the drive-through lane so that, when someone had a wrapper or something else to throw away, he or she could stop at the receptacle and drop the trash without even getting out of the car.
It’s not even a long reach from a car window. It takes no effort and only about a second or two to use.
HERE’S the interesting part of my lunch besides the great tacos.
I started watching how many drivers stopped at the trash receptacle and made a “deposit”.
During the 15 or 20 minutes that I was eating lunch, most of the drivers who received their orders at the drive-through window kept on driving.
Either they did not have any trash, they were taking the trash home with them, or they didn’t see the trash container -- which, if it was the latter case, with such poor eyesight they shouldn’t have been driving a car!
WHAT I found most interesting in my “lunch research project” (not government funded) was the kind of vehicles people drove who did or did not use the trash receptacle.
A young guy who was driving a car that looked to be in such bad shape that I was surprised it made the trip through the drive-through lane, stopped the car (the brakes still worked) and carefully threw his trash into the receptacle.
Good for him!
The condition of his car did not reflect on his concern about putting his trash into the proper place and not leaving it strewn all over the drive-through lane.
Besides, maybe, because of financial problems, the old car was all he could afford.
THE OTHER extreme of what I had witnessed with the young guy in the old car happened a short time later with a middle age man driving an expensive fairly-new blue car with a darker blue roof covering.
He pulled up to where it appeared he was going to throw something in the trash receptacle and then, within a foot of the receptacle, he dropped his trash on the ground next to it!
(I assume, with shot accuracy like that, he didn’t go to college on a basketball scholarship!)
THE MAN in the blue car then drove off as if nothing had happened -- leaving his trash on the ground.
The man may have been driving a big expensive car, but the sensitivity to littering part of his brain was nothing but a junker with bald tires!
Of course, no conclusion should be drawn about those two people as setting some kind of a standard.
People who litter come in all sizes, shapes and forms. Littering crosses all economic boundaries.
I’m just reporting two examples.
OVERALL, during the time I was eating my lunch, I found, of those people who needed to throw out trash from their vehicles, most of them made a conscious effort to put their trash inside, instead of outside, the trash receptacle.
I know that Taco Bell and other fast food restaurants have employees who clean the trash out of the drive-through lane and that was starting to happen before I left Taco Bell.
However, I think, knowing that your trash will be cleaned up my someone if you throw it on the ground, should not be an excuse for littering. Depositing it in the trash receptacle is a solid habit and great example to young children.
THE WORST offender of throwing trash on a drive-through lane, is the person that starts throwing trash out of his car before he ever gets to the window to get his order!
That’s “imported trash”!
Don’t we have enough imported products without “importing” trash?
Recently, when I was in a drive-through lane, a young woman started throwing trash out of her car before she got to the window to pick up her order and I had to wonder if she had picked up all of that trash at other fast food restaurants and was leaving all of it at this location!!!
I KNOW we have a lot more important issues to confront in our community today, but not littering is something that should be as easy as breathing.
Besides, if you throw your trash in appropriate receptacles you don’t have to worry whether there’s a newspaper editor in town that who be watching you and is going to write about you in his next column!
Beware if you litter!
You have been warned!
The Tribune Taco Trashman may be watching you -- and your trashy ways in the drive-through lanes of Decatur.
Schoolhouse, Records Vanished From The Prairie
LAST week, this column was about the one room country schoolhouse that I attended for the first four years of my formal education.
I shared some memories of what it was like to be taught in a remote location on the Iowa prairie in a building that had one teacher for 23 students and eight classes -- all in one room,
There was no indoor plumbing, no electricity at first, and during the four years I was there, we went through several teachers who left because they couldn’t stand the isolation and, to a certain extent, the students.
THE REACTION to the column was substantial, with some of our older readers indicating they also attended a one room schoolhouse when they were kids.
Since it has been a long time ago when I attended that one room schoolhouse and left all of my friends there when dad’s job brought him back to Illinois, several readers asked if I ever had any contact with Center School or any of the students in the years since I attended there.
Only once -- and that was for a very brief time.
MY WIFE and I were driving back to Decatur from northern Illinois one day about 30 years ago when I decided that I wanted to take a detour and go back to where I attended Center School near Hiawatha, Iowa.
When we got there a lot had changed in the area, but I managed to find the place where the schoolhouse had once stood. (I think the schoolhouse had been demolished many years earlier.)
The land had been returned to farm ground and there were tractors in the field just as they were on a lot of days when I looked out the schoolhouse windows and saw them there.
It was like the setting was the same but the schoolhouse had disappeared!
I STOOD at the fence that was at the edge of the field that looked to be the same that was around part of the schoolhouse grounds.
Then I remembered that one of the girls in my class so long ago, lived about about a mile north of the school.
I figured the odds of her family still living in the farmhouse, after all of the years that had passed, was remote.
But, we drove the road leading to the farm house. I got out of the car and walked up to the porch and knocked on the door, not knowing what to expect.
I WAS somewhat shocked when the girl’s mother, who was still living there, answered the door.
I explained who I was and that I had attended Center School with her daughter many years earlier and was wondering what she was doing now.
The mother lowered her voice to a whisper and said, “she’s here but she’s not well.”
She asked me to come in and see her.
My classmate from so long ago was wearing a bathrobe and sitting in a rocking chair. It was obvious, at least to me, her condition was not physical, but emotional, because she appeared to be someone who had experienced severe mental anquish.
I ASKED her if she remembered me from Center School so long ago and she managed to smile and say, “I do remember you.”
She asked where I lived and what I was doing, but didn’t say much about her own life when I inquired.
After a ten minute conversation I told her (and her mother who remained in the room) that I needed to be going.
As I walked back to the car, I wondered what happened in the life of the sweet little girl with the pigtails from my first grade class in Center School.
That “reunion” bothered me for a long time after it happened.
ANOTHER 15 years passed and with the advent of the internet, I searched for information about Center School and those who attended there, but drew a blank.
I even called the Hiawatha Library and the librarian did a search of their files but did not find any record of the school.
I checked with the school district offices where I thought the consolidation of schools had taken place, but still found nothing.
WRITING THIS column has stimulated me to try again to do research on the school and maybe, with advanced search engines in place I might find something.
Plus with the thousands of people who read this newspaper in print and online, maybe someone will know something about the school.
Unless that happens, the one room Center Schoolhouse (and the records of its students) is lost forever to the prairie winds that blow over the rural site.
The One Room Schoolhouse On The Prairie
WHEN I was a kid ready to enter first grade, my dad accepted a temporary position with LaPlant-Choate Manufac-turing Co. in Iowa.
So, my parents packed our possessions in an 8’ wide by 19’ long house trailer (as they were called back in those days) and, along with my brother, Sam, and myself, left our home in Illinois and headed for a trailer park in a rural area of Iowa.
For the next four years, Hiawatha Trailer Court was our home.
MY FORMAL education started in the one room country schoolhouse that I attended for four years in Iowa before consolidation eliminated such buildings in most areas of the nation.
Center School, out in the middle of nowhere, had 23 students in its single room with no indoor plumbing or any running water on the premises -- just like our trailer home.
One teacher taught all eight grades in the building. Some of the grades had only one student, which meant you were at the top of your class -- but also at the bottom of your class!
Whenever the teacher wanted to teach an individual grade, she would have the members of that class move to the front row of the room and she taught lessons specifically for that grade but the rest of us heard all of the lessons, too.
THE ONLY water source we had was the well of a farm house that was a half mile away.
Two students were chosen to carry the milk can to the farm each day and bring back water. It was always a treat to be selected for that job during a sunny day.
During the snow and cold of winter, we would go outside and play in the snow at recess. When we came inside we would put our coats and gloves next to (and sometimes on) the pot-bellied heat stove and the scent of very hot fabric permeated the building the rest of the day.
Of course, there was no telephone or other means of communication in case of an emergency. That made the teacher responsible for everything that happened during the school day in that remote setting -- including medical emergencies.
TEACHING in that environment had to be torture for some of the teachers. During my four years there, several teachers quit because they couldn’t stand the isolation from other adults.
A few of them would spend recess and lunch time, sitting on the front step of the school building and crying.
We always wondered how long it would be before another teacher would decide to leave us or when she would have her first public cry from the stress.
We were kids. It was hard to understand why an adult didn’t want to be around us.
MY FAVORITE teacher was Mrs. Teidamann, who had a special love for children and we felt it.
All these decades later, when I think back to Mrs. Teidamann (who taught the longest period of time at the school before she retired and I didn’t see her cry even one time) I think of the patience and endurance she had with what one teacher called “savages”.
I learned a lot during those impressionable years attending Center School and there was real bonding with the other students. Almost all of the parents were involved and gathered on the school grounds for potlucks and other occasions.
I KNOW that we live in a different era and kids today probably get tired of hearing older people talk about how things were when they went to school.
But, sometimes, I have to smile and shake my head when I hear a student complain about his school computer not functioning properly, or he doesn’t like the school lunch menu, or the dress code is bad, or he (she) is irritated by several things at the school he attends.
It really is hard for today’s student to understand what it was like in a one room schoolhouse so long ago.
There’s been so many advances to improve our schools and the learning tools that are available are almost without limit.
THE LESSON I learned at Center School, especially in looking back, is that in the most spartan environment teachers can teach and inspire and students can learn and be inspired to be whatever they want to be in life.
There were a lot of tears shed by my fellow students (and a few by me) when, after four years, we loaded up the house trailer and pulled out to head back to our home in Illinois.
The following year Center School closed and the building was demolished -- but the memories of that experience, and what I learned there, remain fresh.
Center School and Mrs. Teidamann will be with me all of the days of my life.
--Posted 5/13/16 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
‘Old Decatur’ Has Vanished Right Before My Eyes
LAST WEEK, when I was writing this column about the closing of Haines & Essick, the last of the big downtown Decatur stores, it dawned on me that about all of the retail stores and restaurants that were downtown when I started in business in the mid-1960s have disappeared into pages of Decatur history.
Maybe that’s the reason there is a particular sadness about the Haines & Essick closing.
MY long-time friend and retired downtown bank president Ron James started working downtown about the same time I did.
A few years ago, Ron brought a graphic to my office that gave a view of all the stores in the downtown area years ago.
The graphic showed where they were located and I was simply amazed at the huge number of stores that called downtown Decatur home.
CONSIDER for a minute. someone who grew up in Decatur and left following his graduation from high school in 1960 and did not return until now -- 56 years later.
He would find the downtown that he knew in 1960 has disappeared!
He would probably wonder why the Transfer House is in Central Park instead of Lincoln Square.
What happened to the Stephen Decatur High School he attended and the Carnegie Library?
WHAT happened to the ornate Millikin Bank building on the northeast corner of Main and Water streets?
In fact, what happened to Millikin National Bank and Citizens National Bank and First National Bank?
All have different names today.
WHAT HAPPENED to the Steak ‘n Shakes on North Main and East Eldorado locations?
They moved to other locations on Pershing Road, Forsyth and on the east side of Decatur.
What about Walgreen’s at the corner of North Water and William street with the mezzanine snack bar?
What happened to The Wayside Inn, Blonde Belle’s and The Surrey?
WHAT about Kresge, Woolworth, W. T. Grant, Newman’s Penney’s Decatur Dry Goods, Block & Kuhl, Montgomery Wards, Sears, Staubers, Linn & Scruggs, Decatur Trunk, and a hundred other once familiar places downtown?
All gone and those of you reading this column can name many more stores and restaurants downtown that were so familiar to you that have disappeared.
I’ve only scratched the surface on what is gone.
I CAN see how someone who left Decatur in 1960 and just came back for the first time for a visit would be shocked at what he sees -- or doesn’t see.
There have been very few days during the half century since I started this business that I have not been downtown -- because I work here.
Today, I look out my office windows and see a very different downtown than I saw in 1964. The downtown of 1964 has disappeared forever.
DOWNTOWN is a very attractive area and looks to a great future. I was a part of that change through the Tribune and serving as mayor -- and I am happy to still work here in a different era.
However, there are times that I can hear whispers and glimpse shadows of the people and places of the downtown I knew as a young man.
Not only have so many familiar businesses and buildings disappeared, but so have many associates and friends I worked with over the years.
NOW, I am no longer the young man who fell in love with downtown Decatur many decades ago and built my career and life in this community.
I am one of the fortunate people who knew a different Decatur back then and my life has been blessed in so many ways by that experience and the people I met along the way.
I am also one of the fortunate Decaturites who feels the future of our city is bright because there are a lot of young people investing their lives and ideas in a new Decatur.
I am extremely proud of this city, not only for what we once were, but what we are working to build for the new Decatur.
--Posted 4/30/16 From 4/27/16 Print Edition of the Decatur Tribune Newspaper
Haines & Essick Was More Than A Downtown Store
THE announced closing of Haines & Essick in downtown Decatur has caused a lot of people to mourn its passing.
The rumor had been out there for a long time that it might close, but to hear the words that a business, which has been downtown for 114 years, is closing its doors is sad.
I talked with Sue Miller, director of retail sales for the business, on Friday and she confirmed that, after a “Going Out Of Business” sale, the doors will close.
HAINES & ESSICK has been in business since anyone living can remember and it’s the last major downtown retailer to close its doors from an era that saw many major retailers located in the core area. Raupp’s Shoes, Del’s Popcorn and Flora Jewelers are the only retail businesses (that I can think of right now) that remain from a long ago era.
There was something special about the store and the customer service that it provided over the years.
I’ve spent about all of my business career downtown and Haines & Essick has always been a familiar part of the area and I will miss its presence.
LAST WEEK, I recalled how I started my broadcasting career at WDZ when I was a teenager in 1960.
It was also at this time that I wanted to start publishing material.
There weren’t a lot of choices on how to print material back then, plus I couldn’t afford much of anything, but I went to Haines & Essick to find out what was available.
It seems like only yesterday that I entered the store and met a salesman. His name was Paul Long, who was extremely friendly and helpful.
I told him what I was looking for and he said that he knew exactly what would work for me.
WE RODE the freight elevator to the second floor, entered what appeared to be a breakroom -- it had a pop machine and a kitchen table.
He asked me what kind of soda I liked and got a bottle out of the machine.
He told me to be seated and he would get the machine and bring it to me.
I was only a teenager, and I felt he had a lot more important people to talk with than me, but his attention, courtesy and friendliness, made me feel like a really important customer.
A FEW MINUTES later he brought in a used A B Dick mimeograph machine.
He demonstrated how it worked (it had a crank on the side to turn the drum) and, using a stencil wrapped around the drum, he cranked out several copies of what had been typed on the stencil.
The cost of $75 was about what I had saved to buy a machine and, as crude as it was back in those days, I thought it was the greatest machine in the world because I could write my thoughts and feelings and would have the means to distribute them to be read by others.
That was a great feeling!
PAUL LONG took the machine downstairs for me, told the cashier how important a customer I was and made it easy for me to enjoy paying for it.
He loaded the mimeograph in the trunk of my car, shook my hand, thanked me for the business and wished me well.
I never forgot the treatment I received that day at Haines & Essick and over the years that kind of service was always there when I needed it.
SOME YEARS later I started in business (with some offset presses) just three blocks from Haines & Essick. Five years after that, I became editor and publisher of this newspaper and, in all of the decades since, I have never walked by Haines & Essick that I don’t have a warm feeling because of what happened to me there when I was a teenager.
Haines & Essick was built on service and that was (and is) true of all successful businesses.
CERTAINLY, the economy, the changing buying habits of shoppers and other factors, like ordering from the internet, have made it tough on stores like Haines & Essick in recent years.
To its credit, the store has been creative in changing with the changing times, but the effort has not been enough.
This store, and the people who have worked there through the passing decades, have held to a tradition of old-time personal customer service that has largely disappeared from many places of business.
It’s sad to lose a 114-year-old anchor store in downtown Decatur.
But, even more, I’ve lost a place where the spirit of service reached out and made a teenage boy feel like an important customer -- and helped me move ahead towards achieving my business dreams.
--Posted 4/22/16 from 4/20 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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Encounters With ‘Droopy Drawers’
I WAS walking across the intersection of Main and Franklin Streets recently when I observed something that is fairly common these days.
An overweight young man crossed my path and the top of the pants he wore began at the bottom of his rear fully exposing his underwear.
It was another of many encounters with a “Droopy Drawers” person.
OBVIOUSLY, it was impossible for his pants not to drop to around his ankles the way he had them positioned unless he used one of his hands to hold up his pants.
All the time that I saw him Droopy Drawers was using one of his hands to hold up his pants!
I can’t imagine walking around town all day using one of my hands to hold up my pants.
One of these days he is probably going to have carpal tunnel syndrome from using his hand and wrist so much.
I’M SURE about all of you reading this column have observed the same sight that I just described.
Many young men have been burdened with the task of showing their underwear and holding up their pants for years.
I realize that I come from a generation where a young man would be mortified if anyone had seen any part of his underwear while he was walking down the street.
Back then flat-top and ducktail haircuts were some of the strongest messages sent by young men -- although there was no particular message that was being sent.
MAYBE the message of the “ultra-droopy drawers” look is in some kind of code that adults cannot understand.
I sure don’t get it.
Believe me, the only thing I understand about it is that walking around showing your underwear and clinging to your pants to keep them from falling down -- looks really stupid!
I GUESS it is a “look” to appear “cool” or “kool” but, in freezing temperatures of winter in Decatur it probably is more “cold” or “kold” than cool.
I’m thinking that Droopy Drawers people probably would always have to wear short coats in the winter. Can you imagine how it would look for him to try holding his pants up reaching through or around a long coat?
Another casualty of the Droopy Drawers “look” is a credible protest of something in our society.
Can you imagine how ineffective any protest would be if Droopy Drawers forgot which hand he was using to hold up his pants and raised the wrong fist in the air?
It’s hard to be taken seriously when your pants are down around your ankles.
A FEW years ago I proposed that all downtown businessmen walk around wearing their trousers or suit pants in the same position as Droopy Drawers to see how cool that would be viewed by young Droopy Drawers wearers.
We’d probably be arrested for indecent exposure but it would give Droopy Drawers advocates a chance to see a real “fashion statement”.
Hopefully, they would not applaud the way we wore our clothes -- because their pants would fall down!
I KNOW that sometimes what I write must seem to some people that I’m doing an imitation of Actress Ruth Gordon in the Clint Eastwood movie “Every Which Way But Loose”.
Ruth was the old lady (Ma Boggs) who was on the front porch of her house with a shotgun ready to deal with a motley crew of motorcyclists.
“Get out of my yarrrrrrrrrd,” she yelled at them, along with “Get off of my porrrrrrrrrrch”.
When they started to tear down her porch she started blasting away destroying several of their motorcycles and putting them on the run.
MAYBE I could sit on a bench in Central Park this summer and yell in my best Ruth Gordon/Ma Boggs imitation at the “Droopy Drawers” people: “Pull up your paaaaannnnnnnnnts!”
I would never be in any danger. If I can’t outrun a man holding up his pants with one hand, it’s time to retire.
Oh well. I guess it could be worse. As far as I know, Droopy Drawers is at least wearing underwear -- for now!
--Reprinted from April 6, 2016 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Strike One Stupid Act Off My Bucket List
I’VE lived in the same house for the past 37 years and, during that time, I never had a second thought about climbing a ladder and going up on the second story roof to caulk around the chimney every few years.
It’s actually a minor chore.
I’ve always scampered up the ladder, climbed the rooftop to the chimney, enjoyed the “aerial view” of the neighborhood, and then returned to earth.
HEIGHTS have never bothered me. About 30 years ago I painted the entire house using some contraption that was somewhat like a scaffold (note the word “somewhat”).
I created my scaffolding from a few large plywood boxes that were in the garage and climbed up on them and started to paint.
Several people in cars, who passed on the road in front of my house, waved at me as they drove by.
Thinking back at how stupid and unsafe it was to trust my life on something I had created out of boxes, I now realize they were waving for me to come down before I killed myself!
WELL, it took me awhile, but I painted the entire exterior of the house standing on plywood “building blocks” and, if I needed to go higher, I just added a box or two.
Since it was decided that I was a high risk painter, we decided to have aluminum siding replace the boards and my house painting and aerial balancing act ended -- which is probably the reason I am alive today to type this column.
A COUPLE of weeks ago, we noticed that an extremely heavy rain had caused a small leak at the chimney and the weather forecast was for thunderstorms to start that afternoon and continue for the next three or four days.
Since I wouldn’t be able to find a professional to repair the leak in a few hours, I had one choice to stop the leak before the rains came -- so I asked my wife to climb up on the roof and fix the leak!
The choice was me to get up on the roof, which seemed like no big deal.
I STOPPED by Farm & Fleet to pick up some caulk and a caulking gun and headed home, quickly changed into some old clothes (I don’t wear a suit and tie to climb on the roof) and headed for my adventure.
I put the ladder on the garage so I could walk out on it and then pull myself up to the second story roof.
I got to the top of the ladder and decided that didn’t look very safe -- so I moved the ladder to another position leaning against the house.
I climbed to the top of the ladder, and was ready to climb on the roof when, for the first time in my life, climbing on the roof didn’t seem like a good idea -- and I paused for about 5 minutes while I decided if I really wanted to go ahead with this project.
I THOUGHT, “This is how some people my age get killed by falling off of their roof!”
Then I thought, “I can do this one more time,” and climbed onto the roof.
When I got to the chimney on the second story of the house and looked at the neighborhood below I seemed to be looking off of the top of the Citizens Building! WOW!!!
I FOUND the leak, gave it an extra dose of caulk and started sliding down the roof towards the ladder, but I stopped in time! (There’s nothing like clawing shingles to stop yourself in time.)
When I climbed on the ladder and my feet finally hit the ground, I thanked God for returning me to earth and asked for forgiveness for breaking the commandment of “Thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God” with my roof climb.
I pledged “never again” but I did get the repair made before that afternoon’s rain -- which never happened.
In fact, it didn’t rain for two weeks. I risked my life for nothing!!!
TODAY, a professional from a local firm is putting new flashing on the chimney to take care of the problem -- so that’s something I don’t have to think about doing ever again.
From now on, the only person messing around with my chimney will be either a professional -- or Santa Claus!
Posted from 3/30/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * *
Catching Up On Some Important Stories
IN THE MARCH 2nd edition I had a City Beat column about Betty Wheatley’s appeal to the City of Decatur for a review of downtown handicapped parking spaces.
Betty had written a letter to the City of Decatur on Jan. 30th, detailing three areas where she thought some handicapped parking changes would make it easier for handicapped citizens to park and shop downtown.
1) There are no handicapped spots in the whole block of Merchant Street but a number of great businesses for food. There should be one handicapped spot in the middle of the block on the east side of that street.
2) The first parking space on the south side of William at North Main Street should be handicapped so they don’t have to cross a very busy street to get to any business in that whole block between William and Prairie. There are a number of great restaurants in that block. Trying to hurry across Rt. 51 from the parking lot on the east side of the street is not easy sometimes.
3) There is one handicapped parking spot in the parking lot off of East Main street just south of Route 51-South Main corner but it is about 4 spaces into the parking lot. Why isn’t the first space the handicapped spot? That is the spot which needs to be more accessible.”
“Thank you for a review of this matter,” she concluded in her letter to the city.
WHEN SHE had not received a response by the first of March, she dropped the letter by my office and I printed her suggestions in the City Beat column.
I am happy to report that Betty has heard from the City of Decatur. She sent me a copy of what she had sent to Griffin Enyard, P.E., Civil Engineer II, which reads: “Thank you so much for your response. I was so pleased that at least a couple of spots can be addressed and can appreciate the expense involved with the number three question. I’m sure the two additions to the parking will be a great help for handicapped accessibility.”
HEY, BETTY -- getting two out of three of your suggestions addressed is something to celebrate!
Also, thanks to Mr. Enyard for his response to Betty. That was very positive and I’m always pleased to report good news about the city I love and the people who want to make it better.
Hmmm. I wonder if Betty learned the power of using the press at Trump University? (Just joking, Betty.)
• LAST WEEK, I wrote about a grandma who gave me “the finger sign” as both of us were driving on Southside Drive after another driver had done something to irritate her. (Maybe I irritated her, too.)
I received several responses from readers (mostly humorous and some I can’t print) but Don L. Custin had his own explanation of why the grandma gave me the finger sign.
Don wrote: “I would be inclined to surmise that the 'lady' mistook you for the city manager.”
Don, I’m sure City Manager Tim Gleason is “amused” by the comment.
Actually, the “lady” was no “lady” and it’s more likely that she didn’t like the way I was driving ... or, her corns hurt and she was mad at the world.
Anyhooo, the city manager has a beard so she knew I wasn’t him -- I shave every morning.
• SPEAKING of beards it was nice to chat with Congressman Rodney Davis who stopped by my office while he was home from Washington D.C. He’s always good about staying in touch and sitting down and answering questions.
Davis no longer has his beard that usually generated some talk. He told me his wife hated to see him shave it off but he did. (Do you still have her vote?)
Davis told me that he had just voted for Marco Rubio for President because Rubio identified with his generation.
That didn’t work out so well, but Davis easily won his primary election last week over his Republican opponent Ethan Vandersand in the 13th Congressional District race with 77% of the vote.
He will face Democrat opponent Macon County Board Member Mark Wicklund in the general election.
The only advice I have for Davis for the November election is to not drive on Southside Drive between now and then -- Granny Boldfinger may put a curse on him!
Posted on 3/15/16
* * *
Has Decatur Been Visited From Outer Space?
REMEMBER one of our letters to the editor in the Feb. 3rd edition about a “strange occurance”?
Frank D. Cummins of Decatur wrote of an incident in his life that happened in Macon County on Feb. 4, 1960.
Here’s part of that letter to refresh your memory:
“I had just crossed a small bridge and I guess I had gone approximately a half mile. All of a sudden the whole earth become broad daylight. It was like it was noon, not midnight. I stopped my truck but left the engine running. I got out of the truck, keeping one foot on the running board and the other on the ground.
“I looked up and saw a giant bright light which I would say was probably 60 to 80 feet in diameter. I would say it was possibly 1000 feet high. It could have been higher. I just don't know. As I stood there, I remember I could see both sides of the road which had small tree lines.
“The bottom of the light looked totally flat. It did not look convex nor was it concave. I could hear the hum of something like a giant turbine. It was slow and soft and turning gently. I kept looking up wondering if this was the end of the world...
“...I don't know how long the entire encounter took place. Maybe 2 to 3 minutes, or 30 to 45 seconds. I do remember standing there shaking like a dog passing peach seeds. I decided to get in my truck to see if it would go. The minute I started to move, it was gone and everything was pitch black again. Then I started thinking about flying saucers. That is what they were called back then...”
FRANK’S experience has generated another letter from Randy Janes of Mt. Zion.
Randy wrote that the Feb. 3rd letter “has prompted me to relate something that happened in about 1966 or 1967.
“I was in the den of our house in the Fans Field neighborhood with my mother one night watching the television when something strange occurred.
“I had a new Webcor tape recorder that when you set it up to record and had the bass turned down and put a microphone too close to the speakers, it would put out a low noise that would make the room seem to vibrate.
“WE EXPERIENCED such a noise and vibration that seemed to shake the whole house and it was coming from right behind us. We were seated on a couch on the north wall with a window right behind us. We just looked at one another and said nothing, not wanting to look out the window.
“The next morning we discovered several equally-spaced burned patches in the yard, just outside that window. If someone had a huge drone you landed in our yard that night…please contact me.
“I HEARD a story from one of my customers several years ago, who lives just outside Argenta, about seeing what appeared to be headlights of someone driving across a field behind their home. They soon realized that the lights were steady and not bouncing up and down as they would be driving across such rough terrain. The approaching lights suddenly sped up and then vanished.
“Okay, I'm convinced that we are not alone in this universe.”
FRANK and Randy’s letters detailing their experiences a half century ago show that, whatever they experienced, it left such an impression on them that, all these decades later, they remember every detail.
Even though I’ve never seen a flying saucer or UFO, I don’t doubt the stories of Frank and Randy in their letters to me.
Whatever they experienced is obviously burned into their minds forever.
It seems that flying saucers, UFOs and other strange happenings started in the mid-1940s and continued into the 1960s, but have somewhat faded from public view in the decades since.
There’s been some photographs and videos shot of flying saucers and UFOs but some have been exposed as fakes.
I try to keep an open mind and I do find experiences related by Frank and Randy fascinating to read.
In the past some have claimed that visitors from another part of our solar system came to earth looking for intelligent life -- and didn’t find any.
If you believe that theory, you have to also believe “they” came during a Presidential election year.
Posted From The March 2 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Cowardly Letters From Anonymous Writers
SINCE THIS the Decatur Tribune print edition is read by a huge number of people each week I receive a lot of mail in response to stories and other items I’ve written.
A high percentage of the comments come through email, but I still receive a substantial amount of U.S.P.S. mail.
Every once-in-a-while I receive a hand-addressed envelope from I. C. English, a seemingly smug anonymous writer who, in the past, has written to criticize something I’ve written or berate a comment made by a reader. There’s never been a positive word about anyone or anything.
I don’t even bother to open the envelope anymore.
If this person cannot sign his or her name and where they can be contacted, I have no interest in what they write.
The latest envelope was quickly dispatched to the trash unopened.
I. C. USES a different return address on the envelope each time it is sent. This last time, the return address was in the 700 block of West Packard -- the same block where I lived as a kid decades ago while attending Roosevelt Junior High School. (That’s more than a little sick and probably against U.S.P.S. regulations.)
Maybe I. C. English should take a closer look at why he or she sends such anonymous letters and see a mental health professional who hopefully can help resolve such creepy and cowardly ways.
I’ll pray for I. C. because, although I don’t know I. C.’s identity, no one is anonymous to God.
AFTER years of reading anonymous letters sent to me, both while in public office and as editor of this newspaper, I decided a few years ago, that anything that is submitted to me by an anonymous writer will go to the trash without being read.
If I do open an envelope, the first thing I do, is look for identification to see who wrote it.
If that’s not on the letter, it is pitched. It has no value.
This policy may seem a little extreme, but I’ve never read an anonymous letter in past years that had anything worth reading in it.
MY FACE, my name and various ways to contact me are in this newspaper each week -- and always have been.
If I have the guts to be responsible for what I write, so should I. C. and others of that disturbed group.
If you write something that you do not want published in the Tribune, all you have to do is write “Not For Publication” on the letter or email and it will not appear in the newspaper.
I would guess that 90% of all the correspondence I receive during the course of a year never appears in print. (Part of the reason is a lack of room to print all of it.)
The biggest reason is that those who write or talk to me “off the record” want those conversations and letters “off the record”.
Those conversations and letters remain between the two of us.
I DON’T hate people who want to hide in the shadows and shoot anonymous words in my back and the backs of others trying to make a difference in the community.
However, I don’t have any respect for them, or their opinions, because they are too cowardly to stand behind what they believe and try to shoot down the beliefs of others.
It really is an illness and I’m sorry they see their role in the world as “word snipers”, shooting people in the back with their “enlightened rhetoric”.
I SUPPOSE there is a chance that an envelope I mistakenly thought contained an anonymous letter and trashed actually contained a check, but in all the years when I opened all the anonymous mail, there was only hate, misinformation and the abuse of the English language.
Well, it’s time to open today’s mail.
The next sound you hear may be of a paper shredder firing up and waiting to be fed!
That’s the old-fashioned way, in this modern era, of hitting the “delete” button on anonymous letters.
--Posted 2/12/2016 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
‘Harley Rat’ Meets ‘The Plowboy’... Again!
MY RECENT column about life in the 700 block of North Packard Street, when I was a junior high school student, has brought back a lot of memories.
In fact, I’ve heard from some of the students who were at Roosevelt Junior High School with me and this week'’s “Scrapbook” article in the print edition of the Decatur Tribune contains some extended impressions from Don McCloud who lived and worked on West Packard while a Millikin student.
I ENJOYED my time at Roosevelt Junior High School decades ago.
However, there was one student who was a bully and crossed my path more than a few times.
He wore a motorcycle jacket and combed his hair back in a ducktail. Some kids called him “Harley Rat” but it wasn’t because he had a motorcycle. He wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license.
My brother had given me a denim jacket that he had worn and I wore it to school. “Harley Rat” always gave me a rough time about it. He liked to call me “Plowboy” because of the jacket.
Obviously, I didn’t call him “Harley Rat” because I valued my life.
ONE DAY my denim jacket disappeared and the next day Harley Rat wore it taunting me and challenging me to do something about it.
A few days later, I found it on the floor in front of my locker. It was all cut up and soiled with some stinky substance. (Maybe it was his natural grizzly bear odor.)
As he walked by, he said something like: “How do you like your jacket now, PLOWBOOOOOOOOOY!?”
I just shrugged and acted like it was no big deal.
I never let Harley Rat get any satisfaction out of taunting me, although I will admit that messing up the jacket came very close to unleashing that pent-up anger that was simmering just below the mild-mannered surface -- and could have given me super human strength in going after him, or so I thought!
AFTER junior high school, I no longer saw him. I don’t know if he left town, or went to prison, or what happened to him.
Decades passed and, out of the blue, “Harley Rat” came to the mayor’s office to ask me for some help on a project he was involved with and he obviously cared a lot about.
I was prepared to make him squirm, but Harley Rat didn’t look much like he did at Roosevelt. (Neither did I.) He looked like an old man. His hands were shaking from some ailment and his bully days were long gone.
I don’t think he remembered that I had been his classmate at Roosevelt.
ACTUALLY, his request was not unreasonable and I felt it would be good for the city for me to look into it.
As he rose to leave, we shook hands and he thanked me for my time. I resisted the urge to say something like: “Hey, Harley Rat? Do you remember me?”
“I’M PLOWBOOOOOOY!!!!!! and you owe me a new denim jacket!!!!!”
Instead, I let him walk out the door.
Until that meeting I hadn’t seen him since junior high school and had forgotten about him until the day he called to see me.
I never felt that a time would come when I could “seek revenge”. I didn’t think about him at all.
I’ve always believed that I cannot grow as a person if I carry a spirit of revenge in my heart.
Harley Rat left my office -- and I thought that, not mentioning the past, was the right way to handle the meeting.
HARLEY RAT passed away several years ago and, as I read his obituary, I couldn’t help but remember the passage of time between our encounters at Roosevelt Junior High School and our meeting again in the mayor’s office.
Maybe, over the years, his treatment of others changed. I hope it did. Kids sometimes do things they would never do when they become adults and often regret their unkind actions.
THERE IS a common saying that “What goes around comes around”, meaning a person's actions will have consequences later in life.
When Harley Rat walked through my office door that day, what he had done to me years earlier finally “came around”.
The real question for me, when I’m faced with an advantage over someone who once had the advantage over me, is what do I do with that advantage?
If I treat a bully the same way the bully treated me, then I’m as bad (maybe worse) than the person who mistreated me in the first place!
I started learning that truth a long time ago from my parents, in Sunday School and continued that education while a student with Harley Rat at Roosevelt Junior High School.
I believe that simple truth applies to all of our actions --whether we’re wearing a denim jacket or a suit coat.
Posted Feb. 6th from the Feb. 3rd print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Oh No! The ‘Taco Curse’ Hovers Over Me!
I’M beginning to think there’s a “taco curse” on me.
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my possessed car “Christine” going berserk and flashing lights while in the drive-up window lane at the Taco Bell on Pershing Road.
It was eerie and a little more than embarrassing.
RECENTLY, during the really cold weekend we had, I was working at the newspaper and decided to take a break and drive up to Pershing Road for some tacos to bring back to the office.
It was the first time I had driven Christine to Taco Bell since the “flashing” incident I wrote about.
It was a bitterly cold day, with the wind chill at several degrees minus 0. I probably should have warmed up some soup and not left the building.
However, I couldn’t resist the temptation to see if Christine would be on her best behavior if given a second chance in the drive-through lane.
MUCH TO my surprise the drive to and from Pershing Road was peaceful with no automotive antics to spoil the trip.
When I parked across the street from where the newspaper office is located (it was too cold to walk from the parking lot) I got out of the car and made my way across Water Street with a big soft drink in one hand and a sack of tacos in the other.
AS I neared the sidewalk in front of the Millikin Court building, I glanced around to make sure my car’s engine was actually shut off.
Then it happened!
I wasn’t totally concentrating on where I was walking, slipped on a little spot of snow, tripped over the curb and fell down!
The big soft drink cup was smashed with all of the ice and drink spilling out!
I had fallen on the cup and the bag of tacos!
I DETECTED, from the parts of my body that immediately started hurting, that I had made a three point landing on my right knee, right elbow and my little finger on my left hand.
I slowly got to my feet, left the smashed cup and ice there (planned to go back and pick up the litter after I gave myself a medical exam) and staggered into the warmth of the lobby of the building.
ACTUALLY, I was spared any serious injury. My knee was skinned up, and there was a cut on my little finger, but my elbow appeared unharmed.
So, I sat down, opened the bag of tacos and the shells were so smashed into little pieces that I had to use a spoon and fork to eat them.
Has anyone in the history of mankind ever eaten tacos with a spoon?
Obviously I was in “shell shock”.
I LIKE tacos, nachos and taco salads from time to time, but there seems to be a curse hanging over such food -- at least for me.
Remember when I wrote about taking a tumble into a taco salad I was taking back to the office during the Decatur Celebration four or five years ago? It happened at the corner next to Busey Bank when I stepped awkwardly on some new curbing and fell face-first into the salad?
Of course, it seemed then that about everybody attending the Celebration saw me fall!
You haven’t lived until you walk a block back to the office with taco salad all over your face and clothes!
I think some people thought I was one of the acts that Producer Fred Puglia had hired for the entertainment -- as in “Meet the taco face man!”
AFTER my most recent “taco trip”, when I got into my car to drive home, I expected Christine, who had witnessed my taco tumble to flash something on the dashboard screen like “clumsy” or “enjoy your trip?”, but she was silent.
Actually, I blamed her for the fall. If she would shut off her engine like a normal car I wouldn’t have been looking around to double-check and be distracted so that I tripped on the curb.
However, she had no words of criticism, apology or sympathy for me.
It was probably the wind, but I did think that I heard a slight giggle coming from somewhere in the car.
I’m sure it was my imagination -- or was it?
The next time I want tacos, I’m driving the newspaper van -- or find a taco place that delivers.
That should keep the tacos, and me, in one piece.
Posted from Jan. 27, 2016, print edition of the Decatur Tribune.
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Jean Touched My Life And So Many Others
GARY Patrick called me last week to tell me that his mother had passed away.
As we talked about Jeannine M. Patrick, or Jean, (as about all of us called her) our conversation stirred memories of the encouragement I always received from her all the way back to my childhood.
When I was a teenager, I worked one summer for Jean and her husband, Loran, when they had a farm about a mile west of Hammond.
HAMMOND is about 20 miles east of Decatur on Route 36 and a typical rural community. My parents, and most of my relatives lived in, or around Hammond, where “everyone knew everyone else.”
Although I’ve lived in Decatur most of my life, I still have very strong, sentimental feelings about the Hammond connection and the incredible people who were part of my impressionable years.
Jean was one of those people.
WHEN I expressed a desire to go into the ministry, after speaking in churches and camp meetings for several years, Jean and her husband, Loran, were among the most supportive.
I remember Jean telling me, as we were leaving the church building one evening: “God will bless you. You’ll do great. You’ll be fine.”
Those were extremely encouraging words to a young man seeking direction for his future.
The Hammond Church of Christ sponsored a religious publication that I started along with the “Thoughts For Today” weekly radio program that I did on WDZ for nearly ten years.
Those things happened because people like Jean, and others, believed in me and what I wanted to do for God.
WHENEVER I would speak she would always praise the sermon. I don’t know if it was that good, but she thought it was great.
Positive words are always encouraging to those who speak in public.
Jean, and others, were extremely encouraging in their support of my efforts and, as the years pass, I find myself appreciating even more how big an influence the goodness of people like Jean had in my life.
WHEN I was in my twenties, I needed surgery for kidney stones. Jean, who was a surgical nurse for St. Mary’s Hospital, was the last person I saw before “going under”. I remember she reassured me by saying “You’re going to be fine. You’ll be okay.”
She was also one of the first people I saw after the surgery as she was checking to see if I was okay.
THAT EXPERIENCE was one of many that I can see so clearly today as I remember this good woman.
Jean had a strong faith in Jesus Christ and a great family and many friends. You can see that in her obituary on page 22.
However, obituaries don’t tell how many individual lives, including my own, that were touched in so many ways by people like Jean Patrick.
They are not only a part of where we came from, but, more importantly, a part of who we are today -- and will be tomorrow.
I HADN’T seen Jean for several years, and when Gary called to tell me that she had passed away, he said, “Mom loved your newspaper and she loved to hear you speak. She said that you always spoke for 20 minutes and included everything that needed to be said.”
Ahhh, Jean, you’re still encouraging me even though you’ve passed on.
JEAN was buried Saturday in the rural cemetery across the field from the farm where I worked for Jean and Loran so long ago.
But, that’s just the physical body we knew. Jean’s soul has gone to God.
The great assurance and comfort that we have is that God knows better than we do that Jean was a special person.
--Reprinted from the 1/20/16 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Despite The Cold, Flasher Seen Near Pershing Road
A FEW DAYS ago, I decided I wanted to take a break and pick up some tacos to take back to the office for lunch.
So, I drove to Taco Bell on Pershing Road, stopped at the end of the line of cars, and gave some serious thought about ordering when it was my turn.
THEN, it suddenly happened!
That’s when the flasher struck!
It caught me completely off guard!
The emergency flasher on my car (better known as the possessed Christine) started flashing! (What did you think I meant by the headline?)
If you have read this column for very long you know that I’ve had some real interesting, and sometimes embarrassing, episodes with Christine -- the car that seems to be almost human.
I HIT the emergency flasher button (I don’t know the technical term for it) but the flashers kept doing their flashing!
The driver in the car behind me honked his car horn to alert me that I... I mean the car... was flashing him.
Christine was attracting a lot of unwanted attention.
When I couldn’t get her to stop flashing I pulled the car out of line and drove to Taco Bell’s parking spaces on the west side of the building.
I THOUGHT if I would shut off the car’s engine, the flashing would stop but, when I thought again, people usually turn on the flashers when something is wrong with their car -- like the engine won’t run.
It was worth a try anyway.
I shut the engine off and then Christine quickly informs me that I needed to put the shift in “Park”.
I did, but she didn’t give me any information on how to stop the lights from flashing.
She does that a lot.
I FINALLY pushed every button on Christine’s console, hoping that I wouldn’t hit an ejection seat button or something else, and finally -- everything went silent and the lights no longer flashed.
I then drove around the building, got back in the drive-up lane line and said a little prayer than Christine wouldn’t insult the person bringing my order to the window.
Can you imagine how silly I would have looked if I had tried to explain that I hadn’t made the insult -- that was my car imitating my voice?
ACTUALLY, when I got my order and headed back to the office, I thought about what had just happened and considered myself fortunate.
After all, I wasn’t arrested (nor was Christine) for flashing in the Taco Bell drive-up window lane -- which means that I didn’t have to explain to a police officer that my car, not me, was doing the flashing, or undergo a sobriety test.
Life is good.
CHRISTINE, has developed quite a reputation in the community. It is rare that I fill up my car’s gas tank that someone doesn’t come up to me and ask “Is this Christine?”
When I acknowledge that’s her, they usually give me a look that ranges from amusement and amazement to trepidation.
My car is a highly sensitive personality -- so don’t stand too close.
Posted from Jan. 13th print edition of the Decatur Tribune newspaper.
* * * *
Thankful I Didn’t Claim One ‘Opportunity’
THIS WEEK, many newspaper columnists are writing about why they are thankful for their families and other blessings this Thanksgiving.
That’s great and I feel the same way about my family and friends. Like so many of you, I have been blessed in a lot of ways and am thankful.
Looking back over my life, I’m especially thankful for not answering the door when one opportunity knocked.
That decision was a “life changer”.
BACK IN the late 1960s, a few years after I started my publishing business in Decatur I had a number of solid contacts I had made in the Chicago area and seriously considered opening an office in the loop.
In fact, I was interested enough that I went to check out the office space to lease in one of the skyscrapers.
All indications pointed that it was a great opportunity that was knocking on my door.
AS I drove back to Decatur, I thought long and hard about moving the business to Chicago.
It was a great opportunity to make a lot of money with some large clients.
After giving it a lot of thought, I decided against taking advantage of the opportunity.
I loved Decatur, and my life here, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.
ONLY a few months later, a Decatur weekly newspaper was ready to fold (no pun intended) after a little over a year in business.
I saw it as another opportunity and bought the Decatur Tribune the week before it was going to cease publication.
I have been editor and publisher ever since and have never thought of any other career than that of a journalist in this community.
I really love what I do and the community where I live and work.
I WAS thinking today about the “Chicago” and “Tribune” opportunities and how I am so thankful for the choices I made back then although it may have not seemed very smart.
The “Chicago” opportunity held amazing potential and several of my contacts were very positive about it.
Deciding to buy a newspaper that no one else wanted to buy, which was even going to cease publication if I didn’t buy it, was met with a huge negative reaction from many business associates and friends who thought I was making a terrible mistake.
I am so thankful that I rejected one opportunity and put myself in a position for another -- to buy this newspaper in 1969.
I’VE NEVER regretted the decision to stay in Decatur and build my life and raise our family in this community.
I don’t know how successful I would have been had I made the “Chicago decision” and I really don’t care to even speculate.
It doesn’t make any difference.
I’ve never doubted in my heart that it was the right decision -- even during the early lean years when keeping this newspaper going was really tough.
WHAT I do know is that any success I might have enjoyed in Chicago would never have measured up to the life and career that I’ve enjoyed here -- at least in my eyes and heart.
Everything that I’ve been able to achieve in my publishing career and in this community would not have happened had I made a different decision back then.
The move to Chicago felt right on paper all those decades ago, but it didn’t feel right in my heart.
The reasons to buy this failing newspaper looked very weak on paper, but felt so right in my heart.
MOST OF you who know me, or have read this newspaper over the years, realize that I’m a firm believer that we should “weigh and pray” about what we want in life and if taking advantage of an opportunity is going to result in moving us towards life’s goals.
I have been blessed with many opportunities over the years, and taken advantage of them, but Decatur is where I found my calling, my career and my life and I would never consider leaving for any opportunity. I love it here.
I AM SO very thankful for finding out at a very young age that there’s a huge difference between making a good living -- and building a good life.
I thank God for the opportunities that have knocked on my door over the years and providing guidance in choosing when to open the door.
* * * *
Posted from Nov. 25th print edition of the Decatur Tribune
* * * *
Random Thoughts From The Mind
Of An Overworked Editor
• I HEARD from several readers following my recent column about wanting some Chili-Mac Supreme at Steak ‘n Shake. They wrote that, after reading the column, they had a craving for an order of Chili Mac Supreme and drove to Steak ‘n Shake.
I should get a sales commission, or a free order of Chili Mac Supreme, for sending customers their way.
• CNBC now has the distinction of hosting the only Presidential Candidate Debate in history where the losers were the moderators.
• I JUST figured out what CNBC stands for: Conceited Newspeople’s Biased Comments.
• IF SOMEONE is convicted of murder and given a life sentence, is he given his freedom if he has a heart attack and is pronounced dead, but later revives, and comes back from the dead?
• THE AWARD for the fastest drivers on Southside Drive goes to guys driving big pick-up trucks with loud exhaust pipes. Is there some kind of “drive fast” card the drivers get when they buy the trucks?
• SOMEONE told me they were going to watch “Scandal” which aired on a recent Thurday evening. I wondered: “Which one? -- The ‘Scandal’ with Olivia Pope or the Bengazi hearing with Hillary Clinton?”
• WHILE stopped at an intersection the other night, I looked over to the next car and the woman driving was extremely pale with a ghastly look on her face.
Maybe she looked that way because she was going to a Halloween Costume Party -- or was heading for an audition in the new television series, ‘THE DRIVING DEAD’!
• THE PROBLEM with many television journalists today is they are entertainers instead of journalists and are looking to build audiences through promoting themselves instead of asking meaningful, objective questions of the candidates.
• FOR THE young “gentleman” who was weaving his car in and out of traffic in order to advance on North Water Street the other day...I was so pleased when he ended up behind a real slow moving dump truck and couldn’t switch lanes while the rest of us passed him by. I could barely conceal my delight -- and I’m sure that most of the other drivers felt the same way.
• GATHERINGS, debates and meetings of politicians during a presidential election campaign remind me a lot of the annual meeting of the Lairs Club International. The one who can tell the biggest whopper most convincingly -- wins.
• THE REAL purpose behind our nation’s two party system is so one party will have the other party to blame for all of its problems.
• IS IT because I’m getting older that I have a difficult time opening little packages of crackers that they serve with soup in restaurants?
• MY DIGITAL car clock has been correct since Central Standard Time arrived early last Sunday morning. As most of you know, I’ve been waiting for the clock to have the correct time since Daylight Savings Time made it an hour off last spring. Why didn’t I use the few seconds it would have taken to “spring it ahead” seven months ago? It’s my protest against my car “Christine” who is smart enough to start her engine when I’m not around, but not smart enough to change the clock automatically twice a year.
Posted from the print edition of the Decatur Tribune 11/6/2015
* * * *
Some Random Thoughts On A Brisk Autumn Day
• I LOVE this time of year in Central Illinois. There’s a briskness in the air, the days are beautiful, the changing color of the leaves is awesome and the formation of clouds enhancing an autumn day’s sunset produces an inspiring view.
I remember one evening when I was a teenager and driving my mother back into Decatur on Route 36 and the sunset was spectacular.
My mother, a deeply religious woman, was looking at the sunset and commented on its beauty.
“When the sunset is so beautiful don’t you wonder how beautiful it must be beyond the sunset?” she asked.
My mother, Betty Osborne, passed away nearly 25 years ago, and I never see a beautiful sunset that I don’t think about her words.
Now, she knows how beautiful it is “beyond the sunset” and, someday, I will know, too.
• I DON’T know if the Chicago Cubs will win the NLCS and head for the World Series. (As I’m writing this column, the Mets have a 2-0 advantage.)
We’ll see what happens
What I do know is that, the last time the Cubs won the World Series, my father had yet to be born.
That was in 1908. Also, My grandfather, a devoted Chicago Cubs fan, listened to every Cubs game from the time they started being broadcast on the radio, until he died in the 1950s -- and they never won the World Series during all of those seasons and decades. That didn’t stop Grandpa Bolin from rooting for them until the day he died -- almost 60 years ago. He never stopped believing that “this year is their year”.
Considering the “long suffering” of my grandpa and other life-long Cubs fans, there’s probably a lot of Cubs fans in Heaven. God knows they have “suffered” enough in this life.
• FOR SOME reason, I’ve been noticing more and more people using the word “ground” instead of “floor”.
I’ve heard basketball play-by-play announcers in recent years say that “He twisted an ankle and fell to the ground.”
Did the player go through the floor to the ground underneath the building? A detective on a television program the other night said the victim was shot inside his living room and fell to the ground.
Unless he fell out of the window and onto the ground below, he fell on the floor.
Maybe I’m just old fashioned, but I’ve always believed if someone falls inside or rolls off of the couch he lands on the floor -- not the ground.
All the sweeper and mop commercials I’ve seen over the years make it plain that the device is for floors -- not for mopping the ground.
It would not seem right to say that I knocked my Diet Dr. Pepper off of my desk and onto the ground in my office!
• SEVERAL weeks ago, I wrote in this column, my reaction to the sad news that Angie Constant, 51, died on Aug. 31. Angie and her husband, Jon, opened Pastabilities Italian Grill at 143 East Main Street, a dozen years ago.
As I mentioned in the earlier column, cutting the ribbon to open Pastabilities in 2003, was my first official ribbon cutting after being elected mayor.
It has been a special place since then and I ate there many times over the years and always enjoyed the experience and loved watching Angie and Jon live out their dream in owning Pastabilities.
Since Angie died Pastabilities has been closed and will not re-open.
My office windows overlook East Main Street, which includes the front of Pastabilities, and most of the area south of it in the downtown area.
There hasn’t been a day go by since Angie passed away, and Pastabilities closed, that I haven’t paused for a short time and looked over at the front of the restaurant.
The hanging baskets and other decorations that I would see Angie working with over the years, are gone and there are no customers coming and going.
I’m sure she would have autumn and Halloween decorations up by now had she lived and continued to apply her creative ability to the business.
That creative touch, great food and hard work defined the business.
For a long, long time, I will not glance out my office windows without my eyes immediately first focusing on the front of Pastablities -- and the business dream that died when the dreamer passed away.
Posted 10/25/2015 from print edition of the Decatur Tribune
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No Chili Mac Supreme But An Interesting Conversation
ONE lunch hour last week, I got a “hankering” for an order of Chili Mac Supreme from Steak ‘n Shake.
So, I drove from downtown to the Steak ‘n Shake on Pershing Road, parked my car and headed for the front door.
Before I was half-way across the parking lot, someone yelled something at me. I couldn’t understand what he was saying, so I smiled, waved and kept walking towards my greatly anticipated order of Chili Mac Supreme.
THEN, the man started walking towards me and as he came closer, he said, “They’re closed!”
He said there was something wrong with the water system and it would be several hours before it was fixed.
Obviously disappointed I said “I’ve never heard of Steak ‘n Shake being closed in the middle of a workday. I drove all the way from downtown to get an order of Chili Mac Supreme.”
He looked at my suit and said that I “looked familiar” to him.
“What are you a lawyer, or something, who works downtown?” he asked.
SOMETIMES, when people recognize me, but don’t know from where, I tell them that I’m editor of the Decatur Tribune,
The usual response is: “Oh, yeah. That’s where I know you from. I love your newspaper” or “My grandma loves your newspaper.”
So, when I responded to the gentleman that I was the editor of the Decatur Tribune -- I got a blank stare in return, although he said he knew me from somewhere.
I FIGURED he probably remembered seeing me, or my picture, when I was mayor, so I told him that I was the former mayor, and he looked somewhat shocked.
“But you died!” he exclaimed, which came as a shock to me since no one had told me about it.
“Obviously, I’m very much alive and standing here in front of you,” I told him.
“What did you say your name was?” he asked.
“Paul Osborne,” I said.
“Yeah! That’s the mayor who died.”
I EXPLAINED to him that Mayor McElroy had died recently and that was the mayor he was thinking about.
I told him that Mayor McElroy was a friend of mine and I miss him very much since he passed away.
He then admitted that Mayor McElroy was the name of the mayor he was thinking about.
I LIKED talking with the guy in the Steak ‘n Shake parking lot. He was very personable and we made some small talk for a few more minutes while the person who was with him waited patiently by the car.
Then, we shook hands, and he told me, “I’ve never shaken hands with a mayor before.”
With that we went our separate ways and I headed back to the office without my Chili Mac Supreme -- but was enjoying the beautiful fall day and happy to be alive.
AS I drove back to the office, I thought about how Mayor McElroy (Tuna) and I would often talk about our experiences in meeting the public in our roles as mayor, and that’s one thing I miss the most about my long-time friendship with the late mayor.
I couldn’t help but smile on the way back downtown, thinking about Tuna’s response to this kind of “mayor” story.
I was also reminded that, when a friend passes away, it’s not only the memories of the friend that are brought to mind, but the knowledge there will not be any future memories created.
That’s a double loss.
PEOPLE often ask me if I ever run out of ideas for this column since I’ve been writing for so long.
I really never do and I think today’s column shows why.
Simple encounters and experiences in everyday life generate column ideas for me because I am always touched in some way by the people I know and the people I meet -- even if they think I’m dead!
I had gone to buy an order of Chili Mac Supreme at Steak ‘n Shake. I didn’t get the order, but I got so much more -- including some reflections on a friendship and my own life.
--Posted From 10/14/15 print edition of the Decatur Tribune
How Long Does It Take To Become A Nuisance?
• I STOPPED at the Dairy Queen in South Shores and decided to go inside and get something to eat -- instead of using the drive-through window.
After I ordered, the cashier gave me a number (57), I got my drink and headed to a table to wait for my meal to be brought to me.
When the young woman brought the meal, she forgot to take the large plastic number (57) with her. (Taking the number indicates the meal has been delivered to the table or booth.)
So, about 20 minutes later, after I finished my meal and put the remnants in the waste can -- I marched up to the counter and waived the number 57 in front of three or four employees and said, “I haven’t received my meal, yet!”
A look of horror, mixed with embarrassment, came over their faces and the supervisor asked, “Will you check on 57 and see what happened to his meal?”
I then put the “57” on the counter and said, “I’m joking. I received my meal and have eaten it. The number 57 was left on my table.”
A look of relief came over their faces and a couple of them laughed about it.
Still, maybe I should use the drive-through window for a couple of months before going back inside.
Just think...if I was retired, I could have all the time I needed to go in places and make a nuisance of myself.
I would be banned by every restaurant and store in town after only a few months!
• MORE THAN a few times I’ve mentioned how fast the traffic flows up Franklin Street in front of the downtown post office.
Most days, when I walk to the post office, crossing at the crosswalk is a challenge because, when cars get the green light a block away, it’s like the start of the Indy 500 by the time they reach the front of the post office!
Those cars cover that block in a very short amount of time!
I’ve always wanted to carry a green racing flag with me (the kind used in NASCAR or Indy races), pull it out of my coat and wave it like I’m a flagman starting the Indy 500 as all of the cars go blasting by!
That would be fun and release a lot of frustration -- plus get a lot of puzzled looks from the drivers.
• THE OTHER day I was nearly run over by someone driving fast on South Franklin Street -- at the Main Street intersection.
Against the light a woman came flying through the intersection (in a car, of course) and was in the lane next to the one I was crossing.
She quickly changed to my lane and intentionally almost hit me! Then she went back to the lane where she had been when I saw her coming.
I don’t know what her problem was but I don’t think we have any readers who are disgruntled enough to kill the editor!
Maybe she belongs to ISIS.
Wait a minute! Probably not!
Since the driver was a woman, they would probably behead her for driving a car, or attempting to have “contact” with a man who was not her husband.
I just waved to her and now she’s wondering if I recognized her as being the intersection assassin.
• I KNOW it’s a little thing to mention, but sometimes it’s the little things that can drive you nuts.
It seems that most times when I buy a fish sandwich at a drive-through window, the fish and ingredients look like they were slapped on the bun by a hateful robot.
I like fish fillet sandwiches but I find it mildly irritating that half of the fillet is often hanging out one side of the bun!
It’s like the head of a dead animal with its tongue hanging out.
Shouldn’t there be some rule that the fillet is centered on the bun instead of half of it hanging out?
I think the next time I buy a fish fillet and I get the half-on-the-bun-treatment, I’m going to take the sandwich back and tell the cashier that my sandwich is dead -- because its tongue is hanging out the side!
I know I come from the old school where “product presentation” was important, but is it too much to ask to place my hamburger or fish fillet in the center of a bun?
I call that a “balanced meal”.
That’s the kind of thing we should be talking about in this presidential campaign -- “bunafied” issues.