Got this off of CNN; I'm assuming they were trying to give people the location of a hazmat-train derailment or the latest Gulf War vet to kill his wife.
This shouldn't necessarily mean anything to someone who grew up in, say, Compton or Bed-Stuy, but it's not an easy thing to be from Columbus, Georgia. First of all, as with so many other mid-sized cities in the area, we're kind of living in Atlanta's shadow; almost all of the airlines, for instance, pulled out of Columbus airport once they realized people were perfectly willing to drive an hour and a half to get a cheaper flight out of Hartsfield-Jackson. Oh, and the secret formula for Coca-Cola was actually invented in C-Town by one John Pemberton, whose house you can tour in the historic district -- yet in the entire "World of Coca-Cola" museum in downtown Atlanta, they don't mention Columbus one fucking time. So basically, as far as the rest of the Coke-consuming world is concerned, Coke is, was, and always shall be an Atlanta product, while Columbus is only a place where you might stop for five minutes to purchase said luscious nectar on your way down to, like, Panama City or something. I can't tell you how many girls in college, upon hearing I was from Columbus, perked up and said "Oh! I stopped there for gas on my way to the beach last month!" -- and then, when I asked if they'd ever been there for any other reason, responded with a charmingly quizzical "Noooo . . . "
Columbus is actually the second-largest city in Georgia after Atlanta, though you wouldn't have known it for the longest time. It's always been a pretty good place to be married and in your thirties and raising a kid, just not a terrific place to be a kid -- while I was living there during my high-school years we pretty much didn't have anyplace to spend our Friday/Saturday nights other than the Denny's on Macon Road, since everyplace else was either 18/21+, closed by 10 p.m., or a public area we'd previously been kicked out of by the local gendarmes. And I know that probably sounds ridiculous to some of y'all, but you really have to understand the iconic status you can apply to a place when you don't have anywhere else to go. (Kinda the same deal as with Israel, right? I mean, don't get me wrong, I'm sure people have any number of reasons for living there, but it ain't the peaceful streets or the lush vegetation.) Even today, I'll hear somebody mention, out of the blue, the time they did at the Macon Road Denny's, and something just clicks, and it's one of those moments like, "You were in the shit?" "Yeah. I was in the shit." (My best friend from high school once set a record -- knowing full well that it would never be officially recognized by the people at Guinness -- by spending 24 hours straight there, just to see if he could do it. And, with the help of waitresses who were on a first-name basis with each of us by then, he did, by God.)
Now, Columbus has changed a lot since then, mostly for the better. We got a Starbucks a few years ago -- becoming only the 35,428,739th city in the world to do so -- as well as a performing arts complex that's become the envy of a lot of cities in the Southeast. And because of that arts center and the gradual expansion of Columbus State University's fine-arts programs into the downtown area, downtown Columbus has gone from nothing but a bunch of boarded-up storefronts and wig shops to a bar/restaurant scene that's actually gotten pretty active. At the moment, it's probably a lot more impressive if you like booty music or live bands that apparently think there should be a state law requiring at least one playing of "Sweet Home Alabama" per set, but still, strides are being made, and the greater Chattahoochee River Valley area is the better for it.
Welcome to Columbus's famous Uptown Tap. Chances of running into someone Doug vaguely remembers having gone to high school with: close to 100 percent. Chances of running into these girls: substantially lower.
Nevertheless, Columbus is still seen as kind of being Atlanta's mildly retarded pothead little brother in a lot of ways. We've got a lot to live down -- Fort Benning's controversial School of the Americas and the seedy-strip-club-and-lingerie-modeling-joint-saturated Victory Drive, for example -- and even when we luck into somebody or something we think is going to be our ticket to stardom, it rarely turns out quite the way we'd planned. (To illustrate this point, let the record show that we've given the world Jasper Sanks, Newt Gingrich, and Justin Guarini. No, no -- you're welcome.) To that rap sheet of civic shame you may now add this, brought to my cringing attention by both Paul Westerdawg and EDSBS earlier today:
When fans submitted to security checks during the last two years at home football games of the Atlanta Falcons, Auburn University and the University of Georgia, among those carrying out those checks were residents of an unlicensed Columbus mental health center.
The use of Greater Grace Community Center residents in security details at major professional and college sporting events, confirmed by a number of the residents, was not disclosed to the universities or the arena operators.
They were part of a Contemporary Services Corp. security crew whose services ranged from bag checks to on-field security. The California-based company provides security support services at major sporting arenas throughout the country.
The residents were working the games for Greater Grace Baptist Church and pastor Robert Upshaw, two of the former residents said. The church and the center are affiliated.
Yes, you read that right: Residents of a mental-health facility were working security at Georgia, Auburn, and Atlanta Falcons games. Check that: Not just a mental-health facility but an unlicensed mental-health facility. So you don't even get to rationalize to yourself that they were at least getting some kind of officially sanctioned treatment. I don't know much about the facility in question, but if what Dan says in the EDSBS comments thread is true, they've got no business coming anywhere near the word "security," much less staffing it at major sporting events.
I use this story to illustrate the strange situation Columbus constantly finds itself in. Despite all the recent efforts made to embiggen the cromulence of our fair city, we just can't seem to work our way into headlines like, oh, "Columbus researchers perfect cancer vaccine" or "Jolie looking forward to raising children in Columbus"; we get "Columbus booby hatch farms out patients as security guards." Such is life in the Fountain City. Well, let's just hope any publicity is good publicity, right?
Yesterday, when I was mad . . . they made me search handbags at the Georgia-Auburn game.