Wednesday, March 1

Oh, well, we'll always have the Miss Georgia Pageant.

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.


ACG said...

The problem with Columbus is that it's always trying so, so hard to be Atlanta, which just isn't possible. It doesn't have the location, the transportation or the population to make that happen. And yet, it's always all, "Airport! Airport!" and Atlanta is all, "Bigger, better airport," and Columbus is all, "Performing arts! Woohoo!" and Atlanta is all, "Ballet, symphony, High museum, suck it," and Columbus is all, "Check out our swanky new strip mall!" and Atlanta is all, "Are you freaking kidding me?"

If Columbus would suck it up and realize that it's tucked away at the end of an Interstate on the border with Alabama, and work with that to become the best Columbus is can be, I think it could be a great place. But instead, it's always just trying to convince the Green Island ladies who lunch to choose North Columbus Crossing for their retail indulgences, and that just plain ain't gonna happen.

The Drizzle said...

All my run-ins with Columbus, other than passing through on the way to Panama City woooh!, were sports related. Back in the day, Fayette County was in the same region as Shaw and Carver, so I had to make multiple trips down there. I'll do the most memorable for each school.

Probably the best Shaw trip was Halloween night 1997 when I hydroplaned my ass down 85 and 185 in the worst monsoon I'd seen in a long time to watch us play football down there. It was the only good football team we've had in forever and a day. Our only losses were to LaGrange, where we handled them except for Bruce Thornton breaking a 70 yard run and returning a blocked kick for a touchdown, and Griffin in overtime. Anyway, we needed the Shaw game to go to the State Playoffs. So we're up 7 with about 2 minutes left and we have to kick to them when the field clock strangely goes out, so they begin "keeping time" on the field. So Shaw embarks on an 80 yard drive that no shit took at least 10 minutes of real time, if not more. I talked to our players the next day and they said they were asking the refs the time after every play and being told that 2 seconds had run off for incomplete passes and crap like that. Anyway, Shaw miraculously scores to apparently tie with "2 seconds" left. But little did they know that on the extra point, we would collapse their line and block the shit out of it. The refs were too stunned to throw a flag. Jubilation ensues and we rushed the field on the road. Huzzahs.

Carver happened in the spring of '98 when we went down there to play them in baseball. We get there and the field is basically in a grassy lot down the bank from the parking lot of the JC Penny, just sitting in the damn mall parking lot. So we get there and start warming up, but they're nowhere to be found. Until this mid 80's Oldsmobile drives out onto the field through the center field fence and their entire f'ing team piles out of it like a damn clown car. Hilarious. 4 innings and a 15-0 perfect game later we got the hell back on the bus and got out of town, not overly sad to have left Columbus behind.

Dan said...

Oh, you are so getting link for this wonderful rant. My hatred for Columbus, GA knows very little bounds.

Considering Pemberton is how the Turners, Woodruffs, and Jordans made all of their money, I've always wondered if Columbus was left out of the World of Coke for tax purposes.

Oh and I can't believe that you forgot Mack Strong in your list of Columbus exports. For shame.

SmoothJimmyApollo said...

As a kid that spent the better part of his life in Macon, I feel your pain, to a degree.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I feel t he pain. I feel so identified. If it weren't for CSU I think I'd be dead.

Ever think of how horrible life in Columbus would be without a car since public transportation is next to none and there are pretty much no sidewalks anywhere? Been there 3 years. Then I got a car and my life got .03% better.

Anonymous said...

Ok b4 yall start downin C-Town yall need to come back fo a weekend cuz i dont know what kind of childhood yall had(thats somethin ya need to work out wit ya parents)but im 16 and this is one of the best places i've been i used to live in atlanta and columbus got everything(almost) they got.peachtree mall is great the new strip mall is off the chain, in fact that whole area is off the chain.Sittin on yo couch waitin for columbus to entertain you aint gonna happen,you have to make the best out of it.and since yall downin columbus cause yall had such a BAD childhood,ya might have did columbus a favor by leavin.

Anonymous said...

Hear the guy out. I have lived in other areas as well as Atlanta, Calgary in Canada, and a small place called Roanoke. From the large and ugly to the tiny and quite. I must say Columbus is a perfect balance. But thats just my
opinion and those are like butt holes every one has one.

Anonymous said...

The thing that drives me crazy about Columbus is that so many people from here think that it is the end-all-be-all of the universe. The place is also full of cheapskates who want something for nothing.

The other thing that strikes you is that customer service around here is lacking. Whatever happened to training employees in restaurants, stores, etc. Chick-Fil-A on Bradley Park Drive is the most unfriendly I've ever seen.

Anonymous said...

Can't believe no one has posted the highlight of my young life - riding the escalators at Gaylord's.

Anonymous said...

Well folks, I moved here (Columbus) recently after living in Atlanta for over 2 decades and I can tell you it's one of the greatest places I've been. And I've been to NYC, LA (Los Angeles, not Lower Alabama....) and many other points in between.

Atlanta ain't what it once was either and not necessarily for the better. You can't go to a grocery store and hear English anymore. There are usually about a dozen different languages being spoken on any given day at the market. Sometimes you get lucky and the check out person can speak English or at least understand what you are trying to say.

And for the blogger who said folks here don't have manners and referred to the Chick Filet....visit ATL. I've run into some of the rudest folks there. The folks in NYC are tame in comparison. It might be because no one can understand anyone else because no one speaks the same language, literally, but that's just one theory. I'm sure others exist. Then of course there's the whole cultural differences vs Southern Tradition/Hospitality as I was always taught thing.......sensing a theme here yet?

Long story short (sort of) I'm pleased to have moved here from ATL. I just hope all the other folks in ATL don't find out what a great place this is, move here, and ruin it for all us folks living here now......

Anonymous said...

to all you who hate Columbus...
Columbus isnt a bad place. i'm 17 been here since i was 9. we have new clubs the strip mall and so on to hang out at. We are original and are nothing like Atlanta. We are our own town with our own problems. dont try and compare us it isnt possible. ok, thank you for your time AND CONSIDERATION.

duke.glosgow said...

Exellent blog.Eventhough Columbus is the second largest city in Georgia, i think it is not as famous as Atlanta. I think Atlanta is more famous throughout the world as it had hosted the Olympics. However having a large number of malls makes Columbus a wonderful place to live in.
Duke Glasgow
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robertsv said...

Well I don't think so that Columbus is the largest place than Georgia. I spent my 28 years in Georgia, its a nature loving place where we can see the beautiful pictures of nature like heaven. And I suggest no need to compare Georgia with any other.
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Unknown said...

Funny thing is, I stumbled upon your blog looking for a certain Lakebottom Deli in Columbus, Ga. I should've known they were not mentioned anywhere on the World Wide Web. :) I lived in Atlanta for a year when I was finished up my undergrad and I supremely enjoyed the Buckhead/Brookhaven area - probably because it reminded me of Columbus. :) Trees, nice houses, cool people. I think the problem that most people have in Columbus is the people, not the things. People are waiting on the city to bring them culture, entertainment, and a place on the map - that is not something a city does to people, that is what people do to a city. So, if you have problems with our city, do something about it other than badmouthing it. Visit Fountain City Coffee downtown and listen to local alternative bands and discuss political agendas over coffees you can't pronounce. Go to a boutique if you're tired of the malls, we have plenty of them in them in the Bradley Park area. If there are things you desire in other cities, take a look around - they are probably already here. Some people are just too busy dissing Columbus and talking about how lame and boring it is as they ride there four-wheelers and spend hours at the river drinking cheap beer. Be the change.

SHANKY said...

I think the problem that most people have in Columbus is the people, not the things. on the map - that is not something a city does to people, that is what people do to a city. Visit Fountain City Coffee downtown and listen to local alternative bands and discuss political agendas over coffees you can't pronounce.have a nice day.

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Anonymous said...

To say the WHINSEC or former School of the Americas is something that we must live down, is simply moronic. What we must live down is the no life, low lifes that make their way down to columbus each year for a lost cause, no for NO cause, manifestation, that has no validity. Most protestors protest just for the heck of protesting and if you ask any of them why they are protesting they start spewing this pre-written list of lies.

Anonymous said...

We will been moving soon to Columbus area (job related), How is living there? jobs, education, arts, prejudice, small or open minded? sorry for the questions, whatever information can help us to visualize raising our children overthere.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Unknown said...

Columbus is need of a changs. There is no reason why all these jobsites has opening and the unemployement rate for columbus is so high. In columbus people have to know one another to get a position and that is BULLS***!! Then you call these jobs or go to the company and they turn you away.. Nine times out of ten I am more educated than the person hiring or in human resource. Columbus is not a city for college grads only for older people or people who know someone. This is why I do not vote because all people running for a position say the samething.." It's time for a change" yea only a change for the people you know. I do not see a future for my children in columbus..its a good ol boy system..