Thursday, December 28, 2006

A Brand New Cavalierism

Did you ever hear someone tell a joke that they thought was so clever that tell it over and over even if nobody laughs?

Well, on his last two forecasts Tony has labeled the weekend "Auld Lang Mild" on the five day forecast graphic. He seems very proud of his little wordplay.

He is a never ending source of bemusement.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

We Are Marshall: Post Premiere Comments

I have suppressed the urge to post on this subject because I really hoped I would be wrong, but it now appears my gut was correct.

Chris James nailed it when he wrote "We Are...A Flop!" I am so not surprised, and here's why:
  • The Title - While it is a cherished part of the Marshall and Huntington culture, The "We Are Marshall" chant really doesn't serve well as a title for the movie. I just doesn't say much to outsiders about what the movie is about. It is rare that a working title of a major motion picture ends up being the actual title and I was very surprised that they stuck with the original title all the way. It must have tested out pretty well in focus groups, but recent transplants to our area have told me that they thought the name was curious and that if they didn't know what the movie was about they wouldn't get it from the title. The fact is that not many people outside our area know the story and therefore will not make the connection. Too bad "Ashes to Glory" was already taken; I think that would have been much better.
  • The Actors - The "Sexiest Man Alive" list is replete with winners whose next career move was a bad one. Affleck had "Gigli", Clooney had "Batman." Now McConaughey has "We Are Marshall." This is his first venture outside the chick flick genre and from all accounts, his portrayal of Jack Lengyel is pretty hokey. Matthew Fox has a huge TV fan following but I don't seem him bringing in an audience. The total lack of a leading woman is problematic, too. Kate Mara and Kimberly Williams should have been played up more in the publicity.
  • The Timing - Let's face it, Christmas weekend releases are reserved for sure-fire family films (Toy Story, Babe, etc.) or Oscar contenders. This movie is neither. The field is way too crowded this time of year for a lackluster movie with little appeal to a wide audience.
  • The Director - I never understood why the local news media made such a fuss over director "McG". The highlights of his directing credits include two very bad movies (Charlie's Angels) and some Wierd Al Yankovick videos. I don't know any movie buff that is going to shell out their eight bucks to go see a movie because it was directed my McG.
I had really hoped that the movie was going to do well in spite of these obvious potential problems. How fitting it would have been if the movie would have overcome the obstacles and rise to greatness like the team in the story does. Sadly, the movie's fortunes looks more like a glory to ashes story.

The movie's failure is no reflection on Huntington or Marshall. The only thing the community did was to have expectations that were unrealistically high, and I blame McG and Co. for that.

Monday, December 25, 2006

West Virginia Travelogue

A stumbled across this very cool photographer's site that has an extensive collection of travelogues. One of these is of West Virginia. I love finding stuff like this on the internet and seeing what visitors say about us. Check it out and make sure you read the comments at the bottom of the page.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Coach Rod

I never thought he would leave. I felt certain that he was using the opportunity and the leverage of the Alabama offer to get some things he wanted for WVU and his assistants. Listening to him today, it sounded like he considered the offer seriously. He might be saying that just to mend fences with the Alabama folks or he might believe that he seriously considered it, but I think he's a West Virginia boy and he was never very close to leaving.

But the thing that most impressed me about this episode was the way people were so quick to believe what the media published in spite of the facts in evidence. People were looking for the lies in Coach Rod's words when they should have been looking for the truth. The lies, as it turns out, were in the headlines as they usually are. Our 24/7 news cycle, even sports news, has created an alternate reality. If a news agency - any news agency, even the Bugtussel Gazette - reports something, then other news agencies immediately cite "published reports" and put their own version in print or broadcast. Soon each agency begins citing every other agency's report and then the citations are lost because the item has acheived a reality of its own. It is now a fact that demands refutation from authoritative sources before it will die. Even though the original "news" item had no authority in its creation, its defeat requires mutliple authorities.

This has happened over and over with political stories since the dawn of the CNN era. Of course, Bill Clinton didn't help matters any with his "It all depends on what the definition of 'is' is" crap. That whole affair (literally) created a whole new dimension of skepticism about the words of public figures.

Anyway, I'm glad that the coach is sticking around.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

What's Up With

I've noticed for the last several days that The Charleston Gazette's online edition has been screwy. The list of news stories on the main page and then the subsequent sub-heading pages have stories from previous days listed among the new stories. I can't tell if this is by accident or intentional, but it's been happening for several days.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Why I Hate The Purple Onion

The Purple Onion is the primary produce dealer at the Capitol Market, the only one inside and therefore the only one in the off-season when the farmers are selling flowers, pumpkins and Christmas trees. They took over the spot several years ago when Produce Junction vacated due to a disagreement with Capitol Market management.

When Produce Junction was there they ran the business exactly like the outside farmer-vendors do in the summer, selling everything in bulk and by the pound. This meant that you could buy, if you desired, one green bean, Brussel Sprout or stalk of broccoli. This is the way such a market should run. One should be able to drop in on the way home and buy a mushroom and an onion and a carrot and they should be fresh.

The Purple Onion, though takes the exact opposite approach and pre-packages all of their produce in impossibly large packages with rediculous prices. Fruit, beans and onions are just about the only thing they sell in bulk anymore. I really, really don't like this business model. A friend suggested that they probably had less waste this way. Yeah, but I have more waste! The excess stuff rots in my fridge before I can use it. Charge me more per unit to offset the cost of the waste, but let me buy A turnip, please!

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Ellen's Ice Cream Robbed!

My God, how low do you have to be to rob an ice cream shop?

Ellen's is simply one of the best things about our little city. My daughter worked there her senior year of high school and it's always staffed by a great group of kids. They oughtta find this guy and, for his punishment, make him eat ice cream until he's sick.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Gluttony and Greed: Happy Thanksgiving!

This is the holiday weekend that give me the most personal angst of them all. Today we celebrate Gluttony and tomorrow its twin sister Greed makes her best appearance of the year. This is the one weekend of the year I wish I could resign my membership in American society.

Under the guise of a day of thankfulness, we Americans will gorge ourselves on a dead bird and all of the produce our already swollen stomachs can hold. We will waddle away from our feeding trough, sit down and loosen our belt or the top button on our trousers. We will brag about how much we ate and how miserable we are as a result of the over indulgence. Overeating on this day has become an acceptable sin for our culture. Even homeless people and indigents have more than they can eat on this day thanks to Frank Veltri and many church and service organizations. It is a celebration of excess.

Of course, there is football. For me that is the one thing that makes this day tolerable. It is an escape for me, but I know that some despise the sport. And I can understand why: as someone once said football is a demonstration of humanity's two greatest evils: Violence punctuated by committee meetings.

Then tomorrow, at the crack of dawn and even before, people will play their parts in act two of the G&G drama as they attack the shelves at WalMart, Target and virtually every other retail store in America to save a few bucks on Christmas gifts, mostly for their already spoiled rotten kids. I've never participated in this madness and I never will, but I know people who do and the bloodlust they exhibit over this event is downright scary and barbaric. Then at 6 & 11 tomorrow evening, the TV news reporters will show us moving pictures of the melees and especially highlighting the places where fist fights broke out in places that had too few Barbie dolls and too many greedy customers. It really is too, too much.

I find myself, even while I write this post, becoming physically ill at the prospect of what I know will happen in the next 24 hours. God help us.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Minimah goes down with the Blankenship

In 1991 a "minority influence district" was created by the legislature when they re-drew boundary lines to include census tracts that contained the largest concentration of African-Americans. This affirmative action gerrymandering was done in broad daylight and was met with approval by most Charlestonians, except for some Republicans who said it was simply a Democratic ploy to insure an extra seat in the legislature.

The move was greeted particularly well by members of the African-American community who saw it as a chance to have real representation in the state legislature. Several political newcomers tossed their hats in the ring in the first two elections after the creation of the district. They found out the hard way that it takes money and influence to win even in a small, targeted district like 31.

Unfortunately for minority candidates, the gerrymandering included the more affluent sections of the East End that has become an attractive place for young attorneys and other professionals to make their residences. This comparatively well-to-do minority of the district has dominated, politically. There has never been an African-American, nor any other minority candidate, elected to represent the district.

Yesterday's election continues the trend: Charleston's 31st District will again be represented by a young, white, affluent lawyer. Carrie Webster won re-election easily over Charles Minimah, a Republican who happens to be African-American.

Unfortunately Minimah was also one of Don Blankenship's chosen candidates. Who knows whether he would have had a better chance without Blankenship's money, but this district includes the ultra-liberal and densely populated 1400-1500 blocks of Virginia, Lee and Quarrier Streets where the average resident despises Blankenship and everything he represents. Minimah could not have had a worse ally.

It's a shame, too, because here is a man who came here from Nigeria and has achieved the "American Dream". He would have been a good representative for District 31 and would have brought true "minority influence" to the House of Delegates. Thanks, Don.

Monday, November 06, 2006

The New Improved Bigotry

I have two bigots in my life.

One is my father-in-law, who grew up in a time and place where it was perfectly acceptable to hate people with different color skin than his. It was perfectly acceptable to use ugly names to describe those people because, after all, they were inferior and had no worth because of their race. Because of the "old dog, new trick" syndrome, he remains a bigot to this day, only now he has to be more quiet about it because it's not so socially acceptable.

The other bigot in my life is my brother who is ten years my senior. His bigotry is less toward people of color but finds its greatest target in homosexual males. He grew up in a time and place when it was perfectly acceptable to confront a "queer" and leave him bleeding on the ground when the discussion was over. My brother still has the attitude, if not the proclivity for violence, that he possessed in his youth.

It's hard to imagine a time when such vitriolic racial prejudice existed out in the open. My children hear stories of Rosa Parks and Anniston, Alabama and to them it sounds like so much ancient history, on the same level as The Dark Ages or the quest for fire. When I tell them that these events happened in my lifetime they just take that as proof that their father is indeed older than dirt and dismiss the astonishing (to me) fact that it wasn't so very long ago at all.

But my children have experienced society's wrestling with its prejudice against gays and lesbians. It plays out in their daily lives. Even though society is much more accepting today there are still many people in their schools that are card-carrying gay haters and don't care who knows it. Someday my kids will will tell their kids about this period of history and the children will dismiss their parent's stories as the rambling of old people. Such is the circle of life.

And such is the circle of bigotry. The history of human society and culture is one of raising up a new class of people of which to demonize, slander, oppress and abuse until someone says "enough!" Then the prejudices toward that particular group fades away and a new one rises to take its place. An oft mis-attributed quote goes (and I won't add to the confusion here because I don't know who said it first) "Most times when people imagine that they are thinking, they are simply rearranging their prejudices." Whoever said it, a truer statement was never uttered.

So as the bigotry of sexual orientation begins to become more and more socially unacceptable, what is the next group of people society will hate?

I have seen a glimpse of the future this past week. I have awakened to the reality that, while I was sleeping, this new bigotry has taken hold in our society. It is as vitriolic as any previous bigotry in our history. It has become acceptable for people to hate again, as long as your hatred is directed at the right group. Like always, the new bigots like to gather together to feed off each other's disdain and to affirm each other in their self-righteousness. It is once again fashionable to who take glee in the failures of "the others," and it is right and good to be suspicious of any one of their group simply because they are one of them. The others can do no good. They are completely and utterly evil.

What is most disturbing about this new prejudice is that we are pretty much all part of the others, and we are pretty much all part of the haters. This new bigotry is an equal opportunity employer, and we, the bigots, have lined up on one side or the other to hate the others. Whether it is Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Liberal or Blue State vs. Red State, hatred of the others is once again in vogue.

Not only is it OK to blindly hate the others, it is expected. If you are a Democrat, you must hate Republicans, and vice-versa. If you are conservative you must hate John Kerry. If you are liberal you must hate George Bush, or euphamistically, "the administration." If you are liberal, then Shelley Moore Capito is an ugly, fake, rubber-stamp, daughter of Arch. If you are conservative, she is a pretty, smart and strongly independent woman.

If you are conservative, Mike Callahan is a beady-eyed, bald, Jim Carville wannabe. If you are liberal he is the shining hope to regain the Democratic seat in congress.

If you are conservative, then you want to protect us from the godless left wingers who want to take away our bibles and guns. If you are liberal you want to protect us from the fanatical religious nuts and the NRA.

If you are conservative, Don Blankenship is a concerned citizen who is willing to put his money where his mouth is. If you are liberal he is a rich coal baron who is only trying to feather his own nest.

I could go on, but you have your own examples if you care to think of them.

I heard two people this week boast loudly and proudly that they voted a straight ticket. Each of them said it as if it were the right thing, the only thing that a rational person could do. Each of them, in so many words, claimed that voting a straight ticket was tantamount to a religious duty. They held deep convictions, each of them, that the other party was evil at worst, and misguided at best.

One of them voted straight Republican and one voted straight Democrat.

I hope I'm right about cycles of bigotry. I hope that people will rearrange their prejudices someday and begin to think independently of partisan politics. I hope it happens in my lifetime. Or at least my kid's lifetime.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Told You So

According to this report in the Gazette and my personal experiences yesterday, the Patrick Street trash bag distribution point is working out just like I thought it would. I told you this was a bad idea.

The article didn't even mention the truck that took out a fire hydrant while trying to turn around to avoid the traffic congestion (the aftermath of which is shown in this Gazette photo). The water flowed freely down Patrick Street for an hour or so and made an even bigger mess of the proceedings.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Hooliganism

The Kanawha County sheriff's department is on high alert, beginning tonight, for vandals who want to get an early start on Halloween hijinx. According to a deputy speaking on morning radio news shows they will be paying special attention to places known to have problems in the past, namely Cabin Creek, Campbell's Creek and Witcher Creek.

My wife grew up in an eastern Kanawha County "creek" community (holler) and when we were dating I got my first taste of this culture of silliness. Every year in mid-October the first tell-tale signs of the impending terror would appear as tree limbs were collected from the hillsides and placed strategically beside the road. These limbs would be the instruments of mischief and every night they would systematically be placed across the road to block traffic while the mischief makers hid in the woods and sneered or snickered as grumbling motorists had to get out or their cars to remove the blockade. As soon as the cars passed, the hooligans would run down and block the road for the next car. And so it would go from mid-October until All Hallows Eve when the ante was upped considerably when a full size tree would be cut down and dropped across the road, taking down the power and phone lines as it fell. Every year this all played out exactly the same way.

Residents of the hollow knew they had to get home before dark on Halloween night or they wouldn't get home at all. Once the tree fell there would be not traffic moving up or down the creek until late in night or early the next morning when the power company would come and remove the tree and repair their lines.

Being an outsider I could never understand why the people of the community allowed this to happen year after year. It seemed to me that an ad-hoc neighborhood watch could be posted at the site of the tree-felling (it was in the exact same spot every year) and prevent this from happening. But after several years I found out why the responsible adults didn't intervene: They were part of the hooligan squad. Yes, I found out that it was a family affair, that the reason this had been going on so many years was that it was a tradition that had been passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. On Halloween there were young and old alike who went to this spot to cut down this tree to block themselves in for the night. Family values, I guess.

I was, and remain to this day, incredulous about the way these people endanger their friends and neighbors by blocking the road and cutting off power to the entire community. If a house where to catch fire or someone in the community would experience a medical emergency it would be impossible for emergency vehicles to reach them. It amazes me further that parents would train their children in the art of road blocking and encourage them to do it.

Go figure.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Country Coming to Town

One of the neatest things about Charleston is how country and city live in close proximity. It's the only city of its size I have seen where you can drive five minutes from downtown and feel like you are deep in the woods.

Consider this peaceful shot of the Elk River. You could imagine that it is shot from some secluded spot miles from civilization, but it is actually about four or five blocks from the center of town.

Here is a shot taken from a vantage point one block away from the above scene:

How cool is that?

Thursday, October 19, 2006

The Leaves Changed

Seemingly overnight the leaves around Charleston changed. Here is a picture I took today of a hillside that I have passed virtually every day for the last 20 years. It is without a doubt the most colorful little patch of woods I know of, but it's difficult to photograph due to its location and the powerlines that are in the way. This is just a part of it but there's just no way to get a wider angle without a helicopter.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Secret Shows at The Clay Center

I consider myself to be a fairly heavy consumer of news media. I watch two or three TV news broadcasts every day, read both newspapers (albeit online), listen to the radio when driving and sometimes at the office. With this consumption of airwaves and printers ink comes, necessarily, a lot of exposure to advertising. I feel that I am definitely above average when it comes to knowing what’s going on in my town.

But I am consistently surprised by reviews of Clay Center events in the morning paper. These events happen and are over before I ever hear of them. This morning is a good example. Writes Bob Schwarz in the Gazette:

“Camelot” stopped at the Clay Center on Tuesday, giving the audience a wonderful reminder of how splendid were the songs and how clever the language when the American musical was at its height.
I have a daughter that lives for musicals. Had I had any inkling whatsoever that Camelot was showing last night I would have been there. This has happened perhaps five or six times this year as production after production has quietly stolen in and out of town without fanfare. I am sure that there was some sort of advertising, but it certainly hasn’t made it to my ears or eyes.I can only conclude that the shows are only advertised through South Hills media outlets or to the Clay Center or WV Symphony mailing lists, none of which would come to my attention.

The Clay Center is leaking money like a sieve and claims to be trying to lose its “elitist” identity. Perhaps a solution to both problems is a better advertising strategy.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Impropriety on Display

According to Jim Balow's story in this morning's Gazette :

The Charleston City Council overwhelmingly approved a controversial ward-redistricting plan Monday night, despite objections from two Kanawha City council members.

They did so in front of an audience that included a class from George Washington High School that was studying gerrymandering under teacher Jane Claymore, Ward 19 Councilwoman Ditty Markham said.

This is just the latest example of how our City's top elected official continually ignores the old public service maxim "avoid the appearance of impropriety." It seems that Mayor Jones thrives on just the opposite; he seems to really enjoy showing off his political hardball tactics right out in the open. Even in front of a high school class that wanted to witness a case of gerrymandering case up close and personal.

Mayor Jones has been feuding with two city council members, Ditty Markham and Mark Sadd, since day one in office and he doesn't care who knows it. In Mark Sadd's case he took to the airwaves and print media to loudly shout down Sadd's nomination to the federal bench. Now, according to Markham, Jones has apparently succeeded in hamstringing Markham by essentially eliminating her from eligibility to serve as her now former ward's representative. Whether he in fact had a hand in it or not, he certainly didn't seem interested in slowing down the process to allow time for more discussion or study.

An accusation of gerrymandering used to be a serious matter, but it seems Mayor Jones doesn't care; it just pads his resume.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Economic Development for the West Side

“I think the mayor has been trying to find ways to help the West Side.”
That was Deputy Mayor Rod Blackstone's reasoning for moving the trash bag pickup from the ultra convenient Pennsylvania Avenue site where it has been held for years to the curious location of Patrick Street beside Charleston Department Store. In an article in this morning's Gazette, Blackstone reveals the staggering amount of work that has gone into the administration's strategic decision to infuse the West Side with new economic energy:

Blackstone said. “We’re working with police to close that section of the
street [Patrick Street].” Motorists can approach the block from Washington Street or from the south, he said.

Good grief. Inconvenience 90% of the residents of the city so they will drive down the most depressing street in all of Charleston, all in the name of economic develoment?

The Pennsylvania Avenue location was ideal because it was under the interstate and therefore immune to precipitation, it was geographically in the dead-center of town, it had outstanding access from every direction, it has adequate traffic lanes so there was never a tie-up. It had worked flawlessly for many years.

If it ain't broke...

Blackstone also explains why the city's trash bag distribution is late this fall.

Blackstone blamed the delay on efforts to market city assets, including trash bags, as a way of generating extra income for the city.

Bobbie Reishman, chairman of council’s Finance Committee, has suggested selling advertising space on trash bags for several years Blackstone said. “But it wasn’t coming together quickly enough, so we decided to go ahead and distribute the bags.”

Gee, I wonder why companies wouldn't jump at the prospect of buying advertising space on trash bags? Maybe because they're bags for trash? Maybe because they sit in a box until they are placed inside a can before they are put inside a truck before they are buried in a landfill? Not much exposure time for an ad.

This whole episode is embarrassing and frustrating.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

What is a door to do?

I found interesting this juxtaposition of signs on a door at the Kanawha County courthouse.

A closer look below.

No entry, no exit. Why have a door at all? Isn't that what a wall does?

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Extreme Bumper Stickers

Charles West's Law of Bumperstickers: The more bumper stickers on a vehicle, the more politically liberal the driver is.

Well then, what can we say about this?

Pardon the image quality - it was shot through a dirty windshield with one hand while driving 70 MPH.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Drop Your Drawers at Church?

This sign hangs from St. Marks United Methodist Church across from the main post office.

Isn't that special?!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Hyperbolic Hyperbole

Protest groups of all flavors do it. They get caught up in fervor of their rally and every word they say is greeted with a roar of approval from the partisans in attendance. This causes them to make more and more outrageous statements. Sometimes they say the darndest things.

At this rally at the Capitol yesterday, a national environmental group and folks from Coal River Mountain Watch fanned each other's flames until the rhetoric became an exercise in non-sequitors. Trying to bolster her assertion that coal mining exploits people in poor communities one woman said, to great applause, "You'll never find a coal mine sludge pond built above an elementary school in Connecticut!" (source: video from WCHSTV)


W. Va. Bloggers Board

Here is my obligatory post about the new-ish W.Va. Bloggers Message Board. If you're a blogger in West Virginia you probably already know about it. If not you probably don't care.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

It's Not Rocket Surgery

In case it isn't clear in the picture, the shirt this grocery store cashier is wearing says:

"Stupiditys Not a Crime
Your Free To Go"

Were do we start? How about "Why on earth would an employer allow this guy to wear a shirt that is insulting to his customers?"

Next, we can move on to the spell-check portion of our program: There are two missing apostrophes and one mis-spelled contraction on the shirt. Now maybe it is supposed to mis-spelled as part of the joke. If so, then the joke is obviously on the buyer and wearer of the garment.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sax in the City?

I was looking over the Charleston Convention and Visitors Bureau website and saw this photograph. It struck me as odd, to say the least. First of all, I have lived in this town for forty years and I have never, I repeat, NEVER seen a saxaphone player playing along Capitol Street. On occasion I've seen a harmonica player and that guy who plays the squeeze box near the library, but never a scene like this. This looks like it is either 1) Photoshopped, or 2) Staged.

Either way it doesn't seem to be a photo that captures Charleston's essence. With so many authentic treasures in our little city it seems that the CVB could come up with a better image .

Friday, September 15, 2006

Customer Non-Service Week

I had two episodes this week that capture the essence of customer non-service.

1. Charleston Post Office - On Tuesday at 10:30 AM I walked into the main lobby of the post office to find that the only the window open for service was the one inside the stamp store. There were 15 people waiting in line, many of whom looked exasperated as they stood holding heavy boxes they intended to ship. But the real pièce de résistance was the perky girl postal worker who was asking questions of all the patrons for a survey on - get this - CUSTOMER SATISFACTION! It seemed like the management had decided to herd all the cattle into one chute so the survey would be easier to perform.

2. The picture above requires some explanation: Today at the Huntington Bank drive in bank on the corner of Leon Sullivan Way and Lee Street there were three drive through lanes open PLUS one inside walk-in window. When I was there at around 1:15 there was only one teller trying to keep up with all four windows. But as I waited for my turn at the drive through I noticed that there were two bank employees walking to the cars as they waited delivering cans of soft drinks and candy bars. Soon they came my way and I rolled down my window so I could talk to them. "Would you like a candy bar or a soft drink?" they asked politely. "What's the occassion?" I inquired. I was not prepared for the answer: "It's Customer Appreciation Day!" they replied cheerfully. I thanked them for their offer and told them that THIS customer would appreciate it if they would go inside and help out with the workload. They laughed and walked back to their table of goodies. I continued to wait in line and watch them greet other customers with their appreciation. My drive through bank visit took over 20 minutes to complete. I felt really bad for the lady inside the box but she remained cheerful and polite in spite of it all. I wish I could say the same for myself.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


This strikes me as odd.

A FedEx drop box outside the main post office, on post office property.

It's tantamount to having a WalMart kiosk inside the vestibule at Target. No wonder they keep raising the price of stamps.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Homeless People With Cell Phones

I frequently travel the circuit from Smith Street, near Capitol Market, to the main post office via Leon Sullivan Way. On this route I pass three facilities that serve Charleston's homeless population: The Roark-Sullivan Lifeway Center, Crossroads Shelter and Covenant house. Over the past few months I have noticed more and more folks that appear to be among the "homeless population" talking on cell phones. This intrigues me for many reasons.

First, just the practical logistics of buying a cell phone would seem to be insurmountable for a homeless person. How do they pay for it? Where is the bill sent? Of course there are pre-paid phones, like TracFone, that you can buy without an address or a credit card, but even these require you to add air time via land-line phone or internet. But according to a Raleigh, NC paper, "Cell phones are increasingly popular among the Triangle's homeless. With public pay phones quietly disappearing and prices on cell phones dropping, many homeless people say that it just makes sense."

OK, so it makes sense. But is seems to me that if someone who has no home and no address can figure out how to own a cell phone that they should definitely have the ability to find gainful employment and a permanent residence.

Which brings me to the second intriguing thought: Perhaps many of the people that we see on the streets downtown and we label as "homeless" aren't homeless at all. It's difficult to know, really. I remember years ago hearing a rumor that our own Bill Dunn (Aqualung) actually had a mansion on Kanawha Avenue in Kanawha City (the urban legend said that someone followed him for several days until, at last, he parked his shopping cart on the East End, walked across the 35th Street bridge and serruptitiously let himself into the house via the back door). I know of one man named Harry that lives in a group home in Dunbar. I see him walking all over the Kanawha Valley and he can often be found sitting and chatting with the "homeless" folks under the Leon Sullivan Way exit ramp. Most people think he is homeless, but he is most definitely not.

So where do I go from here? Perhaps we should ask people that are truly homeless to identify themselves as such. Perhaps a large red "H" affixed to their clothes would help.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

More Bizarre Cavalierisms

Tony Cavalier said last night that we would be entering a "Goldilocks weather pattern. Not to hot, not too cold, but just right."

An anonymous comment on last week's post reminded me of Tony's oft-used term "scat showers." Sheesh, can you imagine? I think I recall a Stephen King short story to that effect.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Shrinking Regatta

Perhaps a metaphor for the entire festival, the once GIANT video screen that flanked the stage at Sternwheel Regatta concerts has shrunk until it's roughly the size of a big screen TV. I recall concerts of the past, like The Beach Boys and Ray Charles, when I was unable to get a clear view of the stage at least I could be sure to see them on the huge video screens. Times, they are a changin'.

This picture was snapped on Sunday evening just before the Charlie Daniels concert, during "Rubber Soul's" performance (which, by the way, if you read about in the Charleston Gazette's review you would have thought was "Windjammer").

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A Grand Entrance

This is the beautiful entrance to The Smallridge Building on Quarrier Street. My first job was working for the store that shared the building. The store's entrance was one door east. The store is still in business today in another location on the south side of the river. Anyone know the name of the store?

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yes, Virginia, Dual Loyalties Do Exist

I became embroiled in a contraversy today over at The Film Geek's blog. One of his regular commenters really took exception to a remark I made about - let me be careful here - the way WVU fans view Marshall fans as - I'm just reporting here so spare me the flames - obnoxious. The average Marshall fan is very, Very, VERY sensitive about criticism from people who are partial to the large university upstate and they often become very, Very, VERY ebullient, much to the glee of the needlers. So when I tried to explain this I was attacked by Off Route 75 and falsley accused as being a guy "from the University of Southern Pittsburgh at Morgantown (USPAM)" , having a "holier than thou" attitude and even accused of being Mitch Vingle!

When I tried to defend myself and explain I have no connection to WVU, OR75 just started coughing and scoffing. But the kicker came when I said that I root for both Marshall and WVU . OR75 told me that I was lying because that there was no one in West Virginia that actually roots for both teams. I know better.

Since OR75's profile indicates he's from Kenova, I know that his view is defintely obscured by his location. If you were to look at the state of West Virginia county by county, you would find that most counties would have a dominant loyalty to one of schools, but some would be very much balanced in their allegience. I'm not saying that there aren't pockets of feircely loyal zealots in every county, there absolutely are, but every county has a dominant loyalty. Here's the way I'd break it down. Counties for Marshall in green, WVU in blue and pink counties are those I feel are pretty much divided down the middle - and in those counties especially reside a lot of folks who truly do pull for both teams:Now I know that I'm going to get blasted for the overwhelming amount of blue counties, but I calls 'em like I sees 'em. Marshall folks should be proud because Kanawha County only recently (maybe in the last 10-15 years) went into the pink column. In fact, if you'd cut Kanawha along an east/west line the wesern half would probably go green. Marshall has a much wider fan base around the state than ever before. If they continue to be successful that will only grow larger.

I'm looking forward to the game. I will root for whoever has the ball and be satisified with the outcome unless it's a tie. No, really OR75, I will. I swear.
I mean it.
No Joke.
Take it to the bank.

No, really.

Friday, August 25, 2006

The Latest Cavalierism

Channel 3 weatherman Tony Cavalier said last night that "Saturday temperatures will be hot and tangy." He was trying to play up the Taste of Charleston.

In his own quirky mind I'm sure it made sense, but it just made me go "Huh?"

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Charleston Labor Day Weekend Festival

You really can't call it the Sterwheel Regatta anymore, now can you? I heard Sharon King, director of the festival formerly known as Regatta, on the radio yesterday trying to sound upbeat and chipper about a sternwheel-less regatta. She blames high fuel prices on the absence of the boats that give the festival its name. Look at the schedule and notice the dearth (maybe "death" is more apt) of river activities at this year's festival. Sad.

I remember standing on the South Side Bridge when I was 12 years old watching the big boats come across the finish line at the Second Annual Sternwheel Regatta in 1972. I didn't realize then how big the festival would become, and many years later as I stood on the levee with a few thousand of my closest friends watching and listening to The Beach Boys I wondered how much bigger it could get. It was a big deal for several years, then I think it got so big that it scared the city leaders and they took steps to scale it back - way back. Back so far that it doesn't even include sternwheelers anymore.

This year's FestivAll remided me of the early days of the Regatta. I hope its organizers learn from the Regatta and not allow it to suffer the same dinosaur-like rise and fall as Regatta.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Appalachian Power Park and "Your West Virginia Power!"

Last night I went to the ballgame with Stanton. See his comments on the hot dogs here.

While he was busy grousing about the state of the hot dog affairs at the park, I turned my attention to the park itself, the people and the team. The very first observation I have is that they should have a section of the park designated for people to sit who actually want to watch the damn game!

I was there to watch the game and it seems to me that if someone goes to all the trouble of buying a ticket and going to the park that they are interested in watching the game. Not so! When I found my seat and settled in to watch the action, I was dismayed to find that seated directly between me and home plate was a very large mother of several children. This woman was in constant motion. She would stand up and take a picture of her little darlings about every 30 seconds. In between snapshots she would stand up to let the kids get by her to go to the concession stand. I counted nine trips from the four kids in two innings. Even though she was not paying any attention at all to the action on the field she still managed to stand up every time the pitcher went into his wind up. For the first two innings I never saw a single swing by any batter. At first it was an annoyance, but the longer it went on the more fascinated I became by this family's behavior. Why did they pay for tickets if they had no interest in the game? I watched them, all of them and not mom nor the kids nor the father paid any attention to the game for the two innings I sat there. I finally gave up and looked for another seat.

For a few minutes I stood on the concourse behind home plate and watched Rod Blackstone, the hardest working deputy mayor in show business, do his toastman act. It hasn't changed in many years (I SAY "PIZZA", YOU SAY "RIA") but is still pretty entertaining. It's also kind of embarrassing to have the City's number two man making an idiot of himself every night, but he was the Toastman before he was the deputy mayor.

After I got my fill of T-O-A-S-T, I wandered over to the souvenir shop to check out the Power merchandise. They have quite a bit larger selection than I expected and the prices were higher than they should be, but hey, whatever the market will bear, right? It's the American Way. But who is buying this stuff? I didn't see a single piece of merchandise go out the door while I was there and I didn't even see any kids carrying around souvenir bats or wearing hats.

All in all, the ballpark proved once again to be a great place to hang out on a nice evening even if there's no game. But if there is a game, please sit down!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Best in the Valley" Awards

Charleston Newspapers annually publishes a very long list called "Best in the Valley Reader's Choice Awards." It is obviously an advertising gimick - at least it's obvious to me, but it seems that many people take it very seriously.

Stanton was telling me that he has received several emails refuting his Weenie Award winners because his choices didn't mirror the Best in the Valley hot dog award winners. I have noticed several businesses that proudly advertise that they were chosen as BITV in their particular discipline.

Some of the the categories are laughably specific and obviously meant to guarantee that the honor would fall to one particular potential advertiser since there is only one such business in the area:

Best Gutter Protection (GutterPro)
Best Neighborhood Restaurant/Bar (Applebees)
Best French Restaurant (Cafe deParis)

Other categories are obviously victims of either low voter turnout or ballot box stuffing, the most glaring of which is "Best Local Band": Kanawha Valley Ringers won honors in this category (for those who don't know Kanawha Valley Ringers is a handbell choir that play mostly for church funtions).

Still another amusing thing, if you take the list at face value, is the incredible level of unenlightenment it would seem to accuse us of. For example, in the category of "Best Delicatessan" Kanawha voters picked Krogers. Or how about Outback Steakhouse for "Most Romantic Restaurant"?

Look over the list. It's good for a chuckle or two.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Devolutuion of The Clay Center?

The site that now holds the $130 million Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences used to be a car dealership. This morning it looks as if it is returning to its former - and some might say more useful - purpose.

Pretty darned expensive car lot , if you ask me.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Gazette Site - Bad to Worse?

I have to agree with oncee, the new format of the Gazette Online is really horrible.
It seems to be getting worse with tweaking in the past week. It probably views OK if you have areally big monitor with the proper display settings, but for a normal home or office computer setup it is just terrible.

I have complained to their webmaster before about other issues and never received a response. I don't think they care about customer feedback much.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Peace Protest: Sponsored by Mercedes?

From last week: This old-school peace slogan is resurrected for the anti-Bush rally in Charleston. This message brought to you by your friends at Mercedes Benz.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fire at Will Podcast

Will Stewart, our local blogging community's token Neo-Con, has his podcast "Fire at Will" up and running in earnest. Slick and well produced, but just as fair and balanced as his blog posts.

Hear his take on the Charleston u$er fee here.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Patriots for Peace and their $4.20 Fundraiser

I was out of town yesterday and missed the big presidential visit for Shelley's fundraiser, but thanks to DowntownWV I got to see some of the Patriots for Peace protest close up.

After the protest the crowd proceeded to Davis Park for a fundraiser of their own. Looking at the photos in this post I formulated a definite opinion as to how they arrived at the unusual price point for their event; $ four-twenty.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

OK, It Passed 3:1 Now What?

According to today's Gazette story,

Jones said he wasn’t really surprised with the results because he did some
polling on the issue last December. People’s attitudes on the fee tended to
correspond with their feelings toward him as mayor, he said.
“The places where I did strongest it did better. A person who is not in favor of my administration did not like the fee,” Jones said. “I would hope the fee would carry every precinct but my strength would be in the hills. We would be weaker in the flats.”

Always the astute political observer, Mayor Jones. Of course it just might be that for people in "the flats" this fee represent a whole lot more to them than those in "the hills." Except for Kanawha City, median income in "the flats"is about $20,000. The fee for those folks represent about a one-quarter of a percent tax. The median income in "the hills" is probably well over $100,000, which means the tax rate for them is less than .052%. Not surprising then how people voted. Disproportionate taxation, when it favors the wealthy, usually gets the vote out in South Hills.

Now what? Here's my prediction. Mayor Jones said last night on Channel 11 news that he definitely would not seek an increase "in this term" as mayor. When the anchor pointed out he only had one year left in his term the mayor quickly corrected him saying "eleven months." In the paper he is quoted as saying “ I don’t know what will happen next year. Fees do go up.”

I would listen for noises about raising the fee to at least $2 in about twelve and a half months.

Monday, July 24, 2006

User Fee Passing

As I write this it looks as if the user fee is passing handily. A few thoughts:

1. I hope the fee passes but by a slim margin that communicates to the Jones administration that we are OK with it but not terribly pleased. This might keep them from immediately making plans to increase it to 2 or 3 dollars per week.

2. After seeing the enormous ballot for myself, I realize that Thornton Cooper cost the City a heck of a lot of money for nothing. It was his lawsuit's insistence that forced the City to have the entire bill printed on the ballot.

3. I'm glad this chapter in our city's history is over.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Window Dressing Symmetry

The curtains in these windows above Steve Blackwell Designs on Summers Street used to have perfect symmetry, but I noticed as I was leaving the library last week I noticed a change. I wonder if there is a significance in the difference between the two floors? You think it's a political thing? May the folks upstairs are centrists and the downstairs people lean to the right?

Friday, July 21, 2006

Driving While Black

I apologize in advance for the heavy subject on what I intended to be a light-hearted blog.

This story in today's Charleston Gazette points out a reality in our city. I'm not sure if this is a reflection of the culture of our police department, or maybe just our culture in general but I know it is a reality. Anyone who will open their eyes around town can't help but see that race matters when it comes to the way motorists are treated on traffic stops by police. Some folks call this phenomenon "DWB" -Driving While Black.

Nine times out of ten, when I see a traffic stop where there are two or more police cars present, the driver of the stopped car is black. I have seen with my own eyes that officers have a different body language when they are dealing with a black driver. A different tone of voice. A different attitude. In my observation it doesn't matter much if the officer is white or black either. I have seen black officers act exactly the same way as the white officers. It is puzzling, but it is true.

In this case, Mayor Jones publicly apologized to Mr. Johnson and his family. The mayor knows Mr. Johnson and his family personally and so he got involved, but there are many more Mr. Johnsons out there who have been treated the same way and never had an apology. Many folks in the black community simply accept this reality and never make waves about it. The unique circumstances of this case - that Mr. Johnson was a former police officer, that he worked for the Human Rights Commission and that the incident happened right in front of his workplace - it was those circumstances that made this a public incident. The same kind of thing happens every day to less notable people in less notable places.

I'm not singling out police officers. They certainly have every right to be as cautious as they feel they need to be when out there enforcing the law on our behalf. This racism is part of our culture and I just wish we'd face up to it. It is apparent in other arenas as well. For example, I frequent a West Side bank where the racial makeup of the customers is probably close to 50/50 black vs. white. I have seen over the years that the tellers consistently will require ID from black customers who wish to cash checks and I've never been asked for ID once. I have seen black customers turned away when they didn't have "proper" ID and then the same teller who doesn't know me from Adam will cash my check without any question. It is real, folks. It is all around us.

As for Mr. Johnson's case, it seems that he was certainly in the wrong and was indeed driving with tags that had been reported as stolen. As a former police officer he should have know better. But I know in my heart that if it had been me, a middle-age white man, driving the same car in the same location I would not have been hand-cuffed or treated so rudely. I think we all know it. If we don't then we are blind.

Mayor Jones is quoted as saying, " I just want to nip this in the bud.” Way too late for that, Mayor Jones. This thing has gotten way past the bud stage.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Local TV News Reporters

As Oncee reports, the Daily Mail has the story about Jessica Ralston being named "looker of the week" by She is obviously worthy of the title but I find her to be a very competent reporter as well. She's one of my favorites.

But I've noticed a difference between local TV newswomen and those who have made it on the national networks: Local reporters seem to think they have to force themselves to look grim most of the time. They suck in their cheeks, tighten their lips and just generally look as if they are in pain when they are on camera. Most come across like they have some physical impairment that makes them act this way. Anchors are usually a little more relaxed, and speaking of Jessica Ralston, when she is in the anchor chair she is like a different person. She has a dynamite smile that she almost never shows when she's in her reporter mode, but it comes out when she reads the headlines.

There are exceptions to the anchor corollary, one being Brooke Baldwin who anchors the morning show on WOWK. She is an absolutely gorgeous woman but she seems so tense when she speaks on camera that it changes her looks completely. Every time I watch her I just want to tell her to relax and be herself (of course, she might be that tense all the time, I don't know).

Women who report for national TV networks are much more relaxed and loose. Even when reporting on grim stories or dealing with hugely important stories they are much easier to watch. I'm not sure if it's cause or effect. Perhaps it's that less experienced people are more likely to work locally and the stiffness wears off with experience. Whatever it is, my advice to any woman newscaster that might read these words is "lighten up!"

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

OK, Now What?

Just when I'm ready to post an interesting picture this confounded thing won't let me! What is up with Blogger?

Oh well, I would like to draw your attention to the streets of Charleston. In fact, I want you to look down. At the pavement. All over downtown and Kanawha City you can see the painted direction signs, arrows and mileage markers for various and sundry running races. The Charleston Distance Run's course is well known and you can see its markings pretty much all year round, but a slew of other 5K's races and other walk-a-thons have sprung up around every festival and chili cook off on the calendar. So the asphalt around town is covered with these signs and arrows.

I would think it would get confusing for runners. It would be perfectly understandable if some poor sap takes a wrong turn or two during an upcoming 5K and ends up running a half marathon or more through the streets of our fair city.

What we need is a really big eraser.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Quirky Weatherman Tony Cavalier

While not a Charleston figure, per se, he does invade our living rooms on a regular basis. Tony Cavalier seems like a nice person, and I'm sure he is very knowledgeable about weather forecasting, but sometimes he just tries to do too much. The result is often hilarious.

Since WSAZ TV-3 began their split Huntington-Charleston weathercast several years ago, Tony has tried his best to make it sound like he is Mr. Charleston by saying things like "The temperature over at Celebration Station will be about 68 degrees by eleven-o'clock." It might be but I, for one, am not going to be walking around at Celebration Station at eleven PM. I would not recommend it to anyone.

Another oft-repeated Tonyism is "The brown baggers over at Slack Plaza will enjoy the lunchtime sunshine." While this is probably true, Charlestonians know that most of the people with brown bags at Slack Plaza are usually enjoying pretty much everything about life by noon, if you get my drift.

Tony has his own blog, although it is mostly a collection of weather articles. I would prefer reading his personal observations on the world. That would be much more entertaining.

Just as a final observation about Tony: The photo above is the actual official publicity shot from WSAZ's website. I didn't modify it; it is really that out of focus. Fitting, I think.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Oh good, new people to complain to!

Thanks to my old friend Stanton I am now a real live blogger! I feel like I've pledged a fraternity. No hazing, please.

I love Charleston. It has been my home all my life. I love the size, the shape, the tastes, the sounds; just about everything (except for that smell that seems to accompany the hottest days of the summer). I also enjoy the cast of characters and the props that are part of the theater of reality that plays daily around town. It is my bemusement with some of these little quirky dramas that I'd like to write about here.

I have a list of ten or so topics I'd like to start with, but I know I like blogs that have pictures and I don't have any interesting pictures to go with my topics, so I will wait until I have some before I get started. Until then, see you around town. - Charles

New Direction for Charlestonian Blog

I've really ignored this blog in favor of WV Hot Dog Blog for the past six months. Rather than let it set idle or shut it down I asked a good friend of mine to help out for a while. He's excited about the prospect but he wants to lighten things up a bit. His name is Charles and he's been a citizen of Charleston for over forty years. He and I will be sharing duties here for a while I take care of the hot dog biz.

Have fun Charles!

Saturday, July 01, 2006

User Fee Election

Just a remider that Charleston will be holding its special election on the infamous user fee on July 24th. Vote your conscience or your wallet, but vote.

See the spirited discussion about the user fee on Will Stewart's blog.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

See This Show!

CYAC's production of "American Paradise" is a great show that everyone in Charleston needs to see. It is a fantastic musical portrayal of 28 different Norman Rockwell paintings all peformed by local young and adult actors. The music by Mark Scarpelli and libretto by Dan Khede is phenomal.

It shows again next weekend and I promise you that you will get much more than your $9.50's worth. 8:00PM is curtain time at the Capitol Center Theater.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Another West Virginian Being an Idiot

Michelle Malkin is reporting that Morgan Spurlock, the West Virginia boy made good with his documentary "Super Size Me", has made a damn fool of himself at a speaking engagement at a high school.

Super-size mouth, apparently.

Shame. I really liked the movie, and it seemed like Morgan was a decent guy.

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Significant Development in the Boulevard debate

This is good news for those of us who don't like the way the boulevard plans have been handled:

According to a Daily Mail Article in Thursday's paper Mayor Danny Jones essentially is signaling that the boulevard is not the hill he's prepared to die on.
"I'm not cooling off to the idea," Jones said Wednesday. "I'm being practical."

Also, the Kanawha County Historical
and Preservation Society has put the Boulevard on its list of endangered sites in the Kanawha Valley. In December, John Wehrle, vice president of the society, said messing with the Boulevard would be like messing with the state Capitol

I think this means that the political power base has wisely decided it isn't up to the task financially.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Paint dot net

I have been playing with the newest release of, my favorite free photo software. I like this impressionistic version of this rarely seen view of the town of Clendenin:
Here is the original shot:

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Charleston's Riverfront Plan

In yesterday's Gazette Jim Balow wrote that the riverfront plan has been completed and submitted to city council members. This morning I get get an email from the Charleston Riverfront folks that seems to have lots of things written between the lines. An excerpt of that email follows:
It appears that the City of Charleston now has a Riverfront Master plan that was announced this morning in the Gazette newspaper by James Balow in the Today section.

Little information was given to Mr. Balow other than a notification that the Master Plan was available but only available to those who want to pay 20.00 for a copy of

All I can really inform you of is that plan “A” was chosen and that the cost of the 4-mile stretch of upgrades will be approximately 27.1 million dollars.

I have not received any kind of notification as to any details about a public meeting to unveil the choice that our City Counsel and Mayor have made on our behalf.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

President Manchin?

At 6:00 today a local TV news story dared to raise the proposition of our own Governor Joe Manchin as a candidate for Vice-President or even President. This is not the first time I have heard such musings.

In the height of the Sago mine drama my co-worker walked into my office and told me to note the time and date because he was going to be the first to predict "Manchin for President 2008." I scoffed. Not that I don't think he could have what it takes, but that he's from West Virginia, for crying out loud. That would be like a governor from Georgia or Arkansas getting elected to the White House. How crazy would that be?

Saturday, January 21, 2006

The Movies

Can you believe how much movie theaters have changed? Gone are the days of standing in line on the street waiting for the previous showing to let out (and trying not to listen to people talking as they left so as not to spoil the ending).

Some of Charleston's old theaters that have gone the way of the wrecking ball were absolute gems. The Kearse, on Summers Street, was perhaps the grandest, but I liked the Virginian on Lee Street the best. The Virginian had plush velvet seats that were quite comfortable compared with the most theaters of their day. It also had the only balcony seating that was typically open (most others seemed to have a "blacony closed" sign perpetually placed on the stairway), and that was the preferred spot from which to watch the show.

I am glad they saved the Capitol, but it was the downtown theater with the least amount of charm in its movie configuration. I like it much better now.

And speaking of theaters, the new renovation of the old State theater on Washington Street East near the Capitol is just beautiful. Those folks should get an award for their efforts. It should be held up as a model of how an old theater should be reclaimed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Downtown Charleston in the 1970's

I grew up seven miles from downtown Charleston. After I had gained sufficent maturity in my mother's eyes to be alone in the big city I would spend every Saturday the exact same way:

9:12 AM - Catch the KRT to downtown. 50 cents fare.
9:30 AM - Disembark the bus at the Charleston National Bank Plaza on the Summers Street side.
9:45 - Walk down Capitol Street to National Record Mart and wait for them to open the door.
10:00 - 11:00 - Peruse and purchase the latest album of my desire (Bad Company, BTO, Doobie Brothers, etc.), or...
11:00 - 11:30 - Walk around the corner on Lee Street to Turner's Record Shop. The place always smelled musty. I still own albums I bought there and they still smell like mildew.

From there it was a free-form bounce around town depending on the whim of the group that had met up by then, but some fairly regular stops were:

The Diamond
Frankenbergers - Only when my "rich" friends were along. Their parents had a charge account.
Silver Brand Clothes
Embees (only to stand outside and watch the young ladies come and go)
Kresge's (the only downtown store with a pet department)
Kessler's Jewelry (Pawn) - You never knew which Mr. Kessler might show up - the nice one who wanted your money or the one who shooed you out of the store "I don't allow boys in my store!"

And then there were the other absolute, never-miss, day-is-not-complete-until-you-go-there stops:

Sonny's Mod Shop - Incense, posters and the coolest clothes that made your mom cringe.

Arcade Books - or at least a stroll through the Arcade on our way to...

...Arthur Treachers Fish and Chips. I could not leave town without a belly full of greasy fish and chips.

One final stop on my way to the foot of the South Side Bridge where I would hopefully catch my bus at the very last minute before it left town (but I walked home more than once because I dawdled too much at...

...Lance's! O the joy of nosing around, in and through boxes of merchandise that had seemingly been there since WWII. I'm sure I never spent a total of twenty bucks at Lance's, but I spent hours upon hours searching for the perfect something. Years later, after they had moved to Capitol Street I took my young daughter to Lance's to find some widget she needed for a school project. It just wasn't the same.

Of course some days included movies, but that is another post for another day.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Some Things That Make Charleston a Better Place

In no particular order, and in no way an exhaustive list:

Ellen's Ice Cream
Taylor Books
Rick Lee's Photoblog
The Boulevard
Dan Kehde, Mark Scarpelli and the Contemporary Youth Arts Company
The 200 block of Capitol Street
First Watch
Capitol Roaster's Cafe

The Boulevard

I love driving Kanawha Boulevard. Unless I am in a hurry I will always take the Boulevard when I travel in from South Charleston. It is the only place in town where one can drive at a leisurely pace for more that a half mile without being stopped by traffic controls. I think the Boulevard, in its present form, is one of the best features of Charleston. It is a relaxing alternative to the high-stress I64 route.

Sometimes I ride my bike along the Boulevard. I have never found it too difficult to cross all four lanes to reach the sidewalk (although it would be nice to have a few more cuts in the high curb between the sidewalk and traffic lane). Sometimes I will drive to the Capitol and take a walk on the Boulevard.

For the past several summers, beginning with the Goldman administration, the City has been closing off the east-bound lanes from the South Side Bridge to the Capitol to allow more people to use the Boulevard for recreational purposes. I have taken my kids and their bikes down on few of these Sunday's. Not many people are attracted by these events.

The vocal minority of our city's population that wants to remove or reduce vehicular traffic thinks that more people will be able to enjoy the riverfront if we make it only accessible on foot. I think they are dead wrong. Many people, especially visitors to our fair city, would never see our riverfront unless they drive by.

While it seems to me that there is a fate-accompli attitude about changing the Boulevard, it also seems to me that most of the folks pushing the agenda are people that do not use the Boulevard and probably won't in the future. Most of the city government folks I see promoting the idea only pass over the boulevard on the South Side Bridge.

With a mandatory $200 million sewer project staring us in the face, it seems unconscionable to consider spending at least that much on a face-lift that is simply unnecessary and will not be an improvement for the livability and visitability of our city.

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Begin Again

Oncee let me know that I am not alone in the loss of all of my blog entries. I guess it's time to accept the loss and get on with blogging.

I have begun work on WV Hot Dog Blog, a project I have been thinking about for a while. I encourage everyone to go over and post a comment about your favorite WV style hot dog.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Gone...All Gone...

Easy come, easy go.

Blogspot giveth and Blogspot taketh away.

{insert other platitude here}

Every post and comment has been erased from this blog by a force beyond my understanding. Not that there was ever anything that would make the Pulitzer folks take notice, but dang, that was a lot of typing just to be gone with the proverbial wind. Having received no help from the support folks (if they really exist) on a possible recovery of all the lost posts, I am resigned to simply starting fresh as of today.

You know, the whole blogspot thing is pretty cool for a free service. It's hard to complain when it goes wrong.

For posterity: This blog began during the 2004 election when I found no online outlet for my anguished soul to vent about the state of local Charleston politics and matters that affect us Charlestonians. I had hoped it would become a fair-and-balanced (and not in the Fox News sense of the phrase) discussion board. Instead it became a quiet non-political place with four or five regular readers and posters. Since then several local bloggers have found their own niche and I don't intend to duplicate their efforts.

Here are some of the locals (in no particular order) and my view of their niche:

Don Surber - The local right-leaning mainstream media staffer.
William Stewart - The local (albeit Putnam Countian) politico neo-con.
Bob Coffield - WV law and health care issues.
4HAKS - Friendly neighborhood computer game and digital photo geek.
Spike Nesmith - Various and sundry musings of our local Scottish DJ.

There are others, but frankly I'm in no mood to write a ton of stuff and then let the Blog Gods delete it again. They'll have to earn my trust again.