Wednesday, April 25, 2007

"We're corprit!'

I was asked by some volunteers working the upcoming Red Cross Blood Drive to drive around town putting up posters. I said sure.

All the local businesses I went to were friendly and accommodating. Some, who didn't want their windows cluttered with posters, had set aside a special bulletin board adjacent to their front door. One or two said no but were apologetic and courteous. It was going well...until...

I hit the convenience store at the corner. Right away the ladies behind the register knew, because they saw me come in with a poster and some tape. When I approached the register, they turned their backs.

"Excuse me? It's time for the blood drive and we were wondering if we can put up a poster somewhere?"
"No. We don't allow that. You cain't put one up. We don't allow soliciting."
It was the last statement that got me.
"Um, it's for the community blood drive to get blood and save lives?"
"No. We're corprit!"
"So you're not local? You're not a community store?"
"No. We're corprit. The head office is in North Carolina. We are a corporation. So, no!"
"I see. Well, thank you anyway."

I will:
--never get gas there again
--never eat at the sandwich shop inside their store
--never buy one thing from inside that convenience store, no matter how hot it is or how thirsty or hungry I am.

On the adjacent two other corners were two other 'corprit' gas stations with stores inside that had managers who give back to the community that supports them.

Buy local! It matters.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

You say blanket, I say quilt

Scene, the County Fairgrounds, late afternoon, high sun and warm. The bleachers were filling with people attending the Relay for Life benefit, which was listening to different musical acts scheduled every thirty minutes between 5 and 9 p.m. The ladies of Oak Grove Church organized the benefit. They cooked pound cakes, they made quilts. They were ready.

In between musical acts there were raffles. In one raffle, the MC extolled the virtues of the prize ‘blanket’. It was actually a carefully crafted hand-sewn quilt. Each time the gruff, cowboyhatted, older man MC said ‘blanket’ the ladies in the audience got more agitated.

Fed up, one older lady finally shouted: “HEY!”

“Hey yourself,” said the MC

“It’s a QUILT!”

“What’s the difference? It keep you warm!?”

The ladies later straightened him out and he continued raffling the ‘quilt’. When it got time for the drawing he announced that the quilt came with two ‘pillow shams.’ “I ain’t gonna try to explain that one!” he grinned.

“It’s for the extra pillows!” the ladies shouted.

“You mean those things I throw on the floor and my wife yells at me?”

Tact ain’t his strength. Lesson: don’t mess with the ladies!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Busy at work

Some of the articles I wrote this week, printed in the Athens Banner Herald Living Section. I truly enjoyed writing all of them. Meeting the Annapolis cadet, the faith-based preschool teachers, and the Danielsville Council. It's so fun to share interesting people with the county residents through writing about them.

Student sets sail on his future with appointment to Naval Academy
Bound for the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis
By Beth Prata Special

Teachers say faith-based preschool fills void in county
By Beth Prata Correspondent

Millage rate locked in at same mark; signs, animals get eye
By Beth Prata Correspondent

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Southern humor

Here in Georgia I cover a local elected board for the local daily newspaper. They meet once a month. There are 4 councilors and a mayor in this tiny town of less than 500.

So the other night they were discussing changing an ordinance to allow them the flexibility to set mileage and food/hotel reimbursement rates by resolution instead of having to change the whole ordinance every time the mileage rates change. They all struggled to remember when the last time was that anyone even went abroad (out of county) and asked to be reimbursed for food or hotel. The Mayor slapped a Councilor’s leg who was sitting next to him, and said:

Mayor: You went to Savannah for that training thing. How much did you pay for food?

Councilor: I don’t remember. Not much.

Mayor: [Winking] I bet you ate steak ev’ry night.

Councilor: No suh. I got the cheapest thing on the menu. Sometimes I just walked by the exhaust fan at Huddle House and inhaled.

Monday, April 09, 2007

John Welch and his trees

John Welch and His Trees

If anyone remembers my own history ten years ago on that same lake and same issue to cut down some trees...(4, not John's requested 14,) you will know why I shake my head and smile. All towns are the same and all issues are the same. Eventually.

Our tree episode brought me at loggerheads with a corrupt Code Enforcment Officer and eventually her dismissal (1997-1999), which sparked me to gather some folks to start a charter revision to better protect taxpaying citizens against bad government (1999-2000), a process through which I learned the town could do with a real newspaper so I started The Monument (2000-2007).

What a long, long, tree-lined road it's been. I wonder how John will react.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Thanks Village Master Plan Committee members

The (Gray, ME) Village Master Plan Advisory Committee assisted the Town Planner in putting together information for a grant to the County requesting funds that would allow the beginnings of a downtown revitalization. The Planner recently learned that the grant was turned down, an unfortunate thing, but a common occurrence in first-time grant requester.

Thanks VMPAC for working so hard and getting the information the Planner needed. Thanks council, for saying that you plan to stick with the process and try again. I applaud the proposed improvements to the downtown, including better infrastructure for the vision and hearing impaired and better roads. The Athens Banner Herald editorial this week stated "A community that invests its own private dollars in itself, rather than hoping for some outside help, is going to be a community in the truest sense of the word- a place where residents are taking an active interest in each other's needs."

The VMPAC is filled with folks exemplifying the elements necessary in making up a vital community. Past councils were criticized for having no vision, for moving too slowly. This council has been criticised for having too big of a vision and for moving too fast. If you have a penchant for criticism, the following excerpt may prove helpful to determine if you exemplify the ideals listed. If you do not, ask any member of the VMPAC, they'll help you learn how to be a positive contributor to the town. Maybe you can be part of the "Let's try again" crowd!

Elements of a successful community
By Jon Russell

A community is dynamic, successful, exciting, and serves human growth and evolution to the degree that it supports each individuals excitements and explorations. In exploring various communities, I have noticed that paying attention to the following values and skills is what allowed and maintained a deep sense of connection, support, interest and commitment amongst the members of a group.

1) Have a vision higher than yourself. While being committed to yourself and your inner sense of what's important to you, also notice that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.

2) Spend a good part of your day doing what you love, what excites you, your passions, your "task." Recognize more and more quickly when you find yourself not excited and just coping, contending with things, or consumed in mundane activities.

3) Find those times when it feels natural to serve the group, and in what way you can best do that. Learn how you can, in those times, temporarily put aside your own issues or agendas. Learn what it is to be a "pole," a group member who is looked to for being centered, helpful, committed and inspirational. Notice that, when we create for others, those things we want for ourselves, we automatically receive it also, and without effort.

4) Leave the group regularly to connect with the outside world and new people. Bring back gifts of knowledge, experiences and insights. Use what excites you to guide your explorations of the world.

5) Be involved in the "feedback" process. Notice when you are being polite and not saying what you think. Practice speaking what you see and what you want. Become more and more skilled at communicating to others effectively, in a way they can use it. Help each other to be clear, and to learn about our projections and any tendencies to blame.

6) Be curious about others in your community, a curiosity that's real and comes from your heart. Be willing to ask penetrating questions, not just for the sake of it, but about those things you are really curious about. Do so without judgment, and learn that we can assist each other in becoming transparent by the way we ask our questions, and how we can help each other be open and honest without fear.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Where I

As my former fellow townsfolk struggle today with the heavy snowfall back in Gray, Maine, this photo was taken by my friend (who is so talented).

It shows the window through which I looked out on from my old office and it the scene that would be greeting me today, had I not moved a few months ago to NE Georgia. Heavy snow fell and late this afternoon a state of emergency was declared by the Governor.

This is what I look out on as I work, now, at one of my part-time jobs. As I leave work this late afternoon, this scene is what greets me. I am lucky, no?

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


...overtip breakfast waitresses

...wave a vehicle into the line

...give up your chair to older people and pregnant women

...replace your smoke detector batteries

...turn the other cheek

...wash your hands after sneezing

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

(Allegedly) real letters to a council

Read your letter thrice before sending to the Council, is my advice!

Letters to Islington council's housing department

"I want some repairs done to my cooker as it has backfired and burnt my knob off."
"I wish to complain that my father hurt his ankle very badly when he put his foot in the hole in his back passage."
"Their 18 year old son is continuously banging his balls against my fence."
"I wish to report that tiles are missing from the roof of the outside toilet and I think it was bad wind the other night that blew them off."
"The lavatory seat is cracked, where do I stand?"
"I am writing on behalf of my sink which is coming away from the wall."
"Will you please send someone to mend the garden path. My
wife tripped and fell on it yesterday and now she is pregnant."
"I request your permission to remove my drawers in the kitchen."
"Can you please tell me when the repairs will be done as my wife is about to become an expectant mother."
"I am still having trouble with smoke in my built in drawers."
"The toilet is blocked and we cannot bath the children until it is cleared."
"Will you please send a man to look at my water, it is a funny colour and not fit to drink."
"Our lavatory seat is broken in half and now it is in three pieces."
"Would you please send a man to repair my sprout. I am an old age pensioner and need it straight away."
"I want to complain about the farmer across the road; every morning at 6am his cock wakes me up and it's getting too much."
"The man next door has a large erection in the back garden, which is unsightly and dangerous."
"Our kitchen floor is damp. We have two children and would like a third so will you please send someone around to do something about it."
"I am a single woman living in a downstairs flat and would be pleased if you could do something about the noise made by the man I have on top of me every night."
"Please send a man with clean tools to finish the job and satisfy the wife."
"I have had the Clerk of the Works down on the floor six times, but still have no satisfaction."
"We are getting married in September and would like it in the garden before we move into the house."
"This is to let you know that our lavatory seat is broken and we can't get BBC2."