So far this year, I haven't bought a single Christmas present. I'm waiting to get the Christmas spirit, which is hard because all you see these days are ads for holiday gifts with people saying "Happy Holidays." And it's all so bogus.
Of course, as I'm writing this, Ernie is on the floor wrapping Christmas presents for everybody on his family tree. He says he's just "a Christmas kind of guy." And he is.
But I'm cancel ing my credit card with the big banking company that made the employees at one of their banks in Texas take down the Christmas tree in the lobby because it might make some people "uncomfortable." Well, does anybody care that "Happy Holidays" makes me uncomfortable? So does "Winter Festival." And "End-of-Year Celebration" sounds like a close-out sale.
But, who knows, maybe I'll make a list of stores that still say "Merry Christmas," and do like one of my relatives did every year until he died. He'd take a few snorts and then go shopping on Christmas Eve right before the stores closed. Sometimes all he came home with was an extra-large bathrobe, a hat and glove set with one of the gloves missing and another fifth of Old Granddad he got from a side trip to Howell's Package Store on the Berrien County line. But he enjoyed himself, and that's worth something in this "here today, gone tomorrow" world.
And yes, I know the word "holiday" comes from holy day, which must be why they're having winter festivals in some unholy places.
REMEMBER, THEY CAN TAKE A BOULEVARD TO ATHENS NOW: Medical College of Georgia President Dr. Ricardo Azziz's request to the Augusta Commission to close the part of Laney -Walker Boulevard that bisects the MCG campus to unify it has some folks up in arms. Azziz said his goal is to transform MCG and the region into a health-care biomedical destination.
Currently, however, the school has a long way to go, as does, it seems, his request.
Dr. Azziz laid out a compelling case for MCG, the No. 2 employer with a $2 billion annual economic impact on Augusta, providing
"$100 million annually in uncompensated care for the benefit of the community."
"The university is not as well known as it should be, and, in fact, is having great difficulty recruiting students and faculty and growth," he said. "And obviously we want to grow as the No. 2 employer in Augusta, we need to grow to be able to employ more individuals, take care of more patients and train more doctors."
MCG has suffered from chronic under-investment, a declining number of students and faculty, aging facilities and buildings and a worsening campus appearance, Azziz said.
"Our campus does not look like a university and does not behave like a university campus," he said.
After he spoke, a pharmacist who owns a business on Laney-Walker Boulevard that would be affected by the closure said he didn't expect to lose his business for nobody. Then Paine College professor Dr. Mallory Millender talked about the historical significance of the street to the black community and said they'd already given up Gilbert Manor apartments to MCG and don't want to lose any more of their heritage.
Commissioners received the proposal as information and said they'll await the results of a traffic study on that section of the street.
Sheriff Ronnie Strength said he too wants to see the results of the traffic study but thinks the additional traffic at Walton Way and 15th Street would make an already bad situation worse.
Azziz made his proposal again the next night at A.R. Johnson Magnet School in the first of a series of community meetings, and the reception was predictable.
BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE: The owners of the County Line Club on Gordon Highway came before the Augusta commissioners Monday to have their business license suspended or revoked because they were operating a dance hall and selling alcohol without licenses.
Eric Beale appeared before commissioners along with another fellow. After a shooting around 2 a.m. Nov. 28, officers discovered Beale was supposed to be operating a snack shop only.
The city's License Manager Larry Lariscy told commissioners Beale had voluntarily surrendered his business license and asked that the matter be deleted from the agenda so a revocation wouldn't be on his record.
"They made a mistake, and we were trying not to put a mark on them that would affect them in the future if they tried to do something positive," Lariscy said. "Matter of fact, one of the gentlemen is a student at the University of Georgia."
A few minutes later, Commissioner Jimmy Smith said, "Larry, you say one of these gentlemen is a student at the university? And he don't know he's supposed to have an alcohol license."
THEN IT WOULD RAIN IN THERE LIKE IT DOES IN THE JAIL: During Monday's Engineering Services Committee meeting, City Administrator Fred Russell requested that $2.3 million remaining in the judicial center's construction contingency fund be added to the budget for the new sheriff's administration building.
Commissioner Joe Bowles sought assurance from Russell that there definitely was that much money in the fund to put into the sheriff's building.
"Yes, sir," Russell replied.
"Stake your job on it?" Bowles asked.
"Always do every time I answer a question," Russell said.
Then after thinking about it a few seconds, he added, "We might not have the top floor on the judicial center though."
ANOTHER TESTAMENT THAT IT DOES FLOW DOWNHILL: A pipe burst in the mayor's bathroom on the eighth floor of the Marble Palace on Friday, forcing the closure of offices on the seventh and sixth floors, according to Russell.
EXACTLY WHO IS BEING TAKEN FOR A RIDE HERE? There might not be such a thing as a free lunch, but nobody said anything about free bus rides. An Augusta Commission committee approved Russell's motion to give free rides on city buses the week between Christmas and New Year 's.
Free! Are Donner and Blitzen and Dancer and Prancer pulling these buses with volunteer elves driving ? Otherwise somebody's paying. Is it you?
IT LOOKS DARK DOWN A MUZZLE: I got up early Thursday and rushed to get to the Augusta Judicial Circuit Drug Court's first drug court graduation at Beulah Grove Baptist Church, only to find nobody there to speak of besides the receptionist and the cleaning lady.
The graduation is Tuesday, but undeterred, I went to the regular drug court at the Law Enforcement Center. Failed to see among the crowd there a couple of people I've been following off and on this year, which is not a good sign. Anyway, I ended up at the Christmas lunch in Sheriff Strength's office where I met south Augustan John Hardin, who they say knows everybody in Glascock County and who they're kin to.
Hardin, who's 80 years old, said he used to own two liquor stores. One of them was John's Party Shop, on Highway 56. I asked him if he ever got held up, and he said, "Yes, twice."
One of them occurred one day around noon when a man with a hood over his head burst in the front door and demand ed money.
Hardin handed him $2,600.
"They caught him though, and I got my money back" he said. "The officer came in later with the gun in a manila envelope. The stock was sticking out the end. He asked me if that was the gun the robber used, and I said, 'That wasn't the end I was looking at.'"
A LITTLE TIME FOR LAUGHTER: Later on Thursday afternoon, I went to visit Linda Beazley who's a mighty sick girl but as always, fun to be with. We had some good laughs about the days she was county administrator, then later, city administrator, and I would come to her office. She reminded me of the time I was down in the dumps because it was my birthday, so she bought me a royal blue warm-up suit to cheer me up. When she gave it to me, I was so touched, I started to cry, so she got up and came around her desk and gave me a big hug. And I said, "Linda, don't hug me. If somebody were to see us in here hugging, they'd say we were lesbians."
During our visit, I asked her whether she wanted me to say anything about her in this column, and she said to thank everyone who has been praying for her.