Augusta's high ratings aren't adding up to me

The Boy King sent out two more news releases from the Marble Palace announcing Augusta's high rankings as a top place to live and retire.

I think Augusta is great, too. I love Augusta. There's no place like it -- at least, not in Georgia, with the possible exception of Savannah, and that's because they have a beach not far away. Nevertheless, I'm a little suspicious that folks from Michigan -- which is about as far from Augusta as you can get unless you go into Canada -- would find the Garden City among the top "10 Overall Places to Live in the U.S."

I don't know what to believe. All that hype or my lying eyes.

People talk about there being two Georgias -- metro Atlanta and the rest of the state -- which is the truth.

Local politicians love to say we're one Augusta in one breath and complain we're not in another, which is also the truth.

Actually, there are four Augustas -- the Hill, Target shopping center, Tobacco Road and everywhere else.

There's the country club on the Hill where ladies in high heels meet for lunch, and there's a trailer park on Milledgeville Road where ladies beat their boyfriends to death with high heels.

Going down the Hill, you pass Harrisburg. Years ago, someone said Savannah was a beautiful lady with a dirty face. Harrisburg is a lady with a monkey on her back.

Actually, Harrisburg is a decaying mill town tucked away behind Burger King, Arby's and other fine-dining establishments on the Walton Way side, and old houses with too many cars and trucks in the yards to be legal on the Broad Street side.

Then suddenly, you're right there at the new Kroc Center, a symbol of hope for revitalization in the entire area. Just thinking about that quickens the pulse of the movers, the shakersand the developers, and it turns their eyes into dollar signs every time they pass it.

Then there's downtown and Broad Street, where you can wander for years past ever-changing shops (except for Ruben's), bars and restaurants, along with vacant storefronts, clutching your purse and waiting for a trolley.

Next is Olde Town, a gentrified neighborhood that dead-ends at East Boundary, where angels fear to tread.

People in south Augusta complain they have nothing -- no fine restaurants, stores or public transit. Well, didn't they have Regency Mall? What happened there? Oh, I remember. Bloody murder. And soon they'll have a man-made lake out there to drag for bodies.

Novelist Erskine Caldwell wrote 39 books, including two famous ones about Tobacco Road. They scandalized Augusta sort of like William Faulkner's novels scandalized folks in Oxford, Miss., until they found out they could make money off the tourists who came from all over the world to see the hallowed ground Faulkner trod on, or stumbled on when he was drunk.

If any tourists ever came to Augusta to see Tobacco Road, it's been kept quiet, but the area and south Augusta as a whole have grown by leaps and bounds.

Tobacco Road ends at a gate to Fort Gordon near where the community of Pinetucky existed until the government took the land for the fort.

And that reminds me. Something is always coming out of the mayor's office about Augusta's low cost of living. Well, I guess they can say that with all those government checks flowing in every month.

Let's face it: If it weren't for Fort Gordon, Georgia Health Sciences University and the VA hospital -- though you can go in there for a colonoscopy and come out with HIV -- Augusta would be just another Hamburg on the Savannah River.

ERNIE'S FAVORITE 'TOBACCO ROAD' QUOTE: Jeeter Lester: "Why, Ada here never ... never spoke a word to me for the first 10 years we was married. Heh! Them was the happiest 10 years of my life."

GOODALE INN IS FALLING DOWN: Half of the west wall of the historic landmark collapsed Friday.

The house was built in 1799 and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. The site was once a 500-acre plantation established in 1740 by Thomas Goodale , who also operated the Sand Bar Ferry at the nearby river crossing, in addition to a restaurant and inn, according to research compiled by Historic Augusta Inc. and published earlier in The Augusta Chronicle :

"In 1799, the year the house was built, the site was sold to a Charleston, S.C., merchant named Christopher Fitzsimmons , who later gave the home to his daughter's new husband, Wade Hampton Jr . His son, Wade Hampton III , would later become governor of South Carolina."

It was said to be haunted by the ghost of a little girl who would come down the stairs and go out the front door. A door on the top floor reportedly would not stay closed. That door was standing open Friday when employees from the city's license and inspections department went to investigate the collapse.

Dr. Donnie Dunagan , who owned the house with his brother David a few years ago, said that he didn't believe in ghosts but that he always got a weird feeling when he went there to work on the house or grounds.

"It was a heebie-jeebie feeling," he said. "I felt like a little girl was watching me. And I dreamed about a little girl even before I heard about a little girl haunting the house. It was eerie."

Donnie Dunagan said they sold the house to a man interested in Confederate history. That man intended to repair it but must have run out of money.

Then the current owners, two brothers from Alabama, bought it at auction. Dunagan heard they were going to have ghost hunters come in to see whether they could detect paranormal activity.

"It's a shame there's not money out there to restore things like that," Dunagan said.

Erik Montgomery , the executive director of Historic Augusta, said, "I don't think we can assume the house is totally lost. In just walking around, it doesn't look like the other walls are compromised. I really don't know. It's sad. I hope we can find a way to save it."

Goodale Inn was used as a restaurant in the 1970s and early 1980s and holds fond memories for many Augustans and others who drove long distances to dine there.

DEACTIVATED: I've deactivated my Facebook account because it was hacked by cyber hoodlums who posted porn on my page. I seldom went on it anyway because I'm allergic to cyberspace. My nervous system is still wired circa 40,000 years ago, which is when Homo sapiens last mutated. I read that somewhere.

I also took my touchscreen phone back to Verizon, hoping I could swap it for something simpler. It's hopeless. I'm always cutting people off in midsentence and calling places such as Labrador, Newfoundland. It gets stuck on airplane mode, and is always vibrating and asking questions I can't answer.

Then it started burning my ear, and I was afraid it was going to give me brain cancer, so I took it back to the store.

A nice man named Stan immediately asked whether he could help me, and I said, "Yes, I need some relief from this phone. Can I swap it for something simpler? You wouldn't by chance have a rotary phone, would you?"

Stan looked puzzled until I laughed. Then he laughed, too. I told him about the ear burning, and he said the battery might be bad. So he put another one in and said if it happened again to bring the phone back and swap it for another one.

But what good would that do?

Reach Sylvia Cooper at sylvia.cooper@augustachronicle.com.

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