No Success Like Excess

This is The Thurmanator.  It has been featured on CNN and the TV show, Man vs. Food.  This is what it is.  Two 12 oz. patties with ham, mozzarella, american cheese, lettuce, tomato, mushrooms, sautéed onions, pickle, peppers, and mayo with fries and a pickle spear.

I live on Thurman Avenue and have for 14 years.  I have been to the Thurman Cafe exactly once in my lifetime and not at all in those 14 years.   What they specialize in is big portions of food.  Not GOOD portions, just big portions.  My only memories of the place was it was small, cramped, not very clean and though they brought you a lot of food, it wasn’t that great.    For some diners getting a lot of something seems to make up for it not being staggeringly mediocre.

There are big, ginormous burgers and there are good burgers.  Don’t think they’re always the same thing.  The Thurman Café makes ‘em big, but that doesn’t mean they’re good.  White Castles aren’t “good” burgers either.  They’re a novelty and that’s where t heir charm lies.   But they look horrible, smell horrible and only taste good if you’re drunk, starving, scrounging for food at 3:00 am or all the above.

The legend of the Thurmanator draws tourists to the restaurant in search of a challenge.   They seem to want to test their digestive systems by cramming hugely unnecessary portions of ground beef down your throat.  Some enjoy the experience and others swear, “Never again!”    Like this poor soul who wrote a terse review on Trip Advisor. 

Bad food, bad service, just really bad. I have no idea why anyone would eat there. The Thurman Burger looked like vomit, a big mess on a plate.

There’s always another side of the story and here it is. 

Man, I have to say it was hands down the best burger ever! I ate the entire thing….admittedly I consumed enough calories for 3 days but man, this place is just on the mark.

It doesn't get any better on the inside.

You drive past The Thurman Cafe and there are people lined up in the rain, in the snow and on the hottest days of summer trying to get in and dying to get a big-ass burger in the belly.  I have no idea why except I suppose there must be something appealing about stuffing obscene amounts of food in your mouth for some people.    The most famous restaurant in Columbus is also the most unnecessary.  Never eat anything bigger than your head.

“If a little is good, way too much must be better” seems to be the modus operandi of The Thurman Café.   If you like huge, sloppy ghetto burgers stacked high with toppings just so you can brag you slammed a Thurmanator in your glory hole, have at it.   This joint may be my street’s only claim to fame, but The Thurmanator is a monument to overindulgence, gluttony and excess.

As Don King would say, “Only in America.”  The rest of the world just rolls their eyes in horror and disgust.  There’s a really big hamburger and then there’s total overkill.   This is the latter.

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Resistance Rises Against Republican Governors Union Busting Agenda

Resistance is futile? Surrender is worse.

If you’re a member of a public workers, teacher, police, fire or any organized labor group and you voted Republican, I have a question for you. With Republicans across the country moving heaven and earth to break, bust and destroy unions are you happy now???

New Jersey’s governor, Chris Christie created the template as a budget hawk by balancing his budget by going after the unions.   Now newcomers John Kasich and Scott Walker in Wisconsin are playing follow the leader by ending collective bargaining, stripping state unions of the right to strike and cutting wages and benefits.

State governors have to do what they can to resolve their budget deficits, many of which run into the billions.  But doing it by breaking labor unions is reprehensible.   The right to enter collective bargaining with one’s employer is not a right that once taken away will be easily given back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone for good, so I have no problem with state workers in Wisconsin raising hell and standing up.

Several former members of the Super Bowl champions Green Bay Packers released a statement in support of their fellow Wisconsin union brothers and sisters:

“We know that it is teamwork on and off the field that makes the Packers and Wisconsin great. As a publicly owned team we wouldn’t have been able to win the Super Bowl without the support of our fans.

“It is the same dedication of our public workers every day that makes Wisconsin run. They are the teachers, nurses and child care workers who take care of us and our families. But now in an unprecedented political attack Governor Walker is trying to take away their right to have a voice and bargain at work.”

“The right to negotiate wages and benefits is a fundamental underpinning of our middle class. When workers join together it serves as a check on corporate power and helps ALL workers by raising community standards. Wisconsin’s long standing tradition of allowing public sector workers to have a voice on the job has worked for the state since the 1930s. It has created greater consistency in the relationship between labor and management and a shared approach to public work.

“These public workers are Wisconsin’s champions every single day and we urge the Governor and the State Legislature to not take away their rights.”

 

Rights taken away are hard to take back.

 

The NFLPA, now involved in negotiations with the NFL owners who may lock them out March 4 if a new collective bargaining agreement isn’t reached issued a statement in support of the Wisconsin workforce,  “The NFL Players Association will always support efforts protecting a worker’s right to join a union and collectively bargain. Today, the NFLPA stands in solidarity with its organized labor brothers and sisters in Wisconsin,”

President Obama cut to the chase saying,  “Some of what I’ve heard coming out of Wisconsin, where you’re just making it harder for public employees to collectively bargain generally seems like more of an assault on unions.”

The American media–the supposed “liberal” American media–ignores and ridicules the labor movement.   Think about it:  there are plenty of programs devoted to business leaders and their perspectives.  Who speaks for the working men and women?

It’s not the GOP.     Locally,  both the Republican governor and  Republican candidates for city council are declaring war against public employees.

Joseph Healy, an endorsed Republican who is a remodeling contractor, said he would go further, seeking cuts of up to 20 percent in wages and benefits from the city’s unions, including police and fire. City leaders should threaten to cut 10 percent of the jobs unless the unions agree to pay cuts, he said.

“I’d go right to the jugular and challenge the unions,” he said.

 

Chris Christie is the template other Republican governors are following.

 

“Right to the jugular?” Nice. Is there any doubt Republicans see organized labor as a blood enemy?   Here in Ohio almost  two thousand public employees dressed in red t-shirts, descended on the Ohio Statehouse to oppose Senate Bill 5.   The bill, supported by Governor Kasich and the Republican-controlled House and Senate would strip state employees of the right to collective bargaining and punish those whom go out on strike.

Unions have a mixed record, but so does business.   When I worked for the state of Ohio I had to pay union dues though I wasn’t a full-time employee with benefits.   I wasn’t crazy about having to pay into a union that didn’t fully look out for me.    However, the Republicans have declared war upon unions and the more they do the more I see the necessity of unions.    The default position of many whom are not in a union or dislike them is to write off the state employees as being selfish and unwilling to compromise in a time of economic hardship.    What Kasich, Walker and other GOP governors are doing isn’t about creating new jobs or a better economic environment.   Their  aim  is to destroy unions.  You  don’t help the middle class by attempting to bust a group of workers whom are middle class.    The logic of destroying jobs to create jobs is ridiculous.

The Republican Party: the friend of the working man. Yeah, right. Those two hands you feel on your shoulders and that slight, but growing pressure at your rear? That’s not your physician giving you an examination.

Workers in Wisconsin and Ohio have met the enemy and the enemy are Republican governors who eagerly and gleefully are pursuing a goal to break unions, privatize state agencies, slash social services and eliminate any health, environmental and workplace regulation that might impede with businesses wanting to do as they damn well please.    For the American labor movement this is their Egypt moment.    They can either stand up and protest, organize and make the Republicans pay dearly in the 2012 elections or they can do nothing and be steamrolled by right-wing governors pursing an aggressive union-busting agenda.
“People should not be afraid of their governments. Governments should be afraid of their people. ~ “V” for Vendetta

An Original Fire: Gilbert Price 1953-2010

Gil Price: Journalist. Nuff' said.

What turns a writer into a journalist?   A formal education in journalism helps, but is it essential?  No.  What is essential is someone who can bring forth whatever talent a writer has, get rid of their bad habits, energize their lazy writing and focus their attention.  That takes an editor.   Good editors create good journalists.

In my misadventures in journalism I’ve had the great fortune to have worked with several editors who have taken the raw ingredients and turned them into something resembling cuisine.   There was Bob Powers at the The Free Press, Pat Schmucki and David Smigelski at Columbus Alive, later followed by Brian Lindamood, George Myers Jr. and Frank Gabrenya at the Columbus Dispatch, Martin Yant at The Ohio Observer, but most importantly, Gilbert Price, the editor of The Call & Post newspaper played a vital part in the finished product that I am today.

As writing transitions from journalism to blogging (and no, they are not all considered equal to my mind),  what is missing are editors who can separate the treasure from the trash.  Bloggers have no filter between themselves and the few hundred people who read them.   Before his death from a heart attack, Price, 56, was a fixture in local journalism and he filtered many an aspiring writer into a skilled and trained journalist.

To be a serious journalist you have to love your craft.  Liking it isn’t enough.  You have to love being a journalist and Gil Price had a lot of love for his job.  He must have.  He did it so well.  Gil made it look easy but that was because his approach to journalism was like that a duck on the water: calm and placid on the surface and paddling like hell just out of sight.

If Amos Lynch is considered the Godfather of Black journalism in Columbus, Gil Price was the consigliere.  That’s not an insult.  Gil was one of the most astute political commentators in Ohio.  He knew his way around City Hall, the Statehouse and anywhere else where the political and powerful intersect.  It would be going too far to say Gil made me a journalist.  He did however mold me into become a better journalist one red-lined bit of bad copy at a time.  Gil would take an okay idea and bend it into a better idea and then a better idea into a good idea.

Anyone who likes their news straight with no frills and fluff will miss Gil Price’s brand of reporting.   Anyone who didn’t read him regularly won’t know what they missed.  That’s their loss.  We all lost a great journalist, a man of family and faith, and someone who made a difference in his brief time on this little blue planet.

I was pondering what to title this little remembrance  about Gil.  Audioslave’s “Original Fire” came pounding out of the speakers while I was writing and it seemed particularly apt for a man who was an original and brought considerable fire to his work.

Thinking about the Unthinkable.

Sit. Stay. Aim. Shoot. Reload.

There’s what you hope to be true and then there’s what you know to be true and what you hope doesn’t always win the day over what you know. 

Last night I was getting  ready for work  and I heard gunshots in the alley behind my house. 

I knew they were gunshots.  For a  moment I entertained the vague hope that it might be firecrackers.   Might be despite Memorial Day having passed four days earlier and the Fourth of July one month away.   I really and truly wanted to believe this was only the sound of firecrackers going off way too early way too late at night, but I knew better. 

My wife was in the kitchen, my son in the living room and my daughter on the computer.   They all heard the sound that wasn’t firecrackers..  

There is one bad house two doors down that has repeatedly  been a magnet for misfits during the 14 years I’ve lived  here.   Apparently where the gunfire was coming from.  But I’ll get back  to the Neighbors from Hell.    This is just the latest in a series of events leading me to believe I need a dog.  Or a gun.  Or maybe a dog that knows how to use a gun.   

  • Last month my wife and I were driving to lunch we had to move over for a fire engine tearing down the street headed in the direction we had just come from.   When we returned  home we passed a house which had burned in the front but there was yellow police tape all around it.   Come to find out later some kid had been shot and killed when he opened the door.  Then the house was set on fire to cover the shooting.   He was only there because he was house-sitting.   I never found out if he was the killer’s target or just happened to be in the wrong place in the wrong time.
  • Coming home in the morning after work, I couldn’t take my normal route.   A block in all directions was closed with police cruisers blocking the intersection.   On the evening news an unemployed man had gone to an ATM sometime in the wee hours of the morning.  He was shot and robbed.  He didn’t make it.
  • It was 7:00 am on a Sunday morning when I passed a gas station where there were at least  four cops cars around parked in the lot and yellow tape all the way around it.  I  never did find out what that was about.

These are all random acts of urban crime and there is no connecting thread.  Except that I’m a lot more aware of what is going on around me and I can’t say I much like it.  Little by little and bit by bit, my sense of security is chipped away just a little bit more. 

Back to the bad house on the block.   Last year the police arrested a thief known as “the Shotgun Bandit” because that’s how he rolled.   He lived in that house and was arrested there after ripping off a store.  Detective were there all night hauling crap out of there.  There were at least ten other idiots including their kids who seemed to be crashing in the place at one time or another.   

I've seen way too much of this lately.

When those losers were evicted the property owners allowed some new losers to move in.  My next door neighbor who moved out last month said he was sure they were dealing drugs and I don’t doubt it.   When they first moved in there was one beat up, busted down junker of a car that used to pull up, the driver would go in and come back out ten minutes later and take off.    This crap car had a busted muffler so I always heard it long before I saw it.   This went on every weekend, all weekend.  

Last  February my wife parked her van overnight in front of their house.    The next morning two tires on her van decided to commit suicide by slashing themselves.   ce?   No way.   That was an expensive lesson learned to not park anywhere around these assholes .   Can I prove it was them?  Nope.  Do I believe it was them?  Yup.    

Fast forward to tonight.  The paddy wagon rolled past the house, went around the alley and came back to park in front of the assholes house.   I wasn’t the one who called the cops.  Not this time.  

The thought has entered my mind  that I might want to buy a gun.  Maybe.   It doesn’t seem like a completely crazy idea.    It sure seem like less of a crazy idea than it did, oh say 14 years ago. 

Am I afraid?  No, I am not.   Does the possibility of a vicious home invasion or walking in on a burglar fill my heart with fear?    Not at all.    On summer nights I sit on my porch (though I might back off even that since the assholes two doors down like to sit on their porch and smoke).    For the most part I feel safe if not totally sound.  

I haven’t used a gun since I was in the military and that came to an end 32 years ago.    I haven’t even touched a gun since a friend of mine let me hold his probably 20 years ago.   But I’m not afraid of guns.   From what I remember I liked holding one.   I’ve just never felt the need to own one.    If I ever did buy a gun I wouldn’t buy some big-ass hand cannon.  I’ve seen Dirty Harry, but I have no wish to be Dirty Harry.  

  If  the day  comes that I want to be strapped to the max I’d treat buying a gun the same way I’d approach buying a car.   I’d do my research, wouldn’t choose form over function, understand exactly what the weapon can and cannot do and treat it with respect, keep it in top condition and keep it locked up when I’m not using it.    I’m not anti-gun.  I’m pro-responsibility.   With extra big helpings of preparation, caution and common sense on the side. 

Not saying that I will, but I’m not saying I won’t either.   The wife and kids are already totally unthrilled at my making noises about buying a dog.  “We’re all too old for a damn dog so why do you want one now?” is what they’ve said.    I can only imagine what they will say to me buying a gun.   They’d probably prefer I adopt a pack of dogs before I do that.  

I don’t know if I will ever buy a gun.  I’m not the bravest man in the world and the courage a gun gives you is false.   I’d rather walk a dog and have to pick up Fido’s droppings than ever fire a pistol at another human being.   

But I can see myself changing my mind.  Especially if I keep hearing gunshots in the night way too close to home.   It doesn’t matter if  the shots have anything to do with me.   Bullets make mistakes  and especially when they’re fired in anger because somebody gets pissed off at somebody else.     Make no mistake about it; I don’t think a gun will make me safer.   It’s just a concession that things ain’t like they used to in the old neighborhood and because they aren’t I have to make the proper adjustments to that change. 

Which might include a gun.   I’m start to think seriously about something that was once unthinkable. 

The Great Debate.

I’ve been asked to serve as the moderator for a debate with the three Democratic candidates vying to replace State Senator Ray Miller in the Ohio 15th District.  Miller is term-limited and can’t run again.   The primary is next month.

The debate is sponsored by The Change Agency, some talented, intelligent and motivated young sisters and brothers who are working to bring about change we can believe in.  Sound familiar?

Appearing will be State Representative Dan Stewart, Columbus City Councilwoman Charleta Tavares and attorney Oyango Snell.

The event is April 14, 2010 at the St. Stephen’s Community House from 5:30 to 7:30.  There will be a reception following the debate and Q&A.

Come on out and meet the candidates.  I’ll try to keep things lively.

Cornell McCleary: Calm Like a Bomb

1952 - 2009

Cornell McCleary: 1952 - 2009

It would be a gross exaggeration to describe Cornell McCleary as a friend of mine.  We weren’t friends at all.  In fact,  over the  last few years there were times when I couldn’t stand the guy.

Yet  he believed passionately in things and wasn’t the least bit interested in tailoring his principles to be popular or well-liked.   Cornelll was the type of guy who wasn’t the least bit shy about calling you a dumb ass if he thought you were one and that might include anyone from the mayor of Columbus to the President of the United States.

He hosted a radio show for six years Sunday nights on WTVN (610) radio.  The format was to talk about whatever was on his mind, take phone calls and interview guests while Cornell would play old school soul music, rip into whatever politician  that had got on his nerves and not take any of it, including himself too seriously.

Cornell was the first person I’ve  met who could dominate a room through the sheer force of  their outrageious  persona.  The other was Don King.

We sparred verbally when I was a reporter and then the editor of The Columbus Post newspaper.  I invited him to write for The Post because I wanted a Black conservative voice, but it didn’t last more than a few columns because McCleary had butted heads in the past with The Post’s publisher, Amos Lynch.

That was Cornell’s way.  For him there were no sacred cows.  He ground them all up like hamburger.  He didn’t care if he was ticking off Democrats on Monday,  Republicans on Tuesday and a good portion of the Black community on Wednesday.   He’d laugh at all the drama as if he was enjoying a private joke nobody else quite got.

McCleary was an activist in the community, but he was also the  quintessential political gadfly.  He could form alliances with liberals like Bob Fitrakis, the publisher of the progressive Columbus Free Press and then turn around and with  Ohio GOP chairman Bob Bennett, standing by, announce he would be leading minority outreach efforts for the Republicans.

Cornell’s seemed to delight in biting the hand that fed him.  In 1999, he publicly backed the Democrat, Michael Coleman over the endorsed Republican candidate.   Local GOP officials were furious with McCleary, but he could have cared less.

Still, with his prodding,  the paper did become more receptive to the Republican Party and when we endorsed Pat Tiberi for Congress in 1999 it was largely due to Cornell’s introduction of the unknown Tiberi to the paper’s editorial board.

I appeared on Cornell’s radio show once and he worked me over pretty good  with his questions and biting sarcasm.  But I didn’t get mad about it because I knew that was just how Cornell rolled.   I listened to his program and when he left in 2006 over a dispute with the station manager, I sat in one night as a possible replacement.   I flat-out sucked and when I ran into Cornell a few months later on the set of  Columbus On the Record, a public affairs tv show,  he didn’t fail to mention how bad I was.

Losing the show really seemed to throw  Cornell off his game.   When he appeared on On the Record he would often show up dressed head-to-toe in black, wearing combat boots and an attitude.   Cornell’s “mad as hell and ain’t gonna take it no more”  Angry Black Man persona was made for radio.   It didn’t thrive in a structured 30-minute television program where he was sharing the spotlgith with three others.   Where once Cornell was entertaining, now he was merely cranky and abrasive.

It got so unpleasant  finally I asked the program host  to stop scheduling me with Cornell.

I don’t think Cornell meant to be so in your face.  It was just his way.  He always had to show he was the Alpha male.

With his profile diminished by the loss of his radio show,  Cornell tried internet radio and a blog  with middling success, but it lacked the impact and reach he had enjoyed before.  Every so often, he’d sent out a mass e-mail blast to everyone in local media about what his thoughts of the day were, but now it seemed more to remind us he was still hanging around.

Cornell  passed away at his home from complications due to high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.

I didn’t know Cornell well enough to mourn him.  I do know that he did things to bring about changes, improve the lives of others and shake people awake even as he was shaking things up.  He cared about people and he cared about the causes that were important to him.  If that means stepping on someones toes hard and repeatedly, he’d do it.

Cornell was liked by many, disliked by others, but respected by all.  If he ever changed his ways to please anyone but himself  I never caught him doing it.

That’s all.