Category Archives: Drive-by

He thought I’d be interested, and he was right…


I was doing one of my walks around the neighborhood yesterday, and a guy in a white pickup truck stopped beside me. I figured he wanted to ask directions or something, but that wasn’t it.

A selfie I shot on the same walk. How could he tell I'd be interested?

A selfie I shot on the same walk. What made him think I’d be interested?

He said that looking at me, he thought I might be interested in seeing something his wife had made for him.

I said “Sure,” and he put it on.

Above you see him without it. Below you see him with it.

Pretty amazing, huh? When I got home and showed my wife, on the small screen of my phone, she couldn’t even tell at first that it was a face mask. I had to point it out.

Don’t know how his wife did it. Maybe took a picture of him, and sent it off to be printed on cloth? I should have asked.

In any case, I was suitably impressed…



There are people who are WAY more into politics than I


That’s all I had to say, other than to apologize for the poor quality of the photo. I was waiting at a red light next to this car, and the light changed just as I got my phone out, so it was rushed. I’m sorry I didn’t get the back of the car, which was at least as crowded with posters as the roof.

One other thing: I’m thinking Nikki Setzler would be happy to be lumped in with Republicans on a car in Lexington County, given the makeup of his district…

Free Chicken

On my way to work today, I found myself trapped behind a chicken truck on Sunset Blvd. (the one in West Cola, not the one in L.A.), from I-26 all the way to Columbia Farms.

First, for those of you who haven’t had this experience, banish from your mind any bucolic image of "chicken truck" as the Clampett mobile with several chickens perched up on Granny’s rocker. This is a tractor-trailer in which the full three dimensions of the trailer are taken up with individual cages — sort of a poultry skyscraper on wheels — with uniformly white and miserable-looking chickens on their way to their doom, with billows of white feathers and a foul stenching streaming off the entire load.

The rig was well ahead of me, but not so far that I wouldn’t end up inhaling its miasma at a traffic light if I didn’t either pull over and let it go well ahead, or pass it. The preferred method would be passing it, but since it was apparently doing more than 50 in a 40 zone and seemingly accelerating in that downhill stretch past Hummingbird, that didn’t seem doable without both a) speeding and b) getting closer to it with no guarantee of getting past it. So I hung back — and ended up directly behind it at the stop light at 12th St. Of course,  I closed my vents.

And it was at that moment that I realized what I had been listening to on FM 102.3 since I had first come upon the truck. Yes, ladies and gentlement, it was Lynyrd Skynyrd’s anthem "Free Bird." Near as I can tell, though, none of the chickens were holding up their cigarette lighters as the song approached its climax.

The folks in charge of the soundtrack of my life have an affinity for irony, you see.

During the final instrumental portion, I turned off onto 9th St. So I wasn’t there for the chickens’ big finale.

Christmas decorations. Already


s long as I’m in a griping, humbuggish mood, I might as well put in my bid for winning the prize for Xmasdecor2
spotting the first Christmas decorations of the "season."

I shot these pictures with my Treo at the Walmart store on Bush River Road on Saturday, Oct. 11.

And yeah, I fully expect some of y’all to be able to claim to have seen some Christmas stuff before I did, and spoil what tiny bit of satisfaction I might gain from being the first in my neighborhood to publicly gripe about it.

Bah. Double Bah. Bah squared.

Lord help me, but I do hate crowds

Don’t go anywhere NEAR the part of town where the State Fair is, unless you’re going to the State Fair. And if you are going to the State Fair, don’t. Pick another day and another time. Save yourself and others the aggravation.

What would you do instead with the time? Oh, I don’t know…. Let’s see, it’s the middle of the day on Monday; maybe you could GO TO WORK!!!!

No, I’m not in a good mood. I made the mistake of going to my Rotary meeting, which as always was at Seawell’s, which as you know is directly across from the main northern entrance to the Fair. That’s always difficult at this time of year, but this time was BY FAR the worst I’ve ever experienced.

I tried to be philosophical about it. I tried to make the most of the situation, get with the holiday mood for a bit before going back to the office, which I could tell was going to take awhile. I decided to walk over and get myself a bag of cotton candy to take to work with me.

So I crossed Rosewood and went up to the ticket booth, and the guy said sure, go around there and get in line and get yourself a "lunch token" for $5, and if you get it back to HIS booth by 2 o’clock, you get your money back.

It was 1:54. I couldn’t even have purchased the token, much less have gotten my cotton candy, by then. And I had only $8 in my wallet. If I had given up the fiver, I couldn’t have bought the cotton candy. (That didn’t even strike me until later, so I’m glad I didn’t try to beat the clock.) What, I’d like to know, is magical about 2 p.m.? If I hadn’t had to go to Rotary, I wouldn’t have even thought about trying to get lunch before 2 o’clock. On the days I eat at my desk (the overwhelming majority of the time, that’s what I do), I never think about it before then.

So I was already feeling pretty alienated, before I walked back to my truck, and before I fought my way out of the parking lot, and had to go a mile or two in the direction away from my office before I could turn and fight my way back past the fair again.

You know when I got back to my office? 2:21 p.m. I could have walked it a couple of times in that amount of time, and would have if I’d had any idea how long it would take. Almost half an hour of sitting still idling, with gas at its current price, with my windows open, breathing the exhaust of thousands of other vehicles.

Even if my purpose had been to go to the fair, and I’d had plenty of cash in my pocket, it would not have been worth it. As it is, I’m in a foul mood.

And the only constructive thing I can derive from the experience is to warn you that, if you’re about to try to go to the Fair, please think twice.

Manholes in the Midlands

Back in the early 90s, I was one of a handful of editors who helped shape a drastic reorganization of The State‘s newsroom, challenging and in some cases throwing out fundamental assumptions about what we covered and how we covered it. (I was also the first one, months later, to say the new system didn’t work, but no one was listening to me at that point.) We came up with some pretty wacky, high-concept beats, but there was one I could never get the others to go for, one that I still think would be a good one — the "driveby beat." Basically, it would involve assigning a reporter to answer the kinds of questions that occur to you driving around the Midlands — What are they building there? How long will I have to take this detour? Whose responsibility is it to fix that pothole? What do all those people waiting for the library to open do the rest of the time? Essentially, just about anything that might occur to you to wonder about when you drive by it, and that normally you would never get an answer to.

For instance, Sunday morning I wanted to know why I couldn’t get anywhere closer than a couple of blocks from the Gervais Starbucks in my truck. It apparently had something to do with people riding around on bicycles in silly outfits, but I had to wait until this morning to get an answer. And I’m still not satisfied, by the way (that is, I’m not satisfied that was worth diverting traffic for, but then I’m a real curmudgeon about these things).

One of the letter writers on our Monday page got me to thinking about another one that I usually forget by the time I get to work. Here’s the letter:

Manholes are hazards around Columbia

Why is it that with the technology to provide a smooth, correctly profiled, beautifully laid asphalt roadway, no one seems able or willing to address the numerous manholes that seem to dot every block of roadway on our main thoroughfares?

When you ask a paving contractor about it, he or she sounds like Freddie Prinz of “Chico and The Man” — “It’s not my job!” How about, at least, a composite disc to raise the low ones to the roadway elevation?

With so many diverse utilities — the water and sewer department, SCE&Grab, Bell South/Southern Bell (whatever), etc. — nobody wants to take the time, expense or effort to raise (or lower) these units to the proper elevation before paving, and they are legion. Ride over to Forest Drive and take a look.

There is one in front of the State Museum (outbound lane) that would knock the treads off an Abrams tank if hit at 30 mph.


More specifically, here’s what’s on my mind: I’ve grown accustomed to the periodic indentations along Sunset Blvd. in the left-hand land heading down to the river through West Columbia. It’s been like that for years, and I either stay in the right lane, or dodge the manholes, or put up with my truck being jarred into rattling every few seconds.

But now, on the days I take that route, there’s a new barrier — coming up from the river on Hampton. You know, the part that’s several lanes one-way? It got repaved last month, and apparently it got ground down WAY below the manhole covers before repaving, but was not paved back UP to the manhole covers. The pavers dealt with that by constructing volcano-like slopes around the manholes, creating a sort of slalom situation — particularly right at the top of the hill, at Hampton and Park — if you don’t want to experience the equivalent of multiple speed bumps.

I am as sure as anyone can be of something like this that this situation did not exist BEFORE the repaving. I’m pretty sure I’d remember it if it had been like that.

If I we had created that driveby beat, and if I still worked in the newsroom, and if I were that reporter’s editor, I’d have him or her call around to find out who’s responsible, and whether anyone plans on doing anything about it.

Or if I were an editorial page editor in another state, one where government isn’t impossibly fragmented, I’d just call City Hall and probably get an answer.

But since I’m an editor in South Carolina with half the staff he used to have, I’m going to use the same technique I used to check Nicholas Kristof’s math — post the question on a blog, and see if I get an answer.

Now I’ve got to run; there are proofs on my desk that need reading.

The Sinkhole


lease excuse the crudity of the photograph. I shot it with my phone a few minutes ago.

What it lamely shows in the "sinkhole" worksite on Huger Street, which seems to divert more and more traffic each day.

Would anybody be willing to bet that this thing will be filled and the streets clear by the projected deadline of Saturday? That will take some doing.

Promising sign at the bus stop

Go ahead and accuse me of racial profiling (or class profiling, or whatever), but I noticed something promising on Assembly Street this morning.

It was a young white guy, in a crisp shirt and tie, conservatively groomed (at a distance, you might have mistaken him for Brian Boyer), sitting on one of the benches at the big bus stop between Gervais and Lady streets. He was sitting like an athlete on the bench waiting to go into the game — elbows on knees, hands clasped, head up and looking around expectantly.

In other words, he appeared to be waiting for a bus. An encouraging sign, in Energy Party terms. Like people ditching SUVs, or John McCain changing his mind and advocating drilling off the coast. Another sign that maybe we’re starting to make choices that don’t prop up petrodictators.

That was the good sign. The bad sign was that this young white-collar guy was still sitting there, still waiting, when I came back 40 minutes later. That indicates that if he was trying the bus as an alternative today, he might not try it tomorrow.

This underlines the need to improve our transit system to the point that it is a rational and attractive choice to people who do have choices, and not just a last resort for those who have no options.

Of course, maybe the guy wasn’t waiting for a bus at all. In which case, never mind.

Low-def license plates

What do y’all think of those flat, fakey, counterfeit-looking S.C. license plates — not that I’m trying to influence your decision or anything.

The first few times I saw one, I thought, "Wait a minute…" and went out of my way to pass the cars bearing them, so as to look at them from the side and confirm the fact that the things are completely two-dimensional, and do indeed look like something somebody ran off on a $29.95 inkjet printer — you know, one of those they sell you because the replacement cartridges cost more than the machine itself.

Out of sheer self-respect, a convict might ask the parole board NOT to release him if he thought people out on the street might think he had anything to do with producing anything so sorry-looking.

Or maybe I’m overreacting. What do you think?

Joe says it ain’t so


ou may have noticed the brief item in today’s paper under S.C. Politics Today that noted the fact that, as shown above, there was a "Republicans for Tommy Moore" sign out in front of the building where U.S. Rep. Joe Wilson‘s congressional offices are located, on Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia.

The above picture was taken by Mona Chamberlin, The State‘s governmental affairs editor.

Not knowing that she had shot that previously, I resolved to take my own picture today on my way in to work, since I pass the spot almost daily.

So I turned in to the building’s parking lot, got out, walked around to try to get a shot with the smaller Wilson sign in the foreground (as Mona did), and whoa — there was no Wilson sign. That thing’s been there for years, and it was just gone.

I guess Joe decided he could disassociated himself by removing himself from the picture more easily than getting his landlord to ditch the other one.

I shrugged and walked back to the car, and only as I was driving off did I decide it might be good to have a picture of what wasn’t there, so I shot the image below through my vehicle window. Hence the bad angle and lower quality. But if you look closely, you can see the sign frame and little empty hooks dangling, even though it’s all kind of camouflaged by the trees and power lines. Use Mona’s picture as a guide, keeping in mind that mine’s shot from a lower angle.

Politics is weird, ain’t it?


Has Spratt displaced Franklin?

raveling again. And on about the umpteenth time I passed this billboard this summer, I finally stopped and grabbed the image, so that I could ask:

Is it just me, or does the guy on this bill look just like South Carolina’s own John Spratt? Take away the mustache, of course. See it?

I knew he was the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee, but I didn’t know he had the kind of pull it takes to replace ol’ Ben on the C-note.

Good thing I’m not blogging today

Here are some of the items I would have posted yesterday had I been blogging. Which I’m not. ‘Cause I’m on vacation. Anyway:

  • We wanted to get an early start since we were heading all the way back to S.C., but while my wife was downstairs getting the free breakfast I decided to check my investments. My portfolio consists — that is, consisted — of about $1,300 worth of Knight Ridder stock. I’ve written of this brilliant move on my part before. Anyway, we ended up being delayed about half an hour, because I discovered that, instead of having been converted to cash in the sale of the company earlier this week, my investment had simply … disappeared. I had about $67 left in my e-trade account. First I got an Indian guy on the phone (he didn’t tell me his name, but if I had asked, he probably would have said it was "Steve"), who passed me to somebody else, who said I needed to talk to a "professional," who said I needed to talk to another "professional." I think the last guy I talked to said something — money, negotiable securities, something — should show up in my account in the next couple of days. I shrugged, and we got on the road. By the way, if you need investment advice, my services are available for a fee.
  • Before putting away the laptop, though, I checked to see if there was anyplace good to stop on the way for coffee. There was a Starbucks in Fredericksburg, a couple of hours out. (I have confessed in the past about my hateful Starbucks jones, which makes at least one of my coffee-drinking children ashamed of me.) It was at a place called "Central Park." I decided I could wait that long. You couldn’t miss Central Park, but it was very, very easy to miss something located within Central Park. I remember Alan Kahn talking about places where they had something like what he had in mind for the Village at Sandhill. This had to be one of them (I’m not in a position to check archives at the moment). This place was like the Village at Sandhill multiplied by Harbison to the power of the Mall of America — street after street of shops, strips and big boxes. The general layout was like Broadway at the Beach — winding lanes and such — but it went on and on and on. You know how terrorists dream of 72 virgins? This is what Burroughs and Chapin dream about. Only blind luck enabled me to find Starbucks in all that. I did stop and ask directions. Guess where? Where would be the last place in the world where you would be likely to find people who knew the way to a trendy-yuppie place like Starbucks? That’s right. Wal-Mart. I first asked the greeter, and when she looked up and had only one tooth in her head, my heart sank. I asked another employee, and she gave me very confident directions, but they were entirely wrong. Fortunately, I ran into it while on the way to the place she had pointed out. If was only a couple of hundred yards from Wal-Mart.
  • I stopped by the battlefield in Petersburg, because one of my great-great grandfathers had died there. I called my uncle from the visitors center to get him to remind me what unit he was with. He couldn’t remember, and my cousin who’s the genealogist was off someplace. But he did tell me that we had determined that great-great grandad had not died at Petersburg,Crater_1 but at a place called "Kingsburg." The ranger in the visitor’s center had never heard of it. So we went off to have a look at the Crater before getting back on the road.
  • The Crater was disappointing. I expected something about half a mile across. This wasn’t big enough to be a cellar for a small house. Ol’ Henry Pleasants didn’t use as much dynamite as Butch Cassidy, I suppose. Anyway, it was a glorious victory for South Carolinians, as the plaque I photographed (and will post when I get back to the house) attests. But it was a godawful mess. Forgive my levity. I kept saying to my wife as we drove through, looking for stop number 8, "Here we go, just breezing by, and all those men poured out their lifeblood atScplaque_1 every one of these stops." I am capable of being sober at times.
  • OK, this one’s weird. Anybody ever read The Guns of the South by Harry Turtledove? If you haven’t, I’m not going to describe it to you, because it will lower your opinion of my reading tastes. But it’s really a lot better than it sounds. Anyway, it’s an alternative history novel, in which the South wins the war. Instead of being the famous man who created the Crater at Petersburg, Henry Pleasants appears in it as a POW released by the Confederacy after the war, who decides to settle in Nash County, NC. His Crater idea does occur to him in the novel, but within a completely different context. Anyway, Lt. Col. Pleasants was captured at the battle of Bealeton. Not familiar with that one? That’s because it only happened in the novel, after the course of history changed from what we know. But this novel, which I’ve read more than once, kept screwing up my sense of real history as I drove through Virginia and N.C. As we drove by the exit to Bealeton, I started to tell my wife, in a professorial tone, how this was the place where … and caught myself just in time, realizing that it never actually happened. Then I saw the Crater made by the real Col. Pleasants. Then we’re driving through N.C., and we enter Nash County. Then we pass by the exit for Nashville, where Nate Caudell lived. If I had seen a sign to Rivington, I really would have freaked out. You have to have read the book to understand that last one.
  • How come, when you’re looking for the junction between one Interstate and another, they don’t give you a little warning so you can be on the lookout for it? Paranoid about missing my turn, I kept looking obsessively at all the signs for about 50 miles. I wanted to get off 95 and onto 40 to Wilmington. You know when the gummint finally deigned to put up a sign telling me it was coming? Two miles away. If I had been in one of those semiconscious zones you get into while driving for just two minutes, I could have missed it. I didn’t, but still. Don’t you think they should tell a guy a little earlier.
  • I am never going to Wilmington again for the rest of my life. All we wanted to do was turn onto 17 and head down to the Strand. Easy, right? Not around there. I turned off looking for the waterfront areas where there might be a nice seafood place. We found nothing, and then could not get back onto 17. Really. I have a great sense of direction, if nothing else, but it was useless in that place. We were lost for an hour. Once I found the bloody bridge, though, it was easy. I was so glad to get out of North Carolina, and back home. So was my wife, and she’s actually from Tennessee.
  • They don’t even know how to have a beach town up there in N.C. The place was totally dead, and just looked like any other Southern town. As soon as we crossed the line, we were greeted by a fireworks place, then restaurants, tacky tourist traps, all sorts of crazy, bustling traffic and an Eagles or Wings on every block. People deride the Redneck Riviera, but it’s the Beach to me, and felt as homey and welcoming as my blue recliner at home. If only I had packed those ratty old slippers of mine.

Well, that’s enough. Like I said, good thing I’m not blogging today.

Driveby III: Racin’ with The Man

Do you ever take the time to clock the cops who go whizzing by you on the Interstate — without their lights and sirens going?

Well, sometimes I do. At least, I did this morning, which brings us to the third and last "driveby" item that I came up with on my way to work today. (I’m writing these partly to express my frustration that time allows me to do so few posts, when I could easily come up with three in a single category within any given 20 minutes. It’s not coming up with the ideas; it’s finding time to write them. And for those of you who think I post something short and/or lame, or nothing at all, because of a lack of ideas, I wish to dispel your misconception. I go for short and easy, or do nothing, because of the lack of time to carry out the better ideas. Not that these are "better;" I’m just saying … oh, never mind.)

So I had just pulled back into traffic and gotten back up to speed after stopping to shoot the surveillance camera when a Richland County deputy starts coming up fast on my left flank (I was in the middle of three eastbound lanes).

Anyway, I let him go by, and then shifted over to his lane, let him get about 100 or 200 feet in from of me, and then started to pace him. (And then I got the idea of trying to get a shot of him in front of me with my speedometer in the foreground. But that would have been a tricky exposure, requiring me to take too much attention off my driving, so it’s just as well that I had closed the camera back up in my briefcase.)

I gave up after I got up over 80 and he was still pulling away from me. It’s not so much that I chickened out; it’s just that my ’89 Ranger starts, at about 75 mph, to struggle and shimmy the way Chuck Yeager’s X-1 did at about Mach .95.

So I don’t know how fast he was going.

But I wonder: Would a cop who’s obviously breaking the law himself ever bother to stop and ticket a civilian who was pacing him? That would be interesting. I guess I’ll have to try some other time, with a faster car.

Driveby II: Big Brother, we love you, man!

You know those surveillance cameras they’re talking about installing
in Five Points, to cut down on crime — or at least have a better chance of solving crimes when they occur?Camera2_1

Well, I just found one (I think) in a spot that’s a good distance from Five Points. It was just barely in Lexington County, between the second and third mile marker on I-77 after it starts at I-26.

I don’t know how long it’s been there. I first noticed it yesterday, and thought, I ought to mention this to somebody in the newsroom. They might want to send a photographer out. Then I promptly forgot about it, until this morning, when I was about to pass it again, and had the same thought. Then I had a smarter thought: You’ve got a digital camera in your briefcase, ya eejit.

So I pulled over onto the shoulder and grabbed a couple of shots, which you see here.

Now, the really cool and sneaky thing about these cameras is that most people wouldn’t recognize them as such. I wouldn’t have suspected anything if I hadn’t recently handled a photo
of the kind they’re going to put in Five Points. In fact, cartoonist Robert Ariail was just in here looking over my shoulder and said, "Is THAT what those things they’re putting up on I-20 are? I thought they wereCamera1 light poles."


Anyway, apparently the one I spotted is hardly alone.

Obviously, this one — unlike the ones planned for Five Points — was not put there by the city of Columbia. Given the setting, I’m guessing the S.C. DOT. Maybe it’s going to be another one of their Webcams (I see they have one just a couple of miles from there). Maybe not. I don’t know. Sure, I could pick up the phone and call a few people and probably find out — which I would do if I were writing this for the paper — but this is my "driveby" category, not my "drive-by-and-then-get-
on-the-horn-and-call-a-bunch-of-people" category.

I just wanted to mention it, and see if any of y’all noticed it, and see what y’all think about it.

What do I think about it? Well, as you know, I’m no libertarian, so it’s fine by me. I love Big Brother.

What a sec; let me turn toward the camera and say that again:

"I Love Big Brother."

Driveby I: United We WISH

There’s a sign company on the access road along I-26 near Sunset Boulevard in West Columbia that has a particularly apropos way of advertising its wares: It’s one of those computerized electronic billboards that looks like thousands of little lights that can be lit in patterns with such sophisticated detail that they are almost photographic in appearance. (In fact, perhaps they are based on photos; I don’t know.) You know, the kind the State Fair has at the corner of Assembly and Rosewood.

Anyway, this morning I noticed that among its cycling messages is one that shows a waving American flag followed by, in big, bold letters:


We were so used to seeing that expressed by businesses and individuals right after 9/11 that we tend not to notice it when it is still expressed.

I couldn’t help thinking, sadly, that they should give it up and amend the sign to reflect reality. Maybe they should say, "United we should stand," or something like that — but I’ve noticed that most businesses tend to want to display vanilla pieties rather than messages that take sides and make a point that might tick off potential customers (with the exception of the business I’m in, of course).

"United we stand" only described America for a few wonderful weeks right after 9/11. Halcyon days. By the end of fall 2001, we had already returned to our sickeningly routine partisanship.

Talking the walk

I saw a new thing today.

You’ve probably noticed, when you drive through the USC campus, that about 50 percent of the kids walking from class to class have mobile phones glued to their ears.

Well, today I saw a girl running — as in, jogging, not hurrying — through the walking, talking crowd, holding her phone to her ear. I’m not talking headset or one of those fancy Bluetooth dealies that are now all the rage, but holding the actual handset to her head with her right arm while her left pumped dutifully back and forth to the rhythm of her pace.

I don’t get it. And I’m not just talking about the fact that at my age, if I ran in such an awkward, asymmetrical position I’d get a crick in my neck that would last for weeks.

When I was their age, I enjoyed solitude. OK, let’s face it; I was a little antisocial, even Raskolnikov-like. But not to a seriously abnormal degree (I don’t think).

I just appreciated peace and quiet, whenever I could get some. And I cherished being incommunicado most of the time. That is, I would have cherished it if I could have imagined that I would live in a future in which such a state was unattainable.

I actually enjoyed thinking. How do you ever get to experience that, much less find out whether you like it or not, if you’re always chattering?

Cleaning up the nation

A remarkable thing happened at precisely 7:47 p.m. yesterday, as I was driving home from work and "tuning in the shine on the light night dial."

A local radio station played Elvis Costello‘s indictment of the sterile radio industry, "Radio Radio." You may have noted previously that I have a certain affinity for this song, as I do for the work of Declan MacManus in general.

Anyway, it was a bit of a milestone. The new WXRY, 99.3 — first recommended to me by one of my children — is doing a very creditable job of living up to its stated mission as an "independent alternative station," to "make radio special again." The management says it believes that the following principles "are essential for a great radio station:"

  • Intelligent presentation, passion and respect for the music
  • No limits on the number of songs we play
  • Support local music
  • Treat listeners with respect
  • Intense community involvement
  • The courage to be different
  • Avoid the trap of playing the same songs 7 or 8 times a day

That’s from the Web site. On the air, it also promotes itself as a station that doesn’t run "adult entertainment" ads that send you lunging for the dial when you have your kids in the car with you.

I like that. I don’t like the fact that sometimes it’s a little hard to get the station without static, and I can’t say I like everything they play, but it’s worth checking out — you know, for when you’re driving in the car and it’s not safe to be reading the newspaper.

Thank Blank

Has anyone noticed, and been bothered (or at least perplexed) by the message on the electronic sign at the state fairgrounds the last few days?

(Safety consideration: This is best studied while stuck at the Rosewood red light when heading south on Assembly.)

The message is as follows:

First, the entire sign is filled with the word "Thank"

Then the word dissolves into a picture of the upper part of a clown’s face, and as you watch (waiting for the next word), the clown gives you an animated wink with his right eye.

That is followed by the words, "For a wonderful"

and the message ends with the words, "2005 State Fair"

So, to put it all together, the message is:

Thank (winking clown) for a wonderful 2005 State Fair.

What is that supposed to mean? Did someone forget the word "you," or is the first word supposed to be "Thanks?" If so, whoever made the error has had all week to fix it. I have to wonder whether there’s something I’m not getting about the message. Is the winking clown a reference to Conklin Shows, which used to run the midway (it has been merged into North American Midway Entertainment, the new vendor)? I believe its logo is, or was, a stylized clown face. Would the State Fair folks put up a sign facing the public to thank the (former) private provider in this manner? Seems unlikely. Is the fact that the winking clown is winking at you, the passerby, meant to imply the word "you?" If so, that is one really cryptic use of body language.

Can anyone decode this? As one who went to the fair, I’m assuming this is a message aimed at me, but I’m just not getting it.