Saturday, May 30, 2009

Township Auditorium

There is a place in Columbia called Township Auditorium. It has been on Taylor Street downtown since 1930 and hosted a lot of big-name acts over the years. It was also the place to see wrastlin', when I was growing up, but I never went to that. The first thing I can remember attending there was the celebration of Columbia being an All-American city. That was a big deal. My high school graduation was also there. It took 35 minutes for my class to file into the auditorium. Since my last name started with "D", that meant I had to remain standing until the "Z's" came in. I even performed in the auditorium in a musical put on by my church for the city called "Joy Comes in the Morning". I played a disciple and had some acting to do in it. But, the main thing about the auditorium is all the acts I have seen there. Not too many, but some of the greats. George Carlin (twice), Bob Dylan, Crosby Stills & Nash, BB King, Gary Lewis, The Shirelles, Andy Childs, Marcel Marceau, Hair, and a few more. Last night, I saw James Gregory and Mike Sanders. They are fixing to renovate the auditorium. Both inside and out, and it will be closed for a while. Other acts have played there like Chicago, John Sebastian, Prince, and I think even Elvis. There is a lot of history within those walls, and I am actually a little sad to see it changed, but hopefully they will maintain the integrity of the place as a downtown theatre. It may not be the biggest venue in Columbia, but it has a lot of heart. Here's hoping that Columbia will do the best. And, we will once again have the Township back in all its glory.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Destiny

Everyone should do something that they love. Their job. Their family. Their life. Since leaving Macy's, I have come to the realization that there is a life out there. Sometimes, that life can be cruel. Sometimes, one can be hurt by those they love. But, there is a life that we can live. In my life, there have been a lot of ups and downs. I like to think there have been more ups. Right now, I have been living a down part with hopes of getting back up. I had a job once in Texas that I loved. It was a lot of fun, mainly because I had fun people to work with. There were days that I would come in to work despite not being on the schedule. Or, I would work past the time I was supposed to get off. They would have to make me leave or drag me out of there. I didn't want to go home. So, what was I doing that I loved so much? I sold Books and Records. It was for a department store called Sanger-Harris. Despite us being a department within a larger store, our Record Department was one of the largest in the metroplex for sales. In fact, when Elvis died, we were the only store in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area to get Elvis records the day after he died. We sold out of our first batch within 20 minutes of the breaking news. But, I had enough clout that I was able to get my supplier to go to a warehouse in Oklahoma to get Elvis records and bring them back for sale the next day. I love selling music. I did it some at Belk, as I was also the music buyer. Since 1976, I have been a serious collector of music, even though I bought a lot before then. It became my passion. Over the years, my collection grew. My father was always saying that I should sell it, and I have for about 20 years on the internet and through mail-order, but I have a lot more in my collection. My collection consists of records, tapes, videos, books, autographs, posters, toys, memorabilia, and lots more. Over the years, I have visited some of the best stores in the country and paid attention to how they merchandised their stuff. Some used signs. Some used multimedia. Some used the internet as a secondary tool. Some advertised. I have pulled the best from these stores for my idea. My destiny is to open a store in Columbia to sell my stuff. When I left Belk in 1996, people asked me what I was going to do. My answer was that I was going to open a store. I couldn't get financing, so I had to go to work at Rich's in order to eat. The store idea was put on the back burner. Several friends have encouraged me to open a store, but none wanted to partner with me. Here is the problem for fulfilling my destiny--I don't have the money to open a store. I have the inventory, conservatively estimated at over $100,000 and most likely a lot more, but I cannot afford a store. I have heard about places that use a percentage of store sales as rent. I don't know if that is possible, but if anybody knows, please tell me. I have been reluctant to go into detail as to how I would run a store, because I didn't want anyone to steal my ideas. After all, Wendy's made a TV commercial based on a play I wrote in seminary, and there was nothing I could do. But, I have been giving it a great deal of thought and preparation. So, here is a bit of my plans for a store:
1. I would use multimedia to spark interest inside the store.
2. I would use the internet to advertise, as well as sell beyond the store.
3. I would send out mailers to everyone I knew with a one-time discount to get people in.
4. I would have daily sales based on the birthdays of artists.
5. I would accept consignment from fellow collectors who wanted exposure.
6. I would ask radio friends to promote my store.
7. I would try and sell stuff below what it is worth.
I have other ideas, too. Everything I have set out to sell has been successful. For example, I had the number one Lamp Department in the entire Rich's company in sales. I was in the top five in sales in the Luggage Department in Macy's. I have won sales contests. I know a lot about pop culture memorabilia. I seem to know what people want and stay on top of trends. My idea is to have store around 1600 sf, if possible. It would be ideal in an area near Five Points or the University. There is no other place in South Carolina with my merchandise mix. Probably the closest would be Atlanta, but maybe not even there. The uniqueness of the store would be obvious, and the buzz would be tremendous. And, how much of an investment would it be? That would depend on the area, but I would imagine somewhere in the $50,000 range. All I ask is someone to say yes to being my partner in getting me going with a store. They would not regret it. That is my destiny.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. It is a day set aside to remember those who have died in the service to our country in war. A day that we remember what it takes to preserve our freedoms. I don't really like the term "the ultimate sacrifice", because some who died probably didn't see it that way, but we still should pause and reflect on those who have gone before us. I only know of one ancestor of mine who died in battle. It was a man on my father's side who died in the Civil War. Everyone else, who fought in wars, came home. My father didn't serve. His eyesight was not good. My brother didn't serve. He couldn't wear boots. I didn't serve. The lottery draft ended just before my number was called. But, I have a deep respect for the military. I guess that comes from growing up so close to Fort Jackson. Seeing those guys every weekend downtown. I didn't know many of their names, but I knew who they were. We would go out to the fort on Armed Forces Day. It was all part of the community. Today is not just about the soldiers. It is also about my parents. This is May 25th. The 72nd anniversary of my parents' wedding. They were married on this date in 1937 in Heflin Alabama. Of course, I wasn't there. But, I have seen pictures of the event. I was named for my grandfather who gave my Mother away. Judge Walter Merrill. My Uncle Walter was there. He always thought I was named for him. From what my parents told me, it was a hot day. I guess it had to be in May in Alabama. It was a happy day. After all, they were marrying off their second daughter. Their first daughter also married a minister. The Merrills were a proud people. They were also very upstanding in the community. They would see there sons go off to war. One missed Pearl Harbor by a day. The Dursts were a proud people too. One of their sons was at Normandy in 1944. You really couldn't get them to talk about war much. It was as if there was an unwritten rule by veterans not to talk about it. You just had to be there. So, this day means a lot to me as the day my parents married. For the rest of you, it is the day we remember our fallen heroes. My parents have gone on to their reward. A lot of soldiers have gone on to their reward, too. Take a moment and remember.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


My father performed some weddings. Most of them were relatives, like most of my cousins, as well as my brother. He did a good wedding. He liked doing funerals more. Daddy did a very good funeral. He did lots of funerals. In fact, Dunbar Funeral Home used him to do funerals, when the family didn't have a church home. Every Christmas, the funeral home would send us a box of candy for his doing the funerals. Daddy did a lot of family funerals. Even his Mother. He was very professional and didn't break down, despite his devotion to his Mother. When Daddy was starting out in the ministry in Spartanburg, one of his church's members was the local funeral director. They became good friends, and he offered a job to Daddy to work in his funeral home. He really wanted to do it, but Mother said no, because she didn't want to be around dead people so much. Daddy reluctantly went along with Mother, and he continued his job in religious education. But, he secretly wanted to be around funeral homes. When a child is beginning to learn words, they usually get their vocabulary from their parents. I suppose that is why I have to think about using the word "wedding" and the word "funeral". If I am not careful, I will use them as one. I'll say wedding, when I mean funeral and vice versa. Speaking theologically, I suppose you could say that a funeral is a wedding of sorts. After all, you are becoming a part of God's family in Heaven. A wedding shouldn't be a funeral though, because it is supposed to be life, not death. See how mixed up my family was, growing up? Not quite the Cleavers or the Nelsons. If you don't know who they are, watch TV Land. Anyway, I was reminded about all this, when I heard that 75 years ago today, Bonnie and Clyde were killed in Louisiana by lawmen. They were ambushed near Gibbsland. I have been on that road and seen the spot. 75 years ago this week, Daddy was on the train from Greenville to Fort Worth. He was heading out there to attend seminary. Later, he would meet my Mother there, and they would get married 3 years later, almost to the day. But, Daddy's train stopped at Gibbsland, and he saw the bodies of Bonnie and Clyde laid out on the porch on the funeral home. He didn't know who they were at the time but later found out. I don't know if that was his first exposure to the joys of a funeral home. Probably not, since his father died, when he was around 12, but it probably made an impression on him. When I lived in Fort Worth, I went over to Dallas and found the grave of Clyde Barrow, along with his brother Buck. Bonnie was buried across town, and I didn't go over there. That was almost 45 years after my father had seen the bodies. Weird how one's life becomes wrapped around another's life like that. So, if you hear me say funeral, when I meant wedding, just let it go. I am a product of growing up in my father's house.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Job Fair

I went to another job fair yesterday, and a job interview the day before that. The interview went pretty well, and may lead to a second interview next week. The job fair provided a couple of good possibilities. But, here is a tip for employers who come to job fairs. Bring the jobs with you. Most of the employers were just handing out their website addresses and telling us to go online and apply. If you are going to do that, why bother to show up? Let companies who truly are looking for employees come to the job fair. There were a lot of people there yesterday and about 35 companies. I would say 30 of thise companies just handed out their websites. One company had a 20-something girl with a see-through shirt interviewing prospects. And then there was the prospects. When one suggests you "dress for success", does that mean jeans and t-shirts? Probably not. You could really tell the professional workers from those with no clue. But, it was an interesting day. Here's hoping.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Republican Convention

Yesterday, I had a rather unique experience. I volunteered for Andre Bauer at a state Republican Convention. He is South Carolina's Lieutenant Governor and is going to run for Governor in 2010. He is genuinely a good guy, which is unusual in politics. Having been around politicians most of my life, I have seen a lot of people who are pretty phony, and are just in it for the money or the power. Andre is not like that. He truly wants to help people and make their lives better. So, when he asked for volunteers last week, I said yes. Besides, I got a free t-shirt, but that is not why I said yes. I said yes, because he is my friend. So, I got there around 7am to begin my day. I was assigned to give out stickers and shirts. I stood at the top of the escalator and greeted delegates, as they entered the hall. I gave away a lot of shirts and stickers. So many that I had to go back to our table a few times and beg for more. Some delegates weren't interested, but most were. I also got to see our two US senators and shake hands with our governor. There was a lot of power in that hall, and some fake people, but I have to say that I did see some caring going on. There were also some floor fights, but that is to be expected. After all, with all of those Baptist conventions I went to growing up, I saw a lot of fights there, too, and those were supposedly religious people. I have found that some folks just want to be heard and have their names in the minutes. Most folks don't really care. But, this convention yesterday was for the party activists. Those folks who work in their local counties, motivitating others to vote. So, their words mean something on the local level. We gave out of Andre shirts. We had to resort to stickers, booklets, and pens. Of course, there were those who just wanted something free, but it was nice to see how many people seemed to care about the candidate. Another candidate's booth was next to ours. He had doughnuts and coffee, so his booth was popular for a while, but not after the food was gone. I must say Andre had the largest group of volunteers and the most organized. He even gave me a delegate badge, so I could go into the hall and listen to the speeches. I didn't agree with a lot of the philosphies being presented, but it was very interesting. As a political junkie, I was in a good place yesterday. I stayed until the end. It was a long day, but I was glad I went and look forward to helping Andre win next year.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

An Observation

I was watching TV yesterday. I haven't had cable in over a year, so I have had a treat of seeing things I haven't seen in a while. One of which is MSNBC. I sometimes have watched CNN and Fox News, but I guess I have liked MSNBC the best, because I am partial to NBC news. It was how I was raised. One of my earliest memories from the news was the Huntley/Brinkley Report on NBC. For a while, after they went off the air, we switched to CBS and Walter Cronkite, but we seemed to always go back to NBC. Besides, WIS was the strongest local station in Columbia, and they were an NBC affiliate. So, I have gravitated to MSNBC. A lot of the NBC personalities go on MSNBC. It is very familiar. Okay, now that the commercial is over for MSNBC, let me tell you what I saw yesterday. I was watching the news, and they were talking about a missing girl at Myrtle Beach. Now, this place is a famous resort known all over the world. The beach is located in South Carolina, and they like to say that most of the tourist dollars in South Carolina go to Myrtle Beach. It is a place that attracts visitors all year, not just the summer. Of course, there are other great places in South Carolina, but Myrtle Beach seems to get the bulk of the business. Another commercial? No, just a fact. So, there was this woman on MSNBC. I don't know her name, but she looks good on TV. She identified Myrtle Beach as being in California. Now, I think that weather people have to take geography in school, but I guess news people don't. I also assume that she was not reading from a teleprompter, because someone in the research department would have seen that Myrtle Beach is in South Carolina, even if they had never been there. But, there's more. After she made the gaffe that it was in California, nobody said anything in her ear to correct her mistake. Also, she didn't catch her own mistake. Also, she didn't correct herself, after they came back from commercial. So, have we come so far in our education that reporters don't know where things are in this country? Maybe she missed that day in school. California-South Carolina? What does it matter? Well, I would like to know if I need to change my clock to three hours earlier. Can I tell folks that I have an appointment with, that South Carolina is in the Pacific Time Zone? They will look at me strange, but I will just say that the national newswoman said it, so it must be true. Film at 11.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day

Today is Mother's Day. It is for remembering why we got here. Without mothers, none of us would be here, unless you were born in a lab. Quite frankly, I don't know anyone who was born in a lab. Although, I am sure there have been one or two. It would explain a lot about bad drivers or idiot politicians, but that's another story. Geting back to mothers. They put up with a lot. They take you places. They teach you things. And for what? The love and satisfaction of being a mother. I have no idea what kind of pain it is to have a child. I have been in pain before, but they say that childbirth is the worst. Why would anybody put themselves through that? Because it is what love is all about. Pain yields to love. Boy, that is profound. Everybody, write that down. Pain yields to love. Not the other way around. Or, it shouldn't be the other way around. Sometimes, it is. I have written here some about how much I loved my Mother. She was a special person. A writer. A creative person. A person who loved a good joke. Monty Python. Mel Brooks. A person who loved music. The Beatles. Broadway. A person who loved me. Unconditionally. No matter what. I was visiting a church last Sunday and ventured into their library. My eyes were drawn to a set of books that I immediately recognized. The Life & Work series. Why would I notice these? Because my mother wrote the lesson plans for the Life & Work Sunday School teachers in the Southern Baptist Convention. She was very good at it, although she was humbled by being asked to write them, and wondered why they picked her. So, I got to see her name in these books. I was proud of her, but it also gave me another sense of love. She did all of this writing, but she also took the time to be my Mother. She never ignored me at the expense of her job. Yes, I know that times have changed. There isn't many stay-at-home moms. I can't criticize working mothers. But, my Mother was my best friend. She understood me. A hard feat at best. Not too many people have understood me. Some have tried. Some have seen bits and pieces. But, Mother understood me. She may not have agreed with some things in my life, but she understood. She criticized without judging. Even after she had her stroke and couldn't care for us, her mind was still clear and had things to say. Things about what we should do. Things about how we were doing. She was very opinionated, but she was also a good listener. When it became increasingly difficult for her to voice words, she spoke volumes by squeezing your hand. Sometimes she squeezed so hard that it cut off the circulation. It was painful, but she did it out of love. Love oozed from her hand to mine. Mother went to Heaven almost five years ago. I miss her every day, but she is in my heart. That sounds trite, but it is true. And, I know that one day we will be reunited. Don't know when. Don't know how. But, I know it is true. Happy Mother's Day to all of those women out there who give of themselves every day with not wanting for any fame or glory. And, to my Mother--thanks for understanding me.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Living Hope

You know, I don't ask for much. I am currently living in a crappy motel that advertises wi-fi. Problem is that it is not on but a couple of hours in the afternoon. I have had to search for hotspots around town like the library and out on the raod, where I am this morning. In my world of day to day existence, I look for hope to keep me going. Sometimes, it is hope of a new day. It is trivial hope. For example, the new Woodstock DVD comes out next month with a lot of bonus footage. I probably have most of it already, but the idea of having stuff I haven't seen before provides hope, so I live for that. I live for the hope of making some money with a new Cobbwebs cd, if it can ever be released. I live for the hope of one day being famous again. I live for the hope of getting together with friends. Sometimes, those hopes are dashed. Like we make plans to get together, only to be dashed. I have to understand that I am not the only person out there. I have to understand that the world doesn't revolve around me. But, they give me hope. So, if the hope is dashed, there is a part of me that dies a little bit. Back when I was trying to find a college teaching job, I sent letters and resumes to over 600 colleges around the country. Everybody said no, except for a few who wanted me to do things I couldn't do. I have a folder of all the rejection letters. They dashed my hopes. I try and be an optimist. I try not to let things get me down. I try to have hope. That's how I keep going. Hope for a better day. Hope for love. Hope for life. It seems a lot is one-way. My one-way. Can't somebody help me? I hope so.