Johnny’s Hideaway

April 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–April 23, 2017

by Joe Garrett


I followed the rules.

It was my first time to enter such hallowed ground in this historic nightclub in the ATL. By the way, ATL is the cool way to refer to Atlanta if you’re under the age of 40. Since I’m 47, I will go back to calling the South’s largest city by its real name—Atlanta.

The rules outside this famous Atlanta disco spot addressed a strict dress code for men as one enters (it said nothing about women):

  • Gentlemen must remove their hats after 8 p.m.
  • No ripped or soiled jeans.
  • Dress shorts only. No denim shorts.
  • No flip-flops or sandals.
  • No logo or printed shirts.
  • No sweats or sweat pants.

I passed the dress code wearing a button-down shirt, slacks and a sports coat as I looked more like I was going to work than John Travolta entering a club wearing a leisure suit and sporting a few gold chains. And for the next two hours, my wife and I, along with a group of friends, danced the night away at Johnny’s Hideaway.

My dance moves as I’ve grown older no longer resemble a young Travolta in his prime (they never did). Instead, the rhythm I lack when I cut a rug resembles Steve Martin in his first movie The Jerk or perhaps it’s more like Forrest Gump.

Any attempt at coolness is long gone, but on this Friday night in the ATL (oops, I meant to say Atlanta)—I didn’t care. Besides, about a third of our group were Baptists and attend Steve Davis’s church.

My guess is they all repented for dancing to the Bee Gees music long before Preacher Steve started his children’s sermon on Easter Sunday. As an Episcopalian, my crowd welcomed me with open arms on Sunday morning and many asked—“What time did y’all finally leave?”

“I gave my flock who went with you to Johnny’s Hideaway a free pass and told them to ‘go sin no more,’” said Preacher Steve. “As for you, Second Timothy says to run away from ‘the evil desires of youth.’ It’s obvious if you were trying to recapture your youth, you would have picked somewhere other than Johnny’s.”

A fixture of the Atlanta nightlife since 1979, Johnny’s Hideaway has a reputation for people who are long past their prime but still want to dance and have a good time. However, on this Friday night, the crowd ranged in ages 21 to folks in their 80s.

Upon entering one clearly sees a room dedicated to Frank Sinatra, another corner of a room as a shrine to the King (Elvis not Jerry Lee) and group of cougars on the prowl standing around the bar (I’m not talking about animals).

Yet it’s the smell I’ll forever remember about Johnny’s Hideaway. The nightclub still allows smoking. I’m not a smoker, but I don’t mind every now and then walking in a joint that reeks of Camel’s, Doral’s and Winston’s. These non-pretentious, iconic places just seem real with real people. And now that the legendary Millie’s on the Highway in Carrollton has closed its doors, Johnny’s Hideaway may be the last remaining place on earth to retain such a whiff.

Thankfully, my crowd left a few minutes after midnight because as my dad always said—“Nothing good goes on after 12 o’clock.” I plan to return one day although it probably won’t be any time soon. In the meantime, I’ll smile when I think of Johnny’s Hideaway and perfect a few new moves for the dance floor.

I may not possess the moves of Travolta, but these legs aren’t dead yet. I’m “staying alive.”


Eggs in a basket

April 25, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–April 16, 2017

by Joe Garrett


Dear chickens,

You’ve never gotten the respect you so deserve, especially on Easter Sunday.

Today, thousands of little children will hunt the eggs your posse has laid throughout houses across the land. How many people ride past your smelly abodes daily with signs that read Pilgrim’s Pride or Tyson only to turn up their radios instead of pausing for a few moments to think of your purpose while here?

Furthermore, I know you must feel the pain from the old Easter Bunny. More than likely, for every 100 stuffed fluffy rabbits he left for the little ones, hardly any child received a stuffed chicken.

Oh sure, many people love the taste of rabbit—but I must confess I would rather eat you instead. Whether I grill you, fry you or bake you in the oven covered in some of the best spices in the world, I love the healthy protein you bring to my diet.

But most of all, my beloved chickens, I love the following spice you bring to our language when I can’t think of any other way to communicate my message to someone. Things like—

  • “Chicken scratch” – poor handwriting
  • “Chicken hearted” – not brave
  • “No spring chicken” – you’re old
  • “Bird brain” – you’re senseless
  • “Making chicken salad out of chicken poop” – able to cobble together things without many supplies
  • “Like a chicken with his head cut off” – running around with no direction
  • “That just flaps my wattles” – when something annoys you
  • “Like a banty on a june bug” – all over you
  • “Shake a tail feather” – let’s get moving
  • “Do chickens have lips?” – dumb question gets a dumb answer
  • “Cock of the walk” – to be the boss
  • “Dumb cluck” – just plain stupid

The list could go on forever even though as we truly know not everything “tastes like chicken.”

Please don’t take any of this personally. I celebrate you, my beloved chickens, for how you’ve transformed lives and will continue to do so. Colonel Sanders may have found the appropriate 11 herbs and spices to bring you to the masses. Truett Cathy may have deboned, battered and fried you to perfection before placing you between a buttered bun with two pickles. Yet today thousands celebrate the eggs you’ve given us to dye in that stuff that smells like “chicken poo.”

I know some people will think I’ve “flown the coop” for writing you this letter on a day to celebrate resurrection. That’s OK. I’ve simply had something I wanted “to crow about.” And that’s no “cock and bull story!”

Therefore, that’s all I have to say. Until then, I’ll dedicate my time towards next week’s column and “work as hard as a hen hauling wood.”

Happy Easter,


On your side

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–April 2, 2017

by Joe Garrett


The waves crash farther apart.

Every now and then, the calmness welcomes me with a sense of peace. But it never lasts.

“You will enjoy life again,” said my grief counselor Dr. Ron Greer. “It’s going to be, however, a very, very long time.”

Surrounded by an avalanche of deeply profound sadness, I didn’t see it. For only a few weeks before these words were uttered to my wife and me, we lost our son Will and my children lost their brother. Heartache encapsulated our family then. And it still does today.

There are two cherry trees blossoming with pink and white flowers in my front yard. Another season has arrived and through the pain my family continues to experience, we’ve accepted life goes on.

There are moments where I’m still hit by tidal waves. Sometimes it comes through a song. Other times it comes through the little things like seeing one of his classmates. Although it does no good to imagine, my mind begins to wonder.

What would he look like? How tall would he be? Would he be playing soccer, baseball, tennis or some other sport right now? Where would he be musically? What would he think about our new house? The questions go on and on.

He would almost be a teenager by now.

Grief is all around me. And it’s all around you too.

Whether you’ve been diagnosed with cancer, mourning the loss of a pet or even panged with sadness from watching a good friend struggle, sooner or later we are most likely to feel the blows and hard hits of life.

There’s a story titled “Sermon on the Mount at Long John Silvers” preached by the late Jim Callahan, who from 1982-2000 served as the rector at St. Margaret’s Episcopal Church in Carrollton, where he describes a spiritual moment while he munched on fish and chips. The entire sermon is documented in his book of sermons titled “The Givenness of Things” composed by University of West Georgia Professor Dr. Lisa Crafton and is available on

“I was surprised that about 6:40 in the evening the place was all but empty,” said Callahan. “And then into the establishment came a woman with her parents, frail and somewhat ravaged…She kept looking at me until I was uncomfortable, and finally she left her booth and came over and sat right by me, and asked, of course, that interesting question, ‘Are you a priest?’

“‘Ma’am, who else would be dressed this ridiculously?’” Callahan continued. “She said, ‘I would like to ask you to pray for me. I haven’t much believed in God of late. My mother and dad are taking me down to Columbus where I’m to check in to a detox center for addiction. And while I haven’t had much faith in God lately, I’d like you to pray for me.

“I said, ‘Of course, I will,’” said Callahan. “‘But the important thing ma’am is how much faith he has in you. That’s what matters.’ And she said, ‘Really?’ And I said, ‘Oh yes. I will pray for you, and so will all my people. You must have a great deal of courage. And God knows what to do with that. And when it runs out, know that we will be praying for you.’”

A few minutes later Callahan’s fish and chips had gotten very cold and he wanted to walk back to the woman and quote one of his favorite lines from “The Wizard of Oz” when the Lion utters “Who put the ape in the apricot, what makes the Hottentot so hot, what do they got that I don’t got? Courage.”

He didn’t as he thought better of that.

“And I left the place and realized that there just for a moment, Long John Silver’s had turned into kind of a chapel for us poor,” said Callahan. “I had the strange feeling that I had just received Communion because, of course, I had.”

It’s easy for someone who has never experienced tragedy to say easily, “Get over it and move on.” But for those of us who have and are moving on we will never get over it. Instead, we form a bond of empathy to sit at the table and break bread with those cracked wide-open by life.

“If butterflies are free to fly, why do they fly away leavin’ me to carry on and wonder why,” writes Sheryl Crow.

We may never understand life’s mysteries—especially when our world has been swept away by a cyclone.

For many of us, we’ve reached the Emerald City only to learn there’s no Oz as we all selfishly yearn for a brain, a heart, a home, a little bit of courage and a yellow brick road. And then when the curtain is pulled back, we suddenly realize we not only had them with us all along—we’ve had something more important.

We’ve had each other.


Stem in the spring

April 14, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–March 26, 2017

by Joe Garrett


Pull up a chair while I tell you a fable.

Once upon a time, some eminent scientists developed an interest in the bumblebee. They hoped the tiny insect held some secrets of flight that could be applied to shuttles re-entering the atmosphere.

But the wings didn’t seem able to generate enough lift for the relatively large torso. Certainly, the round, hairy body was not well streamlined.

You probably know the punch line: after weeks of study, the scientists unanimously concluded that bumblebees can’t fly. But since no one told the bumblebee, the foolish creature has gone right on believing it can.

The moral to this story is that you need to believe in yourself and your capacity to succeed, no matter what the so-called experts say. And that moral is true—even if the fable isn’t.

Oddly enough, the facts behind the bumblebee story support the same moral.

For the first part, we aren’t entirely sure about who, when, or where. But some sources claim at a dinner party in the 1930s a biologist asked an engineer about the flight of bumblebees.

A simple calculation, assuming rigid smooth wings (which bees don’t have), showed insufficient lift. Without waiting for the engineer to come up with a better model, the biologist took this as evidence of Nature’s engineering superiority to mankind’s and spread the word: Aerodynamics proves that bumblebees can’t fly.

“Silly biologists,” exclaimed local bumblebee expert Matt Carter, who made a B in his college entomology class after his professor lowered his grade when his caterpillar died before turning into a moth. “By the way, what did the queen bee say to the naughty bee?”

“Don’t know,” I replied.

“Bee-hive yourself,” said Carter. “Also, here’s another one—what should you say to a nosey, interfering bee?”

“Have no clue,” I answered.

“Mind your own buzziness,” uttered Carter. “And finally, what did the bees do after they got married?”

I shook my head.

“They went on a honeymoon,” Carter exclaimed.

What is certain, however, is when aerodynamics perseveres and considers the actual bee-wing, the calculations come out right after all. Taking into account torque and vortices­—or vortexes­­—and other elements non-engineers have trouble spelling, mathematical models show bumblebees not only flying but also hovering and flying backwards, as in real life.

So, we can learn a lot from bumblebees and/or aerodynamicists. As automobile manufacturer Henry Ford said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re probably right.”

So always think, “I CAN!”

And if you can’t, don’t be like a bunch of wasps. All they are is a group of wanna-bees.




Rainbow stew

March 29, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–March 19, 2017

by Joe Garrett

There’s a disconnect in the universe.

Everywhere I go people are complaining about something. Democrats hate Republicans. Republicans hate Democrats. Blue collar hates white collar. White collar hates blue collar. The Baby Boomers hate the Millennials. The Millennials hate the Boomers. Country music doesn’t sound like country music (it doesn’t). And the list goes on.

All I know is I feel like the late Lewis Grizzard when he wrote the title to his best-selling book Elvis is dead and I don’t feel so good myself.

Lately I’ve been in a rut. This division is getting to me when all I really need in life to be happy is a biscuit and coffee for breakfast, a family to love, a dog who’s loyal to me and access to a Merle Haggard record (that’s real country music).

I don’t know where we’ve gone wrong, but I’ll start with Steve Jobs. The iPhone he invented has been one of the most transformative inventions in human history since Captain Caveman discovered fire. We’re now communicating at rapid speed. I’m even typing these words on Jobs’ greatest invention right now. And when I’m finished, I’ll email it to the newspaper office. That saves me a trip to do other things.

Unfortunately, I’m not one of those people who can brag he doesn’t own a computer. My work and the world I function in depends on one even though I still can’t figure out Twitter. I’ve become as addicted to technology as Otis Campbell was to Rafe Hollister’s moonshine on The Andy Griffith Show.

Commentator Kent Hughes said, “We find it so easy to turn a microscope on another person’s sin, but we look at ours through the wrong end of a telescope. We easily spot a speck of phoniness in another, because we have a logjam of it in our own lives. Wrath toward the speck in someone else’s life may come from the suppressed guilt over the same massive sin in our own lives.”

It’s obvious I have a lot of suppressed guilt. I still can’t fathom apologizing to Joe Murrah for biting him in Carol and Mac Martin’s yard after he wrestled me into a headlock 40 years ago. He hasn’t apologized to me either (and I saw yesterday in the grocery store). Maybe I should turn towards Jesus, but for some reason I’ve been gravitating to the words Grizzard wrote in 1983.

“If we don’t someday cut back on radical change and unchecked progress, we may all get our b-u-t-t’s blown away or replaced by robots,” said Grizzard. “Or else we might end up taking off all our clothes and squatting naked in trees, like Crazy Melvin, from worrying about it. Maybe it will be us, the In-Betweeners, who finally make some sense out of the world again. We’re still young enough to have the energy to do it, and, as we get older, perhaps we will have the wisdom, too. We’ve seen the old way of life that we were reared in, and we’ve seen the new one that has given us ulcers; maybe we can pick the best of each and produce a world where everybody has a fair chance and an air conditioner…

“And if we’re able to do that—if we’re able to lead the way out of the wilderness of frightening modernity and back into the land of simplicity and contentment that we knew as children—then having lived with the dilemmas will have been worth it,” Grizzard continues. “But until that day comes, play me the old songs, bring around my old friends, keep the beer cold, and constantly remind me to cling to the immortal words of the man who sings now in the void left by Elvis, Merle Haggard:

One of these days,

When the air clears up

And the sun comes shinin’ through,

We’ll all be drinkin’ that free Bubble-Up

And eatin’ that Rainbow Stew.”

It’s been less than a year since we lost Merle. Now, Lisa Marie, Elvis’ daughter, is broke and her 8-year old twins are in protective custody. Nothing makes sense anymore. Thank goodness all-you-can-eat buffets and Willie Nelson are still with us, but for how much longer?

It’s up to me, you and the music of Sturgill Simpson to see us through.

“There’s really no room for bullshit,” sings Simpson. “Love’s the only thing that ever saved my life.”

Hopefully, we’ll survive as a species. However, if we all don’t work harder at leaving our phones in our pockets and looking people in the eye again, I have my doubts. Because like fire—if we’re not careful, these technological devices if not used properly can burn us too.

Cookie time

March 29, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–March 12, 2017

by Joe Garrett


Somewhere between two Thin Mints, a Samoa and three Tagalongs I bit into a Do-si-do.

“Pay no attention to Punxsutawney Phil,” I said to myself.

Spring is closer than we think, and it’s closer than the groundhog predicted a few weeks ago. The birds may be chirping and an azalea bush outside my bedroom window has started to bloom, but springtime is never a feeling for me.

It’s a taste.

For the last 100 years, Girl Scouts have been knocking on doors and selling boxes of cookies. And each time you pay for a box, 100 percent of the net proceeds go back into our local Girl Scout programs, which positively impact our communities.

“When you buy cookies from a Girl Scout, you are investing in so much more than a box of treats—you are investing in a girl’s future and the future leadership of this country,” according to the Girl Scouts website. “Through the Girl Scout Cookie Program, girls learn five essential life skills: goal setting, decision making, money management, people skills and business ethics.”

My wife and I are suckers for children selling anything. Through the years we’ve purchased wrapping paper, chocolate-covered caramel popcorn, tickets to various events and a thousand other things, but I look forward to the annual ritual of biting into dozens of different cookies sold by little girls wearing green.

It’s hard to pick a favorite, but I’ll try. Therefore, I owe it to you my dear readers to answer one of life’s most difficult questions—“If you could bring only five boxes of Girl Scout cookies with you to a desert island, which ones would you choose?” So here it goes (in order of my favorites).

Fifth Place—Do-si-dos (Peanut butter sandwich)

This cookie is an excellent source of protein from the peanut butter combined with a high intake of sugar to give you enormous energy in the afternoon.

Fourth Place—Samoas (Caramel deLites)

I love coconut and this cookie packs the punch with the right amount of sweetness and crunch to become the most unique treat among the entire Girl Scout lineup.

Third Place—Thin Mints

These little cookies with the chocolate crust pack a punch after you take them out of the box and store them in the freezer for a few days before eating.

Second Place—Tagalongs (Peanut butter patties)

You’ve got it all in this cookie—protein, chocolate and lots of sugar. Do I need to say anything more?

First Place—Trefoils (Shortbread)

If I eat a Trefoil by itself, it would rank third or fourth. However, I pair these little shortbread cookies with a pint of vanilla ice cream and all I can is—OOOAAAHHH!

The late Juliette Gordon Low, founder of Girl Scouts, was a Georgia girl. Born in Savannah, she was an adventurous little girl who eventually lost almost her entire ability to hear after several ear injuries. After a meeting with Boy Scouts founder Sir Robert Baden-Powell on March 12,1912, she was inspired to start the Girl Scouts and telephoned her cousin immediately to share the news.

“I’ve got something for the girls of Savannah, and all of America, and all of the world,” said Low. “And we’re going to start it tonight!”

She sure did. Thank you, Juliette! And thank you to the millions of girls who have worn the green and especially thanks to the local girls who have sold my family several boxes of cookies.

The late Baden-Powell once said, “A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.”

Last week I looked at my dog Teddy and could tell he did something mischievous. After a few minutes of searching, my wife and I (both former Scouts) found a box of Trefoils under the table. Teddy had opened the box and eaten an entire sleeve. We gave him a free pass.

As for the other sleeve of shortbread cookies, we knew exactly what to do. We ate them.


Tallapoosa turnaround

March 29, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian–March 5, 2017

by Joe Garrett


It looked more like the muddy river of the Little Tallapoosa on a cloudy rainy day than the crystal-clear drinking water normally served at the Western Steer.

For many years my family frequented the old family steakhouse that once stood on the same property as today’s Walgreens near Tanner Medical Center. One day following school in January 1987, my mother and I ate an early dinner where I ordered the Number Eleven Special—beef tips, fries and a fresh roll.

I was tired from a long day and needed to rehydrate with a glass of water.

After we were seated, the waitress brought the H2O in a tinted red plastic cup. Within seconds of gulping half of the liquid to quench my thirst, my mother stopped me before the next sip.

“Let me see your water,” she demanded.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

She motioned to our waitress and asked her to bring us a glass. Moments later I poured my water into the vessel and it wasn’t clear.

The waitress immediately removed our drinks and informed the manager.

Within a few hours a party started in my tummy as my intestines began to play a rumbling tune with a full horn section. My heart pounded like a bass drum and before I could shout “Don’t look Ethel,” I eventually camped out in my bathroom the rest of the night losing 10 pounds in only a few hours.

“You have cryptosporidium,” my doctor informed me the next day.

That clearly sounded more sophisticated than the “Tallapoosa Turnaround” as I called it.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one—I had a lot of company. Out of the Carroll County estimated population of 64,900 residents, around 13,000 of us succumbed to “The Crypto.”

National news outlets and CNN called it an epidemic from the contaminated water that sickened our community from what a representative for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suspected was caused by a cow who liked to take his baths in the Little Tallapoosa.

Eventually, our local water supply overcame this difficult period even though it met all regulatory-agency quality standards. This episode proved that even though a local water supply meets all Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules, bad things can still happen.

Last week as Carrollton residents took a day off from showering or drinking from a faucet after a boil advisory was issued from a water main break, I immediately had flashbacks. Thank God, or perhaps I should say “Thank Facebook,” I learned about the ban before I poured a glass of water.

Oh sure, like many of you, I went to work the next day without a bath. On the bright side, however, I had an excuse not to wash dishes. Furthermore, I gave up ice, replaced water with wine, and most of all—I didn’t catch the “Tallapoosa Turnaround.”

Take that Crypto!


Give a hoot

March 29, 2017 - Leave a Response

Published by the Times-Georgian – February 26, 2017

by Joe Garrett


I saw the future on two wheels.

Last summer my family traveled north to experience life in the land of maple syrup, crepes and Canadian bacon. In Clark Griswold fashion from the popular National Lampoon’s “Vacation” movies, we rented a mini-van and drove from Toronto to Quebec City with a couple of stops in between.

For a few days, we experienced life in a culture which takes its food seriously, keeps its streets and sidewalks clean and traveling to work means pedaling and bicycle chains. Unlike the Carrollton bypass, it is clear Canadians put their trash where it belongs—in a can.

“It’s instilled in the kids from home and taught in schools it’s not OK to litter,” said Carrollton resident Jacqueline Dost, who grew up in Toronto. “It’s a cultural thing. Most people don’t litter, but there’s that pocket of the population who thinks it’s OK because they think it creates something for prisoners to do.”

I’m often disgusted after the grass is cut along the Carrollton bypass by how filthy it looks due to careless drivers and passengers throwing trash out of their vehicles to pollute our roads. Furthermore, after riding my bicycle through the county roads close to the Victory and Tyus communities last weekend, there were enough empty beer cans scattered so carelessly that even the town drunk Otis Campbell from “The Andy Griffith Show” would have probably thrown up.

It’s no fault of our city and county officials who speedily seek crews and weekend probation folks to pick up the trash. Unfortunately, to create a new culture where everyone takes pride in the way our community looks usually takes years, but it can begin today by instilling these values in our children. One day they will be leading this community.

“It doesn’t hurt to write a few tickets either,” said Dost. “People know to slow down when they enter Whitesburg because they’ll get a ticket, and the same can be true with throwing trash along our highways.”

The answers are often complex because it’s difficult to catch those who pollute our land, especially at night. As with anything to experience large cultural shifts, it often involves many years to see results—but it’s clear where this shift can begin—in the home, schools and yes—even you and me.

“Give a hoot,” said the old owl on the television commercial that aired during the 1970s. “Don’t pollute.”

In April 2005, Keep Carroll Beautiful was formed to engage the citizens of Carroll County in taking responsibility for improving our community environment. Since its beginning, the initiative has provided feasible programs enabling residents and neighborhoods to devise solutions for local solid-waste management.

“Our program doesn’t just work to get litter picked up, we also actively work to educate citizens and to beautify our community to discourage littering behavior,” said Lindsay Pfau, executive director of Keep Carroll Beautiful. “Educating students so they can participate as citizens and learn through positive action makes for a successful partnership with our local schools.”

One of the ways you, your friends, church, civic group and more can get involved is through the program’s Adopt-A-Road program.

“Keep Carroll Beautiful’s program is modeled after the Department of Transportation’s Adopt-A-Highway program,” said Pfau. “The Adopt-A-Road program consists of individuals, groups and businesses who volunteer at least 4 times per year to clean litter from the roadways.”

Furthermore, the organization has also launched its Adopt-A-Trail program for the Carrollton GreenBelt. For more information, please visit the website

In the meantime, let’s try to make a difference and teach our children to keep our towns beautiful. It’s not often easy. The good news is the recent report from the local litter index declined for the second year in a row. It’s a start, yet we still have a long way to go.

This morning when I walked upstairs to wake up my children I found six Snickers Bar wrappers, an empty can of Ginger Ale and crumbs from a cookie one of my sons snuck from the kitchen after we thought he was asleep.

My wife and I are on a mission to teach our children to throw away their trash, and to this we can attest. Therefore, we vow to you—my dear readers, we’ll try our very best. Because if you ever see one of our sons throwing candy bar wrappers or sticky chewing gum on streets outside of our nest—

you will forever have our permission to shout “Citizen’s arrest. Citizen’s arrest.”

A red-eyed gravy excuse

March 15, 2017 - 2 Responses

Published by the Times-Georgian–February 19, 2017

by Joe Garrett


She never wanted us to go to school on an empty stomach.

The clinking noise of pots and pans awoke me as the scent of bacon sizzling in a black iron skillet filled my room.

Another morning had arrived. Slowly, I stretched my arms and legs before rolling over to go back to sleep. It didn’t last long as the light switch turned on and I heard my dad’s voice begin to sing slightly off-key.

“Laaaaazzzzy bones, sleeping in the sun,” he crooned. “How do you expect to get your day’s work done….”

School awaited. Within the next hour, a routine started the day by brushing my teeth, dressing and living the chaotic atmosphere every family experiences when they have to be somewhere on time.

We rarely were.

Almost every morning, my mother awoke before everyone else and prepared one of her signature breakfasts—homemade biscuits from scratch, scrambled eggs, country ham, sausage, bacon or tenderloin and hash browns she cut by hand (not from a frozen bag).

While she cooked, she issued orders from the kitchen.

“Joe, you need to hurry. You’re staying up too late and need to start going to bed at a decent hour.”

“Jimmy, did you feed the cat? Of course you didn’t. If I wasn’t alive, that darn cat would probably starve to death.”

“Bill, what time is your ball game tonight?”

“Y’all hurry up. Bob’s already in the kitchen dressed and ready. Which one of y’all tee-tee’d all over the toilet and didn’t it wipe it up? One day I’m going to be dead and gone and y’all are going to walk into this kitchen and there’s gonna be a sign that reads—‘Due to Momma’s death, Betty’s kitchen is closed.’ Now hurry!”

On one of those mornings, my mother couldn’t get her biscuits to brown on top the way she liked.

She wrapped the biscuits in tin foil and handed them to us as we exited. We ate in the car on the way, but the delay was too much. We received a tardy notice from school.

“Momma, our principal Mr. Holliway said we need to be on-time,” my brother Bill told her after school.

Unlike families who grow up in a “no excuse” atmosphere, my mother truly believed in “excuses.”

The next morning she prepared a dandy of a breakfast. A few minutes after my dad dropped us off at school, she drove the quarter mile route to Stripling Chapel Road, turned left into the Central Middle parking lot and walked through the school’s front door with a basket full of country ham, biscuits and red-eyed gravy.

Good morning Mrs. Garrett and what do you have here that smells so good?” Mr. Holliway said grinning from ear-to-ear as she walked in the school building.

“Mr. Holliway, Bill was upset because he received a tardy notice yesterday and he couldn’t help it,” she said. “I couldn’t get my biscuits to brown, Joe spilled his orange juice all over the table and Bob handed me two dozen sheets to sign so he could go on his field trip right when they were walking out the door. So I brought you a bag of country ham biscuits to eat so you can see why Bill was late. I didn’t want him to go to school hungry.”

One of my teachers later told me, “You could hear your mother and Mr. Holloway laughing all the way down the hall.”

Upon his first bite, he declared—“Mrs. Garrett, that may be the best biscuit I’ve ever eaten.”

During the late 1970s and early ‘80s, Sanford Holliway served as the principal of Central Middle School. After mom delivered him a sack full of biscuits, it was no secret she was his favorite parent. And he was her favorite principal.

She could cook. And she was a darn good mother. Yet her greatest gift stretched further than both of those. She had perhaps the greatest gift anyone could ever have when she entered a room—

She made people smile.


A real ding-a-ling

February 12, 2017 - One Response

Published by the Times-Georgian (alternative ending)–February 12, 2017

by Joe Garrett


He’s not Jack the Ripper.

Actually, he has more in common with New York politician Anthony Weiner than the famous serial killer who roamed the streets of London in 1888.

Last Tuesday, our local newspaper reported front page headlines of a man who’s been exposing his—let’s call it “privates”—to women from the CVS greeting card section to the aisle at Kroger near the fruits and vegetables.

flasherAs of this writing the flasher is still on the run. Women are advised to be on the lookout, go in pairs and monitor their surroundings. It’s likely he will strike again and eventually be handcuffed.

Only a fool thinks he will never get caught.

The Carrollton Police Department released a photo and video surveillance via social media of this flasher, also known as The Carrollton Ding-a-ling. Thank God he’s wearing clothes in the footage released.

The late Lewis Grizzard once defined the difference between the words naked and nekkid.

“Naked is when you have no clothes on,” wrote Grizzard. “Nekkid is when you have no clothes on and you’re up to something.”

I only wish I knew what this nekkid man who exposes himself to women is up to?

“Most people will argue The Carrollton Ding-a-ling has a mental disorder,” said local pundit Cade Parian. “Let’s give him the benefit of the doubt. He’s probably had a hard week and promised his wife he will quit his daily habit of smoking two packs of Marlboros. Maybe he needs a little space to let it all hang out.”

Whatever is motivating The Carrollton Ding-a-ling is a big mystery, but I hope he finds a new hobby soon.

Therefore, I have a message for The Carrollton Ding-a-ling if he’s reading this column. It’s the sermon my mother preached to me and all of the neighborhood boys when we were teenagers—

“Boys, if you don’t want any trouble in life,” she lectured us. “Chew bubble gum, drink Coca-Colas and keep them britches zipped up.”

There’s always room for redemption, reform and revival in this town. And I believe The Carrollton Ding-a-ling can turn his life around. All he has to do is decide to become a winner. Certainly, the world has seen enough of this man’s wiener.

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