The Year of Moving Forward

The Year of Moving Forward
At our 4 person wedding reception in DC

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Yes!, Oprah, and ...

Well I'm trying to 2 plus 2 together and come up with 4, and can't do it.

The other day, I read an article in Yes! magazine about stress and emotional baggage. We all have it to some degree, but for some it is overwhelming.

Yesterday I watched the final Oprah show that I had recorded. Oprah spoke of each person being worthy, if for no other reason than that you are born.

She said she had spoken with over 30,000 people on her show, and that everyone of them had one thing in common. They all wanted validation.

She said every person you ever meet shares the same questions.

Do you see me?

Do you hear me?

Does what I say mean anything to you?

She said to try it with your husband, your wife, your partner, your children, your friends.

Validate them.

So, with that in mind, I get a call this morning and am told that a good friend had taken his own life.

This friend had walked with me at the Out of the Darkness Suicide Prevention walk last November.

We had seen this sign.

And this one.

And we saw this one.

My friend had been down that road before. We had talked about that.

He took one more journey down that road. This time he reached the end.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Memorial Day tribute - 2011

This is the only unofficial historical flag display in Bessemer.

Each year on particular patriotic holidays we display our historic flag collection. You will see these for 3 or 4 days, then in June, another flag goes up. The historic flags may be displayed again in July.

Memorial Day was first observed following the Civil War, and there are multiple stories regarding its origin. However, a Memorial Day web site says this:

It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.

And even though the holiday was first observed in 1866 or so, I honor all of those who died in service to our country from every war. I add flags that were flown during wars, and this collection is not complete, I guess.

The first flag represented the 13 colonies, thus had 13 stars. There were several versions, and the Betsy Ross flag is the most popular. This flag was sewn in 1776 (well, not this one, but one of the same design). I fly this flag to honor the Revolutionary War dead.

The "Star Spangled Banner" with 15 stars, inspired our National Anthem. It flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812. This flags honors those who died during that war.

This flag is new to our collection. It has 20 stars, aligned in the shape of a star. By 1818 there were 20 states, and several designs with 20 stars were considered. It was called the Grand Star flag.

The U. S. was not at war during that time, but I do know that the U. S. Navy naval units were raiding slave traffic pursuant to the 1819 Act of Congress. I don't know that any seamen were killed during those raids, so let's let this flag honor all servicemen and women who died during non-war skirmishes and battles and such.

Next we fly a flag that was flown during the Civil War. This flag has 34 stars, that is the number of states including those which thought they could leave the union. This flag honors all, Northern and Southern, soldiers who died during that was.

Here is a flag with 48 stars that flew during World War II, when my dad fought in both Europe and the Pacific. This flag honors those who died during the Great War, as well as WWI and the Spanish American War since I don't have flags representing those wars yet.

And this is our current flag, with 50 stars. This flag flew during the Vietnam War, and the Iraq Wars and the Afghanistan War. I think we've had enough wars under this flag. This flag honors the dead from Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The black mourning ribbon hanging from the flag mast is in place of flying a flag like this at half staff, since that is impossible.

This flag is out of order. It is the Bennington Flag, and could have been flown in 1777, but most historians date this flag between 1820 and 1830. Since we don't know, I placed it at the end, to represent those who will die in future wars while protecting our freedom. It is a fairly recognizable flag to have such an unsure past.

I also like having an unusual flag at the end, since that is the flag many will see as they drive by.

Remember those who have died securing and protecting our freedom.

Monday, May 23, 2011

End of the earth

When I went outside to get the paper yesterday morning I found this on my front door.

Then I went over to my friend's house and found this.

Later I realized my friend was still here. In fact, we are all still here (except for those who passed away of natural or unnatural causes over the last two days).

So now these billboards are showing up.

I think I'm going to do another quick study of the Bible and come up with a theology.


OK, done.

Now we have to worry about December 12, 2012. That's the day the Mayan calendar predicts the earth will end.

And when that doesn't happen, they will say December 21, 2012 (because I find predictions for both dates based on the same gobbledygook).

My thoughts are this. Let's just live like decent people, treat each other nice, love your neighbor, stop war, let gay people marry, take care of the earth, and nurture your children. Then, if and when the earth ends, we will have done the right thing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

How to make money

Become a charlatan.

First, pick a date in the future. Any date, just be sure to allow time for publishing a book and publicizing it.

Second, write a book promoting that date as the end of the world, or Armageddon, or the rapture. Come up with a convoluted formula to support your prediction. Using references of unicorns and aliens is allowed, but not mandatory.

"Virgin and Unicorn" by Domenichino, 1605. Fresco, Farnese palace, Rome.

Third, begin a radio talk show. Until recently, AM radio was best. Now, more people can be reached by FM, thus more money can be taken in.

Fourth, blame the end of the world on the gays. People love to blame the problems of the world on the gays. Just listen to Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. Oh yeah, Falwell's dead.

This is Harold Camping. This is his second big fund raising event based on the end of the world. He published a book, 1994?, in which he suggested the end would begin with Jesus' return on September 6 of that year. He was wrong. People with out a lot of sense continue to believe him, even though he has been wrong before.

In that video he says the gays, especially the ones in the "cesspool" called San Francisco, are responsible for the rapture which he is predicting to occur Saturday at 6:00. He says that "God says that there will come a time when he will give up the world to homosexuality and lesbianism." He says this is in Romans 1. I have read Romans 1 and I don't find the word "lesbianism" in the text, but of course I don't find the term homosexuality as it is understood today in the text either.

What this is, is a man creating anxiety among the uninformed and easily swayed, and profiting off of their fear. He is no better than the scum that are looting or profiting off of the tornado victims in Alabama. And he is bastardizing the Bible to benefit himself.

To Mr. Camping, I say, "Mark 13:32. But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."

In the meantime, Equality Alabama is composing a list of places of worship (of any denomination or religion) in Alabama that is welcoming to all, including gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender. If you know of such a place of worship, especially in the smaller towns and in south Alabama, please let me know. Email me or post a comment. (You can find an email link over to the left.)

"At Least It's Not The End Of The World" by Larassa Kabel, (Oil on canvas).

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Here's what's going on

Camp Bessemer

The Bessemer City Council is running at full speed trying to make sure that Camp Bessemer takes place this year. A "hiccup" has caused a re-do in the process of awarding Camp Bessemer to an entity that will carry out the program. At both the City Council meeting and a Camp Bessemer committee meeting yesterday, new dates were discussed for submitting proposals and those are expected to be approved by the full council in a special called meeting.

Expect the RFP to be re-issued later this week...and the process begins again.

Here's a neat article about one aspect of 2010 Camp Bessemer.

Photo from that article

Bessemer Health Center

According to the Birmingham News (not yet online) the Bessemer Health Center, located at 2201 Arlington Avenue, will close. Services offered there will be relocated to a new clinic in Midfield. The consolidated clinic will take the place of the Ensley, West End and Bessemer clinics.

Construction of the new clinic, to be located on Bessemer Super Highway, won't start until 2012, so the Bessemer Clinic will not close anytime soon. Hopefully Jefferson County, or Bessemer, can come up with a use for the facility and it won't become just another vacant building.

After all, the south side of Bessemer is becoming a hot spot, what with new restaurants and a new DHR building in the business section, and a new push for Historic Neighborhood status for the residential section, and a somewhat renewed hope for saving Arlington School. (That link it to an old article with pics of the school, not the new info.)


As reported here earlier, Bessemer Police are implementing a new "zero policy" policy on crime. Residents might notice increased patrols and jailers might notice more mouths to feed.

Police Captain Mike Roper said, "We will fill the jail to capacity."

Police have already increased their presence in the city's parks, and we look forward to seeing more cops in the neighborhoods.

My only wish is that police in our area would park their car and walk around the block on occasion. From experience, I can tell them that you see a lot more when you are walking down the street than you do when you are driving down the street. This is something we have suggested for the past five years (since I ran for city council). Someday...


Shoppers at Colonial Promenade Tannehill may have noticed some construction going on. PetSmart will be opening a store later this summer.

Still on the wish list: a book store (Books-A-Million or Barnes and Noble), an office supply store, and an electronics store.

Historic Homes

Keep you calendar open for a home tour in historic Lakewood in late November. Details will be coming soon. Here's info from the 2006 tour of the area.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Healing the community

Healing can take place on several levels. There is physical healing, as when one has a broken bone or a kidney infection. There is emotional healing, as when one has been hurt by the actions of their lover. And there is community healing, something Birmingham has been struggling with since the 1960's. But more recently, since the April 27 storms, communities are broken in a different way and are in need of a different kind of healing.

On Sunday our pastor delivered a sermon titled "Building a Healing Community." (Her May sermon series was developed before the storms.) She based her sermon on the story of Jesus healing the paralytic (Mark 2: 1-12) and she spoke of the different types of healing mentioned above, including community healing.

Also on Sunday the Birmingham News published "A Special Report" titled Reinventing Our Community, stating "...metro Birmingham just might be ready to move beyond a decade of division, disparity and corruption." Almost every section of the paper had articles outlining the broken history of our city, the huge opportunity that has been laid out in front of us, and ideas for moving forward, with urgency, toward meaningful change. Everyone in Jefferson County should read Sunday's paper. Click here for the entire Special Report. There is a lot to read, plan to spend some time there.

The storms of April 27 may have been the spark that ignites a movement. Relief and recovery efforts have ignored real or perceived boundaries without regard to race or religion or sexual orientation or football affiliation, and there is a common call for the rebuilt communities to be better than the ones that are no more.

The Bessemer Cutoff OFA Team (Bessemer's 2012 Obama team), sent volunteers on Saturday to work at the Pratt City Resource Center. (Bessemer Cutoff OFA on Facebook)

The Resource Center is staffed by dozens of officials from various agencies and scores of volunteers. Residents who have been affected by the storm can pick up supplies such as tarps or cleaning supplies as well as household items, water and food. Services offered by FEMA and the Red Cross could be accessed, and internet access and some health services were offered for residents who needed it.

In addition, donations of water and food and other items were constantly being dropped off.

In other words, hundred of people created a steady stream of cars coming into the facility, which had to be directed to the proper areas in order to avoid confusion. And with hundreds of residents coming in, and volunteers that were working for hours, food needed to be provided. Arby's was there feeding folk, as was Jim & Nicks Barbecue. Several church groups were there cooking; Christ Way Church of God members grilled hamburgers for volunteers and residents, who shared tables set up near the grills.

You can volunteer for the Pratt City Resource Center through Hands on Birmingham.

Among the religious groups helping were people from Mennonite Disaster Services.

They were in Pratt City after storms in 1998, and are back again. "This will be a long-term project,"
Disaster Response Coordinator Jerry Klassen said.

ICNA Relief had volunteers there also.

Islamic Circle of North America is a Muslim organization that recognizes their call to help and support the needy as a religious responsibility. The man I spoke with was also an Auburn fan and an Obama supporter, but his work there had nothing to do with either of those choices. They were there to help, just like the rest of us.

Presbyterians were there. Catholic groups were there. There were Baptist and evangelical groups there. All were there to help a community get back on their feet again.

Reinventing Birmingham is sort of like reinventing the Black Belt region of Alabama. Talk, talk, talk, talk, talk...people easily tire of hearing about their problems and not seeing any action to make improvements. Things are slowly, and finally, changing in the Black Belt, thanks in part to Bob Riley's Black Belt Action Team and Congresswoman Terri Sewell. But change there is not happening there overnight, nor will it in Birmingham.

In fact, if won't happen at all if people don't leave behind the thing that divides us the most - religion.

I don't mean people need to give up their faith, far from it. Just don't let your faith get in the way of doing what is right for our community. Of course, your faith may dictate that you help your community by providing educational services or assisting in health care education or restoring neighborhoods.

But if your faith says you are better than someone else, or that you are closer to God than someone else, or that you have better access to God than somebody else, and you come in with that kind of attitude, then you are part of the problem that has been holding Birmingham back for decades.

We just ask that you get out of the way while we carry our city into the future.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Boateng's - now open

I wasn't there on opening night, but I was told by the owner that it wasn't the Grand Opening which is still to come. Boateng's Cajun Creations has opened in Bessemer. Finally; (for those who remember, I wrote a post in anticipation quite a while back).

Boateng's joins a couple of other restaurants, Nukes and Courtyard Cafe, in the area of the new DHR building which will open in September, bringing over 100 workers to the area. (I know of another potential project in the area that would be a boost for the city, too, but my lips are sealed for now).

Friday night the family dined at Boateng's and we did not come away disappointed. OK, what did everybody have? I can't remember everything, but two in the party had fried gator, and another had fried shrimp. I had grilled grouper. Another had a grilled shrimp salad. And among the side orders the group sampled were seafood gumbo, chicken-n-sausage gumbo, jambalaya, and fried okra.

Before the meal a serving of fruit was brought to the table for each guest. Strawberries, grapes and a slice of orange whet the appetite for what was to come.

The Boatengs have roots in Ghana, California and New Jersey.

Not the flag of Ghana alongside the US flag on their sign.

None of those places are known for their Cajun cuisine, but the Boatengs have developed a bill of fare equal to any in the Bayou State (or Bessemer, meaning they rival my own Cajun cooking - ha!).

It's really impossible to share all of the menu items, and of course, some items are out of season (or just coming into season), but there are po' boys or platters of your favorites; shrimp, catfish, grouper, gator, crawfish or several other things. And of course there's red beans and rice, jambalaya, gumbo, crab-n-shrimp bisque, fried green tomatoes, shrimp-n-grits and more. Here's a picture of their low boiled shrimp. I'm ready to go back.

Sometime toward the latter part of next week guests may get to enjoy a slice of orange pecan pie or tearoom lemon cake. You get one guess as to where those may be coming from.

Now, should I share my hit Christmas party favorites - crawfish etouffee and gator jambalaya - recipes?

Find Boateng's Cajun Creations Restaurant on Facebook, where you can see more pictures of their food.

Boateng's is open 7 days a week, 11:00 am to 9:00 pm Monday through Saturday, and 1:00 pm to 6:00 pm on Sunday. They are located at 2 - 19th Street N in Bessemer, next to the railroad tracks. Tell them you heard about it on Bessemer Opinions.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

North Smithfield tornado relief

I went on another tornado relief jaunt yesterday. A group, through Hands on Birmingham, went to North Smithfield (Birmingham) and helped remove some downed trees.

At the first stop we cut up and removed most of two huge oak trees, a hackberry, and a Bradford pear that they had crushed. One of the oaks had mistletoe growing in it, and the base of the mistletoe was at least four inches in diameter. That's a big mistletoe. I wish I had taken a picture of the parasite, but I didn't.

But I did get a picture of my friend Wayne, who I had not seen since I sold my practice, in action with the chainsaw. Funny how you run into people you know when out doing volunteer work.

Look at that guy carrying that huge section by himself. We had some strong guys out there, but there were plenty of strong women too.

Here's another shot of a different saw operator. You can really see that it was a huge tree.

Our next stop, after being fed at the fire station by the Red Cross, was on another street, where a large pine tree had fallen.

Here the chain saw guys went to work like a team of beavers.

There is nothing too exciting about this blog post. It's just here to get you interested in joining up with a group of folks and helping the community. Hands on Birmingham is the place to do it; go to that web site and click in disaster relief. You will find several opportunities. Check late in the day, each day, because new opportunities are added daily. And all of the volunteer work does not involve physical labor; answering phones and helping residents who come to the resource centers are other ways you can contribute.

My next day to volunteer will be Tuesday. So to join up with whatever group I will in, check the web site Monday. If there is a Concord group, I will probably be in that one. Otherwise, who knows. Email me to find out.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Railroad blues

I wonder how many Bessemer residents and visitors were frustrated yesterday as a train sat on the tracks blocking 14th St (Highway 150), and every street up to and past 23rd. Usually this is not a big problem (unless your house is on fire) but yesterday this happened at 5:00 pm and the roads were blocked for more than 20 minutes. Five o'clock is rush hour, and yes, Bessemer has one.

That photo was taken at 5:04. I had sat in traffic, and gone into the convenience store, made a purchase, before taking this picture, so I know the train had been there at least 5 minutes.

I have been told that state law says a train can only block a road for 10 minutes. I was told the railroad can be fined. I wonder if they can be fined for each road they block. The city needs some money.

This picture was taken from the intersection in front of my house, after I got home. Train still sitting there at 5:15.

I called the police non-emergency number and asked what the law said. The person who answered the phone said she was on the phone with the railroad at the same time trying to find out what was going on. From that, I assume they know which railroad it was.

I heard a train whistle a couple of minutes later. I went outside and took another picture.

This picture shows another train, moving in the opposite direction, passing the stalled train. This photo was taken at 5:20.

If you remember, when Glenn Shadix's house in Bessemer burned, trains blocked some of the fire trucks and they were delayed in their response (Glenn told me this).

I understand that trains sometimes have to stop where there are double tracks to allow another train to pass.

What I don't understand is why an overpass has never been build so that heavily traveled Highway 150 will not be blocked like this. City officials in the past have from time to time suggested such an improvement, but no one has taken it to the state and gotten it approved, I guess.

It's time to work on that.

Now, let's talk about trains stopping in Bessemer with the engine in front of Church's Chicken and the train engineer getting out and walking over to get his chicken. His lunch break sure does inconvenience a lot of people.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Bessemer Ketchup

Actually, it's Bessemer catch up, but I thought the title was cute.

City Council

It's been a while since I've been to a city council meeting. We've been out of town so much, and other obligations have just made it difficult to go.

Last night I went.

The council, always moving forward since this session started, seemed a little out of sync last night. A resolution that were expected to pass, did not, and the council then heard from a property owner, and figured out how to do a re-vote, did it and passed the resolution.

Then, a motion to introduce the ordinance that would raise the lodging tax from 3% to 6% came up. As a vote neared, nervous hotel owners were on the edge of their seats wanting to speak. Finally, they were allowed, and they argued that raising the tax would send guests to the new hotels near the Galleria, and also that the last time the tax was raised, they had to lower their rate so the amount charged to guests was still competitive. They will have to do that again, one said, and when they lower their rates, and when their business falls, the tax collected goes down too.

The council decided to take the matter up in a planning session at which the owners will be allowed to make a presentation. The session will be May 10 at 9:00 am.


Here is some news out of the meeting. The Bessemer Super Highway Bridge will be replaced by ALDOT. This will be an 18-24 month project. A start date had not been set, and a decision on whether to replace two lanes at a time, allowing reduced traffic flow to continue on the other two lanes, or to close the entire bridge and do it all at once, but finishing the project about 6 months quicker, has not been made.

Also, repaving of a section of I-20/59 is imminent. This includes a section from Bessemer to Fairfield, and includes the exits and entrances and streets underneath, such at 18th and 19th streets that are so rough and bumpy.

E-Waste recycling

There will be an E-waste recycling day at the Bessemer Civic Center on Saturday, May 7, from 8 am to 1 pm, for electronics and computers. They will take desktop, laptops, empty inkjet cartridges, laser toner cartridges, cell phones, some pagers and blackberries. They will not be taking used printer ribbons, fax ribbons or empty toner bottles.

This will be a fundraiser for Bessemer City Schools. For every three computers recycled, one refurbished computer will be donated to the school system.


Here is some more news from the meeting. The Bessemer Police Department is implementing a Zero Tolerance policy in Bessemer regarding crime. More on this later. But maybe it will lead to less of this type of graffiti, seen recently in downtown Bessemer.

Let's see. A racial slur toward Hispanics, a Nazi symbol, then some Hispanic graffiti. Lot's of hatred going around.


I spoke to the council about the opposite; the outpouring of love as evidenced by the local response to the tornado. Specifically I spoke about Hands on Birmingham, and urged anyone who wanted to volunteer to go the web site and register and check back often for updated opportunities. The recovery will be a marathon, not a sprint, so there will be plenty of opportunity in the coming months. But the need is great right now.

I also spoke about a way to honor my friend, Bessemer DHR Director Nancy Wilson, who was killed by the tornado. More about this later.

A rec center!

Bessemer will finally be getting a rec center, according to the Birmingham News. This came about at one of the meetings I missed. A 1 cent sales tax was passed, and part of this money will go toward a rec center. Plans are not finalized, in fact, they are not even under way.

We certainly hope a swimming pool will be a part of the new rec center. Council member Sherrina Rice thinks so too. The last public pools in Bessemer were closed during the 1960's so little black boys and girls and little white boys and girls wouldn't be able to swim together. Isn't that just tacky? And embarrassing, that our ancestors (not that long ago) thought that way?

Council president Jesse Matthews thinks Roosevelt Park would be a good location. One of the pools that was filled in was at Roosevelt Park. Good central location.

A suggestion

Planning is in the early stages. I have a suggestion for the mayor and council. The Public Building Authority is bringing a top notch DHR building to the city. Why not give the PBA the job of bringing a rec center to the city? Just a thought, from a PBA member that wants to continue to make Bessemer a better place.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Osama bin Laden - dead

Quick post.

Obama on bin Laden, during his campaign.

George W. Bush on bin Laden, in 2002.

'Nuff said.