Archive for the ‘Atlanta’ Category

The Tale of Two Coaches

Sunday, January 26th, 2020

 

Please excuse me people, but I have been attempting to write this post for a few weeks now and it maybe a little out of date. Nevertheless I will write my thoughts. When Mauricio Pocchetino was sacked by Tottenham Hotspur in November, Falcons Head Coach Dan Quinn’s head was also on the chopping block. Ironically their tenure and statistics at their respective clubs/teams almost ran parallel with each other, give or take some poetic license.

Pocchetino was hired by Spurs in 2014. He guided them to three top three  finishes in his first four seasons, culminating in a place in the Champions League Final in June 2019. However, they gave their fans very little to cheer by succumbing very meekly to Liverpool 0-2. The score doesn’t tell the tale of Liverpool’s dominance.

Pocchetino’s team selection was not without controversy. Lucas Mora scored a hatrick in the second leg of their semi-final with Ajax to secure their place in the final. Their star striker Harry Kane had missed a couple of months with an ankle injury, but demanded to play in the final to the exclusion of Lucas Mora. Pocchetino meekly succumbed to player pressure and  the rest is history.

Pocchetino claimed that he would have walked away if Spurs had won the Champions League because he felt he couldn’t take the club any further. In his defence,  he was hampered in developing the team by  lack of new signings in recent seasons caused in part by the construction of a new stadium which had drained their financial resources. Furthermore, the construction took much longer than anticipated and Spurs were forced to play their home games at Wembley for almost two seasons.

At the beginning of 2019-2020 season, Pocchettino resembled a man who didn’t want to be there, and several of the first team were looking for moves elsewhere none of which materialized. Consequently, the manager and team looked stale and devoid of new ideas. By November of last year, Spurs were languishing in 14th place in the Premiership and were humiliated at home by Bayern Munich losing 1-7 in a Champions League group game. Pocchettino was  summarily sacked. Not long before he had been touted as the next head coach/manager of Real Madrid or Manchester United, and perhaps of the Argentinian national team.  He is currently back in his homeland, Argentina, where he is a color analyst for one of the TV stations covering Argentinian league games.

On the other side of the pond, Dan Quinn was hired as Head Coach of the Atlanta Falcons approximately around the same time as Pocchettino was appointed at Spurs. In his first season, The Falcons went 8-8 and missed the playoffs. In 2016, they finished 11-5 and clinched a placed in the Super Bowl only to lose to the New England Patriots. The loss decimated Atlanta fans because the Falcons were leading 28-3 entering the fourth quarter, but eventually lost in overtime due to what can only be construed as mismanagement by the coaching staff, not least by Dan Quinn.

Roughly the same time Pocchetino was sacked by Spurs, the Falcons finished the first half the NFL season 1-7, and Falcon fans and the local media were calling for Quinn’s head. The Falcons had finished 10-6 the season following the Super Bowl debacle but lost in the playoffs to the eventual champions, the Philadelphia Eagles. In 2018 they were decimated by injuries and they failed to make the playoffs finishing 7-9.

Subsequent to the 2019 season, Quinn announced he was taking over the defensive coordinating duties which proved to be catastrophic. The Falcons conceded 40 points in at least three of their losses culminating in their 1-7 record entering the bye week. Falcons owner Arthur Blank claimed he would take the off week to review Quinn’s position as Head Coach. Meanwhile, Quinn decided to relinquish his defensive duties handing over to two of his assistant coaches, The Falcons faired better in the second half with a 6-2 record, but 7-9 overall, missing the playoffs in successive seasons.

Unaccountably, Arthur Blank announced before the final game of the season that Quinn and the hapless general Manager, Thomas Dimitroff would be returning next season. Blank explained that “it takes a big man to admit he was wrong,” meaning Quinn realized  he had made a dog’s dinner of supervising his team’s defense. But why should it take Quinn eight games to realize the error of his ways?

In contrast it was patently obvious to any Spurs fan that Pocchetino’s days were numbered, and the club needed a fresh start. Similarly, Dan Quinn and his cohort Dimitroff should have been shown the exit door. Quinn placed the blame of the previous season’s failure to make the playoffs by firing his defensive and offensive coordinators. He followed this up by placing his neck in the defensive coordinator’s noose, and was left hanging. He should have been put out of his and our misery. I was tired of his sound bites during  the first half of the season, and I actually felt he should have been fired after losing the Super Bowl in such a pathetic fashion.

Well what can I glean from this? Professional sport in the 21st Century is success oriented. Spurs’s Chairman Daniel Levy is a shrewd operator on some levels and he realized that Pocchetino was done and dusted. In contrast Arthur Blank appears to run a” good old boys club” by admitting that he likes Quinn and Dimitroff. But I wonder how many executives he fired when he was co-owner of Home Depot for not producing the goods.

 

 

 

My Sporting Heroes

Thursday, October 3rd, 2019

The title of this post is a contradiction really. Regular readers of my blog (if there are any) will know that the sporting teams I support include Swansea City and Tottenham Hotspur on the football front, the Atlanta Falcons from the NFL, the Atlanta Braves from major league baseball and the Wales rugby team.

Why the contradiction? Well I have had more than my share of disappointments supporting these teams over the last few years. Swansea City were relegated from the Premiership about 18 months ago, but did survive seven seasons in the top flight whilst winning the League Cup (or whatever it was called) in 2013. Paying millions for over rated players, changing managers through a revolving  door eventually put paid to their elite status. Currently, they sit at the top of the Championship table after 10 games, but it’s a long season, so don’t hold your breath.

Where do I begin with Tottenham Hotspur? They overachieved last season by reaching the final of the Champions League, but played so flat that the late Donald Campbell could have broken the land speed record across their backs. The summer almost brought a wind of change through the management and squad. Manager Pochettino cast envious eyes towards Real Madrid, Christian Ericksen, Toby Alderwald, Danny Rose, and Jan vethongen wanted to leave. However, Real Madrid rehired Zidane as head coach, and Manchester United, another possible destination for Pocchetino, made Solksjaer their permanent manager. Meanwhile no suitable offers came in for the want away players, and they all remain members of the squad.

Rumors on the internet claimed that Vethongen had an affair with Eriksen’s girl friend, and several of the squad are not speaking to each other. I don’t know whether there’s any truth in the rumor, but Spurs suffered the worst home defeat in their history by losing 2-7 to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Group Stage last Tuesday. They looked like a team falling apart at the seams, and perhaps Pochettino has them as far as possible. Rumors are also rife that Real Madrid intend hiring him next season, and he will take Harry Kane and Eriksen with him. Speaking of Kane, he looks to have lost a yard or two in pace, and he wasn’t the fastest greyhound in the first place.

This is painful to recall, but the Falcons were leading the New England Patriots 28-3 entering the final quarter in the 2017 Super Bowl only to concede 31 unanswered points and lose the game in overtime. Following an unsinspiring 2018 season when they went 7-9 Dan Quinn decided to part with his defensive and offensive co-ordinators, and too over defensive duties. A quarter of the 2019 regular season has been played and we are currently 1-3. the not so mighty Quinn claims the team lacks consistency and they can find the solutions to a season  which is rapidly sinking like the Titanic. I put their malaise down to the three Ts: tackling, timing and turnovers. They are simply an ordinary team that has an over inflated opinion of themselves.

The Atlanta Braves last won the World Series in 1995. They should have repeated in 1996, but shot themselves in the foot. In my opinion the franchise has never fully recovered from that damaging loss to the Yankees. Yes, they managed to return to the playoffs on a few occasions since, but couldn’t add another World Series. They won 97 games this season and comfortably made the playoffs. However they never learn from previous mistakes. They rested players during the last week and half of the season, and proceeded to be swept 0-3 by the New York Mets in the last series of the season.

Once again they are playing an opponent, St Louis Cardinals, who surged into the Playoffs while the Braves appeared to take their foot of the gas and have last their momentum. There are injury worries concerning Freeman and Acuna and they have two or three inexperienced pitchers in their rotation. Game 1 and 2 are being played tonight and tomorrow in Atlanta, so watch this space.

Wales are currently involved in the Rugby World Cup, and produced a superb display last Saturday to narrowly defeat Australia. If they can win their remaining matches in the group  against Fiji and Uruguay they will top their table and avoid New Zealand and England in the quarter finals. Wales have not done particularly well in the World Cup, apart from achieving 3rd place in the inaugural event in 1987. They have found the proverbial banana skin in previous World Cups having lost to Fiji once before, so I am not counting chickens just yet.

A Bit Like a Curate’s Egg

Monday, September 4th, 2017

An American friend of mine asked me where I was yesterday because I wasn’t in work. I told him I was playing golf. He asked how was my round. I said it was a bit like a curate’s egg. He exclaimed: “What the hell does that mean?” I said that it meant it was good in parts and bad in places. In my mind that was a perfectly accurate explanation, but unfortunately not in the American idiom and therefore lost in translation.

Come to think of it, a curate’s egg would also describe Trump’s presidency. Trump is actually the reason I haven’t written anything over the past few weeks. I had planned to write a review of his first 100 days as President but the whole period was dominated by the Russian connection to the Trump family and the alleged Russian influence on the Presidential Election. I then decided to review his first six months in office but his presidency continued to be mired in potential scandal, North Korea, firings, resignations of his Cabinet and White House staff, and now Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impact on Houston.

During his election campaign, he promised to “drain the swamp” which he attributed to eradicating Washington of political corruption. This is all very well but he alienated politicians on both sides of the house, and therefore its no surprise he failed to have sufficient support to repeal or scrap Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare and make other positive changes to the nation’s health care system. Recently Trump commented that the swamp had now evolved into a sewer! He probably extended his colorful rhetoric to include most of the media who he constantly condemns for producing “fake news.”

One of his nemesis is Senator John McCain who Trump publically insulted by claiming “real heroes don’t get captured,” referring to McCain’s long internment by the Vietnamese when he was shot down over enemy territory. McCain was recently diagnosed with brain cancer, but made a remarkable comeback to the senate to provide the decisive “no” to block the repeal of Obamacare.

One could argue that Trump has made progress with illegal immigration, the economy and other issues since he took office. There is almost a 50% reduction  in illegal crossings on the southern border, consumer confidence is at a 16 year high, and CEO confidence is at a 20% high. He has also achieved some success in Congress approving in principle to build the wall on the border between USA and Mexico. Could this wall rival in time the history, notoriety and infamy of  Hadrian’s Wall, The Great Wall of China, or the Berlin Wall?

When Congress returns from their summer break, the major item on the agenda will be tax reform which was ranked high on Trump’s election platform. Meanwhile he has to deal with the contentious issue of North Korea firing nuclear missiles across Japan, and recently producing a hydrogen bomb. Trump has threatened North Korea with some aggressive rhetoric, but he may have to rely on international diplomacy to take the heat out of a risky situation.

Swansea City have had  what could be described as a curate’s egg of their own in the summer transfer window. They sold last season’s  two top goal scorers and chief creator, Siggurdson and LLorente to Everton and Tottenham respectively. Only to make one of the more audacious loan deals of the transfer window by signing 20 year old Portugese international Sanchez from Bayern Munich for the remainder of the season. This was quickly followed by the return of former favorite Wilfried Bony who hopefully can recapture his form that he produced in 2014-15.

On a final note, I found it ironic that Georgia’s Governor unveiled a bronze statue of Martin Luther King at the Capital Building in downtown Atlanta last week amidst the protests and outcry nationwide to remove countless Confederate statues. These protesters claim that the statues are racist and offensive to their delicate countenance. When will the Silent Majority stand up and tell them the statues represent a part of America’s history and do no harm to anyone with an iota of intelligence?

 

Unanswered Questions

Friday, April 14th, 2017
  • Why do some people smother their steaks with ketchup?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers refuse to use headlights when the visibility is almost zero?
  • Why do some Atlanta drivers feel that using blinkers is an affront to their masculinity?
  • Can you define the  word “schism” and use it in a sentence?
  • Why does hair sprout from unusual places but ceases to grow on your head when you are older?
  • Why didn’t my parents warn me to take better care of my body to offset the wreckage of old age?
  • What is the difference between refugees, asylum seekers and migrants?
  • Do Germans and Greeks really dislike each other?
  • Why do I regard myself as Welsh first, British second, and European a distant third?
  • Who is John Ossoff and why has he been foisted on people living in the Sixth District of Georgia when he doesn’t even live here?
  • Why are spectators referred to as Patrons at the Masters?
  • Why does CBS’s Jim Nantz assume everyone is his friend?
  • Would I rather be ugly and rich, or poor and good-looking?
  • Would you rather always lose or never play?
  • Would you rather be forgotten or hatefully remembered?
  • Would you rather get even or get over it?
  • Would you rather kiss a horse or lick a cow?
  •  Why did it take a homeless person to do what transit planners, engineers, and consultant could not do…..get the attention of politicians to start looking at transportations options in Metro Atlanta.
  • Why aren’t Americans familiar with the phrase “curate’s egg?”
  • Why do Swansea City’s American owners remind me of Steptoe and Son?
  • Why did the Atlanta Braves win only one world series  when they had three Hall of Fame pitchers in Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux?
  • Does 14 successive Division (which only comprises 5 teams) Titles  achieved by the Atlanta Braves define success, mediocrity, or missed opportunities?
  • Why is Easter, the most important event in the Christian Calendar, no longer a public holiday in America?
  • What is more important to the average sports fan, a winning team or a “state of the art” ultra modern stadium?
  • Why don’t we have a colony on the moon bearing in mind Neil Armstrong landed there in 1969?
  • Why are my compatible with certain individuals, but not others?
  • What is the criteria for defining a good friend?
  • Which of these three songs has been covered the most by other artists: George Harrison’s “Something,” Paul McCartney’s “Yesterday,’ or John Lennon’s “Imagine?”
  • Which is most likely to happen in my twilight years: Swansea City returning to the Premiership, or the Atlanta Falcons winning the Super Bowl?
  • Why is my neighborhood in Atlanta beginning to resemble Puerto Rico?
  • In an attempt to avoid the dreaded drop, will the Swans go gently into the good night, or fight the good fight?
  • With apologies to “The Clash,” should I stay (in America) or should I go (to Wales?)

Black Hat, Purple Cool

Friday, February 17th, 2017

The last ten days or so have been quite traumatic for my favorite sports teams on either side of the Atlantic. On the morning of the Super Bowl, Swansea City travelled to Manchester “Millionaires” City in more hope than expectation. Yes, they had won their previous two matches and had clawed their way out of the relegation zone, but playing Man City away is a tall order. The first half proved to be a startling exercise in survival. City scored early in the game, and I was fully expecting the flood gates to open. But to their credit the Swans defended doggedly with shades of desperation at times, and despite City having 82% of the possession, the score remained unchanged at half time.

The Swans played more positively in the second half, and received their reward when Siggurdson scored the equalizer with a perfectly placed shot into the corner of the net.  A valuable point appeared to be secured, but a late lapse in concentration by the Swans defense allowed City to snatch the winner well into injury time.

I was a little disappointed with the result, but nothing compared to the devastation I was to experience later in the day. The Atlanta Falcons were playing in only their second Super Bowl in their less than illustrious 50 year history. Their opponents, New England Patriots, on the other hand, are the Manchester United, Barcelona, Real Madrid of the NFL. They expect to make it to the Super Bowl every year.

The game began very well for the Falcons who completely dominated the first half, and at half time comfortably led the Patriots 21-3. The Falcons began the second half in similar fashion, and quickly scored another touchdown to take a seemingly unassailable lead of 28-3 over their opponents. The Patriots replied with a couple of field goals, and the fourth quarter resumed with Atlanta leading 28-9. Our champagne was on ice and we were dying to pop the corks. Not so fast young man!!!

What happened in the fourth quarter defies belief. The Patriots scored 19 unanswered points to tie the game and take the game into overtime. The Patriots duly won the toss and scored another touchdown to win the Super Bowl in devastating fashion. There are a number of possible reasons why the Falcons capitulated. I didn’t read or watch media coverage for over a week because it was too painful to listen or watch the talking head analyse why the Falcons provided the worst collapse in Super Bowl history.

New England Patriots’ James White scores the winning touchdown between Atlanta Falcons’ Jalen Collins, left, and Robert Alford during overtime of the NFL Super Bowl 51 football game Sunday, Feb. 5, 2017, in Houston.

Its over a week now since our calamitous defeat, and I’ve had time to try and make some sense of what went wrong. I believe it was a combination of factors. Surprisingly our offense was only on the field for a total of twenty minutes which meant the Patriots offense controlled the ball for the other sixty minutes. Consequently, as well as they played in the first half, our defense was completely exhausted in the final quarter. Matt Ryan also came under ferocious pressure in the final quarter and looked like a deer in headlights. It didn’t help matters, that Center Alex Mack played on one leg! The offensive Coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, also made some horrendous decisions on his play calling. In essence the Falcons were playing not lose in the final quarter and in doing so the momentum of the game dramatically swung in the Patriots favor.

I thought the following Saturday may bring some light relief in my sporting calendar when another of my favorite teams, Tottenham Hotspur, were playing Liverpool at Anfield which incidentally has never been a happy hunting ground  for the Spurs. Saturday was no exception, and Spurs meekly surrendered and lost 0-2, and it could have been much worse.

Into the evening, and the curse of the bambino continued. Wales were entertaining England at the Millinium Stadium who were full of confidence following a fifteen match unbeaten run. Wales played well for sixty minutes and deservedly led the auld enemy from across the Severn Bridge. However, the theme of my sporting week decided to intervene yet again, and England scored a try in the dying minutes to snatch victory from  the jaws of defeat.

Sunday morning, and the Swans were on the big screen yet again playing at home to the Champions Leicester City. Leicester have been performing more like chumps this season, and were on the same number of points as the Swans both of whom were hovering just above the relegation zone. I can be a bit of a masochist on times, and decided to complete my sporting set of failures and watch the game in a fatalistic mood.

Lo and behold, there is light at the end tunnel. The Swans scored two stunning goals in the first half, and ran out comfortable winners. On New Year’s Eve, they were languishing at the bottom of the league and about to sack their American manager, Bob Bradley and appoint their third manager of the season, Paul Clement. They are not out the woods yet, but Clement has given this beleaguered fan hope and the possibility they can remain in the Premiership. Hopefully, something can be salvaged from a season which was beginning to resemble a train wreck.

 

 

End of an Era

Friday, September 30th, 2016

I arrived in Atlanta in 1996, and was caught up with the Olympics held in and around the City. I attended a couple of events at the Olympic stadium which was subsequently and quickly converted into a baseball stadium to become home to the Atlanta Braves. I attended several games in their inaugural season of 1997, so I thought it was fitting that I  should attend one of the games in their final season at Turner Field. Nostalgia? Curiosity? Sentimentality? Call it what you will.

I went last night to see a game featuring the Philadelphia Phillies with my friend George. This was the penultimate series to be held at the Ted before the Detroit Tigers bring the curtain down on the weekend. George wrote a brilliant piece on Facebook capturing the essence of our experience last night, and it is posted below:

My friend David Alexander James and I attended the Braves-Phillies game tonight at Turner Field. We arrived early, had some good food and stayed until the 8th inning. I did a lot of looking around tonight at The Ted as we Atlantans have come to know the ballpark. Lots of baseball and Olympic events were held in this space.

Now that the Braves are moving to Sun Trust Park next year it was truly a pilgrimage of sorts for my friend and I to attend this game. I have to admit I haven’t followed the Braves much this year. And when the starting lineup was announced I found myself saying, “Who’s that guy?” A LOT. So the trip was not really about watching the game but to be in that space one last time before it’s no longer the Home of the Braves.

The field looked immaculate as always. And the Braves won tonight in grand fashion. But I couldn’t help but feel some sadness. I am glad that the ballpark will not be torn down but instead will be converted to a football/track and field stadium for my alma mater Georgia State University. And from what I understand, the parking lot that was Atlanta Fulton Co. Stadium will once again be a baseball field. That is certainly fitting in my eyes.

But the one thing that I said more than once was, “ I can’t believe that this will not be where the Braves play ball anymore. “ I understand the whole move…..money, business and so forth. But with the exception of several lights or panels out in the various displays around the stadium, the place is in fantastic shape. It’s a shame that the powers at be could not come to some sort of compromise. I’m sure I’m not alone in my feelings.

So ends the 2016 Braves season in a few days. I feel good that I did go back to that ballpark and “pay my respects” so to speak. I won’t ever forget this place. Lots of memories and fun times have taken place in the Ted for me as I am sure is the case for countless other people. And although maybe the place can’t hear me, this I verily say unto thee…..

Thanks for the memories. I’m glad you are sticking around.

 

 

Twenty Years Living in America

Tuesday, August 23rd, 2016

I emigrated to USA in 1996, and settled in Atlanta, Georgia. A couple of months later the Olympic Games descended upon the City, and I might have attended a few events, but the whole experience was  just a blur as I came to terms with my incongruous decision to move across the Atlantic. A little Frenchman told me it would take approximately two years to settle down, and he was spot on. Twenty years later, the adventure continues. Based on my time in Atlanta I’ve listed below things I like or liked about living in America and conversely things I dislike or disliked living there:

20 Things I like/liked about living in America

  • Blue skies with not a cloud to be seen.
  • Hot Wings and baby back ribs. My favorite places for those culinary delights are Taco Mac (the original location in Virginia Highlands,) Three Dollar Café and Wild West Wings, and Blue Ribbon which also does a mean martini.
  • A big house, bang for the buck which we couldn’t possibly afford if we were still living in the UK.
  • Health care, and I’m not referring to Obama Care.
  • NBC coverage of the Premiership. I can watch more Premiership games live than my son can living in London.
  • Air Conditioning
  • Variety of places to travel in one big country: mountains, desert, tropics, beaches where the water is actually warm. Alaska and Hawaii would have been difficult to reach if I still lived in the UK.
  • Visiting Monument Valley at sunrise was breathtaking.
  • Touring the national parks in Utah was a truly awesome experience.
  • Learning another language; American-English. I’ve battled for twenty years to master the dialect, but I’m afraid it’s a losing battle. Allow me to apologize to y’all. For example,  Atlanta is embracing the merits of the roundabout, but have labeled it the traffic circle.
  • Visiting Great American cities; Washington DC, New York, Chicago, New Orleans, Savannah, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Los Angeles to name but a few.
  • Our dog Tiger, was an unusual mix of chow and collie  who passed away in 2007, aged 17. He was probably my  best friend in America. He was  brave, strong, loyal, loveable with a sense of mischief.
  • Open air concerts at Chastain Park ranging from Harry Connick Jr., Tony “Bleeding” Bennett, Ringo Starr All Star Band, Huey Lewis and The News, BB King (God rest his Soul,) Chuck Berry and Ray Charles.
  • Grilling out on the Big Green Egg for nearly 10 months of the year.
  • The High Museum of Art. I had the  privilege of viewing an Impressionist exhibition, a Norman Rockwell collection of originals, and Elton John’s photography collection by several famous photographers.
  • The opportunity to attend four different professional sports in one city: basketball (Hawks) ice hockey (Thrashers now extinct,) baseball (Braves) and American football (Falcons.) a Major League Soccer team, Atlanta United, will be playing here next season.
  • Visiting Hawaii and Alaska both of which provide breathtaking scenery. Active volcanoes, bears catching salmon, a flight around Mt. McKinley were just a few of the highlights.
  • Chick_Fil_A, easily the best fast food restaurant chain in America.
  • Lightning bugs and humming birds in our backyard.
  • Close proximity to an international airport.

20 Things I don’t like about living in America.

  • Traffic where the increasing number of tractor-trailers intermingled with idiots make driving conditions extremely difficult not to mention driving on the wrong side of the road.
  • Dog days (excluding Tiger…) of summer when the humidity is at its highest and most unbearable.
  • Political correctness.
  • Lack of community spirit.
  • Sense of entitlement of certain racial ethnicities.
  • Deteoriation in customer service in stores, restaurants and bars.
  • Insularity. I’m afraid the “special relationship” that supposedly exists between the UK and USA is grossly exaggerated. Millennials don’t relate to  World War 2 or the British Pop invasion in the ’60s. As one local talking head put it so succinctly: “Britain is that little island off the west coast of Europe.”
  • Total bias of major TV and radion networks whether it be conservative or liberal. The media has become propaganda machines favoring one party over the other unwilling to give the public objective commentary on current affairs.
  • Eighteen months of personal mud slinging campaigning to earn the right to be the presidential candidate for your Party. And boy have we ended up with two humdingers in Clinton and Trump.
  • Sixty feet high trees falling on my house and in my yard.
  • The fallacy that I could reinvent myself in USA.
  • Noisy restaurants. I can’t understand why people need to shout and scream at each other across the table.
  • Roofs (shingles) which only have a shelf life of 15-20 years. Where is the good old Welsh slate when you need it?
  • The South’s obsession with college football. Alabama doesn’t have a professional sports team, but the Crimson Tide (University of Alabama) attracts 90,000 to home games. They enjoyed a similar attendance for a practice game last season. (14)
  • Sports radio stations in Atlanta, and the irrelevant pre-season NFL football games.

Ten Years a Charitable Pro!

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2016

gridlock_guy

This post is to celebrate; no I would be too kind to call it a celebration, to commemorate then?  Not really…to put it in a nutshell, I’m taking stock of 10 years working part-time for a well known car/commercial vehicle rental/leasing company. That’s a mouthful in itself. The pay is derisory, the working environment is sometimes dangerous and often claustrophobic, and patronized by a meager 25 cent an hour raise once in a blue moon. We receive no benefits, but have some consolation in taking a small slice of the Company’s profits.

But wait, I have visited several exotics places during the course of many a working week: Athens, Rome, Macedonia, Cabbage Town, In Between, and Ducktown, all of which can be found in Georgia, USA. I am usually the chase car driver whose job it is to pick up fellow drivers following vehicle deliveries to customers.

There are normally 12-14 drivers on the payroll at any given time, but 41 individuals have passed through the system during my tenure. Most of them had successful careers in following other pursuits. Many of them were sales executives, one or two were teachers, a printer, a chemist, banker, lawyer, engineer, art dealer, musician and yours truly a town planner. It is certainly a diverse mix, and several characters have emerged over the years.

20130815_114544

Who can forget Dennis with his appropriate phrase for every occasion? Several times senior management had the temerity to call us the face of the Company; to which Dennis replied: “If we were the face of the Company, I’d shave my butt and walk backwards!”

His response in missing out on a 25 cent raise was to lament: “we are lower than whale crap on the bottom of the ocean!” At the end of the day and 4-6 sweaty, weary, men have shared the inside of a mini van for 8 hours, he was heard to say on exiting the vehicle: “it smells worse than the Morehouse Track Team in a goat barn!” Dylan Thomas eat your heart out.

Quinton was the wrinkliest  man I have ever laid eyes on. I swear he appeared in Benny Hill sketches as the little bald old man who Benny frequently tapped on the head. He was at least seventy years old, married and divorced three times, living back home with his aged mother. She insisted that he was home at 4.00 pm when his dinner was placed on the table without fail. His ambition in his twilight ears was to do as little as possible which he achieved without breaking sweat.

Heckle and Jekyll, aka John and Ronnie could start a fight in a phone box. Ronnie would supply the bullets and John readily fired them; mostly at me. They would regularly sit together in the middle row  of the mini van taking umbrage with the unsuitability of a route, a lunch destination or the rising cost of belly pork.

Tony was a giant of a man standing a little over 6′ 7” and weighing in at a princely 300 pounds. There were many vehicles he couldn’t drive because his frame couldn’t fit into them.  He also had a penchant for consuming 2-3 hard boiled eggs as a mid-morning snack within the friendly confines of the mini-van which became an unfortunate ritual for fellow passengers. Tony and I were once deployed to pick up a vehicle 200 miles away in Knoxville, Tennessee only to be informed on arrival that the vehicle didn’t exist. That was not quite true because the vehicle eventually surfaced in Charlotte, North Carolina; thanks to the investigative efforts of a retired FBI agent!!!

PhoneDumpJuly2015 311

Driving the chase car requires physical resilience as well as mental fortitude. One of our drivers was at the wheel of a pick up truck which he was delivering to a customer when he rear ended me  attempting to  exit a gas station. Ronnie once fell asleep at the wheel of a car, crashed into the safety barrier; converting his vehicle into a heap of scrap metal. Luckily, he escaped with a few cuts and minor bruises.

Some of our trips have taken unexpected twists. Terry and I were transporting a car down to Savannah one day, and we left Atlanta before daylight to get an early start. Terry was following me in the customer’s car or so I believed. When the sun came up there was no sign of Terry. It was a case of mistaken identity because he followed another car, which he assumed to be me, off the highway into an office park and ended up down a blind alley while I was merrily cruising down the interstate.

Bob and I were driving a convertible to a customer and we eagerly put the roof down to let the wind blow through the few strands of hair I have left. We were nearing the customer location and reluctantly agreed it was time to return the roof  to its prone position. Unfortunately we couldn’t locate the mechanism to close the roof. Actually, that’s not strictly true since we managed to get the roof into a vertical position. Luckily the manual eventually came to our rescue.

Quik Trip is one of our favorite gas stations for fueling and coffee, but one incident almost led to a lifetime ban. Joe likes a dollop of whipping cream on his coffee and approached the dispenser with eager anticipation. He sometimes underestimates his own strength and inexplicably pulled the lever from the machine. A stream of whipped cream hit a startled Joe in the chest and then erupted like Mount Vesuvius. I was reduced to tears of laughter while employees were running around like headless chickens desperate to stop the flow of the stream of cream.

George, accompanied by four other drivers, was driving the chase car  to South Georgia to pick up some lease turn-ins. We were between Albany and Neverland when the red light appeared on the dashboard indicating a shortage of fuel. George continued to drive claiming it was merely a warning and there was a good 30 miles of fuel left in the tank. Two minutes later, the chase car ground to a halt with not a gas station in sight. I grabbed a gas can and began walking angrily down the highway in pursuit of fuel. Fortunately, a sympathetic motorist stopped and gave me a ride to the gas station located four or five miles down the road, and mercifully brought me back to the chase car and four grateful associates; one with egg all over his face!

Why do I stay in a job for 10 years that’s high risk, low pay, questionable working conditions and no prospects? Originally, I was staying for a few weeks while I carved out a new career in real estate appraisal, until a lady in red shoes put paid to that. I then  realized the Company is very lenient with us taking time off. Flexibility is the key. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a day or a month; you can go and do your own thing, and you don’t have to work weekends.

I have made some good friends, visited places in Georgia I may otherwise never have seen, and earned a few dollars to waste on my golf game. Life is good.

 

 

 

 

 

A City Choking on its own Vomit

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

According to Bloomberg,” nowhere do mid-century roadways and 21st congestion collide with such deadly force as in Atlanta where a tangle of twisting roadways and densely  packed moving traffic combine to create America’s extreme tipping point.

Furthermore, according to a study by the American Transportation Research Institute: “more than 250 trucks have flipped over since 2001 on Atlanta roads and more than 200 people have died in truck rollovers in Georgia during that time.”

Working part-time as a delivery driver three days a week,  I know a little something about Atlanta’s biggest enemy to sustainable growth: TRAFFIC CONGESTION>

There are several reasons for this tremendous surge in traffic congestion:

  1. The population for Metro Atlanta has increased dramatically from approximately 2 million around The Olympics in 1996 to 6 million at the present time.
  2. Apart from minor improvements, including the infamous inverted diamonds, delayed entrance on ramps to interstates, traffic calming measures and HOV toll roads, the road infrastructure is basically the same.
  3. Since the upturn in the economy a couple of years ago, the city has witnessed a vast increase in the construction of new developments. The modern trend these days is an emphasis on mixed use developments. Planners and architects are wrongfully assuming that citizens will live, work and play at the same location. This hypothesis works for a little while, but people change jobs and begin commuting again, shopping and eating habits continually change depending on the new fad
  4. The dramatic increase in trucks (sixteen wheelers in some instances) traversing the interstates seven days a week is overwhelming. There are certain regulations in which lanes trucks can legally use, but these are regularly ignored and abused.
  5. The interaction between car commuters and commercial trucks vying for time, space at great speed is a recipe for disaster. Accidents occur on a daily basis on the interstates. I285 forms a 60 mile loop around the metro Atlanta area, and just recently was voted the most dangerous interstate in the USA for accidents.
  6. Many commuters can be seen texting and sometimes holding a coffee while meandering their way through peak hour traffic. I’m sure other cities around the country experience a similar phenomenon, but we also have the “rubber neckers” who dramatically slow down to have a bird’s eye view of  vehicles pulled over to the side by the police or as a result of a “fender bender.”
  7. We have just experienced nearly a month of heavy rain, and Atlanta motorists don’t handle inclement weather very well. Their solution is to speed up with the intention of getting home out of the rain as quickly as possible.
  8. On these overcast days when light is at a premium, motorists are loathe to switch their headlights on, and using their indicators to switch lanes is viewed as  a sign of weakness to their machoism
  9. Police cars patrol the highways in pursuit of easy pickings. Jo Blow, the average motorist who has the temerity to exceed the speed limit by a few miles an hour, is an easy prey for speeding fines to load the coffers of  County and City Governments while the boy racers and maniacs go their own sweet way causing mayhem in their wake
  10. Then we have the yellow peril appearing in the early morning and afternoons: a plethora of school buses hitting the highways to pick up children at numerous and various staging points around the city. Naturally they hold up traffic considerably which lead to frayed nerves among the commuters.
  11. The underground transportation system, MARTA, is a complete farce; totally inadequate to accommodate a burgeoning population.

What you may  well ask is the solution? There isn’t a short term fix available unfortunately. It requires an extensive investment in improving the infrastructure. Somehow commercial traffic in the shape of monolithic trucks and commuter motorists have to be separated. At minimum, Atlanta needs another circular route, similar to I285 around the city, and a major extension to the MARTA system.

Unfortunately this is unlikely to happen anytime soon owing to the political and economic pressures that exist in this city. There are 10 counties in the Metro Atlanta region operating independently from one another who pay lip service to a proposal for a regional plan.

Memo to myself: move to another city, but do extensive research to prevent jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.

It’s Over and My Grandkids have gone back too!

Monday, November 2nd, 2015

The best team in the Rugby World Cup deservedly won through in the end. New Zealand defeated their arch rivals Australia 37-17 with Dan Carter picking up man of the match. But there’s the dilemma for me. Carter won the MoM award for his goal kicking performance and not for his pivotal role as fly half.  Every team in the tournament now plays the same style: crash, bang, wallop!!!

Most of the players are stretched across the field facing each other in rugby league style, and it’s all about the gain line. What happened to the dummy, side step or scissors movement? Line outs and scrums have been considerably reduced to side shows which isn’t a bad thing, but I don’t enjoy the game in the same way I used to.

Yes, Saturday’s game was a great exhibition of the modern style game, and everyone of the All Blacks display great handling skills which places them above the opposition. However size really matters in rugby now, and most of the three quarters are 6′ 4′ and 17 stone plus. What was significant in this World Cup was the fact that the four semi-finalists were Northern Hemisphere teams: New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, and Argentina. Wales can match these teams in terms of size and bulk, but they do tend to make crucial errors at inopportune times. When was the last time you saw a Welsh hooker running down the wing apart from Wind Street on a Saturday night?

Meanwhile, my daughter and her family flew over for a visit for 10 days. We rented a mini van and drove down to the Magic Kingdom in Orlando from Atlanta. It’s a 8 hour road trip including stops, but it’s a straight shot down I75. Experiencing Disney through the eyes of my 5 year old granddaughter and 2 year old grandson was truly magical and the long journey was well worth it. However, a DVD player in the mini-van was an essential item for entertaining the adults and children on board.

For anyone contemplating a trip to the Disney theme parks, take advantage of the “fast pass system” which allows you to” jump the queue” on some of the rides. I will never forget  my grandson shouting continuously “Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse, Mickey Mouse” as we made our way around the Park. It was hot and crowded for a Monday in late October, and copious amounts of bottled water were consumed.

At the end of an eventful day the grandkids were understandably beginning to wane, and my wife and I grabbed the opportunity to ride Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain. Well Disney World brings the kid out in everyone!

We returned to Atlanta and visited one of its main tourist attractions, Georgia Aquarium. My grandson took full advantage of the wide open spaces and ran amok  screeching ” Goldfish! Goldfish! Goldfish” having been cooped up in mini-van for 8 hours the previous day.

Unfortunately they had to fly back to Blighty the night before and missed Halloween. Not to be out done, my granddaughter looking pretty as a picture in her Elsa dress, and aided and abetted by her brother dressed as “The Old Man of the Sea,” arranged for her own trick or treat at our front door. Priceless.