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So, what's up this summer, folks?
Jeff Whitten

So I occasionally get fan mail about this column. Not a lot. But unless somebody named Todd (I detest that name) is pranking me, I get some and most of it comes via email.

“You are God’s gift to journalism,” they say (yep, I’m making that part up). A surprising amount of it comes from women who all basically say that my mugshot reminds them of a young Paul Newman when he played Brad Pitt in that movie about Robert Redford after he got cloned into George Clooney and we all became highly paid fashion models turned reporters named Fabio Whitten.

I’m making that up, too, though it’s possible if you take into account I’m 5-foot-5 and look, as one co-worker told me long ago, a lot like Barney Rubble. Not the guy who played him in the “Flintstones” movie, but the actual real cartoon character Barney Rubble. Except I’m going bald and I don’t know anybody named Fred. Or Betty or Wilma. And don’t want to, either.

True, many in my fan club are up there in years a bit, I think, but won’t ask. I think it’s fair because, let’s face it, I’m no spring chicken anymore myself.

In fact, I feel like a used car. This is partly due to my Army days, partly due to team sports days (I was a tackling dummy in my youth) and partly due to occasional wild hairs that got me in and out and back into trouble.

And my insistence now on running four or five days a week doesn’t help.

Anyway, as I might’ve told my wife the other day, I think I have groupies. And that’s OK, because there are plenty of copies of this column to go around.

Onward: Sorry for all this. I’m an editor and this is a serious job for serious people. And in that regard, if you think it’s even remotely easy writing this awful stuff week in and week out, you should try it.

If I do say so myself, it takes a certain knack to be this bad at writing columns. I should be commended. I certainly wouldn’t suggest trying it at home and won’t be held responsible if you do. But if you do, wear a funny hat. That’s what I do.

Onward to Highway 144: Does anyone know for sure when they’ll start messing up traffic to widen Highway 144? First the Georgia Department of Transportation said it would happen this spring, now they’re saying this fall.

Of course, GDOT once said 2006, or was 2006 they said it would happen in 2010? I know my very first day as editor of this paper back in 2006 I went over to city hall and GDOT was holding a public meeting to gather input over the imminent road widening.

That stands out in the corridors of my memory, as does some chilly treatment I got from the local ruling elite at the time, being both brand new to the paper and looking like Fabio. I suspect a few of them immediately held me in that low regard some elected and appointed bigshots tend to have for us untrustworthy muckraking fake news media types who don’t follow their rules to report just what they want.

Anyhow, a dozen years and 2 million new residents later and for all I know I’m living in an alternative reality and 144 was finished, which means everybody else is cruising around on fresh new eight-lane roads with plenty of room to breathe and GDOT is just trying to mess with my mind.

If so, it won’t be the first time GDOT has messed with my mind. I doubt it will be the last. And that’s kind of why I’m afraid to drive that far down 144 to check on whether anything is in fact not happening.

In short, I’m afraid something might be happening. I might get hung up in traffic and never get back, and the last place I want to be stuck forever in is between a Mercedes and a dump truck full of irate dump truckers just outside the Ford Plantation gate, wondering if anybody in there will throw us out some leftover caviar or whatever it is rich folks eat so we don’t have to start foraging, or worse, turn into zombies, because we all know what zombies eat.

Hint: It ain’t the fried shrimp basket at Fish Tales.

And TSPLOST: So if I understand it now that TSPLOST passed the projects taxpayers pay for will be decided on by a local committee of TSPLOST experts and leaders.

It’s worth keeping an eye on who those leaders are and what they think TSPLOST tax dollars should pay for.

The last thing it should go for is opening up land for new development. Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook for that anyway, ever, even though we’re always on the hook for new development. It’s like PT Barnum runs government and we’re the ones born every minute. I’d say that’s semi-accurate. There are folks in government trying to do the right thing.

Finally, this: My favorite Confederate, the one and only Frank Grimm, sent me a melancholy copy of a birdwatcher’s email newsletter (I think) last week about plans in Florida to develop the largest shopping mall in North America near the Everglades National Park. This is not a good thing if you care about birds or alligators or anything else that used to be Florida before white people got hold of it.

Environmentalists say the 175-acre project will pave more than one square mile of open land that sits atop an aquifer already in trouble and use up as much as 2 million gallons of water a day from the upper Florida aquifer. It could also could require construction of a larger water treatment plant, which of course will cost taxpayers.

Add in the development this thing will spawn — one thing leads to another leads to another — and the traffic it will generate (somebody’s estimating about 80,000 “individual external automobile trips per day,” and the resulting congestion and carbon monoxide emissions and it’s,that old “they paved paradise and put up a parking lot” song all over again, and again and again.

The Eagles put it this way: “They called it paradise, I don’t know why. Call someplace paradise and kiss it goodbye.”

And for what? The largest mall in North America? In the age of Amazon? Really? Thank goodness for Pembroke.

For some reason, Whitten is still allowed to be managing editor of the Coastal Courier and Bryan County News.

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