|For January 17, 2001 "What Cracklin' Oat Bran?" - Vol. I No. XVIII published every other Wednesday|
Vestavia Hills() Argentinean born Bolivian guerilla leader Ernesto 'Che' Guevara has been chosen as the new rebel to replace Vestavia High School's archaic white haired southern slave owning misfit. The move was undertaken in a swift night action aimed at silencing growing protest in the community over an image seen as more exclusive than inclusive. Supporters of the southern gent were surprised Monday morning to find his proud stare and clenched fist replaced by a shaggy looking pop art mural of Che. But backers of the proletariat from around the world lauded the move and congratulated the enlightened Vestavia elite. In the words of Fidel Castro speaking from a hospital in Havana, "There has never been a more ardent supporter of the rights of man over his oppressors than Che. Vestavia should be proud of their new leader, and happy to be out from under the shadow of such a capitalistic, landed, aristocratic pig." Many in this close knit over the mountain community agree with Fidel's assessment. "We need a rebel who unites us, a rebel for reconciliation rather than for divisiveness," says Guidance Specialist Brownie Jones. The change was fostered by several of the school's most powerful student organizations including TALS, SADD, and the SGA. The faculty was mostly in support of the move, and Che was installed as Vestavia's new leader over the protests of a vocal few. In that minority is Coach Caswell McWaters the Assistant Principal. McWaters, known for his locally televised Christmas sing-a-longs, has been a staunch supporter of the southern rebel since his days as a student at Vestavia. "I remember back in 1979 when a few schoolies said we should come up with a more sensitive image for the school's mascot. We pantsed a couple of them and tied them to the flag pole. That was really the last anyone heard of it until this latest pansy uprising." McWaters and his cohorts have vowed to fight back and see the old rebel reinstated. A group of students from the FCA under McWaters direction have taken over the field house and press box, setting up a low power FM station to broadcast lectures in support of the old rebel along with a program of country music. This group has the tacit support of the other Vestavia coaches including football coach Buddy Anderson. "I want to see the old rebel restored because of the fighting spirit he instills in my boys. They see that grimacing old man with a cane and know what it means to continue the fight even after you are beaten. This Che guy is more of a thinking man's rebel, not well suited for a sports mascot." Vestavia Board President Tealla Stewart disagrees. "The community has made it clear that it is time to let go of our past, of a heritage that we cannot be proud of. That is why we must embrace Che and move forward." Vestavia cheerleaders have already begun rehearsing new maneuvers that involve rifles and work boots. "This was thrown at us pretty quick, but we can't let down our school," explained head cheerleader Elmira Townes. "We have already begun rehearsing in our cammo fatigues and the girls all love their new olive berets." The entire cheerleading squad appears to be embracing Che as evidenced at a pep rally designed to introduce him to the school. "I just love my new mascot!" yelled Vestavia High School sophomore cheerleader Tiffany Toby, her right arm waving a giant Cuban flag in front of the pom-pom wielding students in the stands above. "Che Guevara was an inspiration to Elian Gonzalez, so he should be an inspiration to me!" Principal Jane Newman has said that everything possible will be done to continue to foster this kind of enthusiasm. "We renamed the south hall Little Havana and have incorporated a mandatory Tito Puente appreciation course into the advanced academic curriculum." It seems that the revolution has begun, and not even McWaters and company can stop it.
Highland() For several hours on Tuesday the City Stages web site featured names of animals needing adoption rather than the usual list of confirmed acts for the annual downtown festival. Artist profiles were replaced with 'pet profiles' depicting adorably costumed animals from Humane Society shelters. Where the artist bio would normally be were cute descriptions of a potential pet's favorite toy, naughty habits, temperament, and favorite trick. The 'Hamster was able to save a copy of the web site before it was taken down by Stages officials. The Greater Birmingham Humane Society and the Do Dah organization have officially denied responsibility for the web site hijacking even though their paw prints were all over it. Supporters of Do Dah Day feel that any action taken against City Stages is justified. "Since they hijacked our day in May, why shouldn't we hijack their web site," asked Robin Strong, a Highland area resident and mother to Rowdy the black lab mix. "I don't understand why they had to pick our weekend to hold their noisy little festival."
Homewood() Although she was seeking out a place to meet men, Jessica Miles believes that she has stumbled into a gay bar by mistake. Since entering the bar at 9 PM this evening, Miles has seen few other women, and has noticed several men wearing cowboy hats. The fact that it is a Karaoke bar and still seems to be popular is another tip-off that the bar caters to gay people. Miles is still not completely sure, because she has seen no same sex kissing, but there does seem to be an inordinate amount of touching and hugging going on. "At first I just attributed it to the excitement over the NFL playoffs. I figured it was just camaraderie and male bonding, but now I'm not sure. I think I may be in one of those unrecognizable gay hangouts." Miles is referring to those gay bars that do not follow the standard of having no windows, or at least having them completely boarded up. "I mean its right here on Valley Avenue, not the usual place you would think of for a gay bar. But I'm still not sure. Even though the windows aren't blacked out, they are blocked by a bunch of Budweiser banners." This kind of confusion is becoming more commonplace as the city seeks a solution to this recognizability factor. A set of standards has been drawn up by Leroy Bandy's Planning and Zoning committee, but the full council has yet to vote on them. As written the ordinance would require gay bars to have no windows, blacked out windows, or boarded up windows. In addition, a high privacy fence would be required where feasible. Many people, including Miles, believe that these steps are necessary to remove any doubt. "I'm sick of not knowing where to go for the good guys. Not that these gay guys aren't good, just not good for me." Miles intends to leave this bar and go to Bell Bottoms where she is sure to find her mister right.
Downtown() A second year photography student at UAB has discovered a little known Birmingham landmark while researching in the archives department of the Birmingham Public Library. Josh Parker was trying to find some scenes of Birmingham life that he could use in a black and white photo essay on the city, when he stumbled on some photos of something called Sloss Furnaces. He made his discovery in a little known book entitled "The Valley and the Hills." This complete history of Birmingham devotes considerable space to Sloss Furnaces and its impact on the entire Jones Valley area. Parker immediately realized the furnaces' importance and thought that a few choice photos of the place (if it still existed) would round out an already strong collection that includes Arlington Antebellum Plantation, Donnelly House, and Ramsay High School. Little did he realize the industrial splendor that awaited him at the forgotten site. Upon arrival, with Bronica in hand, Parker's eye was immediately drawn to the symmetry of the furnaces rising like grain silos from the desolate landscape. "I can't believe this place is here, just a few blocks from downtown," said Parker. "Who would have thought this place was here? It is so deserted looking." It is the same look that Parker was able to capture in his essay. The juxtaposition of the old industrial Birmingham, against the gleaming white of the new medical and financial economy. Most local residents had forgotten that past, and Parker's discovery has prodded some memories into action to try and save the old place. "We should make it into a museum or something," came one suggestion from long time Woodlawn resident Vince Ogletree. "People should know what it was like in the old days. I can remember when the entire Jones Valley was covered in the soot that belched forth from those furnaces." Others disagree with the importance of old things. When examining Parker's photos at the UAB library, Gene Hallman was heard muttering under his breath. "Why not tear it down and build something useful like a half-dome? What is the purpose of reveling in the past when we don't have that much of a past to revel in?" The final fate of Parker's new discovery is as yet unknown. What is certain is that Sloss Furnaces is a cool place to take pictures.
Crestwood() Tired of all the crass commercialism which has come to define the Christmas season, local man Thomas Cramer discovered the true meaning of Christ's life at, of all places, a garage sale. The garage sale of the Bishop family on 56th Street South in Crestwood is where Cramer stumbled across the Jesus video which was sent to most Alabama residents for free. When the CCC mailing took place, Cramer was living in Pennsylvania and did not know of the free video about the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. It just so happens that the Bishops decided to part with the video as part of their annual after Christmas garage sale. This is the sale that allows them to clean house and get rid of the year's accumulation of junk. The Bishops had been holding onto the Jesus video for a few years, but finally made the decision to sell it this time, figuring they had gotten everything out of it they were going to get. And lo and behold along comes Cramer in his newfound after Christmas 'less commercial' mode and spies the video priced at one dollar. "I thought that was a great deal," said Cramer. "You can't even get a blank tape for a buck, much less a highly produced and effective look at the life of Christ. This is just what I've been trying to tell the wife, you don't have to spend a lot of money to have Christ in your life." When told that the video was a free gift from the CCC, Cramer was undismayed. "Paying a buck for something that I can no longer get is not such a big deal. Especially when you remember that Jesus is the reason for the season." Cramer is hoping to save the video until next Christmas when he can show it to his family instead of going out to the movies.
Southside() Food, beer, and most importantly a cherry spot in Five Points comprise the magic formula which is the key to The Birmingham Mill's success. Add to that the fact that The Mill is open late, and you have the winning combination that has kept them the dominant gathering place for non-Studio patrons for almost ten years. While other area eateries eschew the lucrative if somewhat bohemian late night crowd, The Mill embraces them with open arms and taps. Impromptu research among several Southside regulars seems to indicate that if The Original Pancake House were open more than three hours a day, The Mill might have less food business. According to one interviewee, "they [Pancake House] have a great location and good food, but no beer. I think being open late would compensate for the no beer thing." Another had a different take, "I mean the only reason to eat at The Mill is that you get hungry after all that beer. If I had the choice I would rather walk across the street for pancakes around midnight." Southside super regular Tyrone Pool was more enthusiastic about The Mill's offerings. "We usually meet up at The Mill for a beer and just kinda hang out. Sometimes we go to the Break to play pool. There is so much happening at The Mill, what with Tuesday night bingo and lots of live music, it is hard to stay away." Other places have tried to emulate The Mill's model, but have always been missing something. Breckinridge Brew Pub offered beer and food, but not being on one of the five points made them difficult to find. The Magic City Brewery's location was even worse, though they managed to hang on for several years by enticing cigar smokers with an upstairs lounge. "Perhaps if there was some kind of Southside Shuttle that would take people to all of these out of the way places," says urban planner Jeremy Bentham. "As it is people just kinda like to stay by the fountain and go to The Mill. It certainly isn't for the food and service. They have crap in spades on those counts." Whatever the reason, The Mill continues to thrive in the hostile Birmingham landscape.