A marketing study of the Augusta area conducted in 2007 determined that about 16 percent of Columbia County residents leave town during Masters week.
The other 84 percent apparently drive on the same streets at the same time as I do, and show up at the same restaurants at the same time.
If nearly one-sixth of our citizens have escaped town this week, it'll be hard to notice - because at least that many visitors drop by for a chance to check out the Masters Tournament.
No matter who stays in town and who leaves, though, there are a few things we can count on with every Masters:
- Traffic will be absolutely awful early in the morning, middle of the day and late afternoon on practically any street near, or leading to, the Augusta National. Otherwise, the traffic is probably a little lighter than usual.
- Restaurants are packed to overflowing - if they are on the Augusta end of Washington Road, or if the are close to the National. But the combination of 16 percent of the regulars leaving town, and the rest of the locals irrationally worried about crowds, means that many restaurants aren't crowded at all. That's especially true if they aren't chains, and if they aren't on a main highway.
Seriously: If you're Joe Golf Fan, you're looking for a restaurant with a familiar name, on a main highway. So Outback and Red Lobster and the other cookie-cutter chains will be an elbow-to-elbow seat of polo shirts and sunburned necks, while nifty local restaurants like the Sidetrack Bar and Grill or Ginza or Osaka will have plenty of room for savvy locals and adventurous visitors.
- Someone will claim to have seen some semi-famous person either on the course or in one of those restaurants.
- Someone will hear a new story about a visitor - famous or otherwise - leaving a massive tip for a waitress or van-driver.
- And, of course, some smart-aleck out-of-town-writer will see the tremendous contrast between the pristine Augusta National and the ordinariness of Augusta Normal outside, and use that juxtaposition to throw snarky darts at our community - as if this is the only place on earth with a Waffle House.
These kind of folks give new meaning to Rush Limbaugh's phrase, "drive-by media." But don't let it bug you; if you're lucky enough to visit the Masters, enjoy the carefully cultivated beauty. If not, just enjoy our very ordinary, but usually very friendly, community that surrounds it.
A Kilpatrick story
I received far more response than usual to my column this past Wednesday in which I lamented the retirement of James Kilpatrick and listed a few of my own pet grammatical peeves. Perhaps, as one resident of "readerland" suggested, that response is from those who likewise are bothered by such language errors and thus found validation. Makes sense.
But in any commentary on Kilpatrick, I'd be remiss in not mentioning a inspiring visit with him several years ago. I've made note of it before, but it bears repeating in this context.
Back in the early 1990s, I was an editorial writer for The Augusta Chronicle. My duties included editing and designing the editorial pages, and that meant editing syndicated columns such as Kilpatrick's.
I received a call one day from a teacher at Augusta's Allelujah Community School, seeking my help in contacting Kilpatrick. He wanted to see if it was possible to arrange a field trip for his students to meet Kilpatrick.
I got in touch with Kilpatrick, and he readily agreed. I later traveled to Charleston with a dozen or so students.
I expected just a brief visit, maybe a few remarks. Instead, Kilpatrick had arranged for the teacher to send essays written by the students, and he graded and critiqued each one while sitting on the Battery.
It was an astoundingly generous act, and I've always hoped it meant as much to those students as it did to me.
Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106.
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.