Premature Smoker (1981)

Disturbing moments in hair, volume three. This is yer humble host at age 16. Notice the carefree way I managed to part it in the middle but still have bangs as well. And the cigarette is a nice touch too, no?

Here are volume one and volume two, in case you need a refresher. I’m scanning backwards in time, so we’ll hit the 1970s soon. No telling what interesting and unfortunate tonsorial experiments might yet surface…

Maybe It Will Work

I don’t know if this campaign will work, but I give them credit for trying something other than protectionist legislation for a change. But as I’ve said before, small businesses will only attract customers if they provide a specific type of service which is unavailable in a chain environment. Nagging people — or worse yet, trying to force them through legislation — to shop someplace they’d rather not just ain’t the way to go about it…

That said, I have to admit that, as much as I don’t really care for the SF Chronicle, they do get points for keeping archived stories free and linkable ad infinitum, so links I created even six or seven years ago still work. To my knowlege, no other major newspaper does that. It probably generates a nice bit of traffic for them…

I’m a Writer Now

I was going to use this opportunity to post a picture of the first check I received as a published writer, but I would’ve had to apply the “blur” filter to so much of it that the whole thing seemed a little pointless, so I’ll just brag instead…

That was almost as satisfying, I guess…

Annoyance du jour: message board moderators who won’t admit the’re mistaken, even when faced with overwhelming evidence of their errors, especially when they’re really condescendingly “polite” about it. That’s why I generally don’t post on many message boards other than my own…

Minnie and Yogi and Arthur and Roy

And now, here are some of the strange (and mostly vanished) restaurant chains of my youth:

Yogi Bear’s Honey Fried Chicken

This was either a regional or a national franchise, but was one of many which appeared and disappeared very quickly in the late 1960s and early 1970s. There was a location in Greensboro, next to the Big Bear supermarket on High Point Road. I remember a rumor that Honey’s, a regional chain of coffee shops tried to sue them for trademark infringement for using the term “honey fried chicken”. There’s one remaining location on US 15 Business near downtown Hartsville SC.

Minnie Pearl’s Fried Chicken

This was a fairly famous franchise of the late 1960s/early 1970s, not for the chicken but for reputedly fraudulent practices by the franchiser. I don’t remember a lot about the chain except that its Greensboro location was on Battleground Avenue near Cone Boulevard. Last time I looked, the building was still there. There’s also a similar building in Charlotte near Cotswold Shopping Center that I have my suspicions about. This franchise went under during the great shakedown of 1972 and almost took Minnie Pearl’s good name with it.

Golden Skillet Fried Chicken

These were fairly common in North Carolina and Virginia in the 1970s, and I’ve heard that several remain scattered around Virginia. The buildings featured a rather distinctive yellow roof with sort of a ziggurat shape. The sign was a big yellow frying pan resting on its handle. I remember Greensboro locations on High Point Road at Florida Street (later Cheap Joe’s Jeans and now Jake’s Diner), Randleman Road, and inside the Thalhimer’s department store at Friendly Shopping Center. There may have been others in Greensboro; I don’t remember.

Arthur Treacher’s Fish and Chips

Part of the late 1960s wave that brought us Long John Silver’s and H. Salt. They were pretty big at one point judging from the number of their former lamp-shaped signs still standing in cities from Charlotte to Fresno. Most Americans probably had no clue who Arthur Treacher was, which may explain why the chain ultimately didn’t do so well, but it DOES still exist. I remember the Greensboro location on Summit Avenue near Bessemer; there may have been one near the Kmart on Randleman Road too.

Heap Big Beef

Interesting story here. I don’t really remember this specific chain from my childhood, only its building on High Point Road at Ellington Street in Greensboro. After Heap Big Beef, it was briefly a pancake house and then it became Ghassan’s, a local Lebanese deli/sub shop which remains in the same building to this day.

I was always curious about the building even as a child, and I vaguely remembered some previous unnamed tenant, but no one could confirm what it had been. I suspected a failed chain and my suspicions were confirmed when I finally found an identical building housing a tacqueria in Millbrae CA. A little research eventually revealed that both had been part of Heap Big Beef, the chain with the name too offensive to succeed.


Speaking of offensive, this one maybe isn’t quite as much so as it seemed. First, it was named after its founders, Sam and Bo, rather than after the famed character from the book. While the chain adopted a cartoon character fashioned after Little Black Sambo, he was Indian rather than African, so as not to offend black patrons. The chain went under, with many units becoming Denny’s outlets. Only the original location in Santa Barbara remains. In Greensboro, Sambo’s was located off I-85 on Greenhaven Drive, by what is now a Motel 6.

Biff Burger

Once a large regional chain, Biff Burger pretty much disintegrated in the 1970s. Greensboro’s location on West Lee Street is still there, although the owner renamed it Beef Burger at some point since he was worried that someone might gain control of the name that the initial franchisers had abandoned and sue him for using it. There’s apparently still a location somewhere around Daytona Beach as well, and there’s a tribute website about the chain.


Home of hot dogs cooked in beer and the famous Ollieburger, Lum’s was a TGI Friday’s precursor, with sort of a Gay 90’s vibe. There’s apparently one left in Plattsburgh, New York and there may also be one in Delaware. Greensboro’s was on Battleground Avenue near Cornwallis Drive.

Burger Chef

Burger Chef and Jeff were incrediburgable. There’s a website devoted to this much-loved chain, so I’ll limit my comments to mentioning the Greensboro locations. There were at least three: Lee Street at Aycock (now a Mexican restaurant), Cornwallis Drive across from the Golden Gate Shopping Center (now another branch of Ghassan’s, see Heap Big Beef above), and an unusual storefront location on South Elm Street downtown (later The Elms restaurant and Fenders nightclub, among other things).

Roy Rogers Roast Beef

This one’s not really dead either, and I always stop in for a Double R Bar Burger when I find an open branch. I remember that their roast beef used to be quite rare compared to Arby’s. They also played up the cowboy theme a little too much, yelling “howdy pardner” to everyone who entered and directing them to the “fixin’s bar” for condiments. Roy Rogers was a part of Marriott before being sold to Hardee’s and almost dismantled. It was on High Point Road near Florida Street in Greensboro in a building which later housed a Mrs. Winner’s among other things. I also remember a really big location at Tyson’s Corner near Washington DC, which had a cafeteria-style service line, as do (I think) some of their turnpike service plaza locations today.

Toddle House

These went away when I was really young, but they were all over the south and many of their buildings remain. Waffle House literally owes its existance to the chain, founded as it was by a former Toddle House executive. They were very distinctive in that they were tiny little diners built to look like tiny little cottages, even though they were usually in decidedly urban locations. Unlike the later trend of using residential styling to help businesses “blend in” in the suburbs, Toddle House used residential imagery to make its units stand out. I specifically remember one on West Market Street downtown (by the now-demolished former YMCA building) and one on Summit Avenue near Bessemer. I think both of them later became something called the Steak and Egg Kitchen.

Hot Shoppes

The Hot Shoppes restaurants around Washington DC were the beginning of the Marriott hotel empire. Their base was always in DC and northern Virginia, where they had drive-ins, sit-down restaurants, and even cafeterias (we always ate at the one in Tyson’s Corner Center). They expanded briefly into the south, however, and had a location in Greensboro at Summit and Wendover Avenues. It later became a Honey’s coffee shop and it’s now a Libby Hill Seafood branch.

Random Others

Maybe some day I’ll talk aboust other chains from my past, including the welldocumented Howard Johnsons and such regional favorites as Sir Pizza, Wishbone Chicken, and Honey’s. Today is not that day…

Mmmm. Damp.

There’s not much better than waking up to a cold, rainy Sunday morning. If only Bojangles delivered…

I plan to do nothing but wrap up on the couch, watch a movie or two, and maybe work on some much-neeeded updates over here. Unless, of course, I find that I can’t resist going out and playing in the nice weather…

Practice Makes Perfect

One of the things I’ve noticed about myself recently is that I’ve become really testy and irritable around other people. Mind you, I’ve always been testy and irritable around strangers, but lately I’ve been that way even around people I love. I noticed it most recently when I was home for Thanksgiving, and it bothers me.

I’m not a terribly social sort of person and since I’ve been in Charlotte, I’ve been even less of one. After nearly six months, I don’t really know a soul here. That’s not a whine nor a rant about how hard it is to meet people in Charlotte. It’s just a statement of the facts; making friends has not been a priority for me. In fact, it’s not something I’ve been particularly concerned with at all.

Most of the things I like doing are just as easily — and sometimes better — done alone. Group activities don’t hold much appeal for me; I’m not the type to join clubs or that sort of thing. When I’m in a group, it’s generally a group of people with whom I’ve been friends for a long time, most of whom I “accumulated” individually over a long period of time. That group of friends, though, is not anywhere near Charlotte. Many of them are in San Francisco, while others are scattered about the country.

So why are the second and third paragraphs germane to the first? It’s because I sometimes wonder if I may be losing the knack of social interaction. I’ve always had a rather tenuous grasp on it to begin with, but I’m spending so much time alone right now that I think I may be losing what few social skills I have left.

For almost six months, I’ve been living in a new city. I’m not working outside the house right now. Mark is on a two-month long assignment in San Francisco. The only people I know well enough to visit or spend time with are miles away, in Greensboro or the Triangle or even farther away than that. Thus, I don’t really spend any time around, well, anyone much other than the salad lady at the cafeteria. And I seem to be growing less adept at it even when I do find myself around other people; it’s like pulling teeth to engage me in even the simplest conversation.

It’s almost as if I’m looking at social interaction as some sort of disturbance which gets in the way of my ordinary routine. It reminds me of years ago, when I worked in retail. I’d sometimes be alone in the store for hours during the after-Christmas downtime, and I always found the one person who’d come in while it was slow much more annoying than a steady trickle or even a rush. I think it’s because during the rush, I didn’t EXPECT to be left alone to read my book, so it wasn’t so much of an “imposition”. Similarly, when I’m spending time with friends and family on a regular basis, I’m “better” at it. Practice makes perfect or some such.

I should try to meet people, I guess, but I’m not sure that I particularly want to. I’m even less sure of how to go about doing so at this point. Like I said, I’m not a “joiner”, even if there were some sort of social- or hobby-related group which piqued my interest, which there isn’t. Bars are out: queer bars in particular are essentially useless for anything other than drinking or finding sex partners, neither of which I’m interested in. Finding a job “on the outside” might help, but probably not very much since I’m a big believer in keeping my professional and my personal life pretty well segregated.

Like I said, this is obviously not a big priority for me. I miss all my current friends and wish I could spend more time with them. I miss Mark like crazy. And I very much enjoy spending time with my family. But my feelings about these people come from my long history with them; I don’t crave “friendship” per se any more than I ever craved some vague notion of a “romantic relationship” just for the sake of having one. While it would be nice to have some chums to share dinner with on a Friday night, I’m pretty comfortable by myself or with my hubby most of the time. But still I think I should maybe make the effort.

Should I worry about the fact that honing my social skills might be my primary motivation for making new friends in Charlotte? I can’t help thinking it wouldn’t bode well for the kind of friends I’d ultimately make…

Thanksgiving in Greensboro

I’m not sure which would have been scarier: (a) shopping at Carolina Place Mall when they opened at 1AM today, or (b) being in an enclosed space with the kind of people who were shopping at Carolina Place mall when they opened at 1AM today…

As much as I’m all for the whole commercial Christmas thing, I really don’t get the appeal of shopping on the day after Thanksgiving at 1AM or any other time. It’s probably the most miserable day of the year to go shopping; the last place I’d want to be today would be a mall or a big box center. People would die. I would be arrested for killing them. It would be a very upleasant start to the holidays…

My mom, an otherwise rational human being, had some shopping plans today. When I opted out, she casually mentioned how men just aren’t really “into” shopping. I corrected her and let her know that shopping was just fine and dandy under the right circumstances. What I’m not “into” is masochism…

Anyway, we had a nice Thanksgiving dinner at the cafeteria, which is apparently becoming a big tradition with lots of people up Greensboro way, and then we came home, held court for a few afternoon visitors, watched LA Confidential, and went to bed. I was ready to pass out at about 7:30. Why does visiting my parents always make me so damned sleepy?

Thanksgiving Resolution

A Thanksgiving resolution, perhaps?

It’s actually related to the holiday, so I don’t find it altogether inappropriate. For Thanksgiving, I resolve to spend more time appreciating the things in my life that are good and that I enjoy and that make me happy, the things that fill me with a sense of accomplishment, or just a feeling of absolute contentment. In the process, I will spend less time obsessing over the few things which aren’t going my way right now, and hopefully devote more energy to addressing and correcting them instead…

I so resolve because I must do so in order to preseve my sanity. And because I don’t want to become insufferably dreary to be around. And mostly because it’s the right thing to do. The good definitely outweighs the bad, after all…

Don’t worry. I’m not turning all mushy touchy-feely here, nor has my occasionally sharp tongue been dulled. Ranting about idiots and pointing out stupid trends in pop culture, urban planning, and other areas are still things which make me very happy and fill me with a terrific sense of accomplishment, thank you…