Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Holiday Memory: The Christmas Candle

     When I was growing up in East Memphis, Tenn., I attended Sea Isle Elementary School which was only a couple of blocks from our house.  Back in those days in the early 70's, you could walk to your neighborhood school with your friends without the fear of being kidnapped by a child molester or serial killer.  This particular school year, I was supposed to be in the fourth grade but I was placed into a special education class because the educators determined that I had developed a learning disability.  My teacher's name was Mrs. Pollard and she was a very special teacher and lady.  She was kind, patient, loving and funny.  Mrs. Pollard always went the extra mile for her students and went to great lengths to spend the proper amount of time to help us develop fully and to enable us to learn what we needed in order to catch up with our classmates in the other classrooms.  I remember that she always brought us food, cakes and cookies and other treats from her home to give to us especially during the Christmas holiday season.  But the one thing I remember most about Mrs. Pollard was her faith in God. She always said a prayer with her students.  Apparently, that was something you could get away with in the public schools in those days.
    Before school let out for Christmas break that year, I remember she gave all the students a candle and a piece of paper with a printed version of the "Lord's Prayer" on it.  She told us to light the candle on Christmas eve and place it by our bedside and then read the prayer to ourselves aloud. The world was in turmoil then like it is now.  Things have not changed a lot in some ways. America was still dealing with the Vietnam war and the civil rights and hippie movement was still going strong.  A lot of families in the nation's suburbs and inner cities were beginning to struggle with domestic social issues such as alcoholism, drugs and divorce especially after women's lib and the sexual revolution had surface in the concourse of America's landscape.  However, that Christmas eve, I did light the candle, read the prayer aloud and I fell peacefully asleep shortly thereafter.  Now I can still see the candle's bright, misty glow in my mind when I shut my eyes.  It takes me back, long ago when I was just a little boy and it helps me remember all those warm and special teachers such as Mrs. Pollard who made a big difference in my life. Thank you, Mrs. Pollard, and Merry Christmas to you wherever you are.  I'm sure you are in heaven now.  I will light a candle this Christmas eve in your honor and place it by my bedside. Then I will say the "Lord's Prayer."

Monday, December 8, 2014

College Town At Christmas, 2014

BOWLING GREEN, KY. __ Usually Patty, my wife, will call me on my cell phone when bad news happens. This year it happened twice and I was out of town both times. Once was in the early fall when a young lady from our community sat down on the railroad tracks in front of a moving train less than a block from our house and killed herself. Another time, Tony's (our son) best friend's little brother was killed recently in an vehicle accident on his way home from Nashville in the early morning hours. Then, one Saturday morning, I woke up just a couple of weeks ago and found out that one of our young local musicians from the BG Music Scene was killed in a two-vehicle collision on Smallhouse Road. He was killed by a 19 year-old boy driving a Jeep who was taking a powerful antipsychotic drug while drinking on top of it. Also, a sophomore Western Kentucky University student died in a Bowling Green house fire at the end of October. Tragedy has struck our town this year with the loss of young life.

I also attended a memorial service for my elderly neighbor's son-in-law who was just a little older than me and it was a very emotional but beautiful service for somebody that I only knew casually and his body had been cremated. Near the end of the service, the hospice minister who was presiding asked two poignant questions, "What joy do you have in your life and what joy have you brought to others?"
I suppose that's the two questions for me to ponder this Christmas season. What joy do I have and what joy do I bring to others? Right off the bat, I find joy in the small things (or the big things I should say) of life. My home, my wife, my son, my job, my church and my community. And I hope and pray that I have managed to bring some joy into other peoples lives in my 52 years on this earth so far.

However, my wish for this College Town At Christmas In 2014 is that I pray for healing for the families that are hurting from the loss of their love ones that I mentioned above. Beyond all the hustle, bustle, money, materialism, excitement, parties and decorations, may they somehow find peace, comfort and joy in their hearts and minds this Christmas. Help them not to be lonely, bitter, depressed or hopeless. Help them to know that there are others in Bowling Green, who care and are hoping and praying that they somehow they find the Christmas spirit this year in our college town.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Arson At The Horse Cave, Ky., Dollar General Store: Some People Are Not Trustworthy to Manage A Store Or Handle Money





When I moved to Kentucky in the Summer of 1987 from Oxford, Miss., I noticed that there were a lot of these little discount retail markets called, "Dollar General Stores" located throughout Southcentral Kentucky. As it turns out, they were down South too but I hadn't really noticed them. I'm sure that I had probably made some purchases in them before. But I can't really recall that far back in my memory to be honest. Shortly after I had to moved to Bowling Green, Ky., I realized that the first Dollar General Store started just down the road from us in Scottsville, Ky. However, some unfortunate Dollar General Corporation news stories has been in our local newspaper lately, the Bowling Green Daily News (See article posted below). Because one of its former employees, Debra Fowler Kessinger, 57, of Smiths Grove, Ky., was found guilty the other day of arson of the Dollar General Store located in Horse Cave, Ky., about 40 miles north of Bowling Green just off Interstate 65.
According to Wikipedia, "The Dollar Stores were founded in 1939 by Cal Turner Sr. and his father J.L. Turner in Scottsville, Ky. (J.L. Turner & Son, Inc.) Their descendant Cal Turner Jr. later worked as CEO of the firm for 25 years.[5] In 1968, the business changed its name to Dollar General Corporation. In 2007, the company was acquired by the private equityfirm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), which took the company public in 2009.[6]"
"The first Dollar General store opened in Scottsville, Ky, on June 1, 1955, the concept was that no item in the store would cost more than one dollar. The idea became a success, and other stores owned by J.L. Turner and his son Cal Turner were quickly converted. By 1957, annual sales of Dollar General’s 29 stores were $5 million. The Turners did not reach this level of success without obstacles. James Luther (J.L.) Turner’s father died in an accident in 1902 when J.L. was only 11. J.L. had to quit school so he could work the family farm and help provide for his mother and siblings. He never completed his education. J.L. knew his limited education demanded that he become a quick study of the world around him. After two unsuccessful attempts at retailing, J.L. became a traveling dry goods salesman for a Nashville wholesale grocer. J.L. left the sales job after 10 years and settled his family in Scottsville, Ky. During the Depression, he began buying and liquidating bankrupt general stores. J.L.’s only child, Cal Turner, Sr., accompanied his father to these closeouts at a young age, gaining valuable business knowledge and skills."
"In October 1939, J.L. and Cal opened J.L. Turner and Son Wholesale with an initial investment of $5,000 each. Wholesaling quickly gave way to retailing – J.L.’s third and final attempt at retailing. The switch to retailing resulted in annual sales above $2 million by the early 1950s.""J.L. died in 1964. Four years later, the company he co-founded went public as Dollar General Corporation, posting annual sales of more than $40 million and net income in excess of $1.5 million. In 1977, Cal Turner, Jr., who joined the company in 1965 as the third generation Turner, succeeded his father as president of Dollar General. Cal Jr. led the company until his retirement in 2002. Under his leadership, the company grew to more than 6,000 stores and $6 billion in sales."
Another known fact which I found out years later about the Turner family is that the Cal Turner Sr's daughter, Betty Turner Campbell, created and began, "The Center for Courageous Kids" also located in Scottsville. The info listed below about the center is from their web-site: "The Center for Courageous Kids is a not for profit Medical Camping Facility founded by the late Ms. Betty Turner Campbell in October of 2004 and opened for the first family weekend in February of 2008. Ms. Betty lost a beloved son following a 17 year battle with cancer. It was then she was inspired to create a place where children living with life threatening illnesses and their families could come free of charge and have fun, find respite, feel normal and forget about their every day struggles. Our 20 million dollar funded campus encompasses an on-site medical center with helipad, indoor aquatic complex, equestrian riding arena, bowling alley, gymnasium, climbing wall, boating and fishing, theater, four camper lodges, and SO much more! We have a program and medical staff who are trained and experienced in all aspects of medical camping. Operating year-round, we offer two distinct programs at CCK: weekend retreats for ill children and families and summer camping sessions designed especially for courageous kids. It is a fabulous opportunity for children who are battling an illness or handicap to come out of the shadows of their everyday lives and step into the spotlight with other children coping with the same challenges. There are no limits at The Center for Courageous Kids. We have a "You can do it" attitude. Children who attend CCK leave with memories of their first horse back ride, favorite campfire song, catching the BIG fish or taking center stage and starring in their own show. All of the memories, smiles and laughs would not be possible if it wasn't for our generous donors. Every donation, large or small, goes to helping one more deserving child experience CCK!" Since inception, over 17,900 medically fragile campers and their families have visited The Center for Courageous Kids from 40 different states and eight foreign countries. Her dream of building a medical camp on her Father's 168 acre farm, in her hometown of Scottsville, KY, came true and continues to change the lives of thousands of children every year."
To me it's just a shame when a company or corporation such as Dollar General Corporation hires and puts its trust in an employee such as Ms. Kessinger to manage their store and handle their money but they she turns around and abuses her privilege and power by stealing from her employer. Why didn't she just go ask for assistance rather than steal from them? Everybody knows that are known for their kindness and helping people. Not to mention to burn the building down to try to hide and cover up her dishonest and corrupt ways? Dollar General Stores were founded on hard work, trust and integrity and giving back to their community. Because of that hard work and honesty that had been instilled into the Turner family years ago by the patriarch of the family, they have flourished incredibly through the years and still are. And they are still generously giving back to their community and across the country through "The Center For Courageous Kids." I'm glad that the federal court system found Ms. Kessinger guilty of arson. They needed to make an example out of her. She bit the hand that fed her but her sins found her out. Like the old saying goes, "Nothing goes behind the Devil's back without coming back around." Don't steal from your employer when they are good as gold by giving you a job with benefits especially these days.

US Court Convicts Kessinger Of Arson
Prosecutors: She set fire at Horse Cave store to conceal accounting irregularities
Posted: Saturday, November 22, 2014 12:00 am
By JUSTIN STORY The Daily News jstory@bgdailynews.com 783-3256 | 0 comments

Debra Fowler Kessinger, who managed the Horse Cave Dollar General store when it caught fire in 2011, was found guilty Friday of intentionally starting the fire.
A jury of seven women and five men in U.S. District Court in Bowling Green found Kessinger guilty of one count of arson after deliberating for about 21/2 hours.
Kessinger, 57, of Smiths Grove, appeared surprised and put a hand up to her face after Chief U.S. District Judge Joseph McKinley read the verdict aloud.
McKinley ordered Kessinger to be detained ahead of her sentencing, which is set for March 12. She faces up to 20 years in prison.
Don Meier, Kessinger’s court-appointed attorney, declined to comment after court adjourned other than to say that Kessinger was disappointed with the verdict.
Kessinger did not testify.
Federal prosecutors argued that Kessinger set the fire June 27, 2011, in an effort to conceal accounting irregularities at the Horse Cave store ahead of an audit of inventory that had been scheduled for June 29, 2011.
Investigators determined the fire started in the store’s break room, and a sifting of debris collected from the room turned up remnants of fireworks and charcoal briquettes.
Investigators from the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Kentucky State Police and the ATF/Bowling Green Fire Department Arson Task Force testified the fire could not have been started through natural causes or accidentally by electrical failure.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Judd put on evidence during the five-day trial that appeared to show a yearlong pattern of mismanagement at the Horse Cave store, with witnesses from Dollar Store management testifying about an excess of inventory in the store’s stockroom and a large increase throughout 2011 in shrinkage – the term for inventory lost through methods other than sales.
Jurors were shown security camera footage of Kessinger
handling packages of fireworks on the sales floor the night before the fire, along with clips of Kessinger handling cash and bank deposit bags in the store’s office and appearing to disconnect the digital video recorder system that monitored the store on the night before the fire.
In setting the fire, Kessinger saw an opportunity to fend off suspicion against her for what Judd described as “collateral crimes” related to management of the store’s finances, Judd argued.
“She couldn’t make the deposit for (the day before the fire) because there wasn’t enough cash in the store,” Judd said during his closing argument.
Judd reminded jurors that Kessinger left the scene temporarily on the morning of the fire as several fire departments tried to put out the blaze and pointed out phone calls she made to ATF Special Agent David Hayes and state Deputy Fire Marshal Todd Price, characterizing them as attempts to draw suspicion away from her.
“Kessinger was trying to keep law enforcement off her trail,” Judd said.
Meier’s closing argument attempted to show that the federal government made a weak case against Kessinger.
Meier pointed to testimony from Dollar General managers who said they were aware of the shrinkage and inventory discrepancies from month to month and had not reprimanded Kessinger, who received a “good” rating during a March 2011 performance evaluation.
“To say she’s going to burn down the store because she might be put on probation at work, that’s all you need to know about that evidence,” Meier said.
Meier argued that the case was not thoroughly investigated enough to warrant eliminating electrical failure as the cause of the fire, and that the evidence failed to show that charcoal had been recovered from the break room.
The last security footage recorded at the store, showing Kessinger bending down and reaching toward the wall past the height of a table by the DVR and monitor in the store’s office, did not conclusively show her turning off the system, Meier said.
“If you can see her turning that off in that (footage), you have a lot better eyesight than me,” Meier said.


— Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter at
twitter.com/jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Tennessee Horrific Domestic Violence Murder-Suicide Spills Into Kentucky Past State-Line

   It's always extremely sad these days to read in the news when a husband kills his wife and then turns a gun on himself. Especially when it hits close to home in or near Bowling Green.  And it's even worse, when the story turns horrific. (See the newspaper story from the Bowling Green (Ky) Daily News posted below) In a recent case of this, Joseph Parker, 45, of Springfield, Tenn., shot his wife, Samantha Parker, 43, in the temple of her head and then stuck her body in the freezer in the garage.  She had been in there in there for 48 hours when he called 911 and he stated to the operator "when he tried to move her frozen body that he broke her wrist."  However, the story gets even more gruesome.  When police arrived at their house this past Friday,  Nov. 7, 2014, they found his wife had been partially dismembered by Parker. After Parker hung up from the 911 phone call, police pursued Parker's vehicle crossed the Kentucky state-line on I-65 North where he pulled over and shot and killed himself.  Prayers for the family and everyone involved please.

Man wanted for killing wife, stuffing body in freezer shoots himself


Posted: Friday, November 7, 2014 5:01 pm | Updated: 7:21 pm, Fri Nov 7, 2014.

By DEBORAH HIGHLAND The Daily News dhighland@bgdailynews.com783-3243 | 0 comments


A Tennessee man wanted for killing, partially dismembering and stuffing his wife’s body into a garage freezer shot and killed himself on Interstate 65 north near the 12-mile marker in Simpson County on Friday afternoon.


The man, later identified as Joseph Parker, called 911 in Springfield, Tenn., at 2:45 a.m. Friday, identified himself and said he had killed his wife, Samantha Parker, Springfield Police Chief David Thompson said.

When police arrived at the 246 Clydesdale Lane home, they found Samantha Parker’s partially dismembered body stuffed inside a freezer in the garage, Thompson said.

Police don’t know how long she had been dead. The scene at the Parkers’ home had been partially cleaned up, and Joseph Parker was gone when investigators arrived, Thompson said.

On the chilling 911 tape, a man who identified himself as “Joe” said in a soft, matter-of-fact voice that he shot his wife with a .38-caliber handgun and put her in a freezer in the garage.

“All right, this is what’s happened. ... On the fourth, which would have been two nights ago at 4 a.m., I shot my wife in the temple of her head,” the caller said to the 911 operator. “I thought I’d killed her, and I put her in the freezer out in the garage. Well I checked on her tonight, and she’s not dead. She’s got a big hole in the temple of her head. And to get her body moved around in there I think I broke her wrist, you know, she was frozen from being in the thing. She had been in the thing for 48 hours now. This is no prank call. I need somebody to get out there and help her.”

The caller said he had been married to his 43-year-old wife for 12 years and that the couple had never had any domestic problems in the past but had a “real bad night” a couple of nights ago.

Thompson confirmed that the police had never been called to the couple’s home.

“I promise you this is a legit call,” the caller told the 911 operator. “I need somebody to get out there and help her because I still love her. It’s hard, hard to believe that after that. “

He told the emergency operator that Samantha Parker couldn’t talk but she could blink her eyes once for “yes” and twice for “no.” He also said that he left all of the lights on inside the home and the front door open. He told the 911 operator that he left the house an hour prior to calling 911 after making his wife “as comfortable as” he could make her. He said he didn’t want to get arrested.

“She is frozen solid,” he said. “It’s amazing she’s still alive.

“She’s got a big, big hole in the temple of her head,” he said. “I shot her with a 38-caliber handgun ... . I didn’t see an exit wound.

“My name is Joe, I’ll just leave it at that,” he said.

He told the emergency operator that Samantha Parker needed paramedics, an ambulance and maybe a helicopter.

“I love her,” he said. “I still love her. You know, I’ve loved her every day I’ve been married to her. We just had rough stretch here.”

About 3:20 p.m. Friday, Tennessee authorities notified Kentucky State Police that they were pursuing Parker, KSP Post 3 spokesman Jonathan Biven said.

State police troopers were able to get behind Parker at the 10-mile marker on Interstate 65 north. Parker drove his vehicle to the 12.6-mile mark, pulled over onto the shoulder and shot himself, Biven said. His self-inflicted shooting remains under investigation.

Hear audio of the 911 call at http://chirb.it/fBGaIn

— Follow news editor Deborah Highland on Twitter at twitter.com/bgdnnewseditor or visitbgdailynews.com.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Vote On Tuesday So That You Have The Right To Gripe

"Even though the majority of Americans are neither rich nor poor, I've noticed that we all have one thing in common. We like to gripe about everything. But two of the greatest things about being an American is freedom of speech and the right to vote. So vote Tuesday so you have the right to gripe even more."-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

SEC Football Is Like A Religion In The Deep South

"SEC Football is like a religion in the Deep South on Saturdays in the fall. I remember when I was Sigma Pi at Ole Miss in the early 80's, I dressed up in my blue blazer, blue button down shirt, plaid tie, Duck Head khaki pants with a flask of whiskey in my back pocket and penny loafer shoes. Now that I'm a lot older, married, own a home, have a grown son and work a full-time job while living in Kentucky all these years, looking back, it all appears
to be a little cultish in some particular aspects of the traditional rituals that revolve around the actual game itself. Indeed the tribes will and do gather on game day. However, everybody else still wants to be like Ole Miss."-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Restaurant Industry In Bowling Green Is A Tough Gig

In the event of the recent shutdown of three of Hitcents Park Plaza's concept restaurants located in the bottom of the BG downtown parking structure and the layoffof 30 employees according a newspaper article in today's Bowling Green Daily News posted below, I only have this to say-

"The restaurant industry in Bowling Green is a tough gig all around because of the sheer high volume of competition. Anytime you open an eating establishment in this town these days, you are taking a risk because of the stiff competition and the tough economy. I always thought Hitcents was taking a rather bold step with five concept restaurants in one location (parking structure). Not only were they competing with other restaurants in BG, they were competing with each other."-Galen A. Smith Sr.



Three out of the five restaurants in Hitcents Park Plaza have closed to undergo renovations and move in new restaurant concepts. (Miranda Pederson/Daily News)


Former staff dissatisfied with layoffs


Posted: Tuesday, September 30, 2014 11:05 am

By MONICA SPEES The Daily Newsmspees@bgdailynews.com 783-3246| 2 comments


In the wake of three restaurants shuttering Saturday, employees say they didn’t see their layoffs coming.

Candace Barbee began working at Mariah’s 3 1/2 years ago and stayed with the restaurant when it moved to Hitcents Park Plaza. Barbee was eventually promoted to assistant manager of Brick & Basil Pizzeria, Tres Molinos and Pagoda Asian Cafe, all three of which closed Saturday.

“I knew there was a meeting scheduled for Saturday, but nobody was told why,” Barbee said. “Everybody was just really nervous. We weren’t told anything. We were kept completely in the dark.”

Rick Kelley, consultant for Hitcents and former owner of Mariah’s, delivered the news to the approximately 30 employees at Saturday’s meeting that the restaurants were closing, Barbee said.

Barbee, a Western Kentucky University student, said Kelley thanked the employees for their hard work and said that though the fast-casual concept is a popular trend in the nation, regrettably, it hadn’t succeeded at the plaza. If the employees gave about three hours of their time to help clean up the restaurants, they would receive a severance package.

“It could’ve been handled a different way,” Barbee said. “I cared about (my employees) ... and that’s why it was so hard that everything happened. ... It just seemed like a community injustice.”

Barbee said she feels that she and the other employees worked to promote the restaurants and drum up business. However, Barbee said she thinks the restaurants’ overall marketing campaign was poorly executed. Barbee said she often had to explain to people where she worked because they had never heard of the restaurants.

Natasha Patterson, a WKU student, was formerly a cashier at the restaurants. She was among the first employees working at the restaurants when they opened earlier this year. Patterson wasn’t scheduled to work a couple days before the Saturday meeting, but she felt that something was wrong after seeing signs posted in the restaurants about a mandatory meeting.

When Patterson arrived at the meeting Saturday morning, she said she could tell by the way Kelley was talking that the employees were about to lose their jobs. Patterson knew business was slow – an issue she partially attributes to sparse marketing.

“I loved working there. ... I just wish we could’ve been let go a little more tactfully,” Patterson said.

Clinton Mills, co-founder of Hitcents, said after the closure Saturday that they plan to open full-service restaurants in the fast-casual restaurants’ place in the coming months. Mills reiterated this morning that Hitcents would invite former employees back when the new restaurants open.

Mills said Saturday that Hitcents had underestimated parking challenges, because most customers, after taking the time to drive downtown and park in the parking garage, were going to Mariah’s or 6-4-3 Sports Bar.

Mills said this morning that 30 employees were let go and 15 employees were kept on at the plaza because they were cross-trained. All the restaurants at the plaza employed about 200 people.

“To only lose 30 people, it shows that we tried to retain and repurpose as many people as we could,” Mills said.

While Mills said he can understand the former employees’ frustrations, he thinks most of them probably “knew it was coming.”

“It’s nothing against them,” Mills said. “It’s just unfortunate that the restaurants weren’t profitable.”

Mills added that Kentucky employers can let employees go at any time for any reason.

“If they think they were let go unfairly, that’s the opinion of a couple people because (Kentucky is) an at-will state,” Mills said. “We thought we were very nice and very fair to everyone and went above and beyond what most employers would” by providing severance pay.

— Follow business beat reporter Monica Spees on Twitter at twitter.com/BGDNbusiness

Friday, September 26, 2014

Bring Elivs Back To Life In The Form Of A Hologram While He Performs On Stage At The Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn.

      "I just thought of a way that the citizens of Memphis could pay for the renovation and all of the attractions and exhibits that everyone is currently talking about in regards to saving and remodeling the Mid-South Coliseum. Bring Elvis back to life in the form of a hologram while he performs on stage at the MSC. Also, he could perform with a mock up band that resembles his old band and they would be performing everyday year around to tourists and fans from all over the world.  Of course, there would have to be money to be loaned up front to get the MSC up to par and to pay for all of the extras such as the hologram and everything else that would be involved.  But I feel strongly, that people would pay good money to see Elvis perform live again, in my opinion. I know I would!
Inside The Mid-South Coliseum
Elivs Performing Live
"-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Memphis Cannot Afford To Lose The Mid-South Coliseum

"When I was growing up there in the 60's and 70's, Memphis had the original WWII Memphis Belle B17-F Flying Fortress bomber at the fairgrounds for years. Later it sat on display at Mud Island for years I understand. Then somehow it was taken away from Memphis which was a great loss to the city I feel. The Mid-South Coliseum is a permanent structure with a unique history like the Memphis Belle. But the MSC cannot be uprooted and moved up north like the famous aircraft was. However, Memphis cannot afford to lose another incredible piece of its iconic history through demolition either."-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Learning From Kiss' Gene Simmon's Public Relations Disaster

"I hope Gene Simmons of the longstanding rock band "Kiss" learned a lesson. When you're a celebrity in the public eye and have been for years, anything you say these days in the media (which is automatically conveyed on over to social media in a heartbeat thus millions upon millions of people will read it) will spread like wildfire. Also, their words can be easily misconstrued whether he or she meant it or not. I like Gene and Kiss and still do. However, it seems that Gene's highly criticized news stories that he was quoted in about America's wealthiest 1% and people who have depression and suicide tendencies really bothered me.
In the event of Robin Williams recent suicide which made world-wide news was bad timing for Gene, it also appeared to me that Gene's ego was way out of control with a lack of humility towards his fellow man. I thought his comments were coming off very outlandish, going against the grain of average society, and were very destructive to the Kiss franchise and his business dealings and for his partner, Paul Stanley. Mainly, I thought it was bad publicity and public relations for everyone involved in the Kiss camp and the Kiss name brand at the tail end of their highly publicized and expensive 40th anniversary tour."-Galen A. Smith Sr.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Bowling Green Based Houchen Industries' "Crossroads IGA" Now Open In Smiths Grove, Ky.

Shell fuel pumps in front of Crossroad IGA
    I've always liked Bowling Green based Houchens Industries, Inc. http://www.houchensindustries.com/ and the story behind their incredible financial success through the years who now have their world-wide headquarters located down on Church Street in the old Fruit of the Loom building or "The Derby" as they used to call it around here.
According to their website, Houchens have experienced major growth in the last 25 years.
Side of building facing McDonalds
     "From 1988, when the company was purchased by the Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP), Houchens Industries has experienced unprecedented growth.  Today, Houchens Industries, Inc. is a diversified conglomerate wholly owned by its employee owners. Houchens has businesses in retail grocery and convenience stores, quick-to-service restaurants, insurance, stock brokerage and financial services, franchising of optical stores, construction, fence materials manufacturing and distribution, crushed stone aggregates and asphalt paving, recycling, tanning supply distribution, manufacturing, software and website development, property management and juice concentrate, manufacturing and distribution."
"Listed by Forbes as one of the largest 100% privately held companies in North America and according to the ESOP Association, the largest 100% employee owned company."
Sign seen from I-65
  

     With Houchens Industries being located in Bowling Green, residents in the Southcentral Kentucky area get to experience a wealth of nice, grocery, retail and convenient food markets throughout the region. One of their latest concept convenient grocery market stores is the Crossroads IGA in Smiths Grove, a small town in the northeast part of Warren County where about 850 or so residents live. The store is located right off the exit ramp of I-65, sandwiched between McDonalds and a truck stop and not far from Wendy's, just down the road. I have shopped at several of their other Crossroads IGA markets in the Bowling Green many times through the years. This new Crossroads is a brand new, state of the art, beautiful building where they are currently advertising, "Your all-new neighborhood grocery store!" Besides tons of regular food items that you would normally purchase at other larger grocery stores, they also offer fresh, fast and convenient foods including a Scholtzky's Bakery Cafe which has 15 different types of sandwiches, Cinnabon Classic Rolls and Carvell soft-served ice cream. They even have a drive-thru window available.
    I stopped by this new store earlier this week and I was very impressed. First, I filled up at their Shell Station fuel pumps located out front and then I pulled around and parked on the side of the building. When I walked in, I was blown away of how clean and orderly the store is. Everything was placed perfect on the shelves and the restrooms, being brand new, were of course super clean and nice too. I couldn't believe how many choices they had to offer as far as take out food including fresh fruits, deli items and veggies. I saw one local elderly farmer just walking around in a daze basically in awe, checking everything out. Also, I checked out the Scholtzky's Bakery Cafe but I ended up settling for a sandwich, chips, a bottled soft drink and a cheese snack out of the deli items area. The young lady who checked me out was very friendly too and I asked her how long they had been open and she said, "Two weeks!" with a smile.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Paul Stanley's "Face The Music, A Life Exposed" Grips Your Attention With A Stranglehold

     I wrote about the mega, super rock group, "Kiss,"  in an earlier blog of mine. It was about my first and only Kiss concert that I ever attended in December of 1978 at The Mid-South Coliseum in Memphis, Tenn., when I was 16 years-old. http://acriticfromthesouth.blogspot.com/2011/01/all-way-to-see-kiss-at-mid-south.html  I went by myself because none of my other friends wanted to go with me.  I heard recently on a podcast that "Lifelong, die-hard Kiss fans take a lot crap throughout their lifetime."  I think that statement is somewhat true.
The cover of Paul's book
Me and Paul at his book signing in Bowling Green, Ky.
    And as far as the individual members of the group are concerned, to be honest, I never thought a whole lot about lead singer and guitar player, Jewish born Paul Stanley, "The Starchild," as being my favorite member of the group.  I suppose I've always liked Jewish born Gene Simmons the best, the fire-breathing, blood spitting "The Demon," bass player of the four male members who wore make-up and black costumes on stage for years. Originally, there was also drummer Peter Criss and lead guitarist Ace Frehley too.  Gene, however, always seemed to be the most colorful to me catching my attention, on and off camera.  And now since Peter and Ace are out of the band again, now there's Tommy Thayer on lead guitar and Eric Singer on drums and they are wearing the original make-up of Ace and Peter, the Spaceman and the Catman. But for me, I had been seeing Gene on television the most throughout the recent years thanks to his hit A&E reality show, "Gene Simmons Family Jewels."  I felt the show gave me a real sense of who Gene Simmons really was.  Especially when you saw behind the scenes of his life where you got to know his beautiful wife, Shannon Tweed, and his kids, Nick and Sophia Simmons and his lovely mom who still lives in New York City.  As far as Paul was concerned throughout the years, I would catch headlines of him some in the past.  Such as the time he began to paint and sold some of his paintings at auctions and where he made over $2 million dollars from selling them according to media sources at the time. And I think that I heard somewhere along the way that he liked to cook too.  But that's about it that I can remember about Paul.
    But this book. OMG!  Wow, did I get to know Paul Stanley! Now I feel like I really know him. It all began when I got a chance to meet him at our local library in Bowling Green, Ky., for a book signing in May. I wrote this too in a recent blog and I even included a video of the event that I made. http://www.acriticfromthesouth.blogspot.com/2014/05/kiss-paul-stanley-brings-people-out-of.html  I was able to purchase a pre-signed copy and I had my picture made with him.  When I met him, I realized he's just a human being like me while side standing next to him.  He didn't shake my hand but he fist bumped me.  (I guess if I had to meet that many fans during a book signing tour, I would be a little concerned about germs or injuring my guitar playing hand too)  Before I left after our very brief meeting, I told him that my wife and I were going to see Kiss in concert in Nashville, July 16th.  He said, "We'll see you there!" he said and then smiled. I said goodbye. And that was it.  I still have my picture with him to show for it.
      Paul seems to be completely honest in his book.  Early in this 462 page turner with several great color and black and white photos, he writes about an ear defect that he was born with and how he was teased about it during school.  He writes of his home life and some of the struggles that his family endured growing up in the NYC.  He also writes about of his early years of how he became a musician and how he met Gene and how they recruited Peter and Ace and how they eventually became to be one of the biggest and hottest bands in the world.  There's a lot discussions about some of the different personalities of the different band members through the years such as Peter, Ace and Eric Carr, a drummer that passed away of heart cancer in the early 80's.  You learn about his first sexual experience and all the women that passed through in his life. Tons of them!  I thought Gene lead the field in that area, but now I'm starting to wonder if Paul has just as many sexual encounters with women as him.  You learn about Kiss' management team and original record label, Bill Aucoin and Neil Bogart of Casablanca Records.  You learn about the ups and downs of the band and their roller coaster ride to the top.  After I went to college at the University of Mississippi in their early 80's, I pretty much lost contact with Kiss.  I didn't keep up with them a lot then.  Oh, I would see them from time to time on MTV with a new video here and there they had out or something like.  But that was about it. Or I also saw where they had some new band members and went "Unmasked" to the public.  But those years, during and after college as a Kiss fan, it went totally blank for me.  I had also gotten married in 1986 and my son was born in 1987 and I had moved to Kentucky and went to work full time to raise a family.  So the book was very helpful to me to fill in the blanks of the missing Kiss years from the early 80's all the way up to about 1998 when I saw them on national television during the Halloween concert at the LA Dodgers Stadium during the reunion tour with all four original members on stage again.
Gene, Shannon and Paul
     I suppose what struck me most about this book besides Paul's honesty is how hard this man has worked to be the musician that he wanted to become and the driving force to keep Kiss together all the years.  He admits that he smoked a little pot during the early days but he has nothing against drinking and absolutely loves women or sex if you will.  That was his main vice he said, relationships and women. He gets into depth about his first marriage to actress Pam Bowen and the birth of his son, Evan, the divorce and eventually the marriage to his new wife, Erin.  I really liked this paragraph in the book where he talks about seeing Erin for the first time, "If there was ever going to be a moment that proved to me the existence of God--and I do believe there is a God--then this was it.  Sure, some people might choose to call it luck. Too me, luck, is taking advantage of a situation God puts in front of us. The woman's name was Erin. She was tall as me and had a great laugh. And she was a practicing attorney."
All of the members of Kiss throughout its history
    The only negative criticism I have about Paul's book is that I realize now what a stumbling block Peter and Ace eventually became for the band as well as their originally manager Bill Aucoin.  Some of the things, he writes about Peter and Ace are sometimes overbearing but I have to admit, they did say and do some stupid shit according to Paul in the book.  Also, I couldn't understand why he didn't invite Gene to his wedding to Erin. Technically, I understand his reasoning why and the principal behind it because Gene went around for years stating to the public and press that he did not believe in the institution of marriage.  Of course, Gene finally married Shannon after many years on their reality show, "Family Jewels."  But come on, Gene is Paul's best friend and business partner.  Gene even took Paul in and let him live in his guest house when him and his first wife separated and Gene and Paul hung out together doing things together during those times.  I feel like it probably really hurt Gene's feelings but I'm sure would never would admit it.
    In this book, I realize that Paul Stanley, at age 62, as a musician, a rock star, a husband, a father and as a human being is now self-actualized.  Throughout the book, Paul was not to afraid to admit that he pretty much has or had sought out the help of a psychiatrist and counseling to deal with a lot of his personal issues even an early age.  I really admire that. And the fact that he is strictly a hard driving, creator, co-musician and the mega force behind Kiss, who has always tried to keep the band moving forward, Paul Stanley has achieved a mountain of success in his lifetime by somebody who pulled himself up by the booth straps and did it on his own along with three other unknown musicians in make-up from NYC.  But the beautiful thing about Paul Stanley, the rock star, is that he also found the inner beauty of life with a family-his wife and four children. When he is not on the road or on tour, he admits these days he would rather be home with his family at his mansion in the hills of LA over looking the ocean, baking pizza in his brick oven on his patio. And he admits, it's not about the money anymore because you know he is worth millions of dollars like Gene, but it's about quality family time.  He admits that he loves cooking too for family and friends and I think that's really cool.  I can understand that.  That's where his human side really shines through to me.  Here you have a rock star who has survived the music business for 40 years and still rocking on the stage.  He is also business partners with Gene, owning a chain of restaurants and an arena football team.  And now he is a published author with a best selling book and a highly successful book signing tour.  I  suppose that I will never meet Paul Stanley in person again or stand that close to him.  However, after reading his book, I realize that he is just a human being just like you and me but had a drive to succeed and never give up like no other person in the music industry has before. Also, I think he sincerely cares about Kiss fans and is interested in their lives like we are his.  But thanks to modern technology, you can reach out to him on daily basis on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Just remember, Paul Stanley is "Watchin You" because he'll see that you are watching "The Starchild" too.  Go buy and read the book.  You won't be disappointed and you find it hard to put it down.  Thanks Paul Stanley for sharing your life with us!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

YouTube's "Southern Women Channel" Brings It Down Home With The "Sh%t Southern Women Say" Video Series



If you're looking for some good Southern fun and want to see some good looking, funny, smart Southern women, check out the "Southern Women Channel" on https://www.youtube.com/user/SouthernWomenChannel.
YouTube.
The first episode of the series has gone viral with over five millions views since it first came out only a couple of years ago. There have been four episodes made so far and a new one that just came out recently called, "The Dixie Download."  Julia Fowler, the creator of the video series is a native of South Carolina.

Here's Julia's bio:

"Julia is an actor, writer, producer, singer and dancer. Originally from Gaffney, South Carolina, Julia holds a BA in Theater and Dance from the University of South Carolina where she graduated Magna Cum Laude. After college, she moved to New York City and achieved her childhood dream of becoming a Broadway musical theater performer. Julia eventually made the move to Los Angeles and wrote, "The Possum Trot Cloggers," a screenplay influenced by her real life experiences in the competitive clogging world. The script, originally optioned by New Line Cinema, is currently seeking independent financing. Julia recently wrote, directed and starred in the YouTube viral video, "Sh%t Southern Women Say," which was featured on NBC's "Today Show." She also created and executive produced the reality pilot, "Growing Up Broadway" for E! and performed in the Hollywood Bowl's 2012 summer production of "The Producers" directed by Susan Stroman."
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Art/Work Entertainment



Saturday, May 17, 2014

Kiss' Paul Stanley Brings People Out Of The Woodwork From Bowling Green and Southcentral Kentucky At His Book Signing

When I first heard the news from D93 Rock DJ Tommy Starr on Facebook that Kiss' front-man Paul Stanley was coming to Bowling Green for a book signing of his new autobiography, "Paul Stanley: Face The Music, A Life Exposed," I was a little skeptical at first.  I don't think I quite believed it.  "The Paul Stanley from Kiss is coming to good ole little Bowling Green? No way!" I thought.  So I put it on the back burner on my mind because the book signing date was still several weeks away.
However, when the day came this past Thursday, I realized it was a reality.  I started seeing postings about it on Facebook again. I posted on Facebook a couple of negative comments concerning that I hated large crowds, long lines and I didn't like standing out in the cold rain waiting. I could feel my middle age seeping in on my positive attitude towards rock legends of the days of my youth.  Then, I thought, "Hey, wait a minute, this is my chance to meet Paul Stanley in person and get his autograph. Hell yes, I'm going!"  Even my childhood friend, Ricky Williams from Memphis also posted on Facebook, "You've got to go, man. It's Paul Stanley!"
I'm glad I went.  Yes, it was crowded. There were probably about a 1,000 people from everywhere there at the Warren County Public Library-Bob Kirby Branch on Scottsville Road just off Exit 22 next to the Ramada Inn.  Lots of people had even traveled from out of town such as Evansville, Ind., and Ohio.  So people had been waiting all day too. My number was No. 267.  You had to buy the $30 book at 4 p.m. and if you lived in town like I did, you could go home for dinner and come back at 6:30 p.m. in get your place in line.  I asked the organizer of the event, Jayne Pelaski, "How did you all managed to land Paul Stanley here?"  She said, "It was a lot of hard work and it took a lot of finagling."  Of course, Paul showed up on time and you could hear the applause, hooting and hollering for him when he arrived.  How it worked is that he did not sign any
memorabilia. Only his books.  Once you got in line in this big room, the staff brought a cart around with pre-signed copies of his new books and they exchanged them for the unsigned books that you had purchased earlier in the day.  Then when you got up there to meet Paul, the staff would take you picture with him with your camera.  When it was my turned,  I approached him and introduced myself to him and tried to shake his hand.  He gave me the fist bump instead.  He was nice about it though.  He posed for picture with me and I told him that I was going to the Kiss concert at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville on July 16th.  He said, "We'll see you there!" and smiled. Then, I walked out the backdoor and starting posting my pic with him on Facebook immediately. 

Warren County Public Library to Host KISS Frontman Paul Stanley

Face the Music book cover
The Warren County Public Library will host Paul Stanley for a book signing on Thursday, May 15. Stanley will sign copies of his memoir Face the Music:  A Life Exposed.
In Face the Music, Paul Stanley—the co-founder and famous “Starchild” of KISS—reveals for the first time the incredible highs and equally incredible lows in his life both inside and outside the band. Face the Music is the shocking, funny, smart, inspirational story of one of rock’s most enduring icons and the group he helped create, define, and immortalize.
The event will be held at the Bob Kirby Branch on Thursday, May 15th at 7:00 p.m.  Doors open at 4:00, so attendees are encouraged to arrive early to reserve their space in line. Book signing only – no memorabilia will be signed. Books will be available for purchase on site starting at 4:00. For more information, call 270-782-0252 or email Jayne Pelaski at jaynep@warrenpl.org.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The New "Mariah's" Restaurant in Downtown Bowling Green, Ky., Is A Smash Hit!

     Downtown Bowling Green is changing and it's now the place to be these days.
It's not the same place it used to be for years and years since I moved here in the late 80's. However, anybody who decides to go downtown nowadays can get a sense and feel of the "new vibe" as soon as you approached the new gigantic parking structure next to the Bowling Green "Hot Rods" minor league baseball ballpark.  I have been seeing the progress of this particular parking structure these last couple of years and I thought, "Well, it's just another parking structure".  But I supposed it never peaked my interest until the Hitcents Park Plaza or Mariah's Restaurant's new location http://www.mariahs.com/ came into fruition in the last year or so with five new restaurants currently bunched in together at the bottom of the parking structure on the plaza level next to the ballpark.  The new restaurants include the new Mariah's, Brick & Basil Pizzeria, Asia Cafe, The Holinos Mexican Restaurant and the 643 Sports Bar.  When I found this out, of course, then I became intrigued.
Supposedly, all of the restaurants are sharing one large kitchen and somehow all of the food is distributed to all of the different restaurants after it is prepared.  I wouldn't mind to take a look behind the scenes in this kitchen to see how all of this is being executed especially since I work in the service and sales industry.
    But then of course, the devil's advocate side of me has had this curious thought lingering in the back of my mind. I'm sure as taxpayers of Bowling Green and Warren County, we will all help pay for the TIF (Tax Increment Financing) which includes the building of two new parking structures (Downtown and Western Kentucky University) and several buildings and projects in one form or fashion that I have seen being built in the downtown area lately. Too many for me to recall right now. According to my mortgage company, I know that my city taxes are going up a little next year . I'm not complaining, I'm just saying.  But the county taxes, may not have not have anything to do with the TIF and the downtown redevelopment.  I don't know for sure or how all of this is working out is all I am saying.  But on the other hand, I do know that there are people here who are investing tons of their own money also into these private ventures which is a good thing for Downtown Bowling Green and our local economy.
    Anyway, back to the Hitcents Park Plaza.  The old, Mariah's in the old historic home closed down not long ago.  Former owner, Rick Kelley, sold out to the Mills family (Hitcents), because of  some financial troubles that he had been involved in these last couple of years.  But Kelley has stayed on as an adviser and consultant to the restaurant which is a good thing I think.  Also, Jodi Fleming, the manager of Mariah's is still there as well as some of the servers and staff.  Especially, Bryan Graves, head bartender and server is still there. He's a great guy and knows how to take care of his customers really well.  I understand that he is in charge or helping out with arranging entertainment that is taking place in the 643 Sports Bar and also for bands that we be performing on the Plaza area this Summer.
   All and all, the new Mariah's is a smash hit in my opinion.  This new restaurant is beautiful inside especially the bar area, our usual hangout since Patty and I have been regulars there these last couple of years.  The menu is basically the same as the old Mariah's.  There appears to be a little variation of menu item choices and maybe some price changes a little.  With our drinks, Patty and I ordered the "Say Cheeseburger" and side two salads.  The new "Say Cheeseburger" has been greatly upgraded and much improved.  They were very delicious!  The bar area has even added several new selections of wines and beers to it's stock too. However, the biggest difference of the new Mariah's in my opinion, is how grand and beautiful the new restaurant is with lots of glass, dark stained wood and very high ceilings.  There's tons of room and space for everyone.  Being brand new, the new Mariah's is super clean, charming and elegant too.  But I would say, even years down the road, the new Mariah's will serve its customers well in its new location. And with its new location and new owners, I would say that they will most likely maintain the legacy and reputation of Mariah's, keeping it alive and well for Bowling Green and anyone who walks through their doors.  It's worth a trip to Downtown Bowling Green, even if you decide not to park in the parking structure.  But please do because it's free in you are dining at one of the Hitcents Park Plaza restaurants!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

"What? Say That Again," We Said. "The Slippery Noodle Inn-Indiana's Oldest Bar," She Said.

     I was staying at the Crown Plaza Union Station Hotel in downtown Indianapolis for my company's annual meeting early last month.  After our meeting that afternoon, me and a couple of my co-workers ventured outside to explore the downtown area of Indianapolis.  One of the guys wanted to buy a pack a cigarettes.  So we walked over to this little liquor store located in the vicinity and after my co-worker made his purchased, he asked the clerk where their was a nice little bar that us guys could go hang out at.  And she said something about Indiana
's oldest bar, "The Slippery Noodle Inn," http://www.slipperynoodle.com/ and we said, "What? Say that again," we said.  She said, "Yes, The Slippery Noodle Inn-Indiana's oldest bar and it's a really cool place and supposedly it has a lot of history behind it too," she said.  The bar was not that far away from our hotel at all she also said.  So we made our way over there.
    When we arrived we order a couple of beers and I really did think it was a pretty cool place.  I liked the atmosphere too. Supposedly, during prohibition whiskey was made in the basement in the bar and the gangsters, (Brady and Dillinger gangs) used the building in the back for target practice and several of the slugs remain embedded in the lower east wall. The server allowed me to go downstairs and take a quick look and snap a picture before we left.  I didn't stay long because the other guys wanted to leave and go somewhere else.  But I loved the history of the bar and the place really appealed to me.  I'll go back and visit it again one day, that's for sure.
    Again, The Slippery Noodle Inn claims to the be oldest bar in Indiana, established in 1850.  It is located at 372 S. Meridian St. in downtown Indianapolis and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and owned by Hal and Carol Yeagy.  The bar has been owned by the Yeagys for over 50 years and and they claim that their bar is also internationally known and can attest that many well known celebrities have visited the bar over the years.  They feature live Blues music, good food and booze. They offer "carry out food and booze available" the menu claims.  It's definitely worth the trip over there if you're ever in downtown Indianapolis.  And you'll surely want to sneak a peek at the Dillinger slugs in the wall too before you leave like I did.
 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Kiss and The Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame and Museum-Let's Hope For A Peaceful Induction

Okay, who's ready for the Kiss-(Gene has not said much) Paul, Peter, Ace and Rock & Hall of Fame finger pointing and taking jabs at each other in the press to be over with? My God, I hope they don't get up there tomorrow night and slug it out. Hopefully, they will act like true gentlemen and be respectful to each other while being inducted. Keep your fingers crossed, Rock and Roll lovers. However, you should at least pay one visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and museum before you die. You'll see and learn the true essence of the genre through the lenses of a cultural and historical perspective in America. I am glad that I went a couple years ago. And I understand that every person, musician or band that was chosen was for a good reason because they made sort sort of major contribution to Rock and Roll.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Please Join Me On Facebook And Kill Lots Of Time Like I Do

   
Galen A. Smith Sr., and his wife, Patty

 You can now join my new Facebook page "A Critic From The South" at https://www.facebook.com/acriticfromthesouth   You'll get to read the latest news, inside information and some personal commentaries about my blog. Please check it out and "Like" new page! Thanks!