Frustrating moments often force us to be creative, and I reached that point last week when trying to write my column.
I felt like I was looking at the screen of my final college term paper: a blank page on word editing software with a needy cursor that continued to blink at me, laughing that I had no words.
Those moments can lead to an empty space where you relive conversations and parts of days that stick out the most. My conversation with my family about the Pinky-Dinky man won the moment. But in my most desperate time of writer's block, I went to Facebook for help. And, boy, it delivered.
"You know you're from Phenix City when " I asked my friends list. Over 70 comments later, I was left with a list of memories of my hometown. It didn't turn out exactly as I hoped -- the list is more of businesses and landmarks we frequented throughout our childhood. Most are now closed.
"When you remember the water slides on the Bypass " Blake Russell said. I can't remember the name of the company, but I do remember attending numerous birthday and sports parties. You walked to the top of the hill with a white foam board less than an inch thick. When it was your turn, you put it down in the water, sat on the thin board and slid to the bottom. Then you repeated that trip a few dozen times.
Nearby on Highway 280 were the putt-putt courses and baseball or softball cages. There also was Bonanza and Pizza Inn down the road or Dairy Dream around the corner.
"When someone from Columbus tells you Dinglewood has the best scramble dogs, but you walk away shaking your head in pity because they've never been to 14th Street Grill," Ben Thigpen posted.
I grew up on 14th Street, so we alternated between 14th Street Grill and Hidden Grill. Hot dogs often were on the menu for the night. Other childhood favorite locations included the Lakewood swimming pool, Shoney's (where the parking lot swallowed the mayor's car), "suicide hill," the Skate A Rama, the Boys Club and Tyler's restaurant.
What do these places have in common? Most of them are gone.
Very few dining options are left. There are even fewer fun family activities. With the population around 37,000, according to U.S. Census data, our little town has grown by over 10,000 people since 1980. Why are there not more options than there were when I was little?
When I read over the Facebook posts about Phenix City and our childhood, I wondered what my kids would say 20 years from now as their favorite spots.
Maybe the baseball fields near Lakewood will leave a lasting memory, and perhaps Idle Hour Park may stick in their minds.
Or maybe they'll remember driving to Columbus for most of our activities?
That would be a shame.
Stephanie Pedersen, 706-320-4485, @stephdpedersen