After a good weigh-in the other day I decided it was time to treat myself — you know, go a little crazy. So there I was at IHOP — I mean IHOB — enjoying a stack of Belgian Dark Chocolate Mousse Pancakes a la Mode (just 1,070 calories!), when in stumbled my old buddy William Hinge Van Anterse III — “Trip” to his friends and bookie.
He seemed bewildered and was looking around frantically when he spotted me and staggered over.
“W-w-what the hell is going on around here?” he stammered as he flopped down. “What is all this IHOB business? I come in here on my way to the airport for some Homestyle Corned-Beef Hash with a fried egg on top and all I’m seeing is hamburgers everywhere! Has the world gone completely mad?!”
“Settle down, Trip,” I said. “IHOB stands for International House of Burgers. It’s just a marketing gimmick to let people know they serve non-breakfast food.”
“If I wanted non-breakfast food I’d be passed out in the drive-thru at Checkers with Big Buford sauce all over my face!” he said. “I’ve always been suspicious of this whole ‘international’ thing in the first place. This has Soros’ fingerprints all over it. You sure these aren’t all commie tofu burgers?”
“You’re worrying about nothing. These are just regular old all-American burgers,” I said.
Trip focused his eyes on the menu and his eyebrows furrowed. “I don’t know … I see a mushroom and Swiss burger on here that looks awfully Euro, and of course there’s a jalapeño burger I’m sure is some kind of dog whistle for the hoards of illegals swarming across the border every day. Let’s just say ‘IHOB’ doesn’t need to put Lee Greenwood on the jukebox just yet,” he said, making air quotes with his fingers.
But even after all the ranting and raving, when the waitress approached, Trip ended up ordering a 1,090-calorie Mega Monster Burger with fries. And a Diet Coke. He said he was starving after staying up most of the night having political discussions on Facebook with strangers about the immigration issues at the southern border, and recounted a few of the more intellectually stimulating encounters.
“I managed to find this one idiot’s work phone number and left him 15 messages that were nothing but me singing ‘La Bamba.’ I bet he’ll love that when he gets in today,” Trip said, laughing at his clever cyberwar sneak attack.
“So you said you’re headed to the airport?” I asked, trying to change the subject. “Where are you headed?”
“I’m not going anywhere, I’m just picking up my niece from St. Louis so she can get a Mardi Gras dress fitting. And do you think I’d actually pay to fly out of Mobile? I may have a couple of trust funds, but I’m not THAT rich,” he said.
“Come on, it’s not that bad. But I’m guessing you’re pretty happy about the plans to move the airport to Brookley then, because it’s supposed to lower ticket prices,” I said.
“No I’m not happy about that! It’s going to cost $100 million to move the airport! And then we’re not even guaranteed cheaper flights,” he said. “Sounds like the cruise terminal deal.”
“I don’t know why people keep saying it’s going to cost that much. Right now no one has put out any number on the cost, but Mayor Stimpson says it’s not going to be tremendously expensive and that eventually the FAA is going to require the city to significantly rework Mobile Regional anyway, so this makes long-term sense. In the meantime, they claim some low-cost airlines want to come to Brookley and help lower prices, which will get more people from Baldwin flying MO,” I said.
“So let me get this straight, we don’t know how much this is going to cost, but we’re already being told it’s something we need to do? And why exactly are these new airlines willing to come to Brookley but not Mobile Regional? Man, I drive to Pensacola or Biloxi when the tickets are cheaper. You saying people won’t drive out past Schillinger for a good ticket?” Trip said. “Sounds like you’re drinking the Kool-Aid, my friend. Next you’ll be telling me you think the city and county ought to give South Alabama $20 million for their stadium.”
“Well …” I started to say.
“WHAT?!!! Man, I think trying to digest all those pancakes must be making you dizzy! I can’t even get my garbage picked up on time and the city wants to just GIVE South $10 million for a stadium they’d build anyway? And then what do we do with Ladd, have monster truck shows?” he asked.
“Look, Ladd-Peebles already has about $7 million in repairs that haven’t been done and the city has a study that says it needs at least $30 million more. So, for $500,000 a year we can get out of the stadium business and not have to worry about that. Basically over the next 20 years the city can pay $10 million and use the USA stadium for our bowl games, or try to keep a facility together that will be 90 years old by then,” I said.
“OK, OK, the old gal is pretty decrepit, I’ll give you that. But it’s not like you have to get a tetanus shot before you go to the Senior Bowl,” Trip said, smiling at his joke. “So what’s the city supposed to do with Ladd then?”
“Tear it down. Part of the deal is South is kicking back a $2.5 million lump sum so the city can demolish Ladd-Peebles and put a small, low-upkeep high school stadium out there. So actually the city would be donating $7.5 million,” I said.
“Well, I guess those are some good points. Man, my aunt is on the Ladd board and we’ve had some awesome parties out there for Senior Bowl. I hate to think about that going away, though,” Trip said wistfully while chewing his hamburger. “So if the city and county are paying $20 million, is the rest of the money coming from the USA Foundation? I know they have tons of money.”
“Actually they’re not giving a dime,” I said. “Apparently they don’t think it’s part of their mission.”
Trip started smiling.
“Oh, so the taxpayers are supposed to pony up $20 million when USA’s own foundation won’t kick in one red cent? That sounds pretty sketchy. Why don’t we just let them build their stadium without tax money, then rent space once it’s open, or just keep the party going at Ladd?” he said.
I had to agree the foundation’s lack of support made it harder to justify using tax money.
“Look, all of this stuff just takes long-term thinking,” I said while sopping up chocolate sauce for one last bite. “What may seem like a lot of money now could actually save millions down the road. Get it? People around here just get so focused on what’s going on today sometimes and forget about the future.”
“Yeah, I get it. We’ve just been burned too many times. We just need to know what we’re getting into. Nobody wants to go into a pancake house and end up eating hamburgers,” he said.
“Weird analogy … but I know what you mean,” I said.