April 2012 Newsletter

Thomas R. Lawrence

456 South 10th Street

Opelika, AL 36801


As I See It!™

April 2012

Volume 3, Number 4

In This Issue:

Welcome from Tom

Front porch Press

Society South Magazine

Request a Free Copy of Society South Magazine!!!

As I Like it!TM

Service Station Cuisine


The approach of summer usually sends me into a state of deep nostalgia. I’m told that this is typical of the elderly as they approach their golden years and it certainly applies to me. Why else would I be thinking about an auto trip that took place some sixty plus years ago? In August of 1947, my grandmother, her niece, Julia Belle, and I drove Julia Belle’s 1936 Ford Coupe from Miami, Florida to Ruleville, Mississippi.

The little car only had one seat and the three of us were jammed together for nearly 1,200 miles of two lane highway at an average speed of 35 MPH. Air conditioning was only a dream at the time, both in the car, as well as, the various “tourist courts” that housed us along the way. In addition to being the worst driver in North America, Julia Belle could not see to drive at night and tired easily. We averaged about 150 miles a day if everything went right, which it seldom did. It took 17 days to complete the trip.

I remember this as the worst two weeks of my life, and as a result, I have never much liked Florida as a vacation destination. I recall this ordeal with the same feelings a survivor of the Bataan death march might harbor about the Philippine Islands. I think I might have to write a story about this for some future book.

After that little trip down memory lane, I’m more than ready to look at the present, as grim as it sometimes appears. In spite of my efforts to ignore the talking heads on TV, snippets of current events will still slip through my spam defenses. I know that the Alabama legislature is attempting to put a quick fix on the immigration law that they passed last year. Why don’t I believe that they can rework this poorly thought through statute without making a bad law worse? Some would say that I have become jaded in my dotage. Perhaps there may be more truth to that than I am willing to admit.

One of the best minds in college football has managed to land himself in the middle of a classic mess. C’mon Bobby, Fayetteville is nowhere big enough for this kind of action, even if you have a high speed Harley and require administrative assistance when you ride.

After much soul searching and many references to “family values,” the Hogs made the hard decision and terminated Coach Petrino’s multi-million dollar contract thus opening up a head coaching position with the unusual situation of a full larder of talent on hand. Someone will land a sweet deal even if it means living in Dogpatch. I can hear Tommy Tuberville drooling all the way from Lubbock.


The fast approaching publication of Cow College is looming in the not so distant future. Thus, Lisa and I are planning our marketing strategy. Delta Days taught me several expensive lessons. First, you cannot depend solely on the local independent book sellers to provide sufficient exposure for a book. No matter how warm a spot I may have for these last bastions of a more civilized and personal world, you just can’t sell enough books to make it work.

I signed books in over 30 independent book stores promoting Delta Days and enjoyed each and every one of them. I like to hang around book stores, the atmosphere is quiet and serene, the coffee and conversation is usually top notch and I love kitties. What’s not to like? These stores were kind enough to stock my book and, as best I can tell, sold between 300 and 500 books as a result. I had lots of fun, met a bunch of kindred souls and ate some pretty good food. Unfortunately, I spent about five times the total resulting revenue indulging my ego and appetite. I like kitties, but I can’t make that math work.

The second great truth that I learned as a result of Delta Days is that the brave new world of book publishing has changed the traditional dynamic in the industry. In the past, the major publishers controlled the entire production and distribution chain. Because they owned the very expensive printing presses that made mass production of books possible, they also controlled the distribution and retailing of the books. The big houses decided what would be published; who would distribute the books and what books would be available to the reading public. The book store sold what the publishers printed and didn’t question the system.

Today there is no mystery to book production. Modern technology has made it possible to produce books in small quantizes with equal or better quality than the large production factories of the past. The distributors continue to be the major method of getting a book to market, but they do absolutely nothing to promote a book and merely fill requests for copies. They do this very well and very efficiently, but distribution alone will not sell books. There will be close to 500,000 books published in 2012 and what will make you, the reading public, decide to buy Cow College rather than one of the other 499,999?

This is the question that is keeping Lisa and I awake at night. We have some ideas that we think will allow Front Porch Press to successfully market Cow College and we will be sharing some of these in future issues of this little blog. Keep tuned, we will need your help.


My fascination with Society South magazine finds me spending more and more of my day working with Tim Patton, the very talented publisher and chief photographer, to help the magazine grow from a local publication in Southeast Alabama to a regional publication with a circulation of over 250,000.

Tim’s photographs, along with the writing and editing of Chip Burson, are combining to produce a first class publication that I expect will be one of the hit products of 2013. Remember you saw it here before you saw it anywhere else. If you would like to receive a complimentary copy of our next issue, email me at and I will see that you receive it. I will have more about Society South in future issues.

As I Like it!

Service Station Cuisine

Either I have been too snooty to consider good food could possibly be served in a dumpy little gas station or I have been guilty of contempt before investigation on a serious scale, but it has only been recently that I can say that your local Shell station might be concealing a little gem of a eatery.

Last year my daughter Mary and I discovered a small hole in the wall Mexican café hidden inside a Spur Oil Station on the edge of Opelika. We tried it on a whim and were amazed at the tasty examples of many of our Tex-Mex favorites. The place was owned and operated by a family from Mexico and the food was close to the best I have ever experienced. The father and mother did the cooking and one or more of the children took the orders and ran the register.

Their business was clean and neat, their attitude friendly and appreciative and their food was wonderful. All of this was great until the Alabama Legislature decided that they should expel all undocumented persons and protect the purity of our Alabama culture. These hard working people left Alabama along with most of the farm, landscape and construction workers in the State. This is the same law that the boys in Montgomery are about to revisit. Lord knows what they will come up with next.

Once our little Mexican gem closed, we stopped eating lunch where we bought our gas. However, recently I discovered another little slice of culinary heaven tucked away in a Grub Mart convenience store. My first experience at Little China was a reconnaissance mission requested by Mary. She wanted me to try it out and if I didn’t gag or get sick, she agreed to give it a shot.

I am a soup freak and I particularly like oriental soups. In that regard, I think that the gold standard of oriental soup is a good egg drop. The quality of the egg drop soup is usually a pretty good indicator of the overall quality of a Chinese restaurant. Egg drop soup can vary from watery and tasteless to rich, creamy and intensely flavored. I decided to go to Little China for dinner and of course I ordered the egg drop soup.

As soon as my very large bowl of soup arrived, I knew I had found a winner. The dark yellow soup was served steaming hot and the aroma of rich chicken stock and Chinese seasonings wafted to my nose in a symphony of anticipation. The anticipation turned to reality and I enjoyed the best bowl of egg drop soup I have ever tasted. Once Little China had aced the soup test, I dove into the appetizers and entrees with a vengeance. I returned every night for a week and tried a variety of dishes along with all five flavors of soup on the menu.

I find myself looking at gas stations in a different way these days. I’m sure I will have my share of disappointments, but I intend to try every little café that is attached to a filling station. I’m on a roll and have high hopes for future surprises.

Copyright© 2012 Capital Consultants Company. All rights reserved


Categories: Newsletter

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