Journey is more than “Don’t Stop Believing”…37 more essentials

Escape from Journey is on my turntable now…you might like it.

Vagabond's Rose

A few days ago I opened up Spotify on my computer and searched on “Journey.” I scrolled down and found the entire “Evolution” album.  It was like I had reconnected with an old friend when I started listening to those tunes.

On a rare visit in 1980 to Woodstock to see my Aunt Essie and Uncle Clarence, we drove into the small downtown area just for a break from the chickens that dominated their yard and the scratching and smelly dogs that owned their home.

There was an old record shop where I managed to grab a few minutes of searching the bins.  I listened to the radio everyday and was building a music catalog slowly.  My budget was tight and I didn’t want to get stuck with an album with one good song and a bunch of weak filler tracks so I took my sweet time.

Journey's "Evolution" Album Cover Journey’s…

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This song still haunts me.

Harry Chapin could sing and write…indeed.

Vagabond's Rose

In our humble abode in small town South Georgia (Statesboro), my Mama played the little radio…covered in green plastic (vinyl, maybe?) with one of those telescoped antennas that measured about 18 inches or so when we were trying to pick up Savannah’s stations on the FM dial or some baseball game a few states away on the AM side.

If my Mother was cooking breakfast, the radio was turned on. Usually she would listen to the news and obits while the bacon sizzled and the freshly battered pancakes filled the kitchen and the rest of the house with that best of morning aromas. And, I didn’t even drink coffee then although I liked the smell of Maxwell House.

One day, I guess I was around nine years old, I hear this dude (Harry Chapin…here’s the family’s tribute site to the late artist) singing this sad song about working…

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uh, Dad sorry I crashed your truck

Ford F-250 Long Bed Pick-Em-Up Truck

Once, he repainted a two-tone Ford pickup truck with a baby blue on top and a royal blue along the bottom.  It was really pretty and I promptly drove it into the front corner of the house, pressed the gas instead of the brake, and smashed up the front grill and headlight housing.  My Mama busted it out of the back door wondering what in tarnation was going on since the house had shook.  To his credit, Dad said mistakes happen and didn’t get mad.  He did wonder why I thought I needed to drive around the house after washing the truck though.  Answer: to dry it off, of course.


Thanks for looking,


John Robert Conley

Buying cars and living with ’em…trying to get that 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible feeling again.

I just read an article from a new Atlanta firm’s blog  (Automotive Ventures) about the results from a recent survey of 1,000 of our fellow U.S. citizens that said instead of haggling over sex for a month, twenty percent said they’d rather give up intimate relations for thirty days than do the back-and-forth song-and-dance routine i.e. “haggle” of buying a car.  The report also stated that 83% of those surveyed preferred not to haggle….83%!!

“You gotta go through him!” We had an episode at an Atlanta Volvo dealer where we had tried to buy a burgundy 740 off the showroom floor in the early nineties.  Our salesman, Jim, as part of his breaking down the barriers banter decided to tell me how his dear old granddad, Horste, had lived to be 95 years of age by surviving off of mostly potatoes with the side effect of having hellacious gas that no amount of a Maalox and Tums cocktail could cure.  I wondered what Jim talked about with people he was really comfortable with. I had to get out of his office. Why did he keep a box of Alpine Mist air fresheners (XXXXXL) next to his desk?  Maybe he wanted to make sure every car smelled like the Chattahoochee National Forest after a summer rain and before the marijuana farmers had sprayed for bugs but I think ole Jim wore one as a necklace-of-last-defense since he was trying to outlive granddad and the other dealership employees addressed him as “Spud” while suspiciously avoiding his personal space by remaining at least a good 740’s length away.

Anyway, negotiations reached a stall over the pride of Sweden and as we were leaving to visit Hennessy Lexus, Jim pointed to a mustached man who was sitting on what appeared to be a small wooden throne (Dinklage?) overlooking the showroom and threatened, “You’ll have to go through him if you’re goin’ to get a better deal!”  This fellow was the owner and he looked as hard at me as Wyatt Earp did when he threw Billy Bob Thornton on his ear in Tombstone.  I said thanks to Jim as he got it in a dig at Lexus as being a “gussied-up Toyota” which in the case of the ES250 was pretty much true.

Me whispering to wife: “uh, don’t say that, he can hear you.  Every car out here is bugged.  Don’t make eye contact!  Look Tom Selleck with no shirt, a full bottle of Coppertone, and a twinkle in his eye!”

“A Small-Town Boy Living in a Lexus World” This visit to Hennessy would mark the second time we’d visited them to look at a ride. The first time we couldn’t reach an agreement on price on a used ES250 however our salesman, Ted, was professional and negotiations were not contentious.  We were just too far apart to make it work…like $2,500 or so. This time, we ended up buying a Jade Green Metallic ES250…the gussied up Toyota that did have an impressively heavy hood and a safety feature that was supposed to do something crazy with the engine in the event of a front-end crash: push it down to keep it from coming in the cabin.  That did sound safe to me.  Who wants an hot engine riding shotgun?

At the time our salesman, Fast Eddie, mentioned this feature, it sounded like something a responsible adult (I was faking it) would want for his hot blond wife but it was probably just hype…and the recognition that my blood sugar was low and I would sign anything if my wife wanted it and if the purchase would lead to more conjugal relations. She did want the car….and which she had verbalized loudly enough so Fast Eddie could hear while we did a walk-around. (Me whispering to wife: “uh, don’t say that, he can hear you.  Every car out here is bugged.  Don’t make eye contact!  Look Tom Selleck with no shirt, a full bottle of Coppertone, and a twinkle in his eye!”)  Eddie and my service writer, Tony, are still there….good people.

“If you’ll buy the Explorer right now, I’ll…” The worst we were ever treated was in the month leading up to buying the Lexus from Fast Eddie.  We went to see our local Ford dealer in Stone Mountain.  We wanted to sniff around an Explorer up close but the only problem was our salesman…and the fact that he was an idiot.  This guy would only unlock the doors to the SUV if we agreed to purchase it before we even were allowed in the rare air of it’s leather-clad cabin.

After determining that he was serious, we got back in our red 300ZX (we were slumming with black cloth) and left the lot. After word got back to the dealership owner through a friend who knew him, we were offered the opportunity to be picked up and driven back to the dealership where we could test drive whichever Explorer we wanted for the weekend.  Thanks, but no.  That couldn’t have been the first time that had happened to potential buyers there. Seriously, agree to a deal and then you can sit in it? Gotta see this with from Jay Leno’s Garage about a 1966 Dodge Coronet with a 426 c.i. Hemi engine (one of 732 built with the 426 Hemi that year):

Cars: the Teenage Years 1. a brown 1973 Toyota Celica with a stick shift that was my Mama’s car.  It had a little oil leak (didn’t every car…at least all of ours did) and Dad wanted to sell it for something else. These had a nice look and are still popular.

2. a red Vega with oversize tires and fan-blade type flat silver rims pimpin’ to make me forget how slow 43 horsepower could move but not quit forget that Neil Young was right and rust doesn’t sleep…it’s also faster to sixty mph than the Vega.

3. a dark brown 73 Mustang with headers and no muffler.  My high school girlfriend, Amy, was so ashamed she curled up in the fetal position in the front seat to avoid recognition toolin’ around town.  .

4.  a Honda Accord hatchback with a stick-shift and black interior…very reliable but somehow my brother managed to pull the front bumper off just taking a jaunt to Wally Mart.

5. My car when I left college – an 86 Chevy Camaro 6 cylinder…candy apple red with oversize tires and shiny chrome rims to make up for the lack of horsepower.  Another underwhelming Chevy needing more umph.  Sad to say, this becomes a recurring life theme.

“Preach on Sunday, sell on Monday.”

My bi-vocational preacher Dad also sold cars during the week.  He did this for ten years in Statesboro, Georgia.  He started selling Toyotas and eventually sold Fords, Chryslers, and Chevys too before he decided to get into a profession that people respected more than car salesman. Dad got a license to sell life insurance, of course.  Nevertheless, he was a car nut and would entertain us by reading the want ads and providing color commentary on what people were asking for their rides.

Our always grinning dentist bought a red Porsche 911 after a few years of filling every tooth of the Cap’n Crunch-only-on-Saturdays eating fools known as the Conley Boys (me and my brother.)  My Mama is an awesome cook and made a big Southern breakfast of grits and gravy and country ham and sausage and pancakes about every day except Saturdays but at some point I think my Dad was suspicious that our Happy, Happy Dentist was putting fillings on top of fillings.

Fluoride-treated water hadn’t made it to the great state of South Georgia yet so I couldn’t use that excuse when we would walk practically nekkid into Wal-Mart wearing only obscene-when-sweat-soaked, white basketball shorts, a sticky coating of dust, 95% humidity-laden sweat, and Honey Bun crumbs laced with Georgia’s own Coca-Cola, and that Red Porsche 911-Buying Killer Smile to pick up more Quaker State for the Murray red riding 36 inch lawn mowers that couldn’t handle cutting all that arse-high bahaigrass that for some reason always seemed to be waiting for us as our reward for being the low bidders. (I don’t remember anybody ever accusing me of being smart…or outbidding us either…which explains way too much.)

Dad reminded us of how he had paid for the rear end of that 911 every time we drove by our Happy Family Dentist’s office. Hey, I liked our dentist.  Dr. N2O (Nitrous Oxide) didn’t mind cranking that Feelin’ Groovy gas up to 14 and I wasn’t paying the bill.  Plus, he deserved a Porsche if he had to deal with looking at people who had to settle for eating Count Chocolat in their Honey Comb Hideouts on Saturdays since we’d already bought out all of the Capn’s best Crunch from southern icons Piggly Wiggly and Winn Dixie. Being a small town, when somebody listed an unusual car, we might know the owner.

There was one Ferrari 308 in town that a doctor owned and I’m quite sure that women must have followed him around like Magnum P.I. in his best tight shorts (the only ones he owned) on an off day in Honolulu throwing hundred dollar bills around and handing out those blue Tiffany boxes to whomever was sufficiently tired of trying to hook up with that other Ultimate TV Kool Kop, McGarrett aka Jack Lord.  There was a Rolls Royce that some rich guy in the neighborhood next to ours owned.  I think he was a doctor too…or maybe he sprayed bugs for weed farmers in the Chattahoochee National Forest.  I don’t know.

Georgia Southern Homecoming Parade 1987…my ’66 Dodge Coronet with Chi Omega Pledges dressed as eaglets. The brakes were smoking by the end.

I drive a Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible!” My favorite car-buying episodes was one of my first.  No, not the one where Dad brought home a bombed-out light brown and Bondoed Ford painter’s van that he wanted to clean up and make my first ride.  Yeah, baby, a sixteen year-old with a rolling bedroom!  Mama listed that illegitimacy-in-waiting wreck in the newspaper herself!  Mama Tried, Merle, Mama Tried!  Everybody knew most of the cool cars around town cars but who owned a 1966 Dodge Coronet 440 Convertible listed in the American section?  Dad beat me to the phone after reading that it had a 318 c.i. engine.  (I was too dumb to drive a 440 cubic inch motor on an open road…or my Papa’s fully stocked cow pasture.)

I was in college and could only picture scantily clad (these words always seem to go together, don’t they?) GSU Co-Eds (Blondes, Brunettes, Redheads, Lt. Ilia Khambatta….fighting over snuggling up next to me, making sultry pouty-mouthed faces at the losers walking around campus, and generally auditioning to be a ZZ Top Video Vixen Alternate or a Hot Girl in Love with Loverboy’s Mike Reno. (Tawny Kitaen, who writhed across Jaguars in Whitesnake’s NC-17 videos and later stabbed Chuck Finley’s size 14’s with her stiletto heel while he was driving, was much too classy, I thought, although I did admire how limber she was/is?)

My testosterone was spiking and I was in full-blown hyperventilation mode when we met the owner, a Former Las Vegas Con Man who had after “finding the Lord” according to the article in the local paper (Lord Calvert, maybe?), now traveled doing tent revivals and similar events for “love offerings” (i.e: “guilt tips”). I was lost dreaming in a haze of smoke from the manifold-splattering oil that was sneaking around the perpetually leaking gasket on the red ’75 Vega or was that the smell of hard-earned, income-tax-free lawn mowing money from the new Goodyears (NOT recaps this time, thank you very much) that my brother was burning off as he simultaneously pressed the brakes and gas pedal of my ’73 Mustang while grinning at me from the road in front of the house?  That’s alright, I thought.  Sand in his Mustang’s gas tank should fix that smile. Dad bought the Dodge for $1,750.

The Man From Vegas prayed over it loud and proud (and long) for it to be a decent car while I suspect his silent pleas to the Lord were to give his former incarcerated self clean sailing to get out of town before the Dodge started falling apart.  Within a week, the electric motor for the top went out and I never replaced it.

I left the top down when it was anywhere approaching sunny or into the fifties and would even park it in the Georgia Southern student section and go to class.  Nobody ever bothered my 100 watt Kenwood speakers that were laying in the back floor so I could rock out while I was cruising listening to The Outfield, U2, The Alarm, and AC/DC.  I was trusting and any would-be thieves probably figured there was nothing worth stealing in an old ride like that.  And, who would be dumb enough not to lock their car? Uh, guilty, I guess.

When Dad decided that we (re: he) would paint the car it’s original yellow instead of the flat tan that it was, the painter called in disbelief with the news that someone had used house paint on the car.  This was apparently a laughably bad idea no matter what kind of deal one got at Sherwin Williams and was much harder and more expensive to remove than auto paint.  Anyway, he got it prettied up and I never had as much fun in a car.

Thanks for reading,


The State of Georgia wants to use my photo for official business?

Georgia citizenship, good citizen, goodwill,
I was surprised to get a proclamation declaring me as an Outstanding Georgia Citizen and a Goodwill Ambassador

At first I thought they were calling about my state income tax…

Recently, I received a call asking if the Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, could use one of my photos for a public service campaign. The photo was one I took back in 2010 in downtown Lawrenceville, Georgia. I was able to catch both the American and Georgia flags on the flagpole on the Old Historic Courthouse Square as the wind was making them flap. “In God We Trust” showed up plainly on the shot.

I’m very honored that Mr. Kemp thought enough of my photo to use it on banners that will be displayed at official state functions around Georgia. His staff even made up some cards to hand out if anyone was interested in the photo or contacting me. All of them were a pleasure to deal with and I trust that their project will be a fruitful endeavor.


american flag, georgia flag, postcard, appreciation, p.r., public relations
The Georgia Secretary of State, Brian Kemp, and his staff made a nice card to hand out telling about my photo taken in Gwinnett County.
American and Georgia flags flapping in the breeze
American and Georgia flags flapping in the breeze
My photo was on display at the Georgia National Fair in Perry (on the right side).
My photo was on display at the Georgia National Fair in Perry (on the right side).

Chili’s baby-back ribs: oh, man they’re good…the fried shrimp (what I could find of them is not).

Half rack of Chili's Ribs
Half rack of Chili’s Ribs

For a restaurant that is not a barbeque specialist, Chili’s has some delicious ribs.  I should know since the last three times we’ve gotten take-out, I’ve ordered them.

You can get them on the $20 Dinner for Two Deal.  The official name is “Half Rack of Baby Back Ribs w/ Homestyle Fries (Choose New Honey-Chipotle, Original or Memphis Dry Rub).”  I got original sauce all three times and these rocked.  I added the Mashed Potatoes with Loaded Pepper Gravy (yes, every time) and they were very good too.

The wife got the Bacon Burger and enjoyed it. I took a bite and it was quite tasty.  The appetizer we chose was the Tostada Chips & Fire-Grilled Corn Guacamole.  It has a little kick and was so good that we ordered it every time too.  The only complaint was the chips were too thin to hold up the heavy dip.

Chili's Guacamole Dip
Chili’s Guacamole Dip

Chili's even has "to go" at The Avenue at Webb Gin

The service at the take-out was fine every time…smiles for the most part. They give you a heavy duty paper bag with plenty of napkins and utensils…and the food is packages neatly.

An no, I don’t work there or have any friends that do either.  On one of our recent trips to the same location I ordered the fried shrimp.  They may have taken it off the menu by now as I don’t see it as an option to order online.

There was no problem with the temperature but the shrimp were puny and were covered with too much batter. I’m guessing that it was about a 3:1 ratio of batter to shrimp in volume.  Anyway, it was quite a disappointing meal.
Nothing wrong with the service though.  Our waiter and server were both fans of one of my favorite bands, Led Zeppelin, as evidenced by the tattoos that they both wore.  In fact, one of the Roycrofters, a local jam band, was our waiter.  

Flowers at The Avenue at Webb Gin

If you go and walk around the outdoor mall where our Chili’s is you will probably like it.  The name is The Shoppes of Webb Gin.  The sidewalks allow plenty of room and it’s always neat and tidy around the parking lot. There’s a nice mix of stores with the Barnes and Noble bookseller being the closest merchant to the Chili’s.

I included a few photos of what The Shoppes look like.  If you go, I trust that you’ll have as much fun as I do.


The fountain at The Avenue at Webb Gin

Coldwater Creek's iconic wood storefront

Playful artwork adorns The Avenue at Webb Gin

John Robert Conley Atlanta restaurants

“Boys, guess what I drove home.”

Two Beauties

“Boys, guess what I drove home.”

My Dad worked for car dealers while I was growing up in Statesboro, Georgia. He began at a Toyota dealership, then transferred to another marquee, Chevrolet.  Subsequent moves to the local Ford and Dodge dealers whet my appetite for automobiles.  Dad would often leave with the family car in the morning and show up for supper with another ride that was a “steal of a deal” or, in other words, the used car manager knew nobody else would buy it.

AMC Pacer, AMC Gremlin, & two big arse Pontiac Woodies

We ended up with a an AMC Pacer, an AMC Gremlin, and two Pontiac Station Wagons with big V-8 engines that some college professor traded in…Dad couldn’t resist the faux wood glued to the side slabs of the tanks and came home with both of them.  Those cars set him back about $150…yes, for…two…automobiles.  We parked them end-to-end in the back yard in Edgewood Acres.  Subsequently, Mr. Hubert Clark, our next door neighbor built a wooden fence for “privacy”…and to keep me and my brother out of his pool and from chasing his pretty daughter, Rosemary.

Keg Parties next door in Edgewood Acres 

Mr. Bob Worthington, our other neighbor, took the eyesores in stride. He just invited Father Lucree and some of the (From The Land of Black Socks and Sandals) Catholic Brigade in Edgewood Acres for a keg party and 27 successive renditions of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore” on Saturday night after Mass.  Of course, I think Mr. Bob enjoyed sticking it to Dad knowing that the soft acoustic guitar and those out-of-tune harmonies floating in through the screened-in windows were keeping the owner of Edgewood’s biggest fleet of used automobiles from enjoying a good night’s sleep.  After all, my Baptist preacher Dad had to be ready to throw some brimstone in the fire on Sunday morning.  And, after a bad night’s sleep, he had no problem throwing more wood on that smoldering pile.

“..take a ride, ride, ride, ride on Heavy Metal…(and fiberglass)”

One of our neighbors, Mr. Kenny Stone, was a newly minted lawyer from the University of Georgia.  As a reward for passing the bar, he got married and bought a Corvette…a ’78 or ’79.  He’s a friendly guy and babied that black beauty.  Like every one of my first kisses with a neighborhood honey, I plainly remember that I only managed to snag a ride in that C3 once…the first time I had ever graced the seat of a ‘Vette.  Sweet; it smelled good…had red leather and, man, were we low to the ground!  I didn’t mind being bitten by the Mako Shark-inspired design and I’ve wanted a 1980-1982 ever since.

 “Volare'” and…the F-U-R-Y

and the Plymouth “Hell Hath No” Fury for style.  One time, Dad “accidentally” backed the Fury into my Mama’s car twice…within ten seconds apart.  He didn’t drink at all and I can only guess that he was going to test-drive another Chrysler laden with “Rich Corinthian Leather” aka Pitted Vinyl with Vaseline smeared on it.  Enjoy the Plymouth Fury commercial with Arthur Godfrey and then relive the olfactory paradise that drove women wild in the Cordoba.  Just deliver those sweet nothings to your lady with that smooth Ricardo Montalban’ accent and…steamy windows here we come!

A 1967 Mercury Cougar and a 1967 Ford Mustang…ones that got away

I still have an affinity for vehicles and yeah, we had a bunch of four doors that fit all of us since we were a very close family. The ‘Vette’s were a totally impractical choice for our ride but we did have a pretty burgundy ’67 Ford Mustang and a metallic green ’67 Mercury Cougar whose only blemish was a front seat that had a few small cracks.  A little old lady really did have own the Merc and it was gorgeous to be twenty years old.  Dad still regrets selling both of these.  They were fun to drive and had nice lines and we loved cruising around in them.  It’s funny but I can remember how that Cougar seemed almost new inside and out.  I think I’m gonna be sick.

Here’s a commercial for the ’67 Cougar…Motor Trend’s Car of the Year. It’s got the big cat (a cougar, I guess) that growls. I always liked those ads.

And for those of you who bothered to read this far, here’s a commercial for a Mercury Cougar with Farrah Fawcett Majors:



The Beaver House in Statesboro…go hungry; you won’t be disappointed.

"Bob Conley", "Linda Conley", "Mark Conley", "John Conley", "Beaver House", Statesboro John Conley, Linda Conley, Mark Conley, and Bob Conley at The Beaver House in Statesboro, Georgia

Man, was I stuffed and my bro even ate more than I did. How many times has that been said at The Beaver House over the years?

Yesterday, I made a quick run down to Statesboro to pick up a brand new order of notebooks from Randy Lewis at Lewis Color. This is embarrassing but I got lost leaving Waynesboro. Instead of taking 25 going south to Millen, I took another turn off the bypass at Waynesboro and after a couple of more turns ended up in Sardis. My, navigation system (aka my wife) was on the phone with me while she checked out Google Maps online back at the ranch. Sardis does have police so don’t think you can bust it through there.

The family finally sat down to lunch (here’s the menu) at The Beaver House by about 1:30 p.m. The crowd had thinned out and we had a friendly college girl wait on us. After getting some sweet tea in a real glass, here comes the homemade biscuits, the mashed potatos (and gravy…chicken or steak…I don’t know), green beans, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, and some country fried steak and fried chicken that will give your Mama’s a run for the money, honey.

Mrs. Sue and Clay are cookin’ up this grub everyday. Make sure you’re hungry.

Beaver House Restaurant on Urbanspoon

John Robert Conley Atlanta restaurants

Loganville Chick-fil-A photos

When I was growing up in Statesboro, Hardee’s was a treat (it’s a law that every small town in South Georgia has to have a Hardee’s – look it up). I can remember the smells of the restaurant, the shakes (always strawberry), and the hamburgers had a certain flavor a little different (maybe the sauce?) from McDonalds, Burger Chef, Burger King, Dairy Queen, and Wendy’s. (That was about it for small-town South Georgia hamburger joints.)

"Home of the Original Chicken Sandwich" on the wall in Loganville, Georgia's Chick-fil-A
You know that you’re home at Chick-fil-A.

I did sample the new Chik-fil-A Spicy Sandwich – it was good and had a little kick to it. I was part of a new promotion but it looked like they weren’t making a big deal of it at the Lawrenceville restaurant.

Read this guy’s review of his Chik-fil-A experience with the new sandwich – excellent and even has pics!





Chick-fil-A always puts fresh flowers on the table
Chick-fil-A always puts fresh flowers on the table