My first ad agency boss once said, “It’s my job to create an environment where other people can be creative.” I always remembered those words and put them to use after I became the boss.
We once had a young copywriter named John. He was a great kid, very creative, and has gone on to great and well-deserved success in the ad agency business. But that success may have come, I must admit, despite the intervention of my business partners and me.
John occupied the office next to mine. For some long-forgotten reason, my partners and I began a strange little tradition just for John’s benefit. Each Friday morning, we walked into his office, shut the door, and my partner would say, “Do you know what today is, John?”
”It’s Friday,” John responded, clearly hoping that it would turn out to be nothing more than the last day of the work week.
”No, it’s not just Friday,” my partner would tell him. “It’s Greek Day.” And on that cue my partners and I would begin our version of a traditional Greek dance, complete with enthusiastic cries of, “Opa! Opa!”
Elbows anchored on his desk, John would bury his face in his hands and slowly shake his head, clearly hoping that this was all just a bad dream that would return to a more normal reality when he again opened his eyes and looked up.
Alas, it was not a dream. When John opened his eyes, his bosses were still there, dancing and crying out like Greeks.
You may find this hard to believe, but other than these strange Friday interludes my closest brush with Greece and things Greek was driving past the Greek Orthodox Church up on the hill overlooking my hometown. My partner had visited Greece and had Greek friends. I was merely imitating him in an attempt to keep things loose and creative for an employee. (Yeah, ok, maybe we strayed a bit beyond creative and entered into the world of bizarre, but we were up for whatever it took to keep our environment “creative.”)
That’s a long way to go to tell you that Jamie and I visited Athens, Texas today.
Yes, last weekend it was Paris. This weekend, Athens. Living the lives of Texas jet setters can be so exhausting.
When we visited Paris we saw the world’s second largest Eiffel Tower which was topped off with a giant red cowboy hat. So when we decided to drive down to Athens, Texas we thought maybe it would be home to the world’s second largest Parthenon topped off with a similarly jaunty red Stetson.
No such luck. Athens has no Parthenon. No big red hat. But, on the other hand, it does claim to be the place where the hamburger was invented. And it must be true, because the town’s water tower plainly says, “Athens. Hamburgers. Heritage. Texas.”
Here’s another great sign in front of the county courthouse on the town square. “Home of the Hamburger. Old Fiddlers Reunion. Black Eyed Pea Capital of the World.”
A little more about that “Home of the Hamburger” claim:
The Texas historian Frank X. Tolbert attributes the invention of the hamburger to Fletcher Davis of Athens, Texas. Davis is believed to have sold hamburgers at his café at 115 Tyler Street in Athens, Texas, in the late 1880s, before bringing them to the 1904 St Louis World’s Fair.
So in order to honor the local creation of the world’s most iconic item of American cuisine we sauntered over to the Athens Brewing Company, ordered up a couple of big ol’ cheeseburgers, and chowed down.
Damn good burgers.
But to be completely honest, good as they were, they may not have measured up to the catfish burgers available down the street at the All U Can Eat Catfish Palace. (Or if you look closely at the sign on the building behind Jamie, the ‘atfish Palace.”) C’mon, you have catfish in the background and an increasingly rare pay phone in the foreground. Pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the place.
Livin’ large in Athens, baby, livin’ large.