If he can get access to Popeye's, Tom may choose to serve his country

I'm thinking of joining the Air Force. You probably think that it might be a tad late in life to be making such a move, but I've got a good reason.

Actually, I took a test to go to the Air Force Academy a long time ago and did pretty well. But when the Air Force guy came to the school to follow up on it, I explained to him that I had just taken the test so I could get out of class for three hours. Plus, I like taking tests, and I wanted to see how well I would do. And ... there was that thing about how guys who had been at my school just a couple of years earlier were at that time halfway around the world getting shot at.

I've seen reports on some of the odd people the Army is letting in, so maybe the Air Force might overlook a couple of things. It might take me a few tries to pass the obstacle course, but otherwise, I'm pretty smart, and they could probably teach me how to use those computers.

The main reason I arrived at this momentous decision is that I'm Catholic. For too many years to count, I've given up fried foods for Lent. I'd have Popeye's Chicken a couple of days before Ash Wednesday and then again after Easter. It was kind of annoying, since the only Popeye's left in Tucson was at 22nd Street and Kolb Road, a good (or really bad) 45-minute drive from where I live. But it was Popeye's Chicken, after all, and sacrifices must be made. And I've always liked Darrell, the manager, even though he's a big Dallas Cowboys fan. Back before Lent, I gave him a CD with Robin Thicke and Lil Wayne.

Yes, I am that cool.

I have friends who just don't get Popeye's. One guy calls it "a big ol' mess of grease, batter and chili powder." That's pretty much true, but it's the perfect ratio of grease to batter to chili powder.

I'm really good at Lent. If I give something up, it's gone. Twice, I gave up soda pop (which sucked), and once, I even went vegan (which sucked a golf ball through a garden hose).

It was a rather brutal Lenten period this year. My daughter, who basically gave up everything but Popeye's Chicken, twice went to Phoenix for volleyball tournaments, and both times, she stayed at a hotel near Arizona Mills that just happened to be across the street from a Popeye's on Baseline Road. She'd come home with the sweet smell of Louisiana spices on her person.

About halfway through Lent, I was doing my Saturday radio show, and this nice lady from the Mom and Pop Donut Shop came by with some donuts. I politely declined, explaining that it was Lent. She said, "Well, most Catholics don't observe Lent on Sundays, and since you go to Mass on Saturdays, it should be OK."

I explained to her that I don't do that; when I start Lent, I go all the way through for 47 days without a break. Then, I wondered how she knew I went to Mass on Saturdays. Are they taking attendance?

She kept after me with the donuts until I asked, "What are you, the devil?!"

She laughed, and in that brief moment, she did sorta resemble Elizabeth Hurley.

Easter came and went, and I was proud of myself for not making a special trip just to get Popeye's. I'm coaching a high school track team this spring, and we had a meet scheduled at Santa Rita, which is over that way. It was a full 10 days after Easter when I was driving south on Kolb, approaching 22nd. I looked over to my left, and all of the signs were off the building.

Popeye's was closed!

I've had to go through this several times in my life. First, they built one near Campbell Avenue and Blacklidge Drive. It closed. Then there was one on South Sixth Avenue. It closed. Then on Broadway Boulevard and Campbell Avenue; it's now a gas station. Then on Thornydale and Cortaro Farms roads, as part of a gas station. It's now a bank.

Do you realize that Willcox has a Popeye's, and we don't? No offense to Willcox, but that's just wrong.

I went to the Popeye's Web site, and there was a location on the map, but it appeared to be in the middle of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. I called the number and got a very polite, but very disciplined, young woman on the phone.

"Is this Popeye's?"

"Yes, sir."

"Are you on the base?"

"Yes, sir."

"Does the government subsidize this? Because, if so, that would be a great use of taxpayers' money."

"I don't know, sir."

"I mean, how much for a three-piece white-and-spicy, with mashed potatoes and a biscuit?"

"I really can't say over the phone, sir."

"Ah, it's classified. I get it."

I found out that nonmilitary personnel cannot go on the base to partake of the Chicken Strips of the Gods. I thought about standing at the front gate like some pathetic teenager in front of a liquor store, trying to get some wino to buy him some booze, but ... well, I haven't completely abandoned that idea yet.

If it doesn't work, wait until that Air Force recruiter gets a load of me.