Climate Change Solution: Pie

Where I live, it’s been raining A LOT! Now this isn’t particularly striking in and of itself, but the summer never really happened. There were a couple of days right at the start that were really sunny and warm and it really looked like it was going to be a proper summer, but that soon waned and there was never any real comeback. I realize that weather isn’t yet an exact science, but I also feel like all the weather apps and reports on TV are useless. Even looking out the window, or indeed sticking your head out of it, doesn’t help. I’ve got no idea what’s going on, but almost everyone you ask agrees that something is up. Everyone! I’ve never actually spoken to one of those ostriches who think the whole thing is some sort of farce. I sincerely believe that those who deny climate change are doing so for their own peace of mind. Denial, for them, is perhaps a more comfortable refuge than the reality that we are presented with. What is this new reality? Well, we just don’t know.

I am convinced that the climate, indeed the whole planet, has been changing and cycling and such for as long as it has existed. We are not the first humans to have to cope with climate change, and we hopefully won’t be the last. What is concerning, is that we may be the last generation who will remember at time without extreme weather patterns. We may be the last ones who will remember what distinct seasons are like. The optimist in me tells me that I’m not looking at all of the positives and that humans are highly adaptive and will find a way to survive. The realist behind my eyes sees exactly what’s happening and thinks that other guy in there is a moron! Usually, I sit somewhere perplexed between the two of them. I wish I knew more about this whole issue other than what my senses allow me to experience, but alas I don’t. Also in terms of empirical evidence, we don’t have eons of weather records to draw upon. Weather history is patchy. What we do have though is research by contemporary scientists, and they mostly uniformly believe that we are experiencing rapid climate change and the process has been exacerbated by humans.

The weather is no problem — until it is. I’m not sure what the plan is for when the sea levels rise and start flooding coastal areas that are currently extremely populated, but I’d bet it’s safe to say that there really isn’t one. That’s that lazy habit we have of just pretending that what’s happening, isn’t really happening. Basically, ignore it and it may go away. Normally, I’d be fully on board for such an uncommitted strategy, but something tells me that this time is different. Somewhere, my animal-self tells me that we are in for a rough ride. As I have no skills which would help me to survive in the event of a sudden environmental apocalypse, I’d really prefer it if we could figure something out relatively soon. Like this week. Please. If I’m told exactly what to do, and that there may be pie in it for me, then I’ll do just about anything. The environmentalists fail to grab public attention, I believe, mostly because they forget to bring snacks.

I’ve been thinking about the weather a lot lately as I’ve been hearing reports about the inhumane heat in India, some parts of Eastern Europe, and the opposite chilly and wet summer we’ve been having here in Western Europe. So maybe that’s why it’s on my mind. Also, I never bring a jacket on days when I need one, and then on days when I do remember one, the climate goes balmy and I just end up sweating through my clothes. Basically, if possible, I’d like us to finally stop debating whether or not climate change exists and settle on what we’re going to do about it. Just tell me what I need to do and I’ll do it…if there’s pie.


The Art of Losing Gracefully

I’m from the South of the United States and that involves a lot of baggage that maybe doesn’t come along with being from another part of the country (I’m guessing). The first thing most people comment on when they find out that I’m from the South is my lack of accent. While it’s true that I don’t sound particularly “Southern”, I usually silently wonder what the implication is there. I don’t have the accent — okay, is that simply a voiced observation of the obvious or is there more to it? Also, what is a Southern accent? If by Southern accent one means that tired, slow, grammatically mangled, and exaggerated beyond belief trope from TV, then no, I don’t have that accent and I’ve never met anyone who does. A Southern accent should be measured, not necessarily slow. It is a genteel language that, depending upon where in the south one is, might hint at English, Scottish, Irish, French, Spanish or Haitian/Caribbean heritage. Southerners can usually hear the Appalachian Scotch-Irish (Yes, we say Scotch-Irish for those poor souls from the English-Scottish borderlands who were first sent to and then fled the Ulster Plantation to practice their largely Presbyterian faith in a world without the constant intimidation of the Church of England) elongation of vowels in many of my words, or the occasional lilt here and there. For whatever reason, I never picked up the full breadth of the pronunciation from my surroundings, but it’s still there. And it’s not going anywhere! I’m not going to lose it.

The notion of loss is the central point of this entry. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, just yesterday, we witnessed an ugly and painful reminder of the unhealed wounds and reconciliation work that still isn’t complete in the South. At least one life was lost when an angry white supremacist drove a car into a crowd of counter-protesters to the racist march that descended upon the mostly affluent, liberal, college town of Charlottesville. The governor has instructed them to leave, for while we must tolerate dissenting and even repulsive opinions, we cannot allow ourselves for an instant to condone violence as a viable response to peaceful protest. We certainly have enough problems in the United States with casual violence and I’m nearly certain that we can all agree that we don’t need more. What makes all of this even more insane than it already is, is that it started over a statue! An inanimate, lifeless, likeness of the confederate general Robert E. Lee. Remember, the one from the U.S. Civil War? The war that ended in 1865? The one the South lost? …yeah, that one! It was finally planned to be removed –and good riddance!

I have some perhaps obvious questions surrounding the planned removal of the statue, primarily, why was there a statue of this guy in the first place? Since when do we need statues of losers? There are countless other figures of Southern culture which embody the spirit and heritage unique to the region that are far more deserving of a statue than a slaver. Furthermore, why do people care so much about a statue that it can eventually lead to death? I love art as much as the next guy, but it’s just a statue! Now, had white supremacists not jumped on the opportunity to magnify this mundane event into something beyond all reasonable proportion, that’s all it ever would have been — a statue, but of course the power merchants will seize any chance, no matter how banal, to incite chest beating and torch grabbing. It’s all so asinine!

What real Southerners know is, that our real culture didn’t die one bit with the loss of the Civil War, but was made fuller and richer. We lost the war because we had it coming. The cataclysmic race war that brought Abraham Lincoln to the point of physical and mental hell, was not fought in vain. Freedom had to be won. We were wrong. Of course everyone suffers in war, and I am not so naive as to believe that the U.S. government (even in 1865) was so benevolent as to fight a civil war solely on the premise of freeing non-whites for the fun of it, but there was a great moral wrong engrained in our union that had to be erased. We do not need statues to commemorate men who fought in any capacity, whatever their reasons were, to uphold such a moral failing. We lost, and there is nothing worse in my book than sore loser!

So, let’s do what civilized folks everywhere do; what Southern people do. Let’s make right what we can make right, and let’s help our neighbors, and let’s move on together. Let’s sit with each other in the evening when the inhospitable heat has subsided and eat with each other, let’s tell our stories, let’s drink our tea so sweet and chilled that we can’t help but hug each other. I know a South that is kind, thoughtful, conservative but not close-minded, proud of the past but with brave eyes cast toward the future, a front porch South, a flower bed South, a church pew South, a rusty sign South, an accented South that always sounds like home.

Sometimes, when people meet me they don’t realize I’m from the South at all, and if they don’t catch that little bit of grits and butter in the way I talk, you’d better believe I’m sure to let them know that I’m a Southern boy and that’s the way I intend to stay. Nothing lost. I’m also sure to let them know, that the South I come from is as colorful as any Yankee city they can build. The South of the 21st century is a gumbo, in fact it always has been! We’re every color and creed you can imagine and we are not going to let some hate filled bigots claim our heritage as theirs for a single minute. We have learned our lessons. We know who we are.  We know we are more than any statue or flag could encapsulate. We know where we’ve been, and most importantly, we know where we are going…all of us…together!

A Spanish moss draped lane in historic Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah, Georgia.


Friendship Hygiene

There’s so much that I try to fit into every weekend that it’d be just impossible for me to get it all done. Essentially, I set myself up for failure and it’s a behavioral pattern that I’ve sadly grown accustomed to. While I’m not a hardcore procrastinator, I have been known to, on occasion, push important tasks to the next day, or the next. By Wednesday of each week, I’m already arranging and rearranging the order of all the things on my to-do list and by Friday, I’m usually ready to go. Somewhere around Saturday evening, things start looking a bit shady and by midday Sunday, I’m already calculating in my head exactly what I can push over into the next week. These are all usually small and mostly inconsequential chores, but they are nonetheless on the list and will have to be done eventually…I know…but later. Unfortunately, one area where I’ve been extremely lagging behind is in friendship hygiene. I haven’t been a very attentive friend lately, and I know it. Furthermore, I’ve been planning to get to it, but…

I had the great joy of getting to talk with two really great and old friends this weekend. For me, that makes this weekend a huge success regardless of whatever else I was able to check off the list. Though I don’t like telephoning, as an expat, I don’t really have many other choices. Skype is a great service, but it requires so much that an old-fashioned call just doesn’t. While it’s apparently easier than ever to keep in touch with people these days, I feel like, with some of my friends, it’s been ages since we’ve had an in-depth conversation about anything. Now, I’m in my 30s and so that  means that lots of my friends are quite busy at the moment trying to have kids, having kids, surviving kids, or talking nonstop about their kids (I know, your kid is exceptionally clever, exceptionally healthy, exceptionally socially aligned, exceptionally exceptional….I get it, and I just don’t care!), and I really do understand that it’s legitimately challenging to raise a well-adjusted child and do…well, anything! It’s a hard job, but an elective one.

My point here is not to malign anyone with children for not carving time for me into their sleep-deprived and offspring centered lives, because I’m just as guilty of neglect. Sometimes, I have so much to do that I don’t even remember that there are other people in the world, let alone that it’s a friend’s birthday (a big thanks to Facebook for continually remembering what I never in a million years could). Every week my register of mountains to climb grows longer, and every week I tell myself that I must remember to call so-and-so because it’s been way too long. Rarely does that thought endure the hard birth into reality. So again, I’m not complaining about my beloved friends, but rather asking myself, just how, and when, did we get so damn busy!?!?

As I mentioned, this weekend out of pure good fortune, I was able to touch bases with two friends who mean so very much to me. Despite them both being parents, despite the world still turning around us and nothing stopping for an instant to let us catch our breath, we were able laugh and explain what the world looks like to us at this particular moment in time. Hanging up the phone, on both accounts, I felt like I had reclaimed something lost, something which I’d had all along but which I was keeping too close to my chest — rather like a broken arm; something which needed extending, opening up, and using. For the first time in a long while, I really felt like a good friend.

I know we’re months and months away from 2018, but I’m making a resolution today to be a better friend, a more communicative and patient friend, one who makes space and time for those who are so very important to me. I promise not to put it off any longer.