January in Atlanta, A Drama in 2 Acts: 2

Act 2, Scene 1: The curtain rises. Saturday. Darkness.

Gradually, some areas of the stage are lit, dimly at first. Most slowly become well-illuminated over the course of a few minutes. Other areas remain dark or ill-lit. 

This appears to be the same set as Act 1. However, as the lighting begins, it becomes obvious this isn’t exactly the same set at all. What appeared in Act 1 to be a neighborhood in Atlanta is now divided into distinct areas. Boundaries are drawn, more or less corresponding with the lighting.

Some areas of the stage are lightly dusted with white powder. Others have several inches or are mostly bare. These patches appear to have no correlation to how the various areas are lit. 

Within each area, ATLANTANS are sleeping. Gradually, they rise. All are wearing heavy clothes — gloves, hats, boots, and sweatshirts. The sweatshirts all bear different lettering, none of which appears to correspond to either the boundaries now drawn on stage, the lighting, or the white powder. (Examples include: ATL: North, OTP; ATL: South, ITP; ATL: West, East Point; AinT’L: Tucker; etc.)

At one end of the stage a sign reads: “Ice Rink closed due to ice.”

At the other end of the stage, a sign reads: “Snow Mountain closed due to snow.”

A WEATHER EXPERT enters. 

WEATHER EXPERT: What you have to understand is that weather-forecasting is a complicated science. If you read into the details …

ATLANTANS begin to boo.

WEATHER EXPERT: … of our five-part hexa-terrific model, you will begin to understand that the patterns that emerged from this storm system are correct to within three decimal places of expectation for …

ATLANTANS continue booing, now drowning out whatever it is that WEATHER EXPERT is saying. 

WEATHER EXPERT: [ad-libbed scientific-sounding phrases that will not be heard]

ATLANTANS boo until WEATHER EXPERT exits the stage. 

In each area, ATLANTA CHILDREN begin to stir and tug at their parents. 

ATLANTA CHILD 1: I want to see the snow!

ATLANTA CHILD 2: Mommy, mommy, snow!

ATLANTA CHILD 3: Daddy, daddy, snow!

ALL ATLANTA CHILDREN: Snow! Snow! Snow!

ATLANTANS in all areas begin to further bundle their children (who are already wearing gloves, hats, boots, and sweatshirts). Scarves, parkas, and heavy outer jackets are applied until all ATLANTA CHILDREN can barely move. Gleefully, the children waddle out to play. 

TV NEWS REPORTERS enter. They jostle one another, fighting for space within each area of the stage in a seemingly random manner. ATLANTANS in each area dance and wave at them, most pointing excitedly at the nearest ATLANTA CHILDREN. Eventually, the TV NEWS REPORTERS are more or less evenly distributed about the stage. The MEME SALESMAN lurks in the background, slinking from area to area with a camera and a notepad. 

TV NEWS REPORTER 1: As you can see here in ATL-OTP-PRIME, #ATLSNOMG2017 has brought nothing but joy!!!!

TV NEWS REPORTER 1 is standing in a well-lit area with mostly very little white powder but a few small mounds. TV NEWS REPORTER 1 grasps handfuls of the white powder and holds them high toward the audience. Nearby ATLANTANS cavort with their children.

TV NEWS REPORTER 2: As you can see here in ATL-ITP-PRIME, #ATLSNOMAGEDDON2017 has had a devastating effect!!!! Inches of snow cover every surface, and some homes are still without power!!!!

TV NEWS REPORTER 2 is standing in a dimly lit area with very little white powder in scattered patches. Nearby ATLANTANS shiver dramatically. Only a few feet away, ATLANTANS in a completely dark area scowl and shake their fists, but you can’t see them. 

TV NEWS REPORTER 3: As you can see here in …

THE GOVERNOR enters, accompanied by HANDLERS, YES-MEN, and THE MAYOR OF ATLANTA.

All TV NEWS REPORTERS stop what they are doing and rush toward THE GOVERNOR. In so doing, some of the TV NEWS REPORTERS comically collide with cavorting ATLANTANS in well-lit areas while others rush past obviously distressed ATLANTANS trying to get attention in dimly-lit areas.

As the TV NEWS REPORTERS approach, HANDLER 1 grasps THE GOVERNOR by the left arm and whispers fervently into his left ear. Immediately, HANDLER 2 grasps his right arm and whispers fervently into his right ear.

THE MAYOR OF ATLANTA brushes imaginary dust off his expensive suit, clears his throat, and approaches TV NEWS REPORTERS, who walk right past him. 

THE GOVERNOR: I am pleased to stand before you and say that our great state has weathered another mighty storm.

 ATLANTANS in completely dark areas continue to scowl and shake their fists, but no one pays them any attention, except HANDLER 2, who glances their way briefly, then shrugs. 

THE GOVERNOR: We have done so thanks to the great leadership of our state officials.

THE MAYOR OF ATLANTA appears upset. He raises his hand. No one pays him any attention. 

THE GOVERNOR: I am pleased to report that power has been restored to most areas, and all businesses are up and running safely.

In the background, GROCERS walk by, each dragging a comically large bag labeled $$$.

THE GOVERNOR: By working diligently throughout the night, our multi-agency strike teams have kept our roads and interstates clear and free of ice and snow. We encourage you not to use them, however.

THE MAYOR OF ATLANTA loudly stomps off the stage.

THE GOVERNOR: GDOT is continuing to monitor the situation and is responding to any and all trouble spots accordingly as those reports come in.

TV NEWS REPORTER 1 wanders off.

THE GOVERNOR: Schools will remain closed at the discretion of local officials.

TV NEWS REPORTER 2 wanders off.

THE GOVERNOR: The State Operations Center will remain active until my Proclamation of Emergency expires at midnight Sunday.

TV NEWS REPORTER 3 wanders off.

THE GOVERNOR: Everything will be fine in time for your commute to work on Monday.

All ATLANTANS groan.

THE GOVERNOR: I urge Georgians to remain cautious, vigilant and patient.

THE GOVERNOR exits, accompanied by HANDLERS and YES-MEN.

—–

Act 2, Scene 2: Saturday evening. The stage is the same as before, only now there is no longer any white powder visible, and the lighting is uniform. 

ATLANTANS sit, dejected, while ATLANTA CHILDREN, now covered in mud, play. 

The MEME SALESMAN wanders the stage, attempting to sell captioned photos of ANGUISHED ATLANTAN, now with added mud snowman and milk sandwiches. 

Curtain.

January in Atlanta, A Drama in 2 Acts: 1

Act 1, Scene 1: A neighborhood in Atlanta. Monday. It is a fine, average day in early January. The sun is shining, and it is in the mid-50s. ATLANTANS enter and meander about the stage. A WEATHER EXPERT enters. 

WEATHER EXPERT: There is a slight chance of winter precipitation across the metro area next weekend. 

ATLANTANS continue to meander about the stage, ignoring WEATHER EXPERT. 

—–

Act 1, Scene 2: A neighborhood in Atlanta. Tuesday. A fine, average day in early January. Partly cloudy. High 40s. ATLANTANS enter and meander about the stage. ATLANTA CHILDREN are bundled like small burritos. 

WEATHER EXPERT: We have updated our five-day forecast, and there is now a strong probability of winter precipitation across the metro area this weekend.

ATLANTANS continue to meander about the stage, ignoring WEATHER EXPERT. 

—–

Act 1, Scene 3: A neighborhood in Atlanta. Wednesday. A slightly cool day in early January. Cloudy. High 40s. When the lights rise, ATLANTANS are already on stage, having woken up an extra hour early to warm their cars. The WEATHER EXPERT enters.

WEATHER EXPERT: As we have been saying …

TV WEATHER CELEBRITY rushes on stage, pursued by TV NEWS HOSTS. WEATHER EXPERT is knocked off-stage in the ensuing kerfuffle. ATLANTANS stop what they were doing and stare.

TV WEATHER CELEBRITY: OMG! Snow this weekend! Snow in Atlanta!

TV NEWS HOSTS: OMG! OMG! Our 24-hour coverage of this event two days hence shall begin immediately!!!! Stay tuned for life-saving severe weather advice!!!!

ATLANTANS: OMG! OMG!

ATLANTANS run about, aimlessly. GROCERS enter, smiling. 

—–

Act 1, Scene 4: A neighborhood in Atlanta. Thursday. A cool day in early January. Cloudy. High 30s. When the lights rise, signs bearing “No Bread” and “No Milk” adorn all shop windows. ANGUISHED ATLANTAN enters, falls to his knees.

ANGUISHED ATLANTAN: Why, God, why?

—–

Act 1, Scene 5: A neighborhood in Atlanta. Friday. A cool day in early January. Cloudy. High 30s. A MEME SALESMAN wanders the stage, attempting to sell captioned photos of ANGUISHED ATLANTAN. THE GOVERNOR enters, accompanied by HANDLERS, YES-MEN, and TV NEWS REPORTERS. 

THE GOVERNOR: It is a fine day in Georgia, and business is wonderful!

YES-MEN nod enthusiastically. 

TV NEWS REPORTER 1: Governor, sir, please, can you tell us how to survive #ATLSNOMG2017!?!?

THE GOVERNOR: I’m sure everything will be fine.

TV NEWS REPORTER 2: Governor, sir, please, have you not seen our non-stop reporting on #ATLSNOMAGEDDON2017!?!?

THE GOVERNOR: Why don’t you report more on our lovely business environment?

TV NEWS REPORTER 3: Governor, sir, are you telling the people they should not be worried about #ATLSNOPOCALYOSE2017!?!?

ATLANTANS lean in, listening intently. 

THE GOVERNOR: Now listen, I’m sure there’s nothing …

HANDLER whispers to THE GOVERNOR.

THE GOVERNOR: … we can’t do to ensure the safety of the people. I shall issue a Proclamation of Emergency!

All frolic. 

Curtain. 

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 3: Blended


Today’s dram: Johnnie Walker, Double Black

Today’s tasting notes: I haven’t said much about blended Scotch whisky.

In truth, I’m not a huge fan.

What a lot of people think of as everyday or ordinary Scotch whisky, the sort of thing you might mix into a Rob Roy or a Rusty Nail, isn’t to my taste. I find most blends too easy-going, and I prefer the more interesting profiles of single malts.

Having said that, ain’t nothing wrong with a good blend. And I try, really try, not to be snobbish about this. (Or other things. Success is variable.)

Johnnie Walker makes some of the best-known and best-selling Scotch whisky around, and it’s all blends, sold by color. Hell if I can be bothered to get into figuring out what the various colors represent.

What they are, though, is successful. John Walker & Sons started blending and bottling in 1820, and they’re still around for a reason. They make good whisky.

Back in Whisky Wind-down 23 I wrote about Johnnie Walker Black: “There is smoke there. Not faint, either. Distinct. Not Laphroaig, mind, but then what is? Otherwise, smooth. Very. Not much peat to speak of, but there. It’s Scotch whisky, for sure, and if you’re not a Scotch whisky drinker this might well bowl you over.”

Double Black, then, is a more intense version of Black, per the marketing.

Since Black is smoky enough to get your attention if you’re used to easy-going Scotch whisky then Double Black should be more so, yes?

Oh, yes.

It has an aroma of smoked honey, and it tastes sweet and smooth. There is peat and smoke on the tongue, and on the finish, but it glides down and fades fast. I’d call this a very approachable whisky. Maybe it could be a gateway whisky for someone looking to get more adventurous.

Today’s thoughts: I grew up in a fairly conservative part of the country. I had what you might call a traditional evangelical upbringing, and though I don’t intend — today, at least — to get into religion as a topic unto itself, I want to make the point that this upbringing included homophobia. I say that not to lay blame or make attack; it is simply a fact of how I was raised.

The first gay person I knew personally was a band-mate who came out toward the end of his junior year of high school. I was a freshman at the time, and while I “knew” then that gayness was “wrong,” I also knew this guy personally. Not well. We weren’t in classes together, and we were in different sections of the band, but I knew him. The fact he was brave enough, in a small rural southern high school, to come out at 17 and boldly be who he was, to weather the storm of small town scorn … 25 years later I think of him as a hero.

I only wish I had been brave enough, myself, to realize that at the time and tell him so. To have gotten to know him better. To have been not just a fellow musician, but a friend.

The fact that I wasn’t actively rude to him isn’t enough, to me, to justify not being a better person. Standing by isn’t collaboration, but it might as well be. I wanted to be a better person, but I was afraid.

Afraid to step up, yes, but mostly afraid that maybe the bigots were right.

Fear, coupled with religion, held me back. When “God” tells you it’s okay to fear The Other, well, shit, what’s a fellar to do, son?

Get out.

I left that small rural town and that evangelical faith and, eventually, that homophobia.

It wasn’t overnight, and it wasn’t because of any one person.

It was, like much else in my education, a matter of getting away from myself and my upbringing and the tiny world I grew up in and finding the larger, more diverse world around me.

Then losing my fear of it.

Friendships came later.

Good friendships. The sort who share milestone birthdays and good whisky.

Day to day, I don’t think about this much.

Then sometimes I look around, at the game table, or at the bar, or at a party, at the people surrounding me, and I realize how far I’ve come from that scared kid I used to be.

I don’t pretend my journey is anything next to theirs.

Ultimately, a straight white guy is likely to be comfortable pretty much anywhere.

Too many, though, prefer to stay comfortable where they started.

As much as I’d like to go back and tell my scared former self to get over it, I want to tell the rest of the scared folk back home, the ones who stayed, the ones who cower, the ones who still hate whom the preacher tells them, just how very small their world is.

Today’s note on compassion: We’re all afraid. Those of us who have it easiest have the greatest obligation to overcome our fears and stand for others.

Today’s toast: To growing up, breaking out, and journeying on.

2016 Whisky Wind-down, 6: North, South, Shalom


Today’s dram: Highland Park, 12-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: This is a new one. At least, I don’t recall having tried it. It’s the product of another venerable whisky distillery, the northernmost in Scotland. 

There, on Orkney Island, they still malt their own barley before drying it over a fire fueled by peat with a heavy dose of heather. 

The marketing spiel says that heather gives the whisky a floral character. I can’t say I detect that by smell, but then I may be a touch stuffy at the moment. On the tongue, it is warm and smooth. It goes down easy, leaves a lingering pleasant warmth with maybe the faintest kiss, almost a memory, of smoke. 

Today’s thoughts: I grew up in the South. Rural southern Georgia, if specifics matter. There are things about Chrismas in the South that are different than Christmas elsewhere. 

We don’t expect snow, for starters. 

Sure, we dream of a white Christmas, but we know it’s just that — a dream. Actual white Christmases happen to other people. Northerners, mostly. 

My first Christmas in Maine was a bit of a revelation in that regard. Christmas there is like the Christmas I had only seen on greeting cards. Snowy landscape. Smoke curls from cute chimneys. And everywhere everyone was eager to stay indoors, playing cards and drinking something warm.

Also, they have this weird substance called “stuffing” which is used in place of dressing* at the holiday meal. I can’t say I completely understand the reasoning, but it is enjoyable enough. 

Also, wine. 

I realize I am at risk of generalzing too much, but wine was never a thing at my southern family’s dinner table. We had sweet tea. (They call it “the table wine of the South” and that really isn’t an exaggerattion.)

Something else I never encountered? Chanukah. It’s not that we don’t have Jews in rural, southern Georgia, but they are few and far between, and I was a young adult before I knew any personally. Today I am friends with a few, inlcuding my sister-in-law’s husband.** 

He’s a New Yorker by birth, but now he and his Maine-born wife are raising a Texas-born son in Alabama. That kid has culture out the wazoo, even before his aunt and uncle come calling.***

This is the third evening of Chanukah, and I have enjoyed the past two, so today shall I stand respectfully quiet as the family kindles their menorahh and my five-year-old nephew tries to keep up with the words of prayer and song that go along with the lighting of candles. 

Today’s note on passive-agressive holiday greetings: There really is a lot to celebrate. Be gracious, wherever you find yourself . 

Today’s toast: L’Chayim.

—–

* — If you are not from the South, I will forgive you not knowing about dressing. I am not talking about the stuff that goes on salad. Think of southern dressing as a stuffing casserole and you will have close to the right image. I miss it and will very probably have to make my own before the year is out.

** — Is there a word for that relationship?  A proper word, I mean? Some people would refer to the two of us as brothers-in-law, but that is both confusing and technically incorrect. As Ann Landers put it, “You are no relation; you are just two men who married sisters.” But we are family. We need a word. 

*** — I am not the drunk uncle. Mostly. I try to restrict my uncling influcence to hats, beards, and Star Wars. Sometimes I consult on train layouts or LEGO arrangements. Also, I make pancakes. 

Actually, We Could Use Some Water

It rained yesterday (and again today) in metro Atlanta.

First time in a long time.

43 days.

That broke the previous record of 39 days.

Set in 1884.

I assume that record is accurate, though it dates back to when Jeb and Cletus kept count with chalk marks on the side of a barn.

If that image fills you with nostalgia, just wait until you see the president-elect’s science team.

Anyway, a long dry spell, as Jeb and Cletus would say.

And yet … I hadn’t really heard much about it.

I knew it was dry recently, but only in the same vague way I knew it was a bit warm.

It’s not like the news is very good at following more than one apocalypse at a time.

Frankly, I haven’t lately paid attention to much weather beyond my own mental fog.

Then, of course, a lot of things have been on fire across the south lately.

That’s pretty serious.

You can tell because our governor went so far as to issue executive orders saying, essentially, “it’s dry; don’t burn things, dummies.”

While that might seem like obvious advice in a drought, this is Georgia, where his predecessor once, during a drought, no shit, led a prayer group to ask God for rain.

Leadership is relative, folks.

Speaking of which, don’t look too closely at that science team, not unless you want a serious excuse to up your anxiety and/or alcoholism.

I won’t bore you with the data, but I feel it in my bones.

Huh. With statements like that, maybe I can get a job on that science team.

I don’t have a degree in the field, but that hardly seems disqualifying for working in this administration.

Then again I actually believe in science, so maybe not.

Regardless, this is just the beginning.

Fires and drought and T-shirt weather into winter.

Sea ice? What sea ice?

Buckle in.

Meanwhile, Jeb and Cletus will keep making marks on the barn, until the fires or the floods come.

A Brief Celebration of a Small Victory in an Ongoing Conflict

I’m glad Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the utterly awful “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” approved by the Arizona legislature, which would have essentially legalized discrimination against LGBT people, provided the bigot doing the discriminating used a religious excuse. 
I’m glad of the veto, but Gov. Brewer deserves no flattery, not when her comments about the veto amounted to “the act would have created more problems than it solved.”
Sorry, guv. You’re making an awful mis-reading when you suggest that act would have “solved” anything, because bigots being held accountable for discrimination is not what rational people call a problem. 
If Arizona’s legislature were composed of even mostly rational people, though, such a bill would never have become an act awaiting the governor’s signature. 
And if the nation as a whole were mostly rational, such idiocy might be limited to Arizona. Alas, similar bills are bouncing around the halls of several other state legislatures, including those of my home state.
I’d love to live in a Georgia where such a thing doesn’t even merit discussion, but that’s probably more years away than I have left to live. 
I grew up here. Along the way I’ve met people who still aren’t over the Civil War and with whom the notion of “equality for all” doesn’t even apply to race. Asking such people to extend equality to the LGBT community is akin to asking a rat to do your algebra homework — you’re just going to end up bitten and shat upon. 
And yet I live with hope, even in red Georgia, because little signs of change abound, and I have faith that time will grind all bigots to dust. 
Faith, right?
Were I a religious man, I’d proudly point out that the absence of a “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” hardly stops me from saying so, either.