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, 20: Peat, Politics, Pigs


Today’s dram: Springbank, 10-Year-Old

Today’s tasting notes: This is a bit of strange one. I was given this bottle in my early days of whisky collecting, before either I or my wife (aka, The Empress of Whisky, who delights in favoring her loyal subject with gifts of the water of life) knew exactly what we were doing. She bought it, if I remember correctly, mostly because it was a rarity at the bottle shoppe, the only Campbeltown whisky on offer.

Some history: Springbank is an old distillery, with its Campbeltown production facility dating to 1828. Back then, this whisky region was home to more than two dozen distilleries. Today, only three remain.

Springbank is family-owned, a rarity in these days of global booze conglomerates. It’s also one of only a couple of distilleries that does pretty much the entire whisky production process on site, from malting the  barley to distilling the spirit, from aging the whisky to bottling it. About the only thing they don’t do is grow their own barely. (There is a distillery that does so, but alas I haven’t any of that in my collection.)

So, historic, local, quirky … how does it taste?

Oily.

Or, more precisely: It tastes like fermented canola oil with a touch of peat, salted.

Which is not to say I don’t like it. But it is, shall we say, a whisky for a certain mood, one that strikes but rarely.

Today’s thoughts: So, pigs.

It’s been a long hard year, made worse by the events of November 8, when a minority (albeit an electorally well positioned minority) of Americans chose to elect as president an odious marionette of tainted meat stuffed into an ill-fitting suit.

I really do want to just have fun with Whisky Wind-down, but let’s be honest — kinda the whole reason I’m doing this in the first place is to take my mind off the shitstorm that is 2016. Letting the entire series go without at least touching on politics would be somewhat incomplete.

So, where do we go from here?

“He who fights with monsters should look to it that he himself does not become a monster. And if you gaze long into an abyss, the abyss also gazes into you.”

That’s Nietzsche, of course.

“I learned long ago, never to wrestle with a pig. You get dirty, and besides, the pig likes it.”

George Bernard Shaw this time, saying perhaps the same thing?

I wonder. There are days when it feels like all the effort in the world doesn’t amount to more than pig-wrestling, and at the end I just sit there, dirty, while the bastards grunt back at me, wondering why in the fuck I ever bothered.

But other days, when I squint right, I don’t see the sty. I see the bleak pit of the abyss, its gaping maw clamoring to consume the world’s last beauty. 

And that’s worth fighting for. 

Today’s pithy summation: There will be a time to make bacon.

Today’s toast: To the good fight: May we be ready for it. 

Betting on a Lame Horse

VALERIE: Bye-bye, boys!

MIRACLE MAX: Have fun storming the castle!

VALERIE: Think it’ll work?

MIRACLE MAX: It would take a miracle.

— dialogue from The Princess Bride
—–

Recently, I wrote a post slagging on the Electoral College.

Now, when I wrote that, it was mostly just a way of venting, of expressing frustration with our quaintly antiquated (but enshrined in the Constitution so 100% applicable) system of electing presidents. 

In the intro, I wrote, “I know who won the election based on the rules in place and agreed upon prior to voting. I am not advancing protest, vote contesting, ‘he’s not my president’ talk, etc. No do-overs.”

I wanted to get that bit out of the way so I could proceed to my point, which was to express frustration while making a few horses jokes along the way. 

I purposefully didn’t go into some of the worse aspects of the Electoral College, such as its association with slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise. (If you don’t know that history, hit Google, or start here. I warn you, it’s depressing reading.)

Upon reflection, I would now like to shift focus to “the rules in place and agreed upon” rather than “not advancing protest, vote contesting.” 

Turns out there is a way to fight the result.
It’s incredibly unlikely to succeed, but I don’t believe the odds against success should stop us from doing what is right, nor from advocating others with the opportunity do the same.

As I write this, the election’s popular vote totals have Clinton ahead by ~575,000 votes.

But those are just people, and all we care about is the Electoral College, and Trump won that.
Only he didn’t. 
Well, more accurately, he hasn’t won the vote yet … because it has not yet occurred.

Although we’re accustomed to tallying the electoral votes based on the how the states voted and considering that the end of it, the members of the Electoral College do have to actually meet and cast ballots of their own. Those are the ones that really count. This happens December 19.

At that time, if tradition is followed, each state’s electors will all vote for the presidential candidate who won their state’s popular vote.*

But the thing is, they don’t have to. 

Most states don’t bind their electors to vote for their popular vote winner, and even those that do seem to only punish with fines. (Frankly, if a fine would be a barrier to performing the act of conscience I’m about to describe, that person would never listen anyway.)

So, how to change the result of a projected Electoral College outcome where the winner is not the same as the popular vote winner? Easy, ask the electors to follow the will of the people and vote for the popular vote winner instead.

Crazy, right?

Yes. Quite.

About as crazy as betting on a lame horse with a history of never leaving the stall when the race starts.

Each party selects electors with loyalty to the candidate as the prime (only?) consideration, so these aren’t exactly people likely to change their minds, and we need at least 21 to turn from Trump to Clinton in order for this to work.** 

There have only been a handful of “faithless electors” across the entire history of presidential elections in this country, and most of those were either accidents or minor acts of protest.
But even those few occurrences demonstrate that the Electoral College vote is not sacrosanct. It can change, if the will is there, if the case is made, if the stakes matter enough. 
If you are an elector in one of the states pledged to Trump, you can vote Clinton instead.
The rest of us can ask, nicely, persistently, that those folks do just that. 
Sign here
—–

* Well, except for those in Nebraska and Maine, who vote on other criteria. I know, I know. Shut up. This is complicated enough. Stop with the details. (Turns out, you can job this motherfucker all sorts of ways, and most states just haven’t decided to do so. But that’s a topic for another day.) 
**That number is based on projections as I write this (T 290, C 228). Those could change, but I’m not getting into recounts and other issues; one faint hope is all I can manage in this post.

Pardon Me, Do You Know A Good Farrier?

“Is it a real college? Do you know anyone with a degree from there? I’m just saying, they must not have a football team because I’ve never heard of ’em.”

— the Electoral College, as described by the internet

—–

Upfront: I know who won the election based on the rules in place and agreed upon prior to voting. I am not advancing protest, vote contesting, “he’s not my president” talk, etc. No do-overs.

Having said that: Fuck the Electoral College.

The majority of voters wanted a Democrat in four of the past five presidential elections, but the Electoral College has given us only two.

The Electoral College made sense back when it was created, when some poor asshole had to poll his neighbors then hop on a horse for several days to get to the capitol and report how the folks back in Boomtown, Nebraskahoma voted.

Two and a half centuries later, we’ve put a man on the goddamned moon, but we’re still counting votes like we have to wait on them to be delivered with next week’s Pony Express packet.

Despite my tech-based metaphors, a better system doesn’t even require a highly advanced voting process — online voting, brain scans, whatever.

Just count the votes. All the goddamned votes, not only the ones that sort neatly into an 18th Century accounting system.

This isn’t even a burden, considering, by law, we count all the votes anyway.

No, really. The presidential election was two days ago, and some areas are still tallying. Hell, many of them won’t have a certified official count for another week or better as they await the arrival of overseas military votes.

We already count all the votes even though the Electoral College victory margin is known and there aren’t enough votes to change it.

We want to know, we need to know, just how many people actually preferred the Electoral College loser to the candidate who will get inaugurated in January.

We count and count, regardless of the fact the final totals are ultimately just footnotes to a foregone conclusion.

New proposal: Screw the antiquated filtering system; winner of most votes wins.

We can do better. If we care about democracy, we have to.

My Dog Died

Buffalo Bill ’s
defunct
               who used to
               ride a watersmooth-silver
                                                                  stallion
and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                                                                     Jesus

he was a handsome man 
                                                  and what i want to know is
how do you like your blue-eyed boy
Mister Death

e.e. cummings

—–

My dog died.

I was eight? Nine? Somewhere in there.

Actually, it was my mom’s dog. The family pet, though. A poodle mix. Old, nearly completely blind. Lovable. Sandy.

Sandy was hit by a car, and while I don’t really want to dwell on the details, I was arriving home with my mom and my younger sister when we saw her still body in the driveway.

I can clearly remember the grief and the anguish of the discovery, the hard hours that followed, and, again, I don’t want to dwell on those details.

What’s on my mind is how I slept that night.

I’m sure, earlier in my childhood — and later, for that matter — I had rough nights, but this is the first one I remember, and it is the one I clearly remember.

I never really slept, though I drifted, in and out, not quite waking, not quite dreaming, in that weird nether-place that Neil Gaiman probably has a name and a mythology for.

And in that nether-place, with its weird time dilation, I dwelled for long hours that might have felt like days but also those days followed one after another bangbangbang justlikethat and maybe, just maybe I dreamed I talked to God or Mister Death, or maybe I wasn’t dreaming at all but in that nether-place, the Gaiman Place, and it didn’t really matter because everything was real and nothing, too, and oh, so, all I had to do was time waking up for just after the dream when Sandy’s death was just dream.

Last night, post-election, I slept about two hours, all of them back there, and Jesus (who was not a handsome man) I could do without every visiting again.

Tomorrow

Here’s a story I’ve not told before.

Eight years ago, the day after Election Day, I walked alone down the stairs to the train platform at my local MARTA station. As I reached the bottom and walked toward the far end, I passed an older African-American man, maybe mid-60s.

Just the night before, our country had, by a respectable margin, elected Barack Obama president. As I passed this man, I could see aspects of wonder, disbelief, and joy mixed upon his face. I passed right by him, but I don’t think he noticed me.

He was in another world, a dream world that had just become his reality, and while I was certainly happy with the election outcome, I knew in that moment I could never appreciate it even remotely the same way this man could. As a young, white man I could certainly be happy for the outcome, for having done my small part to elect President Obama. I could rejoice that we shared policy priorities and visions for our nation’s future, yet I knew the election outcome could not come close to having the same significance for me that it had for this man, or millions like him, and tens of millions before, who fought, bled, and died, for just the right to vote, let alone see one of their own elected into our nation’s highest political office.

As I said, I haven’t told this story before.

I’ve thought about it a lot, though. At every election, certainly. And often at random, at that MARTA station, or elsewhere when my mind turned to thoughts of — paraphrasing Dr. King — the long arc of the moral universe and its journey toward justice.

It was a private moment, something I was not party of, but rather witness to.

As a middle class, hetero white male I can only begin to empathize. I can only try to understand. I can only be an ally, strive for change, hope for better, ply the few words left to me in service to progress for all.

I tell this story now so you will understand when I say I do not look forward to the expressions I expect to see upon any non-hetero, non-white, non-male faces I encounter at that same train station a few hours from now.

But I will look.

And if any of them can see through their pain, anguish, uncertainty, and fear to register my pale countenance, I hope they find there only a reflection of those same emotions.

The next four years do not bode well, and I don’t for a moment pretend they will be as hard on hetero white male me as they are on my allies.

They stand to lose so much, and I can only offer empathy, understanding, hope.

I can only promise to never look away, nor run.