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.

Administrivia: Eating the Elephant

[Administrivia posts exist to tell you what I think about what I write. Writing about writing, I guess. Not necessarily boring, but not necessarily essential reading, either — unless you care about things like how and why I run lastgreypoet.com, in which case you should click on the administrivia content label and make sure you’re all caught up.]

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If you aren’t familiar, the old saw goes: “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

That isn’t a metaphor, and this isn’t a political post. (Not today, anyway. Later.)

This is a list, for me and you. A list of objectives and things that are on my mind as I emerge from a long funk and get back to work. A list of obstacles and my plans to overcome them.

1. It’s lastgreypoet, not lastgreypundit. While I certainly reserve the right to write in any fashion on any topic, I need to remember that my forte is less analysis/longform/serious and more musing/essayish/whimsical. The motto “wit, whimsy, and ruminations” will remain.

2. You’ve probably heard “the perfect is the enemy of the good” or maybe “don’t make it perfect, make deadline.” It doesn’t have to be perfect. (Huh. I should have put this one at the top of the list, now I think of it. Look at me, not revising!) I have always struggled with this. I will continue to struggle with this. I will cringe when I realize how much better something might have been … but I will let that go and move on to the next set of words.

3. I struggle with depression/anxiety. Maybe I’ll talk about that some time. Just keep it in mind if I disappear unexpectedly for a time.

4. Quotations. I used to always use them atop my newspaper columns, even though an editor friend called ’em a crutch and distraction from my words. Eh. Blame Joel Rosenberg. I learned the technique reading his fantasy novels. Or blame Robert Aspirin, for the same reason, only he did it earlier. (He also had a habit of making quotations up for comedic effect. And he punned like a villain.) I’d gotten out of the habit when I started lastgreypoet.com, but I dusted off the technique the other day for “My Dog Died” because it felt right. Going forward, I’ll let those feelings be my guide.

5. On a similar note: Fuck form. It may not have shown, but I spent an awful lot of time worrying over uniformity of length/appearance/pattern/tone across pieces. Even when I “loosened up” it came in the form of structural patterning (Wordless Wednesday/Caturday/Sports Sunday). I’m done with all that. I’ll write each piece the way it needs to be written, then I’ll be off to the next one.

6. Which brings me to movement. Like a shark, not a clam. Actually, no. Squid. My totem. Swift movers, but also capable of lying around if needed. Adaptable. Comfortable in the depths. Ready to fuck you up with ink when the situation calls for it.

7. You don’t have to be a liberal to like it here, but I’m not going to go out of my way running after some false sense of balance to try to please everyone who comes in the door. Related to that, it’s not exactly coincidental that I went back to the keyboard in the wee hours of the morning America voted to go back to “being great again.” In absolute candor, just between us, if you’d asked me Monday how I’d have reacted to that election outcome, I’d have told you to expect to find me in my cave, with writing the last thing on my mind. Life’s funny, though. Turns out, my anxiety is kind of a pushover, so long as I’m pushing with adequate rage. As noted above, that doesn’t mean it’s all going to be political. If you need an example, look no further than my November 11 post, “Remember, Remember …” Those are words I’ve wanted, needed, to get on a page for a very long time. This was the year.

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.