In The Hills On My Own

Reflections of a Twenty-Something Georgia Boy

Get On Board

If this past weekend’s rumors are true, and they seem like they are, we can expect an announcement of a new MLS franchise in Atlanta in the coming weeks. We have heard for weeks that Arthur Blank and the league were close to an agreement, and now it seems that the dream that many native Atlantans, including myself, had when the league started in 1993 will come to fruition. But what will the team be named? Allow me to make a suggestion.

Major League Soccer has shown a penchant for naming expansion or re-branding teams after European clubs. It is kind of silly. Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, even FC Dallas are names that seem more like affectations, like that guy you knew in college that only listened to Icelandic metal. But if the league wants to continue this trend, it has an opportunity to do so in Atlanta with a name that actually relates to the city: Locomotive Atlanta.

There are several teams, mostly in eastern Europe, that carry the “Locomotiv” name. Most of them were made up of members of the railroad union or had connections to the rail industry. Atlanta was founded as a rail city. It’s original name, Terminus, reflects that history, and has already been adopted by the first major supporters group for Atlanta’s franchise, Terminus Legion. The former marker for the end of the Western and Atlantic Railroad, the “Zero Mile” marker, is still proudly displayed downtown. “Zero Mile” would be an awesome name for a supporters section. And Locomotive Atlanta could be shortened to LocoATL, which is just cool. And with a large rail presence currently in the city in Norfolk Southern, CSX, and Amtrak, as well as a new stadium that will be easily accessible by rail, the environment is right for corporate partnership that actually relates to the team.

I’m so excited that Atlanta will finally have top-tier professional soccer. I think Locomotive Atlanta would be an awesome name for our new team. Even if it isn’t, hopefully it gets people thinking about ways to make the team reflect to the essence of our city.

Advertisements

Value

I am overwhelmed by sadness.

I am not sad because justice was not done. There is no real justice for a murderer. There is nothing “just” when the victim can never be returned to their family. There is no punishment that can ease the pain or fill the void of a life taken too soon. Had this man been found guilty of murder, it would not heal those against whom the crime was done. Do I wish he had been convicted? Absolutely. A conviction would have shown those who would wield false power that they are not exempt from the requirements of society. A conviction would have ensured that this pseudo-John Wayne would not feel that he was justified in his misguided attempt to play policeman. A conviction would have strengthened a nation’s wavering faith in it’s systems of law. But that is not why I am sad tonight.

I am sad because the idea that makes our country succeed; the idea that we are all citizens of a great nation that treats us equally and fairly, has once again been proven to be little more than foolish naivete. We so often throw the word “value” around in our arguments about human life. Why did the life of this young man who was gunned down lack the value that is attributed to others? Did his actions, whatever they were, devalue his life to the point that he no longer deserved to keep it? I would argue that those who are defending the actions of the man who walks free tonight may have judged this value as soon as they saw his picture.

Tonight as I fall asleep I will think of Trayvon Martin and I will think of the Martin family. I will think of all of the other people killed unfairly whose lives were deemed so valueless that they weren’t even given attention. I will think of George Zimmerman, and hope that in the courtroom of his consciousness he is forced to re-examine the crime he committed and that he finds a way to learn the value of every human life. I will think of all these people, and when I wake up tomorrow I will do my best to ensure that in spite of this tragedy, we grow into a nation where people are not viewed as deserving of a violent death, but rather cherished as what they are: people. And that’s all.

 

The Last 24 Hours

Last night I stayed up until 2 AM following the Texas senate. I woke up at 9 this morning to watch the Supreme Court.

It’s times like these I’m glad I don’t have a job.

When we talk about decades or eras in America, we often define them by the overarching social or economic situations of those times. The roaring ’20s. The Great Depression. The Civil Rights Era. The tech boom of the ’90s. The beginning of the 21st century will be marked by economic strife, yes, but I hope it will also be remembered as a time when the people of the United States took the time to decide the type of country in which they would like to live.

As I am writing this, it is almost exactly 24 hours after Wendy Davis began her filibuster of the Texas senate to prevent a bill from being passed that would severely restrict the availability of abortions to the women of her state. Her efforts, combined with those of her colleagues Leticia Van de Putte, Kirk Watson, Royce West, John Whitmire, and Judith Zaffirini, served notice to those who would impose their ideals on others that those efforts would not be met without a fight, and with the noise of the gallery drowning out the senate chair, defeated the bill in an incredible showing of strength and unity.

This morning, a Supreme Court that many have criticized for being unwilling to take on controversial cases ruled that the federal government may not discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation. Although they fell short of declaring a right to marriage, the court’s ruling is still a landmark step in the recognition that the federal government is not in the business of dividing it’s citizens into groups and assigning them different rights. The Defense of Marriage Act, the law ruled unconstitutional by this morning’s ruling, was a divisive and bitter piece of legislation whose very name insulted the large number of American citizens who wanted nothing more than to be treated equally.

And so the last 24 hours have been eventful, and exciting, and exhausting for some, and REALLY exhausting for others (looking at you, Senator Davis.) It is heartening that so many people took up the banners  of their causes, on both sides. My hope is that people continue to engage with the issues; that the idea that the fix is in, and no amount of shouting can cut through the ever-thickening walls of ill-gotten money and power, gets left behind in exchange for a time when the people of our country have a real conversation with themselves and their fellow citizens about the future of the nation, and recognize that in the end, we’re all in this together. That your rights are my rights. And we all matter.

26.2 Thoughts

1.

I saw it first on Twitter, of course, America’s newest source for breaking news, accurate or not. “CNN cutting to coverage of Boston Marathon explosion.” 140 characters isn’t really enough space to capture the magnitude of what happened, but at that point no one had any idea, really.

2.

I switched over to CNN from Netflix, where I had been watching “Scrubs” (I’m in the middle of watching every episode). The caption at the bottom said “6 injured in Boston Marathon explosions”. Over the next five hours, that number got higher, and higher, and higher. It reminded me of other news stories like this that I’ve watched, where without fanfare or acknowledgement the numbers clicked upward, in Sandy Hook and Blacksburg and New York City and Littleton and Baghdad and Kabul. I”ve seen these stories too many times over my 26 years on earth.

3.

It isn’t fair. It isn’t fair that athletes get their legs taken, artists get their hands taken, musicians lose their hearing, powerful speakers are ravaged by throat cancer, and graceful boxers are devestated by Parkinson’s. Some people have parts of them touched by God, blessed with abilities that others could only imagine. It’s not fair to watch that get taken away.

4.

Sports can heal. Inevitably after these tragedies there is a discussion about what role sporting events can play in recovery and healing. Atlanta sports fans are intimately familiar with this. The Braves played the Mets in the first baseball game after the 9/11 attacks, and the Falcons played the Saints in the first football game after Hurricane Katrina. Ask the athletes that played in those games whether they could feel the difference they made. The wounded joy on the part of New Yorkers and Louisianans was evident to everyone on those nights.

5.

Patton Oswalt is right. Good outnumbers evil, and always will. The examples of this over the last 24 hours are well documented. No matter how many people were responsible for the attacks, there were exponentially more people responsible for helping, supporting, loving, and caring for the victims. This will always be the case.

6.

The things that bring Americans together are stronger than the things that tear us apart. Despite our differences, we are a people that wants to do right by each other, and that becomes evident in times of crisis.

7.

In “Cry, the Beloved Country”, Alan Paton wrote “There’s only one way in which one can endure man’s inhumanity to man and that is to try to exemplify man’s humanity to man.” Through our many struggles, we know that to be true.

8.

Strength is relative. Security experts on the news called the marathon finish line a “soft” target. That’s not what I saw. I saw unimaginable strength and resiliency. I saw people who finished running 26 miles keep running to help. I saw an ex-NFL offensive lineman carry injured victims. I saw a 78 year old man 15 feet from the finish line get knocked on his ass by a bomb, get up, and finish the race. That doesn’t sound like a soft target to me.

9.

10.

When the movie of this gets made, Tim Meadows will play Deval Patrick.

11.

No one knows when or where or if this will happen again. If they tell you they do, they’re lying. Intrinsic in any kind of public crisis like the one we are experiencing is an inability to trust, a feeling that things outside of our control are becoming more and more dangerous. This is the definition of terror. We cannot allow those who would terrorize us to confine us to the dark corners of our own insecurity. We cannot be afraid to step out into the light day after day and trust that the majority of those around us are there to build us up, not tear us down.

12.

I still don’t understand what it is that makes people want to run marathons, but I’m pretty sure now that it’s a positive quality and not a sign of insanity.

13.

Island [1]
by Langston Hughes

Wave of sorrow,
Do not drown me now:

I see the island
Still ahead somehow.

I see the island
And its sands are fair:

Wave of sorrow,
Take me there.

14.

If I know anything about people from Boston, it’s that they don’t take shit from people. Sometimes obnoxiously so. They’ll be okay.

15.

It made me angry when the talking heads on the news were trying to decide whether the attacks were “terrorism, or something else”. When someone sets off bombs, its terrorism. There’s no difference who does it. When they said “is it terrorism or something else?”, I heard “did a Muslim place the bomb, or was it just a white person?”

16.

I couldn’t help but think of the story of Pheidippides, the basis for the running of marathons. He died at the end of his run, at the finish line. His last words were “Joy to you, we won. Joy to you.”

17.

18.

I can’t believe there were people from Newtown there. Will they ever be able to feel safe?

19.

Wolf Blitzer said “small package” and I laughed. Take that, terrorists!

20.

I’m proud of people’s reactions on social media. For the most part, all of the messages I saw were ones of support and love and hope and thought. People run down the internet community a lot, and I’m sure there was some nasty stuff flying around out there, but overall it was very positive.

21.

This has been widely shared, but I love it so much I want to share it again: “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.” – Fred Rogers

22.

When we find and prosecute the people who planted the bombs, we must remember to keep our civility. If we let revenge cloud our judgement, then even in defeat the terrorists will find victory.

23.

Quick thought yesterday afternoon: We sure could use the Boondock Saints right about now. Can we get Norman Reedus to chill out on the zombie hunting for a minute?

24.

Today as I walked around my college campus, everyone seemed more aware of each other. It may not be conscious, but when things like this happen I like to think that our brains force us to be more cognizant of the people around us. In the library, a young man slumped at his computer with his head in his arms. It may have just been stress, who knows. Two people stopped to ask him if he was okay. It was heartening.

25.

This morning I read about a couple of Boston College students who have organized a walk to the finish line for those who weren’t able to finish the race. So far over 15,000 people have RSVP’d.

26.

In America, we search for heroes. Sometimes I think we do so too quickly; we hold up people as examples when they are hurting and I feel bad. But the truth is that we search for heroes because even in times of sadness we look for signs of joy. That is why we will always persevere.

.2

Our common sorrow makes our bonds stronger, the darkness engulfing us now will give way to a brighter light in the end.

Giving Gun Safety A Shot

I apologize for the large gap between posts. As I mentioned previously, I started school again recently and am finding less and less time to sit down and write about things in which I am actually interested rather than things I have been assigned. Even as I write this, there are other things that I really ought to be doing. I have been working on this post for several weeks now, and am finally ready to offer it to you, the reader. Before you comment or write me an angry e-mail, I only ask that you read the entire piece first, take a few minutes to think about what you have to say, and then I will be happy to talk with you about what I wrote.

I want you to imagine, if you will, an alternative beginning to our nation.

Imagine that before the American Revolution, the King of England decided, as he did with most other colonies, that the residents of the American colonies would not be permitted to keep weapons in their homes. No muskets or pistols. How would our present be different? Would our attitudes towards firearms be different? Would Americans be as passionately attached to guns as they are today? Would the Second Amendment even exist?

As the Internet exploded with reactions to President Obama’s proposals for stopping the horrifying rash of gun violence that our country has seen, I thought about this alternative history and decided that yes, things would be very different today. And then I realized that whether you wish that had happened or not, the reasons that America has the most well-armed citizenry in the world really don’t matter. There are, I believe, ways that we can address gun violence creatively that enable those of us who enjoy firing guns as a hobby, or grew up hunting with their families, or simply feel better with a handgun in their bedside drawer, to do so. We are far too intelligent a nation to let the vitriol of the extreme right or extreme left prevent common-ground solutions from being found. I have, over the past few weeks, had conversations with folks with far different perspectives on gun violence. None of these conversations contained the poisonous language of the NRA PR machine, or the judgmental accusations of some liberals. Most people I know want to have a real conversation about how we can stop horrible crimes from being perpetrated with firearms, and most people I know want those who wish to own guns responsibly to be able to continue to do so. So we come to a question: how? How can we make guns not illegal, but safer. How can we make sure that gun ownership, while a constitutional right, is also recognized as a great responsibility? A responsibility that requires commitments to responsible use, the same as voting, free speech, and so many of our other rights as Americans. I have some ideas, and I hope to use this a place to start honest dialogue free from the calculated PR moves of the gun lobby and the federal government, where real citizens can have a real conversation about solutions to gun violence which, I think we can all agree, we would be better off without. In no particular order here are the things I would like to see happen:

Scrap calls for an “assault weapons ban” as defined by the Federal Assault Weapons Ban that expired in 2004.

The previous assault weapons ban had an unclear and inconsistent definition of what an assault weapon was. The defining characteristics in the bill were largely cosmetic and not related to rate of fire (fully automatic weapons have been illegal for some time now). The fact is, there were weapons not covered under the bill that were far more “dangerous” than ones that were. This misguided bill created the sentiment, accurate in some cases, that proponents of increased gun safety do not understand what makes guns dangerous. Logically, any sort of legislation along these lines would need to focus on rate of fire to reduce large numbers of people being shot in a short period of time, and I’m not convinced that that is necessary beyond the current ban on automatic weapons.

Require background checks and waiting periods for all firearms purchases.

This should be something on which everyone can agree. There is no debating that firearms, when obtained by the wrong person, can do horrifying harm. While a background check cannot guarantee that a purchaser won’t commit a violent crime, if it deters ONE person from committing that crime, then it is a success. When you commit a felony in this country, you lose some of your rights. There should be no question that if you have committed a violent crime, you should not be able to purchase a gun. For this reason alone, background checks should be mandatory for gun purchases. Furthermore, a waiting period serves as further deterrent to a crime of passion, desperation, or insanity. Every moment a person considering this type of crime has to wait is a moment for them to change their mind, or be redirected, or otherwise stopped. Could they just go kill someone with another weapon? Yes, it’s possible. But this effort is about making it as inconvenient as possible to commit violence.

Ban gun shows and resale of firearms.

This is a difficult one for me. Between the time that I became convinced that this was a viable proposal and now, I heard a story from Atlanta chef Kevin Gillespie. Kevin is opening a new restaurant in my neighborhood, called Gunshow. In an interview, he was asked about the name and about whether he was worried that it may be controversial. He explained that when he was a kid, his family was fairly poor and his father worked a lot. As a special treat, when he could get off work, Kevin’s father would take him to the gun show at the local flea market. This was precious time for that family, and I suspect that there are similar stories like that across the United States. While I was not raised in a house with guns, I know enough about the people I grew up with and the people from Georgia that some, indeed many, of the activities that we do transcend the activities themselves and center on quality time with loved ones. If that includes going to a gun show for you, than who am I to judge?

But here’s the thing.

The weapons sold at gun shows, flea markets, pawn shops, and on other secondary markets are INCREDIBLY hard to keep track of. While I support a person’s right to own a firearm, I also passionately believe that the system for obtaining one should be tightly checked, so as to make it as difficult as possible for those who would do harm to obtain one. I firmly believe that all firearms should be bought only from a state licensed dealership, regulated by state authorities, and registered in a national database.

Widen the availability of gun safety courses through partnership between the NRA, law enforcement agencies, and federal or state governments. Provide incentives to gun owners who choose to take these classes.

We have to end the combative nature of firearm safety conversations. Citizen gun advocates, their legislators, and the various law enforcement branches should be working TOGETHER to ensure that those who choose to purchase firearms do so in an informed and educated manner. By encouraging gun rights organizations (who, outside of their lobbying wing, are largely intelligent and passionate citizens concerned about their family’s and community’s safety) and local and federal governments to work together to teach people about responsible gun ownership and ways to keep guns out of the hands of criminals, we can end the explosive debates and loaded accusations that hold back our ability to make progress.

One way we can do this is to provide incentives to gun owners who take safety and home defense classes. We provide incentives to teenagers who take driver’s ed, and home owners who use green technology, why not folks who help promote responsible gun ownership? By working together, we can stop arguing past each other.

Improve mental health treatment and the availability of information.

Part of the fallout from the rash of mass shootings in the United States has been a re-examination of the mental health system in this county. The vast majority of Americans who suffer from mental illness are non-violent, wonderful people who work hard to overcome the challenges they face. That being said, because of the unpredictability in the ways certain mental illnesses can manifest themselves, certain steps should be taken to make it as difficult as possible for these individuals to access tools with which they may do themselves or others harm. I don’t know enough about these illnesses to know where these lines should be drawn, but I DO know that there are brilliant doctors and social workers in this country who, if given the resources, can make sure that those potentially dangerous patients can’t obtain firearms.

An important part of that last sentence was “if given the resources”. We have to improve the entire structure of the mental health system in this country. Improved availability of information, public health studies, increased funding of treatment facilities, and the END of the pervasive stigma that still surrounds those suffering from mental illness are all parts of the solution to not only stemming gun violence, but improving quality of life for all Americans on a larger scale.

Create a national model for school construction and retrofitting that controls access points.

Many of the things I’ve talked about have related to ways to prevent guns from being used to prevent violent crime. But how can we make it harder for the mass murderer to enter a school and start shooting? Proposals to arm more adults in schools should be rejected out of hand. The solution is NOT placing more guns in school. I do think, however, that more secure school facilities are something that should be looked at. When I think about the schools I attended through high school, the most striking thing I remember is how many ways to get in there were. With the advent of key card technology, any door that isn’t the front door of the school shouldn’t be accessible from the outside without a key card; it shouldn’t even have a handle. Bulletproof glass, separation between classrooms and the front entrance, and compartmentalized hallways with locking doors are all things that should be looked at (and may be already in place, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a public grade school). In addition, these should be standard components, not just for those schools that can afford them.

Provide people who own hunting rifles or other firearms with more options for storing them outside of their homes.

This is the idea that I had that I present with the most ignorance. I’m not sure if there are places where you can safely store your guns outside your home; I assume that there are. But given a gun owner who has say, a couple rifles and a shotgun for hunting, an antique pistol as a collectors item, and a handgun for home protection, giving that person at least a convenient option to store some of those weapons outside of their home would, I think, reduce the chance of an accident. Would people use this? Who knows? But it’s worth a try.

CONCLUSION:

These are ideas that I’ve been thinking about for several weeks, months, or even years. They are not snap decisions, and are honestly made with only the best intentions. I have no anti-gun agenda; while I wasn’t raised in a house with guns, I enjoy shooting them and respect those folks who wish to own firearms responsibly. I would love feedback and to talk to more people about new ideas for curbing gun violence while still supporting the right to bear arms. Here are my rules for that conversation:

1) Don’t yell at me or patronize me. I don’t claim to know everything. If I’m misinformed about something or you have some statistics for me, great! I can’t wait to hear what you have to say. But let’s have a conversation.

2) If you’re going to show me facts, make sure that they are facts. While I don’t have any problem with most of the members of the NRA, their lobbyists and PR machine drive me insane. I want independently verified information.

3) Try to offer other solutions. It helps the conversation progress and keeps it from becoming contentious if you have ideas rather than just tell me I’m wrong or that something won’t work.

Hopefully I haven’t offended anyone and that this came across as thoughtful and reasonable as it was intended to. Remember, we all love our families, our communities, and our country. We just want what’s best for them.

Update and Joe Recommends IV

WHEW!

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind. I feel like I’m coming up for air after being underwater for a while.

My work at the Georgia Conservancy evolved again. After two months or so as the de facto Grants Manager, I’ve given way to someone who can actually be there everyday and has a degree in something and various other technicalities like that. Fortunately I have another role to take on now. For the last couple of months, I’ve helped a group of high school students start an outdoor activities club through the Conservancy with the help of funding from Outdoor Nation. As an Outdoor Nation “Fellow”, I’m charged with engaging young people and helping them find new outdoor recreation opportunities. I’ve made it my priority to find activities within a half hour of downtown Atlanta, the idea being that kid’s parents will be more likely to support their desire to engage with the outdoors if they don’t have to drive all over north and central Georgia. We’ve had some great successes, and some hurdles, but the kids have been great and we’ve had tons of fun. So far we’ve hiked the Atlanta BeltLine and gone to Sweetwater Creek State Park. If you have any ideas for fun outdoor activities near Atlanta, I’d love to hear them!

In sort of related news, I got word a week or two ago that I’ve been elected to the board of Generation Green! You can read more about Gen Green here, but in a nutshell it’s a program of the Georgia Conservancy that engages young professionals through networking and social events and service projects; as the website puts it, “the next generation of environmental leaders”. I’m really excited for this opportunity and can’t wait to get started.

Between all that and school, including a class that requires nearly constant blogging, I haven’t had a lot of time for personal time or personal writing. I do have a few new rec’s for you though, so check ’em out:

Lake Street Dive- I went and saw Yonder Mountain String Band in concert a few nights ago for the fiftyleventh time. Lake Street Dive opened for them and I was blown away. A four piece band featuring a singer, drummer, stand-up bassist, and a guy who plays guitar sometimes and trumpet sometimes, they managed to mix R&B, soul, rockabilly, and americana into some fantastic dance music, and the lead singer had an AMAZING voice. Here they are covering The Jackson Five’s “I Want You Back”:

Frank Wren- I heard an interesting point on sports talk radio this afternoon. Consider what the Braves have done over the last few seasons as compared to the other teams in the NL East, and the payroll constraints they have had, and try to make an argument for any other of the divisional GMs being more successful than Wren. The only other team even in the conversation is Washington, and I would contend that at this point their GM is Scott Boras, essentially. As always, it remains to be seen whether the moves will pay off in the long run, but at this point Frank Wren looks like a genius.

Matt Taibbi- Here’s the thing about Matt Taibbi: you’re gonna end up pissed off after reading his columns. He doesn’t write about anything cheerful or light. What he does do is take large corporations out behind the woodshed, a place with which CEOs are increasingly unfamiliar. My favorite piece of his, and the one for which he probably got the most attention, was a 2009 Rolling Stone column entitled “The Great American Bubble Machine”, in which he explains how Goldman Sachs has been behind every American economic bubble since the Great Depression. If you have some time, you should read it, and then keep reading about how large corporate foxes are guarding our financial henhouse.

Treat Yo Self- Just do it.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen- For fans of The Last Waltz, I suggest checking out Joe Cocker’s 1970 live album Mad Dogs and Englishmen. The show is almost all covers, and features an all-star band, including one of my personal favorites, Leon Russell. Here’s Cocker at his Belushi-impersonation finest, with Leon wailing on the keys. When the background singers come in, it’ll make you wanna testify.

Murphy Oil Soap- Something weird happened yesterday and I cleaned my house for like seven hours. Most of that time was spent in the kitchen, and while I was working I found a real treasure. One of my parents friends built some shelves for them in the kitchen, and with a piece of the scrap wood made an incredible slab cutting board. Over the past couple years it’s gotten ill-treated, and when I found it yesterday it was covered in old food debris, dirt, and mold. I refused to accept defeat, however, and took to it with Murphy Oil Soap, a wood soap. After a few treatments, the cutting board was like new and ready to use, and looks great just sitting on the counter. So great I was reluctant to cut anything on it.

Cumberland Island

What a weekend.

It all started around 4:45 Friday morning, a time I hadn’t seen in a long time, at least not from that side of sleep. After staggering around my house and managing to get almost everything I needed together (I had set my sunglasses on top of my pack, but in my haze threw them on the floor, my logic being that I didn’t need them, it was the middle of the night), I left for my office to meet the group that I’d be driving down to Cumberland Island, the most extreme southeastern point in Georgia. A quick pit stop at Krispy Kreme provided me with the supplies I would need to maneuver a 15-passenger van through the early morning darkness.

The drive was long, but fairly pleasant. Most of the group slept for the first several hours, so I was left to listen to my own music and enjoy seeing the sun rise over north-central Georgia. We made our way swiftly through Hampton, Macon, Dublin, Statesboro, around Savannah and south along the coast. Lunch was at a strip mall off I-95 at the Golden Isles Parkway exit. We were confronted by a seemingly no-win choice: Subway, a dubious looking grocery store, or an even more dubious looking Chinese buffet. Most of the group chose either the Subway or Chinese place, but I and one of my co-leaders decided to take a chance on the grocery store having a deli of some sort. What we found was nothing short of road-trip gold: fried chicken, mac-and-cheese, fried okra, rolls, cake, and gallons of sweet tea. It was absolutely fantastic. I sat in the van and feasted, and as the other folks returned their jealousy was nearly tangible.

We arrived in St. Marys, Georgia right on schedule. As you drive into St. Marys, you can’t help but notice how many strip malls and shopping centers line the highway to the west of town. It’s pretty unpleasant. Once you get into St. Marys, however, the town is beautiful, like most Southern beach towns. We loaded two boats, a ferry and a barge with our gear and two vans, and our entire group, nearly 70 people in all. The ride over to the island was gorgeous, and I was reminded of how much I enjoy being on a boat. The weather was terrific.

IMG_20130118_143822_112

Our arrival was a whirlwind of dividing gear, moving people, and trying to answer questions, all while trying to take in the beauty of the island. After a quick orientation by some of the phenomenal park rangers, I gathered the camping group who would be my “roommates” for the weekend. As the light was fading, we quickly made camp, and then took a few minutes before dinner to take in the sunset over the intercoastal waterway. Those last few moments of waning sunlight were absolutely breathtaking.

DSC00063

Saturday morning began with some stiff joints, a symptom of my still relative novice camping expertise and the slightly chilly temperatures. After a quick breakfast, I gathered my trail crew for the long drive to Terrapin Point, at the far north end of Cumberland. As a part of the MLK weekend, the Georgia Conservancy organized the trip to Cumberland Island as a service trip. Everyone participating served in some sort of volunteer function, whether clearing trail, picking up trash, or maintenance of the historical buildings. My group was working on the little-used Terrapin trail, a crescent-shaped trail on the northwest corner of the island. We split in two and started from both ends, intending to meet in the middle. The group worked hard, and the weather was pleasant through the morning and early afternoon. The trail’s curve takes it out along a cliff that overlooks the intercoastal waterway, and the views are spectacular.

DSC00086

As we worked into the afternoon, it became more evident that completing the work was going to be more difficult than it first appeared. When we reached the point where the two groups should have met, there was no one there. We kept clearing the trail, until reaching a point where the trail simply disappeared. We searched and searched, but weren’t able to find any sign of it. As we were looking, we got a call from the other half of the group saying they had gotten lost and turned back. We decided to hike back out the way we had come, meet up with the rest, and reassess.

After meeting back up with our other half, it was time for the long drive back down the island. As we drove, we debriefed about the successes and failures of the project. As we talked, we came to realize that we were just a few feet from each other, separated by only a matter of minutes! We were tired and dirty, but our work was worthwhile and we accomplished a lot.

Dinner that night was a real treat. Our leader Bryan had stopped at Sapelo Island on the way down and purchased a bushel of oysters right off the boat. As he worked on a low-country boil, I started a fire in the outdoor fireplace, and started roasting dozens and dozens of oysters.

DSC00087

Our Cumberland adventure was wonderful. I had been to the island in elementary school, but not since, and was reintroduced to its beauty and the valuable wilderness preservation that is their mission. I feel lucky to be from a state that has such incredible natural resources.

Update

Hi everyone,

Sorry for not posting in a while. As I mentioned recently, school has begun again in earnest, and because of that I have found very little time to write for enjoyment. In the morning I’m leaving for a weekend on Cumberland Island. When I get back, I hope to have lots of pictures to share, another edition of Joe Recommends, and maybe a little politics as well. Talk to you soon!

My Favorite Albums of 2012

Junofilm2

 

Inspired by the Rev’s list of (excellent) albums from 2012, I have compiled one myself. I will preface this list by saying this is less a “best of 2012” list and more of a “here are a bunch of great albums from 2012” list because I haven’t listened to nearly enough of the terrific music that came out last year. So keep that in mind before impaling me for leaving off Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Beach House, Grizzly Bear, Ariel Pink, etc. I just haven’t gotten around to them yet. This list isn’t in any particular order; choosing twenty was hard enough, and how am I supposed to say whether Killer Mike’s album was “better” or “worse” than Dwight Yoakam’s? So completely randomized, here are my favorite albums I actually listened to in 2012.

Titus Andronicus- Local Business
One of my favorite straight-up rock bands around right now, I fell in love with Titus Andronicus about the same time most people did, when they released their album “The Monitor” in 2010. “Local Business” is a tremendous follow-up; it makes me want to do the twist and mosh at the same time.
Sharon Van Etten- Tramp
I didn’t like this album the first couple times I listened to it. I think it was because I first listened to it this past summer. I gave it another shot when the weather got cooler, and all of a sudden it clicked. The song “Give Out” is stands out to me.
Dwight Yoakam- 3 Pears
Dwight Yoakam has always been one of my favorite country singers. He has a unique voice and style and really stands out from a lot of country that gets played nowadays, which is probably why his new stuff doesn’t get played that much. This album is great, and features an ass-kicking version of “Dim Lights, Thick Smoke”.
Killer Mike- R.A.P. Music
Well produced, solid front to back, and angrier than hell. Killer Mike never holds back, and his albums are successful because of it.
Beachwood Sparks- The Tarnished Gold
Possibly my favorite album of the year. It’s the one I’m listening to as I make this list. I loved it when it was warm out, I love it now that its cold. I love it when I’m in a good mood, and I love it when I’m in a bad mood.
Fun.- Some Nights
Even though I got sick of the singles once they made it on the radio, there was a solid two months when this album never left my car CD player. That’s gotta mean something, right?
The xx- Coexist
Great relaxing album, very calming. This music makes you go “Ahhhhhhhh”.
The Temper Trap- The Temper Trap
“Sweet Disposition” is one of my favorite songs, period, so when this album came out I had high expectations. It’s really fantastic anthemic pop, buoyant music that makes me crave the summer.
Shovels & Rope- O’ Be Joyful
One of the best shows I saw in 2012 was Shovels & Rope, Jonny Corndawg, Matt Hudgins and His Shit-Hot Country Band, and Andrew Combs (who appears later on this list) at the Earl. Shovels & Rope, although a two-piece, creates this really full sound that makes their live show a real treat, and it translates really well to this record.
Cory Branan- Mutt
I’ve liked Cory Branan for a while, since I saw him play with Ben Nichols from Lucero. Anyone that Ben Nichols likes, I like. “Mutt” is a great punkish country album that highlights Cory’s trademark rasp and some really fantastic musicianship.
Justin Townes Earle- Nothings Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now
By this point, if I’ve had more than like three conversations with you I’ve probably talked your ear off about Justin Townes Earle. He’s quite possibly my favorite act on the road right now, and it pains me to be typing this just hours after missing his performance at the Melting Point in Athens. He’s an awesome songwriter, a terrific guitar player, a wonderful storyteller, a mean drunk, and I had the pleasure of being at Smiths Olde Bar once when he destroyed some Tech frat boy hecklers that were yelling to much. JTE rules.
Andrew Combs- Worried Man
I’ve already mentioned Andrew Combs in a “Joe Recommends” post, and everything I said there still holds true.
Diamond Rugs- Diamond Rugs
Guys from Deer Tick, Dead Confederate, Black Lips, and Steve Berlin from Los Lobos? I was intrigued. And I’m glad I was.
Lee Baines III & the Glory Fires- There Is A Bomb In Gilead
Gotta thank Bryan for this one. He told me about Lee Baines several times, and one night at the EARL I happened to look to see who was playing that night and it was LBIII. I caught the show and it was outrageous. Great music, great showmanship.
Alt-J- An Awesome Wave
I found out about these guys from my friend Arlo. It’s different than most of the stuff I normally listen to, but I really dig it. Spacy harmonies and driving beats, with guitar parts that remind me of Explosions In The Sky. Good solo driving music.
The Menzingers- On The Impossible Past
Just a great rock album. I don’t know how else to put it. I want to see this band live really badly.
Corb Lund- Cabin Fever
An album with track names like “You Ain’t A Cowboy (Til You’ve Been Bucked Off)”, “Priceless Antique Pistol Shoots Startled Owner”, and “Pour ‘Em Kinda Strong” gets on my list. It’s some kind of rule.
Kelly Hogan- I Like To Keep Myself In Pain
Several musicians I really like kept mentioning Kelly Hogan, and then my next-door neighbor mentioned he was friends with her, so I gave the album a shot. She has an outstanding voice and I really like her lyrics, they feel very honest.
Big Boi- Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors
Big Boi for life. Unlike any hip-hop album I’ve ever heard.

Album I Refused To Like Or Even Listen To As A Braves Fan:
Metz- Metz

Album I Had To Include Because Even Though I Didn’t Like It As Much As The Others, I Love The Artist So Much I Had To:
The Mountain Goats- Transcendental Youth

I’d Like To Thank The Academy…

2thedundies4

Those folks who are reading that have known me for a while know that my educational career has been… inconsistent. In the fall of 2004, after graduating from high school, I took classes for exactly one semester before dropping out. A year later, I tried again at Georgia Perimeter College, and lasted almost a year before quitting again. After a five year sabbatical, I started taking classes at Southern Polytechnic State University in the fall of 2011, and after changing my major to English and Professional Communications, I think I’ve finally got the hang of this “college” thing. Last semester I had a 3.5 GPA, the best I’ve done since, like, middle school. Today, as I pulled into the parking lot at SPSU, I was actually excited to start classes. In my first blog post after starting writing here on a regular basis, I talked a little about how I’ve come to realize the importance of education, but really I think the most important part is education on your own terms. This doesn’t mean not doing things you don’t feel like doing, but rather putting yourself in the right situation, one in which what you need to do and what you want to do intersect. For some people, this is possible right out of high school. For others, they’re able to fight their way through a less than satisfactory freshman year and find where they want to be. And for still others, folks like me, it takes a little longer to find that intersection.

I have been fortunate to be surrounded by people throughout the last eight and a half years who have offered me support and encouragement as I’ve wandered. My adviser at Berry who was disappointed I was leaving because the school “needed more people like me”. My parents, who encouraged and supported me as long as I was moving forward, not backward. The wonderful people in Athens, Georgia who helped me transform from a 20 year old slacker who went to the bars too much to a 25 year old with priorities and goals who still probably went to the bars a little too much. My buddy Brian who didn’t mind when I called him in San Francisco to argue about politics and talk about literature because I was afraid my brain was rotting while working in a parking deck. The folks from the wonderful Camp Mikell community who’s arms and hearts were (and still are) always open no matter what I was doing. The Georgia Conservancy, where I found out how I can use my skills to do work that matters and that work can be fun and rewarding at the same time. And my English Composition professor at SPSU who after I turned in my first paper asked what I was majoring in, and when I replied Construction Management calmly told me that that was stupid and that I should switch to English.

Reading over the last paragraph, I realize that this post would probably be better served coming after I graduate, but that probably won’t be for a while still. As I look ahead, it is refreshing to have ambitions and goals again, and I didn’t want to go on any longer without expressing my appreciation to the wildly different and wonderful group of folks that have supported and influenced me over the last few years.

Y’all are the best, and I owe you everything.

Thank you.