It's been 32 days since we pulled out of New York and 14 days since I felt like a passed-out cat. We've learned a bit about our new city, some about our neighborhood, and it took us 10 days to figure out all our utilities, the last of which was the garbage, which has been piling up a bit.
The landlord told us she'd notify the HOA when she got our paperwork. The paperwork is at the listing agent's. The listing agent's firm doesn't handle anything outside of the paperwork. The neighbors we've met largely take their trash to work, where they have dumpsters.
The listing agent then told us to call the people who handle our water – they would handle our trash, unless they didn't.
The other day, I saw some barrels out, and they were stamped with the name Savannah Waste and a phone number.
Turns out they're a small, locally owned private hauler, and that the city (who handles our water) doesn't go beyond a certain point. Our first recycling load will be picked up sometime today; we can finally get rid of some trash on Monday.
On top of that, we've now had stuff like furniture and boxes full of our belongings for three days. So, we're unpacking on top of everything else.
We're both working full time, too.
We're also figuring out where to find some relaxation, and one of those places, it turns out, is Tybee Island, a half hour drive away, with restaurants and beaches and restaurants and beaches.
It's exactly what you'd expect from a beach community. Really expensive housing with the occasional tiny bungalow or trailer park thrown in. Nice restaurants that look shabby because the salt air has messed with the paint and the wood.
We took two hours at brunch on Sunday, then walked over to the beach, where we hung out for another couple of hours. The water was chilly, and I guess the air was too cold for the locals; it was really sparse out there.
But it was beautiful, and relaxing, and even though I had a tough night ahead at work (busy and short-staffed), everything felt right.
Onward we march, until we bury our feet in the sand.
This is what a sunny autumn afternoon looks like in our backyard. By autumn, I mean that yesterday, it was 60 degrees and sunny, while those back in Central New York (and in other parts of the northeast) were digging out from a 15-inch snowfall.
The stuff hanging from the tree, which is a live oak (after they shed their leaves in fall, they bud again immediately instead of waiting until spring), is Spanish moss. It's pretty and it gives an ancient, mysterious feel to the trees it hangs from. It's also home to a mite called the chigger, which will inject a digestive hormone into your skin and live off an inner layer of skin for a while until you start seeing a rash and get rid of it (which means you don't touch the stuff).
We're starting to meet our neighbors, getting accustomed to walking out the door and spending 15 minutes chatting before getting on our way. The dog is off leash during the day, typically.
We got to meet the good Brothers of Roger Lacey Lodge No. 722 and their Ladies at their election and installation. We're finding community.
We have enough stuff unpacked to cook a decent meal. The first thing that wasn't a simple veggie omelet was ox tail soup, with yucca root, carrots and onions. I took some of the beef fat from the soup, cooked some kale in it and poured the soup over the kale.
We found some sriracha amongst our things, and added it for some spice.
If you haven't had it, yucca root has sort of the consistency of a chewy potato, but with a hint of a sort of coconut sweetness to it.
By early next week, we'll have most of the amenities of home. Our furniture will be out of storage, as will our washer and dryer. Our TV and Internet hookup will be connected. We'll have stuff to get rid of and trash day to figure out, but that can all wait until it needs to happen.
In the meantime, we have fresh air and sunshine, and we've spent a lot of time speaking to the neighbors. We miss our friends back in CNY, but we'll connect soon, there, here or in between.
Those of you who know me personally know it has been a wild-n-crazy month for the Shear family.
On the night of Nov. 4, tenants signed a lease on our house in Central New York under the condition that they could take possession at 4 a.m. on Nov. 17, which means we had to be out Nov 16. That means we had to pack up and clean a house, plan movers and find a place to go in 11 days (they signed after 8 p.m. and we were going to have leave early on the 16th, so we didn't even get that 12th day).
We got a 24-foot rental truck and a trailer for one of our cars. I drove the truck, Jenny drove my minivan behind. We pulled out at 11 a.m. on the 16th, drove to a hotel in Harrisburg, Pa., that night, where I worked a full shift, met some folks from work in the morning (we all work from our various residences, so it's always cool when we get to meet each other), and then hit the road again for a 10-hour drive to Charlotte. The next day, we pulled into my parents' place in CHarleston, S.C., and promptly collapsed before waking up and heading to Savannah to unload all our stuff into a storage unit.
That was Nov. 19, and the next day, we rested.
On Nov. 21, we began our search for housing, keeping in mind we had a 2-hour commute each way from Charleston and I had to be at work at 6 p.m. We made the trip six times in eight days leading up to Thanksgiving.
On Monday of this week (Dec. 1), we signed a lease on a house in the Georgetown section of Savannah. On Tuesday, the electricity went on and yesterday they turned on the water. We're hoping to only have to take another trip or two down before we won't have to return to Charleston except to visit.
We're blessed and grateful to have the kind of family that says, "Hey, you need to take over a small room in the house for a few weeks? Go ahead!" We're also really happy to be able to settle into our own space and start putting the house back together soon.
But today, we rest. It's really important, actually. Your body wasn't meant to go hard 16-20 hours a day for weeks on end. It was designed to do some work, recover, do more work, recover, do some more work, and recover.
Over the next couple of months, as we get embedded into a new community and, let's face it, a new culture, expect there to be some community-building posts and some stuff I discover about the city, which has a very interesting history.
As I noted last week, we're in the deep South. Charleston, South Carolina, right now, to be exact, where we're staying with my parents while we apartment hunt a couple of hours away in Savannah, Georgia.
I can't really list everything or everyone I'm thankful for. That seems too obvious a Thanksgiving post, anyway.
Though one thing for sure I'm grateful for is the ability to do this once in a while:
I know not everybody can relax and take some downtime. And even though I'm working today, I'm doing so barefoot, seated in a chair with ample coffee, clean water, and a family creating tumult while making a large meal that we'll probably eat for three days. Maybe five. We're used to doing this for 22 people, but there are only five of us.
That seems like a lot to be thankful for.
I guess what I'd really like to do is say, hey, look around you. I don't care how badly you think you have it, if you have a way to be reading some guy's post on the Internet, how lucky are you? Find some gratitude.
For the second time this year, I was glued last night to live streams from on the ground in Ferguson. I have a lot to parse and process for myself, and I thought I'd mind dump here. Maybe it will spark some conversation.
Here are the filters I'm viewing this through.
I am white. I am middle class. I have an admiration for those who have it in them to act on their own radicalism. I have a strong preference for information presented through as few filters as possible (a camera on the ground will show you what the camera holder wants you to see, but that's infinitely better than a reporter in a studio talking about what s/he sees through a drone lens). The only "conflict" I've ever had with a police officer was as a journalist when there was some small-town squabbling between the chief and an elected official. I have a healthy respect for authority that comes with a healthy dose of skepticism regarding that authority (read: I respect an officer's authority to enforce laws, but I'm willing to question the law being enforced and to ask respectfully about my rights and responsibilities).
I also understand as a Freemason I have taken an extra obligation to adhere to the laws of the places I venture, but I also understand the context that a bunch of Freemasons were involved in founding the U.S., in direct violation of the obligations they took when being raised under the laws of Britain.
I didn't catch any of the news of the bridges being blocked in New York City until this morning. While I certainly understand people demonstrating in other areas, I feel like it was more important for people to express themselves in Ferguson directly.
Here are some facts I can't be blind to.
The announcement was scheduled for a bad time. The announcement came in prime time. Most people were out of work. Many people were glued to the television. People were available to demonstrate, and people were available to watch. If you want to minimize both, have it at 11 a.m., before the East Coast heads to lunch and as the West Coast hops in cars to commute to work.
Still just can't believe how poorly this whole announcement was planned and presented. What did they expect? #Ferguson
Demonstrators were organized, and were prepared for both peace and violence. This was certainly an organized demonstration. People with bullhorns had access to benches or other structures to stand on and be seen. People with cameras and strong social media presences were allowed to be close to those people. Leaders called for 4 minutes, 30 seconds of silence after the announcement. While a lot of people were clearly prepared for smoke/gas, I saw a lot of hands up and I didn't see any weapons.
Police were also organized, but only appeared prepared for violence. I understand you prepare for the worst-case scenario, not the best, but if you don't appear ready for the best-case, you're never going to get it. This photo made the rounds last night. I have no way to verify this is from Ferguson, and I have no way to verify it's from last night, as opposed to the night in August when things blew up. But it's an accurate representation of what I saw. Nothing in this photo says, "We're ready for people to just hang out and hold signs."
A couple of things to consider. These are things we can easily make changes on with policy, rather than trying to change attitudes or train people.
Call it a conspiracy if you like, but a system with with two possible outcomes that comes out one way 99.993% of the time is only working in one direction.
Body cameras for police officers could help. For the past three and a half months, Michael Brown's family has been succinct in their reactions in the press. They haven't asked for riots, they haven't asked for money (although I think the system should allow them to file a wrongful death suit, and I certainly would in this case, given the option), and they haven't asked violent demonstrators to do their bidding.
But they are asking for some reforms that could avoid the hearsay reports in this case. Only two people for sure know what happened the day Darren Wilson shot Michael Brown, and one of them is dead.
Vox breaks down some of the pros and cons of body cameras (including things like, if an officer enters a home and the video is public domain because it's a police officer, is it a violation of privacy if there's nothing illegal going on?).
Some things I remember from watching on-the-ground video.
• Some protestors were certainly peaceful. They stood around with signs, chanted, took photos and tweeted.
• Some protestors were certainly not peaceful. They threw rocks and other objects, broke things, and some stores were looted, while others were burned.
• Some protestors were not violent, but were belligerent, taunting officers, who I thought showed good restraint under the circumstances.
• Officers used some strategies that were clearly aimed at creating arrests, like boxing in protestors and then telling them to disperse, without leaving them a route to do so.
Todd's a good friend of mine, and I didn't want to address this in 140 characters, but I think it's important and it's going to be a common question.
Why destroy innocent store towners merchandise, set fire to your city & create unrest because you disagree with a decision made by others.
There's a larger context here. Last night didn't go from "No indictment" to "burn down Ferguson" in one step. It went from demonstrators on edge to a militarized police unit on hand to tear gas to cars on fire to stores being looted and burned. And, if Five Thirty-eight's data are correct, there was probably some institutional meddling in the grand jury's decision-making, and if businesses are seen as institutional, they're not "innocent." But remember, the steps along the way are important. If everything remains peaceful, or if violence is quelled early instead of perpetuated by a back-and-forth, it probably never gets that far.
I'm not so naive as to think nobody went out to burn stores and steal stuff. But I think that was an opportunistic byproduct of the night, not a goal of demonstrators.
Chris Kluwe is back at it, and I'm glad to see it.
By the miracle of WordPress scheduling, as this writing publishes, I'm spending my birthday unloading a giant truck into a storage unit in Savannah, Georgia.
Many of our friends know we've been eyeing Savannah for a long time. We expected we'd be down here sooner, and we expected we'd have more time to say our goodbyes.
Our house didn't sell, but we got a lot of rental interest from a Craigslist ad. And the couple who wanted to rent from us had to be out of their house in Kentucky on Nov. 13. That was too quick for us, but we signed the lease Nov. 4 and told them we'd be out the door by Nov. 17.
In the world of packing up a house, reserving a truck, getting a driving route, booking hotels and still figuring out where I'm going to be able to work, since they need me, too, this is not a very long time. It's barely even enough time. In fact, we're unloading into a storage unit because we had to be out of the house before we were able to scout out places to live.
I came to Syracuse in 2003. While I had some built-in connections in my grad program, it was a very specific group of people and we had a lot of work to do. There was very little socializing, and no one knew anything about the city.
So I went out and I found communities. One person I befriended, who eventually left town, had grown up in Syracuse and thought there was nothing to do.
As a gay black man, maybe that was true until he was an adult in mainstream society. Until I walked into his cafe, he didn't know there were brewpubs in town. He had never sat in the bleachers at a Chiefs game.
Sometimes it takes an outsider to show the lifers what's going on.
I got involved in a lot of stuff. A poetry reading, 40 Below, CNY SPaRC, the Future Fund, Alchemical Nursery, SyracuseFirst, some recreational sports leagues. Probably a few other things I'm missing. Someone nominated me for and I won a 40 Under 40 award.
I've made a lot of friends, who are all very much my local family, with my blood relatives scattered throughout Massachusetts, South Carolina and Texas, and wherever else all the distant cousins went.
I became a Freemason in Central New York, something which has provided me with some amazing friends as well as a sense of focus and purpose I didn't have before.
Central New York and I have given each other 11 years. It's hard to say how much of each other we've taken, though I am removing with me my lovely wife, so either way I'm the winner there.
Her family is all in the Syracuse area, so we will, surely, be back several times a year. It's not goodbye, just see you later.
What's in Savannah? We don't know, really. We've met some people already. We've seen the city; it's lovely. Palm trees, live oaks, beaches. People who are generous, friendly and still somewhat guarded about themselves and their city, but welcoming anyway.
There are lots of people our age starting things, there's an art and design school, there's a TEDx contingent. There's a tech movement and a maker movement. There are lots and lots and lots of parks.
We're hedging our bets a little, going down to rent, figuring if we end up not liking it, it'll be easy enough to pack up and move on without dealing with trying to sell another house. And we're already done with the wedding, so planning that is off our plates, too.
I'm sure over the next month or two there will be a lot of posts in this space, some of them dealing with culture shock, some of them dealing with things we've discovered. Maybe some photo essays.
I mapped out my errands so that I could be home to greet some friends for lunch Sunday morning. But then I looked at my list and thought, "Hmmm, I should check to see what time the office supply store opens."
I had the office supply store first on my list, figuring I could always cut my workout short if I had to, but then I discovered that the office supply store didn't open until a half hour before I was to be home to meet our friends.
Clearly, that couldn't be my first stop.
So I rearranged my schedule, left the gym ten minutes before the store was to open (it's a five-minute drive). On my way, people were driving so slowly, and some were even stopping at places they didn't have stop signs.
I found myself irritated, which is unusual for me. I also think it was strange I was irritated, since (a) those things don't usually bother me and (b) the store wasn't even open yet.
It's then I figured out that I would rather hurry up and wait than wait and hurry up. "What's the difference?" I hear you ask. "That sounds commutative, kind of like addition."
The difference is, if I can't just do everything at a moderate pace and finish exactly at the time I want to finish, I would rather front-load the work and then get the chance to relax, than to relax and then be rushed at deadline.
In this case, I'd rather just get to the office supply store and be able to reset my brain before I walk in, and then get home in plenty of time to start making lunch as my friends arrive. The alternative was to be irritated and get there in a rush, not have my list straight in my head, and then rush home to greet everybody.
I feel this way about a lot of deadlines. Get the work done, then enjoy the time without a deadline looming over your head. And hey, if turning something in early means more work, by all means, finish something and hold onto it until your deadline. It's so much better than enjoying your time and then having to pound something out ahead of deadline.
I was going to title this post, "The universe doesn't give a shit about you," but then I thought, "I'm probably stealing that from somewhere." I was close with that thought. The universe might give a shit about you, but it does not give a flying fuck.
Look, the universe is busy dealing with entropy and eventually collapsing on itself. There are stars blowing up every day. Let me repeat. There are starsexplodingevery single day. There are comets careening around willy-nilly.
The universe could give a rat's ass if your power goes out while you're trying to make dinner, or the cable's on the fritz at kickoff, or if gravity took a beer glass from your hand and pulled it to the floor. I mean, gravity, for fuck's sake. It's keeping you on the planet, stopping you from floating up in the air and having your head blow up because it can't take the pressure.
You know what? If your head blows up? It's going to leave a hell of a lot less crap floating around the universe than those exploding stars. The universe isn't even concerned if your head blows up. It's not hiding your car keys, you just didn't put them on the hook when you got home yesterday.
Check this out. Seriously, you think the universe gives a shit that you missed the fucking football game?
The universe is definitely not out to get you. You're simply not that important to the universe. You know who you're important to? You, and the couple of dozen people closest to you. And your dog. But even your dog will learn to love someone else. I know that because my wife and I adopted a rescue, who was well-loved but who couldn't move with the family who gave him up. He loves us just fine.
Do you have a small coin nearby? A penny, perhaps, or whatever a small currency is wherever you live? Or a thumbtack, something like that? Put it on the table (or desk or whatever) next to you, and look at it.
Now, next to it, envision 100 more just like it. Those are the people who were at your wedding, or your bar mitzvah, or your first communion or whatever. Double the size of that pile. Now it includes all the people who couldn't make it or you wish you could have invited but didn't have space/money/whatever.
Take that pile of 200, and double it. Then double it again, then again. There are 1,600 pennies or thumbtacks or whatever there now. That number doesn't mean anything. It's just a really big pile of stuff next to you. Now multiply it by 10.
At 16,000 in a pile to your 1, you're already losing perspective and scale. Now add four more piles just like it. You already look really insignificant, and you've finally surpassed the number of people who went to the Michigan vs. Michigan State football game this year.
Can you imagine what you're like among the billions of people on earth? No, really, I don't think you can.
If you're insignificant next to the number of people at a single college football game, you are nothing in the eyes of a planet, or the universe.
But, you can be important to you and the people around, and that's what you should do. In fact, you can make real change in your life, and in theirs. If you write some life-altering book, you may even have a small effect on millions in your lifetime.
But really, you just need to focus on you. Be you. Be the best there is at being you. You are not who you came from or who you spend time with or who's around in the place you happen to live or eat lunch. You are you, and you can pick which bits and pieces you take from everyone.
We're all just making it up as we go along, no matter how confident we appear. Just try not to be too much of an asshole along the way.
It turns out I write about this kind of stuff a lot, so...
These have not been the easiest six months in my life. Not that they were particularly difficult, just stressful. We had a wedding, a planning process I was not prepared for. I spent three weeks laid up with poison ivy (they gave me steroids and everything). The house didn't sell, and now we're going through the process of trying to get it rented and figuring out our next chapter.
There are other things, too, perhaps more personal, that I won't get into. At any rate, things in the Shear household have been largely chaotic for a while, and to this point, the lessons of Masonry have been a good focus.
I have a long journey ahead in the Craft. I've delved into some local Masonic history. I've read some old books. I've held some old documents. Looked at the minutes of meetings of my Lodge from right about the time of the Civil War. I've spent most days this week at the lodge building, digging through the archives, sorting through piles of history that have been shoved in drawers and forgotten. I folded a flag with 45 stars (that puts it between 1896 and 1908). I hung an apron worn by a brother who was raised in 1912.
With the wind and the rain and the leaves and the cinnamon of the season, the dust feels warm, and being alone among the artifacts is a good reminder in a fast-paced, post-Empire world crying for novelty, adherence to ritual is just as important.
Without going too deeply into the more mundane details, Freemasonry, or speculative Masonry, uses the working tools of operative stonemasons to help us be better humans. The tools offer great lessons, and I've needed them a lot these past few months. The two-foot ruler reminds me to set aside time for the important things. The common gavel is used to chip away the stuff I just don't need. The square, to remember to be fair to everybody, especially in this time when we're trying to transact business.
"But what about your secrets?" I hear you cry. Here, give last week's Whence Came You? a listen. You needn't be a Freemason. You needn't want to be. I think it has great life secrets for all.
Not much this week. It was a high-creatine, high-caffeine, high-stress week. I wound up taking two rest days, but by and large managed my food well (though I had to muscle through a 10-minute run one day).
It turns out this challenge might wind up coming up a couple of weeks short of my original plan; we have some personal scheduling going on that may preclude things going all the way; at any rate, I've learned something about the difference between wanting something and being motivated to get it. For all the times I've tracked and/or gamified my fitness, I think it's now enough of an ingrained habit that I'll only do it again if I have an extended period away for whatever reason.
I find myself hating rest days, getting cranky when I can't get at least a 15-minute workout in, and I don't need to convince myself I'm capable of a run, even on a crap day.