Sunday, January 16, 2011

Freeze Frame

5:07 AM on the morning of the snowfall
It snowed in Atlanta last Sunday. Actually, it didn't just snow, but rather it snowed and snowed and stayed. We rarely have enough snow accumulation to amount to much of anything, but this was an exception. Some of the snow that fell last Sunday night is still on the ground today, one week later. What the snow created was a kind of alternate universe.

Being house bound is not really my style, but in this case, there wasn't a choice; besides, a fierce winter cold had taken hold of me, so I was effectively down for the count anyway. Having lived in the North, I've been socked in by some bad weather before, but here in the South, it's a bit more of a radical departure from the norm. The city of Atlanta and its suburbs have almost no snow removal equipment, so basically, what happens is that the snow and ice just sit there until they have melted, which in this case has taken days.

It's not like we didn't know that the storm was coming, because nowadays, meteorologists can forecast the arrival time of the next mosquito swarm -- but that didn't seem to help too much. Grocery stores ran out of milk, bread, and from my observation, chicken. Businesses either shut down or instructed their employees to work from home. Schools were closed all week, which wreaked havoc with the schedule and will probably necessitate extensions of the school year into June. In some cases, even emergency vehicles could not reach their intended destinations.

But the other side of the coin was that we got to see our city in a whole new light, that of true white winter. It was amazing to see how an ordinary field off the side of a major commuter road could be suddenly transformed into a Currier and Ives scene, or how complete strangers could run into each other and swap snow stories. One morning, I actually was asked to witness the notarizing of closing documents for a woman whom I'd never met. She and her husband were moving to Florida, and she had brought her closing papers to the UPS Store to be notarized. Since I was the only other person to have successfully navigated my way to the store that morning, she recruited me as a witness, and I was happy to oblige.

All this makes me wonder what it takes for us to gain a new perspective on the familiar. This one week was special, because we saw things that we don't normally see. It makes me think that maybe we need to look a bit harder at the daily space, maybe stop every once in a while and freeze frame what we're seeing so that we can remember it later when it's a novelty. I'm watching this last snow disappear with a tinge of sadness, but I hope that in July, I can invoke the image of a frozen white winter as I'm stepping into my 100-plus degree car. Perhaps then I can remember that there's really beauty around us all the time...sometimes it just takes a fresh, new perspective to make it truly visible.

Sunday, January 2, 2011


shopasaurus (shap'-ǝ-sor'-ǝs) n. 1. A creature who delights in browsing through malls and other retail stores. 2. Any beast gratified by obtaining merchandise in exchange for currency, plastic cards or personal checks.

My father was a grocer, and perhaps for that reason, I've always had an interest in shopping, be it food, clothing, electronic gadgets, power tools or books.  For a guy, I'm a pretty good clothes shopper, since as an only child, I often had to accompany my mother on her trips to clothing stores all over the city (yes, Memphians and former Memphians, I have even shopped at The Snooty Fox).  One day, I got into trouble at a Summer Avenue boutique for being impatient and hiding under the clothes racks, but that was because my mom had picked out this truly dreadful dress, the front of which I thought (and proclaimed loudly to the sales associate) looked like "bars in a jail"...fortunately, it did not accompany us home.  That circumstance notwithstanding, shopping has always been for me a pleasant pastime.

Here in Atlanta, we are blessed with a plethora of shopping options: one can go from Bloomingdale's to Big Lots in a matter of minutes, stopping for a coffee pick-me-up at any of a bajillion places around town.   And of course, I'm highly vested in this whole shopping thing, because I work for the systems and technology division of a major retailer.  I don't discriminate at all, and yes, ladies, I even know my way around DSW (the Westwood store by UCLA is slightly below ground level, but there's still enough light to see in the "discount" aisles at the back).

But my true addiction is to one type of store, collectively known as "domestic merchandise retail".  The most notable of these is the large national chain Bed Bath & Beyond.  My wife was the first to notice that when I entered a BB&B, I seemed to lose track of time -- we would enter the store together, intent on finding some particular item, but within minutes, I had become fascinated with the Keurig coffeemakers or the "As Seen on TV" items plastered to the walls.  And my ADHD behavior did not stop there, for I would continue roaming throughout the store, becoming entranced with this or that miscellaneous product without which one could not live, as least not as elegantly as one could live if one owned said product.

The problem with my behavior (as seen by others, because it is just fine to me) is that my level of distraction inside BB&B makes any trip there take approximately 5.2 times as long as it would were I not along for the ride.  I'm not sure what it is about the store, but I think it has something to do with the tremendous variety of items available.  Of course, there are always those discount tables where you can find this or that thingy that you meant to buy when it was selling at the regular price but, now that it has gone slightly out of vogue, makes for a less appealing purchase, albeit at a major discount.

The nice thing about my shopping habit is that it comes in handy at times.  My wife, daughters and female friends know that I am always up for a trip to almost any given store, and that benefits me, since I get to feed my addiction while at the same time spending quality time with them (gentlemen, shopping can be quality time, just so you know).  And who doesn't like to have a few shiny new items around the house from time to time?

Speaking of, I think I'm up for a trip to Trader Joe's.  I'm out of Two Buck Chuck, and they have these little cookies that...wait...I'm feeling myself tense up here...I can control this...really, I can.

Have a wonderful week, everyone!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Resolutions, Ltd.

I have developed a highly advanced theory about New Year's resolutions, and it is that you should only make as many of them as you can count on one hand.  For most of us, that would be a maximum of five (if you are a member of another species with more fingers, my sincere apologies).  Personally, I like to keep the number of resolutions to just two or three realistic goals, enough so that I can recite them to myself on demand without forgetting them by the time July rolls around.

I began using my resolution system over ten years ago, and it has appeared to work for me.  In fact, it has worked so well that this year, I have decided to distill my resolutions down to one, and that is:

Finish stuff.

That being said, I've now finished this blog entry.  Happy New Year, everyone!