Wednesday, September 07, 2005

You've got earrings

It's been an eventful week

Similar to the tale told by my distant relative Godric, we have been trying to cut way back on car usage. Except for one trip tonight to her pilates class, The Bride hasn't driven her car since last Wednesday. A week yesterday, I guess. She's been riding her bike to work, and even to some of her work-related appointments. I think she even rode 3 or more miles in the heat to one assignment, with her helmet and everything. I passed her while I was on the way back to the office.

Unfortunately for me, I don't have any choice but to drive my car each day. Comes with the job. But at least I get paid mileage, even though our cheap company only pays .31 cents a mile. I think the gov't rate is around .37 cents a mile. Who woulda thunk that private corporations could lowball the US Government. But it gets worse: Our company was recently purchased by a much larger, conglomeratey corporation. And now our mileage rate is .27 cents a mile. There's some explanation in the new paperwork about how they come up with that number, and it takes into account the price of fuel. Which leaves me wondering: How freaking low was the mileage rate when gas WASN'T $3.00 a gallon? I used to just put our mileage checks into savings, but now I'm having to put a part of it towards the higher price of gas.

The good thing is that after work, we've been parking the cars at home, and going for lots of walks and bike rides. We rode all the way to Rogers a couple of Saturdays ago for their annual Frisco Festival, a downtown street festival.

I'm just befuddled by the fact that no one else seems to see the connection between how we develop our land and cities and towns, and the impact that fuel prices have on our everyday lives. Most people seem to be talking about getting more fuel-efficient cars, or what the government needs to do to lower the price of gasoline, but no one seems to point out the obvious: Most of us live in places where we are slaves to our cars; places where we aren't able to live for more than 2 days without having to get in our car to do something. Even the most basic things like grocery stores, churches, schools and our neighbors are accessible only by car.

The Bride's parents live in a part of Atlanta where everything, literally everything, is no closer than a 20 minute drive. Imagine what would happen to ordinary middle-class citizens in that area if gas hit $6.00 a gallon all of a sudden.

Here in Bentonville, we can take care of church, grocery store, work, and some other basic needs without having to get in our car. Our street is lined with interesting things to see, and a beautiful mix of homes to look at. It's a 5 minute walk to the grocery store where we shop for everything we can.

The important thing is that we deliberately chose this place for those reasons. It wasn't an accident. We chose where we live based on sense of place and community, rather than some vague qualifiers like "property values" or "distinctive, upscale, modern living". We wanted to live in a place and area where we could own our cars and use them rather than the other way around. If we want to go out to the lake, we have to drive. If we want to go out and enjoy the town, we can walk or ride our bikes. Or we can drive. Either way, we dictate much more about the quality of our lives than those people who deliberately choose to live in an anonymous subdivision with countless cul-de-sacs that all empty out on to 4 lane collector roads which lead to the strip malls and other forgettable developments.

James Kunstler is much more alarmist about the changes coming on the horizon for our country. He thinks that gas prices will never go back down where they were, and soon, the housing bubble will burst in this country and $300,000 houses that are disconnected from cities and towns will plummet in value.

I can't shake this feeling that a couple more fuel crises like we've had will push a lot of people in this country towards some sense of recognition about our development patterns. I feel hopeful. Kunstler says, "we're slaves to our own miserable standards." But we don't have to be. The Bride and I just got the book Choosing Our Community's Future from It's got tons of practical advice on how we as ordinary citizens can claim back our towns and cities for people, rather than hulking tons of metal.

On another note, I was in the nursing home this afternoon where The Bride plays the piano sometimes. I was up there talking to the activity director about giving them the birdfeeders that we bought for them at the Portico. As I walked out of the courtyard and back inside the building, a woman dressed in a nice black sweater standing at her walker had the most disgusted look on her face. As I passed, she she said very matter-of-factly "You've got earrings." Period.

I said, "Yes, I do have earrings."

She continued to look disgusted. I said, "yeah, they take some getting used to. Took my mom a while to get used to 'em, but once she figured out that I was still the same decent guy as before, she didn't mind so much."

She still looked disgusted.

So I just said, "well, it's been nice to talk to you. Have a nice afternoon!"

As I walked away, she was shaking her head, obviously having a hard time coping with these crazy times that we now live in. If I had been my brother with two armfuls of tattoos, she might have tackled me on the spot. The weird thing, is that I don't even think about the fact that I have earrings anymore. I don't even notice anybody noticing them anymore. That was the first time that I remember that somebody had a problem with 'em since I worked at a small-town church in North Carolina. Maybe I should be cognizant of them, maybe take them out sometimes, but I've worn them for my last two job interviews, mostly because I just forgot about 'em.

Lastly, the Braves game tonight was tremendous. The Mets led 2-1 after 8 but I knew it couldn't last. A: it was the Mets. B: Chipper was playing C: Tom Glavine started and nothing good happens to him when he pitches against the Braves since he left.

Turns out "B" didn't matter. Ryan Langerhans followed Jeff Francoeur's double with a double of his own to score the tying run, and then came back up in the tenth with the bases loaded and knocked a two-run single into the left-center gap. Just like that, another rookie won a game for the Braves. I lucked out tonight with the game being picked up by ESPN2. Usually, I never see a game Tuesday or Wednesday, with Tues. on TurnerSouth and Wednesday on Fox regional. I get the stupid astros or rangers.

So lucky me. And with the Bride at pilates, I got to see the whole game. woo hoo.

In case you're curious, I look like a freaking prophet. Read the link and think about these stats:

Atlanta Braves Team ERA = 3.87 with 81 wins. Braves best 4 starters have a 3.31 ERA
New York Yankees ERA = 4.49 with 78 wins. Yankees best 4 starters have a 4.32 ERA

For the record, the $9 million dollar Carl Pavano is 4-6 with a 4.77 ERA. Did they not know they were getting a .500 pitcher with a history of injuries? Somehow I did. And dont' forget, Jaret Wright missed like two months with, you guessed, arm problems. Farewell, Mr. Wright, we never knew ye.

Goodnight folks. I'll be here all week.