Finally a hint of autumn

A storm ushered in a cold front, dropping temperatures nearly twenty degrees. It’s been hot here in Florida. Not the baking, oppressive heat of July or early August. But hot.

There’s a beautiful ritual of fall that we miss out on down here in the Tropical South.  I call it Tropical South because it’s below the Southern States – not quite redneck heaven, but not quite Caribbean paradise either. It’s a mixed bag, and I think that’s why so much crazy shit happens in Florida.

But we don’t really get leaves changing. We don’t get the crisp autumn nights. It’s too hot for spiced apple cider, and then when it finally cools down it’s right to hot chocolate and egg nog.

But we have costumes for Halloween (hot, sweaty costumes), and we have Turkey-Day football. And come Christmas Day, most years it’s nice enough to get some down at the beach.

Like I said… A mixed bag.

Storms and stuff

There’s a hurricane peering down my coast. That almost sounds dirty.

Dorian, likely a Category 4 when it makes landfall in just over 24 hours. I’ve seen a lot of hurricanes. Thrown (or been to) a lot of hurricane parties. They don’t quite get me like they used to.

I like the rain. I like the seclusion. There’s a degree of simplicity when power’s lost, and all that can be done is by day or by candlelight; grill or camp fire.

Do I hope that it passes us by? Yes.

Do I mind roughing it for a few days if we lose power? Not at all.

Chai

Ah, fall. It comes slowly here in Florida. But oh how I love that brisk fall breeze blowing in.

For as long as I can recall I’ve had a love affair with Autumn, and the thought of leaves changing (not seen much in this state), hot apple cider (not necessary in the 70-80 degree range), and bundling up (I’m still wearing shorts and tank tops) always brought me joy. Seriously, this time of year is easily one of the most amazing. It’s almost magical how life seems to slow down around now.

When you look at the world, at least here in the US, the holidays are just coming to mind. People are easier to smile for the most part. A little more considerate. It seems that once you get into December, and especially just before Christmas (maybe even that last week of November, unfortunately) the pace becomes harried again. But for now, it’s all windblown leaves and warm wishes; family time and remembering.

I think about these things when I drink hot chai tea. I’ll get it from local coffee shops, Starbucks, or the WaWa gas station. It’s been my favorite drink for years, and though I drink it year round, this time of year seems to fit it so much better.

Eye of the storm

In the eye of a hurricane there is quiet for just a moment, a yellow sky. 

Hurricane, from Hamilton the Musical

When it’s time to prepare for a possible hurricane strike, it’s inevitably nearly too late. Irma was not much of a factor on the East coast of Florida, and honestly, I never thought she would be, though I couldn’t tell you why. I had hoped she would turn out to sea, rather than swipe the Gulf Coast, but here on the Atlantic side of Central Florida it was mostly rain and light winds. And, as with all natural disasters, concern and rushing about.

Hurricanes give us the feeling that humanity is no closer to mastering nature than early man was, coming out of the caves. The raw destructive power of storm systems can undo decades of civil engineering and community building. Flooding, wind damage, downed power lines and exploding transformers. And nature will keep coming.

As I sit in relative darkness, writing by some candlelight on an iPad with attached keypad, I wonder at early civilizations. Save the sound of nearby gas-fueld generators, this powerless state is something that would be typical merely a century ago. Quiet. Alone with thoughts, the sounds of nature (sans fuel-combustion), and seemingly few concerns. 

The television is off. It must be, with no power. I listened to some public radio via the phone, but not much. And I sit here, thinking. Considering what tomorrow will bring, when the power is sure to be reinstated. 

My Favorite Pearls

Wisdom. Where does it come from? It seems that much of the past fifteen months, for me, has been an unending quest for wisdom and understanding. As of yet, I’m still coming up short. Mostly I quote Socrates (as Plato has written): Ἓν οἶδα ὅτι οὐδὲν οἶδα.” All I know is that I know nothing.

Yet, over the years, people have given me advice in one shape or another. Maybe I’ve read it in books, or seen it on television. One of my favorites has done little more than make me smile, but sometimes that’s all advice needs to do. So I wanted to provide some of that here.

The early bird gets the worm

Obviously. The earlier you start digging in the dirt, the more likely you are to reap the spoils. 

Measure twice, cut once

I’ve never been one for construction, but this can applied to many avenues of life. It’s about being precise – even if it takes a little longer in the beginning to get it right, it saves time and money on the other side if you aren’t redoing your work.

Breathe

Quite possibly the simplest yet most profound peace of advice I’ve ever gotten, and it still shows up for me today, to remind me how important breath is. In my singing, and reading of music, I’ll see hand-scrawled notes indicitating breath marks in the music telling me to breathe. When I’m feeling overwhelmed by external forces, breathing slowly makes the anxiety manageable. If I’m lifting weights, or holding a yoga pose, and it’s becoming impossible – focusing on the slow breathing gets just one more out of me, whether repitition or moment of concentration.

Don’t sweat the little stuff, and it’s all little stuff

This was a book that I never read. But the advice is sound. There are very few things in life that can improve if you worry about them. And when you start worrying about something, suddenly the problem is obfuscated and you can’t focus on the real issue anymore. It seems to happen a lot in relationships, where the one thing is the problem, but every other thing starts being seen in the negative by not fixing the actual problem. When life seems too much, focus on the manageable. 

Don’t eat the yellow snow

Okay. Thanks Dad. I’ve seen snow a handful of times in my life, and never did I want to eat white snow, let alone yellow. Still, when I was a young boy my dad gave me this advice (even though we lived in Florida) and I’ve remembered it to this day. Never will I eat yellow snow, but I can’t help but smile when I think about it.

And I guess, when it comes down to it, advice is just there to make life easier. To make you smile. So don’t eat the yellow snow. 

Strange Things are Afoot at the Circle K

I’ve had a kind of bad week at the office. To wit, I don’t actually have an office. I used to, working a quasi 9-5 office job in Orlando. It was a job in my field (arts administration) and the work was governmental, so it was decent pay and fairly good benefits. It was also wholly unsatisfying. When my life upended, I decided it was time to leave that job as well.

I quit. I left without a safety net, without a plan, and without any job prospects. Somehow, I’ve been fortunate enough in life to have things work out for me. Sometimes it serendipitous, sometime downright miraculous. Julia Cameron calls it synchronicity

That’s not to say I haven’t been down and out before. Last year was a big down and out year, and I wasn’t sure that I’d ever get up. Even with that said, within four weeks of leaving my job, I found work. More accurately, my mother knew a guy who just lost a worker, so I was able to step in. Voila! Instant employment.

Turns out, I was pretty good at the work too. Mostly it’s smooth sailing, with very little mental exertion needed on my part. While working there, I’ve been paying bills, taking the occasional travel adventure, teaching, writing, and reorienting myself to what I should be doing. Getting my head right, and my soul in balance, after its misadventures in 2016. Just last week I was starting to look to PhD programs and seeing what other work opportunities might be available to me after I return from Europe. 

Which sets up the drama of this week. On Friday, filling in for someone who needed the night off, I had a customer lose her temper with me, walking out and threatening to have me fired. This didn’t bother me so much, as I know she was just blowing off steam, and she has a history of frustrated rants, especially when she comes in forgetting to take her medication. She suffers from a mental instability of some kind, so we all try to remain very patient with her.

Saturday was a busy day, but I think it was uneventful as my week’s negative aspects played out. Sunday, on the other hand, busy and downright awful. I have a coworker who for some reason has this chip on her shoulder towards me. She has a general chip on her shoulder, but it’s even more pronounced when directed in my vicinity. Sometimes she is in charge, but on Sunday she and I were both working the floor. There was this heated exchange, and I had to walk away. Out of the back door and around the building. 

Now it takes a great deal to aggravate me, and even more so to make me angry. But at one point I noticed my hands shaking, and I knew that there was nothing good that would come of me engaging anymore with her. Now, the owner has said nothing to me concerning the incident, but the other party has been off since then, and it’s possible he would want to talk with her first.

Then, again, a minor incident on Monday and one yesterday, all leading me to the inevitable query: Is it synchronicity’s way of telling me it’s time to leave? 

I haven’t come to a conclusion yet, nor do I think that I’ll reach one prior to leaving on the 24th. I do think that it’s quite interesting that, after eight months of relative quiet, all of a sudden this week it seems to be one thing after another. So I wonder… Is it the Universe giving me not-so-subtle hints that, “Hey. It’s time.” 

The last time I ignored the Universe I had a mountain dropped on my head. Figuratively. I do not need that again. 

The Tides of Change

Driving around town, listening to the Hamilton OBC recording, I realized that a large part of my problem with Daytona (and to a smaller extent, Central Florida) is that nothing is happening here. The area isn’t driving the conversation anywhere. People here can stay put in the time lapse that exists, and change doesn’t come until it trickles from elsewhere. Change isn’t being made here.

It’s an interesting concept. Orlando and Orange County has a thriving virtual reality and simulation industry, but it’s not Silicon Valley, or even Portland, Maine. It’s a smaller semi-hub, and the economic drivers of the area hurts more than aides potential employment. The theme parks create lively destinations, but it’s a tourism-driven industry, and other than conventions or vacations, there’s very little incentive to rock the boat around town.
The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I would feel motivated to spur change here. Some factors prevent me from considering making this home permanent, but that’s neither here nor there.

Change happens where change happens, and that’s historically in the more metropolitan areas. Where bohemia and big business converge, and ideas take shape and take root. There, the tide is continually flowing and all around it either flow with the current or fight to change it. At the outskirts, where the flowing water is rarely felt and merely remakred upon, it’s the quiet acceptance of whatever decisions were made elsewhere. And that’s where dissatisfication lives, or at least a part of it.