The Winter Without Snow

When I got home the other day from work, I went inside, peeled off the work clothes, put on some shorts and a T-shirt and wandered around outside.

Late February in Pittsburgh. That ‘Chinese hoax’ is feeling mighty mild if you ask me.

And it’s been like this all month.

It seems that for the last few years, every winter is warmer and with less snow. So far this year, we’ve had a little over five inches of the white stuff for the entire year and nothing approaching a significant snowfall.

But it’s not just Pittsburgh.

In Sweden, winter never arrived:

. . . the town of Växjö — almost 200 kilometres north of the southernmost tip of the Nordic country — for the first time since its records began in 1858 did not experience winter at all.

From al Jazeera on Feb. 4:

“Denmark has had its warmest January on record, with an average daytime high of 5.4 degrees Celsius (42 Fahrenheit). This eclipsed the previous record of exactly 5C (41F).

“In the past 30 years, January has become 1.6 degrees warmer — and this year, the country has had no snow and very few frosts.

“Similarly, Norway had its warmest January day on record with a high of 19C (66F) in the village of Sunndalsora on January 2 — a massive 25 degrees above average.

“Even the Scottish highlands recorded their hottest December day in 70 years. A weather phenomenon known as the Foehn effect caused temperatures to soar to 16.8C (62F) at 03:00 GMT in northern Scotland.

“Elsewhere, Moscow had its warmest December in 133 years, notching up its warmest day for that month in the process with a high of 5.6C (42F) on December 18. December’s weather was so mild that authorities were forced to bring in artificial snow for the festive period.”

Norway’s skiing industry is gasping for air. Ditto Austria, Switzerland and France.

It’s much the same all around the Northern Hemisphere. Meanwhile, the Southern Hemisphere, where it is summer, is broiling with record temps throughout.

Up here, trees are budding, flowers are poking up through the soil, and the backyard animals are confused. A plant in my koi pond has continued to thrive underwater during the winter.

Nobody talks much about it. The climate deniers don’t want to bring attention to it and the climate believers are too worried to try to convince them otherwise. A lot of people are pretending this isn’t happening and many people just seem to think this winter is a bit odd, but hey, why not enjoy it?

If one looks outside of America’s borders, it becomes clear many other parts of the world are on the precipice of disaster. In some areas, re-creations of Biblical plagues are underway.

Gradually, the pressure on the extraction of natural resources and the loss of arable land will push the world’s economies to the brink if the new Coronavirus doesn’t get us there first.

For those that do notice and understand why these things are happening, a new kind of anxiety is finding its way into the offices of therapists: eco- or climate anxiety. And the bad news is, the more you learn about what is happening to our world, the worse the anxiety gets. Perhaps the most comforting thing to me about it, is that I stand a fair chance of being dead before things really get bad.

But then I worry about my adult children.

And then there’s the reinforcing loop of inaction. Despite all we know, despite all the marches and speeches and demands, we are now and will continue to pump more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere that we ever have before. In reality, governments and businesses aren’t doing a damn thing and, most likely, won’t.

Because profits.

Look, we got the world we asked for in many ways. For centuries we collectively befouled out planet without a care to long term effects. Only in the 1970s did it seem we learned enough to politely ask the power structure to do something about it. The power structure politely declined while pointing out that all the ‘stuff’ of modern life and rising living standards was predicated on energy extraction and the resulting after-effects of it’s uses.

So, we kicked the can down the road and hoped for technology to save us. Now there is no room to kick the can any longer and it’s likely too late anyway. People scream for solutions without understanding that some issues become intractable and there are no longer any solutions. Real life and the planet are not part of some movie script. Sometimes there are no happy endings. Sometimes we must eat the shit sandwich and it kills us.

So, while you enjoy the early spring with the daffodils in February, the balmy winters and the extended falls, give a thought to the seasons of your youth and remember them fondly, for they are gone forever.

So when one stops on the street to exclaim ‘lovely weather we’re having for this time of year,’ I find it hard to hear anything but a harbinger of doom.

A Brief Brush With Mortality

I was taking in a rare movie in a theater (‘1917,’ I highly recommend it) last Saturday and I noticed my vision was starting to get wonky. This isn’t unusual since I get optical migraines but, in this case, I was losing vision in one eye, not both.

In this case, my right eye was reacting as if I had stared directly into a flashbulb. A sort of silver, bluish haze was spreading through my field of vision. I covered that eye – my left was fine. I covered my left eye – nothing but splotch.

After 30 seconds of this, I started to panic – quietly – after all, we were in a movie theater. I told my wife what was happening, and she had suggested we go to the Emergency Room (ER). A few seconds later I noticed the vision in my right eye was clearing up, and, I wanted to see the rest of the movie.

I thought the incident was related to the optical migraines except in this case it affected only one eye – optical migraines affect both.

The next day, Sunday, I decided to Internet search what might have happened, and this was the first thing I found:

Amaurosis fugax is a temporary loss of vision, usually in just one eye, that lasts from seconds to minutes. It is also called episodic blindness. This is a rare problem. If it does happen, it can be treated to prevent a permanent loss of vision. It may also be a warning sign of something more serious, such as a stroke. Sudden blindness in one eye is an emergency.


My wife reminded me she had offered to take me to the ER and the offer still stood, but, really, who wants to go to the ER on a Sunday? And the next day was the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. So, I made a computer appointment for the earliest time available with my doctor, which was Jan. 29.

But an office staffer had read what happened and called me, urging me to go to the ER. To make a long story short, I landed up going in late Sunday afternoon after my doctor had added her urging to the growing chorus of people telling me to suck it up and go in.

I hate the ER. Sitting there among people horking up God-knows-what, for hours on end only to have some harried, overworked resident who doesn’t want to be there in the first place, tell you to go home and make a regular appointment with your doctor and wait for the thousand-dollar bill.

Fortunately, that was not my experience. I got in quickly and was wheeled into the CT scan room.

I’ve been to the ER several times in my life and I’ve always left with a clean bill of health. But in this case, I started wondering: what if I have a blood clot? What if I’m close to a stroke? My wife was worried, but being a practicing Stoic, I had to look at it this way: I was 57 and this is about the time your body starts to betray you and one needs to accept that.

It was also about Momento Mori.

Momento Mori (Latin for ‘remember you must die’) is one the key tenets of the philosophy of Stoicism, that states one should always consider their own mortality as a given and use that awareness to live one’s best life in the present. It also is constructed to free one from the fear of death that constrains so much of our will to live. Rather than spending one’s life risk averse, one should boldly go and achieve since none of us knows the hour of our death but knows that every minute of the day carries the possibility.

Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius, on of the great pillars of Stoic thought said: “It is not death that a man should fear, but he should fear never beginning to live.”

For a more modern version, try Mel Gibson’s famous quote in the movie ‘Braveheart:’

“Every man dies, not every man truly lives.”

Leaving the doctor’s office earlier in the day, I had mocked having a stroke which my wife did not appreciate. Sitting under the CT scanner and having an extra scan taken that was not planned, had me thinking that perhaps this is the one time my luck runs out.

And if it did, what then?

I guess part of fighting various mental illnesses for so long as that as one ages with them, you get tired of the fight. At 57 the best parts of life are in the rear-view mirror and the future looks like shit: climate change chaos and a body breaking down. Not to mention a job that pays well but doesn’t challenge me in any way but a job in which I must remain due to the fact my boss and fellow employees have seen me at my worst and still accept me. Another employer may not. Sadly, it seems, the days of further hills to conquer are over. In addition, my body no longer tolerates high impact exercise: the last attempt left me crumpled in a pile clutching my knee while a host of mostly female twenty-somethings looked on in concern. I have, finally, lost the ability to experience joy in anything. Whether it’s the meds I take or the progression of my illness that have caused this, I know not, but that’s the situation I find myself in at this point. The best I get is experiential contentment, a decent night’s sleep and a good cigar.

As someone with an anxiety condition, I have a lot of fears and worries. When it comes to death, I find I have no fear – with some exceptions. If I fly, and the plane hits turbulence, I grip the seat and rediscover childhood prayers. In this case, it’s a question of how I want to die; certainly not plunging to the ground in terror from 30,000 feet. Or in a fire or being eaten by a shark. Dying on an operating table would be maintaining a family tradition.

When I had my first real invasive surgery as an adult – removal of my gall bladder in 2005, my then wife was surprised at how calm I was waiting to be wheeled in. In fact, I was jovial! I remember being wheeled into the operating room and noting the number of screens above me, quoted Kevin Costner from the awful movie ‘The Postman:’ “We have television.” And that’s the last thing I remember.

Why so happy? I was hoping to die to escape a marriage that was strangling my will to live. It’s amazing the things that make us wish for death and perhaps this was unusual, but my feeling on life has always been: if I can’t live life on my terms, I’d rather die. I meant it in 2005 and mean it today.

I remember coming out of the anesthetic haze in recovery and the first word I uttered was “shit!” The nurses who were having a bull session came over and asked if I was alright. I told them I was fine. I wasn’t going to tell them I wished I had died on the table – that would have gotten me a ticket from the recovery room to the local mental ward.

And who needs that?

I suppose Stoicists would argue that one should have the proper perspective of Momento Mori, but I say whatever works. I believe the concept should be part of a daily practice, even if it pisses off your loved ones. I appreciate that my wife wants me around – all I want her to understand is that we all die, and one must face death with the proper perspective. After all, in a life now devoid of a sense of adventure, what comes after death is, for everyone, the last great adventure.

Reality intruding

Now that climate disaster news has moved into the (American) mainstream media, a few caveats are in order.

First, the studies will be soft-pedaled to a degree. If you would read them, and the raw data associated with them, you would get the whole, horrible message. But newspapers and other media in the US can’t go doomer at this point. The problem, as always, is people believe there are solutions to every problem and demand them in articles about climate change. If a solution is not included, it will be dismissed by most readers.

Second, in general, people don’t want to believe they and their world are doomed. If they actually did buy off on it, wouldn’t you think many people would cash in their assets, quit their jobs, stop buying all the ridiculous shit that fuels our retail economy and essentially, check out on capitalism? Do you understand what that would do to the markets and the fortunes of those titans of industry who depend on the worker bees to produce and consume?

By the time you see total honesty about climate disaster in the media, someone you know personally is probably already starving or dead from a climate disaster. And even then, you’ll have Fox News blaming people for waiting around for a government handout rather than stalking the neighborhood for dogs and cats to shoot. After all, dem’s good eatin’ when you’re starving? Ain’t that right Kilmeade?

In any case, the fact that the major media is allowing progressively more frightful news, however its couched, into the information sphere, is and will continue contributing to more cases of ‘eco-anxiety’ (ow whatever they’re calling it this week), which is the fastest growing field of psychology.

I’ve even brought it up with my quasi-conservative (likes Trump on Facebook) psychologist myself. I don’t quite remember how we got on the subject, but I wanted to back away from it, but she wanted to know more. I really didn’t want to open her eyes (if that’s possible) since she has a nine-year-old daughter, but remembering that she is a pro-life Trump lover, I decided to let curiosity kill the cat.

I gave her two names to Google: Jem Bendell and Guy McPherson. I told her between the two of them, you’ll get a good introduction to, um, this ‘issue.’

I see her again tomorrow. I wonder how far down the rabbit hole she went?

The doomer groups on Facebook that I’m a member have been talking about this more and more: how do we continue on knowing what we know. As you can imagine, the answer is unique to every person. I’ve said that, in a large part, my own mental illness/personality disorder has provided a shield of sorts from emotional crash and burns. Basically, when you’ve had enough trauma in your life, something like the end of the world doesn’t seem so bad, especially when you’re my age. And besides, being something of a misanthrope, I’d like to like long enough to see Jeff Bezos’ drown in his limousine trying to escape a inundated Seattle.

Then I have no problem going with a smile on my face.

But it’s only when I turn to that other side of me – the sensitive nice guy who appreciates art and beauty, that my iron helmet of denial cracks. When I hear a particularly beautiful piece of music or see a painting or remember a scene from a musical it all is too much. We did create so much beauty, well, one part of our community did. And all these wonderful books, movies, plays, paintings and music will be gone, perhaps consigned to the memories of a handpicked group of survivors, ala ‘Fahrenheit 451.’

How could the same race create such beauty and be stupid and greedy enough to destroy the ecosystem that housed these works? It’s enough to cast my soul into a deep melancholy.

Shrinks will be boning up on treating a different kind of grief if they aren’t already. Grief will be the major issue of our time.

The question then becomes: how does one soak in the beauty that still exists without going to pieces? I have no answer to that. All I know is that we only have so much more time to experience the best of humankind and nature. I want to have some memories playing in my head when I go.

Like Edward G. Robinson in Soylent Green:

The Last Resort

In some respects, going to Key West is akin to traveling to the edge of the American universe and taking a good look at the future – and it’s not bright.

I’ll spare you the geography lesson, but suffice it to say we are dealing with an isolated island community that has been pumped up almost solely by tourist dollars. It is also a community that can only be supplied by road (only one), and, to much lesser extent, by air and sea. If Key West had to depend solely on air and sea replenishment, it would probably last about two weeks.

It is hot there in October and very humid too – much too much for me. I had hoped that there would be some moderating in temperature, but there wasn’t. Daytime highs were 87-92 not counting the real feel which was more like 91-99. Nighttime lows were in the mid to high 70s. Humidity generally was around 60% in the daytime hours. Without air conditioning, this place also curls up and dies.

The town itself is fighting a losing war on two fronts – culturally and environmentally. First, culturally. Key West is, if we are to be honest, a giant tourist trap that is fighting a rear guard action to maintain it’s historic charm. The famous Duval Street has, in the past few years, been likened to New Orleans’ Bourbon Street with the exceptions of the lack of world class restaurants and the proliferation of chintzy souvenir shops.

This is the essence of Key West: free range chickens wandering through souvenir shops. And stinky street water.

There have been some efforts to rein in the scam artists in the last few years but overall, the street is best taken in during the day unless you want to experience a mile long fraternity drinking party at night with all that goes with it.

The charming parts of the city are holding their own and are worth a look. Hemingway’s house, in my opinion, is well worth a look. We didn’t go to Truman’s Winter White House – they can sell their Trump souvenirs to someone else. There are gardens and wildlife exhibits as well. Basically, the tourism revolves around water sports and drinking. There are only a few bona fide land based attractions.

The old homes sit uncomfortably near new development, which is making continued infrastructure demands on the city. Also, you don’t have to set foot in the city proper, as there are a number of all inclusive resorts in Key West that have their own private beaches.

A final point – the city is for the rich. Cheap shacks and beat up trailers are going for $250k and up. Trolley drivers and other residents constantly complain they can’t afford to live in the city. Everybody is living 2-4 to a flat. The one trolley driver admits he and his wife can only afford their modest flat because she is a ‘professional,’ whatever that means.

And the apartments they live in are ugly. All of the new housing in Key West looks brutally out of place. For the sake of the people living in the old town, they can’t be seen from there.

If anything, the cost of living will get worse. Key West’s police cruisers are emblazoned with the words ‘protecting and serving paradise.’ Remembering the lyrics of the Eagles’ song ‘The Last Resort:’ “call some place paradise; kiss it goodbye.” Never truer than referring to Key West.

Strangely enough, perhaps out of sheer necessity for ‘the help,’ Key West has the rare distinction of having both a working Sears and K-Mart in town. I doubt you will find that combination anywhere else in the USA. Outside of the immediate downtown and quaint living spaces, it’s pretty much a resort town strip shopping center. I don’t believe there is one square foot of undeveloped land left in town, but I may be wrong.

This leads to the obvious – the whole thing is unsustainable. I wonder how many people know it?

Each day I was there, the sea reminded both tourists and residents that it will reclaim their paradise soon. Flowing under the permeable limestone, the sea water (from the Atlantic or Gulf, take your pick) comes up, sometimes violently, from the storm grates in the streets all over town. Some of the streets get a little wet, some turn into un-navigable rivers. The city leaves ‘Street Closed’ signs on most street corners to make shutting down the streets easy and fast. They need to: I saw the street in front of our place go from zero to completely flooded in about 30 minutes.

Just like this. Sometimes much higher.

The National Weather Service issues bulletins about this phenomenon every day. It looks like this:

Minor coastal flooding is possible in portions of the Florida Keys. The coastal flooding will be greatest around the times of higher high tides in the Middle and Lower Keys, but water levels will remain high even during low tide along the Bayside of the Upper Keys. See the latest Coastal Hazard Message for additional details.

And the water smells. God, does it smell. If you go to the south beaches as we did on the trolley tour, the guide will point out that these beaches, usually swarmed, are practically empty. Because it smells so bad. Why? Here’s the brief explanation from

That ubiquitous smell is decaying sargassum, islands of floating, brown sea algae that is piling up along the beaches of Key West, the Florida peninsula, Mexico and other Caribbean islands. Happens every summer when the winds and currents come from the south.

I can smell it just looking at this photo. Taken by the ‘most southwest point’ tourist buoy. And the whole area was flooded.

Except October isn’t ‘summer’ and this stuff is coming in by the tanker load. We had just observed the beach after the city had come by with some kind of scrapers to take as much of the sargassum off the beaches although some remained. The water is still full of it – you can tell because it’s brown. No one wants to swim in it because you will smell like raw sewage the rest of the day.

When the water comes up from the drains, it has the same smell. It makes ‘enjoying’ paradise rather difficult at times.

But the seagrass, as the locals call it, is a natural occurrence and the rest of Florida’s beaches are stocked with it as well. The real threat is the red tide which was forming off the Gulf Coast in the Tampa area when we were there. From

Why are red tides harmful? Many red tides produce toxic chemicals that can affect both marine organisms and humans. … The red tide toxins can also accumulate in molluscan filter-feeders such as oysters and clams, which can lead to neurotoxic shellfish poisoning in people who consume contaminated shellfish.

But back to the main point – Key West is barely above sea level and the rising ocean levels will eventually overwhelm the island. Miami is experiencing the same phenomenon, perhaps worse, since they get ocean currents that Key West does not (because of the coral reefs protecting the island). Building sea walls won’t work as the salt water is coming under the foundations, through the porous limestone and up into the city. There is no way to stop it.

Fun fact: Hemingway’s home was built on what may be the most hardened bedrock-like foundation on the island and its walls are three feet thick making it practically hurricane-proof. It’s also built on the highest part of the island. All this guarantees that when the island flood, Hemingway’s home will be the last structure standing. I’m sure he would have liked that.

I will have my revenge. . .

Another fun fact: all the sand on Key West’s beaches come from somewhere else. There is no natural sand on the island. And the world supply of sand is decreasing sharply.

Some other things:

We saw one large iguana on a sidewalk in Key West. When the state of Florida declared open season on the creatures, Key West really took it to heart, according to the local guides. The only iguanas we saw outside of that one big one, were little baby ones here and there. The exterminators had done a pretty thorough job which kind of saddened me because I wanted to see more of them.

Burmese pythons and other snakes: we didn’t see any snakes at all.

And the most important:

Insects: imagine this subtropical island surrounded by water and there are no insects at all.

No June Bugs or ‘Palmetto Bugs,’ ants, mosquitoes or any other flying pests.

I came ready to do battle in our rented condo. I was mentally prepared for big bugs. There were none – not even an ant or housefly. There was no need for DEET spray at all.

At first, it seems OK. Then when you think about it, it gets creepy. The insect apocalypse is real and is no more evident than at Key West. The place should be swarming with pests and it’s not. Not at all.

Of course, I could say the same thing for Florida as well and most of the South. And this is not good.

So Key West may not be the end of the world but you can see it from here. Despite the time and money we spent to come here and take a look, I still feel it was worth it, even if the fun quotient was lacking. I did come back with some nice cigars, so there’s that.

But I couldn’t help feeling sad as I left that so many of these people who have paid so much to live in this ‘paradise’ will soon see paradise lost.

The whole island is unsustainable and, well, nature bats last.

Some rich man came and raped the land, nobody caught ’em,
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes and, Jesus, people bought ’em
And they called it paradise, the place to be,
They watched the hazy sun sinking in the sea

                                             — The Eagles ‘The Last Resort’

Pre-Vacation Thoughts

I know it has been awhile since I put fingers to keys. I am sorry but sometimes I simply cannot write more than a few paragraphs. It’s hard for me to remember how much I loved writing, especially during my career in journalism. Now that that’s forever over, it’s tough to write when you know only a handful of people will ever read it.

I tried writing for Medium, but I don’t know their editors and I would seriously question their credentials. I know what real editors are – trained in J school, seasoned on the copy desk and on the beat – with years of experience to do a good job. If that makes me a dinosaur, I don’t care. If they’re going to knock down what I write for specious, unknowable reasons, it’s no better than writing for a blog no one reads. They seem to have a star system there and I won’t abide by it.

Another example of my increasing fuddy duddy-ism is an article I read this morning in the NY Times (who did not allow comments on which I find infuriating). The article was on the crass morons who attempt to video classical concerts with their phones. This line especially was infuriating:

“Some observers suggest that the restrictions on audience behavior are snobbish, elitist, or even manifestations of white privilege.”

Well, some observers are wrong. It seems like certain ‘weapon-words’ can now be wielded at any social convention that gets in the way of spoiled brats who insist their lack of manners of common courtesy outweigh an artist’s desire to perform and the audience’s right to enjoy, a performance without being interrupted by these phone-heads.

Yes, I have a smart phone. When attending an event as I did on Broadway a few months ago, the phone is OFF and in my pocket where it remains for the entire performance. What the Hell is so difficult about that?

I’m so done with this ‘woke’ shit. It’s weaponized for the sake of cultural power trips and causing a backlash among the very people who could be persuaded if they weren’t being blindsided with accusations. I’m surprised they didn’t say manners was also an example of ‘toxic masculinity.’

Call me what you will, I don’t care anymore. Is it any wonder I’ve withdrawn from all social organizations and become a semi-hermit? You can’t get embroiled in this ‘holier than thou’ nonsense if you avoid it all together.


In the end, none of this will matter in a few years when we’re fighting for our very survival thanks to climate change plus economic and political upheaval. A lot of nonsense will fall by the wayside when a head of lettuce costs $100 and arrives at the grocers once a week.

I also get amazed at people whose reactions to the upcoming upheaval are to find arable (for now) land somewhere, but it and take up farming. As anyone who has ever farmed will tell you, it’s not something you can just learn from reading a ‘dummies guide to farming for societal collapse.’ It is fucking hard work and completely dependent on a climate that is going to turn very inhospitable to American staple crops in a few years. Your crops will also have to be guarded 24-7 for obvious reasons.

But knock yourselves out. Me? I’m buying freeze dried food that lasts 25 years. I don’t expect to last 25 years.

I’m about to embark on what the odds say will be my last grand vacation – a road trip to Key West. I plan on making it a semi-travelogue to chronicle the effects of climate change on the Southern states, as well as the, um, cultural uniqueness of the South.

There will be much to video as the South has now been hit with a flash drought and Florida itself is overrun with giant snakes, iguanas falling from trees and apex predator mosquitos. Key West itself is suffering from the same phenomenon afflicting Miami – sea water is seeping through the limestone the city sits on and coming up through the sewers and drains. The entire area along the Atlantic coast to the Keys is living on borrowed time, hence I have named this the ‘Say Goodbye to Florida Tour.’

It has also caused the usual nostalgia I get when replicating (somewhat) family vacations from the 70s and previous trips to visit a friend living in Florida in the 90s. I expect to find a totally different state now.

The family vacations were on the other side of the state – to what was a sleepy hamlet named Holiday, about 15 miles north of St. Petersburg. It’s now a typical Tampa Bay area suburb. I recently Google street searched where my grandparents (whom we visited in 1971 and ’72) lived and found the once pristine neighborhood is now shabby and run-down.

The vacations were some of the rarer fond memories of my childhood. I used to count down the days until we left and found the idea of exploring unknown lands exciting. In the early 70s, not all of I-75 was complete through Tennessee, so you have to get off the interstate south of Knoxville for a 30-mile trip down US 11. The road would be lined with desperate tourist shops displaying large Confederate flag bath towels and other such things. I say desperate, because these merchants knew once the interstate was finished, so were they.

And we’d carefully make our way through Lenoir City, mindful of the speed traps (or ‘Yankee traps’ as they were known then) as we made our way through scenes which had not changed much since the 50s.

So much about travel, even by car, has changed. My father would have been blown away by GPS maps that talk to you so my mother would not have to fumble with the map and then give it to me since I was a far better navigator than her. TripTiks from AAA helped as they were small and compact, told you a little about the terrain you were covering (“traverses rolling hills and pecan farms. . .”) and also marked where the known Yankee traps were (“WATCH SPEED”).

He would also be amazed that the $150 he took in cash for the entire trip in 1971 would buy him one night in a hotel today. And who needs cash (or traveler’s checks later on) anymore when everyone takes plastic debit and credit cards? Wave the magic phone at a gas pump to pay for gas or at many other places as well. Dad would thought he’d stepped into Buck Rogers territory. But I remember how impossible it was to get a BankAmericard (Visa) or MasterCard (Master Charge) back in the day. Dad had worked for Sears for a decade and couldn’t even get approved for one of their charge cards.

So, you had to carry cash or traveler’s checks.

If you broke down, there was no Onstar or quick cell phone call to AAA or your car makers’ travel program or State Farm’s roadside service or any of that. You waited for a cop or started hiking to the next intersection’s gas station for a tow. It was a harrowing experience and one we don’t even think about any more.

Road side rest areas of the early 70s were absolutely primitive by todays standards. Here and there you still found pit toilets! It was a real hit or miss in many states and finding a clean restroom was something you’d note for the return trip. Rarely were rest area and gas station restrooms up to the standards of your average Pennsylvania or Ohio turnpike rest areas of today.

Travelling the South, you’d look for Stuckey’s. Stuckey’s are still around, sort of, never a stand alone store any more but paired with a fast food/gas station. They were bought and sold over and over a long time ago so those are not the Stuckey’s old people like me would remember. They had a distinctive roof, pristine, air-conditioned interiors, clean restrooms, lots of pop and snacks and their famous pecan rolls. You noted them on the map for sure. There were McDonald’s but a low fewer than today. What was in season were the old-style family restaurants where chicken fried steak and cheeseburgers were always on the menu.

It’s so easy now. Your car’s computer tells you if there’s to be any breakdowns (usually) and Google maps or Siri will tell you where the nearest gas, food or anything you want is. Modern technology has taken a lot of the adventure out of vacation travel, but this is one instance I won’t be counted as a fuddy-duddy. I much rather appreciate the security of the smart phone on trips even though I do miss the mom and pop roadside attractions of yesteryear.

As for the cultural uniqueness of the South, I am putting a few magnetic bumper stickers on my car as magical talisman to make my trip safer. Nowadays, the big worry traveling, especially as a Yankee in the South, is road rage caused by Bubba taking personal offense at the Hillary Clinton 2016 bumper sticker you never quite got around to peeling off. You can see what I did in my latest You Tube video and follow the travelogue on the Facebook site.

So, there you have it – a new column where I will probably lose any readers I may have picked up from the South or offended Millennial liberals of whom this Hubert Humphrey/Scoop Jackson Democrat apparently has little left in common.

NFL Season Opens as World Burns

Last night in the opening National Football League bore-fest, the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 10-3 in front of a standing room only crowd of 62,435 at Soldier Field in Chicago, who were, no doubt, very tired when the game ended.

What does this have to do with climate anything?

I suppose we could add up all the carbon expended by the cars that drove, the lights that shone and the hot dogs consumed but everyone gets that. Putting a number on it engenders a yawn.

No, for me, the NFL season-opener, with a packed house and a national TV audience is indicative to me that ordinary life will, of course, continue until it can’t.

The Amazon, Central Africa and the Arctic are still burning. Just because the news editors got bored with the story doesn’t mean the disaster stopped. It’s just that here in the US, we have a sexier disaster occupying our screens – Hurricane Dorian (Dorian? What’s next, Hurricane Hortense?) which was most likely turbocharged by climate warming although if you missed CNN’s 60 seconds with Dr. Michael Mann you probably didn’t know that.

India and Africa continue to run out of water. The permafrost continues to melt, and methane continues to reach Heavenward to hasten our demise.

But the NFL Will Go On. (yes, go ahead and sing it in your best Celine Dion accent)

I’ve been a football (US version) fan all my life. The present-day NFL only dimly resembles the game I remember as a kid in the 70s, but I still watch, out of habit (and rooting for the Steelers) more than anything. I used to live and die with the results, especially of my hometown Cleveland Browns when I was growing up, but when my adopted Pittsburgh Steelers lose, I feel about five minutes of disappointment, shrug, and see whose on Twitter.

That’s a good thing I guess. I would chalk it up to maturity, but I think it’s more likely the dulling of the senses from anti-deps that have done the job. I stare at the TV when Trump is on. In my head things happen (very bad things) but I don’t move. I look at my laptop screen – same thing. I stare at things, I disassociate, I have that dumb thousand-mile stare so many Americans have.

I know what is happening with the Sixth Mass Extinction. I know what is happening right now all over the world. And yet, there it is: football on TV just like last year and the year before and the decade before and so on. In fact, the NFL celebrates 100 years of existence this year. I know it won’t go another 100 years, but it’s here again.

It’s reassuring. To me, to millions of Americans. The NFL only cancelled two weekends of football ever – 9-11 and JFK’s assassination. And Commissioner Pete Rozelle always regretted his decision of 1963 – the nation needed football to heal, he said.

What might be the first sign in NFL-land and in fandom, that something was amiss?

Lightning shows ARE becoming more common at football stadiums.

Well, flooding could halt games at the stadiums close to the water. The perfect candidate would be TIAA Bank Field, the home of the Jacksonville Jaguars. The stadium sits about 500 feet from the St. Johns River which runs to the Atlantic. However, being Jacksonville, the rest of the league may not notice it. Levi’s Stadium, home of the ‘Santa Clara’ 49ers, sits one foot above sea level.

Perhaps, and just as likely, it might get so hot at the University of Phoenix stadium where the Arizona Cardinals play, that, despite the roof, electrical circuits could fry, and one might risk heat stroke just walking from the blazing parking lot.

It might get too hot to play in many open-air stadiums – Los Angeles, Denver, Kansas City, many others.

But I would say that unless and until fans start routinely seeing games rescheduled because of weather-related events, most Americans will sit comfortably in their chairs and dream of Super Bowls. Baseball won’t count since it’s played in the summer. But the NFL, the acknowledged number one sport in the USA, start turning out the lights there (power outages would do it too) and people will finally sit up and take notice.

They’ll be mad as Hell, but they’ll take notice. Of course, it will be way too late at that point to do anything about it.

Of course, it’s sad. Sad that until the entertainment is interrupted most Americans won’t care. But as long as all of the usual distractions go on while the rest of the world burns and floods, this is the way it will be.

And when we reach that point in time in America, all Hell will break loose.