I am writing this during one of those daily Florida monsoons, on Boxing day, 2012. I just closed the window. I got the joke pretty quickly. I know when the rains came because the screen and window are now plastered with rain. I expect by the time I finish writing this the rains, thunder and things I haven’t seen in months will be gone, leaving only more humidity.
My intention is to write about wonder and solutions. I am 41, and have only recently figured out what I wanted to be when I grow up. I have always had a hard time finding wonder in things, though it is a wonderful world to be in. I am writing to keep things new. Though the first five or six experiences of anything are transcendent, how many times can I have Doro Wot, Bahn Mi, or climb a mountain?
This is a blog against facile cynicism and mundanity. Even the mundane has power and wonder. Things are mundane because they are compelling.
I started down this path while in middle school. I wanted to be a conservation biologist. I focused my eyes when I studied the fish populations of the suburban watershed whree I grew up. I was amazed at the diversity of fish and animals right there amongst my world of roads, houses, schools and shopping. I wanted to know how to make cities and neighborhoods that worked as both nature and real estate. When I studied botany and landscape ecology at Clemson and the South Carolina countryside, I realized I was a city boy in stark terms. Not only diod I know that I didn’t want to live in the goddamned woods. When I was getting into transportation planning in my native Atlanta, I saw that I wanted to focus on solutions, not problems, and interactions, not single issues. My job at the time, in technical support, also taught me that you have to get people to want solutions. Just telling them what to do, speaking in academese or technocrate, or throwing money at the problem is not going to fix the problem. I wanted to look at solutions as if they would appeal to people, not just fix the problem as I saw it.
After my second graduate degree in transportation planning, I took the best job I could find in civil engineering, one that taught me the value of getting things built. Mostly roads, roads and more roads. There were bridges and stormwater to deal with too, but it was all for the love of roads. It forced to reconsider my cherished positions about conservation, without the luxury of working among an echo chamber of fellow travelers. Did I want to be effective, right, or paid? Few things focus our mores like bills.
I started writing and researching anew. Not in the smug satisfaction that my views were right, but what was keeping the right views from winning out over the mediocre views. Whose interests were being served by that status quo, and what tweaks could be made to switch to a new status quo?
Talking about problems is easy. It makes you look sophisticated and relevant, because we all have problems. Everyone whines. Talking about solutions is harder, because there are dozens of solutions for every problem, and they all fly in the face of the way things are done. People who suggest solutions are fools and are laughed at.
I’m used to that by now. Here’s to laughter.
The horn really makes this scene for me.