Todd plans, God laughs

I’m typing this on my phone, so forgive the lack of links and polish.

The reason I’m typing it on my phone is that I have no wifi. Even if I did, I wouldn’t be able to type it on my easier-to-type-on iPad because I can’t find it. I think I left it in my overnight bag back at the hotel — this after checking the room at least twice to make sure I wasn’t leaving anything after a week’s stay. 

I should back up. I’ve moved to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, to take a job with Lutron, the lighting control technology company. My last weeks in Atlanta were hectic and anxiety-ridden, not least because I was leaving a place I’ve called home for most of my life, and also because — despite being quite conscious of my decisions — realizing how little control I had over the situation, emotionally and otherwise. I was at the mercy and schedule of movers, realtors, bankers and Georgia State University, where I was teaching. About all I could do was make sure the cats were squared away, keep my wife (away on a fellowship) informed, and hold on. 

Time was going to move whether I liked it or not.

So I gave my final, I let the movers do their thing, I closed on the Atlanta house, I picked up the cats and headed north. I had decent weather and the cats were well behaved. I got here last Saturday and checked into a Staybridge Suites in advance of my first real week at Lutron. (I actually started in March, but knew I was headed back to Atlanta for six weeks.)

The work was fine. But I also closed on my Bethlehem house, a twin built in 1907. It’s been well cared-for, but you still can’t compare it with a modern residence built in 1992. We had an amazing and large kitchen in Atlanta; here there’s barely enough cabinet space for glasses and plates. Our master bedroom had plenty of space and an adjoining bath; this four-bedroom place has one bath, total. (We’re planning/hoping to add a second, but see the title of this post.) We chose it for location — it’s walkable to downtown — and knew what we were getting, but still …

Anyway, aside from the mountains of boxes, the house has taken on a smell. The next-door neighbor says a skunk must have gotten under the porch, or maybe he got in a fight there. Either way, the stink ranges from annoying to bad. I called a pest control guy, but he can’t get here until Friday. I’d open the windows, but the skunk mating (presumably — apparently this is the season, and if the female doesn’t like the male …) has coincided with a cold snap.

Meanwhile, I can’t find the green bag that contains the iPad. I could swear I threw it in the car, but I don’t see it in the house, and I put everything down in the same area. There’s a possibility it’s buried, but I’ll bet I left it — which means, goodbye, iPad. (Yes, “Find my iPad” is activated, but it only works if it’s online, which it’s not.)

And then there’s the endless unpacking. I haven’t even started on the books yet. I swear this time I’m going to get rid of most of them. Moving is hard enough without toting around dozens of boxes of books you’ve read — or may never read. I’ll let the libraries take over.

Anyway, I’d say things can only get better, but I’m Jewish, so I’ll assume nothing. (Next steps include changing my car license and registration, but Pennsylvania’s car registration rules are onerous — a non-laminated Social Security card? I’m lucky I know where my SS card is! Fortunately, not with the iPad bag.)

The cats are enjoying things, though. And they’re a joy to watch. And next week Sarah will be here — as will the ISP guy. 

Incidentally, isn’t it time we make internet as easy a utility as water or electricity, in that you just call and they just switch the name?

Addendum, Sunday, 11:01 a.m.: I found the bag! It was, indeed, buried — and in a corner where it hadn’t been before. Yes!

A not-so-Trivial conclusion

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Trivia at Manuel’s Tavern, late 19th century. That’s me on the right.
Time only goes forward, but memory goes backward. So, as the days count down to the arrival of the moving van, I’ve been trying to look forward — packing up books, throwing away paper, making preparations — while attempting to avoid a confrontation with my emotions, which are mulling over the past.

It’s been largely pointless.

I’ve been in Atlanta for 26 years, not to mention my formative college days, and emotions come with the territory. I want to be upbeat as I open the new door — it’s an adventure, right? — but I’m all too aware of the one swinging behind me.

So it’s with some dread that I approach Sunday night’s Team Trivia at Manuel’s Tavern, my final show.

I can’t overstate how much of a rock Trivia has been. I arrived back in Atlanta the weekend of April 20, 1991 — almost exactly 26 years ago — and one of the first things I was told about was this “trivia game at Manuel’s.” So I spent that Sunday evening with (in my memory) my old Emory friends Tim and Alec at the Tavern. We won, too.

A year later I was hosting, and I’ve been hosting ever since.

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Au revoir, Atlanta

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Image from Atlanta magazine.
I came back to Atlanta in spring.

It was April of 1991, and I was still recovering from wounds inflicted by pieces of a broken heart. (I write this with apologies to my girlfriend at the time, who succeeded the one over which my heart was broken; she was instrumental in reawakening my soul, for which I’m eternally grateful.) Atlanta was where I had gone to school in the ’80s and stayed for a bit, working at a downtown hotel, feeling rich from the regular wads of tips I made as a bellman (which, in reality, probably added up to less than $15,000 for the year — but my share of the rent was $162.50 a month) and hanging out with friends from college. Some were figuring things out. Others had yet to graduate.

Four years later, some had left and returned; others had never gone away. I needed a place to start anew. I had $500 to my name and bills for many times that amount, but I felt comfortable in Atlanta. It seemed to fit.

And so I loaded my life into my car and drove back down I-85 into its hopefully welcoming arms.

Twenty-six years later, I’m getting ready to leave. I have a new job in the Lehigh Valley of Pennsylvania, and though I’m looking forward to it, I can’t say it’s been easy to prepare.

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Atlanta has world-class traffic

Downtown Atlanta
Image from WSBTV.com.

News item:

To no Atlanta commuter’s surprise, the metro recently ranked among the top most congested cities in the world, according to a new report by transportation analytics firm INRIX.

According to INRIX’s 2016 Global Traffic Scorecard, Atlanta ranked eighth in the world for congestion with the average commuter spending 70.8 hours in traffic each year.

Good to see that, along with having the world’s busiest airport, the Region Too Busy To Invest In Mass Transit also has some of the world’s worst traffic. We are an international city after all!

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What I learned from going through my old college transcripts

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I recently requested my undergraduate transcripts. I hadn’t seen them since I graduated in 1986, nor had I thought about them much. (After all, the diploma is on the wall.)

So seeing them brought back a whole host of memories — or, in some cases, empty spaces. Herewith some thoughts as I dig into my wanderings on the bucolic quad of Emory University:

Math 111 (Calculus I). I got a D in this class, taken the first semester of my freshman year — the only D and worst grade I got at Emory. (Hell, the rest of college I had only two C’s.) I took it because a) it was a logical step after Advanced Math in high school; b) it was part of a list of requirements (though I could have substituted something else). The professor, who had obviously dyed hair, had just returned from some time off and had no idea how to teach freshmen. I, in turn, had no idea how to calculate a derivative. Can I drop this course now?

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#SuperBowl: Too many runs

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Image from AJC.com.

My wife has a saying: “Too many runs.” Those are the games in which your team jumps out to a big early lead. As a fan, you get cocky. This is easy. We’re crushing them.

Faltering at that point doesn’t happen often, but still, “too many runs” should be a warning. (My wife knows — she’s from Cleveland.) For whatever reason, your team can’t hold the big lead. As Hemingway once described going bankrupt, it happens gradually, then suddenly.

The next thing you know, your team has endured a terrible loss.

The Falcons had too many runs.

They were up 21-3 at halftime, then 28-3 midway through the third quarter. Arthur Blank was dancing in the owner’s box. Local sportswriters were burnishing their prose. Then a fumble, poor play-calling (why not three running plays when you’re in field goal range with a chance to put the game away?), a sack, a holding call, an amazing catch … and the lead had slipped away. The Patriots won in overtime.

The sting from this one will last a long time. My social media feed was full of comparisons: the Bills-Oilers playoff game. The 2016 election.

I thought of Jim Leyritz.

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Snow in Atlanta, panic on TV

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Photo by Moni Basu.

I just flew in from Philadelphia, and boy, are my eyes tired.

They’re tired because I should gotten back last night and spent the night in my own bed, getting a good night’s sleep. Instead I spent the night in Philadelphia and had to get up early this morning to catch a flight to Chicago and then another flight to Atlanta.

The reason? Fear of snow.

American Airlines canceled my 6:30 p.m. flight Friday because Atlanta was supposed to get socked with about four inches of the white stuff. (American must have had problems with crews; Atlanta-based Delta’s Friday night flights went through as usual.) Meanwhile, though Philly already had a couple inches on the ground, everything was hunky-dory.

In one respect, I can’t blame American. If they were watching TV news, they would have thought Armageddon was coming.

Atlanta does not handle snow well. This makes some sense; the city sees maybe one snowfall a year, and between unfamiliarity with frozen precipitation, a plethora of hilly, two-lane roads and the risk of fallen trees, the city can be easily brought to a standstill.

But the news doesn’t help.

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Sunday read: In memory of Turner Field

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Coming soon to an Atlanta baseball park near you. Image from Aplus Sports and More.
I think we can all agree that Turner Field, the Atlanta Braves’ decrepit, rotting old ballyard at the corner of the Downtown Connector and I-20, passed its expiration date years ago.

The wifi was terrible; the bathrooms, in my memory, consisted of plastic buckets and wads of old Sears catalogs. (I mean, no bidets? Seriously?) Skip and Pete died. So did Skip & Pete’s BBQ.

Hell, the place was built when Bill Clinton was president. That’s like a whole generation ago. The iPhone hadn’t even been invented yet!

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Manuel’s Tavern update: The return of Team Trivia

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Image by Todd Leopold (that’s me on the right) of a 1998 photograph by Shawn “Smack” McElroy.

I recently did the #firstsevenjobs thing on social media. Many of my positions were short-lived: summer jobs, jobs to save up for school, jobs to eke out rent money. The shortest lasted probably two months; the longest, a little over a year.

At the other end of the spectrum is my weekly Sunday night gig as Team Trivia host at Manuel’s Tavern. As of next March, I’ll have sat in the emcee chair, on and off, for 25 years.

Tonight I’ll be in that chair again for the first time since last December.

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On Ichiro and Dodger Dogs


I just spent a warm afternoon at Dodger Stadium, watching the home team lose, picking up a sunburn and generally enjoying the atmosphere. It’s baseball, after all, and the game’s pastoral roots still resonate with me, even in the midst of Wi-Fi and urban sprawl.

Of course, I live in Atlanta, where the home team is about to leave a perfectly good 20-year-old stadium for something even newer and more Wi-Fi-oriented in the urban sprawl far from downtown. It’ll be the second time the team has moved since coming to town — a team whose history in Atlanta postdates the 1962 opening of Dodger Stadium by four years. (Ironically, for all the complaints about urban sprawl in L.A., Dodger Stadium is only about 2 miles from the now-revitalized downtown.)

But tradition was never the name of the game in Atlanta. I like Turner Field, but in execution, it’s closer to a baseball theme park than a baseball park. It’s no wonder that the Braves’ spring training home is Disney World (at least for the time being — watch your pocketbooks, Florida coast dwellers!). The team management is about fan service, which is admirable if the fans care about baseball. But Atlanta fans prefer an experience, which means baseball takes a back seat, particularly when your team is playing .350 ball. That was true even in the Maddux-Glavine-Smoltz glory years; I once attended a game in which Maddux was pitching a shutout against the Cardinals, whose starter — Alan Benes — was pitching a no-hitter through eight. It was a Friday night in May, so not a school night, and the two pitchers zipped through the first nine innings in maybe 1:45. And yet fans were leaving after the seventh. I’ve often thought they should be banned from ever attending another baseball game.

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