Monday, December 31, 2007

Cosmopolitan Charlestonian 2007 Round-Up

Often times we catch ourselves saying, “Wow, we sure do live in interesting times.” Recently we learned this saying is actually a Chinese curse, and a blessing. 2007, if nothing, has been interesting. So, we bring you our year-end round-up of events as well as some random residual thoughts left of 2007. Cheers for the coming New Year!

2007 found this pair leaving behind our vehicle and moving solely to a life supported by public transportation. Our “dream car” was a Jaguar. We worked hard to have our dreamobile and it was eventually realized. Nearly six years ago, in a country of easy credit, we were astonished and proud to have achieved our dream far earlier than the typical mid-life crisis estimation. Why not be proud? Nice car, nice house and you’ll be happy forever, right? We were culturally more than acceptable. But as ironies go, shortly after getting the Jag, we heard about peak oil theory and decided to look into it. At that point we began to see the true price of car ownership - false self images, extensive environmental damage, war and the extent to which this country will go to resist change. We felt hoodwinked. Obviously, if you’ve been with us since the beginning of our blogging escapades you will recognize these costs and understand their full breadth as they extend far beyond the prices paid at the dealership and the pump. After several books read and many hours of research we arrived at the conclusion that “happy motoring” will eventually be limited, so why not just get on with it and figure out a better way to live. Between the population boom, leveling of economic playing fields via globalization and the squandering of our resources, it’s pretty obvious this party ain’t goin’ on forever. Now that gas prices are estimated to reach $3.50 by the 2008 summer travel season we are pretty darn happy to have shifted away from a dream that was an albatross in disguise. We urge you to tell Mayor Joe, your individual County leaders and our State politicians that Charleston must grow its public transportation systems at once to further secure our economic viability.

We highly recommend getting out of your car(s). Our decision in 2007 put us in a very unique situation. We are now qualified as Charleston Area Regional Transit Authority critics. Although you may enjoy knowing that aside from the vast expansion of transit as necessity, there are many wonderful elements to commuting by bus.

- CARTA gives out a free copy of The Post & Courier each morning, but you’ve got to be quick! They’re usually all snatched up by 9:00 a.m.
- Public transit is safe. Since we began riding, we have seen and heard about many automobile accidents. Sadly, some were fatal. However, not one CARTA bus crashed, nor was anyone hurt to our knowledge on a CARTA bus in 2007.
- Ride n’ Read as Bitsy says…we read A LOT! After months of observing and being observed, fellow passengers have worked up the nerve now to occasionally ask what we’re always reading, especially those that don’t [read]. “Whatcha got to read today?” A conversation usually forms thereafter. We’re beginning to form a deeper appreciation for the power of community diversity.
- For those interested in psychology, riding the bus provides daily lessons in human interaction, especially once one begins to follow the characters (wink).
- Carrying bags after walking to the grocery store has given us nice looking arm muscles.
- Walking or riding bikes to the grocery store has other benefits too. For instance, when you really have to CARRY IT ALL BACK HOME you make much better purchasing decisions. Freetos? Sure, they’re light but take up a lot of space in a book bag or knap sack. Sodas – too heavy and that potion will kill us anyway! If you’ve got to carry something 3 blocks, make it beer. We’ve also been shopping more often at the Farmers Market downtown since it offers a nice, organic supplement to the grocery stores. Good eats and very svelt waistlines for 2008!
- Getting out of the auto “bubble” opens one to actual human experiences before and after work. We’ve met some wonderful, nice, normal working people on the bus and it is a pleasure to say the least.
- No more road rage – our coworkers probably like that.
- We’ve met lots of our neighbors by walking everywhere we go. The Eastside is peppered with an abundance of wonderful residents who do not fail Charleston’s hospitable reputation with their good mornings, good afternoons and good evenings as well as warm wishes for each holiday that comes and goes. A few inquiring minds have questioned us on the sudden disappearance of our vehicle.
- Olympic busses with environmental plusses. The busses in Charleston run on natural gas which when burned releases less CO2 compared to oil/gas. Charleston bought those nifty buses after the Olympics were held in Atlanta a few years back. Atlanta bought a bunch of them for the Olympics brand-spanking new. They used ‘em for a few months and then Charleston recycled them at a nice used price. Charlestonians may remember that transaction. The busses are still in very good condition IMHO.
- Thirty-one Dollars. That’s our monthly expense for one unlimited bus pass. It’s only $1.25 for a random trip if not using a pass.

In other transit news this year, we learned Atlanta has opened Atlantic Station Commuter Café. The first of its kind, the Commuter Café is a “clearinghouse for transportation alternatives” for every resident of the live/work, mixed-use community. Jealous, we note they even have a car check-out service. But hey, it’s Hotlanta, right?

Speaking of Atlanta, and for a Dry Times follow up, we thankfully report they’ve gotten a little rain over that way. Previously parched, Lake Lanier rose just slightly since Christmas. However, they are far from out of danger with worsening drought conditions forecast. Maybe they’ll find a solution by next summer involving something more than prayer.

Certainly we could not have a year-end wrap up without mentioning our horror as we realized the State of South Carolina was represented over the course of a few weeks, by a mapless and quite possibly mindless Miss Teen SC in the speech she made on “U.S. American” television. Yikes. If only she had a map. Then she could get to Oz and finally take delivery of the brain that’s apparently been on order for eighteen years. After that she can organize trips to India and Africa to help Paris with all the drunken elephants.

Other interesting tidbits from around Charleston include the start of construction on the bike path along East Bay Street leading to the Arthur Ravenel Bridge, and the securitization of an 11 million dollar bond for revitalization and construction on the old Cooper River Bridge footprint where a lake/park, shops and much more is planned to be developed. That is also exciting news for the Eastside, formerly known as Hampsteadborough as developed by Henry Laurens in 1789 (a little Charleston history for you there).

The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian did some reaching out in our own small diplomatic effort in 2007 to overcome the saber rattling and scare tactics in the seventh year of a failed Presidential Administration. We found a tiny glimmer of hope in the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) reports released earlier this month regarding Iran’s “ceased” nuclear agenda. In a world running out of oil, it makes great sense for Iran to power their country with nuclear and sell off their black golden resource to others around the world, like China, for one. Our postings on Iran were made at the height of the propaganda production wherein they were accused of developing nuclear arms rather than reactors. We certainly have our fingers crossed that a higher road can be taken effecting shifting powers in the Middle East while subverting any additional, disastrous war plans made by U.S. Americans.

In 2007 we corresponded with some interesting people. We traded e-mails with James Howard Kunstler hoping to review his upcoming book, World Made by Hand, scheduled to be on shelves around March. We were not accepted this time, but still give the plug because his work is strong. E-mails were traded with Bill Settlemeyer, of The Charleston Regional Business Journal (Setcom Media) with kudos cast his way for splashing peak oil, global warming and great environmental debate amongst the pages of the business journal. It’s been time. We met Bitsy Parker of ValueWit, in Austin, TX through this blog. This femme-fireball blogger banned Christmas in her house and experiments on bus riding with children in tow and/or busy business luncheons scheduled. She found us and we’ve been comparing bus notes between Charleston and Austin ever since. Finally, The Mad Hatter of There Goes The Neighborhood, who also holds down the fort at Lowcountry Blog Jam (where he graciously accepted The Cosmopolitan Charlestonian’s inclusion on his blogroll) posted some inspirational thoughts and kept us going right at the beginning when it may have been easiest to quit. Thanks goes to the Hatter as well as Wendy who brought to our attention The Post & Courier’s blogroll so long ago. It’s a good one for staying up on what’s going down around town. Finally, friend, published writer and fellow blogger, Stacy Crew, provided great advice and inspiration. She can help with all your organizational needs.

In one last random thought, we share that we are not very good at conserving water. We’ll get better in 2008. It’s a resolution at least. Since learning of a water crisis that is hitting most states in the union, we’ve tried to reduce excess water usage. Thought it would be a no-brainer until one finds themselves letting the shower warm up, running the water while brushing teeth, etc., etc. We’ll keep you posted on progress in future entries and provide further information on this additional limited resource.

As midnight draws near, we leave this posting with hope for the New Year. 2007 is running short on its own imperfect measurement. Time is simply the river on which all life flows. May we all appreciate every breath experienced on this earthy plane and draw on each moment with a greater consciousness for a greater good.

We most certainly live in interesting times.


ramblinon said...

there are so many things these days that go bump in the night and hold you captive. I believe they call it progress, or a better way of life but I'm not quite sure if getting there is worth it. Coal replacing fossil fuel, that's a break threw until they figure out what that shoots into the sky. Small measures will be taken but there will be no quick fix. We the people no longer stand up for ourselves or run our country. Neither does the government for that matter. If corporate america isn't stopped or changed there will no longer be we the people

Harry Brinson & Stacey Barrington said...

Hitting the nail on the head.

You are not ramblinon; you are the hammer.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.