Posts Tagged 'Atlanta'

If a Tree Falls…

A massive limb fell across our front yard this morning, entrapping our car, which was fortunately empty at the time.

But what was eerie about the collapse wasn’t just the sheer size of the limb. It was the fact that it had looked so sturdy. It snapped out of nowhere on a sunny, windless morning. I thought that tree limbs fell because of storms, or strong winds.

It doesn’t seem to be all that uncommon an occurrence in tree-filled Atlanta. Several neighbors who walked by to observe the carnage said that the same thing had happened to them. They nodded sagely and said that Bradford Pear Trees were usually to blame.

I was impressed by how quickly the City of Atlanta came to saw up and take away the fallen tree. We called them at 8:30 AM, right when they opened for the day, and they arrived within the hour.

After assessing the damage, the foreman of the cutting crew said: “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but we’re going to have to take down the entire tree.” His tone implied that I would be dismayed by this diagnosis.

After watching the carnage caused by a tree that did not appear to be damaged, or hit by any lightning or other force of nature, I couldn’t wait to see the tree come down. In fact, I wanted to suggest that they take a few others down too, while they were at it, but they seemed ready to move on.

They suggested that I call an “arborist” from the city to check the health and safety of the other trees. I never thought I would use a word like arborist in a sentence, but I guess that’s what living in a tree-filled city for a year will do to you.

What World Cup?

When the World Cup began, I was impressed by how many bars here in Atlanta planned to show the matches. Big signs promising drink specials and multiple television screens popped up outside several neighborhood establishments. But that was before I realized that very few people would patronize them.

A few bars here attract crowds on weekends, I have heard. But the masses of diehard hard fans who would go to pubs in London to watch the World Cup during the week, even at unsociable hours, don’t seem to be present here in Atlanta.

Maybe people are recording the matches, and watching them later in the comfort of their own homes. Or maybe they’re content to get live scores from their handheld devices.

But I feel for the bars who decided to open early, and offer breakfast specials to entice the legions of World Cup fans who don’t seem to be here.


If our car’s dashboard thermometer is accurate, temperatures hit 100 degrees fahrenheit today here in Atlanta. It certainly felt like it. And it’s only mid-June.

What’s alarming is that summer hasn’t officially begun yet. From the unofficial poll I have taken, Atlantans seem to be divided over whether this weather is normal for this time of year: some say it is, and others say that this June is hotter than they can remember.

They all seem to agree that as hot as it is now, August will be even worse.

World Cup Fever Hits the US

I am impressed by the level of excitement here in Atlanta ahead of the World Cup. There are signs in front of bars, coaxing fans to watch the tournament while drinking at their establishments; daily articles in the press (even LOCAL papers!); and conversations between people I never knew followed soccer/football, talking about where they play to watch, and who think they will win.

During the ’02 and ’06 World Cups, I was living in London, where you couldn’t avoid getting drawn into the hoopla: there were fans decked out in their country’s kit, screaming newspaper headlines, and constant World Cup chatter everywhere you looked.

Here, I expected football fever to pass the country by. But instead, people seem to suddenly be soccer fans, holding viewing parties, complete with barbecues, to watch the US play England on Saturday.

I hope that the excitement lasts, even if the US team doesn’t.

Spring Has Sprung

As if someone flipped a switch, springtime has come to Atlanta. It’s as though the tree outside our house looked at the calendar, saw that spring had begun, and decided to bloom.

Those buds are robust enough to withstand the hail storm that was recently swirling outside.

Despite the freaky storm, it still feels like a new season. In London, a cold, rainy day with bare trees could happen in August, just as easily as it could in December.

Here, the seasons seem to be more obviously delineated. It may be raining, but it’s still about 60 degrees — not bad for March.

But the blooming tree isn’t the only sign of the new season. As soon as the cat who lives up the road started to use our front yard as a toilet again, we knew that winter was over.

We hadn’t seen the cat since October. During his winter hibernation, he hasn’t forgotten the location of his favorite outdoor litter box.

We caught him in the act earlier this week. I know from experience that chasing him away doesn’t deter him from relieving himself outside our house.

So the onset of spring isn’t all about flowers.

Seriously, why is it so cold?

When we moved to Atlanta, we thought we were in for hot summers, a mere week of winter, and maybe a few crisp cool days in between. It was suggested to me that I might not even need a winter coat while living here.

In fact, an Atlantan told me recently that during most winters, she would wear flip flops, rather than shoes and socks, because the weather was so warm.

I find that hard to believe. Since October, the weather here has varied between chilly and freezing. While there were rare exceptions, like the Sunday in November when we held our daughter’s birthday party outside (that wouldn’t have happened in London without a sturdy tent), it seems like the temperatures have been relentlessly cold.

I have learned skills that I never thought I would master, like driving on snow and ice, and defrosting car windshields.

But for the most part, I find myself in a state of mind where I never thought I would be — nostalgic for British weather.

London was predictable. You might find a gray rainy sky in August, December, or April. And temperatures would probably hover between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit (that’s 10-15 degrees Celsius for my European readers).

Here, when it rains, it’s apocalyptic, with flood waters rising and big trees falling down. In London, it rains frequently, but it’s usually just a mist that you stop noticing after a while.

People here tell me this cold weather is unusual for Atlanta. But having lived here for more than a year, I fear it’s becoming the norm.

Snow Fear Factor

An inch of snow is forecast to fall on the Atlanta area today — maybe even as many as three — and schools aren’t taking any chances. Several of them have closed already, even before a flake has fallen.

Our babysitter for tomorrow night has already thrown our dinner plans into doubt. She told us that she didn’t think she could drive to our place because she’s concerned about how safe the highway will be.

Her worries are probably warranted. When it snowed heavily last month, the roads stayed icy until the temperatures rose — no road salting occurred.

But as a veteran of upstate New York winters, I’m blown away by the snow fear factor here in Atlanta. I have never witnessed classes get cancelled because of snow, when there isn’t actually any snow — just forecasts.

And those have been wrong before.


I have become a big sissy when it comes to the cold.

When other Atlantans talk about how bitter the temperatures here have been over the past week, I nod gravely, and exchange dramatic stories about the biting wind and the icy ground.

And it is cold here. This normally lively fountain on Peachtree appears to have frozen.

But then, these 30 degree days are balmy compared to most winter days in upstate New York, where I went to college. And here, most people tend to spend mere minutes outside, while they walk from their climate controlled houses to their cozy cars.

In New York, I would trudge through the rain, sleet and snow to the subway, then slide down icy steps to the train.

Here, I just spend five minutes defrosting the car. So really, I have no right to complain.

From what I gather, temperatures here are rarely this low. And I am out of practice with cold climates. While I was living there, London was generally pretty temperate. Now, of course, that seems like a distant memory. I really feel for Londoners; the roads and public transport system have been snarled by far less snow than what they’re seeing now.

But I wonder whether cold weather aficionados in Scandinavia and elsewhere think we’re all a bunch of whiners.

Atlanta has gone to the dogs

I don’t think I have ever seen so many dogs in one city as I have here in Atlanta. Every morning, there is a parade of people with their pets: from the tall, curly haired woman with the massive wolf dog to the mild-mannered man with two tiny dachshunds.

And we see them wherever we go. When we bought our Christmas tree, this friendly yellow labrador greeted us.

In London, dogs would appear en masse in parks on warm, rainless days, which were few and far between. Occasionally, you would come across them in pubs.

One of the charming aspects of British pubs was that many allowed owners to bring their dogs. There would be a bowl of water on the floor for the four-legged patrons.

Here, I have yet to see a dog in any drinking or dining establishment. But they seem to be everywhere else: on Christmas hayrides, school runs, Halloween trick or treating expeditions, and jogs in Piedmont Park.

I have never owned a dog, which some of my neighbors are seeking to rectify. One sends me pictures of orphaned and abused dogs who are looking for homes.

They are adorable, but I worry about my kids: my daughter screams and cries whenever she sees one (I am therefore keenly aware of dogs’ omnipresence in this town); and I wonder how the dog would amuse his or herself while we’re all at work/preschool.

One friend sends her two rescue dogs to doggie daycare while she’s at work during the week. I’m glad to know that such a service exists, but feel that we already spend a lot of money on human daycare.

Maybe when the kids are a bit older, we’ll join the masses of Atlantans with dogs.

Election Day Gratitude

I'm a Georgia VoterI took my toddler to vote for the first time today. But that wasn’t the only novelty of our trip to the polls today — it was the first time in nearly a decade that I’ve come face to face with an American ballot box.

For the past eight years, I have been voting by absentee ballot from London, so I had forgotten just how grateful campaign volunteers are for voters.

A truck covered with campaign signs and bumper stickers drove by as we left the polling station. People leaned out and shouted, “Thanks for voting!” even though they had no idea whether or not I had voted for their candidate — or even if I had voted at all.

I could have just been loitering with my kid outside the polling station, which was also a school, so that would not have been unusual.

The poll volunteers handed out free “Georgia Voter” stickers to adults and children. And they all smiled and told me how wise I was to introduce a little one to the practice of voting.

Of course, who enjoys pushing buttons more than a toddler? Choosing city councillors, judges and a mayor by touching a computer screen provided us with several minutes of entertainment, if not a lifelong commitment to civic duty.

As dual British/American citizens, my kids will be able to vote in not one, but two national elections. Last year, I was in awe of my newfound ability to cast ballots in London’s mayoral race, the US primaries and of course, the all-important presidential election, all in 2008.

Before I became a British citizen, I couldn’t vote in local elections — but of course, I was required to pay taxes (I learned why taxation without representation was so very irritating to the colonial settlers).

Now my British husband has to bear the burden of paying taxes to a local government he can’t elect. He will have to walk by the polling station, his shirt empty of the “Georgia Voter” sticker, without a single “thank you for voting” shout out ringing in his ears.

But when the UK elections roll round, I’m sure he’ll be pleased for an opportunity to cast a ballot in a hotly contested race for Prime Minister, long after the local election hoopla in Atlanta has died down.