This Week in Awkwardness

I got my train ticket booked!  I’ll be taking Amtrak’s Silver Star 934 miles from Orlando, Florida to Alexandria, Virginia.  I keep trying to figure out how to get from St. Mary’s City into D.C. without a car, and even though there’s a ton of public transit through there, it’s pretty much impossible because the times just don’t match up.  I think if I want to go anywhere I’ll have to take a bus to Lexington Park and rent a car.  Maybe one of my fellow students who does have a car will want to go places or at least let me borrow it.

This week I visited International Plaza, the fanciest shopping mall I’ve ever been to.  Valet parking, chandeliers in the food court, Tiffany jewelry store on the premises kind of fancy.  I couldn’t find so much as a pair of pants that didn’t cost my whole paycheck.  I wandered into one store wondering if this is one of those places that I REALLY don’t belong, then found a ratty pair of jeans on the clearance rack marked down to $85 from $245 and was like YUP.

I discovered SkyScanner, which is not just any old flight search engine – it searches all the flights from entire COUNTRIES over months at a time to find the best deals, so if you’re flexible about when you travel and exactly which cities you fly out of and/or into, it’s a fantastic resource.  My days of wandering through multiple airline sites plugging in various cities and seeing what happens are over!

Added to the Travel Map:

Karlu Karlu, Northern Territory, Australia – piles of giant boulders also known as Devil’s Marbles because Satanic placenames rule I guess.

Foundry Branch Trolley Bridge, Glover Archibold Park, Washington, D.C. – abandoned in the woods.

Dinosaur Kingdom II, Natural Bridge, Virginia – a museum depicting Civil War soldiers fighting dinosaurs.

Devil’s Hole Ruins, Cresco, Pennsylvania – remains of….something – a ski lodge, a speakeasy – nobody knows.

Map Rock, Melba, Idaho – ancient petroglyph map of the Snake & Salmon Rivers, carved into a rock.

Livraria Bertrand, Lisbon, Portugal – world’s oldest still-operating bookstore, established in 1732.

Asik-Asik Falls, Alamada, Philippines – waterfall in a lush jungle, only discovered in 2010.

Bayers Lake Mystery Walls, Halifax, Nova Scotia – another set of stone walls that nobody remembers the purpose of – five sides, maybe a fort.

Just Pretend it’s the Zombie Apocalypse

I’m going to do something uncharacteristic and tell you a little of my personal background.  I’m from Flint, Michigan.  I lived right in the heart of the city for two years, and spent the vast majority of my life in various suburbs of it.  Both of my parents worked there, my grandparents go to church there, I went to college there.  You may have heard of Flint.  Built & then abandoned by car manufacturing, crime & unemployment run high.  It’s been in the top 3 on the U.S. murder rate lists every year for at least a decade.  Lately, Flint has been in the news for having an undrinkable water supply.
Some people seem to think that the people of Flint voted to switch their water supply from Detroit to the Flint River because it was cheaper.  These people don’t know anything about Flint because anyone who lives anywhere near Flint knows that you don’t mess around with the Flint River.  Eighty years of industrial waste, they find bodies in there all the time, you certainly don’t DRINK that.  But our lovely governor Snyder appointed someone who knew jack-all about Flint, the residents, or the river, who had absolute power over the mayor, the city council, and everyone else who had actually been ELECTED to their positions, and HE was the one who made the call to run that filth into people’s homes.  It was every color except clear, little kids started getting rashes, people’s hair was falling out, but no, they said, it’s fine, boil it a little, everything’s alright.  Then they admitted maybe it wasn’t perfect and started giving out filters, but the problems persisted.  FINALLY, after A YEAR AND A HALF of the lucky people filling bathtubs bit by bit with bottled water, filling jugs at friends’ houses outside the city, and the unlucky ones just drinking it because they didn’t have the means to find another source, the powers that be said oops, there might actually be a problem here.
As it turns out, they had to put an awful lot of chemicals in the river water to make it safe to drink, and since nobody bothered to add an anti-corrosive to the mix (like we really need to be drinking that too), it was eating the lead pipes as it made its way into people’s homes.  The filters they gave out don’t remove the lead, and boiling the water only makes the concentrations higher. It’s actually so noxious that the few  factories that remain can’t use it because it destroys their machinery.  Oops indeed.
All that lead is now settled in the systems of thousands of little kids, and there’s no telling what the future holds for them.  They could have developmental and behavioral problems for the rest of their lives because the state wanted to save a little money.  Years from now we’ll be seeing them in mental health clinics, special education programs, and prisons.  They’ve switched the water back to the Detroit source, but the damage is done, the destroyed pipes are still leaching toxins and will have to be entirely replaced.  Who knows how long that will take, or how much it will cost.  The people of Flint can’t afford to fill bathtubs with bottled water, on top of the bills that the city is still charging them for unusable water.
Forget the question of how he still has a job, why isn’t Governor Snyder in JAIL?  If anybody else poisoned an entire city’s water system they’d be labeled a terrorist.  Meanwhile Nestle siphons millions of gallons out of Lake Huron and sells it back to us at obnoxious prices.  It looks like people who can actually fix the problem are finally starting to pay attention, now that Flint is in the media everywhere.  They’ve declared an emergency & sent the National Guard in to hand out bottles of water and filters that actually do work on lead.  U.S. Marshalls have been told to bring the emergency manager to a hearing after he declined Congress’s invitation.  I imagine Snyder will be next.  It only took two years.