This is an excessively long post, but I’ve included photos to take the edge off. As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I’ll soon be leaving Atlanta. Because this is my final live post, it seemed only right to make it a tribute: ten weird, wild, and wonderful things I didn’t know about Georgia before moving here.

1.  IT SNOWS
I knew it got cold in the South. I’d been in New Orleans in January when all the fountains froze—when the waterfall at the Audubon Zoo became a sheet of ice. What I didn’t know is that it actually snows in HOTlanta.

My second month in Atlanta, this happened:

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A fluke, I was told, an exception, nothing more. Oh really? Because during my second year in Atlanta, this happened:

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IMG_4406I’ll fire up the BBQ. You relax on the chaise. What would you like to drink? Sweet tea, you say? Read on.

2.  SWEET TEA: IT’S EVERYWHERE YOU WANT TO BE
I’d heard of sweet tea before moving South, but here it’s a staple. You’ll find it in the soda machines right next to the Coke, 7-Up, and Mountain Dew. Confession? I’ve never tasted the stuff. I don’t much care for sweet drinks of any kind, and I take my tea straight-up or with a twist of lemon. Sweetener? Don’t make me laugh!

3.  WINDOWS STEAM UP … ON THE OUTSIDE
We’ve all dealt with condensation. Who hasn’t had to run the defroster in their car? Until I moved to Georgia, the condensation was always on the inside. Well it’s humid here, and when it’s warm, windows and windshields fog up on the outside. This is not something you see on the West Coast, at least not anywhere I’ve lived. The pic below of exterior condensation was taken very early on a warm June morning.P1010521

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4.  UNIQUE WILDLIFE

4a.  BABY GOT BUGS
They got big bugs and I cannot lie. Southern insects are large and noisy (except for the mosquitos which are small, quiet, & bloodthirsty). First time I walked outside and saw a palm-sized cicada hanging off the side of my house, I nearly fainted. I didn’t know what the ugly thing was. 2013 is supposed to be the 17 year Swarmageddon of the cicadas (the periodical variety rather than the annuals), but I’ve seen and heard far fewer of the lovelies this year than in the past. I’d include a photo, but cicadas creep me out and keep me up at night with their …  ahem … song. They may not bite or sting, but harmless? I think not.
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4b.  WOODCHUCKS, CHIPMUNKS, AND LIZARDS, OH MY!
Until I moved to Georgia, the only chipmunks I’d seen were Theodore, Alvin, and Simon. Georgia has chipmunks, woodchucks (aka ground hogs), and really cool lizards. Found this little guy in my backyard trying to mate with a garden hose—seriously..

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5.  LUSH AND GREEN ALL YEAR LONG

Do you love trees? I do, and this state has plenty. Even if you were to cut away all the Kudzu—good luck with that—Georgia would be lush and verdant by anyone’s standards. That’s because it rains a lot here. I used to live in Seattle where complaining about the rain was a favorite local pastime. Sorry Seattle, you can’t compete with Atlanta when it comes to wet weather. Annual rainfall here is around 50 inches, in Seattle about 37. Because there are so many trees, many of which are pine, there is also a lot of pine pollen, known locally as yellow snow. In spring, you will often see pine pollen traveling in golden clouds searching for something to coat. Fortunately, I’m not allergic, but it is messy, messy stuff.
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6. GARDENIAS THRIVE

Gardenias are my favorite flower. I’ve tried [unsuccessfully] to grow them for years. One day in June a couple years back, I walked into the yard of my new house and smelled that unmistakeable gardenia scent. I had to find where it was coming from. Atlanta lies along the boundary of the Piedmont, so the backyard is terraced. I stepped down to the lower level, and there behind the grotesque stone barbecue island thingy (pictured in the snow photo above) were two enormous gardenia bushes in full bloom. In fact, those bushes are in bloom at this very moment. Heavenly.
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7.  ENORMOUS HOUSES

Houses here are big here. I mean really big. Pictured below is my first house in Georgia. I had three empty rooms and one huge empty basement wired, plumbed (yes, there was a second kitchen area), and set up as a home theater. It’s where I stored my moving boxes. At present I live in a smaller house with only two empty rooms. Hey Georgia, where are your cute little bungalows?
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8.  NATURAL GAS IS UNREGULATED
Northern California has Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E), Seattle has Puget Sound Energy (PSE), Massachusetts has National Grid, but Georgia is the only state to boast a competitive market for natural gas service. Gas customers are expected to price different providers and chose the best rate. Each provider tries to lowball the other, attempting to lure customers into this or that great rate for a year or more. Frankly, it’s annoying as hell. Since all gas comes from the same place, these companies are essentially competing to see who gets to bill the customer. I understand Ohio is headed in a similar direction with natural gas. Ohioans, it’s not too late. Stop the insanity!

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9.  COASTAL WATERS ARE WARM

Southern coastal waters are toasty! At least off Georgia’s Tybee Island in early spring. On the West Coast, even southern waters are cool, and if you travel north you’ll veer into damn cold. My advice? On a sweltering day in Savannah, don’t plan on running to the beach to take a refreshing dip in chill waters. You will be disappointed.
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10.  FIREFLIES
Most magical discovery ever! I’d never seen a firefly before moving to Georgia. They are a wonder to behold, especially en masse. I’ve tried to take photos but to no avail, so I borrowed this one. Is this little guy adorable or what?

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Your turn!
Share something special and wonderful
about someplace you’ve lived.

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