When I awoke this morning there was snow in our backyard. Actual snow. My wife and I were giggling like kids on Christmas morning.

This is our first Birmingham snow. We have only been Alabama residents for one week, and already we’ve experienced all four seasons. Maybe five.

I staggered from the bedroom and let two dogs outside to pee. They bounded into a snowdrift, kicking up tufts of white powder, barking like protagonists in a Jack London novel. Their noses were covered in confectioners’ sugar, their paws were blackened with mud.

They rolled around in the snowy grass like they were putting out fires. My wife was so overcome with glee that she joined them.

I haven’t seen her laugh like that in a while. It’s been a long year.

The world looked calm beneath the weight of the new fallen accumulation. There was heavy dusting on our camellias, on our daffodils, on the Virginia creeper, and in the oak trees. The neighbor’s pansies had gone to be with Jesus.


was a stubborn snow crust clinging to every horizontal surface. Snow on my truck hood. Snow on the green Waste Management bins. Snow on the neighbor’s cat.

Snow on powerlines, snow atop fence pickets, snow coating automotive hubcaps. There was even snow covering the statue of the Virgin Mary, perched in the garden of a nearby home. The poor Blessed Mother had an icicle dangling from her nose.

There were thick quilts of snow blanketing distant rooftops, bright white, catching the morning sun. There was snow on window panes, collected in street gutters, topping bird nests, piled on defunct satellite dishes, and on orphaned water heaters, lying dead in the yards of rundown homes.

This morning, when I drove into town to run errands, I passed the train, clacking along. There was a thick sheet of snow clutching to the tops of Amtrak passenger cars, the boxcars, the…

“Snow?” said my wife.

“Snow,” I said.

“You’re joking,” she said.

So I showed her the newspaper headline, which read: “Alabama Winter Storm Warning Issued: Up to 4 Inches Expected Tonight.”

“Snow in Alabama,” my wife said. “Have mercy.”

The paper went on to explain that a strong cold front was going to hit Birmingham on Friday, bringing a round of rain, possible storms and snow to central and northern Alabama.

And while I realize snow isn’t a big deal to most people in the continental U.S., to my wife and I this is an event which carries the same importance as, say, the installation of a new pope.

My wife texted everyone she knew.

We are from the Florida Panhandle. And Panhandle people like us have only seen snow a few times in our lives.

Back in 1977, for example, my uncle Tommy Lee reportedly saw “white stuff” falling in Okaloosa County, whereupon he called the sheriff’s office and reported that the unidentified substance was cold and flavorless, with no discernable psychoactive effects.


deputies told him to remain calm, and whatever he did, not to touch the stuff. In a few moments, Uncle Tommy Lee was standing on his rooftop holding a large enamel mixing bowl over his head, catching snow and singing “Bringing in the Sheaves.” He slipped and fell. They buried him with his bowl.

Another time it snowed in December of 2003. I know this because my wife and I were married that same month. Our family was excited that we might see flurries on the day of our wedding. My cousin gave me snow chains as a wedding gift.

Technically, it snowed a few days after our wedding. But you couldn’t see the snow with your naked eye. In fact, the only people who actually saw the snow were Florida State research scientists who used a neutron microscope.

Then there was the year it…

Day Four. We have been living in Birmingham, Alabama, for four days and I am lost. Hopelessly lost. Right now I am in interstate traffic and I have no idea where in the Lord’s name I am.

Also, it’s colder than a witch’s jogbra in this city. The temperature last night was 37 degrees and I couldn’t feel my digits.

Before you accuse me of being a weather wimp, I must remind you that I come from the Panhandle, where the median temperature is 103, and our hurricane season lasts from June to the following June.

So I was not ready for the freezing temps a few nights ago. My entire little family slept in one bed to keep warm, and whenever it got cold, my wife threw on another dog.

But that’s what you get here in the foothills of the Appalachians. Because when I asked the guy at the hardware store if it would ever warm up, he explained the weather like this:

“This is Birmingham, dude. You git what you git, and

you don’t pitch a fit.”

Which reminds me: I know all the hardware store employees on a first-name basis now. I’ve been spending a lot of time at Home Depot lately.

Since we are still busy moving into our house, my wife has been sending me on random hardware errands for items such as felt chair pads, shims, sink stoppers, and (Don’t ask) pitchforks.

I go to the hardware store four of five times per day, sometimes more. Sometimes I don’t even buy anything, I just wander the aisles wearing a helpless look, glancing at my wife’s list in a way that causes concerned employees to sidle up to me and ask if I need a chaplain.

Then an employee leads me to an aisle where my item is located and I am forced to choose between an infinity of options, colors, and denominations.


I hung an American flag on our house today. We just moved in. We have only been living in Birmingham for three days, but I thought it was time we flew the Stars and Stripes.

This house dates back to 1923, so this porch has probably seen its share of flags.

When Lindbergh flew across the pond, a flag whipped from these columns. When the Depression hit, and people stood in 10-mile breadlines, there was a flag here. When the kid who grew up in this old house went off to join a global war, and died in Europe, Old Glory was flying from the eaves.

So I went to the hardware store to buy a flag.

“Yeah, we got flags,” said 80-year-old hardware store employee, Steadman. “But I tell you right upfront,” he added, “flying a flag ain’t cheap.”

I thought Steadman was speaking poetically, but as it turned out, he was speaking from his wallet. Flags cost a small fortune.

First there was the oak

flagpole ($35.99), then the mounting hardware ($29.99), the flag hooks ($4.99 apiece), the masonry screws ($8.99), the masonry drill bit ($19.99), and of course, the flag itself ($69.99). For those keeping tally, that’s a grand total of $154.94. It would have been cheaper just to get a flag tattooed on my forehead.

But the American flag speaks to me. I wish I could give you some high-minded patriotic reason for why I spent hours hanging the Star Spangled Banner from my house, I wish I could be ultra poetic and tell you what a great citizen I am. But I’m not a poet. And my reasons are much more low-rent than that.

I just really like American flags.

I love being American. When I was young, people my age were hellbent on traveling to Europe to become internationally conscious. I was so jealous of my friend, Justin, who studied journalism in college. He…

This is our second day living in Birmingham. I am writing this while sitting atop a mountain of cardboard boxes. And I can’t believe this town is officially home.


How bizarre. I keep having to retrain my brain to refer to Florida as “the place I used to live.” Which just sounds so weird. But it’s even weirder calling Birmingham “home.”

Currently, our house is filled with shipping crates. All I see are cartons in each direction. From wall to wall. It looks like I’m drowning in an Atlantic of corrugated cardboard.

Earlier, for example, an Amazon deliveryperson rang the doorbell, but I wasn’t able to answer the door, inasmuch as I was wading through shoulder-high mounds of boxes in my living room.

So I simply shouted, “Just leave it on the porch!” And the sound of my voice caused a massive cardboard avalanche. I was trapped beneath boxes for three hours without food or beer.

The thing about moving is, until recently, I did not realize how much crapola we owned.

Judging by the amount of boxes within this house, I would estimate that we personally own approximately half the earth’s gravitational mass.

The worst part about unpacking all our wares is that I cannot decipher my own handwritten labels on many of the boxes. I have no idea what we were thinking when we tagged these crates with our runaway Sharpies. We must have been inhaling some major paint fumes because the labels are written in complete gibberish.

I am thinking here of one box in particular, which is marked: JAMIE’S PODE STOPES—NEW.

It is unclear what this label means. However, if we use our abilities as trained English majors, we can tell by the word sequence that this box contains a great many “stopes,” or more specifically, “pode stopes,” which evidently, according to the text, belong to “Jamie,” and are “new,” as opposed to outdated pode…

Day One. My first 24 hours living in Birmingham. And in the words of my boyhood idol, Sarah Ophelia Cannon, I am just so proud to be here.

But it’s loud in this town.

I am in our new house, sitting in my new office, staring at a blank laptop screen. I should be doing actual work right now, but I can’t concentrate. The county is doing construction outside my window and—


Pardon the noise, that was the sound of a backhoe plowing into my truck. My truck was parked on the street, but it has now been converted into a steel pancake. Also, because of road construction, we’re without running water.

“Could be worse,” says the construction guy, driving the backhoe. “At least you’re not without power.”

Thank God for little blessings.

Currently, it’s a perfect day in the ‘Ham. Overcast, with touches of sunlight peeking through the clouds. There are birds singing. There are white and pink camellia trees swaying in the central Alabamian breeze—


Construction Guy has just rapped on our

door to inform me that our water is going to be off for several more presidential administrations. I ask him how long, exactly, he’s thinking we’ll be without water.

The man takes a long draw on his Camel and gazes into the distance through hardened eyes. Then he sums up every bureaucracy in a few words: “We’re looking into it.”


I look out the window to see more heavy equipment and more workmen. There are more 16-metric-ton excavators rattling the ground so violently that my coffee has vibrated off my desk.

I’m afraid all these earthquakes are going to turn this house into a pile of rubble.

Our house is no spring zucchini. The structure was built in 1923, shortly after the birth of Cher, and believe me, it’s in fantastic shape. But it’s an old house, and you never…

I am an honorary Alabamian, even though Florida is my home state. It’s kind of a long story, but I promise, if you bear with me, this will be a complete waste of your time.

I first became Alabamian in a hotel lobby full of Alabama officials. It was sort of like spring break check-in at some fancy resort. Only these weren’t teenagers with suntans. These were white-haired people with sport coats and extremely low centers of gravity.

I went to the front desk and checked into my hotel room.

A guy behind me in line said, “So, you’re the keynote speaker for the Alabama Governor’s Conference?”


“Where in Alabama are you from?”

“I’m from Florida.”

“What? And YOU’RE our keynote speaker?”

“That’s right.”

To which he replied, “Huh!”

The enormous auditorium started to fill up. And I’m talking about a room the size of a rural school district. I kept having this feeling that I didn’t belong here. What was I doing? I’m not an Alabamian. I was starting to feel pretty dumb.

Another man shook my hand and said, “So, what part of Alabama

are you from?”

“I’m not,” I said. “I’m from the Panhandle.”

He gave a confused look, then he said “Why on earth did they hire YOU?”

So things were off to a great start.

I took the stage. I tapped the microphone. I said, “Hello, is this thing on?” But it turned out that the sound system was screwed up. What everyone heard was:


And that’s how the next forty minutes went.

When I finished, nobody was aware that I had concluded my speech because my voice was still reverberating in the airplane-hangar-like room. For all I know my voice is still echoing in that auditorium to this day.

The thing is, I truly love Alabama. That’s probably why I was asked to speak. I write more columns about Alabama than I…