Archive for the ‘Growing season’ Category

Let me see…it started, hmm, about six years ago. Yeah, that would be right…six years…because I was already an old fart, grumpy, getting fat, addicted to the boob tube, and looking for something to put a little life back in me. Juli suggested a garden, but my back and knees were a little more than messed up, and I really didn’t care about “playing in the mud,” as it were. It was the same year that television ads were touting this new tomato bag. You filled it with dirt and some other ‘stuff,’ and stuck a few plants in the bottom of the thing. Supposedly, and I sure was a skeptic, the tomatoes would grow below the bag. The TV, as you might imagine, showed a crop that looked like it was ready to be served at several, no, at a lot of kitchen tables. So, what the hell, I bought the bag, bought a few plants – I think they recommended three – and I hung the thing from an overhang out back where it would get the most sun. Not to be outdone, my California-born-and-bred companion decided that she was going to dig up some dirt, put in some peat moss and manure, and create a place for strawberries and onions…yep, I know, a weird combination…but then, that’s my partner.

That might have been the end of the story, except that we got a bumper crop of tomatoes, so many that I was bringing them to the gym to give away, and we had pretty good luck with the strawberries. The next year, it was tomato plants in the ground, including heirloom tomatoes, which had to be explained to this non-gardening gardener, some summer squash, and a couple of jalapeno plants. By this time, my ‘friends’ at the gym were asking, “When will you bring in more tomatoes?” What, I look like friggin’ Farmer Bish to you? Once more, Juli must have whispered some magic to all of the plants because in addition to the tomatoes, I was lugging cartons of other vegetables over to the gym for distribution. I have to tell ya, you bring home grown produce to people, and they really love it, particularly heirloom tomatoes which, at that time, were going for about ten bucks a pound in the local market…yeesh!

And so it went. My back and knees got worse so Juli built a raised bed that I could tend from a chair. By now, one side of the backyard was awash with lilies, roses, mint of various varieties, giant hibiscus, and a flock of other flowers. The original strawberry bed was extended and raspberry plants began to climb some trellises that my friend had, herself, constructed. Old, fat, and grumpy began looking forward to planting both seeds and seedlings. My bed, L-shaped, was about eight feet long on one end and six feet long on the other. I had my summer squash – yellow crook necked to you real gardeners out there – cucumbers, bell peppers (green only) and jalapenos. By now, I had switched gyms, but the folks at Planet Fitness were fine with me setting up a table – as long as they got first pick. Heck, what did I care, as long as people enjoyed what they took? A couple of years ago, I brought some heirloom tomatoes in and when one man came over to take a tomato, I suggested he try a Black Crim. “It doesn’t look ripe,” he said, but I explained that the purple and green color was just the way that particular heirloom was supposed to look. Saw him a few days later. Seemed he could hardly wait to tell me it was “the best damned tomato I ever had!”

This year, we are looking at something new and different. In addition to the raised bed, the flat beds, more flowers, and a greater variety of some vegetables, we are venturing into the world of bucket gardening. Juli watched a YouTube video of this couple in Virginia – Hollis and Nancy, by name – and Hollis demonstrated just how easy it is to grow potatoes and other veggies in 20-gallon or smaller pots. So, that’s what we’ll be doing…in addition to everything else. The seed potatoes have been resting in egg cartons in the dining room for a few weeks and, today, I cut them up so that their “chits” would grow longer. You heard me. Those old potatoes that spouted shoots that mom would throw out because she said they were no good? Well, come to find out, those sprouts are called “chits,” and they form the basis for new potatoes to grow. Thing is, my dad was an avid gardener, and I don’t ever recall him planting those old potatoes…ah, well. Be all that as it may, we’ll be growing Yukon Gold, Maryland Red, russets and a potato that is purple…inside and out. In addition, no more cucumbers in the raised bed. They, too, will be planted in buckets. It’s amazing what one can find at Costco; these plastic buckets look like wood, and we have to do is to drill drain holes in the bottom, set them on some bricks for drainage, mix up some garden soil, manure, and peat moss, and we’re off and running.

Truth to tell, if someone had told me seven years ago that I would find this new interest in life at my age, I probably would have told them they were full of that manure I mentioned. The word would have been a bit shorter, but you get what I mean. Frankly, I always thought my dad was a bit nuts for sweating and swearing over his garden. It seemed like a lot of work for very little reward. Times have changed and so has gardening. The pests that used to get dad so mad no long pose as much of a threat, and pests can now be kept away with a variety of organic pesticides like ground red pepper flakes, diamatatous earth, and Juli’s special, super-secret recipe – which includes beer among other things. As for me, the guy who would never go near a cow pie, I have no more qualms about getting in shit up to my elbows…as long as we get our veggies. The old saying, “It is better to give than to receive” really works for me. When I see folks at the gym smile as they pick up some of our crop, it really makes me happy. Fact is, one lady stopped by the bike I was riding just last week; “Will you have a garden this year?” she asked. I just nodded and smiled. Didn’t want to tell her about the potatoes…surprises are fun, too.

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Less than a month after graduating from college, I was walking down the aisle of a Catholic church in Waban – that’s one of the many villages of the city of Newton – marrying a beautiful girl that I had met seven months before in one of those quirks of fate ‘thingies.’ I had been exercising my option on a second major and doing some substitute teaching and on the first day on the job, was smitten with an arrow from Cupid’s quiver. She was smart, beautiful, and the weird part was…she liked me! I’d already had one bad breakup over this Catholic vs. Protestant religion idiocy, and while I wasn’t certain about spending a lifetime together, I was damn well certain that that would not get in the way with this girl.

Fifty years, three children, and nine grandchildren later, we buried the girl who’d become a woman, a mother, a grandmother, and my best friend. But as you would know had you read “The Dash” by Linda Ellis, it was neither the date of her birth nor the date of her death but that little line between them that made our lives together so wonderful. If there was ever any truth in the statement that “opposites attract,” it certainly applied in our case. She was an only child from a reasonably prosperous family and lived in a large city. I was one of three from a family that struggled mightily after the Great Depression and who, by comparison, lived in a rather small town. Finding one another as we did, well…you could only describe it as quirky.

The first seven years of our marriage was a series of highs and lows. The highs came in attending numerous shows in Boston, having a place of our own on the Cape and attending every performance that the Falmouth Playhouse had to offer; dining in some of the finer restaurants around and generally enjoying our jobs. She became Director of Admissions at Tufts Dental School, and I was slowly moving up in my job at Northeastern. We commuted together, tried new recipes together, did a few crazy things together that you don’t need to read about and in total, had a wonderful life. The lows came as we lost three children before they were born…and if you haven’t been there, it’s pretty low.

The first two children might have been called Irish twins, they were born so close together. The third came along a few years later. As those of you who are married well know, life with young kids is a life unto its own. They become the center of your universe. We were no different. Elementary school, Cub Scouts, Brownies, PTA, Little League, and a host of other activities combined to eat up that time formerly dedicated to plays, movies, and restaurants. In our case, swimming became the dominant focus. I swear that our car could have gone from Newton to the Brown University swimming facility on its own. As parents, we maintained our “slim” figures by sweating it out at day-long swim meets where the indoor temperature seemed well into the triple digits.

Then…she was gone. The kids, by now, were married with children of their own. The house…well, the house was empty…except for a man growing older with little to do. A few years later, a new lady came into my life…all the way from California. Life became worthwhile living once more. This love was different…and so was the lifestyle. From restaurants and shows, it became craft fairs and drives around New England. It was learning the history of this part of the country and teaching me the history of her part of the world. It was a renewed form of education. From Boston Duck tours to a helicopter ride.

The rite of spring became building of raised garden beds – she did the building – to watching seeds turn into summer squash, jalapeno peppers – wow, could they be hot – and tomatoes. I was taught about heirloom, pear, cherry, yellow, and beau coup other types of tomatoes. We had radishes – who the hell eats radishes – cucumbers, and even a season or two of green beans and peas. All of this was totally foreign to me and to what my life had been like. Other parts of the yard were taken over by a variety and abundance of lilies, sun flowers, forget-me-nots, and hyacinth. Roses included Mr. Lincoln, Queen Elizabeth, cocoa, roses-within-roses, yellows, reds, whites, pinks, and on and on. Flowers were planted that bloomed in early spring, followed by late spring, followed by summer. It appeared that color appeared from April through October. My new love sprayed with her own concoctions of both fertilizer and bug killer. Diatomaceous earth, normally used in the pool filter, became a barrier against slugs; lily beetles were plucked with tweezers, and tomato worms quickly learned the errors of their ways if they were gutsy enough to get anywhere near our plants.

Why do I tell you these things? Why would I lay a part of my life bare for all to know? There are many answers, but perhaps the most important one is directed at those who are widows or widowers. Life does not end when your partner dies. It does not end when the nest empties and only the two of you remain, often as strangers because so much of your time has been devoted to children rather than each other. You may have to learn to love again, but it will be a deeper love and yes, it will be a different type of love. And then, as I have said, you will be alone. Friends will come and they will go; few, if any, leaving the footprints on your heart that were already deeply imprinted. If you are as fortunate as I, and you may well be, someone will come along, and you, you will find a totally different world…again, just as I did. Remember, life is worth living to your very last breath.

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Ceratopogonidae; go ahead, you pronounce it you entomological genius – even I can pronounce the second one. What are cera…ah, forget it. You and I probably know them as ‘noseeums,’ those pesky little gnats, midges, or whatever that we rarely see, but that leave itchy little bites on our arms, legs, and places where we just don’t seem to be able to quite reach…door frames are often a cure for that. It’s like trying to kiss your elbow; you can’t do it so stop trying.

What in the name of the Good Lord has prompted this entomological – love that word – discussion? Well, it’s 2:00 in the morning; my girlfriend is sleeping peacefully; I can’t get back to sleep; and the gym doesn’t open until 5:00 a.m. I don’t want to turn on the television because that will wake the dog in her crate; she’ll start yowling to go out, and for all I know there’s a friggin’ coyote in the back yard who will attack the two of us…oh, no, wait a minute…it’s the black bears that have been straggling into our neighborhood recently. If New York is the City that never sleeps, my community is the one where they roll up the sidewalks by 10. The bathroom window is open and when I arose at 1:30 to empty my bladder, the only sound was the first splash before aiming at the porcelain so not to disturb the night silence – wouldn’t want to wake the birds before their usual chirping hour of 4:15.

As a consequence of all of the above, I began to consider the number of welts, bites, and other itchies of which my lady friend has been complaining about lately.  She has no idea from whence they come, but they are numerous and bothersome. I thought that when she called them “noseeums” she was being facetious; then I looked it up and that ‘c’ thing in the first line is an actual name for them. Therefore, with nothing better to do [other than reading the Kindle and I’m not impressed with the book I’m currently reading], I thought it might be nice to learn more about the noseeums. In Googling, I fully expected a blank page. Instead, I wind up with 250,000 references in 2.5 seconds.

So you see, despite my rambling, you have learned something this morning, and by the way, those nasty little bites can be treated by a topical antihistamine. Forget all that expensive stuff and check with your Walmart pharmacist. Their house brand, Equate, is pretty good stuff.

Well, we’ve exhausted that topic all the way to hell and gone; what other bit of fascinating and educational baloney can I toss into your Westinghouse?

Ah, yes…last June, we gave up on having a garden. June in New England last year might well have been considered the monsoon season in the jungles of wherever. Seeds rotted; plants were destroyed by mildew of all kinds, and we finally tossed our hands in the air and began depending on California and Florida fruits and vegetables…and they had problems of their own…all in all, not a great season. This year, however – I may be cursed since it’s only five days into the month – things are starting off well. The tomato plants have already set fruit; there are hundreds of raspberries on the bushes; we have green strawberries for which we have high hopes, and even the summer squash has poked its little leaves up through the soil. If we do reap a harvest, the “non-Little-Red-Hens-at-the-gym” will be very happy to share in our spoils. If anyone ever wanted to do the research, I’m quite certain that somewhere in these 800 plus essays, there is one that speaks of my brown thumb. However, the more I watch my partner do miraculous things with the ground, the more convinced I am that there is still some hope for this old man to grow something other than weeds. I was told that if I wanted summer squash, I would have to plant it. Therefore, those little leaves beheld a wonder for me to which the average gardener might have said, “Eh!”

Back now from the gym, sweaty and dirty since the dog jumped up and put her muddy paws on my white Under Armor workout shirt…honest, I hadn’t planned to wear it tomorrow; it just ticks me off. There is one sure sign that many colleges and universities have completed their academic year. There are more and more college kids coming to the gym…at 5:00 o’clock in the morning! Are you kidding me? Maybe, they have summer jobs and have to get their workouts done early in the day. It’ll be fine as long as they don’t use the equipment I want; then we may have all-out war!

I find that working out first thing in the morning really sets me up for the day, particularly the cardio workout. While doing weights is not my big thing in life, I also recognize its importance in maintaining upper body strength. I was reading recently that men begin to lose physical strength after the age of 40; since I’m damn near double that which explains a great deal. I see some of the younger guys piling on 45 pound plates and think, “Good luck; do one to many and your balls will pop out of your shorts and fall on the floor!” I suppose if one has to relocate buildings by oneself, pressing that kind of weight is okay, but jeez, gimme a break!

Final thought and if you have any suggestions, they will be welcomed and anonymity will be guaranteed: I’m working on a large piece of latch hook canvas using leftover yarn from the many rugs and other things that I’ve made over the years. It’s a “random rug” and has no particular pattern or complex design. If you’ve ever done anything like that, it would be nice to get some helpful hints. I rather doubt I’ll finish it before I join my wife [I hope] but any thoughts from you ‘hookers’ out there would be appreciated.

‘Til  Random Thoughts III or something else strikes my fancy, enjoy life and make it better for someone else.

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Somewhere out there is a child. He or she – probably a she since we’ve been such a male dominated society for so long and have really messed things up – may be in elementary school, possibly even in kindergarten or still in the womb. I’ll use the feminine pronoun from here out…she thinks a bit differently from most of her classmates; she looks ahead. She wants desperately to learn. Sometimes, the teacher actually goes to slow for her and she jumps ahead; sometimes she gets bored and finds herself in trouble. Who is this ‘girl’ who is just a bit different? Why she’s the next great American entrepreneur. She is the person who will make us think differently about…

…I don’t really know how this child, girl, woman will affect us, but she’s out there. She’s the seed, pushing harder than the others through the frozen ground to be first to break through and become the flower whose destiny is to achieve something of which no one yet has the faintest idea. She won’t be another Bill Gates, Madame Curie, Warren Buffet, or Marc Zuckerberg. No, here achievement will be greater in her field than those others. She will see beyond the horizons, where others are unable to see. She will be criticized, particularly by the male side of the ledger, but she will persevere, and she will change our way of thinking.

What will our kindergartner cum woman see that the rest of her counterparts will not? Oh, Lord, how I wish I knew. Thankfully, we, as a nation, have always been blessed by an adventurous few who have been willing to step up, take a chance, and make something good happen. Indeed, it is the foundation of America. Of the 104 arrivals who settled Jamestown in 1607, only 38 survived the winter, but 38 survived. When the “first comers” landed in the New World aboard the Mayflower, they were 102. When they landed at Plymouth, there were 99. By the time that first winter ended, there were only 50. But 50 were enough. It has been so throughout our history. There have always been those who have survived and who have wanted more. Their reasons have been many; all too often, we have said the reason was greed, and in a few cases that may have been so. While we talk about the decline of the middle class in today’s society, it can’t begin to compare with the nearly extinct middle class of the 19th Century…but we survived. Some prospered; some died…actually, they all died, as will we. As someone said, “Birth is a life sentence.”

Think about this: At one time, gasoline was a waste product. It was too volatile and flammable to be used in lamps and thus was thrown away. Along came the automobile and clean gasoline – the waste product – was perfect for powering the new engine. We’ve seen typewriters progress from manual to electric; from electric to self-correcting; from self-correcting to adding different features; from different features to room-sized computers; and from room-sized computers to something you can wear on your wrist.

What’s next? Sorry, but only our child in kindergarten has her finger on that pulse. She may not even be aware of what she will do, but she’ll do it. Perhaps she’ll find the cure for all disease, and although that will create its own share of problems, it’s certainly a positive. Perhaps she’ll eliminate surgery as an alternative form of cure. She may be the one to lead a colony to an earth-like planet in another galaxy or find the solution for peace in this fractured world.

Our little girl will not shatter the glass ceiling; her predecessors will already have done that. Of one thing I’m quite certain…she will not be political or a politician; their views are too narrow, and few of them are as visionary as they would have us believe. Another thing of which I’m certain is that her commitment to whatever it is she is doing is total. She will eat, sleep, and breathe it until her goal is accomplished. She will not be interested in a Nobel Prize or awards and accolades of any kind. Her reward will come with her accomplishment.

I deeply regret that I will not be around to watch you succeed, child, but I have faith that you will achieve; that you will change the world, and that the world will become a better place because of you.

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I’m going broke! No, this isn’t an appeal for funds, just a statement of fact. The reason for this is squirrels, chipmunks, rabbits, hummingbirds, gold finches, doves, and turkeys…yes, turkeys! Allow me to explain…

…Juli, my partner and lady love, is an avid gardener. She does not want garden pests such as the above have been known to be, to chomp on her vegetables or her flowers…her many, many flowers. Therefore, her solution to this potential problem is to feed the critters outside of the fenced yard to ensure that they will not become the ‘munch bunch’ on the inside of the fenced yard. Since a good part of the fenced yard is four foot high chain link, and since squirrels, rabbits, etc., can easily stretch their bods through this chain link, it makes some kind of sense to feed them outside…it says here.

You, dear reader, should be aware that we have two patios…sorta makes it sound ritzy, doesn’t it…it’s not. The patio leading to the back door is about twelve feet long and eight feet wide. This leads to a Florida room – I have no idea why the hell they call it that – and a door on the other side leads out to a larger patio that is the main entrance to the garden. Okay, got that?

For three years, everything worked wonderfully. Juli would toss out some feed for the critters and they stayed out of the garden…except for the occasional blue jay who would steal a raspberry or two and the occasional woodchuck who enjoyed plucking a few strawberries and leaving evidence of his deeds by dropping a load near the berries…nice.

Last fall, a couple of wild turkeys showed up on the patio. Wasn’t this just wonderful; we could sit in the family room and gaze out the window not only at the birds and the rabbits and…well, you get the picture, but now we even had a couple of wild turkeys; how marvelous.

This spring, as the birds returned, something else happened. The turkeys reappeared. This time, it was not one or two, but the whole damned family. At first, it was two mothers with their brood of nine. Up went the grain bill. Next, it was another couple of moms [hens if you prefer], this time with a gang of twelve. These were a bit older…and hungrier than the first family. My grain bill increased. Next came the five members of the turkey mafia; these are five of the meanest sum bitches you would ever want to meet. If there isn’t enough food on the patio, one or more of them will peck on the window until Juli tosses their preferred food onto the patio. Smaller birds, squir…you get the picture…they disappear faster than they do when a hawk swoops down for his periodic buffet – have you ever heard a blue jay scream when its being slaughtered by a hawk; not a pretty sound.

Anyway, this is why I’m going broke. You know the expression, “You’re eating me out of house and home?” It’s generally reserved for teenagers shortly after they’ve gone through that growth spurt that all teenagers seem to go through. This is nothing like that. Okay, two or three, even four teenagers can do a number on your budget, but try feed more than 30 turkeys day in and day out. Those suckers can really put it away, and they don’t even leave an egg in repayment. Well, they do leave something but now we’re back to the woodchuck deposit.

“Why not just stop feeding them?” you ask. Sure, that would work, but then we’d be denied the joy of watching the youngsters grow up; of watching the baby fuzz disappear from all of the chicks, to be replaced by the beautiful feathers that shimmer in the sunlight. We’d miss the anxiousness that comes with counting the babies [and the teenagers] in fear that one or two of them may somehow have not made it through the night.

Do I really begrudge feeding the turkeys and the…ah, forget it. Of course not; I’m just kvetching. Are they truly breaking the bank? Don’t be ridiculous. Yes, it does cost close to a hundred bucks a month, but I know of nowhere else where I can sit on the couch, watch TV, and as a pleasant distraction, look out the floor-to-ceiling windows at nature at its finest. We’ve had deer in the back yard, and we’re only 15 miles from Boston. We even had a fox once, but we couldn’t allow him to stay. I just hope that the turkeys continue to return day-in-day-out. They may be wild but we feed them good grain. After all, Thanksgiving is just around the corner…heh, heh, heh!

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It’s quite possible that I am bordering on a weird lifestyle. You see, I don’t enjoy card games; never really have;, never really will. Perhaps it comes from getting into some poker games with friends while in college and leaving with little but my underwear. Or perhaps it’s having lost more than my fair share of cash playing cribbage with my friend, George. Are you getting the point?

Having said that, I will now contradict myself by telling you that I have become hooked on solitaire. It’s not funny so please stop laughing. This isn’t one of the exotic solitaire games of which it appears there must be close to 100 on my computer. It’s not spider or mahjong tiles or any of that only fancy stuff. This is just good old fashioned solitaire. I have become an….addict!

Before I retire for the evening, I check my e-mail – spam included – and then, for some unknown reason, I flip on a game of solitaire. Why do I do this? Here’s the kicker; I do it to determine how many minutes I can waste of my before going to bed! At the end of each losing hand – the gods are against me – there is a posted record of how many games played; how many won, and; how many seconds the last game required. I have begun keeping track of those seconds for that is time out of my life that I can never get back. Alan Lakein, the godfather of time management says, “Waste your time; waste your life.” He follows this up with, “Master your time; master your life.”

At one time in my wasted life my time management was so under control, it was ugly. That’s because I, today’s master time waster, was teaching workshops in time management. There was even an article on TM – as we in the trade called it – in an association magazine with my byline…how ‘bout that crap? Now I am retired, and I really don’t give a damn about managing my time correctly. As a consequence, I have now taken to seeing exactly how many seconds, minutes, or hours I can manage it incorrectly. Isn’t that a hoot?

Lest you believe I am a complete wastrel, it would probably be wise to tell you that this particular day has not been a complete waste. I have voted in a special election. I have visited an orthopedic surgeon who told me that yes; I have torn the calf muscle in my right leg, and that it will continue to hurt like a son-of-a-bitch for the next six weeks…”but you can go back to the gym whenever you want.” Go ahead; figure that one out. In addition, Juli and I have gone to the post office and to the local supermarket. I have also finished Dan Brown’s Inferno and even watched a bit of TV. Therefore, the day hasn’t been a complete waste of time. Now that it’s time to creep between the sheets, I confess my combined waste of solitaire time amounted to about 15 minutes. Just think, that’s a quarter of an hour of my whole life that I can never regain…ah, to hell with it. Could that quarter hour have been spent more productively? Who knows? Who really cares? It’s my life; if I want to waste it, I should feel free to do so. There, I said it and I’m glad.

I wish you hadn’t brought up the idea that I’m wasting my life. Do I tell you how to live?

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Counting one’s blessings is a wonderful way to get through life.

It is particularly important if one lives in a relatively suburban environment, but works in an urban setting. One of your blessings might be that you have nearby access to public transportation, whether that be bus or train service…or even a helicopter. If you do not have any of these marvelous modes of moving yourself from point A, commonly known as “the house” to point “B,” often referred to as that @#$%&* job, you have no blessing for which to account. You are the dreaded “car commuter,” a species fraught with the dangers attendant to that particular group. You are the spawn of urban sprawl and the victim of the “I need more space” syndrome. Therefore, you rush through breakfast with, perhaps, a piece of toast – cold because the kids ate first and it’s actually leftover toast – and a sip of espresso or your favorite single serving whatever from the little cup brewmaster. You jump in the car; jump back out of the car and run to get what you forgot that you need today; run back to the car which now puts you five minutes behind your normal leave time. Those five minutes mean that you will now require an additional 30-45 minutes to arrive at work.  It is that bad…and God forbid there’s a fender bender along the way…you are now ‘screwed in abundance.’  As a consequence of all of this, you are now allowed to become a political activist in your suburban community, climb on the soap box and demand better bus and rail service. It’s either that, take a sedative with that sip of espresso, or become a raving lunatic. Ah, but there is a blessing. Despite the fools who are talking on the phone, texting against the law, reading the newspaper or slurping their morning coffee [must have a spare top at work, eh?), you have the answer. You are a bibliophile; a connoisseur of fine literature, a.k.a., you go to the library and get books on tape or disc. You can peacefully drive along as you listen to the latest adventures of Alex Cross, Lucas Davenport, Dirk Pitt, or Jack Reacher. Should your literati tastes differ, you might prefer the first two of Ken Follett’s latest trilogy or whatever suits your fancy. The blessing is that you can enhance your knowledge while stuttering along in traffic. Viewed from that perspective, I suppose you could call traffic a blessing…no kidding, you could!

Perhaps the most important blessing of all is that you wake up, sit up, and put your feet on the floor. There are a whole pile of people who would give almost anything to be able to do that. There’s another group who don’t wake up at all. Some would say that’s the ultimate blessing. Perhaps my faith isn’t strong enough yet, but I do like throwing the blankets off, heading to the bathroom, and then getting ready for the gym. Coming home from the gym is how I know about that traffic thingie I mentioned before. I cross over a main commuter road on the way home and that five-minute difference in time seems to make all the difference in the world as to how crowded that road is. That’s another one of my blessings by the way. I don’t have to get in that mess anymore. It’s just another gift of retirement, along with the sciatica, arthritis, heart problems, and the rest of the medical crap that comes with old age.

All kidding aside, you and I are blessed. We live in a country that has its share of problems, but we can still get in the car; we can get gas at prices that are far lower than most countries abroad; we can go from state to state without showing papers; for the most part, we don’t have to worry about being shot at or running over an IED in our travels. We have magnificent national parks and beautiful places to visit that have not been reduced to rubble by rocket grenades or bombs. Those are blessings, and all too few of us understand that.

I’ve only traveled across this country three times. Twice I’ve flown and once the trip was by car. You can certainly see a great deal more from the ground. You can take side trips that open your eyes to unending marvels. You can explore caves and stick your finger – very quickly – into a hot spring. You can drive along endless stretches without seeing a house. You can climb mountains or drive to their top. Ground travel is a wonderful experience. You can marvel even more at the pioneers who traveled this distance on horseback or in covered wagon. Traveling across America by plane can also excite your mind and allow you to realize how diverse the US landscape is. The Grand Canyon from the air is absolutely breathtaking.

Maybe you can do those things. Maybe you’ve done more; maybe less. Whatever your life, you have blessings to count. Just watching the rebirth of spring after a long cold winter is a blessing we should all cherish. Trees that were so bare and barren sprout their buds and then leaves. Ground that was frozen solid becomes green with new grass. Gardens that have lain dormant begin to flower and once more send their fragrance into the air. Okay, you have allergies; so have I…and they’re tough, but if you can see through them to the beauty that surrounds us, we “shure got us a whole bunch” of blessings that we can call our own. Why doncha take a minute to count ‘em sometime. It might make you a bit more thankful for what you do have, rather than whatcha don’t.

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You’re kidding, right? I mean, c’mon, that really isn’t what I think it is, is it? I’m freezing my ass off because we turned the thermostat down last night; I open the shades this morning, and I see what? That’s white stuff (I’d say, “white shit” but that’s really rather contradictory) all over the ground. It’s not only on the ground, the street’s been plowed. Give-me-a-break. This is, is, is…hell, it’s not even November yet and we’ve got plowable snow? Happy freakin’ Halloween you little weinies…in your costumes over which you’re going to have to wear Arctic clothing.

I always thought that God had a sense of humor. After all, he did give us the summer of 2011, which as I recall, was three days long. Now he’s playing with our heads about the winter of 2011. “Look what I can do to you,” he’s laughing. Hey, wait a minute…whatever happened to benevolence here? If you’re that pissed off at Congress, dump the load on Boehner, Bachmann, Kantor, and few of those idiots in Washington. You don’t believe Wall Street should be occupied, go ahead, dump it on the protester’s tents, but for…ah…ah…ah…oh cripes…but for your own sake, don’t dump it on me. What’d I ever do to you? Wait a minute…I take that back!

Measureable snow in New England in October? That’s a real no-no. Heck, I can remember watching Thanksgiving football games in shorts and a T-shirt. Of course, I can also remember watching them wearing a winter jacket and six blankets, but that was from the living room couch when the heat went off, but this…this is ridiculous.

I’ve never fully understood how Global warming means that I’m going to freeze my ass off, but perhaps this is an example. This entire year has been filled with examples of climate change. The droughts in parts of the South and Midwest have been terrible. The rains in the Northeast have raised our water table unbelievably. Tornadoes, commonly confined to ‘Tornado Alley’ in Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, and up through Nebraska and a few other states, have devastated parts of Worcester, Springfield, and Monson in Massachusetts. Hurricane Irene wreaked havoc in Vermont…another unusual occurrence. We drove through parts of Vermont earlier this month, and I must tell you that those people worked like dogs to bring that state back for the leaf peepers.

And now we have snow in October. The biggest problem is that the leaves aren’t off the trees yet. It would be different if the snow was that light, powdery stuff, but it’s not. This stuff is heavy. Combine the weight of the snow with the leaves and you’ve got a whole pile of branch-snappin.’ There really isn’t a whole helluva lot we can do about it, so I guess we’re just going to have to sit back and wait; see what God has up his sleeve for the rest of the winter. Who knows, maybe we’ll all be at the beach on New Year’s Day. Now that would be a nice change of pace.

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New England is a remarkable place. Of course, I say that based on extremely limited travel experience. Never having been to “old” England, I guess I don’t really have a basis for comparison. I do know one thing: In New England, there is a community called Islington. It is a part of a Town called Westwood (where the hell’s he going with this one?). In old England, there is a town called Islington.  (Aha!) It is a part of the city of London. Great, eh? Not really. In New England’s Islington, there’s not a bar or liquor store in sight. In old England’s Islington, there are 300 bars – guess who got screwed on that one…unless, of course, you’re some kind of temperance nut. My mother-in-law was one of those. That’s why her husband always had both pockets filled with breath mints. That’s the end of the community comparisons…so there!

We have four distinct seasons in New England. If you don’t know what they are, go look it up. Anyway, as I sat outside this morning in my mackinaw, hip boots, three sweaters, and a watch cap, looking at the fading summer sky, I was reminded once again that our ‘distinct’ seasons are not always that distinct. In fact, over the past few years, our falls and our springs seem to be slowly disappearing. It appears that one day, the weather people – can’t say men anymore – are talking about the fall foliage in the morning and predicting six inches of snow that same night. I want to watch a weather forecast in Canada where some of the women tell you the weather while they’re topless. I suppose that’s one way of distracting you from hearing, “Eh, we got anudder tree feet ‘o snow tonight, eh!” That wasn’t very nice, but some of my Canadian friends will know I’m just jerking their chains again, eh.

Anyway, back to New England weather. My partner is from California. She was born there, educated there, grew all the way up and worked there. Hell, she even retired from there before she decided that perhaps I wasn’t truly insane and so she moved here. Having been here through one complete weather cycle, she is now having second thoughts regarding the sanity of anyone who makes New England their home. It wasn’t bad enough that last winter she stepped outside to feed the critters and fell flat on her ass; ice was a new experience for her. It probably should even have been expected that when she went out to fill the bird feeders, she would brush by an icicle that would promptly broke and that a large piece would fall that was not only large enough to open her scalp but also large enough to once more knock her on her ass – it’s humorous only in hindsight; the wolves loved the red snow. At the time, there was no humor whatsoever.

Once the snow left the ground in late May – it was a really snowy winter – she learned that growing season didn’t really begin until after Memorial Day. “The thirty-first of May? Are you @#$%&* me?” she asked. As the end of June rolled around and the rains began to subside, it was declared by my bellowed that the growing season in New England is exactly one month less a week long. “I’d already be harvesting if I was in California,” she declared. “What ever happened to four seasons?”

As July came around, so did her behavior. There were three or four days of heat and all seemed well with the world. Next came the tornado watches and warnings. Parts of the State, including Springfield and Monson were terribly devastated. Fortunately, Islington was spared everything but gusts of wind and a hell of a lot of rain.

“I came here from California,” she raged, “where the only thing we have to fear is an earthquake or two. Out here, I’m exposed to blizzards, driving rains, no @#$%^&* growing season, and now the threat of a tornado? Have I lost my mind?”

I didn’t have the heart to tell her that hurricane season was only about a month away.

Despite the inconsistencies in the weather – I chose to call them that rather than saying, “This weather sucks! – The crops finally began to come in. We had beans and peas, beets and summer squash. We had watermelon, cantaloupe, and even several pumpkins. We started with about 12 tomato plants but kept finding ‘volunteers’ popping up all over the yard. They were replanted into beds despite several “experts” telling us that they’d never bear fruit. Before Hurricane Irene made her presence known in these parts – you really don’t want to hear about that tirade; even as an adult reader, you don’t want to hear about that tirade – we had so many tomatoes of all types – cherry, Roma, plain ole round ones, and even some heirloom Black Crims – that I was taking bags full to the gym each day. In addition, I was taking squash, green, red, and yellow peppers as well as jalapenos. One gym member owned a fruit and vegetable store. He jokingly told me I was cutting into his trade!

Irene did a number on the garden. The climbing cucumbers probably landed somewhere on Cape Cod. The watermelon and cantaloupe were washed away along with the rest of the squash. Hands on hips, my partner asked just one question,”When should I expect the first goddam snowstorm?”I thought it would probably be better if I remained silent on that one.

So, to all my friends in Islington, England, why the hell do you have 300 bars and we’re so goddam dry?

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