Archive for the ‘Snowstorms’ Category

Another crazy winter

Do you live in New England? If so, are you waiting for the other shoe to drop? Other than New Hampshireites and some folks in Vermont…at least in 2016. The rest of us appear to be walking around with everything crossed but our eyes. We’re growing cautiously optimistic, but we’re not takings bets. We’ve been fooled too often.  Quietly, almost silently, we ask ourselves, “When?” When will we be the ones to take it on the chin? When will that weather front go left rather than right? After all, we’re New Englanders. We expect to get battered by a few blizzards every year. Hell, that’s why we stay here. In fact, I’ll bet there were even a few masochistic bastards who were thinking “Why wasn’t that us instead of Washington, Virginia, and New Jersey?

It is a fact that people who live in New England are so attuned to (a) kids having to go late into June to make up snow days; (b) stopping at the end of their driveways in the winter to look around the snow banks for other traffic and wayward snowplows; (c) cursing out the weather forecasters on four, five, and seven for the accuracies or inaccuracies of their predictions; (d) spending the last hour of their workday wondering if they’ll even be able to make it home…that we just assume the worst.

True, 2014-15 was a record-breaker. However, I can tell you that the Blizzards of ’78 were no bloody days at the beach either. It went from starting a new job two weeks earlier to being told by a state trooper to leave my car under a bridge on a major artery to having a two-week vacation at home to watching two – not one but two – snowplows get stuck  on a road to one side of the house. Oh, it was just “loverly.” The kids, of course, thought it was terrific, but in fact, it was just another indication of how powerful Mother Nature can be when she sets her mind to it.

We are now into the month of February, another of New England’s traditional heavy snow month, but all there is on the horizon is a couple of rainy days. At this rate, I’m expecting a very snowy July…oh, and there’s no such thing as climate change…say the ‘experts.’

Tomorrow, however, is another day. Tonight, the weather prognosticators are telling us that we may have as little as two inches of snow or as much as eight. Now, I don’t know about you, but this does not give me great confidence in the “latest in Doppler radar,” or “the most advanced weather forecasting system at one station only.” You see, at two inches of snow, most of the idiots who drive will be able to do so with only a modicum of fear. As the amount of snow increases arithmetically, e.g., three, four, five, etc., the capability of New England drivers, experienced though they may be, decreases exponentially. The breakeven point is somewhere between six and eight inches, depending on several factors: The first criterion is how long the driver has been traversing New England roads in the winter. Having been born here is not good enough. If your grandparents were born here, you may be considered a New Englander who may meet the qualifications for winter driving. The second measure of your ability is what you are driving. If you perambulate the perimeter of the community in a four-wheel, all-terrain, steel-chassied (another new word) vehicle also capable of traversing the sands of the Gobi, you have a much better chance of being considered a winter driver that one who goes out cruising in a Mini-Cooper or a Fiat. Finally, if you look out the window and note that the plows have not yet been through, sit back down on the couch and open another beer, you are a guaranteed, A-number-one New Englander who know to leave well enough alone until the DPW has done its due diligence by moving the downfall to the sides of the road.

Ah, yes, the travails of New England winters. We rarely know when they will begin and we never know when they may end. While one may believe that Spring actually starts in March, never discount the vile and sneaky snowstorms of April and May in this six-state region we lovingly call the Northeast.

Happy driving.

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There are men on the roof of my house.

They have hatchets, drills, shovels, and God-only-knows what other instruments of torture and mayhem they may possess.

These same men were on my house yesterday…no, silly, they did not camp out overnight…at least, I don’t believe they did. If they had, I’m quite certain I would have heard the scraping, drilling and chopping that is currently taking place…or the sound of someone writing his or his girlfriend’s name in the snow…from on high.

These men are welcome on my roof. It is because of them that we may be able to remove the buckets of various types and sizes from the living room and from the room I laughingly call “an office.”

The insurance adjuster has been here once. That was before we drilled the holes in the ceiling to relieve or direct the leaking water into the buckets. We did that for fear that if we did not, the drips would further weaken the ceiling and the whole damned thing would come crashing down.

The snow outside the family room, which had shrunk to a bit below two feet, has now been replenished by the men who are shoveling, scraping, drilling, and chopping. In all probability, the ice will be completely melted by late June, early July. The snow is expected to disappear by late May, just in time for planting the garden, although who is to say whether or not the ground will be sufficiently thawed by that time. Perhaps it might even be a quagmire into which one can sink and disappear following a few measly steps.

The men have now left. A couple of them came to the back door – how they got there, I’ll never know – and collected the agreed upon toll for their services. They left via the garage; otherwise, I think they might have had to tunnel their way out. The roof is now clear of ice and snow, and I can only pray that I have seen the last of 2015’s white stuff.

There is one drawback to having all of this roof work done…the snow and ice must have a place to go. In this case, it went into the front and back yards; therefore, we cannot use the front door because there is approximately seven feet of snow in front of it; we cannot use the back doors for the very same reason. Should an emergency arise that we must leave the house rapidly, it’s dive through the bathroom window or pray that we have enough time for the garage door to open…bathroom window would be quicker but there is still three or four feet of snow in the side yard.

There are no more men on my roof.

There are no more drills and hatchets, no more shovels and God-only-knows-what’s…

…and please, oh please, let no more white stuff fall on my roof again this year!

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“When you are up to your ass in alligators, it is extremely difficult to remember that your original task was to drain the swamp.”

C’mon, you’ve heard it before; saw it on a poster somewhere; laughed your ass off the first time you saw it.  Today might be the perfect day to pull that poster out and stare at it one more time. We really aren’t up to our collective asses here in New England. We are far beyond that point. If my girlfriend’s feet were to touch the ground in our backyard, the snow would be well, well over her head. I am over six feet tall and if my feet were to touch the ground in any plowed spot in our driveway, I would be well over my head.

Some ingenious peckerhead is currently planning how he or she can be the first ones out with the, “I survived the blizzards of 2015” bumper stickers, T-shirts, coffee mugs, and whatever other paraphernalia will hold a sentence of that length. Don’t worry, they’ll be coming out, and the same assholes who are walking around the streets of Boston today will be the first ones to criticize those who are buying them while secretly purchasing as many of whatever as they can.

What is it with people who go outside in the middle of a blizzard; who get in the way of snowplows; and then bitch that their streets aren’t cleared. During the week, some people have to get to work in various cities and towns. That is a given; but on weekends, when the governor of the state and the mayor of the City of Boston have clearly and distinctly asked the citizenry to stay off the streets, why do these assholes insist on risking their lives and probably the lives of others by traipsing around the city like they’re looking for a duck boat parade?

(a bit later)

So here it is…another weekend with more snow promised for Sunday night going well into Monday. Yes, you may read that as “Another friggin’ Monday when I have to commute in a snowstorm,” and don’t you forget it. The only saving grace about this entire winter is that the Northeast is not alone. Some of the southern states have been getting hit with the white stuff, and they really-do-not-know-how-to-handle-it. I would not be very surprised to learn that some of the smaller southern communities have no equipment for fighting snow, including sanders or plows of any kind other than those used to bring in crops. Chuckle if you will; while the amounts may not be what we have seen, anything over three inches can shut down Washington. Imagine what it would do to some towns in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, or Alabama.

What was the “gently falling snow” of the past few weeks has now become the “concrete foundation” of the snow on the streets. Shoveling this rock solid mass is nearly impossible. Large firecrackers or small blocks of Semtex are more effective, but they tend to really piss off the neighbors, particularly if their car is buried under one of the piles where you have placed your charges.

Word on the street is that Bahstan Mayor, Martiwalsh (everyone says it so fast it sounds like one word), is meeting with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade Committee early next week. Tomorrow is the first day of March, and the mountains of snow are so great that the streets still can’t be cleared by St. Paddy’s Day? I want you to know, however, that there is no such thing as climate change; it’s all a figment of Al Gore’s imagination.

If, as the saying goes, “March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb,” the floods we will face in the spring will be nothing short of gigantic. And don’t forget, “April showers bring May flowers;” We can all stand around and watch the daffodils float down the street, followed by the tulips, followed by…well, you get the picture.

It’s been one hell of a winter, but guess what, this too shall pass, and next summer while the roofers and carpenters are repairing our houses, we’ll look back on this and…naw, we won’t laugh; we’ll still be just as pissed then as we are right now.

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We really are lucky

We bitch and wail, piss and moan about the record-breaking snowstorms we’ve had this winter in New England. We scream about cabin fever because the path from our front door to the street is so narrow, we have to slide sideways to get out. We can’t shovel the walk to make it any wider because we’re afraid of an avalanche and besides, we can’t throw the snow up high enough to get it over the “ridge line.” So the walk stays narrow and the driveway is under so much snow, we can’t see where the car is now strategically parked. It all sounds terrible, hazardous, troublesome, and dangerous, but we’re lucky. That’s right, those of us who live in the Northeast have blessings that many in the country do not have.

We get to see this snow go away; we get to see green and red tree buds bloom and watch the rebirth of our leaves and our grasses. We get to experience the smells and sights of spring. We will experience the heat of summer and make invidious comparisons with the bone-chilling cold of this past winter. Then we will ooh and ah over the beauty of fall, and if you’ve never see fall in New England and the Northeast, you have missed the vista of nature’s beauty that is second to none…leaves of orange and brown, yellow and rust, red and gold make the hillsides come alive. It’s God’s palette for the entrance to fall, the third of our four full seasons that we get to experience and the most enthralling of all. I believe we enjoy fall more than any of the other seasons. The ocean is slow to lose its summer heat so there are days, even in October, when a swim may be in order. It’s the time of ‘last’ barbecues, final cutting of the lawn, and raking the leaves we watched blossom last spring.

While we might complain loudly about winter and summer, we also welcome back the robins and other species in the spring. Who knows, we might be lucky enough to see another clutch of baby turkeys at the back door, along with their moms. If they don’t show up on their own, I also have Ol’ Betsy, my slate-style turkey call to call them to the house. It was a Christmas gift from Juli. Admittedly, I haven’t taken Ol’ Betsy out of its packaging quite yet, but I’ll get to it before spring. By the time the young ones have hatched and are walking with their moms, I’ll be fully prepared. As a fall-back plan, we always have Juli’s “hear, kitty, kitty, kitty” which has worked so well in the past.  Many of the turkeys who are in the area will come running when they hear Juli, although for the life of me, I can’t figure it out…can you say “turkey whisperer?”

We experience four distinct times of the year. How many Floridians, Californians, Mississippians, or Texans can make that claim? A number of years ago, my youngest daughter’s freshman roommate collected leaves of various colors to send to her folks in Florida. She’d never seen anything like them before. Could it be that those of us who live here take these things too much for granted? Is it possible that we have become impervious to the beauty that we see every day? I’ve taken the time to put on my sunglasses and look out at the snow, sparkling with the glint of diamonds where it’s been untouched and pure; despite the amount, it’s still a form of beauty that we should all appreciate.

Well, time for me to go back to my igloo and sulk. Enjoy the winter for spring will soon be upon us.

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Writing about something is not the same as knowing about something. I have always admired good reporting as well as good fiction. John Powers of The Boston Globe was a hell of a writer when he was covering sports. John is a huge man, towering over me, but his insight into what took place at almost any sporting event made the reader feel that he or she was actually in the arena, not as a spectator but as a participant. My dear late friend, Bob Parker, was a wonderful fiction writer who drew the reader in from the first sentence and kept the reader enthralled until the last period was place.

I am about as far from a John Powers or Robert Parker or any of the wonderful writers we read on a daily basis. Like many of you, I struggle to gain and maintain the reader’s interest. It shows in that, if really lucky, I have two or three readers a day. It’s an ego thing, and I’m the first one to admit it.

Think about everything that is happening in the world today. We still have stupidity in Washington, with a President who feels he can do no wrong…and he’s wrong; a Congress now controlled by a single party, but I don’t see much taking place other than the Keystone Pipeline which is just going to line a few more pockets of the one percent; our judicial branch is, at best, confused about which issues belong before them and which should be left to the states for a final decision.

On the world front, we have the horrible executions of the French satirists at Charlie Hebdo and the assassination of four police officers by known radicals who were allowed to walk the streets freely and who got the martyrdom that they desired after their horrible onslaught. Sure, I could do my research online and read everything there is to read…like over one million articles, most of which are as accurate as would be teats on a bull, but that doesn’t give one the right to put together an accurate Reader’s Digest condensed version. Perhaps the most odious and despicable post-episodic thing taking place now is the race between al Qaeda and ISIS over who takes the “credit” for committing this hideous act. Is it fodder for the writer in me? By writing about this crime, I merely lend credence to the fact that no one, anywhere in the world, at any time, is safe from these half-crazed lunatics who are exercising their childhood fantasies of killing with no more respect for the beliefs of true Muslims and the Quran than the Bible-thumping idiots of the Westboro Baptist Church have in their beliefs about Christianity.

So what is left for me, in the few years I have remaining, to garble about? Should I talk about the 2016 race to become the next sucker in the White House? I have finally – gad, but it took a long time – figured out why smart people don’t run for president…their egos are not large enough, or as Clint Eastwood once put, “A man just has to know his limitations.” The really smart person allows the puppet to become the titular head and then the puppet-masters, eg, Citibank, the pharmaceutical lobbyists, the farm folk, and several others sit back and tug on a few strings to get the puppet to do their bidding. It’s wonderful to sit at the computer and gaze into the crystal ball. The Republican Party is firmly convinced that the next puppet will be from the GOP, thereby giving both the executive and legislative branches to a group of people who care little for the average American and a great deal for the one-percenters. After all, it’s the one-percenters who write the bills they pass and keep their bank accounts growing. And, what the hell, should a Democrat – by some miracle of God – attain the exalted puppet-post, it will merely be four or eight more years of gridlock. With gridlock, nothing gets done; the press has a field day; and late night comics rub their hands together in glee. While I consider myself an independent voter, I have to admit that someone like Chris Christie of New Jersey could really shake the old-time-DC-boys up; in addition to which, he probably knows where to get rid of the bodies….lots of swampland in New Jersey.

The recent story of the loving son is not something that you find every day. Could one invent such a thing? Perhaps if I was a more creative writer it could happen. However, I’m not that desperate to build a readership. That was just one of those poignant moments that had to be set to paper, and I was honored to have the opportunity to do so…my thanks to those who commented. The opposite of that situation was viewed by Juli yesterday. “Behind you is a mother and son,” she said. “Neither has stopped texting since they sat down.” Of course, we had no idea if they were texting one another, but my bet is that was not the case. Kind of sad, isn’t it? Can you imagine saying to one of your adult children, “Let’s go to lunch and leave our smart phones in the car.” Be the fastest goddamned lunch on record. Yes, I could write about my view on technology (said he, pounding away at the keyboard) but I don’t even know the vernacular for today’s techno-geek…tough to fall behind the times like this.

Well, I’ve almost reached my thousand word limit so to you, my reader (hopefully with an ‘s,’ I bid you a wonderful winter without falls or flu; without slipping and sliding; without icicles or idiots. If you have young children, I hope you will enjoy sledding with them at the local hill. The bumps will be a bit rougher than you may remember, but what the hell, you’ll have wonderful memories when you recall the day over a cup of hot chocolate…don’t forget the whipped cream!

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Cold weather sucks!

Hot weather sucks!

There is no pleasing an old person when it comes to weather! Yeah, that’s probably true, but then, I’m not certain there is “pleasing” anyone when it comes to weather. In addition, where the hell can one live on planet earth where there isn’t some kind of weather phenomenon that would cause people living there to say, “This weather sucks!” Really, think about it. You might say that San Diego has the most gorgeous year round weather, but they still have their May gray and June gloom. In addition, the winter months are a rainy season. The beauty of southern California appeals to many, but I would rather face the cold than the threat of being tossed into the cold Pacific by “the big one.” There are always the Canary Islands – named for a dog, by the way – off the western coast of Africa…ooh, wait a minute, let’s weigh the choices: Good weather versus the possibility of Ebola; nope, I’ll stay here. Malaga in Spain, Sao Paulo in Brazil, Sydney, Australia, Kunming China, Lihue, Hawaii, Medellin, Columbia, and Durbin, South Africa all have appealing weather, but the dangers far outweigh the desire for year round weather to die for.

It comes down to a matter of what is truly important to the individual. Since I am a New Englander, it is my birthright to bitch about the weather. Were I a Floridian, I would have every right to complain about hurricanes (as well as Cuban émigrés); should I live along tornado alley, that would be, by birth, my right about which to complain. God forbid I should live anywhere in California. The San Andreas Fault gives me the heebejeebees. You see, it doesn’t really matter where we live…we must complain about something, and since the weather is one of those things over which we have absolutely no control, it is that against which we vent out wrath.

Perhaps the worst thing about winter weather is something that you would have trouble guessing. It’s the ‘finger split.’ Just above the finger nails the skin becomes very dry and it splits open…not like a gusher of a deep cut; more like a paper cut that gets deeper and deeper and spreads wider and wider, and it stings like a sum bitch. Moisturizing hand crème is your best bet, but if you forget for one day, the finger split will get you, and once it does, you’re cursed for the winter. Moisturize it after it has begun? Sorry, too late; O’Keefe’s hand crème? Nope, it’s good, but not that good. The finger split is everyone’s worst nightmare. If you work outside in the winter, it’s nearly inevitable; if you work in a nice, dry office, you’d better be putting on Eucerin or something else every hour.

I have a friend who takes the train to Boston each day. She has to walk a couple of blocks to work when she exits the train. She also goes through one Chapstick each day of the winter; that’s like eating the damned things, but she is cursed with dry skin.

Certainly there are places that have a year round temperate climate; trouble is, if I moved to one of these places, what would I have to bitch about? If an old person, in particular, has nothing to complain about, he or she begins complaining about aches and pains. When you begin worry about aches and pains, you have only two things to worry about; it’s a serious condition or it’s not. If the doctor says it’s not serious, you have only two things to worry about; it’s going to get better or it’s going to get worse. If it gets better, you have nothing to worry about; if it gets worse, you have two things to worry about….

…and so it goes…right on to the part about if you die, you have only two things to worry about; will you go up or will you go down. Theoretically, if you go up, you have nothing to worry about; if you go down, you’ll be shaking hands with so many old friends, you won’t have time to worry. Beyond that, you’ll never have to be concerned about the cold again.

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I don’t know about anyone else – and frankly, I don’t give a damn – but I have had it with the winter of 2013-2014. Now just how many Americans, Brits, Indians, and others around the world are uttering the same freakin’ words? Yet, in Massachusetts this is only the 54th coldest winter on record. My complaint is that I can’t remember the eight out of ten of the others in which I was alive…ah, the innocence of youth; ain’t it grand?

It’s said that we forget our unpleasant memories and tend to exaggerate those that we recall as being pleasant. I haven’t done the research on that, but it must have some validity. If not, why would mothers get pregnant a second time? Why would blood donors continue to give after having been stuck by the hollow harpoon the first time? Why would I have gone through a second and third back surgery had I recalled the pain of recovery from the first?  Why would any country ever go to war again, knowing the sacrifice and horror that any war brings? There are hundreds of examples that could be given, but we continue to repeat our painful and unpleasant memories. Remember what George Santayana said; “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

While we may believe that this winter has been an absolute bitch, there is one other I remember. We were in Quebec for a conference and visited the ice sculptures at the Carnivale. Instead of taking a cab Iback to the hotel, we decided to walk…silly us…Quebec in February…walk back to the hotel…can you say “idiots?” I had a full beard then and when the young woman I was with indicated that she could no longer feel her face, I looked at her and, simultaneously, grabbed my beard. Her face was blotched with white indicating frostbite, and pieces of my beard literally broke off in my hand. Although we didn’t know it at the time, the temperature was minus twenty-two degrees below zero. At the hotel, we immediately began putting cool compresses on her face. That’s one bad experience with winter that I really can recall.

There is one positive note about this winter; it has brought rain to the western states. Oh, no, wait a minute, the rain might help to ease the drought, but it’s also going to cause mud slides because of the wild fires that devastated so many acres of woodland over the past couple of years. How can one win? In the mid-west and New England, and even as far south as parts of Florida, the cold has killed people, ruined crops, and collapsed roofs. In California, the fear is that houses may be swept away or damaged by mud.  So tell me this…where the hell is it safe to live in these here United States? The answer is that nowhere is safe, neither from weather, cost of living, or crime. I was going to write that there might have been a time, but that’s not true either. There have always been earthquakes, tornadoes, droughts, and other weather disasters. We’ve adapted to them; and, we are adapting to this particular winter.

Is this winter a result of climate change? Has the polar vortex shifted south because the arctic is losing its ice cap? Who is to say? There appears to be major disagreement one minute and then complete accord the next. Scientists argue over this single degree of temperature or that. There is always some pissing contest going on in whatever scientific community is involved. As many people are aware, the AIDS virus had difficulty being clearly identified because French and American scientists’ egos got in the way. As far back as the invention of the light bulb and the telephone, scientists and inventors have been arguing over “who was the first?” Whatever the case, climate change or just a bad period of time, this winter has certainly given us some bad memories that we can hardly wait to forget.

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I feel badly for the people who live in the Southern states when they are besieged by several inches of snow in the winter. We saw an example of this recently when Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia were belted by a highly unusual snowstorm. In Atlanta, cars were abandoned one after another along the side of a main highway. It was really a tragic sight to see. Southern states just aren’t prepared to face the rigors of old man winter in this eon of climate change. I think that perhaps they should consider buying some plows for their highway vehicles before the first winds blow next December.

There is a great true story about a town in North Carolina many years ago. I know it’s true because I read it in the Washington Post the day after it happened. The District – as those of us who worked there came to know it – had received a coating of about three inches. In this town further south, they received about the same. Not having any plowing equipment, they sent the fire department out to wash this white stuff down the drains. It was never clear to me how the drains weren’t able to handle the “cleansing of the streets,” but that night the temperature dropped to below freezing. Following the hockey game on the main street the next day…no, no, no, that’s not true; it could have been the case, but it wasn’t. Let’s suffice it to say that neither pedestrian nor vehicle were on the road the day after the fire department completed its task.

Drivers who live in the Northeast are used to wintery conditions. That doesn’t mean that we know how to drive in snow; it just means that come November, we are prepared to deal with whatever God and the weatherman deliver. The funny thing is that the older I get, the more I realize that New Englanders have lost or are losing their ability to driver in wintery conditions. I saw a woman in a huge SUV driving on the other side of the street today. She had a circle cleared of snow on the driver’s side of the windshield. Every other part of the car, with the exception of the tires had a two-inch layer of snow thanks to last night’s brief snowfall. It was terrifying; this one little patch on the windshield was uncovered. When I saw the license plate I understood; Rhode Island drivers, according to several surveys, are the worst drivers in the country…she ranks right up there in my book.

I like the people who clear their windows after a major storm and leave it to God to take care of everything else on the car. They take their vehicle out on the highway and build up as much speed as possible so that the draft will blow the snow from their vehicle. To hell with the person behind them or those they pass as they try to clear their vehicle. “Look out; here I come; rules don’t matter to me; if the speed limit is 65, I’ll still go 75 to get the snow off faster; Look out!” Can you say, “Assholes and idiots?” for that’s what they are. The big rigs I can understand; it’s too easy for the drivers to slip and get hurt if they try to get up on the trailer and clear it off. It just makes sense to give them a wide berth. However, people who leave snow piled on their roofs are just selfish, uncaring, and stupid drivers. Police shouldn’t have to pull these people over; just get their license plate number and send them a ticket for $500. Let’s not fool around with a ten or even fifty dollar ticket. These people are more of a hazard than the potholes we face every winter, and they should be made to pay for their selfishness and stupidity.

There is another group of winter drivers who deserve a good swift kick in the butt. These are the folks who wait until they get to the shopping mall or the local market to clear the snow from the roof, hood, and trunk of their vehicles. Excuse me, whoever owns that lot doesn’t bring their trucks to your driveway and clean them off so where do you get the right to do it in their parking lot. Have we become so self-centered that we just don’t care about the property of others? “Well, it’s a big lot and they can afford it,” isn’t an answer. The simple truth of the matter is that you were too damned lazy to clear your car at home. In addition, you probably blew the snow from your driveway right out into the street where the city plows could take care of it.

It’s time for a little winter courtesy folks; how about becoming part of it?

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“Oh….I wish I was in the land ‘o cotton” or anyplace far enough below the Mason-Dixon Line or West of the Mississippi where my butt cheeks didn’t feel like a couple of very, very large ice cubes! I generally cast aspersions on my cowardly friends who retreat to Florida this time of year; now I’m wondering if it isn’t cowardice but a firm grasp on reality that drives them south. Our low this morning was minus eight degrees; right now it’s a blistering fourteen…and tomorrow is supposed to be worse? You have to be kidding.

On a bit more serious note, I received my first bit of “that’s how badly your lungs are damaged” information this morning. Juli was sleeping and I decided to let Widget out for her morning ablutions. The ‘long’ leash is about twenty feet. This allows one to stand in the Florida room off the kitchen, open the back door, and let the dog out to do her business without having to step outside. There’s only one problem…the door to the outside must remain open so the dog can see who’s holding the leash. She couldn’t have been out more than three minutes – poopsicles and peesicles form quickly – and she was back in the house like a shot. As I was removing the leash from her collar, I felt so faint that I collapsed in a chair and had a measure of difficulty breathing that caused me to think I might be joining my late wife any moment. I can make light of it now, but it scared the living daylights out of me. Research says that breathing freezing air isn’t necessarily bad for one unless he or she has exercised-induced asthma. Since that’s not a problem, I have no clue about what happened and would prefer that it not happen again.

It was wonderful to watch Deval Patrick, the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts doling out instructions on television about how to dress; how to drive; and how to keep your house or apartment warm and cozy during this snowstorm that just passed. Either he didn’t have much else on his plate or he felt lacking in television time. Best part of the whole thing was watching a friend from the gym do the signing for him.

Winter in New England certainly isn’t for everyone. It’s not that ‘we’ [notice that, did’ja?] are all that much heartier than folks from the more temperate climate. It’s more that we’re cheap bastards who say we can’t afford to spend the money. Then we die and our kids get what we should have spent going south. Therefore, it may be truly said of us that we aren’t all that bright.

Some will say, “Oh, but you get to see the changing of the seasons and that’s so beautiful.” Bullshit; I’m willing to bet that I could sit in a beach chair in Islamorada and watch the sun set and never get tired of that either. The seasonal changes themselves have changed up here. We go from winter to rain; there is no spring anymore…it’s just that you know winter must be over when, instead of white stuff falling from the heavens, it’s crystal clear and doesn’t stop until July 1. It then goes from monsoon season to the grass-growing-brown season, also known as “turn on the goddamned air conditioning” season. White people lather up and try to turn brown, and Black people prove their mental superiority by staying the hell out of the sun. A Black friend once told me that his sunburn made him turn purple. I didn’t believe him until I actually saw a Black guy on the beach one day and he was turning purple – I kid you not!

Sometime in late September – still summer by my calculations – a day dawns that has a ‘snap’ to it. This is rather shocking since summer seemed to have begun yesterday. The next day is back to being one of summers finest, but by early October, ‘snap days’ become far more common than those of summer temperatures. The leaves change, returning to their birth colors and we all “oooh” and “aaaah” over nature’s beauty. If we’re fortunate, the snow doesn’t begin to fall until after Thanksgiving. Then we repeat the cycle…and repeat, and repeat, and repeat ad nauseum until eventually we give up the ghost and pass silently and gently to another life.

I’m one of those who says that it doesn’t snow as much as it did when I was growing up. Of course, I’m also the one who says that the classrooms in my old elementary school are much smaller than I remember them to be. The stairs are steeper and the desks are smaller, but hey, that’s life.

So here I sit, away from the book I was reading and trying to warm my fingers by pounding away on the keyboard. If we turn the heat up any higher the energy police will probably come knocking. Ah, to hell with it; I’m going back to bed. Someone kindly wake me at the end of the rainy season, puh-leeze?

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For seventy-nine years I have lived in Massachusetts; there are natives – no, not Native Americans you idiot; natives to the state – and it still shocks the living daylights out of me what happens when it is announced via radio – sound, no picture – and television that a Nor’easter is heading our way in December. This is New England. Anytime between mid-November and mid-April, we may expect that our precipitation is going to be white. Why then, oh why, do people go into panic mode each time a storm is predicted?

Years ago, a major snowstorm was considered to be anything over 12-15 inches in 24 hours. Today, a major storm is six inches or above. I don’t quite understand what has changed. Our road equipment is far superior to what it was less than a decade ago. Radar tracking via Doppler and whatever else is a great deal better than ever before. Television updates on road conditions change about every 15 minutes, and yet, citizen panic is worse than it was when I was working in the A&P in Rockland as a teenager.

If one of the local weather forecasters announces, as they often do, “We’re tracking a storm in the Gulf of Mexico that may hit New England as snow early next week,” Why in the hell do people wait until the day before, when the forecasters are sounding like prophets of doom and gloom, to check their pantries and the refrigerator. Drivers wait until the day before to gas up. For three or four days before, ‘newsies’ are reporting from sand pits and salt storage facilities that the state is gearing up for a sizeable snow storm that will hit the region on whenever. Are people so stupid that they don’t believe these news reports? Are they so up to their collective butts in the Christmas shopping gig that they don’t know what the words, “A major snowstorm will strike the day after tomorrow” actually mean?

I hear people at the gym say, “Oh, the weather people are always wrong. No one can predict New England weather.” Well shit Sherlock, I’d much rather be safe than sorry. I have a small freezer in the garage, and this time of year, you just open the garage door a few inches and even if the power goes out, the food will still stay frozen or damn close to it. But nooo, these fools all seem to wait until the snow is already on the road before they decide that it might be a good idea to get an extra gallon of bread and another loaf of bread in for whatever this white stuff is that’s beginning to pile up on the roads.

After working out at the gym at 5, I returned home and prepared to get some of Juli’s packages mailed. By medical directive, Juli and I also had to go to Walmart this morning. One of my numerous doctors decided yesterday that I needed a new prescription; Walmart called last night, saying that the scrip would be ready this morning, so off we went. There was no snow; the sun was out when we entered the store; when we emerged about 20 minutes later, there was much less sun. “Anywhere else?” I inquired. “Starbucks for chocolate croissants,” she replied. “Good thinking, “I thought, and so we made the pit stop at Starbucks on the way home. Home, what a wonderful word; we spent the day, me working on a rug that I’m latch hooking, and my loved one on the couch beside me, doing Christmas cross stitching. Periodically, we would switch to CNN or one of the other channels to watch lines at gas stations or the ants running from Home Depot or Loews with their newly acquired plastic ‘heart attack’ shovels. We were warm and comfy. These jerks were cold and panicky.

I do not understand the raison d’être behind putting things off like this. It’s a snowstorm; what the hell did you do, throw out last year’s shovel? That was kind of dumb. December does tend to roll around each year, and we do sort of expect there to be a sufficient amount of snow that a shovel will be required; so what the hell goes through your mind? Okay, don’t believe the weather person, but for God’s sake, when every channel is saying the snow will be plowable, don’t you think you just might want to get out there early rather than waiting until the last possible minute…serve you right if the hardware stores were all out!

Here’s the formula: NE + December = possibility of snow; snow + potential for not driving = provisions; provisions + cash or credit + common sense = stocking up ahead of time. New Englanders like to think of themselves as hearty stock. However, along with our heartiness, we have also inherited something else from our ancestors; it’s called stubbornness; Over the years, that stubbornness has become osmosisized [I made the word up; live with it!] into a lack of common sense. In academic terms, “We have dumbed ourselves down, e.g., we don’t believe it’s going to snow until and unless there is three inches already on the ground.

What gives me hope for New Englanders is that the same kind of thinking occurs in other parts of the country. For example, if you live along Tornado Alley, wouldn’t it make a lot of sense to have bunkers built into your schools and have reinforced basements or shelters at home? Yet, people lose their homes year after year and continue to rebuild. Folks who live along the Mississippi and other rivers that flood continue to rebuild year after year. Folks who live on the Gulf know that chances are pretty good that they’re going to get flooded out in some way shape or form, just as Californians who live along the San Andreas Fault gamble with their lives damn near every day. Come to think of it, I guess we’re all a bunch of idiots no matter where we choose to live. Mother Nature has surprises for us all. Too bad we don’t listen to her.

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