Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

What happened to fall?

‘Gnarly,’ isn’t that a great word? I’m not talking about some surfer dude back in the 80’s when “gnarly” and “rad” and a few other “no-one-knows-what-the-hell-your-talking-about-words” were on the lips of the ‘hippier’ dudes wherever. As the trees lose their leaves and the branches take on that cold, barren look of winter, I stare at some of the branches and the first thing that comes to mind is just how ‘gnarly’ they look. The spindly outer branches look like webs that could entangle the unwary, but those upper branches with their twists and turns and boles of different sizes, they look scary, as if they could reach out and grab the unsuspecting. It’s all like something out of a Harry Potter story.

The streets have made their own little ‘center islands’ of rust and copper leaves. It seems to be the oak leaves that are the strongest and that cling together to form these little, driver-created islands on the roads. It’s all just another announcement by Mother Nature that, “winter is coming; get ready; be prepared; hunker down.”

I would never admit it to people like Jack Smith or Arthur ‘Hooks’ Gardner or Leo ‘Spits’ Flannery or even Bill Glavin but I really wish to hell that I could afford to be a snowbird. You know, Cape Cod in the summer and some sunny clime in Florida in the winter. To be fair, ‘Hooks’ lives in Georgia so he doesn’t escape completely unscathed, but Jack, Leo, and Bill…hell, those are completely different stories.

The first dusting of snow in the winter is really beautiful…unless it’s not a dusting but a damnable blizzard. Right now weathermen and women in Boston are all excited about the snow that’s falling in Connecticut and the western part of Massachusetts. “Oh, it looks like Springfield will get a good six inches while the Green Mountains of Vermont may pick up two feet!” Two feet? Two feet, my ass; that’s a whole pile of snow and it’s still November. C’mon guys, gimme a break!

The first tee at the local golf club is at the top of a reasonably steep hill. I used to take the grandkids sledding there when they and I were much, much, much younger. Truth to tell, they were younger and enjoyed every bumpy ride to the bottom. Grandpa would stand at the top of the hill and try to recall a time when he enjoyed sledding quite as much as they did…it was extremely difficult to remember those days. I do remember falling off my sled and somehow getting cut behind the ear by an errant steel runner on my Sky Ryder… bled like a sonofabitch, but the tree shouldn’t have been in the way. We used to steer around that tree, at least I did until the rope on my steering bar snapped. Looking back at some of the crazy things we did – such as catapulting over a five-foot high wall belly-down on our sleds – it’s a wonder we didn’t all have torn up kidneys or at the very least qualify for the Vienna Boys’ Choir!

People talk about the blizzard of ’78 or the horrible winter of 2014, but to me, anytime the temperature drops below 70 degrees, it’s freakin’ winter. Even this fall was warmer than average and I liked it, I liked it!

You may tell me that my memory is shot to hell, and you just might have something there, but I remember past winters, before I was out of high school when I thought the snowdrifts were bigger than anything I’ve seen since entering adulthood. You see, winter and I just don’t get along. I no longer shovel or snowblow, but even sitting before a beautiful (gas) fire on the hearth, singing Christmas Carols (through clenched teeth) and attempting to be merry and bright (I don’t wear neckties anymore; I’m retired), my spirits droop during (what seems like an eternity) the winter months.

So, for all of you avid skiers and après skiers, go ye forth and enjoy. As for me, I’ll just layer-up and count the days until the trees again will fill their ‘gnarly’ branches with leaves of green, and spring warmth will envelop me once more.

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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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New England Disease

If you live in New England, particularly this year, and you find yourself a bit short tempered, ‘they’ have a name for that. In fact, there are several names that apply to how you may be feeling. Without resorting to those that would cause the rabbi to pull his yarmulke over his ears, or the priest to race for the sacramental wine, we will refer to these as “cabin fever,” “seasonal affective disorder,” or “claustrophobia.” “Stir crazy” is another that has been tossed around but we hold that in abeyance and, for now, use it only as it regards incarcerated inmates who also must wear the same uniform year round thus making them more susceptible to that term.

Cabin fever has many definitions. According to the Urban Dictionary, some of these include, “A type of hysteria brought on by spending too much time indoors. Directly descended from long haul journeys where you are stuck in cramped conditions for too damn long.” I have no idea what that second sentence means, but if the author took the time to put it in, who the hell am I to detract from his addled mind. This second definition is the one that intrigues me; “Being stuck indoors for a prolonged period of time during the winter months and suffering from depression caused from a vitamin deficiency caused by a lack of sunlight and sick of being inside with the same people for months on end.” Aha, I have nothing against the person with whom I’m stuck in doors (although I must admit that we did get into a bit of a shouting match this morning over hot chocolate…yeah, like that’s really a critical issue). In fact, she’s rather a pleasant person with whom to be stuck in doors. But on to the intriguing part…”vitamin deficiency;” a lack of vitamin D from the sun; a lack of vitamin C, which the body requires as a defense against colds.

Cabin fever has many definitions; goes by many names, but whatever you call it, this claustrophobic, mind-numbing, attitude-bending, on-the-verge-of-killing-one’s-spawn, condition is only exacerbated by the inability to move around outside of the house even if one wished to do so. “I’m taking the kids to the mall, just to get them out of the house,” doesn’t work when the roads are impassable and there are fifteen-foot snowdrifts at every intersection. Even the kids don’t want to play in the snow because the drifts are so damned high the little brats can’t climb them. Then you hear the news you dread the most…the school cancellations…and your town is among them. Yes, I recognize that it’s 7:30 a.m. and no, you are not allowed to have a large glass of wine – or two or three – with your breakfast.

You are now thoroughly ensnared, trapped, enmeshed, and conquered by the dreaded “cabin fever.” Unless you wish to binge in front of your fifty-inch, flat screen, high definition television set and watch all 40 episodes of Game of Thrones – again, or attempt to do what Martha does – she’s probably on some channel every day, you may well be, as the saying goes, “screwed;” that’s a figurative term, not literal. If you are anything like me – God forbid – you sit at the computer for a few hours, lamenting your fate via something called a blog. You spend a few more hours latch hooking a rug, which is going to take another month to complete. Let’s see, that’s killed about four hours of the day. The gym is out because I don’t cross country ski, so I do something that will transport me out of this morass; I read. Think about it; this is the one thing that you can do to educate yourself and take you away to different worlds. They may be fictional, but what the hell. At present, I am involved in Gray Mountain, and I find myself at war with the coal-mining industry. I can smell the coal dust in the air and feel blank lung disease overtaking my body. Oops, sorry; got carried away there for a moment.

I have great…would it be empathy or sympathy…oh, well, for the parents of school-age children in winters like this. Perhaps I’m wrong to feel so because the kids will just spend all day texting their many ‘friends’ and their conversations never seem to run out of things to say. But what would you be doing if there wasn’t five and a half feet of snow in your back yard? What would you be doing if your partner wasn’t working from home? What would you be doing? One of the great benefits of cabin fever is that it provides the opportunity for you to do some things around the house that you’ve been putting off and putting off, right? Perhaps that’s just another reason that cabin fever irritates the daylights out of us; it exposes us for the frauds that we are. We didn’t want to do some things that needed doing and now we have no excuse…yeeeek!

Soon enough this episode of cabin fever will be over. You’ll laugh about it, sitting on the beach or lying on the chaise beside the pool. It will all be just a distant memory. In order to ensure your memories of this long, long, long, friggin’ long winter, break out the camera, open the front door, and snap to your heart’s content. Remember, all too soon, “It will be just a distant memory.” Aw, hell, who am I trying to kid?

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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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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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