The Lights of Home


When you have a seemingly iditarod-like commute to work, it does give one time to think. After doing it for three years now, if I had any brains, I’d have Rosetta Stone loaded and teaching me French by now, but I digress.

It doesn’t take much in Western New York weather terms to cause that 45 minute regular commute into something out of The Odyssey. Maybe it was an accident last year, maybe it was realizing that just because one can go 65 m.p.h. on the rolling hills of New York State Route 20A does by no means mean that one should. I know a minivan driver who executed a perfect snowstorm arabesque last winter would now agree with me.

But, after heeding the warnings of the morning weather and traffic folks and knowing these backroads, one can settle one’s mind a bit and sort out conundrums like:

Why are the visible snow plows in the area always going the other direction while the lane I’m in still covered in muck?

Why did the prius driver in front of me only use his wipers to clean his car off? It can’t be because the car is too tall.

Did the guy in the admittedly cool looking mustang realize what rear wheel drive was going to be like on a snow laden commute? If he arrived alive, he got a hell of an arm workout.

While I do work, you can hear the tell tale sound of deer season in the distance, the occasional shot gun blast.

If ever I needed a reminder to slow it down on these nasty roads of ours, it was the sit of a chevy pickup in the ditch on the media the other night. I believe there were other cars there as well as the emergency vehicle count was around a dozen. Betting the non emergency vehicles were tempting the fate of Mother Nature. She apparently doesn’t like that.

I do pity others as there is a speed trap underneath an overpass that requires the officer involved to twist in his driver’s seat and aim the radar gun, blow dryer, or whatever in the opposite direction. So, window down, snow falling, 20 degree temps, that is a back ache waiting to happen.

It’s bad enough when the daylight or lack of daylight savings time comes into play and messes with our collective circadian rhythm. I didn’t even no what that was until Star Trek explained it to me. Now, it is responsible for the xannax in my diet.

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When the good weather and traffic folk say on their broadcasts that “it’s nothing we can’t handle,” they are usually correct. Whenever I hear it, it makes me cringe a little as an example of somebody who can’t handle it will be found at least once on the road to or fro.

Ever notice that when you are driving into lake effect snow, the net effect isn’t hyperspace a la Star Wars but more along the lines of barbeque smoke. No matter what direction you are driving, you are driving into it. Somehow, it knows.

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After Christmas, the thrill is gone.

 

 

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Rolling on the river


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There are power boats.

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And power boats…

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And boats for the powerful. “Yes, we can go rapidly, but we are against it, something might spill, thank you.”

Summer is beating a hasty retreat, but a last walk of summer canalside is still a treat.

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Got to get outside, soup weather is coming, but in the meantime, got to make a friend with a boat owner.

I Miss El Nino


I’m tired, Lily Von Stupp tired of driving in the snow. The return to old school Western New York winter isn’t sitting well. We didn’t get any January thaw to speak of, and temperatures have been single digits for so long that if we get a heatwave of 15, I walk out thinking, this isn’t so bad. What the hell?

The publishers of the coffee table book, Wall of Snow, might be able to make some money if there was so much of the crap still around. When the temperatures were in the negatives to start last week, many road ways just froze. My commute on a regular run of the mill day is 20 minutes. That’s pretty good, almost pleasant. You can relax from the busy day or get your self geared up for the day ahead with some tunes, what have you. Not these days, when snow, freezing rain, and wind have regularly turned the trips into 75 minute white knuckled, gird your loins, hunched over the steering wheel, burn a hole through the windshield with your concentrated gaze, feats of road terror.

Now, I don’t have road rage, I have road expectations. The road has set its standards pretty low. But the pleasant drive has turned into that joke Robin Williams used to make about marathon runners at the end of the race “I’m,…I’m alive.” During the latest cold freeze, random roughly 30 foot sections of the Interstate 190 along Lake Erie decided to freeze, so caked in ice the Buffalo Sabres could have tanked on them. So frozen that doing anything other than aiming the car. Don’t stop, don’t accelerate, just aim. Anything else and you were headed to the ditch. Even safe passage caused the back of my sportage to shake like a dancer at Club Marcella’s after too many espressos. After seven or eight randomly spaced out instances of this, you arrive at the promised land, the toll booth of the South Grand Island bridge, the scene of another large accident.

Traffic of course stops. I look and you see a ice trail up the bridge that would make a great luge run going down, or so it would appear. I see an exit to sneak down River Road, but who the hell knows what does on down there. I summon the courage and go through the toll. A group of about 40 cars and trucks seems to take the trip in unison like the Donnor party. We all reach the peak of the bridge and start to descend down, all hoping it is just a wet surface leading to the flat ground of Grand Island.

It made me think of the people who whine about not getting a storm, missing snow, or griping about schools being open, or schools being closed, reporters who can’t describe snow as anything other than winter wonderland, or snow days you didn’t get in 1983 and how all of the aforementioned need a slap up side the head.

That’s the thing. The sky and the surface have matched each other for so long, it’s harder to differentiate. Somehow, we all land on Grand Island, and sonofabitch, it’s a different ecosystem there. Sun is out and roads are passable. If you haven’t stopped for PTSD treatment for the first part of journey, it’s like hitting Brigadoon. You could drive (and breath) like a human. I heard my radio once more. I was conscious of the jamoke who didn’t knock the snow off his car, silently receiving curses from me. You could see the guy who cleaned his car by running the wipers once.

Until we left Shangra-la to cross the next bridge, where the frost giants awaited…

I miss El Nino.

 

Snow Blind


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This is getting on my nerves.

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I think anybody who takes to social media of any kind next winter to lament that they didn’t see any storm, where’s my snow or anything or why wasn’t my kids school closed needs to be thrown screaming from a helicopter…into a snowbank

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This thought occurred to me as I drove behind another car on one of our busier roadways around here. Unlike much of the area, bare pavement made up the bulk of the driving and apparently that jamoke decided that high speed and wind was how he was going to clean off his car. It’s a pretty deplorable practice, especially when it means your car is on the receiving end of a steady stream of snowballs.

Somewhere in the middle of El Nino, Western New York lost a bit of its snow mojo. I noticed that since we’ve gotten those two light winters, we’ve been getting our butts kicked. And to top it off, who stole our midwinter thaw. There used to be, usually around january or so, some kind of breather, temps would get up, we would get sunlight you could feel. It gave you a second wind to get to spring. My car has been a stud, but you can hear the ache of operating in such constant cold. I used to grouse about paying for a garage space, but that is fee I’m happy to pony up, helps the car last longer and reduces my carpal tunnel odds from not having to clean off the car for the fun drive to work.

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This just flat out sucks. Instead, no breather, in fact, it’s gotten a little tougher with International Falls-style wind chill that makes you not care a whit if it is Celsius or Fahrenheit, a minus anything pretty much is flat out cold. I mean, it’s great, we don’t mudslides, or much in terms of other earthbound traumas, so I guess this is Mother Nature‘s Way of keeping us honest. I’m not so sure I like it. I mean, we are at the point where the sunshine has been random, infrequent and meaningless. The color of the sky, snow and the street have all been cut from the same grey portion of the pantone chart. To add insult to frozen injury, the storms have frequently been coming at rush hour, which then needs to be called something else. It shouldn’t be so noteworthy from my 20 minute commute to actually take 20 minutes. That shouldn’t come as a pleasant surprise.

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A Hazy Shade of Winter


I don’t know who is in charge of naming things, but the 7 feet of snow that is screwing with Western New York needs a better name than “Knife” for supposedly cutting through the area. Given this fine line that lake effect weather wore, I would have thought “Bi-Polar Vortex” would have surfaced at some point. A good friend of mine offered up “Flakenstein” which I’ve added on to resulting in Flakenstein’s Monster.

It seems appropriate. There are thousands of images floating up that remind you of the fierceness of the weather.

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Driving south from Niagara County, you could see this incredibly solid shroud hanging over the southern half of the city and the surrounding suburbs, like a black hole from cheesy sci fi flicks. If you needed a reminder of the severity, red cross commercials during sunday football broadcasts highlighted the work of the red cross in such places, like Buffalo. I’m looking through my facebook feed and saw the story of the woman who was writing a good bye note because she was trapped in her car for that long.

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Fortunately, her story had a happy ending. With there being a body count, I guess you can say it’s a lucky thing that it wasn’t higher all things being equal. I don’t know of another city where 400 plus would rally to…shovel.

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Literally the story of two regions. During the “surprise storm” of October 2006, my dad lamented that the worst part of being out of town during a Western New York weather event is that you didn’t get your own story, but you got to hear everybody else’s. The entire north half of Western New York is like that, but we were home.

Like any Western New Yorker of any time frame, I’ve seen ten foot high snow piles before, but they usually take a little longer that a day to build.

It’s not the most reverent thing in the world, but I think humor helps in dealing with the unfathomable or when a public official lectures citizens before checking facts. Althought I was proud when the county executive told the NFL off.  They might not have needed it in this case, but it was good to know priorities.

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Because you never know when the next one might hit.

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But the tone of the people during this, the people who live here make you forget that this can be a place where the wind can hurt your face and just be glad that this is home.

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The Beaten Path


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is kind of overrated. If there is a more spiritually soothing way to shut the world out for a bit, it’s a walk by the water. While the beaches aren’t ready for swimming just yet, (hell, it snowed not too long ago), it was very therapeutic to get close to the water. Two workers were literally combing the sand for the sunseekers to come. There were a couple of us who couldn’t wait.

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The endless winter did leave a few interesting carvings behind.

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It was good to be outside, in the sunshine, and with no particular place to go, so the beach at Woodlawn State Park and the areas in the Outer Harbor were a good place to walk, and put into practice how good it can feel to not have a shoe on.

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There’s a little beauty everywhere

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It’s just in knowing where to look

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Wandering…it was good for this soul.

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Great, Grey Bucket o Suck


It doesn’t take long. You put the holidays away and winter can become a soul sucking experience.

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Now, I don’t hate winter by any means, but occasionally it feels the need to assert itself just a tad. Buffalo and the surrounding area has been getting off easy the past two years and I didn’t mind. What we’ve been dealing with feels a little more old school, more typical winter weather, but the cold that has been pretty constant to start the new year isn’t cool.

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We’re all starting to feel like that guy. Days of seeing nothing but single digit temps mean it is almost too cold for regular winter fun. I mean, can’t and shouldn’t go for a tobaggan run at 2 degrees outside. Even if you like it, the sled might collapse.

There are moments of incredible beauty like this

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like this one, that made it on to the BBC web site, but far too often we’ve been running into moments like:

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which greeted me as I went into work last week.

Bring on the January, er, February, hell, any thaw

Stormy (Blizzard of 14 edition)


That really has no ring to it at all, but it is what it is.

There are no pictures here as there are plenty elsewhere, just a couple of thoughts as I listen to my landlord do the driveway plowing.

I have a found a few things out over the past few days including: I have absolutely no patience for those taking to social media to whine about what they did or didn’t get in their front yard. You didn’t get four feet on your sidewalk, too flipping bad. That’s a burden for a lot of folks including you. Go outside, make your snow angel in the plentiful snow we got and zip it. One person’s frolic could mean serious issues for those surrounding you. You have sunshine and pavement in your neighborhood! Mazel Tov and shut up too. When it is as cold as it has been, there are folks who’ve had to struggle with minimal heat, icy conditions, snow totals that might be beyond their abilities to move it. So, knock it off.

As George Carlin would say, here’s another group of guys who should be slapped with a bag of hammers: the goofs comparing how this blizzard doesn’t stack up to other blizzards because of snow totals or whatever meaningless statistic. “Only 18 inches of snow, that’s no blizzard they write, back in the day, 77, that was a blizzard.” I know plenty of folks who have been or will be shoveling in this crappy wind chill would like a word with ya, Sparky. I mean, if you’ve lived in the Buffalo Area for a significant length of time, you’ve been through something like this before at some point, but each one is different, weather being funny that way. The local guys I watched pretty much got it spot on, but hearing some wags on social media attempt to joke about one storm versus another and how “this was nothing” is exasperating. Bet the plow drivers, triple a folk, and police groups doing travel ban duty don’t think so. Some of these storms like 77 had body counts. This one did too. So, I don’t get overrought when this type of weather gets here, but I take it seriously, despite the fact the phrase “Polar Vortex” sounds like something the Enterprise ought to be orbiting.

It seems there are few folks griping about preventative measures, like cancelling schools before the storm itself starts. “We didn’t do that in my day.” Well, your day might have been stupid.

We were fortunate as kids. My mom had no problem overruling the school superintendent. I was half tempted to have her call the NHL about the Sabres-Hurricanes game yesterday. You’re lucky, Bettman, mom is on speed dial.

Weather!


There’s lot of weather out there. When it gets this cold, it doesn’t matter if it is Celsius or Fahrenheit, although I’m pretty sure when somebody writes 1 degree F, the F starts to stand for something else.

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That was an impressive cloud rolling in. I managed to slalom into work with relative ease despite the zero degree temps and most of my commute having the same texture as most NHL rinks. A few folks in SUVs still think their four wheel drive makes them invincible to sliding and skidding, but the fact of the matter is they be just as “vincible” as the rest of us.

I dawned on me during the last round of snow that this is more the real deal for winter in Buffalo. This as I micromanaged my 8 year old Corolla on the snow covered thruway for the first time. The point really resonated with me on New Year’s Day (All was quiet) on a trip up the Queen Elizabeth Way to pick up my son from an overnight with friends.  The trip up to the Grimsby area was no big deal, clear roads, but the snow and temps started to fall. That’s extra fun as darkness falls too. That doesn’t slow our friends to the north down.

By the time, we crossed the Rainbow Bridge (with no line), everything was snow and ice covered and cold, not unfamiliar cold, just been a long time since this area had hit single digits. Cold enough that only a few folks, like my work colleague, below, are digging the return to old school Buffalo winter.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside


Lots of weather out there.

In this age of social media, I’m amused how basically having a place to post a gripe, complaint, witticism, that we don’t all have the equivalent of a digital barstool to mutter from atop of.  For every weather related facebook post or tweet showing how much snow landed, there is somebody else grousing that they didn’t get any.

Guess the Western New York snowbelt is living up to its name. Here is North Buffalo, we are looking at pavement. Hamburg, Orchard Park are looking at a foot or more. This, to me, isn’t anything dramatic. I might have even lost my wonder to a degree, because I’ve seen it before. I think that makes us the snow waistline.

That song, think about it, somebody is getting slipped  a mickey, but this is still the best version.

That said, it feels a bit like old school western new York winter. I took this photo on the way into the sabres senators game this week.
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You could hear the water getting colder, but the wind chill was at your back at least. The walk back to the car? Not so pleasant.

So, I don’t get a little awed by the big snow fall that the southtowns are wrasslin with because that is sort of well, normal. When we got a few inches a week or so ago, we’ll instagrammed the beauty of it, but it didn’t slow anybody down at all.
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Despite the “Battering” that CNN says we took, the four inches basically amounted to a condition my dad labels Wednesday. I suspect NBC and CNN covered not for the snowfall, but because our wings are better than the ones where the snow was really falling.

It’s beginning to look like Christmas? No, it looks like Buffalo usually does in December. Winter Wonderland? No, single digit wind chills aren’t part of that song.

Even as I write this, (morning on December 12) and can still see pavement, the Today show talks about Buffalo being hit by snow. It would be more accurate to report that half an hour south of Buffalo they got some snow. Those of us in the city were just cold.

In these days of shortened attention spans, that’s an important thing this city resident got out of my car, walked to my door and didn’t hit snow at all.