The Storm That Ate Christmas


Still playing at a theater near you, dispensing with marking myself safe from the snowstorm in Buffalo, and opting for annoyed. Can you mark yourself annoyed? I’m going to set precedent.

The multi-day, multi-foot deep snow storm that ate Christmas (most of which is still in my driveway) is a study in wisdom and foolishness and tragedy. Anything with a body count immediately loses access to terms like beauty and clinches like Winter Wonderland. When more than 20 people have died, aphorisms don’t cut it.

I questioned my own wisdom on the first night of the storm. A loss in power put a premature end of the work day and I was offered safe haven a block away where there was heat and light. With a vision line of about 20 feet at best, it was the longest short walk I’ve ever taken, like a chapter from a Jack London story. It was quite surreal to hear nothing but the wind and see little but snow bent on bodily assault. That assault would continue for the next 30 hours and upwards of 4 feet of new fallen snow, Despite that less than informed choice, I made it and had a good warm seat to watch the storm pummel the area from a fourth floor vista.

Watching the wind and snow blow about had the same effect of gazing at a campfire. What are you watching? Who knows, but you don’t want to miss it when it reveals itself. Buildings would fade from view like they never existed and then suddenly reappearing like the silhouetted monoliths they are, coming in and out of focus only being 50 to 60 feet away from the window I was gazing on them from.

When all was calm, the return trip was a little less Call of the Wild and a little more obstacle laden, better stretch before you pull something odyssey. The intense varying winds carved some interesting temporary snow architecture and the result was a random pattern of cars and SUVS in a variety of abstract positions as if a child tossed their matchbox cars in the air and the snowbound pattern was result.

I don’t know who built Hoak’s restaurant south of the city, but he or she did good work

But that all worked out, despite been not one of my better initial choices upon leaving my darkened house. It was heartwarming to read of the rescue of the theater worker in North Buffalo as that is how we should be looking out for another. I’m glad he was found and getting the necessary care toward recovery. It is also great that the bus of Korean tourists found safety in something they have never experienced before. It’s heartbreaking how many others didn’t fare was well.

I don’t really get the folks who want to compare “what storm was worse” as that doesn’t matter or the people going to facebook to get the best streets to get to a destination. I’d call the destination than try to cruise in lousy conditions with anecdotal testimony, but that is just me. I would however listen to the driving ban.

My actual driveway underscored that I have no choice in the matter. See below.

The peak there is about five feet high.

My personal hero so far is the guy whose job is to clear the sidewalks of the nursing home next to mine. He has set down the way to do it through sheer consistent pluck. He’ has been out there each day of the storm and as a result, there is pavement around the property. Unlike some leaders he didn’t blame residents, he focused on the task. If only that example would inspire say, building owners like, well, mine.

As I write this the landlord did send two guys with a snowblower to carve out the sidewalks at least, I applaud the attempt, but 12 year old me running Dad’s snowblower for the first time in winter 1976 got better results. Maybe they needed my dad to stare them into straight lines as it worked when I did that stuff.

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Ride, Captain, Ride


When you have been cooped up all day inside on a great looking outside day, sometimes you just have to steal a little. You might see some cool stuff if you make haste. With a related question, if you do make haste, what do you keep it in? Anyway, fresh air to sooth the office drone’s soul.

Hints of fall in the trees

Should We Talk About the Weather (hi, hi, hi)


This stuff isn’t good.

A path created by stomping feet, not shovels

We got over two feet of snow to start the week. It isn’t a hoot. I never considered that among the supply chain pandemic induced shortages would be snow removal. The sidewalks in my apartment complex and the above ankle snapping path pictured above have footprints, but no shovel prints three days after the storm passed.

This stuff is such sudden quantity isn’t a winter wonderland as some tired copywriters insist on hauling out. It’s not a ripoff if your area only got four or five inches. It’s a chore. Four days after the snow stopped, started to melt, and then quickly refroze is my microcosm of a complex taking on a chore of cleaning up. Given the volume of snow, they got a day ahead of them. The place is finally taking some initiative for being a better neighbor and less of a liability hot bed. When the next door nursing home has their sidewalk down to bare pavement and you are sporting the above, it’s not a good luck. But we weren’t alone. In a city where the parking rules have puzzling inconsistencies, the deck gets stacked among what plow drivers there are. The suddenness of it all took everybody off guard. Buffalo talks a good game, but we could stand to back it up. I chipped in and help push a couple cars out of unplowed snow divots. While there are some autos whose owners did indeed make some questionable choices, we don’t deserve a councilman says it is all the residents’ fault.

We do have some whackdoo parking timing around here and I bet that does cause some havoc in plotting plow routes, assuming they are indeed plotted. Given the volume of snow, a zone defense would surprise me.

I used to have a long commute to work that took me to the next county and when snow fell, simple travel took on whole new meaning. With one exhausting trip home, I was exiting a thruway onramp to a highway back into the city, when I saw a car zip zagging in and out of my rear view mirror. Not that I wanted anything bad to happen, but i was praying the driver would find a snow bank before anything serious happened. Thankfully they safely did. I cringe about hearing “we need to practice our winter driving skills” on local news. Living where we do, we should just have them.

The Buffalo streets commissioner looked so weary and I empathize but given that we are dealing with the second significant snow fall in as many weeks, we should be learning, walking the walk to back up our talking the talk. Maybe he should order up a few of these to ease movement.

The truck, not the mural or me

It’s great that we are watching out for each other and all, but overall planning shouldn’t be so ad-libbed. I dig the four seasons but this one shouldn’t be our boss.

Now I can settle back in to important tv watching without wondering if that plow is headed for me.

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.

 

 

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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