Winter Cedes To Onions

Everyone else has been getting snow days–we’re at what is hopefully the bitter end to an uncharacteristic late winter cold and snow snap.  Temperatures have been up and down for weeks, hitting well below 0 degrees Farenheit zero (-18 C) on multiple occasions and, until the past weekend, ascending above freezing for just two days out the the past month or so.  Unfortunately, it rained like hell both of those days, in between snow storms, accumulating inches of slush that turned to the ice that lay beneath everything that hasn’t been constantly shoveled, scraped, and salted.  My wife is a teacher, and her school has cancelled at least 6 days, with at least that many late openings and early dismissals, combined.


I grew accustomed to my kids are sleeping in morning after morning, classes on what seemd like a perpetual 2-hour delay, due to cold.  I sat at my desk one morning last week and guzzled coffee: outside it was  -4 F, which didn’t even feel that cold.  It was not so long ago I was bundling up in wool sweater, parka, gloves, scarf, and cap to go out to our community’s annual “It’s a Wonderful Life” light-up night back in November.  I remember the gentle winter breeze felt like it was cutting like a dagger.

It was 29 degrees.

If it had been 29 degrees last week I’d have gone outside without a jacket and washed the truck.

No precipitation right now, but it’s supposed to hit 50 degrees–we’ve been above freezing, with highs in the upper 30s and 40s for the past 3 days as well, and not a moment too soon.  If the meteorologists are to be believed (and they aren’t) things look good, and above averages, through the weekend.  Sweet. I’ve got yard work to do.   Apple trees and shrubbery to prune, fallen sticks and branches to pick up, and who knows what else is hidden beneath the foot or so of crystalized mess in the backyard.

Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker--sorry, Eric.
Photo shamelessly pilfered from Eric Barker–sorry, Eric.

It will be a treat.  I’ve got this little property maintenance gig, and one of the things I do is clear sidewalks for a local landlord whose student tenants are too lazy and indifferent (as I was when I was a student) to do it for themselves.  It’s always been fun, invigorating, especially since I stopped trying to wrestle a snowblower in and out of the truck and opted to do as much as I could by hand.  It’s good, clean work.  The sound of the shovel scraping concrete pleases me, and despite all those mothers in the world urging us to bundle up I think the cold, fresh air is good for me.  I know getting outside, even under cloudy skies, is a good thing–no seasonal depression disorder for me.  I’m the same level of grumpy as always.

But the level of weather has been bullshit.  I said that the other morning, when I woke to find three new inches when the forecast had called for “a dusting.”

“This is bullshit.” I said.  It didn’t help.

Normally, I expect to shovel 17 times, give or take.  Last year was high with 24 trips around town spread between early December and March. This year there was one day of work in December, nothing even in early January, but I’ve been out 37 times in slightly less than 2 months.  Some of those are two trips on the same day, and some of them were easy–a few inches of powder.  The heavy snow and slush of the past two weeks, on the other hand, has been a mess–impossible to clear without hundreds of pounds of salt, and hell on my arms. I’ve got what I think is tendonitis in my left elbow. Tendonitis!  From shoveling!

On the bright side: I’ve been planting.  My package from Fedco Seeds arrived a few weeks back, and I’ve got my onions growing in flats under lights, and the leeks are germinating and should sprout within the next few days.  We joke around here about “clinging to our guns and religion,” thanks to a certain President’s unfortunate, but astute observations of our regional mores, but at this point it is those little green blades of onion starts that are keeping me sane.

Remind me of this when I’m moaning about the heat.



I Won’t Be In To Work Today; Committed Suicide Last Night

I once had an employee call in dead. Not sick, but dead. When he didn’t show up for his shift I called his apartment. His room-mate answered and went to get him–but came back to the phone and said “he’s not here, and he’s not outside at the bus stop so he must be on the way.”

An hour later the employee called, “I’m really sorry, but I can’t come to work today. It’s kind of embarrassing, but I committed suicide last night.”

“Suicide?” I marveled. The kid was an actor; he often bragged that he was friends with Melina Kanakaredes.  It was really important to him that I knew that he knew Melina Kanakaredes so well that he used a nickname when they sat around and laughed and smiled and laughed some more about all the hijinks and misadventures they shared at Point Park University.  I don’t remember that nickname, 20 years later, but I still remember that he used it.

“Yes, I was so depressed, and drinking–it was an impulse. I was still at the hospital when you called, but I need to stay home and relax today.”

“Ah,” I said. “I’m glad that you’re feeling better.”

“Oh, I won’t be doing that again.”

“Right.” I said. “Especially now that you’ve practiced. Next time it might stick.”


“We’ll see you Monday morning, okay?” I said. He was a good kid, I liked him, and giving him a pass was easier than hiring and breaking in a new clerk.

That night my in-laws came to town, with tickets to take my wife and I to a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar, I couldn’t help but grin when the young fellow goose-stepped onto the stage in full Nazi regalia in the role of King Herod, or Pontius Pilate, whichever sings that “you are the Christ song.” He was excellent–the Nazi thing was inspired–and that dead kid sure could sing.

I looked forward to complimenting him on Monday, and getting a little jibe in about the “suicide” thing, but I never saw him again. After about three weeks I mailed his final check.

Commentary Poetry sheer awesomeness

Bonus Poetry For National Poetry Month: Gil Scott Heron

My 303rd post, but my first special request–enjoy–but you know you could have googled this, right?

Gil-Scott-Heron-Revolution-Will-Not-Be-TelevisedGil Scott Heron imprinted on the American psyche with “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”–a seminal rap, spoken-word poem tour do force that most people recognize from history class and vaguely associate with the 1960s (much of which was actually in the 1970s), Viet Nam, Civil Rights, Black Power–anything but the fact that it was part of a poem.

Thought it’s not as culturally significant, I like this one even more–blew my mind the first time I heard it.

Work For Peace by Gil Scott Heron

Back when Eisenhower was the President,
Golf courses was where most of his time was spent.
So I never really listened to what the President said,
Because in general I believed that the General was politically dead.
But he always seemed to know when the muscles were about to be flexed,
Because I remember him saying something, mumbling something about a Military Industrial Complex.
Americans no longer fight to keep their shores safe,
Just to keep the jobs going in the arms making workplace.
Then they pretend to be gripped by some sort of political reflex,
But all they’re doing is paying dues to the Military Industrial Complex.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary.
The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,
They turn our brothers and sisters into mercenaries, they are turning the planet into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary, use the media as intermediaries,
they are determined to keep the citizens secondary, they make so many decisions that are arbitrary.
We’re marching behind a commander in chief,
who is standing under a spotlight shaking like a leaf.
but the ship of state had landed on an economic reef,
so we knew he was going to bring us messages of grief.
The Military and the Monetary,
were shielded by January and went storming into February,
Brought us pot bellied generals as luminaries,
two weeks ago I hadn’t heard of the son of a bitch,
now all of a sudden he’s legendary.
They took the honour from the honourary,
they took the dignity from the dignitaries,
they took the secrets from the secretary,
but they left the bitch an obituary.
The Military and the Monetary,
from thousands of miles away in a Saudi Arabian sanctuary,
had us all scrambling for our dictionaries,
cause we couldn’t understand the fuckin vocabulary.
Yeah, there was some smart bombs,
but there was some dumb ones as well,
scared the hell out of CNN in that Baghdad hotel.
The Military and the Monetary,
they get together whenever they think its necessary,
War in the desert sometimes sure is scary,
but they beamed out the war to all their subsidiaries.
Tried to make So Damn Insane a worthy adversary,
keeping the citizens secondary,
scaring old folks into coronaries.
The Military and the Monetary,
from thousands of miles in a Saudi Arabian sanctuary,
kept us all wondering if all of this was really truely, necessary.
We’ve got to work for Peace,
Peace ain’t coming this way.
If we only work for Peace,
If everyone believed in Peace the way they say they do,
we’d have Peace.
The only thing wrong with Peace,
is that you can’t make no money from it.
The Military and the Monetary,
they get together whenever they think its necessary,
they’ve turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet, into a cemetery.
Got to work for Peace,
Peace ain’t coming this way.
We should not allow ourselves to be mislead,
by talk of entering a time of Peace,
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the absence of the rules of war and the threats of war
and the preparation for war.
Peace is not the absence of war,
it is the time when we will all bring ourselves
closer to each other,
closer to building a structure that is unique
within ourselves
because we have finally come to Peace within ourselves.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary.
Get together whenever they think its necessary,
they’ve turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning parts of the planet, into a cemetery.
The Military and the Monetary,
The Military and the Monetary,
We hounded the Ayatollah religiously,
Bombed Libya and killed Quadafi’s son hideously.
We turned our back on our allies the Panamanians,
and saw Ollie North selling guns to the Iranians.
Watched Gorbachev slaughtering Lithuanians,
We better warn the Amish,
they may bomb the Pennsylvanians.
The Military and the Monetary,
get together whenever they think its necessary,
they have turned our brothers and sisters into mercenaries,
they are turning the planet, into a cemetery.
I don’t want to sound like no late night commercial,
but its a matter of fact that there are thousands of children
all over the world
in Asia and Africa and in South America who need our help.
When they start talking about 55 cents a day and
70 cents a day,
I know a lot of folks feel as though that,
that’s not really any kind of contribution to make,
but we had to give up a dollar and a half just to get
in the subway nowadays.
So this is a song about tomorrow and about how tomorrow
can be better. if we all,
“Each one reach one, Each one try to teach one”.
Nobody can do everything,
but everybody can do something,
everyone must play a part,
everyone got to go to work, Work for Peace.
Spirit Say Work, Work for Peace
If you believe the things you say, go to work.
If you believe in Peace, time to go to work.
Cant be waving your head no more, go to work.