Thursday, January 27, 2011

Nanook of the North III: Dat Ole Man Winter He Jus' Keeps on Rollin', Rollin'. And Dat Sultry-Voiced Siren Jus' Keeps on Callin,' Callin.'

Not another one, you're thinking.  Nanook of the North Three?  Wait, don't click away.  Give me a chance to explain, quickly.

First of all, it's not my fault.  No, I'm not going to lay it on Ole Man Winter, as nasty as he is.  He's just doing what he has to do, rollin', rollin' right over us.

I'm not going to blame that sultry-voiced siren whispering in my ear, as hot and irresistible as she is. She's just doing what she has to do, callin', callin' until any normal guy goes out to her.

I'm not even going to blame it on the staggering, record-shattering storm. This is the kind of snow I haven't seen since I was a kid, which was a long, long time ago.

This storm swamped snow-removal crews, collapsed  many flat roofs, stalled traffic on major highways, and had homeowners waking up wondering if they had been transported to the Arctic.

No, I'm blaming this story on two friends.

First, Judy.  A regular reader who often comments on my stories, she wrote to tell me that I "blew it" with the last story. She reminded me that in my last two snow adventures, I fell. Both times, she noted, I fell backwards, which is perfect for creating a snow angel.

Both times, I failed to create a snow angel, she said. If I had,   I might have avoided a fall. Well, I want to be open-minded. This time, I took Judy's advice and made a snow angel. At left is the creation. Below is the end result.

Okay, it's not exactly a work of art. But it's my first one ever and  I'll do better. After I created the snow angel -- does this sound God-like? -- I asked her to please protect me from falling a third time. She said she would, as least that's what I heard her say ever so softly and caringly.

Maybe, just maybe, my snow angel,  of pure freshly-fallen snow, will stand up for me against Ole Man Winter and that sultry-voice siren. Maybe my lovely snow angel will keep me on my feet as I go traipsing about in this great storm.

As I was writing this, wouldn't you know I got an e-mail from guess who? Judy. She wrote:

"Okay, Snow Buddy. Fess up! Did you manage your wonderland (wanderland?) explorations without mishap this morning? I should have suggested earlier that if you wanted to avoid snow melting down the back of your neck, and be sure to return to the (generally) normal upright state, maybe the snow angel would better have been replaced by a snow man. Too late now, but regardless, I'm sure you enjoyed your foray (I'm pretty sure you ventured out -as did I) into this spectacular magical world that envelopes us."
Enjoy, my friend.

I replied:

"I did. I created a snow angel.  Got a photo of it (by Barbara). Didn't fall.  Went crazy out in a snow paradise.  In fact, was a public spectacle, though not to the point of attracting the attention of authorities. I am writing about it right now.  In fact, good timing on your e-mail. I am in the process of  giving you the credit (blame?) you deserve as you read this. Be afraid, be very afraid.
P.S. I just loved that snow melting down my neck.  Now you tell me that a snow man would have been a better choice than a snow angel.  You are going to get yours!"

There was a P.P.S that I  asked Judy to keep confidential.  Well, okay, I'll tell.  Because I was blaming her for this story, I was on my knees begging her to remain my friend.  I have no manly pride.

And now my other friend, Stephen, who lives around the corner. After the storm before this one, I got a call from him in St. Louis, Missouri where he has been working as a photographer.  He specializes in photographing large building demolitions.

"A neighbor sent me a photo of my house and it is all snowed in.  I have to do something. I'm thinking of going on Craig's List  to find somebody to plow it."

"I'll shovel it," I said immediately.

"You will?" he asked.

"Sure, I'll go out right now and do it."

And I did.  It was about 4:00 P.M. and it took me about an hour.

I called Stephen back. "Done," I said.

"Thank you, thank you," he said.

"No problem. Just playing in the snow."

That was before the even bigger storm of January 27, today, as I write this.  Naturally, the storm had been all over the news with the usual dire warnings. The message: if you don't want to die or get maimed for life, stay inside.

Sure, that's easy to do if you don't have a Judy expecting a snow angel and a report on my snowy adventures. Or if you don't have a Stephen now expecting you, and properly so, to shovel out his home. Or if you don't have a home of your own to shovel out as well.

This ain't complaining.  I love doing it.

Today, Thursday, I was so excited about the storm, I jumped out of bed at about 4:00 A.M. instead of my usual 5 A.M. It had been snowing heavily all night. I went right to the front door to look out into the darkness.  At the sight of all that snow, all I could think was "wow." When it gets light, I thought, imagine the white! Ooh, a little poetry there and deservedly so.

I couldn't go out at four in the morning. The plow guys might report me as "some strange guy wandering around, seemingly lost." I had coffee, half a raisin bagel, and half an orange. With no New York Times and Wall Street Journal to read, I read my New Yorker for a couple of hours. (I always have to have something to read.)

At about six, still not yet light, I went out and started shoveling.  It took me more than two hours to shovel out the driveway.  The plows had piled up huge, heavy mounds at the end of the driveway.  At about eight, Barbara came out and we worked together for another two hours.  Luckily we had shoveled the two to three feet of snow off the deck the day before.

Here Barbara shovels on the deck.

I went in about 9 to get ready for indoor tennis at 10:30.  I was all ready to go out the door when the call came that tennis was canceled because of the storm.  Though I love my tennis, it was fine with me.  I still had Stephen's place to shovel out.

So I got out of my tennis clothes, put my snow clothes on, picked up my shovel, and walked the five minutes or so to Stephen's house -- without falling.

As at my house, the plows had dropped a huge pile of snow at the end of the driveway.  It didn't look doable by one old guy with a shovel.  But neither did the pile of heavy snow at the end of my driveway.

The trick is one shovel at a time, bend your knees, keep your back straight, get into a rhythm, don't load up the shovel. It's amazing how the shovelfuls add up and how much work you can get done.

I work with a light plastic "back-saver" shovel that really does save your back.  Barbara bought it years ago at the old Spags in Shrewsbury and hasn't seen them anywhere since. I had already shoveled about three hours and I was now going to do another two hours or so.

One other thing is important to do if you want to be a big-league shoveler. Don't think about how much you have to shovel. Forget that you are shoveling. Put it on automatic.

Instead, think about how lucky you are to be alive, and out in a snowstorm, and physically able to do it. Here I am practicing at Stephen's house what I am preaching.

Also, I thought about how pleased Stephen will be when he arrives home from St. Louis and finds his home all shoveled out.  The thought makes me feel good.  It is remarkable how refreshing it is to get outside of your own skin, to think about others, to do for them, and to contribute to their happiness.

It has been my pleasure, Stephen.

Before I knew it, Stephen was all shoveled out.  But I didn't have to do it all myself.  I got some crucial help at the beginning and toward the end.  When I was shoveling the heavy stuff at the end of the driveway, a kindly city plower waved me off and shoved a huge mound away, giving me room to throw the snow.  It was a huge help.

And then, toward the end, and when I was beginning to run out of gas, I got another timely helping hand.  Harold, a neighbor a couple of houses down from Stephen,  came by with his snow-blower and finished the job. Here are photos of Harold and his wife Elaine and Harold at work with his snow-blower at Stephen's house. 

By noon, Barbara and I were shoveled out and so was Stephen.  It had been a glorious winter morning.  Thank you, my sweet and caring snow angel for protecting me from falling.

Thank you, Judy, for suggesting that I create a snow angel and for being such a loyal reader.  Thank you Stephen for letting me play at your house and for the satisfaction of helping you. Thank you kind plow driver for pushing aside that huge pile at the end of Stephen's driveway.

Thank you, Harold, for your timely arrival with your snow-blower to get an old shoveler across the finish line.  Thank you, Barbara, my sweet and caring wife, for being so understanding and accepting of a guy who routinely acts like he's from another planet.

Thank you Ole Man Winter for bringing this big snowstorm. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings. You just keep on rollin', you hear? Thank you, sultry-voiced siren. I  love you. You are very special to me. Please, please, continue to lead me on.

Thank you for whoever wrote this story. It was so wonderful letting the words flow, getting into a rhythm, going on automatic, drifting off into dreamland, and then finding the story done.

So long and keep going.

P.S. It was remarkable how quickly things returned to normal.  By noon, the storm was under control and people were up and about. Here are Andy and Anna and their three kids, from left to right,  Elizabeth, Madeline and Nicholas. They were out for a walk. When I see Madeline and Nicholas, they stick out their fingers so I can "snack" on them.

NOTE: My novel, State Kid: Hero of Literacy is now a Google E- book.

Billy Stone was a foster child.

He ran away from abuse.

He went to juvenile prison.

He went up from there.

And he did it his way.

With the power of the written word.