Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Blizzard of 2013: "Swift, Heavy, and Dangerous," said the Governor, Declaring an Emergency. "Yes! Playtime!" said I.

Above is a neighbor around the corner from me shoveling out on Saturday, February 9, 2013. It was a common scene in our neighborhood in Worcester, Mass.  We had been warned by Governor Deval L. Patrick.
Surrounded by solemn-faced emergency response officials, the Governor went on TV declaring a statewide emergency as a hurricane-force blizzard approached the state. Calling the storm "swift, heavy, and dangerous," he issued an executive order banning all cars from the roads -- or face a $500 fine. The last time such a ban was imposed was in the Blizzard of '78.

I smiled.

TV weathermen, like rock stars with all eyes on them, took over regular programming as they went on excitedly about the coming "storm of the century." Describing its expected conditions as "impossible," and "treacherous," and "life-threatening," they got us all on full alert. Put another way, these weather know-it-alls scared the crap out of everybody.

Except me, Nanook of the North.

I went to the Big Y Supermarket to get a fresh roasted chicken -- yummy -- and the place was packed with grim-faced people piling groceries into their carts. They didn't want to starve during the expected mass loss of electricity. A couple of weeks earlier, we had lost our electricity in below zero weather, quite unsettling.

Nanook did NOT like that.

This earlier outage lasted just a day. But no heat, lights, computer, and TV is one swift kick in the lifestyle. With the house quiet and  in darkness, Barbara and I went out to an evening movie. We hardly ever go out at night. But we  didn't know what else to do or where else to go. 

As soon as we opened the door to the theatre, we felt the warmth. "Boy, does that ever feel good," Barbara said. I grunted. We saw a great movie, "Zero Dark Thirty"-- and arrived home to lights!

In this latest storm, we expect to lose power again and Barbara -- the grown-up in the house -- is ready for the worst. She has the flashlights and battery-lit candles out just in case. As the powers-that-be suggested, we charge our cell phones in case we need to call for emergency services. We kick ourselves for not buying a generator as we had resolved to do after the last power outage.

Sure enough, just as the TV weather experts predicted, the flurries begin on Friday morning, Feb. 8, and pick up steam throughout the day and night. Wind speeds of up to 50 mph howl while the snow comes down at a steady two to three inches an hour just as the ABC TV weatherman said. I guess I owe him and his colleagues an apology.

Always an early riser, I wake the next morning at 4:30 and look out the living room window to a front yard piled high with snow. At left is what I saw when I open the garage door.

My first thought is "Yes! Snow, beautiful snow! Huge piles of it! Playtime!" My second thought is to get out there and start shoveling, which I  love to do.

But then I realize that we still have electricity. So, before the fun begins, I decide to have a cup of hot coffee and some breakfast. Barbara is still in bed, sound asleep.

We have different schedules and routines. For example, I am an early riser; she is not. I have my mancave downstairs with my desk, computer, and special photos from my long, long life. Barbara's domain is the upstairs living room, specially designed for her by our daughter Misha.  There she reads most nights.

But back to my wild, almighty, majestic, beautiful storm. Well, at 5:45 am, with Barbara sleeping like a baby, I go out there and shovel, right, like a maniac for two solid hours.

I savor every minute. And what exercise! Two solid hours of bending, lifting heavy snow, tossing it. As cold as it is, I work up a sweat. Where could I get better, more enjoyable exercise?

I get maybe 80% of the shoveling done when the garage door opens and there stands Barbara, her face a portrait of worry. 

"You did all that?" she asked. "You feel okay?"

"Yup, got a lot done."

"You sure did. Aren't you tired?"

"Nope,  not tired at all. In fact, I feel great. I think I'll walk down and get my New York Times at 7-11 and stop by the Donut Cafe for coffee and a read."

"You sure they're open?" my worrywart asks.

"They'd better be. If not, Lisa is going to hear about it."

Whenever there is a big snowstorm, I hike down to the Donut Cafe (about a mile away), walk in covered with snow, and take my VIP table by the window. We have a lot of laughs, almost always at my expense.

Lisa and other regulars know me as Nanook of the North because they only see me on big snowstorms. I have written several Nanook of the North stories.  Here is one I wrote five years ago. Here is another one. 

Well, I trudge all the way down to the Donut Cafe, slipping and sliding on hidden ice, with streets a deserted blanket of white, and my only company giant, loud, snowplows whose drivers eye me with a look that says: What's that nut doing walking out in this? 

The Donut Cafe is closed. Lisa, even though I know you don't work on Saturdays, you're going to hear about this. What the hell am I supposed to do on a big storm day, punt? Sit on my ass out here in the snow?

So I go over to the 7-11 convenience store diagonally across the way. It is open with one woman clerk behind the counter. "You're open," I said to Kayla. "I'm surprised."

"How did you get here?"

"My husband drove me. He didn't want to. He kept yelling at me telling me that I shouldn't go in this weather, but I didn't listen to a word. I just told him I was going to work and so he drove me."

There's a real women, I thought. Plus she has a beautiful smile, seen here.

Kayla and I are used to seeing each other because I come in regularly on weekends for the Times. (I get the weekday editions delivered.) Lo and behold, miracle of miracles, the store has one copy of The New York Times.

God is so good to me. First the Lord sends this great snowstorm to me and then our creator  delivers one copy of The New York Times especially for me to enjoy with the storm.  I am in paradise.   

I buy the Times, The Boston Globe, a cup of black coffee, and a blueberry muffin. You read right, a calorie-packed blueberry muffin.  Aren't I the guy who just lost 20 pounds by NOT eating things like blueberry muffins?

Yes. Click here.

Am I going to put the weight back on?

No. Two hours of shoveling heavy snow plus a solid 45 minutes trudging from home and back certainly used most, if not all, of those calories. Plus I had just weighed myself the day before after tennis. If I had gained any weight, I would not have eaten the blueberry muffin.

It's called impulse control.

I want to sit and read and enjoy my hot coffee and blueberry muffin, but there is no place to sit. As the one and only customer in the store, I get bold. "Would you have a chair that I could sit on for a bit while I read?" I asked Kayla. "I promise I will be out of the way and won't stay all day."

The question takes her by surprise. But then she smiles and said, "Be right back."

She returns with a chair. "Here," she said. "Enjoy."

"I'll just stay a while."

"Don't worry, enjoy."

I take the chair. "Thank you, thank you so much."

I make myself comfy in a far corner near the ATM machine and spend a thoroughly enjoyable hour reading my newspapers, looking out at my great storm friend. I thank Kayla for "taking me in."

With me the only customer in the store, Kayla goes out and shovels snow, shown at right.  Talk about multi-tasking!

Mmmmm .... that blueberry muffin was so-o-o-o good.

The front-page headlines in both the Saturday, February 9, editions of The New York Times and The Boston Globe are on the storm that I am experiencing firsthand and having a ball doing it. Here are the two front pages:

The lead sentence in the Times is:

"A vast storm system began its brutal descent on the Northeast on Friday, bringing high winds, deepening snow and threats of flooding to a region still scarred from Hurricane Sandy in October."

The lead sentence in the Globe is:

"Driving snow and punishing winds battered Eastern Massachusetts beginning Friday afternoon, prompting a mass retreat that jammed public transit, emptied the highways, and had New Englanders hunkered down to await the teeth of a potentially historic storm."

As it turned out, I was not the only snow-lover out playing in this historic storm.  My grand nephew James went diving in the snow.  That's right, diving.  Here's the video proof.

James, this is your uncle speaking. Listen carefully. I am Nanook of the North. You may NOT outdo me in snowmanship! Got that?

Following are photos of people and scenes I encountered  out there enjoying the awesome natural beauty of this majestic storm.

Finally, here is my immediate neighbor Billy, shown here bailing me out at my place with his snow blower. He came over when he saw Barbara out there shoveling after I went off to play in the snow. Apparently he and the other neighbors thought I was sticking Barbara with the whole job. Oh well. Thank you Billy! 

So long and keep moving.

Amazon E-Books by George Pollock

"State Kid: Hero of Literacy" is fiction based on his real-life experiences growing up in foster homes; "Last Laughs," is the true story of how five foster kids (he and four younger siblings) found their way in life and each other. "Killers: Surprises in a Maximum Security Prison," is the story of his being locked up for 23 hours with killers in a maximum security prison; "I, Cadaver" is about his postmortem adventures and mischief in the anatomy lab at UMass Medical School. “A Beautiful Story” demonstrates the art and process of creative writing as a 16-year-old boy goes all out to write a story that literally saves his life; "A Long, Happy, Healthy Life," is about how to live the title every day; and "Unlove Story," Writing anonymously as "Elvis," a husband, dumped after 38 years of marriage, lets it all out on love, marriage, life, everything. A guy doing this? It's unheard of.
For the Nook:

A Beautiful Story
A Long, Happy, Healthy Life
I, Cadaver
State Kid
Unlove Story

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