The Handshake That Hides

In the early 1990s, I got stuck in an hours-long traffic jam on this far-flung old farm road during a snowstorm. Why was I there? No idea. The cold, the frustration, the fear my rickety car would fail and strand me where help would not come – those things I remember. They are the reason why I listen to nobody about when I should or should not venture out into snowstorms.

South Middlebush Road during the snowstorm on Tuesday, 21 January, 2014. Photo: Bob Hosh

South Middlebush Road during the snowstorm on Tuesday, 21 January, 2014. Photo: Bob Hosh


So when I read about an entire metropolitan area full of stranded men, women and children, I want to issue new rules. Here is one:

If the weather man tells you a storm is coming and your boss or the school superintendent insists you turn up, take a sick & tired day. No one will be more concerned for your safety than you.

How are you fixed for chicken soup, projects and rock salt?

A Superhero Everyone’s A Captain Kirk

There’s no telling if news of New Jersey’s and New York’s storm damage reaches beyond the Apalachians, except my sister Daria’s currently playing host to four Texans who drove a semi filled with thousands of pies from one tiny community, evidently in the middle of nowhere. My sister and the Texans were on Fox & Friends this morning, discussing their crazy caper. While the caper is impressive, the show is for shit. You can find the segment yourself, if you’re so inclined.

Excellent footwear. Not my size.

Before the storm, I reviewed my favorite game: the Snow Day. At the time, I thought it was a bit of a dark impulse. Meteorologists run around with their hair standing on end if the break room runs out of Splenda, so we’ve all come to take their warnings with a boulder of salt. I didn’t really believe it could be as bad as it was predicted; neither did I know that I was not actually prepared.

Let’s assess, then, our outcomes.

Our house is very high up, roughly a hundred feet above sea level, says Pete. This came in handy when we were never flooded. Our basement didn’t flood. Our yard drained immediately. That our neighbors within a few blocks were not as fortunate may amount to luck.

We are on a tree-lined street, which worked against us when great branches fell everywhere, taking down wires. We did not suffer, as many did, when whole trees tipped over and crashed into houses. A startling number of the people who died were inside houses when trees barged in.

We lost power for about 46 hours. That sucked. If it had been longer, we might have had to make some difficult decisions about where we should be. Power came on in a seemingly endless patchwork, so while we got power back Wednesday night after the Monday night outage, our neighbors down the street did not get power for a week, some for two weeks and some still do not have it. This led us to conclude we would not face another hurricane season without a generator. Because everyone with generators went sort of crazy about buying gas, we will not be buying a gas generator, because the idea is to have less crazy.

The hurricane’s aftermath exposed a few chinks in our armor we were not aware existed. An example: our cell phones were mostly useless for five-six days, Pete’s having a much stronger signal than mine for no reason we could determine. Further: our cable bundle internet-television-phone was a total failure. Remember when the U.S. converted to digital TV and we all stared at our coat hangers like old friends? After three days, Pete set up our bedroom TV with the attic’s bunny ear contraption and we had TV. You have not lived until you’ve watched one of those CSI shows by candlelight.

The phone thing was mostly a pain in the patoot, but it meant that to communicate with the outside world, I had to go to work, where phones called, lights lit and the internets remained snarky. I was writing from a remote location in the middle of fucking Jersey, and though I was okay and had a home and food to eat, everything was not all right. My co-workers also came to work in self-defense and didn’t so much want to go home to cold, dark houses. When things went well, it was still a strain. I did not count on that and now know I’d better mull that over.

There were also things that went well.

Crepes. Because why the hell not?

We had gas and hot water, so we could cook. Further: we had taken the precaution of filtering quart after quart of tap water – we do not do bottled water – so we had clean water to cook with. The boil-water order came days later, as we suspected it would, but it was predictable. We had clean water to drink, too, but we discovered that our bodies reacted to the conditions by trying to hold on to its own resources. Thus: in the future, I will also make sure our house always contains cranberry juice. At the first sign that urine changes color, drink!

Funny, I don’t feel nostalgic.

A package of a hundred or two hundred – I forget which – tea lights proved invaluable. I lined a platter with foil and lit a bunch. They produced not just light, but also no small amount of warmth. This was a big asset. We will never be without them from now on.

We save our carrot tips, onion tops and celery bases in our freezer, so when the lights went out, we set up stock pots on the stove. The simmering of chicken carcasses and beef bones produced marvelous aromas, normal humidity and kept the house from cooling completely. It also helped that I’d set aside jarring projects until the storm hit. Having something steady to do really kept me focused. We also brought in herbs from the garden and set up compound butter. My sister Anya reported:

Daria: Do you think they’re really okay? Would they tell you if they were in trouble over there?
Anya: They’re fine. They’re making compound butters.
Daria: We just don’t have the same kinds of problems, do we?
Anya: I’m calling from my basement canoe.

Some of our outcomes were the luck of the draw. Some require further thought. We also obtained some definite results. Because of some excellent planning on the part of Pete’s parents decades ago, we are way up high and that helped. Now, if only we can go back in time and get them to put solar panels on the garage roof last year…

Don’t Wait To Make the Twirl

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, we played my very favorite game: SNOW DAY! Because it’s that time of year and Hurricane Sandy is barreling up the coast, let’s recap:

I.
I’m not much of a game player, but I have a few favorites. My sister Daria and I compare grocery store register tapes with ferocious game faces and end zone dances; I play bumper cars with traffic on my bicycle twice a day and my crappy memory makes all of life a constant game of Concentration, but my absolute favorite is Snow Day.

Stuff’s gonna happen. Weather’s going to kick your ass now and then, and depending on where you live, in invigorating ways. Here in the eastern part of Central New Jersey, weather is fairly mild most of the time, but once or twice a normal winter, snow is going to tie up traffic and macramé brainwaves. The game has three parts:

1. Prepare.
2. Get home before I cannot.
3. EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

When snow is in the forecast, I count on about half the people around me to head to the grocery store to buy bread and milk and the other half to forget they’re out of bread and milk. Most people are not good at this game. But look: this is fun. Imagine yourself cozy inside your happy house for – let’s say – two days, even three. What would you need? What would you want? What would make these three days awesome?

Need
Food
Water
Cat Food
Cat Litter
Light
Heat
Snow Melt (for the sidewalks)
Toilet Paper
Shovels

Want
Enough Extra For Additional People, Animals
Ability To Travel Locally
Warm Outdoor Clothing
Warm Indoor Clothing
Fun Things To Do, Including Each Other

Awesomeness
Adult Beverages
Clean Laundry
Human Treats
Cat Treats
Mariachi Band!

It’s a complicated bit of imagining. What if your neighborhood loses power in this fantasy? What if you find yourself stranded with guests? What if you, whoever and whatever you are, have to take care of an injured person? Can you do it?

Need
First Aid Kit
Candles
Mouthwash
Toothpaste
Antiseptic
Antibiotic Ointment
Clean Towels

Want
Extra Blankets
Ability To Wash Dishes Manually
Books/Magazines

Awesomeness
Power Generator
TV
Music

I don’t have a generator and probably never will, but that’d be great, wouldn’t it? Maybe. But then you have to store combustible fuel for it. Here, where power outages are few, far between and brief, keeping a generator is probably not a great idea. Where you live, it may be absolutely necessary. How do you feel about a mariachi band? So let’s amend:

Awesomeness
Drink Umbrellas
Festive, Warm Costumes

What, you think a party just happens?

Look, I’ve been broke. I don’t mean out of pin money for the weekend, I mean ate mashed potatoes once a day while pregnant, and I have a rule: Every grocery list that includes ramen noodles must include paper drink umbrellas. Life is short! But everyone has a different definition of Need, Want and Awesomeness, and some things you can build into your regular life and count as part of the game. A really good example: batteries. Locate your flashlights at the beginning of October, replace all the batteries and store enough new batteries to replace what you’re using in January, should the need arise. Bonus: you can feel very smug when a TV PSA asks if you’ve thought of it.

Another thing: coffee. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be very unhappy in a situation where I’m denied some caffeinated swill. A power outage does not threaten my ability to make coffee, however, since I’m perfectly willing to build a fire in the backyard, boil water and use the french press to make coffee, which I can store in a thermos. Do I sound desperate? Maybe, but a warm drink on a snow day sounds like a basic need. So: charcoal or small logs, newspaper, coffee grounds, french press, clean water, a thermos or large carafe. Or: you could make the coffee before the snow hits and set aside. Fewer conflagrations for you! By the way, do you have a fire extinguisher?

II.
The more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that sometimes in an emergency you’re going to be on your own or with one other person. Pete and I have lived where we do nearly our whole lives, so we’re not surprised when the river rises over the small bridges or when low roads become fast-moving creeks. It happens now and then that I’m at work when the river comes up. I don’t hang around and wait for the inevitable four-hour crush to drive two miles. I stupidly did that once in snow: lesson learned! When the weather map says it’s going to snow for a whole day and the clouds deliver I’ll be at my house.

You’d be surprised how many people think this is dumb. I bet they’re out of milk and bread.

Listen, I try to be ready for predictable things, but I get caught flat-footed all the time. Yesterday, we drove down to Delaware to see Pete’s elderly aunt and uncle. We thought we were having lunch, then heading home, but when we got there, no trace of lunch could be found. We’d had breakfast, but that was hours before. By the time dinner was ready, Pete and I were ravenous. I wanted to pick up the bowl of meatballs and pour them into my mouth, and it was really hard to not imagine us making growling sounds when someone else reached for the plate of sausages. We were unprepared for this situation despite the facts that we are hypoglycemic and this has happened with our retired relatives twice before. You know: we could’ve had a V8, but we didn’t. Oops?

What if I can’t get to my house, which I love love love and want to be in? The river between my office and my house sometimes floods four out of five nearby river crossings, and getting to that fifth bridge can serve as an IQ test, and this can happen when our skies are clear but North Jersey has had rain for two days or a sudden thaw. Surprise! A flood! But that’s not part of our game. What is? Here in Central New Jersey, people get in cars and panic with the fall of the first flakes. If you drive, take cabs or buses, your job is to get off the road before people with their hair standing on end drive their giant SUVs into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers past your bedtime. If you take trains, keep in mind the Long Island Railroad, for instance, goes haywire when the tracks get wet. No, I don’t understand that. Yes, I think we should all be able to take trains, but what the hell? Anyhoo: my mother’s house is on the other side of the river and about two miles from my office. If I couldn’t cross the river I still have places on higher ground I could retreat to. Bonus: mom’s house has a wine rack I could find in the dark.

If I couldn’t get home, I could still win the Snow Day game by retreating to a backup shelter I know stocks a pantry, a wine rack and warm clothes – but only if Pete is at home with the cats, and they are wearing little sombreros and eating meaty treats.

III.
This morning, I shut the kitchen door on my way to the garage, and even before my hand slipped off the knob I knew I’d left my keys in the house, and that my chances of bicycling to work on time had just gone POOF! So I called Pete’s cell and left a voicemail because he was in the bathroom, which I knew because I could see the second floor light on. After twenty-five minutes of shouting, “PETE! PETE! PETE!” I heard him grumble, “What?” – like I was nagging from the backyard. He stuck his head out the window. “Ya locked out? I’ll be right down.” Instead of my usual three small stupid things before breakfast, I did one large stupid thing just afterward. So what’s in your car’s emergency kit?

Believe it or not, there are websites and experts who can help, but in order for you to win your own version of the Snow Day game, you’ve got to take into account your locale. Miss Sasha lives in Colorado. I’d like the state to send everyone shiny-shiny GPS pendants every September 1st, but as long as she prepares sensibly for extreme cold, long miles and two fussy toddlers, keeps her cell phone charged and keeps a regular schedule, I’ll worry less and that’s important, because it’s all about me.

Here in Crowded Mild Weather Land, if I drive my car into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers until past your bedtime, someone will violate local ordinances and dial 911 before my wheels stop spinning. Obviously, I should add a cheese platter and sandwiches to my emergency kit. It would really help if I had a reliable car, though: two days every month, one of my tires goes flat. In a new and exciting quirk: the tire won’t re-inflate unless the car’s jacked up. So how can I win with this much left on the board? AAA, and a willingness to abandon the car and hoof it. Fortunately, I’m seldom more than two miles from home, and I know I can walk that in 35 minutes, even with hip pain.

When the big blackout hit a few years ago that people still mention, then laugh nervously about, my friend Audrey was in a meeting in Newark. She got up from the table in the dark, made her way down innumerable flights of stairs and walked in a mini skirt across the city to a ferry terminal, where a full ferry was getting ready to get under way. At the top of her lungs, Audrey shouted, “WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK TO GET ON THIS BOAT?” A young deckhand said, “That’d be me, ma’am,” as he helped her onto the boat, but then didn’t say another word. Everyone was spooked. She walked from the opposite ferry terminal to her Prospect Park apartment and stayed there for three days. I mean, the bitch is fierce.

What are you prepared to do to get home? Are you prepared to stay in place, wherever you are?

IV.
I’ve been writing these posts so pressed for time I’m not sure every sentence features tasty verbs. Please forgive me. I don’t usually write like I stuck my finger in a socket while sorting my silverware. Let’s talk about the most important part of the Snow Day game: winning.

For me: we are in our house, which we leave on foot to shovel the sidewalk or to help someone else since our little town is full of elderly people and mommies with babies, some of whom are my relatives. Our indoor cats are warm, well-fed and play little ocarinas. Our outdoor cats have plenty of food and look okay. Pete obsesses merrily on an indoor project that doesn’t involve injuring his back. We have plenty to eat. I am writing something worth reading. With or without electricity or running water, our house is snug and warm. Maybe we take long, luxurious naps. After a spectacular dinner, we cozy up on the couch with glasses of wine and our musical felines, and if the cable’s working, we watch TV and our clothes drip dry by the front door. When we go to bed, we wish every day could be like this, and if the storm continues, we might even get a second snow day.

It may sound to you pedestrian and dull. To me, it sounds idyllic. I totally win!

Even if you live somewhere tropical, you can play this game. Are you prepared for a hurricane? A tornado? Another blackout? A flood? A more likely scenario: are you prepared if your town suffers an outbreak of flu and you’re advised to stay home for two weeks? Could you do it? I like to think I shop carefully and keep a good pantry, but every week or so I run out of something, so plainly, I too have a lot to learn.

What do you think? Do you like this game?

Maybe A Poster From An Old Rodeo

Previously on Poor Impulse Control, we played my very favorite game: SNOW DAY! Because it’s that time of year, let’s recap:

I.
I’m not much of a game player, but I have a few favorites. My sister Daria and I compare grocery store register tapes with ferocious game faces and end zone dances; I play bumper cars with traffic on my bicycle twice a day and my crappy memory makes all of life a constant game of Concentration, but my absolute favorite is Snow Day.

Stuff’s gonna happen. Weather’s going to kick your ass now and then, and depending on where you live, in invigorating ways. Here in the eastern part of Central New Jersey, weather is fairly mild most of the time, but once or twice a normal winter, snow is going to tie up traffic and macramé brainwaves. The game has three parts:

1. Prepare.
2. Get home before I cannot.
3. EVERYBODY DANCE NOW!

When snow is in the forecast, I count on about half the people around me to head to the grocery store to buy bread and milk and the other half to forget they’re out. Most people are not good at this game. But look: this is fun. Imagine yourself cozy inside your happy house for – let’s say – two days, even three. What would you need? What would you want? What would make these three days awesome?

Need
Food
Water
Cat Food
Cat Litter
Light
Heat
Snow Melt (for the sidewalks)
Toilet Paper
Shovels

Want
Enough Extra For Additional People, Animals
Ability To Travel Locally
Warm Outdoor Clothing
Warm Indoor Clothing
Fun Things To Do, Including Each Other

Awesomeness
Adult Beverages
Clean Laundry
Human Treats
Cat Treats
Mariachi Band!

It’s a complicated bit of imagining. What if your neighborhood loses power in this fantasy? What if you find yourself stranded with guests? What if you, whoever and whatever you are, have to take care of an injured person? Can you do it?

Need
First Aid Kit
Candles
Mouthwash
Toothpaste
Antiseptic
Antibiotic Ointment
Clean Towels

Want
Extra Blankets
Ability To Wash Dishes Manually
Books/Magazines

Awesomeness
Power Generator
TV
Music

I don’t have a generator and probably never will, but that’d be great, wouldn’t it? Maybe. But then you have to store combustible fuel for it. Here, where power outages are few, far between and brief, keeping a generator is probably not a great idea. Where you live, it may be absolutely necessary. How do you feel about a mariachi band? So let’s amend:

Awesomeness
Drink Umbrellas
Festive, Warm Costumes
What, you think a party just happens?

Look, I’ve been broke. I don’t mean out of pin money for the weekend, I mean ate once mashed potatoes a day while pregnant, and I have a rule: Every grocery list that includes ramen noodles must include paper drink umbrellas. Life is short! But everyone has a different definition of Need, Want and Awesomeness, and some things you can build into your regular life and count as part of the game. A really good example: batteries. Locate your flashlights at the beginning of October, replace all the batteries and store enough new batteries to replace what you’re using in January, should the need arise. Bonus: you can feel very smug when a TV PSA asks if you’ve thought of it.

Another thing: coffee. I don’t know about you, but I am going to be very unhappy in a situation where I’m denied some caffeinated swill. A power outage does not threaten my ability to make coffee, however, since I’m perfectly willing to build a fire in the backyard, boil water and use the french press to make coffee, which I can store in a thermos. Do I sound desperate? Maybe, but a warm drink on a snow day sounds like a basic need. So: charcoal or small logs, newspaper, coffee grounds, french press, clean water, a thermos or large carafe. Or: you could make the coffee before the snow hits and set aside. Fewer conflagrations for you! By the way, do you have a fire extinguisher?

II.
The more you think about it, the more it becomes clear that sometimes in an emergency you’re going to be on your own or with one other person. Pete and I have lived where we do nearly our whole lives, so we’re not surprised when the river rises over the small bridges or when low roads become fast-moving creeks. It happens now and then that I’m at work when the river comes up. I don’t hang around and wait for the inevitable four-hour crush to drive two miles. I stupidly did that once in snow: lesson learned! When the weather map says it’s going to snow for a whole day and the clouds deliver I’ll be at my house.

You’d be surprised how many people think this is dumb. I bet they’re out of milk and bread.
Listen, I try to be ready for predictable things, but I get caught flat-footed all the time. Yesterday, we drove down to Delaware to see Pete’s elderly aunt and uncle. We thought we were having lunch, then heading home, but when we got there, no trace of lunch could be found. We’d had breakfast, but that was hours before. By the time dinner was ready, Pete and I were ravenous. I wanted to pick up the bowl of meatballs and pour them into my mouth, and it was really hard to not imagine us making growling sounds when someone else reached for the plate of sausages. We were unprepared for this situation despite the facts that we are hypoglycemic and this has happened with our retired relatives twice before. You know: we could’ve had a V8, but we didn’t. Oops?

What if I can’t get to my house, which I love love love and want to be in? The river between my office and my house sometimes floods four out of five nearby river crossings, and getting to that fifth bridge can serve as an IQ test, and this can happen when our skies are clear but North Jersey has had rain for two days or a sudden thaw. Surprise! A flood! But that’s not part of our game. What is? Here in Central New Jersey, people get in cars and panic with the fall of the first flakes. If you drive, take cabs or buses, your job is to get off the road before people with their hair standing on end drive their giant SUVs into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers past your bedtime. If you take trains, keep in mind the Long Island Railroad, for instance, goes haywire when the tracks get wet. No, I don’t understand that. Yes, I think we should all be able to take trains, but what the hell? Anyhoo: my mother’s house is on the other side of the river and about two miles from my office. If I couldn’t cross the river I still have places on higher ground I could retreat to. Bonus: mom’s house has a wine rack I could find in the dark.

If I couldn’t get home, I could still win the Snow Day game by retreating to a backup shelter I know stocks a pantry, a wine rack and warm clothes – but only if Pete is at home with the cats, and they are wearing little sombreros and eating meaty treats.

III.
This morning, I shut the kitchen door on my way to the garage, and even before my hand slipped off the knob I knew I’d left my keys in the house, and that my chances of bicycling to work on time had just gone POOF! So I called Pete’s cell and left a voicemail because he was in the bathroom, which I knew because I could see the second floor light on. After twenty-five minutes of shouting, “PETE! PETE! PETE!” I heard him grumble, “What?” – like I was nagging from the backyard. He stuck his head out the window. “Ya locked out? I’ll be right down.” Instead of my usual three small stupid things before breakfast, I did one large stupid thing just afterward. So what’s in your car’s emergency kit?

Believe it or not, there are websites and experts who can help, but in order for you to win your own version of the Snow Day game, you’ve got to take into account your locale. Miss Sasha lives in North Dakota. I’d like the state to send everyone shiny-shiny GPS pendants every September 1st, but as long as she prepares sensibly for extreme cold, long miles and a fussy toddler, keeps her cell phone charged and keeps a regular schedule, I’ll worry less and that’s important, because it’s all about me.

Here in Crowded Mild Weather Land, if I drive my car into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers until past your bedtime, someone will violate local ordinances and dial 911 before my wheels stop spinning. Obviously, I should add a cheese platter and sandwiches to my emergency kit. It would really help if I had a reliable car, though: two days every month, one of my tires goes flat. In a new and exciting quirk: the tire won’t re-inflate unless the car’s jacked up. So how can I win with this much left on the board? AAA, and a willingness to abandon the car and hoof it. Fortunately, I’m seldom more than two miles from home, and I know I can walk that in 35 minutes, even with hip pain.

When that big blackout hit people mention, then laugh nervously about, my friend Audrey was in a meeting in Newark. She got up from the table in the dark, made her way down innumerable flights of stairs and walked in a mini skirt across the city to a ferry terminal, where a full ferry was getting ready to get under way. At the top of her lungs, Audrey shouted, “WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK TO GET ON THIS BOAT?” A young deckhand said, “That’d be me, ma’am,” as he helped her onto the boat, but then didn’t say another word. Everyone was spooked. She walked from the opposite ferry terminal to her Prospect Park apartment and stayed there for three days. I mean, the bitch is fierce.

What are you prepared to do to get home? Are you prepared to stay in place, wherever you are?

IV.
I’ve been writing these posts so pressed for time I’m not sure every sentence features tasty verbs. Please forgive me. I don’t usually write like I stuck my finger in a socket while sorting my silverware. Let’s talk about the most important part of the Snow Day game: winning.

For me: we are in our house, which we leave on foot to shovel the sidewalk or to help someone else since our little town is full of elderly people and mommies with babies, some of whom are my relatives. Our indoor cats are warm, well-fed and play little ocarinas. Our outdoor cats have plenty of food and look okay. Pete obsesses merrily on an indoor project that doesn’t involve injuring his back. We have plenty to eat. I am writing something worth reading. With or without electricity or running water, our house is snug and warm. Maybe we take long, luxurious naps. After a spectacular dinner, we cozy up on the couch with glasses of wine and our musical felines, and if the cable’s working, we watch TV and our clothes drip dry by the front door. When we go to bed, we wish every day could be like this, and if the storm continues, we might even get a second snow day.

It may sound to you pedestrian and dull. To me, it sounds idyllic. I totally win!

Even if you live somewhere tropical, you can play this game. Are you prepared for a hurricane? A tornado? Another blackout? A flood? A more likely scenario: are you prepared if your town suffers an outbreak of flu and you’re advised to stay home for two weeks? Could you do it? I like to think I shop carefully and keep a good pantry, but every week or so I run out of something, so plainly, I too have a lot to learn.

What do you think? Do you like this game?

And You Were Right There

For the past two weeks, we’ve been combing Craigslist for a tenant and hoped we’d finally found one. She seemed charmingly befuddled, geographically distant and linguistically tangled. We emailed back and forth, made detailed arrangements to receive her shipped possessions while she visits family in Finland and waited for some time to pass. She sent a picture of herself in which is appears young and supercute, which made me nervous because she can’t know I’m me and don’t care, but jealous types wouldn’t let a girl like that sleep one room from her huuuuuzbind. She also said a lot of things that didn’t make sense and each letter seemed to require a different Rosetta Stone. Last night, a giant check arrived, ostensibly to cover security, rent and shipping costs, but instead of things falling into place they flew everywhere and landed buttered-side down. A list of demands arrived, including that we cable money to a person in California, though no shipping company was named. My Spidey Sense, which had been tingling, went all 220 volt zot! zot! zot!

Cherries fit for the lunchbox King.

Last night, I made the mistake of trying to jar what was probably the final cherries of the season. Minstrel Boy gave me an off-the-cuff recipe for simple cherries spread. I pitted, halved and dropped them into a saucepan with sugar and the zest and juice of two lemons. Sort of. That’s sort of what he said. Anyway, this tenant stuff was suddenly very messy and the pan boiled over. In the jars, these cherries are a deep, rich, luscious merlot color, though they didn’t jell, which MB attributes to some sort of voodoo curse. Who cares, right? My kitchen smelled sweet and lemony and the cherries would taste great on a garbage can lid.

This morning, the supposed proprietor of the shipping company emailed me. His grasp of English grammar seemed tenuous, his demand for cabled money was suspicious, his email address could be made up in minutes, his company had no fixed address and his phone number went to a call center for the hearing impaired in Georgia. Tonight, I emailed the pleasantly befuddled young woman and said without a thorough explanation for all this, I’m mailing back the check tomorrow. Pete and I can’t have someone we can’t trust in our house and I can’t have someone near me playing weird games with money. It puts a permanent wave in my EEG. Tomorrow, we’ll see what she says, but I have a feeling by tomorrow night, I might be able to think again.

Unlock the Door It Won’t Save

Part I.

Part II.

Part III.

Continuing: Part IV.
I’ve been writing these posts so pressed for time I’m not sure every sentence features tasty verbs. Please forgive me. I don’t usually write like I stuck my finger in a socket while sorting my silverware. Let’s talk about the most important part of the Snow Day game: winning.

For me: we are in our house, which we leave on foot to shovel the sidewalk or to help someone else since our little town is full of elderly people and mommies with babies, some of whom are my relatives. Our indoor cats are warm, well-fed and play little ocarinas. Our outdoor cats have plenty of food and look okay. Pete obsesses merrily on an indoor project that doesn’t involve injuring his back. We have plenty to eat. I am writing something worth reading. With or without electricity or running water, our house is snug and warm. Maybe we take long, luxurious naps. After a spectacular dinner, we cozy up on the couch with glasses of wine and our musical felines, and if the cable’s working, we watch TV and our clothes drip dry by the front door. When we go to bed, we wish every day could be like this, and if the storm continues, we might even get a second snow day.

It may sound to you pedestrian and dull. To me, it sounds idyllic. I totally win!

Even if you live somewhere tropical, you can play this game. Are you prepared for a hurricane? A tornado? Another blackout? A flood? A more likely scenario: are you prepared if your town suffers an outbreak of flu and you’re advised to stay home for two weeks? Could you do it? I like to think I shop carefully and keep a good pantry, but every week or so I run out of something, so plainly, I too have a lot to learn.

What do you think? Do you like this game?

Or I Could Be A Millionaire

Part I.

Part II.

Continuing: Part III.
This morning, I shut the kitchen door on my way to the garage, and even before my hand slipped off the knob I knew I’d left my keys in the house, and that my chances of bicycling to work on time had just gone POOF! So I called Pete’s cell and left a voicemail because he was in the bathroom, which I knew because I could see the second floor light on. After twenty-five minutes of shouting, “PETE! PETE! PETE!” I heard him grumble, “What?” – like I was nagging from the backyard. He stuck his head out the window. “Ya locked out? I’ll be right down.” Instead of my usual three small stupid things before breakfast, I did one large stupid thing just afterward. So what’s in your car’s emergency kit?

Believe it or not, there are websites and experts who can help, but in order for you to win your own version of the Snow Day game, you’ve got to take into account your locale. Miss Sasha lives in North Dakota. I’d like the state to send everyone shiny-shiny GPS pendants every September 1st, but as long as she prepares sensibly for extreme cold, long miles and a fussy toddler, keeps her cell phone charged and keeps a regular schedule, I’ll worry less and that’s important, because it’s all about me.

Here in Crowded Mild Weather Land, if I drive my car into a ditch, tying up traffic, emergency personnel and tow truck drivers until past your bedtime, someone will violate local ordinances and dial 911 before my wheels stop spinning. Obviously, I should add a cheese platter and sandwiches to my emergency kit. It would really help if I had a reliable car, though: two days every month, one of my tires goes flat. In a new and exciting quirk: the tire won’t re-inflate unless the car’s jacked up. So how can I win with this much left on the board? AAA, and a willingness to abandon the car and hoof it. Fortunately, I’m seldom more than two miles from home, and I know I can walk that in 35 minutes, even with hip pain.

When that big blackout hit people mention, then laugh nervously about, my friend Audrey was in a meeting in Newark. She got up from the table in the dark, made her way down innumerable flights of stairs and walked in a mini skirt across the city to a ferry terminal, where a full ferry was getting ready to get under way. At the top of her lungs, Audrey shouted, “WHO DO I HAVE TO FUCK TO GET ON THIS BOAT?” A young deckhand said, “That’d be me, ma’am,” as he helped her onto the boat, but then didn’t say another word. Everyone was spooked. She walked from the opposite ferry terminal to her Prospect Park apartment and stayed there for three days. I mean, the bitch is fierce.

What are you prepared to do to get home? Are you prepared to stay in place, wherever you are?

Part IV.