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From Fall Into Winter…. Again (A Grump’s Lament)

When I asked the love of my life to grow old with me….

Well, I should have been more careful.

Oh, now, don’t worry; It’s just that I’d just not envisioned following through on the growing old part so bloody quickly. Y’ever have a morning where you wonder who the hell the old guy in the mirror is? Yep, that’s our Bithead this morning.

Oh, well. It’s my blog after all. I’m supposed to rant and rave, anyway. 
Right?

Right??!?!?!? 

Well fasten your seatbelts, Kiddies, Uncle Bit is about to unload.

OK, I admit it, I’m out of sorts this week.  Perhaps it’s just the change of season, that’s got me a little cranky.  The muscle pull in my shoulder, aggrivated by pushing the camper trailer back into the garage for the winter the other day, isn’t helping my mood any, nor does the cold and damp help the muscle pull. I had a slight cold last week I’m feeling the effects of, too. As a result of this combo, every sneeze is a new experience in pain. Saving money for Christmas gifts this year has us a little tighter financially than usual, so a road trip is more rare than I’d like… no chance to get away, fuel being so damned expensive…. and in any event, early winter is here, and driving is always a problem on the leading edge of winter, in Rochester, for reasons I’ll get to. So it is that my usual escape valve is closed, and the pressure builds… and then some idiot left this computer in my house. AHA! An outlet for frustration… I wonder if they understand the danger they’ve placed the world in, by doing that.

It’s a cumulative thing, you see. Nothing, of itself, seems to annoy me. Rather, it’s the things that cascade multiply against me, like planets all lining up, and saying “Get Him” that really tick me off.

Perhaps more disturbing is my reaction to it all. Not so many years ago, back when Grok was clan leader, I had a somewhat brighter outlook when the little aches and pains, and even the occasional grey in the mustache showed up… “I’m Young, I’ll get over it” seemed the attitude, without ever really having made a consious choice to look at it that way.  Now, I find myself increasingly skeptical of “getting over it”, rather having resigned myself to never doing so. Of course, if, Lord willing, I make it to my late 80’s, I’ll look back at this writing in my 47th year and wish I had it so good again. So goes life, or what passes for it, I suppose.

I felt pretty good from the election until Thanksgiving, you see. Now that Thanksgiving is over the small pool of bile that’s been stored up over these past few weeks can come out, unchecked, and for the most part, without anyone noticing.. because when you get down to it, they too, are a little out of sorts, for the same reasons, more or less. Oh, I don’t know as I’ll ever raise this funk to the level of the emotionally distressed leftists supposedly suffering from P.E.S.T., [1]or anything… The re-election was too sweet to let that happen. But still…

Oh… Speaking of Thanksgiving, it was nice; We had my mother-in-law over for dinner, and a good time was had by all.  She doesn’t get out much, anymore, and I think, (though she’d never say as much) visiting with our two boys does her heart good.  It was myself, my wife my two boys, her mom, and our Family dog… ah, yes.. the Dog. She’s a wonderful and faithful beast. We’ve had her a long time nearly 15 years… and there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s one of the best freinds my family ever had. She got some turkey, too… and liked it, apparently. That, however comes later in this story.

My mom was down at my Nephew’s in Ohio, having gone with my brother and his wife. Frankly, I was a little worried about them; I kept seeing tornado warning boxes in the sothern end of the Buckeye state on Wednesday night, and I did have a chance to chat with a freind down there who reported a loss of power, and some tree limbs down. Mom, on the other hand, was up along Lake Erie, which meant she got some snow… fairly heavy by the accounts I heard from WTAM/1100, which we get here in Rochester most nights. Those of you who have been watching the news have noticed that from the Ohio river valley east, a band of snow has followed the jet stream, and along with other areas, has coated a large area in a blanket of new white. (Oh, goody… here it comes… My new Hernia right on schedule, and dressed in Doctor’s whites. How appropriate.)

They all came back home on Saturday, without any issue.. A little rain was the worst of it, apparently.

As for our own feasting on Thursday, I urged my wife this year to just get a breast of Turkey as opposed to the whole bird. My guess was that while it doesn’t make as good looking a table, it’d taste better because it’s easier to figure when the thing is done, not being quite so large. Besides, with the smaller item, I’ll not be making Turkey Chili come Mid-March, just so I can get rid of some of what’s still left of the turkey, after months of trying to slip turkey into every third family meal. You guys know that Chili recipe.. It’s from the “365 uses for an old Thanksgiving Turkey cookbook”

Turns out, I was right; the meal was wonderful and far easier to manage at the somewhat smaller size.  Both my wife and I are pretty fair cooks, and when the need or the mood arises, and the gloves come off, the results are indeed impressive, if I do say so myself… There was, with only the five of us, still plenty to go around. Thanksgiving day was a bright spot for us.

Then came the snow, that night. This was essentially the same storm my Mom got in Ohio… about 8 hours later. That’s usually the way of it around here.. the jetstream seems to follow the lake route through Ohio and through to Buffalo and Rochester. It showed up here in Rochester just as I dropped my mother-in-law off from dinner.  We hugged, and said our good byes and I got back in Bit’s Box and started back up I-390 toward home.

Admittedly, there is always a part of me that welcomes the snow. But as I grow older, however, I’ve noticed that welcoming voice getting smaller, weaker and less convinced, each passing early winter, and increasingly silent toward the end of each winter season, as I succomb to the colds, chills, aches and pains that I find increasingly attached to winter.

This winter, I’m particularly worried; I have a new truck to care for, and I’ve seen far too many accidents related to snow to be fully convinced I’ll be getting out of this winter unmarked. I have no doubts at all about my own driving ability. It’s just that nice paint, low ground clearence and lots of custom body work, and a fairly new payment book, all have a habit of being prime targets during the winter months, and I’d planned on doing a show and shine with this van next summer. It all adds up the wrong way, I’m afraid… and this particular drive home did nothing to alay that fear.

You see, there is something in the blood of the Rochester driver, where said driver needs to see several heavy traffic accidents before he, she or it gets it into his, hers, or it’s head that winter has actually arrived and must be contended with in one’s driving style. Apparently, the snow on the road, and in the sky, along with the wind that brought it, and the cold, isn’t enough to make that connection for them; Bent metal, broken glass and a large towtruck bill are requirements. As a result of this disconnect, there were several people driving off into the ditch, or into each other, apparently going out of their way, quite literally, to take part in this annual body and fender re-arrangement ritual. In all there were a few hundred (!) accidents around these parts last night… No fatalities, thank the Lord, but still… Ouch.

I saw quite a few of them on my way home. My truck.. a GMC Safari Van Custom conversion I call Bit’s Box [2] is an All Wheel Drive van, (though not an SUV in the traditional sense) and so it has better traction than most, and, as I say, I have no doubts about my own driving ability, so I opted to remain on the freeway going home, instead of the surface streets, on the assumption that at least, I’d not as likely be head-on’d there, as I would be on the surface streets. Only once, on this trip, did I have cause to doubt this, as I watched someone in a Chrysler Mini-van slide, all four wheels dragging, across a “No-U Turn” cutover, and back into the center dividing ditch. Apparently, front drive doesn’t help much when you want to stop on ice and snow. Until these morons get that part square, it’s just as well I’m trying to save some cash right now. I don’t plan to do much driving for a few weeks, thanks. Momma didn’t raise idiots.

Thing is, this time of year, the snow usually melts off for a few days at a time and comes back..  You can see in this pic of downtown Rochester, taken the day after Thanksgiving, that it’s all melted off again, despite the whole place being under a half-ich of snow this morning… and each time it goes and comes back again, the lessons end up having to be re-learned. Again.


In case you’re curious…. in that picture…under the little bitty arrow is where I work.

OK, maybe I’m being overly harsh on the Rochester area.  But I have to tell you; It’s amazing to me as a longtime local. I… we… live in an area that is somewhat north, and about 60 miles east of Buffalo, and also north of a goodly chunk of Canada. Here in Rochester, we usually get around 90 to 120 inches of snowfall for the season, each year. Summer around here is defined as three months of bad Snowmobiling weather. Halloween gets snowed out in this town with some degree of regularity. Kids usually wear their trick or treat outits UNDER their new winter coats. “Down South” to us means Maryland, or maybe Pennsylvania. During a normal winter, we get snowfalls of 20 inches in the overnight hours at least twice during the season, but that snowfall never stops most people here from going to work the next day.  (Which is why the SUV has attained some status around here… and why we tend to laugh at the Sourthern Californian types who claim we don’t really need such nicities as four wheel drive. They come up here during the winter and wonder aloud how we can drive in the stuff. Reality tends to change their persective.)

With all this as a backdrop, you’d think the locals would get used to dealing with that first snow, instead of dealing with this lesson every year.

Nope.

They do just fine the rest of the year… and actually drive BETTER when the roads are closed for all the snow and blowing snow. It’s just that first quarter inch of snowfall that screws them up.

Perhaps this is part of the same trend that causes people around Rochester to vote Democrat… This was one of the few upstate counties to vote for Kerry. We have a Democrat Mayor here that darned near bankrupted the city AND the county trying to get a cultural district called “High Falls” going… it’s pretty much a ghost town today. It’s pictured here just after it opened. Those people you see there are likely the only people it ever saw.

Hizhonorless then repeated the process with a Ferry that was supposed to run between Rochester and Toronto… and the billion or so of tax money he spent on doing up the waterfront where this thing docked will go to waste… The lenders, you see, just forclosed on the boat Friday morning, after it had only been in service for amonth… and yet the idiot voters still just love the man; I don’t get it.  Oh… he, of course, wants the city to buy this monster. Oh, did I mention the dock and all up at Toronto hasn’t been built, yet?  Can you beat it?

In both cases, the idiots never learn.

Upon arrival at home, I re-learned the lesson about why a rich turkey and an older dog with digestive trouble should never be mixed.  No, she didn’t do what you’re thinking, but it certainly smelled like it. I may have to re-paint the room; it’s peeling in a few areas about 3 feet off the floor, for some reason.

Friday was my older son’s birthday. He got himself a couple train cars for his layout. The collection of cars and motive power’s getting big enough that I’m going to need to build him a new table for the layout.  This winter, perhaps.

Going out to dinner for my Son’s brithday took on a new dimension, though, given it falls, this year, on the fabled first day of the Christmas shopping season.  As such the simple act of going out for a bite takes on a dimension that’s utterly unheard of at any other time of the year.

Can YOU say ‘traffic’? Trust me, my freinds, I’ve driven in a lot of major markets…Boston, LA, SanDiego, SanFran, Philly, Toronto, Pittsburg, Baltimore/ Washington, Chicago… and I can think of one thing that beats ’em all, hands down, for sheer idiocy on wheels… Outside the local mall on the day after Thanksgiving.

Well dear reader, I went right past the mouth of Hell itself… otherwise known as Longridge Mall… in order to go to the nearest KFC, a favorite of my older son, who got to pick the resturant since it was his birthday. What amazes me more is I actually lived to relate the tale to you. Just be glad we didn’t have a half inch of snowfall Friday night like we did Thursday. The result might have been the mall being nuked in a fit of pique.

I watched in utter disbelief, Thanksgiving evening, as store after store ran ad after ad on the tube, annoucing they were opening at 5:30 am.. and even 5:00am, and running loss leaders to get people to come in at that hour. The ads apparently worked… I gather from the local cops that they had people hereabouts lining up four deep, hours before the places opened… waiting in the cold and snow… just to get a jump on everyone else. As if to one-up them all, the local WalMart super center just went 24*7 until 12/25. They did the same last year, and apparently WalMart beat up on a lot of the other retailers last year as a result, both locally and nationally.  the resulting mob was one that would shake the bearish forcasts from the lips of nearly any Wall Street Wonk.

At what point did we reach this level of insanity? It must be all the coffee we Americans drink. Gotta be. I can just see it, can’t you?

“It’s 2:15 in the mornin’ Ma… you’re going SHOPPING?”

(talking very fast) “Well… they’re open and I just need a few more things for my list….”

So, let’s see if I’ve got this right. I mean, there’s a lot to go over, here, and I must have missed some of it.

We have fresh snow, and drivers who can’t drive in it… so I’m endangering my new truck… the parking lots are all jammed, meaning I’ve got door-ding city going on here… or else I have to park in the next area code and walk from there… and by the way… It’s colder than my freezer out there and windy, plus I’m already under the weather, all of which makes that walk that much MORE special for me… Every single person in every place I could go wants large amounts of my money…  and to boot, I have to get up at about 03:00 to get ready and there in time to take part in this festival of idiocy, all so I can fight with a few thousand other screaming malcontents for $50 off the latest whatsit my kids won’t play with after the first 15 minutes go by, preferring to play with the box instead???

Have I missed anything?

Man, when you put it that way, it all sounds so attractive!.  How in the world could I think of doing anything else?

Like, sleeping for example?

You’ll excuse me, but I have a note from my doctor… I’m too well to attend. Sorry.

These parts usually don’t settle down to a managable level of insanity again, until the Thursday following Thanksgiving, so I’m housebound, for the most part, until then.

Welcome to early winter in my world.

Yeah, I know… Bah, Humbug.

I’m going to get lost in a book somewhere. Wake me up about a week from now.