Tuesday, January 24, 2012


We heard about it for days on the news. The weather reporter’s dream was about to come true in the Northwest. They could hardly contain the drool at the thought of it.  This was not just any snow; this was the first big snow of the year, maybe the decade.
It isn’t like Northwest newscasters have tornadoes or hurricanes to report like in the Midwest or the South. The Northeast has its Nor’easters and the Southwest has the Santa Ana winds.  We have mild winters, mild summers, and the off chance one of the volcanoes will blow. BUT, once every few years, the perfect storm arrives. This one came with a rock star name: Snowmageddon.
Snowmageddon called upon the very winds to converge the right mix of storm clouds upon the land with all the vengeance of an invading army, Hell bent on religious conversion. It’s plan was to infiltrate South of the Olympics, then over the Cascades, where it could spread unchecked targeting the Heartlands and the deep South.  
            The day started off calm enough. The news of snow in the air had me thinking I should stop at the grocery on the way home to stay warm and toasty dry while the unprepared ran around in the mess that was sure to follow. The store was not overly busy. No one was taking the news in our neighborhood very seriously. Milk, bread, eggs and I was finished. Time to go home.
            Home was only 10 minutes away from the grocery, but the first band of snow showers hit. It was so pretty. By the time I got home, the snow showers turned into a snow downpour of enormous flakes. I had never heard snow hit the ground before. The snow stuck fast, covering the yard, the trees, and the asphalt in a mere 10 minutes. An hour later, the band moved on leaving regular, quieter snow to take its place. Only the tallest blades were visible through the now white lawn.
            The news reported the worst was yet to come. 8-10 inches were expected the next day. I had been through deep snow before. This was not going to interrupt my workday. It would be a good reason to work from home and join the pajama crew. I always get more done in my pajamas anyway.
            Morning came and a little more snow was on the ground. Meh. It was only about seven inches. We usually get that when the big cities report their two inches. It was nothing more than a mere nuisance.  Until..
            Snowmageddon was not finished with us yet. This beast was just getting warmed up. By the end of the day another four inches fell. The storm eased momentarily and one of our dear neighbors decided he would take out his big farming tractor and clean up our private drive of a street, but the snow began to fall again and kept on coming.
            Our relative’s power went out early in the day and stayed out the rest of the evening. I coaxed them into coming over to our place where we have alternate heat source and currently, electricity. Minutes before their arrival, our electricity also went out. Thankfully they made it to us safely and supper was finished cooking simultaneously with the power outage. No half-cooked fajitas for us. That night was kind of fun, sort of like camping out in our living room. The next morning was not quite as much fun.
            I looked out the window for signs of rain the forecasters promised to wash away the snow. Instead, I only saw the roads were shiny with an icy glaze left from the night before. The snow was so thick. Trees were heavy with snow and silence filled the air. Work being downhill, I resolved to plug in my laptop for another day in pajamas.
            I signed on, then took a walk to the kitchen to make a pot of coffee. I daydreamed a wish where I could be like a kid and have a real snow day, one where I did not need to work or drive anywhere.  The coffeepot gurgled itself to life and the aromatic drip made its way to my nostrils. Time to go back to work while this brews.
            Too late. The electricity went out. I would finally get that wish to have a snow day. I had so much to do at work, but I was still thrilled. I only wished the power could have waited for me to finish brewing my coffee.
            My thrill did not last long. The sound of a gunshot rang out followed by the sound of a mass hitting the snow hard. I heard another, then another. It was the trees. Snowmageddon had finished with the small artillery and now it was calling for bigger guns. Trees now joined forces with the winds and clouds against the humans.
            The rain we expected was not rain at all. It was ice. The ice fell, sealing in the already heavily snow laden branches, causing them to break off or teeter to the point of falling entire trees. Ice enrobed everything it touched. Tree tops fell from their 80 foot perches, targeting their human enemy below. Little birds cowered under porches, chirping quietly in fear.
            We walked to the neighbors to check to see that everything was okay. Just as we passed, a tree took aim and missed by a mere moment. The sounds of nature attacking could not be drowned out with the drone of generators. It was serious now. We hunkered back down into our homes for the rest of the day, watching as trees continued their barrage well into the night.
            The lights came on, then off again. That was the pattern. Wind blowing hard, snow finally melting with the promised rain we patiently waited for. We had not chopped enough wood for the winter this year. We took the chainsaw to the post I bought last summer to go at the bottom of the stairs when the lights finally came back on. The relatives were not so lucky. They would go without electricity 6 days before getting heat again.
            The snow of Wednesday was followed by the ice of Thursday. Friday, the winds began. More trees fell. I did not care if I was in danger. I did need my massage appointment kept. I was cooped up too long, besides how much longer could this possibly last?
The ride was strange, to say the least. I saw a tree leaning over the road. I punched the gas to go under it, just in case it decided to fall at that moment. A downed line crossed the road a little further up. Did I really want to turn around and have to go under the tree again? Not really. This time I let go of the steering wheel and closed my eyes before I punched it. 
I heard the storm has reached all the way to Georgia. That is one badass Mofo of a storm. Snowmageddon 2012 - One to remember.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Starlight, Star Bright

The stars were certainly out tonight. I love looking at the stars. I only wish it were not so cold and the lawn furniture were not so wet. I would lay out in the back yard and stare for as long as my neck would allow.  One of my summertime pleasures is going outside and watching the sky. I would pick out patterns, constellations, and hope for the occasional shooting star to grace my presence. Every once in a while, I would get lucky and one would decide to pass.
Some people think watching the sky is about as fun as watching grass grow. Maybe I find it interesting because I like to fish. I can wait patiently for a long time if I think something special could happen at any moment. Maybe it is because I feel so close to nature when I am alone in the company of my friend, the night. Special things happen in the sky all the time. Shooting stars are not the only things in the sky that move. There are satellites, airplanes, and I swear, the stars themselves sometimes move around.
Tonight, I couldn’t help but stare at the orchestra in the sky while pausing at the last stop light before turning onto the street that leads home. The stars were out in force, sparkling like glitter. They seemed oddly intelligent tonight, appearing to arrange themselves in an arrow, pointing straight to the moon. The old man had slung himself low in the East, offering its buttery glow to the traffic oblivious to its dignified beauty. The natural night light allowed the silhouette of Mt Rainier and his little brothers to be seen in the dark. Normally, the full moon can take on an edgy feel to the air, but this time there was only a feeling of peace.
All the stresses of the day in that moment melted away and it all happened in the short time it took for the light to turn green.  Some of the earlier day’s stresses were normal, some not so normal. It does not matter because the day is over and the stresses are gone, even if only temporarily. All that washed away by the sky. Thank you, stars. Thank you, moon. Thank you, sky.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Flying, Food, and Getting Home in Time for Christmas

What a busy two weeks. So much for taking it easy over Winter break. I had two trips I had to make beginning the Friday following final exams. I left early from work in order to pack everything, but by the time I got home, there was precious little time to get everything in order before hurrying off to the airport. I forced one stack of clothes and toiletries into my bag and one on my side of the bed, ready for the next trip. The spousal unit was already packed and ready to go, but did not remember to pull my load of clothes from the dryer, so of course everything I wanted to wear was nice and rumpled.
Finally on our way to the airport, I hoped to catch a few minutes sleep, so I decided not to drive. Our flight was a little less than two hours away and it takes an hour to get there. Honey decided we would take our time getting there. Good Grief. I should have driven. I kept my mouth shut so not to make waves, but oh how I wanted to scream. We were going 59 miles per hour – in the fast lane…on cruise control. I had visions of us running through the airport like an old OJ Simpson commercial, only to be tackled by airport security as we hurdled the X-ray machine. Thank goodness traffic prevailed and we got to the airport on time. I did not even have to expose myself to an X-ray or a pat down.
I really needed some downtime and I was not disappointed.  I knew if I stayed home, there would be no rest. There were too many to-dos that would call my name if I stayed at home. It was so good to see my Arizona buddies again. My friends were all in good spirits and missed us too. I did not care that it was just as overcast in Phoenix as it was in Western Washington. It even rained! It didn’t matter. I was there for the company, not the weather.
Michele had us convinced she was preparing for the end of the world. There were cookies everywhere. We found about a dozen or so gallon size bags of them in the garage, in the cabinets, and on the counters. On Saturday, we were going visiting our friends in Mesa and then to a holiday party, so she packed up containers of cookies to take with us and still did not make much of a dent in her cache.
We did not want to leave our buddies in Mesa. We were tempted to spend the night there and blow off the party in Scottsdale. It was so long since we had hung out together. When we left, someone conveniently forgot his LSU cap, so we where able to meet up with them the next day for tacos, drinks and football.
The party was well on its way by the time we arrived. All the Christmas lights and half the partygoers were pretty well lit up. It was kind of like New Orleans, but kind of not. Even though there was lots of drinks and laughter, there was also a bit of agenda going on in the minds of the drunk. It was so entertaining watching one, then another go on about their connections, each trying to one up the next. I was thoroughly interested in the whole dynamics of it to say the least. One couple in particular caught my attention. He thought he was an expert with money and wanted to impress his date by going on about how stocks work. She appeared fifty-something going on twenty-two. At least she dressed her clothes and hair that way. She even had the perky breasts of the young woman she longed to be, but they did not move in quite the same way. I think every host should invite a couple such as this to their soirées.
Monday came too soon and we had to catch our flight back home. We couldn’t stay forever. We had to take a connecting flight in Albuquerque, but all we did was depart, fly a dozen or so circles, then return to Phoenix. New Mexico was in the middle of a heavy snowstorm and the whiteout conditions would not allow us to land. I had to get home, switch clothes, grab my laptop and head for Nashville early the next morning. To say I was stressing was an understatement. I said a prayer and it calmed me a bit to leave it in God’s hands. I was not disappointed.
We all sat in our seats as directed when we arrived at the gate with the promise the flight would return to the air once they had refueled. I was trying to figure the math in my head what time we would have to land in order to meet the connection when a voice from heaven came over the loudspeaker: “There are three people who’s final destination is Seattle, Washington. We need to gather your belongings and deplane at this time”.
Love Southwest. They realized we would not arrive in time to get home that night and booked us on a direct flight, which would get us home only a couple hours later than we originally planned. We arrived home at 1:30am and I had to leave the house by 5:00am, but I was good with that. I landed in Nashville right on time.
I had never been to Nashville before. The folks are friendly and the food is great. I had shrimp and grits at Puckett’s on the first night, and a small taste of all the dishes they serve Grandma’s table style at Monell’s for lunch the next day. I found out one of the more tasty sides was corn pudding. For those of you who don’t know what it is, it is not some crazy dessert. It is more like a combination of a casserole and stuffing. The shrimp and grits had a creole flavor without the hot spice to it, but there was something a little different to it as well. It tasted familiar, but never with shrimp. I couldn’t put my finger on it. When I asked, I found out it was fennel. It was really good. Then again, everything was.
My last night there I decided to take a walk and step into the first place that caught my attention for dinner. It was Margaritaville. The food was average, but pretty entertaining for the lone traveler. A cowboy with a sweet voice crooned country songs and twanged up a few classic Jimmy Buffet songs. A pirate on stilts offered balloon creations to guests and television screens showing concert highlights prevented the awkward lonely stare into space when there is no one to talk to. I went to leave when there to my wondering eyes did appear, but a five foot six Elvis with a red and green flashing necklace and a gold manbag in the shape of a guitar. Whoa. I must come back to this town for pleasure next time.
The next day my flights home went on time and without a hitch. I made it home in time for Christmas with the family. Thank you, Elvis. Thank you very much.