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Archive for the ‘the weather’ Category

It’s hotter than two cats fighting in a wool sock.

But far be it for me to complain about the heat.

As I sit here in my air-conditioned office with a three-speed oscillating fan blowing stale air directly at me from a position not 2 feet from my face, fluorescent ceiling lights off, bathed only in the daylight peeking in from the slats in the stylishly challenged 1990s vertical blinds, windows closed so as to keep the comfortable funk in and the hot air out, you’ll not hear me complain. It’s not winter. So it’s not a problem. Bring the heat.

I’ll complain about the central air conditioning at home, but it won’t be because it’s hot outside. Or because the machine itself is faulty. Rather, it’s because I’m an Idiot. With a capital “I.” Idiot.

Our two-story house is comfy, cool and dark on the first floor, and stifling, sunny and hot in the bedrooms upstairs. Always has been. I blame it on many factors: hot air rises; the rooms are closer to the Sun; and “we” chose to place the largest, heaviest, most cumbersome pieces of vent-blocking furniture directly on top of or in front of the vents that would — in ideal living conditions — spew air that has been either heated or cooled, depending on the needs of the inhabitants and the whimsy of the furnace and central air unit.

When the temperatures last month reached the 90s and stayed there for a good long time, I closed the sliding glass door to the porch, shut the windows upstairs (can’t imagine why it’s hot up here), and fired up the central air conditioning. I looked at the room temperature on the thermostat, said 80 degrees is probably a little warmer than we need it in here, and flipped a switch.

I also turned on the furnace blower fan that circulates air throughout the house — this is a separate switch operating a separate thing that makes a fan-like noise that comes from behind the wall in the room of great mystery and gas-fired machinery.

I heard the fan running, so I went back to my normal busy homeowner chore-laden routine of sitting in my chair and watching “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.”

After about a half hour, I checked the room temperature and saw that it had gone up two degrees. Great, I said. The fan is working and is circulating all that hot air upstairs down and into the furnace room of mystery, which is in turn making the thermostat think it’s getting warmer in here.

Mind you, never once did it dawn on me that by turning the air conditioner on and making the house hotter, I should perhaps walk outside to see if the air conditioner is … oh, I don’t know … on?

Instead, when bedtime came, I turned everything off, set up my two oscillating bedroom fans — which, according to Karen, have three settings: low, medium and hurricane — next to the bed as close to my head as possible.

And another day in paradise came to a close.

I turned the air conditioner on again the next afternoon and noticed the temperature went up after a while. My decision at the time, which made perfect sense in the moment, was to say nothing to Karen (who spends her entire summer on the back porch and remains pretty much oblivious to the goings on and operational protocols I undertake in the spirit of keeping the house in working order while simultaneously looking busy and sneaking food).

This procedure became the daily routine for a good couple of weeks during June. I couldn’t figure out why it sounded like the air conditioner might be working, even though there was no evidence of this. Also, I had yet to step outside to see if it was running. But I did turn on the little thermostat switch every day, so I was at least trying.

Then one day curiosity and perspiration got the best of me. I stepped outside to see if there was more I should be doing. And as those of you who got bored and skipped ahead to this part have already learned, there was no sound coming from the giant green metal box that sits outside and generates cool air. So I immediately went into tactical repair mode. I called on all the skills and practical knowledge I have gained after 20 years of home ownership. I went looking for the fuse box.

It was in a corner of the garage in which there is little to no light. I didn’t feel like bothering to find the flashlight (it was all the way indoors) and couldn’t open the garage door — which would have given me all the light I needed — because I haven’t fixed the garage door yet. (Another story for another day. Some big springy thing busted and shot across the garage and made one heck of a racket. We’ve been using the side door and I’ve been hoping she doesn’t come in off the porch to ask when I’ll be tackling this mystery.)

So I did what I could. I looked at the fuse box (the parts that I could see), saw nothing that looked out of place, and called the repair man. I am so good and prompt at fixing things we have a service contract (for everything we own, including the spoons).

I surprise myself sometimes when I speak with the scheduler for home repair visits. It takes me too long to call for help, but when I do, I want that help immediately. The very nice scheduler on the phone said the earliest someone could come was the next day between noon and 4. My needs were more immediate, I informed her, and because I have a service contract, I wanted someone to come to the house right now. Well, she poked around and through some miracle of trying harder, was able to arrange for a person to come between 8 and 10 p.m. that very night. I sure showed that scheduler who was in charge here.

The guy who showed up was very nice. And knowledgeable. One of those guys who admits to having invented air conditioning — and all machinery, in fact — and is not bashful about explaining how everything works. I tried to stay awake and look interested as he blathered on, but all I really wanted was to get the air conditioner working and get back to doing nothing.

He also explained to me that an extra special visit to fix a problem like this one was going to cost us extra because this was not part of the service plan. He then described the day he invented the concept of service plans and how each of them works.

Then, without the use of any tools, he took a very quick look at the air conditioner and asked me to direct him to the fuse box. I felt all important because this was an answer I knew. He took out a flashlight, noticed that one of the breakers was in the “off” position (as in, “not on”), flipped it, and the metallic sound of BTUs began coursing through the ductwork.

It wasn’t that the breaker was thrown or that a fuse blew. It was simply turned off. Hundred bucks, please. Enjoy your evening.

I wish I was kidding. Off. On. Hundred bucks.

But you’ll not hear me complain about the heat. I’m far too busy living down my stupidity.

I look so forward to tackling that garage door.

Wait. … What? … You’re supposed to lift it?

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I bet one reason snow is hated so by right-thinking people who agree with me is that, as an adult, the opportunities to play with it are far out-numbered by the amount of time spent just dealing with it.

Not unlike marriage.

When I was a kid, I longed for days like this past Thursday morning: one ear glued to the radio, waiting for those magic words from Don Weeks: “In Columbia County …”

Here it comes …

“Chatham Central schools …”

Where’s my hat with the ear flaps and my mittens with the clip that clips them together and my giant “I can’t put my arms down” snowsuit and my scarf and my boots and my sled and …

“… are running one hour late.”

Aaaaaaaach. One hour late? What is that?

“Mahhhhhhh. It’s only one hour laaaaate.”

“Don’t worry, my sweet darling snow angel, they might still close. There’s time. Mommy loves you.” Mom always had the right thing to say in the midst of the most unfathomable of crises. A one-hour school delay is worthless to a child. It is one hour of time wasted that will never be given back.

Can’t go out and play; gotta get ready for school. Can’t go back to bed; too wired about the snow. So, while mom listened to the radio, the only thing left to do was watch the rest of “Captain Kangaroo.” And pray for Don Weeks to come through.

The one hour late thing was a mind boggler for a young mind already suffering from an abundance of boggle. I can honestly remember only once in the seemingly endless string of years I was forced to go through that whole “school” thing — where you sit with the same people all facing the same direction day after day, year after year, and do nothing but crack jokes, ignore homework, and somehow skate through by the skin of your teeth — when the school day was delayed by an hour, thanks to the weather.

I think they (the unseen magic people on high who held the fortunes of the entire adolescent snow-worshiping community in the palms of their hands as they decided, yes or no, if it was going to be a school day or a snow day) preferred to close the school instead of figuring out how to slice up the day — which was already rigidly and with loud bells sliced up into specific time quadrants.

If we bring them in an hour later, do we just lop off the first hour of the day and pick up where the schedule would normally land after an hour? Or, do we get out our protractors and figure out how to divide the hour into the number of periods, deduct that amount of time from every class, reset the bell system so that it rings eight minutes earlier for each class, all day and and and …

I bet that’s why school was closed more frequently than it was delayed — the unseen magic people on high couldn’t do the math.

Heck with it. This is too hard. Let’s just close school.

And forget the two-hour delay — which was the delay du jour with this past Thursday’s storm. Seemed like every school district listed on the first scroll across the bottom of the morning news broadcasts had opted for the two-hour delay.

The two-hour delay must really mess with the class schedule and the bell system. By the time the kids get to school it’s time to ship them off to lunch, gym, study hall, and home again.

(“In Emerald City County, Oz Central School, two hours late.” We get up at 12 and go to work at 1. Take an hour for lunch and then at 2 we’re done.)

I am sure there were occasions during my schooling days when classes started two hours late, but I don’t remember them. I only remember the snow days.

“… And in Columbia County, Chatham Central schools are now closed.”

Those magical words that, more than most others, decided the direction of a young, round human being’s entire day.

Today, those words have no effect on me whatsoever. For one reason, Don Weeks retired. And with him, seemingly, went the countless number of hours the radio folks spent reading the list of closings. With the invention of television, and its much hipper cousin, the Internets, the radio seems to have gotten out of the school closings business and passed the work off to technology. We didn’t have technology when I was a kid. We had WGY.

Snow days are there for others to enjoy. I can only sit here, look out my giant window, past the giant shrubbery covered with snow, out toward the stand of trees, the branches upon which are now dancing under the weight of the season’s first memorable accumulation, thinking about sledding and snowmen and snow forts and snow balls and snowshoes.

And getting the snow fort dug out and the snowballs made so we can bombard the snowplow as it goes by. (Playing army in the snow added a whole ’nother dimension to playing army. The plows were the tanks. They didn’t stand a chance.) I digress.

But I’ll not complain, I have told myself, about any of the snow we get this winter. Because we have come this far surrounded by barren, brown, lifeless earth and leafless, dead-looking trees.

We should all be thankful that global warming is just a stupid thing smart people talk about and not something that is really happening. If it was real, it would melt the snow before I had to shovel it.

I could not imagine being a 10-year-old roly-poly snow-loving dweeb, like I once was, and having to deal with the winter we have thus far experienced. What a gyp. On the other hand, I am ecstatic that it wasn’t until Jan. 12 that I had to brush the snow off the car in the morning for the first time.

But then, I probably should have thought to start the snow blower before the middle of January to make sure it would operate when finally needed.

On the other hand, thank goodness the snow was so heavy the snow blower couldn’t move it.

But then, the snow too heavy for the snow blower had to be shoveled. The problem with the shovel is that it works whether or not it’s been tuned up for the season. And there are few things less enjoyable about snow than having to move it when it’s the heavy stuff.

The amount of snow in the driveway Thursday morning was just past the threshold I use to determine if it’s going to be ignored or removed. If the weatherman says we’re only getting a couple of inches before it turns over to rain, that can be a cue to a lazy boy that perhaps it would be best to wait and see what the rain does to the driveway in terms of melting it before spending all that time shoveling. I’m not one to needlessly place an abundance of wear and tear on a shovel if nature’s plan is to lend me a hand.

Especially when there are forts to build and snowballs to make. Never know when the plow might come back through.

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The snowbanks at the end of our driveway were epic (although easily conquered on snowshoe) thanks in no small part to the fact that the town snowplow used our driveway as the turn-around point on our dead-end street.

It’s fitting that the weather forecasts for today and tomorrow call for more snow. And by “fitting” I mean “sending me over the edge.”

I am officially sick of winter.

I know: Tell you something you didn’t already know.

And I don’t mean just this winter. I mean all of them. The ones we’ve already had and the ones that have yet to arrive.

If the simple pleasure of being outdoors is uncomfortable and annoying and dangerous, that just seems wrong to me. I don’t remember feeling this way as a child, but now that I’m old and crotchety, this seems like an appropriate response.

I start feeling this way about the same time every year — cabin fever season. The older I get, the more I feel it. (Also, the older I get, the more it sags. But that’s a topic for another day.)

Intolerance for that which is out of my control, knees that make the sound of twigs breaking, and a bladder that has apparently shrunk to the size of a comma: The joys of middle age. It would make a great ad campaign for AARP magazine.

I was yammering with a friend the other day about our mutual hatred for this time of year. I got to thinking that it’s not just because thanks to chapped lips, the flavor of plain pink Chap Stick makes the morning coffee taste like crayons; or thanks to the static cling in the wardrobe, getting undressed sounds like bubble wrap being wrung out like a wet towel; and thanks to the call of Mother Nature, chasing the dog around the kitchen with a wad of Bounty before the wet paws make it to the beige dining room carpet is akin to chasing the quarter you just dropped before it rolls under the vending ma … ahhhhh, too late.

I got spoiled last year, in what turned out to be a relatively mild winter. We had very little snow and I can’t remember how much cold, but apparently not enough to remember. I thought for sure global warming had arrived for good. I could sell the snow blower, shovels, roof rake, hats, gloves, scarves and coats. Then plant citrus.

As I look out the window today, I can see I was premature in my wishful thinking. And my grapefruits are shivering.

Tell me what else we deal with the same way we have to deal with snow. And don’t give me leaves, because someone made a conscious decision to plant that tree. Unless it was a pre-existing tree, in which case you have the option to cut it down.

We don’t get options with snow. It just shows up whenever it wants, overstays its welcome, and takes its sweet time getting out of here.

Which explains why the Indian word for snow is “in-laws.”

As humans, we are remarkably adroit at making lemonade out of lemons. Can’t get rid of all this snow until it melts; might as well find a way to use it to our advantage.

But I don’t ski, skate or snowshoe. Mainly because I tend to fall down a lot. Also because they take place outside, where it’s cold.

Dear sister Denise and my St. Bernard Phoebe bringing home a sled load of Kevin.

Snow was a much more useful item when I was a child. Back then I was not concerned with the barriers it created in my simple, dorky life. Back then, it was all about playing with it.

Today, the only good thing I can say about snow is that it’s light and fluffy when it’s falling. Whoever designed it was using the thinking cap that day.

If snow fell like hail — or something even bigger, like typewriters — we’d probably all be living underground. So it’s good that it makes no noise and is somewhat dainty upon arrival.

And sometimes — only sometimes, though — it can be nice to look at before it gets shoveled, blown or covered with road splooge. It’s kinda cool, but you’ll never hear me admit it, when the bird bath, for example, has a giant white birthday-cake-looking hat.

(Sidebar: I mentioned here recently that mom was quite the birthday cake decorator. One year, she grabbed a handful of candles, went outside to the bird bath right after a monster snowfall, stuck them in it to make it look like a birthday cake, and then took a photo. That mom. She was clever. Fun with snow. But I was a child then, so it was still acceptable.)

The living underground idea might be worth consideration. Especially with the amount of damage our house has endured in winters past.

We’ve had so many roof problems, thanks to snow, that our homeowners’ insurance company, like a good neighbor, has invented a category and drawn up rules for how we are to deal with it and when — or if — it will be covered.

It even has a name now: ice dam. As in: Ice. Dam.

About a decade ago, we had the immeasurable misfortune of having water leak into the living room and ruining the walls and ceiling. Ice. Dam.

This part’s actually not funny. Unless you’re not me. Then it still shouldn’t be real funny.

The snow on the roof, because of the fire in the furnace, melts and freezes and melts and freezes then squeezes up under the shingles, through the insulation, and into the Sheetrock, where it runs all over the ceiling and walls in the living room and plays havoc with the usual good nature and humanitarian stance of some members of a marriage.

Our roof had to be torn off and replaced; the walls and ceiling in the living room had to be removed — removed — before the remaining house skeleton was thoroughly dried. Then the insulation and walls had to be replaced before the Sheetrock could be taped and sanded a total of four times. The house was torn apart for about a month. In the middle of winter. With no insulation in the walls and ceiling.

Know how much dust is created throughout the entire house when half the living room has to be sanded every other day for what seems like a frozen eternity? Because of snow? I mean ice? Dam?

This event was so much fun, it repeated itself two winters ago: the whole scenario — replacing the roof, the walls, the ceiling — just like Groundhog Day. We had giant refrigerator-sized blowers in the living room, making as much noise as you can imagine, blowing until the wood was dry. I still have nightmares.

Our most recent occurrence of ice damage also resulted in the installation of a roof ice melting system: a lengthy lead cord now curls back and forth across a large portion of the roof where the most damage has occurred. Seems to be doing its job.

Which is good. Because the TV scientists are calling for two more days of snow, which could result in another foot to rake off the roof, blow off the driveway, shovel off the porch, scrape off the car, knock off the boots, brush off the pets, and tick off the crotchety.

But, perhaps not in that order.

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Thunderbawl and lightweight

June 9, 2002

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

John here at the office calls me ‘Fraidy Boy every time the National Weather Service issues one of its Chicken Little Bulletins.

He says I’m afraid of the weather.

I get him to shut up by reminding him he’s only miserable because he’s losing all his hair.

He’s right, though. Sometime between birth and today, I changed from being someone who, at the first clap of thunder, would run outside, stand in a metal bucket filled with water, hold a golf club over my head as far as possible, and talk on the phone.

A thunderstorm was the best part of any day – even a good day.

Not any more.

I blame technology. The information age has ruined everything.

I bet you one of John’s dollars that the weather would get better if only those TV guys in the Capital District would get rid of Doppler radar.

Ever since we became able to predict the exact location, intensity and duration of every rainstorm, snowstorm, sandstorm, windstorm, barnstorm, brainstorm, Perfect Storm and Gale Storm, the weather has been much worse.

When I was a kid, there was one tornado – it ripped through some hills in Columbia County, did some damage over near Queechy Lake (an honest-to-god real name of a real lake), and then headed into the Berkshires, but not before destroying a Thruway truck stop on the New York-Massachusetts border. A New York state tornado was unheard of.

Now they’re a possibility every time it rains. And we wouldn’t know that if not for those fancy charts and colorful radar maps and that blasted beep beep beep thing that comes on the TV just before we’re told to turn to Channel 9 for details.

If Armageddon is at hand, you can turn to Channel 9. I’ll be shivering like a chihuahua behind the toilet.

Albeit a large chihuahua.

I grew up in an era when the Emergency Broadcast System was an unknown, invisible entity responsible for interrupting cool radio programs like “Breakfast with Bill” with a long beep and the words, “if this had been an actual emergency, …” And that was it. No one knew what the Emergency Broadcast System really did.

And the TV weather report used to be an afterthought. It was the last thing tucked at the end of the local news. It was that thing they stuck after the sports report and right before Walter Cronkhite. My mom was the only one who cared.

Weather was brought to those of us who grew up around the Capital District by folksy folks like Bob Gordon and long-necked Louise and Betty George and Moo. Commander Ralph used to do weather, too, in between introducing cartoons before Captain Kangaroo each morning.

Weather didn’t have the urgency then that it does now.

And somehow with their little magnetized H’s and L’s and Smiling Sunshines stuck to their very plain metal U.S.A. maps, the local weatherman (or weathergirl) was able to tell us the forecast.

We grew up strong and healthy, lived normal lives, propagated, and moved on. We were fine.

Then the information age swept through like an Alberta clipper (that’s one of the weather jargon things I’ve picked up over the years. Impressive, huh?)

Since then, life has never been the same. Nor has it been safe.

I was less afraid of the weather when I was a kid and more susceptible to things that could be frightening.

Bad summer weather used to be preceded by a comment from dad along the lines of, “Hey, isn’t that thunderhead something?”

Then we’d look up in the sky to see an enormous white puffy mass of something resembling cotton shining brightly above all the other darker clouds below it.

Clouds live in a wonderful place – up high where the daytime sun never stops shining.

Thunderheads used to be a beautiful thing. They may be one of the reasons I used to tell people that I wanted to be a weatherman when I grew up.

I also wanted to be, in order, a comedian, the guy who mows the weeds along the highway (seriously), and a chef. (Notice “journalist” is nowhere on the list.) For that matter, I still want to be the guy who mows the weeds along the highway. There’s something about that job that that is incredibly appealing to me. I also still want to be a chef, so I play one at home.

Which is what I was doing – cheffing – at home Wednesday evening in advance of the latest batch of summer weather to rip through the region.

I made the mistake, however, of having the TV on.

Weather reporting now is like watching a sporting event. You can have the TV on and with one eye watch the colorful radar screen as the meteorologist explains how the storm is going to mow down your trees and with the other eye look out your front window and see the actual event happening live. It can be mesmerizing.

Unfortunately, it scares the tar out of me.

I sat there flipping from one emergency weather report to another Wednesday, waiting for Doppler’s street-level pinpoint forecasting to show my house under a purple spot and one of the meteorologists (or one of his meteorite sidekicks) say: “There is a severe weather warning for this guy’s house.”

But it didn’t happen. Probably because I’ve already had my turn.

It’s state-of-the-art, up-to-the-minute, weather information like this that breeds bad weather. The weather was fine until we learned how to break it down, raindrop by raindrop.

And while I’m at it, on a related topic, can somebody tell me what I am supposed to do with a dew point reading? Most days during the weather, I am told what the dew point is. Am I supposed to do something with this number? Will it give me better gas mileage?

I’m not using this information to its full potential and I feel like I’m missing something.

Same with degree-days. Why did degree-days become part of the forecast? If I’m supposed to mow the weeds along the highway tomorrow, I want to know if it’s going to rain or if I need a coat. I don’t need degree-days.

I think degree-days were introduced as a way to let TV news viewers know that our comfy old “weatherman” had been replaced by a “meteorologist.”

I am definitely missing something.

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With a spring in his step

April 28, 2002

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

The person in charge of the weather can stop toying with my emotions. The Farmer’s Almanac says it’s spring. So let it be spring. The yo-yoing between warm and cold, sun and clouds, rain and snow is not the least bit funny.

Although it is the definition of spring, isn’t it?

I understand that after a winter during which I wasn’t yelled at for never getting the snowblower fixed I should count my lucky stars. This past winter was a snow-hater’s dream.

One year ago, I was the brunt of neighborhood jokes for being the idiot shoveling snow out of his flower gardens and back into his driveway so it would melt faster.

This year, I’m the idiot carrying about a dozen large pots of herbs in and out of the house every day the mercury dips below freezing. Which has pretty much been every day.

(Note to self: Pots of dirt are not popular additions to the kitchen decor. Make sure you thank tolerant wife and apologize for the weather.)

Usually, I have more common sense when it comes to April. Two years ago this very weekend I freed the porch from its winter slumber (which means I took down the plastic that I wrap around it to keep the winter out). I chose that weekend because Karen was away. Nobody around to tell me I was doing it wrong. No one to say it’s too early in the season.

No one to help me get the snow off the porch when we got hit with a late April snowstorm the next day.

So earlier this month when the temperature was 90 degrees, everything in the garden was poking through the mulch, last year’s parsley and chives were several inches tall, the chipmunks and titmouses (titmice?) were chirping gaily, and the ornamental grasses had made their heralded return, I decided summer had officially arrived.

I began the spring ritual. Rake the last few leaves I didn’t get in the fall, take the plastic off the porch, set the lawn furniture out so it can begin to collect pollen from the entire neighborhood, put the broken snow blower away, get out the broken lawn mower with the dull blade. That kind of thing.

I also planted my herbs. I figured if it dipped below freezing once or twice I could carry the pots into the house. Little did I know it would be every day.

A bigger mistake, I figured, would be to listen to the weather reports. When cold fronts are replaced by warm fronts or warm fronts are replaced by cold fronts (whichever way it works), and violent storms accompany this action, I want nothing to do with it.

My childhood love of the gargantuan thunderstorm has been replaced by a child-like fear of my house blowing away in the wind.

I’m not so much concerned about lightning (got stung by it once; that can’t happen again), the sound of thunder doesn’t bother me. And the only thing I don’t like about rain is watching my wife as she mops it off the porch floor while I offer no assistance whatsoever because Mario Batali or Bobby Flay or one of those other Food TV dudes is getting to the important part of the recipe and I can’t unglue myself from the tube.

At my age, wind is what bothers me most now. The kind that comes during violent storms. I’ve seen too much damage firsthand, to my house, my campsite and my neighbors.

It’s why I cut down all the large trees near my house. It’s why, in advance of a storm, I drive home at 1,000 miles per hour to neatly and securely stack all the pollen-covered plastic furniture we had to buy because you never know when an entire high school or country is going to drop in for a visit and if you come up one chair short your wife will never let you live it down, and besides they’re on sale so let’s get a hundred or so more.

It’s why some people I work with and others I live near chuckle when they know a storm is going to blow through. They get to watch the funny looking guy with the round head lose his mind over a weather report.

It doesn’t explain, however, my reaction to last weekend’s “Nature Does the Goofiest Things” highlight.

The earthquake that rattled the region a week ago Saturday had the exact opposite effect on me than I would have expected.

It was 10 minutes to 7 and I was alone in the house (Karen was on another road trip). As soon as the house stopped shaking, I went looking for someone (anyone) to talk to. My ears were perked, my tail was wagging. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

I ran outdoors – no one was around.

After I realized it was not yet 7 o’clock on a Saturday morning and everyone else was probably still asleep, I tucked my tail between my legs, slithered back into the house, and turned the radio on.

They were already talking about it – phones were ringing off the hook in the studio – so I put my smile back on my face, brewed a cup of coffee, sat down and listened. Everyone was talking about where they were when it happened.

I knew I couldn’t call and share my story, as it may not have played well on a family radio program. Especially if the quake had been worse. See, I didn’t immediately run outside. I couldn’t.

I got up (the bedroom is upstairs, right above the garage) at 6:45 a.m. last Saturday for a specific reason. And about five minutes into an article in my Sports Illustrated during that specific reason, I heard what sounded like the garbage truck coming down the street.

I don’t normally hear him, and he doesn’t usually come that early in the morning, so I took notice of what I assumed was his arrival.

By the time I completed this thought process, the entire house was shaking. I knew immediately what was going on – we were having an earthquake – and I knew immediately where I was sitting. And what very important ritual I had to complete before I could run out of the house in an attempt to save my life.

Those steps were completed in what I have to believe was record time. In fact, I made a mental note of how impressed I was that my manual dexterity had not crumbled in the face of potential adversity.

I then found myself standing in the bedroom, looking for a doorway to stand in, when the house stopped shaking. In the length of time that passed before running outdoors to find no one to talk to, I began to laugh. That’s the part that stuns me. The house could have shaken to its foundation and I had time to laugh.

“We found your husband in the garage, Mrs. Mattison,” I envisioned a police officer telling Karen as she pulled into the driveway the next day, home from gallivanting – her mouth agape as she stared at the pile of lumber that was once her home. “It doesn’t look good. He was clutching a magazine, his pants were around his ankles, and the shards of porcelain – well, we may never find them all.”

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Making sense of the calendar

April 22, 2001

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

Our month structure is all out of whack. And I’m not even talking about the fact that they have different numbers of days, and one of them has an extra day every four years.

I mean April 1 should be the first day of the year. April portends more of a beginning of something than does January.

January’s in the middle of the winter and the end of the holiday season. The only thing January begins is the new calendars we get for Christmas. And the only reason for that is because somebody said January has to go first.

It’s not even alphabetical. Beginning with April at least gets the year off on an alphabetical note.

Those of you who don’t find this important are maybe misplacing your priorities.

April Fool’s Day would be a great day to get the year off on the right foot. Imagine the jokes you could pull during your New Year’s Day parties if they were also April Fool’s Day parties.

Those of us who want to travel to celebrate the New Year might find the weather more accommodating in April.

And First Night – think of it. You might even want to attend one if it’s not scheduled in the dead of winter when the temperature is way below zero.

In April, the snow begins to melt, buds start forming on trees, things start popping out of the ground. See? It’s a pattern.

This is the month of the pastel holidays that herald the arrival of spring – bunnies hopping around with pretty ribbons on their baskets, distributing the colored eggs they stole from the pink and yellow marshmallow chix.

Picture the word “April” – can’t you see the “i” being dotted with a flower? And the letters are all pink and swirly?

We deserve to begin anew in April after suffering through March, the longest month of the year. There may be other months with 31 days, but none of them are as long as March.

In April we await the arrival of spring, reading the harbinger editions of Better Homes & Gardens, being taunted by occasional days early in the month when the temperature outside flirts with the 40-degree line on the thermometer, starting the car on occasional mornings when there is no frost on the windshield.

And, here’s the best part, heading to work at 5 a.m., when daylight begins to creep across the land. Nothing beats getting to and leaving work when it’s daylight both times.

But it doesn’t happen until the end of March – which takes forever to get here.

Probably because we’re spoiled by February, which begins with that stupid groundhog thing that only makes the shortest (by days only) and most useless month all the more intolerable. February is so useless that every four years when we have an extra day, we stick it on the end of February. And it still comes up short.

The only thing January has going for it, besides my birthday, is professional football playoffs. And they are only there to help get us through winter weekends without having to paint something indoors or visit someone we don’t like.

“But I can’t go to your aunt’s house, honey. The NFC divisional wild card playoff selection committee series bracket show pregame analysis awards presentation draft preview special report is on today.”

The shortest month time-wise – meaning the one that goes by the most quickly – is the 61-day month of Novemberdecember. The holidays, the scheduling of which make no sense, are to blame.

The biggest holidays of the year – Thanksgiving-Christmas-New Year’s – occur within a few weeks of each other. We eat the most when we can’t get outside to exercise it off. We shop the most during the worst time of year for weather.

As soon as November begins and everyone’s thoughts turn to Thanksgiving and Christmas plans, the holidays come rushing up at lightning speed and blow by us like a drag racer, leaving our hair all messy and our lips chapped. This feeling hits the wall at the end of the year. Problem is, the accompanying weather sticks around.

On the other hand, the nice weather months are reserved for holidays of a patriotic/America-type theme – except August, which we really don’t need because we have nothing to celebrate.

If Thanksgiving was in August, for example, picnics would become a possibility. Throw everybody outside, I always say. That’s not as easy in November. In August, it’s a possibility.

Secondly, it spreads out the amount of turkey we normally consume in Novemberdecember.

A more reasonable amount of space would be placed between holidays if a few changes were made.

My way, all the seasons would fit in one year in their entirety. No more of this splitting of winter like a pair of bookends. If we’re going to have a season come more than once a year, it sure as heck shouldn’t be the most annoying one.

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Intense & in tents

Intense & in tents

September 13, 1998

Mattison’s Avenue

By Kevin Mattison

I keep telling myself it is the compassion and deep-rooted concern I have for my friends that jolted me out of bed early Monday morning while the world – and the trees – were thrashing about up north.

It had nothing to do with the fact that I was petrified and wanted to crawl under the dirt.

Approximately 30 friends, along with Karen and I, took the summer camping road tour to the shores of the Great Sacandaga last weekend for camping, eating, singing, the consumption of soda pop, discussion, and setting an enormous fire on the beach.

The latter being a neat trick all by itself, as we learned, because sand does not readily ignite.

That’s just about all we did, too. It’s a pretty quiet, reserved group. Except, of course, for Paul.

And Ray. And Keith.

And the other Ray.

We did the bonfire thing on Sunday night, held some spiritual discussions, sang Kumbaya, and headed back to camp. Once there, some of us (the Mattisons included) went to sleep, others stayed up around the campfire and, I’m guessing, sang more campfire songs.

Karen and I were graciously given the use of one of the rooms inside Ray and Gloria’s camp (which is more like a house). Most everyone else set up their own tents in the yard. They had the house surrounded. I suppose we would have set up our tent if: a) we had one; and b) I had lost my mind.

Long about three o’clock in the morning, the you-know hit the what. The wind took off, the thunder was barking, the lightning was like a strobe light, and the rain was coming down in buckets.

Silly me, I thought my camping experiences had ended one weekend in July 1995 when the people in an adjacent campsite were killed by falling trees. I was almost certain of it.

Camping? Not me. Never again. This weekend? OK.

I laid there Monday morning shivering my timbers, trying to get up the gumption to go check on the others, when …

… I mean, as soon as I recognized there was danger present and my compatriots could be in peril, I bolted from the bed and ran to the safety of the living room to see if I could help.

I figured there were trees crashing about and campers scrambling and screaming for their lives; and they might want someone to be of no help whatsoever.

I thought that’s where I could come in.

What I discovered was the power was out, so the living room was pitch black – the same color as the dog I kept tripping over. The wind was blowing considerably, but not enough to knock down any trees in our immediate vicinity.

And many of the weekend revelers were still out by the campfire, enjoying the storm; having a blast.

I was relieved that I didn’t have to save anyone’s life, so I did what I thought was the most compassionate thing I could for my friends.

I went back to bed.

I believe it’s a miracle, actually, that everyone was all right. And that we were able to laugh at people like Mary Ann and Larry, who left their sneakers outside their tent all night. And we were able to chortle at those doing the coffee kick when they found out no electricity means no running water.

Of course, this was only funny to those not taking part in this dance.

The experience Karen and I went through three summers ago has really changed my attitude about storms. And the people I consider among the best people on the planet were – after me … I mean, after my wife – first and foremost on my mind Monday morning.

Except, of course, for Paul.

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