The Good Old Days?

Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
Since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow . . .

Today, Peg and I sat and watched the snow blowing outside our front window. We commiserated about winters past. My thoughts returned to 1961 the first winter I had as a married man. Barbara and I rented a three room apartment in Chicago on West 87th Street. The front of our house faced the border between Chicago and suburban Hometown, Illinois. We both worked and had long commutes. My drive(11.4 miles)took me to Danly Machine Company in Cicero, Illinois, Barb’s (12,5 miles)took her to the Westside VA (Veterans Affairs) Hospital in Chicago. I spent every dime I had to buy a used Volkswagen, and Barb did the same to buy her Uncle Tony’s 1954 Chrysler New Yorker. The apartment provided parking spaces perpendicular to 87 street which is a CTA(Chicago Transit Authority) commuter route for busses.

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Winter snow began in December with regular snowfalls followed by very cold temperatures. It snowed in January, February, March and April too for an accumulation of over 50 inches for the season (avg. Chicago snowfall is 39 inches). What I remember most was digging the cars out after the CTA snow plow pushed the snow off 87 street into a mound behind our cars. It seemed like every morning I’d be exercising by shoveling snow from behind two cars. In the evenings when returning from work we had to turn sharply and gun the car to plow through the mound to get back in. Many times my VW lifted off the ground and I had to shovel snow from under the car to get the wheels back onto the ground.

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The joy of owning a Volkswagen to save gas which was selling for under 2o cents per gallon at the time, was the German engineer’s idea of efficiency. VW’s used the air that cooled the engine to heat the car and to defrost the windows. It didn’t take me long to use my knowledge of thermodynamics to conclude that air-cooled engines don’t make it for heating in a Chicago winter. When it is thirty degrees outside and the engine transfers thirty degrees to the air, the passenger compartment gets sixty degree air. When the outside air is zero degrees the engine still puts in thirty degrees, and the driver gets a chilly thirty degree breeze blowing into his face. That winter we had ample days with sub-zero temperatures which meant scrapping ice off the inside of the windshield to see the road. I took a blanket with me to wrap my legs for warmth.

When the temperature dropped below fifteen degrees, I removed the battery from the bug and took it into the house to keep it warm and charged. How did I learn to do that? Trying to start a VW with a six volt system in sub-freezing temperatures is next to impossible. There was not enough power in a cold battery to turn over the engine. I learned another trick from the German mechanics when I complained about the terrible starting situation. “Did you put five weight oil in the engine? No, well no-wonder you have trouble, we always use five weight oil in the winter.”  Duhuh.

By the end of that winter I became proficient at dealing with both cars, what worked for the VW also worked for the Chrysler, and we somehow managed to survive.

“Why didn’t you take public transportation,” people would ask? I tried taking busses and the elevated, and learned that waiting for, and riding CTA buses in sub-zero was not fun. Even if I caught the buses without waiting, it took me two and a half hours to make it to work, and that was in an era when the CTA service was better than it is today.

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Yes, I sang the song lyrics above while looking at the snow swirling about in a thirty mph wind and recalling the “good old days.” The only thing good about them is that they are old and gone forever.

I Give a Rat’s Rear

The 2015 Monet Vision is in its Blizzard White phase, and I could care less. The snow is pretty looking at it from the warmth of a house, but it becomes a hazard when outside. I don’t care about snow at my age. I’ve seen enough to last the rest of my lifetime. No longer do I rush outside to shovel the drive or the walks. I tend to let it accumulate and hope the sun melts it off. That however, is a dream. It’ll be May before we get the temperatures to melt off a snow pile. Instead, I will drag myself out with shovel in hand to push the snow off the walks and the drive. If I don’t, then walking becomes hazardous, and tedious. I’ll just let the beauty of it all soak in a while longer before I venture out with shovel in hand.

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One Word Changed My Mind

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Today’s plan had us getting back to Interstate 70 to cross the Eastbound Vail Pass. We will have to climb from the town of Vail at 8120 feet elevation to the crest of Vail Mountain at 10,662 feet. The pass is twelve miles long, and half of that is uphill to reach the peak. My I-phone alarmed a travel advisory this morning. It said it snowed last night, is still snowing, and there will be snow showers most of the day on the pass. Packed ice covers the road, and there are gusting 40-50 mph winds making driving conditions dangerous and treacherous. The last word did it for me. So, Peg and I are sitting it out for another day watching all the adventurous drivers pass us by headed for the pass. At my age I take words like treacherous seriously. I no longer ache for the adventure of driving in hazardous conditions to get some where. Another day on the road will not hurt us at all, while one slip off a road above 8000 feet might hurt us real bad.

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This is the third time Peggy and I have experienced poor driving conditions while commuting to and from Arizona. The first time we followed a storm front across the west from Flagstaff, AZ to Albuquerque, NM. Each morning we awoke to a cloudless sunny day only to catch the storm in the early afternoon, and be shagged off the Interstate by the State police. The second time we met a snow storm in Oklahoma while driving west. We sat a day waiting for the storm to pass. The next morning we bravely got on the road to learn that the road was hard packed ice for one hundred and twenty miles. We holed up again for two more days to wait for the storm to pass, and for the ice to melt. Last year, our plan had us on this very same route, but a winter storm advisory (I didn’t know that late April thru early May is still considered winter in these parts, and they are serious about it.) caused me to detour back south going two hundred and fifty miles out-of-the-way to get away from the delivered twelve inches of snow dumped on Vail Pass to Denver. The third time is now.

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What do they say? “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.”

Light Speed to Reality

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This morning we left a chilly rainy 65 degree day in the Valley of the Sun. Two hours later we reached the top of a 7500 feet high peak and moved through a snowy white out. The car thermometer dropped to 28 degrees. The weather followed us to our first destination city with two additions, wind, and hail. The wind-chill drove the last spike through my Phoenix warmed heart, ugh. We will follow a major weather pattern across the United States and we might even meet some severe rain storms with possible tornadoes. I don’t need an adventure like this anymore, packing the car was adventure enough.

I often tell friends “in May when I return the weather is colder than the weather I experienced in Phoenix in January.” Another big difference is that in May, Illinois doesn’t have many flowers in bloom, while in January, the valley is abundant in flowers.

Our last week in the Valley had us basking on the patio enjoying 90 degree days. I don’t think I will see another ninety degree day for another three months.

How deprived am I?

Pure Exhilarating Cold

There is nothing finer or more exhilarating than a Mid-Western cold spell.  It has been a long time since we experienced temperatures like the ones we have today. Last night when I took the trash out, my indoor-outdoor thermometer read -3 F. This morning, the darn thing didn’t register. I bundled up to blow the snow off the drive and walkways. Just before leaving the house, I checked the temperature on my phone. It read minus seventeen fahrenheit, with a south wind. I believe the cold is coming to us from the South Pole where it is summer and research ships traveling there to prove man-made global warming have frozen into the water.

Outside, the cold manifested itself in quiet. Normally, I can hear the noise of traffic from the nearby roads, but not today. The day before the birds crowded the feeders in a feeding frenzy. Today there is no movement, no sound, nothing except cold,  sparkling pure crystals of powder snow. The sky is a pure blue and any pollution over the city has frozen and fallen from the sky.

My mind took me back to a time when I served as Scoutmaster for Boy Scout Troop 1776. I formed the troop two years before the USA ‘s two hundredth birthday. People called us the bi-centennial troop. Many of the scouts still communicate with me. One of the memories was a District event held in January called the Klondike Derby at Yorkville Scout camp west of Chicago. A weekend campout filled with sled races, pioneering skills and cold weather survival training. We braved the cold and survived a night sleeping on the ground in tents when the temperature dropped to twenty-five below zero. The best part was Sunday morning when it was time to break camp and head for home. Not a single car started, we were stranded. Thankfully, the Camp Ranger had a phone in his cabin and we were able to call home for Dads to come out and pick up their sons as the Scoutmasters tried starting the vehicles. We survived that adventure also, and finally arrived home by six. It was another time when I enjoyed the pure exhilaration of the extreme cold.

It took me thirty minutes to move the snow, and by that time my gloved hands were tingling but my fingers were beginning to numb at the same time. I filled the feeders and came in to hibernate. I think it is a good time to cook some chili.

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It Is A White World

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Today, I can say without any doubt  that we live in a white-world. Sorry Al, sorry Jesse, this is my world. No matter how much you like the color black or how much Black Power is in the world, today it is a white world. There is one qualifier, it is a white-world in the Mid-west and on the East coast of North America. So far, we have had several inches of snow, and yesterday it began snowing at four o’clock and it hasn’t stopped yet. So far my town of Frankfort has accumulated a foot of snow, and the temperature is in the teens.

This day brings back recollections of the 1980’s when we had freezing white-world winters every year. The liberal main stream media screamed  a pending Ice Age bearing down upon us, then something happened. Our white-world disappeared and the liberal-media began screaming global warming.

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Before you jump on me about global warming let me admit that global warming does exist, but it is due to cyclical variation of the Earth’s weather cycles. Yes, I also admit that CO2 can raise the temperature of the atmosphere, but it does so naturally. Oceans put out CO2, and so do forests and vegetation. Maybe even the output from burning hydrocarbons will do it, but there is no proof that my driving a car, or heating my house or cow farts contribute to man-made global warming. Do they contribute to increasing CO2, yes, but are we the primary reason the level is rising? We will never know unless we try a grand experiment to stop driving cars, period. No more cars, buses, trucks, trains, ships, planes or hydrocarbon fueled power of any kind. We would then have to stop heating our homes with gas, oil, wood or with anything hydrocarbon. We must also forget about using  any appliance or tool that consumes electrical power from an outlet, battery, or fossil fuel generated electricity. If the CO2 levels drop after we stop all that activity, and the temperature of Earth drops, then I might agree we are the cause of global warming. The problem is that such an experiment is totally impractical to conduct. Planet earth would stop functioning and millions of us would perish. For those of us old enough to have lived through some history, the conclusion is that the earth’s weather goes through cycles.

We even go through moisture cycles. I recall a time in the eighties when the water level in big, bad Lake Michigan rose by three feet. The water level was so high it caused major shore erosion. Many people living along the edge lost houses because the high water eroded the shore from under the houses.   Has the mainstream media ever calculated how many gallons it takes to raise that body of water three feet?  I haven’t either, but it is in the billions, maybe even the trillions. Later, in the nineties I took a vacation to Traverse City, Michigan. One of the unique scenic features of Traverse City is Traverse Bay which comes up to the edge of US 33. During the year we visited Grand Traverse Bay could not be found. We had to look for it. Barb and I eventually found it a half-mile out toward Lake Michigan. All  we heard from the media were stories about how the loss of water would cause people to die from dehydration. Entire towns would lose their water supply. The government contemplated denying towns from pulling water from the lake as a method of conservation. Where did all that water go? The answer is found in unique weather cycles which we are just identifying. Why has it taken so long to recognize the cycles? One answer is there are several different kinds of cycles and many years between them, and we have only kept records for about one hundred years. Most recently we are seeing the effect of sun-spot variation and have begun to notice the effect solar flares have on the electromagnetics of Earth. The same sun-spots also cause weather variations.  Eventually, the Farmers Almanac will publish these cycles and put man made Global warming to bed forever.

The eighties gave us a January during which we had thirty days straight of deep snow cover during which the daily high temperature never rose above thirty-two degrees fahrenheit(this is a correction from my previous statement of never having gone above zero. It seems my recollection is about temperature is about the same as a fisherman’s recollection about the size of his fish.) After a few days of zero, when it jumped  to ten degrees we felt like a heat wave had descended upon us. The eighties gave us record snowfalls, I shoveled eighteen inches of snow regularly. Then I began to notice in the nineties how easy the winters had become. Today, we enjoy the same weather we enjoyed in the nineteen-seventies and eighties.

So Jesse and Al, call me a racist, but even you are white today in this white world. If you don’t believe me try standing still outside for about an hour or more in thirteen degrees fahrenheit and tell me what color your skin has turned.

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My Blood Pressure Spiked!

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Wow! It is already the second day of 2014 and I have not done a thing. On New Year’s Day, Peg and I crashed. The party the day before wore us out. Ever since we married eight years ago we have traditionally celebrated New Year’s Eve. The first few years we attended the Prestwick Country Club party by hosting a table of friends. More recently, Peg decided she wanted a smaller more intimate group of friends to spend time with.

The party gives me a chance to practice my culinary skill, which is very limited, combined with Peg’s hosting skill which is considerable.  We invited three couples for dinner at five. The day began in a relaxed manner, but the stress level increased exponentially as the minutes marched forward. Peg began by monopolizing the kitchen with her hors d’oeuvres, patience Joe.  The weather saved me. It snowed that morning so I disappeared to shovel the drive and the walks. I returned to begin the main dish by  assembling the components for the veal paprikas I planned to make. We are lucky enough to have a fifteen foot countertop for cooking, but I had only one square foot of it. My blood pressured spiked, and my patience wore thin, I forgot two ingredients which I made a special trip to shop for days earlier. Another escape, this time to the Jewel Food Store for two items, a green pepper, and a 14.7 ounce can of diced tomatoes. There must have been more people like me because the parking lot was at capacity. Shoppers in cars jammed the lanes waiting for people  to come out and make a space. I backed out and found a space at the far corner. An inconsiderate jerk of a shopper had abandoned his cart in the space I parked in, so I pushed it back to the store while walking at record pace through the snow. I beat the cars still waiting in the lane for a space, patience Joe.

Inside the store was worse than the parking lot. Outside it was only parked cars and jerks waiting to find premium parking spaces. Inside it was different. Nervous ladies all rushing through the aisles filling baskets with party goodies. I encountered several aisle jams stalled by shoppers staring at the goods while trying to decide which kind of potato chip, wine, or olive to take off the shelf. Once more I back out, this time with the cart. Several times shoppers blind-sided me while rushing down an aisle and crossing lanes without looking. Smile, and say you’re sorry Joe, they are only stressed out like you are. On a normal day, close encounters of this sort would result in a lasting friendship, today friendship did not occur to me nor to those with whom I nearly collided.

Once at the checkout lanes, the crowd seemed even worse. People in line spilled into the aisles unseen. I passed through the waiting carts and aligned myself in what I thought was the end of the line. As luck would have it, the checkout lady was slower than cold molasses. Finally, the line moved one person, and I jockeyed into place but an old woman who came from nowhere and holding a fruit-tort blocked me. She smiled and politely inferred that I was cutting, and the line formed in the aisle behind her, patience Joe.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++ The Door Bell Rings

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A good thing just happened to me. A very nice young man with a very heavy black beard, a bright red jacket and a black knit cap just rang the door-bell. I answered, and he very politely asked if I wanted my snow shoveled.  “How much,” I asked? He pondered a moment and looked around, “twenty-five,” he answered. “How about twenty?”  He nodded in agreement. “Do you have a shovel,” I asked. He nodded yes again.

Parked out on the street stood a sleek-looking Nissan. He ran to the car and knocked on the window. His partner came out and the two of them are shoveling furiously. In the short time it has taken me to write this, they have completed half of the job. Thank you Lord!

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By the time I checked out and drove home from the Jewel, Peggy decided to clear some counter space for me. My tension eased, and the meal prep began.

By four-thirty I finished the paprikas and the double recipe of spaetzle. I transferred the veal dish to a hot-pot and kept the spaetzle dumplings warm in a covered pot.  I looked out the window and realized it had snowed again. Peggy asked for help with something she was doing, and I freaked again, patience Joe. I did what she asked without grumbling, patience Joe. I rushed to the garage for my snow shovels. The drive and walks were clean by 4:55.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++The Door Bell Rings Again

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The snow-shovelers just rang the bell. They  finished. My God, what youthful energy they have. I would still be screwing around getting dressed and with starting the snow blower but they finished! I handed him twenty-six bucks. The two of them deserve it. Peg handed him a small bag of mini-Snickers bars left over from Halloween which I had secretly stashed.

Since it is still snowing, I’ll have another chance to show my aging-energy later this afternoon.

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We had a perfectly delightful evening with our friends eating and drinking and making merry. Harriet brought a lasagna to supplement my Paprikas, Mary brought shrimp appetizers, and Donna brought a scrumptious plate of cherry slices and a quart of ice cream, and Al brought enough wine to keep us happy the whole night long. The crowd left by nine o’clock. Peggy and I cleaned up and we were in bed by 11:00 p.m. by mid-night we were fast asleep.

Happy New Year everyone.

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