Snowzilla gave me a break, but now the dogs are back at it

For a while there I thought we’d never completely dig out from under the massive snowstorm that crawled up the East Coast two weeks ago. The storm dumped so much on our neighborhood, it seemed as if the snow would linger all the way into April before finally melting.

That’s not to say all that snow on the ground didn’t have its upside. For instance, it gave me a welcome break from the daily barking contest our big dog Rodney holds with his nemesis.

Rodney is in the habit of meeting the neighbor dog at the backyard fence to see who can bark the loudest.

The two hold their pissing match every day almost WITHOUT FAIL, but the snow that piled up in the backyard made one-upping each other too much of a struggle. Rodney is big and often goofy, but he’s not stupid. He recognized that even he risked floundering in a snow drift if he tried to make it all the way out to the fence.

I have no idea how the neighbor dog coped, but Rodney was forced to content himself with staring mournfully at the fence from the safety of the only cleared space around the back of the house –  a path we cut through the snow between our deck and the back door into the garage.

We carved that trail mainly so (a) Rodney would have a place to do his business between walks, and (b) so we would have a path to our geezer of a heat pump. It’s not getting any younger and must be watched to ensure it doesn’t get swamped by winter weather.

Every time Rodney went out the back door and down the path he faced the snow barrier. He would then give me his sad face as if to say, “a good friend would clear the way.” Then he would nod toward the fence.

I don’t always think things through to their consequences. You could even say I’m known for not thinking ahead, but even I could see that shoveling a path to the fence was only asking for trouble.

Soon, however, the only evidence that anything unusual happened will be those big mounds of dirty snow piled up at street corners. And eventually, even they will disappear.

As the big snow of 2016 began retreating this week, things got back to normal at our house.

Instead of the dismal prospect of more shoveling, the kids were back in school and my wife was happily busying herself at her job.

As for me, after I finish writing this, the biggest strain I’m facing is a little routine housework: the laundry that’s spinning in the dryer needs to be folded, the pots and pans need to be put away when the dishwasher finishes with them and I really ought to run the vacuum cleaner.

I would catch up with my busy nap schedule, but without thigh deep snow on the ground, I’m not sure that’s going to happen.

Rodney and the neighbor dog are back it again.

Snowzilla: What would Jack Burton do?

Last weekend’s massive snowstorm is giving me an excuse to quote from one of my favorite movies.

Before you stop reading, it’s not “Star Wars” this time. Nor is it “Star Trek.” It’s the classic Kurt Russell martial arts flick “Big Trouble in Little China.”

Russell’s character is Jack Burton, a hapless but full-of-himself trucker whose catchphrase is “it’s all in the reflexes.” When he gets caught up in San Francisco’s Chinese underworld, his antics, inexplicably, help the good guys defeat an evil sorcerer.

In fact, the way the sorcerer dies seems to prove Burton’s “reflexes” mantra, but the audience knows better. We’re in on the running joke that is Jack Burton. He’s a bumbler who gets away with a lucky throw of a knife.

The films ends the same way it opens: Burton is behind the wheel of his truck on a dark and stormy night holding forth on his CB radio before no one in particular:

“Just remember what ol’ Jack Burton does when the earth quakes, and the poison arrows fall from the sky, and the pillars of Heaven shake. Yeah, Jack Burton just looks that big ol’ storm right square in the eye and he says, “Give me your best shot, pal. I can take it.”

What did I do when the poison arrows fell and the pillars shook like they did last weekend?

I abandon my family faster than Burton’s reflexes, that’s what.

You might think me a cad, but I left my home early Friday afternoon because duty called. I work in a radio newsroom in Washington, D.C. And newsroom people don’t let a little weather stop them. At least, not the ones who stay in nearby hotels.

However, I still plead guilty to leaving my wife and kids with nothing but a couple of shovels to see them through to the other side of the storm.

They started shoveling Friday night while I was enjoying warm food in the hotel bar, sleeping in my cozy hotel room and being chauffeured to work in a big SUV. And they still had shovels in their hands when I arrived back home from my winter vacation Monday afternoon.

Our driveway was clear when I pulled up to our house. When I got out of the car, I saw our son helping a neighbor clear snow. My wife was happily chatting with another neighbor and her son while the three of them walked up the street in front of our house. She had just finished uncovering the fire hydrant in our yard.

Seeing them made me feel like I missed the kind of shared experience that pulls a neighborhood together. So when my wife handed me the shovel she was carrying, I went to help my son and my other neighbor. I was just in time to get my shovel wet. Only a small mound of snow remained in my neighbor’s driveway.

As I stood there with nothing better to do than to complain about how terrible it was to spend the storm in a comfortable hotel room in downtown D.C., I had a shocking thought. This winter is likely the last one during which I can rely on my son to help his mother clear snow. He’ll be away at college next year.

Time to buy a snowblower.

Even clueless heroes like Jack Burton would do that much.

Snowzilla could make me take one for the team

I have just one question as the Washington, D.C. region faces a snowbound weekend: Whatever happened to team spirit? To the esprit de corps that spurs people to go the extra mile for their teammates? To the collective elan epitomized by “The Three Musketeers” motto “all for one and one for all?”

Answer: It must have melted away with the inch of snow that paralyzed the District Wednesday night.

The small storm blew in just in time to turn the commute into something straight out of a disaster movie. Major interstates came to a standstill. Cars were abandoned. Police were overwhelmed and frustrated motorists spent a long night just trying to make it home in time to do it all again Thursday morning.

The Washington Post’s Capital Weather Gang called it a sneaky storm that was overshadowed by the blizzard forecast for this weekend.

For my part, I was happily drooling on my pillow while the situation was unfolding, comfortable beneath warm blankets and totally oblivious.

I’m not this weekend.

I’m writing this in my hotel room in D.C., where the Wednesday night dusting was just the warmup act for the main event – the storm that forecasters say could break regional snowfall records.

Call it the price I pay for choosing a career in radio journalism.

The show must go on.

Anyone who has ever worked in a newsroom understands that. You could even say journalists have taken the mailman’s creed to heart.

“Neither rain nor snow nor heat nor gloom of night” and all that.

Duty calls. It’s what we signed up for, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to get out of it.

Just be prepared for the consequences.

Earlier this week, when we started getting word of the storm that’s outside my hotel window right now, I started pestering a colleague to fill in for me.

He was a good sport, but he wouldn’t be moved. Not even after I made like Tom Sawyer and told him how much fun he’d have cooped up in a hotel and working through the weekend. I even tried the old “take one for the team” gambit.

He didn’t bite.

So much for team spirit.

Truth be told, I was just kidding around (sort of). But what goes around actually came around.

The storm is expected to drop so much snow there are fears my co-worker and others won’t be able to make it to work Monday morning.

So guess who may end up taking one for the team now?

If it seems like I’m trying to avoid you …

thermostatLeaving the house lately has been a lot like being faced with the “Walk of Shame.” In fact, showing my face anywhere right now fills me with trepidation. All I want to do is put on a hat, slip on some shades, duck my head and get through it without talking to anyone.

But I can’t.

Because everyone knows I caved. At least, all my Facebook friends know. And now, if you read further, you’ll know, too. And then you’ll want to ask questions I’m ashamed to answer.

My first mistake was making public my campaign to not be the first in our house to turn on the air conditioner. But posting about it on Facebook was a small blunder compared to the most fatal, grievous, calamitous and downright crushing mistake I made.

I eventually implied in my Facebook posts that I was in a battle of wills with my ultra-competitive wife.

She just didn’t know it.

Not at first, at least.

She eventually found out last week when I informed my FB friends that it was so hot and humid inside our house that my wife appeared “close to breaking,” and that I thought I would soon “claim victory for lasting the longest without turning on the AC.”

When a mutual friend tagged her in a comment that post became my downfall. She turned to me and said, “I didn’t know we were competing.” Then she calmly told me that “if this is a contest, you know you’re going to lose.”

Actually, I’m sort of surprised she hadn’t busted me sooner. The post that ignited her competitive side was just one in a series I had been writing on Facebook.

It started innocently enough with a non-confrontational status update wondering “how long I could resist the siren call of the air conditioner.”

A few days later, I followed it up with another fairly innocuous post expressing relief that cooler temperatures were in the forecast.

A friend of mine then posted a picture of a box fan set up inside a window to encourage a cool breeze.

It went back and forth like that until I finally crossed the line. Last week, I mentioned my wife for the first time when I said I thought we were playing “a sick game of who can last the longest without turning on the AC.”

If I had just left it there, I wouldn’t be going incognito in public right now. But I had to follow it with posts and replies suggesting my wife and I were engaged in a supreme struggle that would scare even our soon-to-be teenage daughter, who is no stranger to conflict.

And then my wife discovered the “close to breaking post” and made it clear that she was anything but.

I spent the next few days gently suggesting that we put aside our contest, that if our tongues hung out of our mouths any further we might be mistaken for our thoroughly miserable dog, Rodney.

But she had a “you started it, I’m finishing it” attitude.

Even our kids were no help. Our daughter took my wife’s side and even wanted a cost analysis between running the air conditioning and all the fans I had running full blast throughout the house. Our teenage son, meanwhile, was oblivious to the whole thing. He spends most of his time at home in our comfortably cool basement pretending he doesn’t live with us.

Eventually, I caved and now I’m suffering the ignominy of having flipped the switch at a moment of craven weakness.

You might be wondering, if I’m so ashamed, why am I admitting to all this?

It’s for husbands who have ultra-competitive wives like mine.

Never let them know you’re competing with them if you want temperatures to cool down at your house.

They said it would snow …

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… but I didn’t want to believe it.

Now, I can’t deny what’s right outside my front door.

At least I don’t live in New England. The early spring snow here in West Virginia is nothing compared to what coastal Massachusetts is supposed to get. A blizzard warning is in effect for Cape Cod and the Islands.

In any case, I’m starting to think I might have spread grass seed too early.

On the other hand, maybe this latest blast of wintry weather will be just the thing to spark some actual grass to grow among the weeds I usually end up with in my yard.

Keep your fingers crossed. I know mine are.

If it’s really spring, why am I so pessimistic?

Shouldn’t I be optimistic right about now?

After all, it’s the season for optimism, for renewal, for gentle breezes and green trees.

Pardon this tired old pun, but shouldn’t I have a “spring” in my step?

For Pete’s sake, baseball’s opening day is almost upon us. I should be looking forward to the promise of a new season, of spending the next six months following the Washington Nationals with my 15-year-old son, yet here I am with a bad case of pessimism.

I could chalk up my mood to another lottery failure. Last Tuesday night, I was gunning for the huge Mega-Millions prize. At $414 million, it was the third-largest in the game’s history. Not surprisingly, I was disappointed.

While my ticket found a home in the trash can after the drawing, it came out later that one of the two lucky winners bought theirs at a liquor store outside Washington, D.C., in suburban Maryland. The store is across the street from where a friend of mine buys his tickets.

That’s probably as close as I will ever get to lottery glory, but I don’t think that’s why I’m feeling pessimistic. It’s more likely it has something to do with the yard.

Each spring, I put myself under considerable pressure to actually grow grass. And, each spring I fail. One glance at my yard will tell you all you need to know about my green thumb.

I’ve tried everything to get grass to grow where only weeds dominate. And, when I say I’ve tried everything, I mean EVERYTHING.

Well, everything except spreading seed before a snowfall.

In an effort to spare my wife the ignominy of having the worst lawn in the neighborhood again, I took a shot in the dark and decided to see if what I’ve read on the Internet is right about snow and grass. I got home from work last Sunday afternoon, raked the yard, got my spreader out and seeded it just before it was supposed to snow.

I like the idea of using snow to my advantage. It’s supposed to hide the seed from hungry birds. And then when it melts, to encourage the seeds to snuggle into the ground, where they will hopefully germinate and make my wife happy.

I have no idea if it will work, but it’s a trick some people swear by.

Others, not so much. One friend of mine told me not to waste my time. Another flatly said the seed would wash away.

The naysayers have me worried, but only time will tell if the cold snow that fell actually bore the warm embrace of life.

With my luck though, I just wasted a $100 bag of seed.

If it’s not the uncertainty of growing grass that’s sparked my spell of pessimism, and not my long string of losing lottery numbers, then what is it?

I’m probably over-thinking this. It’s most likely something simple. And, now that I consider the possibility, the more convinced I am that my malaise is the weather’s fault.

Forecasters seem to think we’re in line for some more snow this week. If the weather headlines for the east coast are to be believed, a “Nor’easter bomb” is a possibility.

If conditions are just right, forecasters say the storm could sock parts of New England. But even though it’s supposed to largely spare the Mid-Atlantic, where I live, the mere mention of a little more snow is enough to make anyone pessimistic that spring will ever truly take hold.