Winter is Back

While I was out walking our big dog Rodney last week, one of our neighbors emerged from her house, spread her arms wide, turned a broad smile to the heavens and happily proclaimed, “We’re having a heat wave!”

She was exaggerating, of course. With temperatures in the 40s, it was still fairly cool outside, but I wasn’t going to quibble with her. The East Coast was just coming off a deep freeze that saw iguanas go catatonic in Florida and sent wind chills well below zero in parts of New England. It was so cold where we live in West Virginia’s Eastern Panhandle, taking Rodney for his customary spin around the neighborhood was daunting. My wife bundled up so much, you could only see the whites of her eyes. So yes, it was noticeably warmer – a heat wave, even, by comparison.

By Thursday, it was even more balmy. Highs topped 60 degrees in my neighborhood and rose even higher on Friday – a fact that did not go unremarked upon. While I was taking our daughter to school Friday morning, she said “it feels like springtime in January!” She was not wrong. I half-expected to see confused daffodils begin poking out of the ground.

The oddball weather gave the guys in sturdy leather work boots (the kind I wear for show) renewed vigor. They shut down the road in the lower part of the neighborhood and had the backhoes and shovels out, again – cleaning up from the New Year’s Day water main break and making some upgrades on the water line aimed at keeping another break at bay, or at least making the next one not quite as bad.

The break that left us without water for a while was just one of a slew that kept crews busy from the Midwest to the Eastern Seaboard. Run a search for “water main break” and dozens of articles turn up – from Chicago to Baltimore to Cape Canaveral and New York City.

For a few days, at least, the fixit crews called upon to deal with all that carnage didn’t have to risk frostbite while they worked outside, but “Springtime in January” didn’t last long. Temperatures plunged back below freezing over the weekend and now a little bit of snow is in the forecast.

Looks like the daffodils are just going to have to wait. Winter has returned to form and there are plenty of water mains to break before it sleeps.

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On frigid weather and water mains

Technically, this is NOT my first post of 2018. It IS, however, the first one that I’ve put some effort into, so do me a favor and read it through to the end. And if it’s not too much to ask, you could also praise its virtues in the comments and share it widely across all of your social networks. WIDELY!

My ego knows no bounds, and apparently, this current cold snap doesn’t, either. Morning lows have been in the single digits for days now, with daytime highs struggling to make it into the 20s. Throw in an icy wind like the one about to blow in my front door as I write this and it’s suck-it-up bracing outside. It’s almost noon and the weather app on my phone says it feels like six degrees above zero. #Brrrr.

To be honest with you, though, I’m one of those weirdos who is happiest when it’s frigid. Winter coat weather makes for a much brisker and refreshing walk around the neighborhood with our big dog Rodney – and more rewarding, too, especially if there is chili simmering in the kitchen crock pot. It also makes it easier to shirk outside chores, but don’t tell my wife I said that.

In short, what I’m saying is this – I’d much rather shiver than sweat through the humidity of a West Virginia summer. But there are limits. And I reached mine on New Year’s Day.

My wife was the first to sound the alarm. Wrapped in only a towel after taking a shower, she cracked open our bedroom door and shouted down the hall, “What’s going on with the water?” When I asked what she meant, she shouted back that she barely had enough to get wet. The pressure was low.

I figured the extreme cold had something to do with it and said as much. But rather than stir myself from the warmth of my favorite chair to see if we had a broken pipe, I reached for my phone.

I almost never use Nextdoor, the app that links you to your neighbors. It generally just takes up space and I had been considering getting rid of it. On New Year’s Day, however, I thought I’d give it a shot.

I posted a message aimed at my neighbors asking if anyone else was having water pressure problems and got an almost immediate reply. A couple of others popped up within minutes, someone called the city’s Public Works Department and in short order word came back that a water main had burst.

One my neighbors pinpointed the break’s location for us. She wrote that it was right behind her house in the lower section of the neighborhood, near the wide open field where the neighborhood deer meet in warmer weather to plan their attacks on our gardens. She said her neighbor’s yard was flooded and that water was starting to inundate hers.

I found all this out never once having to stir from the warm embrace of my chair. Okay, that’s not entirely true. I had to get up when I misplaced the television remote control. Other than that, though, I remained in my comfort zone.

I did feel for the guys who had to work late into the night on a holiday, however. They worked for hours in frigid conditions better suited for polar bears. But they found the break and they fixed it. They should all get pay raises, or at least free hot chocolate for the rest of the winter.

Anyway, the water was back on at my house sometime before 3am. I know because I had to go to the bathroom right about that time.

To be on the safe side, my neighborhood remained under a boil water advisory for a while. And yes, it was inconvenient. But I figure if a water main break is all we have to contend with as a consequence of the arctic blast that has us in its grip, we’re doing fine.

Just try not to punch me in the face the next time I start going on about how I’m living my best life when it’s cold outside.

The end of the mowing season can’t come too soon

This week has been much like any other in my neighborhood. It’s been fairly quiet. Nothing unusual happened. We did, however, watch with interest as Virginians across the border went to the polls on Tuesday. Democrats swept the three top jobs in Virginia – governor, lieutenant governor and state attorney general. Plus, they cut into the Republican majority in the state House of Delegates so much that we’re still not sure which party will end up in charge.

Democratic success in Virginia came with victories in New Jersey and in major cities, including New York, Boston, Charlotte, N.C., and Seattle. But since West Virginians don’t go to the polls again until this May’s primary election, we were on the sidelines.

We sat out this one as early November rains brought much cooler temperatures to my front stoop this week. I’ve finally put away my cargo shorts and Crocs for the season in favor of jeans, sturdy leather work boots, and warm flannel shirts.

I welcome the change. To steal a line from a Twitter friend, I’m best in cold weather – and so is our Big Dog Rodney. Despite the rain, he’s been hanging out in the backyard more often. But while Rodney may be more comfortable outside right now, I suspect the colder temperatures have knocked our neighbor’s teenage daughter off her game. She overslept for school on Thursday. I don’t know for sure if the weather had anything do with it. But despite my enthusiasm for flannel, I acknowledge it’s harder to get out from under warm blankets when temperatures are raw.

Our own daughter made the newspaper this week. She and her theater posse are staging the World War II play “The Cover of Life” at their high school. She has a prominent role that my wife’s parents are eager to see. They are planning to come down for a quick visit to see the production this Sunday afternoon.

The newspaper spread includes a quote from our daughter and a nice picture in which she appears very serious. The whole thing made her mother happy, but she isn’t the only family member to rate media attention this week. My brother’s business, Bear Wood Company, is mentioned in this article about a new donut trailer now open for business in our hometown of Charleston, W.V. I’m not sure if he’s seen it. He and his wife are overseas – on a trip to Ireland.

Our never-in-touch college son actually got in touch this week. He’s making plans to come home for Thanksgiving, a holiday that appears to appeal to my daughter’s girl scout troop leader. Following their meeting this week, she handed out popcorn in plastic bags decked out to look like ears of corn. When she gave me one, she said, “I know. I’m weird.” And then she asked, “This isn’t going to land me in your blog is it?” Well, now that you mention it …

As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I find myself thankful for my neighbors. Last week, Senator Rand Paul was attacked allegedly by one of his while he was mowing his lawn at his Kentucky home.

None of my neighbors seem likely to attack me, but the episode has given me another reason to spread my arms wide and fully embrace plunging temperatures. In other words, the mowing season is just about over.

Ugh, Summer is back

Good thing I like to sit on my front stoop and watch the world go by in the morning. Right now, any other time is out of the question.

After several days of relatively nice, cool weather, temperatures are rising and so is the humidity.

Heat and humidity – summer’s double whammy. Consider me disabused of any hope of escaping typical West Virginia weather for this time of year.

SUMMER. IS. BACK.

As I prepare to post this, it’s about 3pm EDT. A glance at the weather app on my phone shows it feels like 96-degrees outside my front door. That’s hardly Death Valley heat, but it’s more than enough to keep me indoors for the time being. It’s also enough to keep our big dog Rodney near an AC vent.

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I am in the habit of taking Rodney for a spin around the neighborhood in the afternoon. Not today. It’s too hot and humid – for him and me. He’s just going to have to contain his boundless enthusiasm for walks for when his mom gets home from work this evening.

Stop looking so sad, Rodney. It’s for the best. If I took you, your tongue would drag so low it would have road burn by the time we got back home. Besides, you’d just have to make room for me atop that vent

Since I mentioned my beard

Because I suspect you’re dying to know why I trimmed my beard after I mentioned giving it a buzz cut yesterday, take note of the weather at my house – it was 76 degrees this afternoon.

It’s early in the year, but with temperatures this warm, trimming my beard simply seemed like the right thing to do. I now look more like my social media profile pictures than I have in months.  

When I say I trimmed my beard, I mean most of it. I left my mustache and chin alone, but the rest of the hair on my face is now so short as to be negligible.

I should probably suck it up and shave, but here’s the thing – spring may SEEM to be taking hold, but trusting the weather this time of year would be like trusting our big dog Rodney not to bark maniacally when it’s time for a walk.

Better safe than sorry.

A little stubble for the time being seems like the right idea. After all, there are still several more weeks of winter on the calendar.

By the way, don’t tell my wife I wrote about my beard. She already thinks I’m too obsessed with it.

This will just confirm her suspicions.

For crying out loud, it’s February!

This time of year, I should still be wearing a winter coat to walk our big dog Rodney. Maybe even some gloves to keep my fingers toasty, topped off with a knit cap – or as we call them here in West Virginia, a toboggan.

Not today.

Shortly after I got home from work, I changed into some clothes more suitable for the weather. Here’s what I wore:

  • a decrepit pair of tennis shoes that I’ve had for years. They used to be a nice, bright white.
  • the black socks I wore to work (I know, I should have stripped them off because … tennis shoes. I was too lazy).
  • an olive-colored pair of shorts.
  •  a sky blue button-down shirt with the sleeves rolled up (I’ve been wearing it since I left for work this morning. I starched it myself yesterday evening.)

And

  • My dark blue Washington Nationals baseball cap.

My phone says it’s 66 degrees outside.

The skies today are as blue as my shirt and the sun is bright. But it’s near the end of February. There should at least still be a chill in the air.

If the weather remains this way, I might have to break out my blue Crocs to wear with my black socks.

Don’t tell my wife. She’d just be embarrassed.