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.

Since I mentioned my beard

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.

For crying out loud, it’s February!

This week’s newspaper column – Autumn, Coffee and … pumpkin spice

Note: If this seems familiar, it is. I jazzed up last week’s post for the newspaper this weekend.

Autumn is finally in the air.

The crisp mornings mean I can actually sit outside with a hot mug of coffee and watch our neighborhood come to life instead of retreating to the air-conditioned comfort of my home.

Simply put, coffee is much more satisfying when it’s cooler outside.

Fall is my favorite season. The coffee is better, the leaves put on a colorful show, football is back and baseball’s World Series is not far off.

I should be dancing a jig, but autumn arrived last week with little fanfare at my house. My wife didn’t mention it before leaving for work. Neither did our daughter as she got ready for school.

As for me, I didn’t remember the official change of seasons until I returned home from the morning rush to Facebook posts welcoming autumn as a long lost friend. There was even one of those fall-themed “listicles” that are so ubiquitous on the internet. This one promised to answer five questions about the autumnal equinox.

I clicked on it.

Among other things, the post explained why days don’t get noticeably shorter until now, even though we’ve been losing daylight since the summer solstice.

It was interesting.

And scientific.

But the answers weren’t necessarily what I was looking for. All I really wanted to know is when I could trade my cargo shorts and Crocs for jeans and boots.

Turns out, I didn’t have to wait long.

A few days after the official start of autumn, temperatures cooled, and the rain this week seems to have sealed the deal.

Coffee is much better now. And the seasonal clothes switch has begun.

All things remaining equal, my wife and daughter no longer have to live with the threat of being seen with me in public wearing my cargos and Crocs getup. At least, not until next summer.

It’s just as well. I’m tired of them, too. I’m ready for flannel shirts and boots, although I might be willing to continue offending the fashion police and tolerate hot, humid weather for a while longer if it meant one thing – staving off the pumpkin spice juggernaut.

I’m not necessarily opposed to pumpkin spice. After all, I’ve been known to enjoy an extra slice or two of pumpkin pie. However, there is a reason why I don’t live at the beach. There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

That hasn’t stopped grocery stores from stocking everything from pumpkin spice cookie, muffin, bread and cupcake mixes to pumpkin spice cheesecakes, pies and bagels.. A search of the internet turns up pumpkin spice potato chips, hummus, ice cream, cream cheese and yogurt.

And then there’s the pumpkin spice lattes and pumpkin spice beer.

The sign at my grocery store says “Try Them All!”

I probably won’t. Nor will I try pumpkin spice pasta sauce.

Some things are just not suitable for any season.

This week’s newspaper column – Autumn, Coffee and … pumpkin spice

Billy Joel in the rain

In hindsight, my wife and I should have taken a canoe last night. If we had, our field trip to Washington, D.C. probably would have gone smoother.

Instead, we took my car and hydroplaned our way through strong storms to see Billy Joel at Nationals Park.

The storms made for difficult driving. We left our house at around 4pm. It was after 6pm by the time we arrived at the Metro station where we planned to take a train into the city. By the time we got to Nationals Park, it was after 7pm.

We needn’t have worried about being late, though. The rain delayed the concert for nearly an hour-and-a-half. And we needed that time just to make it our seats. The crush of people in the concourse seeking shelter was overwhelming.

It was still raining when I took this picture shortly after Joel finally sat down in front of his piano.

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Can’t see him?

And here I thought I was being helpful by circling Joel’s location on the stage.

Just pretend the rain somehow ruined what would have been an awesome view, rather than judging me for not buying better seats.

The weather had one last inconvenience for us. Since the concert started late, we had to leave early to catch the last Metro train back to our car.

We missed some of Joel’s biggest hits. In fact, my wife and I exchanged a pained looked when he started playing “Piano Man” as we left through the center field gate.

But missing the last portion of the show was just that – an inconvenience.

The rain caused real trouble in the D.C. suburb of Ellicott City, Maryland. Flash floods ripped through the city’s downtown while Joel was on stage.

A state of emergency is in effect there.

We just got a little wet and missed a few songs.

Billy Joel in the rain

Bearing up under summer humidity

Is it too much to ask that the weather this summer remain bearable?

With Monday marking the official start of the season, all we can do is ask the question, then wait and see.

Thursday’s strong storms and tornado scare notwithstanding, the weather lately has been fabulous. And yes, I’ve actually stayed awake long enough to notice the blue skies and pleasant temperatures of the past few weeks.

The weather has been so nice, I’ve even considered completely abandoning my usual afternoon nap in favor of venturing outside to get some work done around the house. My wife, however, remains disappointed. I’m still in the planning stages.

Even so, from the vantage point of my favorite chair (where I do all my best planning), this spring has been a gloriously long one.

It has spoiled me.

I’m grateful for it, but it can’t last.

Spring is about to turn the baton over to summer and with it any hope that conditions will remain within my comfort zone, that we’ll somehow be spared the heat and humidity of a typical West Virginia summer.

Between the two, humidity is the deal-breaker for me.

Not long ago, I would have said that I “hate” humidity and not thought much about it. But I’m making an effort not to use that word anymore. It’s often tossed around too casually without any thought to what it really means to hate something.

So I’d rather say that humidity “irritates” me in the same way that our big dog Rodney’s incessant barking “irritates” me when he thinks he’s about to be taken for a walk.

“Annoyed” would be another good word to describe the dim view I take of humidity. It also  “peeves” and “rankles” me.

And while humidity might make me “short-tempered,” it also “drains” what little energy I have in reserve and makes me “wilt,” “sag” and “droop.”

You get the picture. I’m not so much dreading the summertime heat as I am the HUMIDITY.

But it’s not just the distressing prospect of losing good nap weather that concerns me, it’s also the fashion choices that some men make to stay comfortable in the face of the sweaty season.

First, there are shorts. I’m not necessarily opposed to shorts. You’ll find plenty of them in my closet, including cargo shorts and simple cotton shorts with elastic waistbands that expand as I do.

I even still have an infamous pair of colorful madras plaid shorts that I bought years ago. I prefer to think of them as statement shorts, but my wife would delight in simply burning them.

My madras shorts prove I’m not above being a little ridiculous in my fashion choices, but I draw the line at pairing them with black socks and penny loafers.

While I’m on the subject of shoes, my personal preference is to keep my gnarly toes covered out of respect for delicate sensibilities.

Flip-flops and open-toe sandals leave nothing to the imagination, and so I reject them as proper men’s footwear despite their utility in hot, humid weather.

Rest assured that my toes will remain hidden from public view no matter how oppressive it gets this summer.

Think of it as my way of helping to make the season more bearable.

Bearing up under summer humidity

“Hamilton” may be inspiring our daughter, but it’s not necessarily enough to motivate me

All the rain that fell this week gave me the perfect excuse to indulge in my usual lackadaisical pursuits.

But believe it or not, I’ve been trying to take a break from my busy nap schedule and follow my wife’s admonition to be more productive.

The thing is, I haven’t been very successful.

For instance, my wife wants me to be more mindful of the yard. The rain made what I charitably call grass grow faster than our daughter can break into a song from the smash Broadway hit “Hamilton.”

In fact, I sometimes think there is a direct correlation between how loud she sings and how unruly the yard gets. It’s as if she’s serenading it like some sort of snake charmer.

And the really alarming thing?

At our house, the potential for a “Hamilton” sing-along is an all day, every day hazard.

Of course, our daughter isn’t really responsible for the enthusiasm our yard is showing this spring any more than she is responsible for mowing it.

That’s my job. And while I don’t have to like it, I do take some satisfaction that when the yard is freshly cut the weeds don’t seem quite as prominent.

Lately, though, dragging my broken-down old lawn mower from the dark recesses of our garage seems like an exercise in frustration.

It’s been so wet lately, I’m afraid if I fired up my mower I would only succeed in clogging it with clippings. It sputters enough without wet grass sticking to the underside of its deck and making it stall.

Waiting for the sun to come back out seems like a better plan. A drier yard would make for a happier mower.

With rain serving as a handy excuse to rule out yard work this week, I could have used the extra time to pursue other household chores. Living with two teenagers, our big dog Rodney and a couple of cats means the carpets need to be vacuumed regularly. Also, the kitchen floor could have used a spit shine and it wouldn’t have hurt the tub to be scrubbed clean.

But I decided to remain reclined in my favorite chair and focus on something else I’ve avoided  over the past few weeks – writing a column.

I’ve been having trouble finding the same sort of inspiration our daughter gets from “Hamilton.”

I may make kicking back look easy, but staring at a blank computer screen with your feet up is hard work. It’s not as if I can simply download a column as if it were the “Hamilton” cast album and then sing it at the top of my lungs in front of the bathroom mirror.

But I’m going to have to find inspiration somewhere, even if it means clearing my head by getting out from under my laptop and getting behind a rickety old lawn mower that’s struggling to make the cut.

“Hamilton” may be inspiring our daughter, but it’s not necessarily enough to motivate me