So today (Wednesday the 3rd of this brave new world of 2018) I had a mental healthcare appointment to keep (no emergencies — in fact, I’ve been feeling better than I have for the past 3 or 4 years). I first set up these appointments when the family car was working, but because I am a prescient prophet capable of seeing that driving 20 year old cheap beater cars means we’ll be carless from time to time when one dies, I chose a practice in walking distance.
And of course it’s winter when the car chooses to die, the jerky little bastard. And of course the Earth’s hat of cold air has lately slipped rakishly to the side and we’re under all that fine polar air right now while the precious icecap continues melting in frickin January.
But the walk isn’t so bad because it’s over freezing unlike the walk I had to take for yesterday’s appointment, and the legacy of a Wisconsin childhood is knowing how to dress for cold. Only my cane hand gets truly cold, and maybe my nose.
My appointment was on one side of a rectangular route with one of the two grocery stores in walking distance on the other side of it on the way home, so instead of taking the shorter route back home I figured I’d stop by the store as long as I was already walking and pick up a few odds and ends like some apples and pears for the children who, I am very happy to report, can chow fresh fruit like champions and do at every opportunity. Yay, nutrition!
I wasn’t planning on picking up enough things to justify taking along the collapsible cart I recently bought thanks to my Patreon patrons, so I brought an empty backpack. All good. Planning ahead.
But what I did not plan on — and I should have known better given my past experience as a manager in the grocery biz — was the forecast of 8-12 inches of snow in the forecast for tonight (there’s a bit less than an inch on the ground as I type this, and the snow is beginning to come down again after taking a break for nightfall) and what it would mean for my mission.
In Norfolk, Virginia where close proximity to the ocean gentles the temperatures, this is a MASSIVE BLIZZARD WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE OH GOD.
The grocery store was clotted with swarms of half-crazed customers. Like, a no shopping carts available, I got one of the last 6 or 7 handbaskets swarm of shoppers — and at that point, not a single snowflake had fallen yet.
Ew, a handbasket. I don’t like using them anymore, because they unbalance me due to my limp and bone-on-bone hip, and I already limp heavily enough even with the cane thankyouverymuch.
I almost decided to say screw it and head home. But, the kids want apples. And the wife’s upset tummy craves full-sugar Coca Cola (which horrifies me; as my grandma’s good little boy I cleave to her teaching that 7-Up is the magic tonic that soothes all ills).
So I shop.
Weather panics are weird.
Some of it is predictable. Half the bread aisle is blown out, as it always is when bad weather threatens. Apparently there’s something about blizzards and hurricanes and nor’easters that makes people crave sandwiches and toast.
The bottled water is also half blown out. Because if anything is scarce during a blizzard, it’s water which is LAYING ALL OVER THE GROUND A FOOT THICK JUST SHOVEL A FEW DRINKS INTO A BUCKET AND BRING IT IN TO THAW FER CRISSAKE. Also, since when does a blizzard knock out the water supply? Your pipes shouldn’t be freezing, because you should be running your water if it’s that damn cold. And the snow will insulate the crawlspace under your home. It’ll actually be warmer under there than it has the last 3 or 4 nights with the cold snap.
And, this is the one that really gets me, and I’ve seen it before (and it’s weirder than anything else I’ve seen in a storm except the guy who bought a whole cart full of frozen dinners because he was afraid the hurricane would knock out his electricity, or the woman who bought two dozen (!!) gallons of milk, also in the teeth of an approaching hurricane. WTF!) — the meat case is also half blown out. The hamburger is GONE. And three customers are standing next to the empty hamburger shelf asking each other if there’s any more hamburger anywhere else and when will the butcher bring out more hamburger?
People, if the blizzard comes and knocks out your power, I assume some of you have gas stoves. But not all of you! Are you planning on crouching in your dark living room gnawing a pack of raw hamburger like Gollum gnawing a fish? Do you figure hamburger will cook itself up if you toss it into one of the snowdrifts in your front yard?
Is there something about a snowstorm that demands you start a cookout?
Is there some theory I’ve never heard of that says you can save yourself from freezing to death if your home is heatless by covering yourself with ground beef?
People are weird.
We live in the middle of either a medium-large metro of close to two million people or seven mid-sized cities jammed shoulder to shoulder around the area where the James River empties into the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. It depends who you ask.
We’ve long been a family to enjoy a walk. Being temporarily carless at the moment, we’re walking more.
And walking, you’re more likely to find little oases of refreshing nature like those above.
They remind me of my childhood in rural Wisconsin, and reminiscence is good for writers. Right now I’m working on a novella, Carrying Salt To Heaven, and the current extended scene I’m working on involves a character from a bleak land being introduced to a huge, lush nature preserve.
Some of the sensory impressions of this little oasis, and my childrens’ reactions to them, and the childhood memories they awaken, are finding their way into the novella.
Get out and find stuff, however that works for you. Your art and life will be enriched for it.
[This post appeared a week before it posted here, on my Patreon page. Come say hello and see some public posts that haven’t appeared here!]
What do you do when you get a little blister in a big blister on your heel? I guess I have a detail to use next time I write a story about hiking.
So how did this happen? Spending this last week in D.C. for school, I have been living on the cheap. And that means walking and being thankful for the Metro rail system. But it’s still 6 blocks to the Metro station, then 8 blocks between where I get off the train and the hotel this week long school event is taking place in. On the way back a free shuttle bus takes me back to the Metro, so it’s only 6 blocks of walking going ‘home’. That’s still 20 blocks a day plus whatever walking I do to find something for lunch.
That’s not outrageous at all. But it’s been a while since I’ve done any serious walking on a daily basis. The feet aren’t as tough as they used to be. My shoes aren’t terrible, but they’re on the old side and they rub a bit.
So there’s my complaining for the week. My poor abused heel is suffering. I’m not totally irresponsible and picked up a pack of heavy duty blister bandaids the second day. But I’m still totally looking forward to getting home and putting my feet up.
Then we’ll see if I feel like writing a story about walking.