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Snow Days


So, we got a little over a foot of snow on Tuesday.

I had a bunch of running around I was supposed to have been doing on both Tuesday and Wednesday, but was able to re-schedule all of it. It’s not that I can’t drive in the snow. It’s that I don’t like driving in the snow and I sure don’t like how other people drive in it! If I can possibly get out of it, I do. When I can, I’ll take my bike or the city bus before I’ll fire up the car.

I grew up in northwestern Nebraska. Part of learning to drive was learning how to drive in the snow. Much like the art of parallel parking, it was one of the things my Dad took me out and trained me on until I could do it competently.

There was a marshy area in our west pasture near Dad’s famous scrapyard where by mid-winter, it would transform into an admirable ice field. We went down there with his old Rabbit and he had me get used to steering into a slide. He had me practice taking off in second gear to minimize wheel spin and taught me how to brake gradually so that I could get a feel for exactly how long it takes to get a car stopped on an icy surface.

He also taught me the joys of ice-hooning, of getting the car up to about 15 mph and jerking on the handbrake and of cramping the steering wheel and giving it a bootful. On a nice ice field, a front-wheel-drive car without power steering transforms from a trundling little runabout into a surprisingly competent means for raising hell.

But, just because I know how to drive around in shit weather doesn’t mean I’m willing to do so if I can get out of it.

While I was still in high school, even after I’d gotten my driver’s license, if the weather report looked shitty, I’d catch the school bus. This served a dual purpose. Firstly, I didn’t have to drive in the snow and ice and risk wrecking my car or my Mom’s car. Secondly, the school buses generally took FOREVER on snowy days, because they had to go up and down all sorts of unpaved back-country roads. Sometimes the bus would even get stuck. If you took the bus to school on a snowy day, the chance was good that you’d get to school late. Very. Sometimes, the school would close early if the weather turned too nasty, and so you’d turn around and get right back on the bus. When you are a lazy teenager, there is nothing better. I’d pop my Walkman headphones on and go the hell to sleep. Didn’t matter there were a herd of grade-schoolers hooting and hollering and jouncing about all around me. I couldn’t give a shit. Most of the lifestyle choices I made in highschool centered around getting out of class, and riding the bus on winter storm days was definitely one of them.

As much as I hate cold weather (and that is a lot) I do like riding my bike in the snow, though by February or March-ish I am so done with the weather. I’ve been building up a hell of a cabin fever this winter being as Joseph is still too little to go in the Burley trailer. At this point, three sweaters, a balaclava, my windfront tights, a pair of lobster gloves, and my big, clumky insulated boots are seeming appealing.


Patio table – it looks about like one of my sketchy cake-baking experiments. I am not known for the aesthetics of my culinary attempts.

mohawk snowman
Here’s an old photo from the archives – my sister and I in 8th grade and 10th grade respectively. We had a snow-day off school because the county roads were snowed over so deep, so we spent the morning building whacky snowmen on and around our old swingset. This one had a mohawk, the one on the slide had two heads, and one had been built to sit on the swing and it had an extra-large butt.

This is a few years’ older snow-cat. With our arms

And heads

7 Responses to “Snow Days”

  1. Mark says:

    I’ve had quite enough of winter this year. This is what my hood looked like 2 days ago. http://www.dropbox.com/s/rq3w8g6du1733jm/SC01.JPG Joisey, 10 miles outside of NYC. They salted the shit out of the streets. I wanna get on the bike, but I will not ride my bikes in this mess, the salt would dissolve them. Video of Saddle River County Park, one of the places I like to ride. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q1Q7JBqqnaU

    Oh, I used to like flipping the car around on ice as well when I was a teen. I’d do it in the mall lot before the plows got there. My parents let me drive this. http://static.cargurus.com/images/site/2008/02/25/21/59/1977_ford_thunderbird-pic-17839.jpeg
    If they knew what I was doing, I’m sure they would have had heart failure.

  2. Meetzorp says:

    Just the other day, I was re-admiring a picture of a similar-era Thunderbird I photographed back in 2006.


    Kind of a beaut, no?

    One of my Mom’s friends had a ’78 LTD coupe, which shared quite a lot of sheetmetal with the T-birds of their day.


    Ms. Vi’s car was white with white vinyl roof trim and a burgundy-red velour interior. She had that thing for ages and ages. Well into the 1990s. It was kind of an icon in the neighborhood.

  3. Mark says:

    There is definitely a family resemblance but the 78 LTD was built on Ford’s full size chassis, while the 77-79 T-Bird rode on Ford’s midsize chassis (Torino), along with the Ford LTD II and Mercury Cougar of 77-79.

    My “rents'”…..as my teen nieces say….. car had the 302-2 barrel set up. It produced all of 157HP. 157HP out of five liters. Today 2 liter 4 bangers generate more horses. It was your typical craptacular 70’s disco era car. It was slow. My friends referred to it as the “Thunder Chicken”. That or the “Five-Oh car” because it was black and looked like the big Mercuries Jack Lord drove in Hawaii 5-0. It did have one redeeming quality, the AC was ice cold.

    I’ve got an interesting story that involves that T-Bird. Remember the story I told about my friend Bill and our visit to the porn theater? Well, this story involves Bill plus one year. It was the summer after high school graduation. I was getting ready to head off to Rutgers U, while Bill was headed to a diesel mechanics course in Colorado, and our mutual friend, Tom, was headed to Paris Island.

    One day Bill showed up at my house. I looked around but didn’t see his truck. I asked him about his truck, and Bill claimed that he walked to my house because the truck needed a water pump….which I later found out to be a lie. Bill then asked me if I would give him a ride to Steve’s house, claiming that he (Bill) had left his bass guitar at Steve’s. This was another lie. It was all a ruse to get me out of the house. I fell for the ruse, me and Bill piled into the Slow-Bird.

    We drove over to Steve’s and it appeared to me that no one was home because there were no cars in the driveway. Feigning surprise Bill said, “I think you’re right, there isn’t anyone here.” I asked Bill if he wanted me to drive him home, and Bill stated that he wanted me to drive him to see Joe Somebody….a person I didn’t know. So Bill started giving me directions….straight here, left, another left, right….pull into the parking lot. We were now in the parking lot of a warehouse located off River Rd in Hackensack. Yes, there really is a Hackensack, it’s not just the joke name for a factious town full of losers…..it’s a real town full of losers.

    After stopping in the above mentioned warehouse parking lot, I turned to Bill and asked, “Didn’t you use to work here?” Bill replied, “Just wait here.” Bill exited the Thunder Chicken and proceeded toward the door of the warehouse. Before Bill got to the door a shirtless dude with a ponytail that hung down to his ass came out the door. Bill and shirtless dude talked for a while, then Bill handed him something, and the both of them went inside. After a few minutes the both of them reemerged…each one holding up the end of a very large box. As Bill and shirtless dude got near the T-Bird, Bill started yelling, “Open the trunk. Open the trunk.” I did as requested, but it quickly became obvious that the box was too big for the trunk. Bill said, “We’ll put it in the back seat.”, which we successfully did.

    Shirtless dude headed back to the warehouse, while Bill and I got back into the T-Bird and proceeded to head on down River St. At this point I turned to Bill and asked, “Bill, what is that stolen thing that’s on the back seat?” Bill replied, “Tool box.” I said, “Bill, you can get me in a lot of trouble this way.” Bill replied, “Just keep your mouth shut and it’ll be alright.” I asked, “Bill, what’s in it for me?” Bill said, “I’ll give you my old tool box for helping me, but you’ve got to do one more thing.” “What’s that”, asked me. Bill said, “You gotta keep this in your garage for a few days so I can sneak it home without my father seeing it.” This was the biggest lie of all.

    So Bill and I unloaded the tool box at my house and then I drove Bill home. The next morning my father called me down from my room. My father asked me, “What is that box in the garage.” I replied, “It’s Bill’s tool box.” Very calmly my father said, “You call Bill and tell him to get his fucking stolen tool box out of my garage or I’m going to put it out in the trash tonight.”

    So I called Bill and relayed my father’s message. Bill said, “He better not do that.” I said, “He’ll do it. You better get it, or he’ll put it in the trash.” Bill told me to hold on. After a couple minutes Bill came back on the phone and said, “I’ll be there in an hour.”

    About an hour later, Bill and his father drove up to our house. Bill’s father was driving a 72 Ford Country Squire station wagon…..piss yellow with the fake wood on the sides. My father stood at the side of the driveway with his arms folded. Bill got out of the piss-yellow wagon and proceeded up the driveway. My father glared at him. Bill did not look at my dad or say anything. Bill and I went into the garage, picked up the tool box and loaded it into the station wagon. Bill’s father never got out of the wagon or said anything. I said to Bill, “I’ll talk to you in a few days.” Bill got into the piss-yellow wagon and off he went. At that point my father walked up to me and said, “You never do anything like that again. Understand?” I didn’t say anything.

    A few days later I called Bill and asked, “So when are you going to give me your old tool box?” Bill replied, “You didn’t do what I asked you to do.” I said, “I have no control over my father.” Bill said, “I asked you to keep the new box in your garage for a few days. You didn’t do it. You’re not getting shit.”

    A few days after my conversion with Bill I saw our mutual friend, Tom. Tom said to me, “I was over Bill’s yesterday and Bill and his father were talking trash about you and your dad. They were saying that you’re an idiot who’s easy to fool, and that your father is a fucking asshole….etc, etc.” As it turned out, the entire scheme was cooked up by Bill’s dad. Bill needed to bring his own tools to mechanic’s school he was going to attend. He needed a bigger tool box, and his father didn’t want to pay for one, so he told Bill, “You go over Mark’s house and bullshit him into driving you to the warehouse. If you get stopped by the police, it’s his car and you don’t know anything about any tool boxes.” Nice, huh? Bill’s dad was….how should I say this? He was a scumbag.

    So where are they now? I’m still in Jersey. My parents are still alive but my father is suffering from senility. Some days he can not recognize me.

    Bill still lives in Jersey as well, about 20 miles away. Bill’s dad is dead, but not lamented….certainly not by me. After Bill got away from his dad, he actually turned into a fairly decent guy. It seems that Bill really doesn’t have it in him to be a scumbag, he was just a young dude trying to please his father, but it’s not Bill’s nature.

    Tom lives with his wife and kids in Pennsylvania, I still keep in regular contact with him.

    Steve, the putative guardian of the bass guitar had the most tragic fate. After the financial crash of 2008 Steve lost his printing business and couldn’t pay his mortgage. When the bank foreclosed on his house, Steve committed suicide. Last year I saw Steve’s widow. Lynn(I know her from high school), being interviewed on the evening news with Diane Sawyer. According to Lynn, she felt that the bank harassed her and her late husband, making it impossible to get out from under despite their best good faith efforts to do so. She came right out and said that she blamed the bank for her husband’s suicide.

  4. Meetzorp says:

    Your tales of adventure and misdeed are pretty awesome. I really think you ought to start up a blog of your own. You spin a good yarn, man. Seriously.

    Also, dementia is a cruel sonofabitch. My mother-in-law is suffering from it, and it’s really horrifying. She was, at the peak of her powers, a whip-smart force of nature. She’s a retired art-history professor, used to have an allusion for every situation, a dirty sense of humor, and was just the sort of witty, nutty, mouthy little old lady everyone loves. About three years ago, we noticed she was having a hard time expressing herself in speech, and forgetting a lot of little day-to-day things. Her decline has just snowballed in this past year to where she can’t manage with some of the simplest, most straightforward things. It’s heartbreaking to watch someone who once had so much going on become more and more helpless, confused, frustrated.

    You have all my sympathy there.

  5. Mark says:

    Thanks for the kind words. Yes, dementia is a sonofabitch. Interestingly, my father’s dementia started about 3 years ago as well. He’s 79 years old, and he worked part time until he was 74. It’s interesting that his decline began almost immediately after he quit work for good.

    I’d like to start a blog, but almost all my spare time now goes into helping my mother care for my father. I have a sister, but she lives in Woodstock, NY….about a hundred miles away, I live close by. We can’t put my father into a nursing home because he wouldn’t last more than a week. If you put him in an unfamiliar place, around people he doesn’t know, he becomes extremely agitated and tries to escape.

    Also, it’s too bad your blog does not have an edit feature. Re-reading my post I winced at the spelling and punctuation mistakes. Funny thing about proof reading, I can proof read another person’s writing immediately, but I really need to let my own shit sit a day or two and go back to it.

    Like I said, I remember you from Bike Forums. I don’t post much on forums anymore, but this has been a motherfucker of a winter and I’ve got cabin fever. Instead of riding, I’m reading about riding on the Bike Forums and dreaming of spring. This is what it’s like to ride in Manhattan…not my video. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uEb_0Q1uR3o This is not as dangerous as it looks, Manhattan traffic moves along at about 15mph. It’s more dangerous to ride on streets in Jersey.

    PS: I think my next tale will be the potato salad-handgun story.

  6. Meetzorp says:

    I expect cycling in Manhattan isn’t unlike walking in York (the original York in northern England). The city centre there is a pedestrian-only zone and as such, is packed shoulder to shoulder with tourists, mostly. If you actually live there and need to accomplish things, you get very good at spotting gaps in the flow of “traffic” and plotting your way through obstacles. It’s a skill I’ve retained, and since I really hate crowds, I tend to scythe my way through as quickly as possible – which is a big annoyance for anyone who is walking with me. I’ve inadvertently left friends behind at art fairs, festivals, and parades because I lost patience with the crowd, got in “the zone” and started cutting and dodging my way the hell out of there!

    As to the Bike Forums, I don’t think I’ve read or posted there in something on the order of six or seven years. Ditto for our local cycling forum which got pretty stupid (or perhaps I just lost patience for the stupidity – er – losing patience is kind of one of my abiding faults). I get SO sick of the HiViz nutters banging their tedious advocacy drum, the lycra guys nerding out about saving weight, the fixie guys calling everyone with brakes a pansy, the mtb guys calling the roadies fairies, the roadies calling the mtb guys a bunch of pothead dirtballs, and so on and so on and so on. Though if I ever get my Big Purple Idiot Bike put together, I may re-log myself in there and post pictures. It will make peoples’ heads explode. A lot.

  7. Meetzorp says:

    Also-also, I am very much looking forward to your Potato-Salad-Handgun story.

    I’m enjoying your skills as an internet raconteur.

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