A Walking Expiration Date

(A “poetic” look at two days in blackout conditions following The Great Ice Storm of 2014 … Southeastern Pennsylvania)


Their humming, it fills the frozen black night,
These machines that bestow us the Heat and the Light.

Our fear of Ah-nold’s scary Terminator coup
Just doesn’t seem as bad as having to go through
This cold and dark that so easily suppresses
Our heat, TV, and electronic excesses.

We furtively glance with growing exasperation
At iPhones, the Mac and muted game stations.
This equation is stark in granting a peek;
When civilization collapses, I won’t last a week!

Be it nuclear winter, a banking collapse,
Zombies, global warming, mega-virus attack;
The end will come quickly, I hope that it does.
Who really wants to be here when Is becomes Was?

When the fit hits the shan …

Whoa!  Sweet PECO!
Our ‘lectricity popped on!
No more running for gas
With my PJs still on!

Raced for the Mac, my iPhone clipped on
Before I forget this silly blog on
Nothing so much as a slight inconvenience
On a daily routine too full of dependence.

Then I turn on the Tube to catch up with the world.
The lessons and fears already starting to blur.
For few of us care to indulge or to linger
On our powerlessness at the end of God’s finger.

The End

(In-person reading events are now being scheduled!  Get yours scheduled now!)

Snow humor (such as it is)

Good news: We did get our Philly Inquirer today!
Bad news: I found it with the snow blower.

Was discussing the beautiful light blue hue today’s heavy snow had as you dug into its depth. Asked my neighbor, “What do you call snow when it’s blue like this?” He replied with a grunt, “Heavy (insert your favorite off-color adjective) blue snow!

How do you stop the snow plows from sealing in your driveway?
heavy weapons

Who gets to clear your neighbor’s driveway because they left two days ago for Florida?
Somebody else …

A Cranky GrandPop’s most Excellent Adventure …

Me and Harper Jeanine

Me and Harper Jeanine

Last week was a week to end all weeks!

OK … Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch.  But for Carol and I, it was definitely a week of incredible joy sandwiched by high-levels of anxiety and a touch of aggravation with an extremely cold coating of Winter.

The almost Head Injury

The Aggravation portion of the week started last Friday when I noticed a 7 degree difference between the house heater’s thermostat setting and inside temperature.  After ten minutes of playing with the thermostat while listening for the reassuring sound of the heater kicking on (a well-known method of heater evaluation), my wife offered some of her folksy wisdom.

“The heater’s not going to come on just because you’re staring at it.”

I couldn’t argue with her.

Fortunately the heater eventually came on by itself, but it was a portent of things to come.  And on Sunday morning I woke to a cold house and no heat from a unit just a year-and-a-half old (Lennox).

Sunday was a miserable day with rain freezing on the ground.  Not that I appreciated that as I frantically called my very responsive HVAC guy.

Dan described the potential pitfalls of ice damming up outlet vents and warned of the nasty, icy weather outside.  The first thing he wanted me to do was check the opening on the outlet vent for over-icing.

Of course I was half listening (Carol would be shocked …) as I wiggled into boots to contend with the snow piled up around the side of the house where the vent was located.

So I stepped out of the house, crossed the porch; stepped casually onto the first step … And promptly landed right on my gluteus maximus after a failed Flying Salchow with a Twist.  Nothing hurt but my pride and my wet, cold butt.  The scary part was feeling the back of my head lightly thumping the cement porch, inches from a serious head injury.

The solution to getting heat into our home this day ended up being the skillful hammering – That’s right, hammering – on a half dollar-sized piece of indubitably foreign-manufactured plastic that forms a pressure switch.

As I triumphantly declared “Heat on!”, Dan the heater guy, promptly offered me all his weekend emergency service calls!

Harper Jeanine (Needless to say, the highlight of the week/month/year!)

Princess Harper

Princess Harper

Sunday night the alarms went off.  A simple call from the northern edge of the Shortall family, a small town near Williamsport, set in motion a whirlwind of grand parenting speculation and frantic decision-making.

Mom’s water had broken and the Launch Clock was running!

We opted to wait until first thing Monday morning to leave for the Home of the Little League World Series hospital because the weather up north consisted mainly of freezing rain. And of course, shortly before we were to leave on our three-hour race to the north, we got the call that we were Grandparents!

Harper Jeanine … 7 pounds, 12 ounces of incredible unbaby-ugly cuteness was born at 0719 hours at Williamsport Hospital!!

And with hitting official Grand Pop status, I aged a decade – mentally – in an instant.

But without a trace of subjective Proud GrandPop blathering, I can assure you that she is in fact the Most Beautiful Baby of 2014!

She has all her fingers and toes. (I checked several times.)  She smells of new-baby-scented perfection. (I checked several times.)  And Harper Jeanine looks a lot like me. (That I checked a few more than several times.)

There is no doubt she is the product of a perfectly developed and extremely attractive gene pool, of which of course I consider myself Lead Specimen.  And no, I am not saddled with an overactive self-perception!

Heat?  Who needs heat?!?

004c0803llold-man-winter-blowing-bad-weather-into-a-city-postersAfter a joyous day of baby coddling and embarrassing goo-goo talk, Father Winter decided to ratchet up my desire to retire to Arizona with two days of the coldest weather many will remember ever experiencing.  The Wind-chill in Williamsport on Tuesday began at -6 and wormed to a toasty +10 by mid-afternoon.

Since I was tasked with welfare checks on our new tenant, my father-in-law, who declined to make the trip with us, I made several “What’s up?” calls home.  When I asked my FIL how everything was on Tuesday morning, he told me the house was cold.

uh oh …

“How cold?”, I asked, “What’s the thermostat reading?”

He laughed, and told me without a hint of concern, “53”.

uh oh …

Now fortunately, I have a very good neighbor, an ex-Marine who loves a good crisis.  He’s a dependable, no-nonsense, get-it-done type.  We help each other out whenever we can.  Everything good neighbors are supposed to do.

No one wants a frozen Pop-Pop

What I felt like going out to my car Tuesday morning

And he’s good friends with my former Marine HVAC guy!  So, with a minimum of frantic scrambling, more pressure switch pounding, and frequent house checks by the Marines, we were able to avoid Frozen Pop-Pop Syndrome.

Getting the cheap foreign-made replacement part was another problem altogether, complicated by the horrendous weather, or so the parts supply source kept telling us.

So for two days I spent a bit of time making phone calls and requesting neighborly Wellness Checks.  And I harassed my helpless HVAC guy who eventually had to beg the required part from his Lennox tech rep.

This Winter is stacking up to be a real (select your favorite Adjective of Disbelief here).  But Harper Jeanine is here, and everything will end up just fine!

OK, since you insist …

What could be better?!?

What could be better?!?

Cranky Man’s Lawn Epistles ’12: tick tock … tick tock … tick tock …

It’s almost Winter … yippee …

Soon the frost will be on the pumpkin; the snow will be on the roof; the chestnuts will be roasting; and I’ll be moaning and groaning.  I like this time of year; I hate this time of year.

Yes, I’m certain that makes sense.

In any case, here be your last Lawn Epistle for 2012!

If you have been a loyal reader and pay attention to my long-winded rants on lawn care, you are more than familiar with my oft cranky, frantic pleadings of  … Fertilize! Fertilize! For the love of God … Fertilize!

I do get a bit exuberant about it.

Another season is coming to a close.  But as with many aspects of Life on this Big Blue Marble upon which we live, the end of one cycle signals the beginning of another.  And as any true Lawn Junkie will tell you, the Seeds of Success for the coming Spring – no matter how miserable I might be while waiting out Winter – are sown in the barren chill of transitional Fall.

My point??  Fertilize … Fertilize … Ferti …


The point is you – Dear Lawn Buddy – have ONE MORE treatment left before you can look forward to the next three months of Leisure, like a 1st grade school teacher at the end of May!  Let’s review …

It’s too late when it looks like this …

Winterfeed  (from an earlier Epistle) 

The last step for the Fall, is a Winter feeding that should be applied no later than mid-November.  The Winter feed goes right to the grass’ roots and is stored there over the Winter.  Once Spring arrives, the root-stored nutrients will give your lawn a growth boost to start the season off right,

Yes, that says “mid-November!  And no, I haven’t done mine yet.  But it’s at the top of the chore list for this weekend!

The important thing to remember is that the Winter feeding has to be accomplished before the grass goes dormant for the Winter.  If you have treated your lawn nicely, you are also still mowing … just less frequently … as your grass should continue to grow until the first REAL frost sets in.

Now, time is a wastin’!  We are at the very latest point for putting down the last feeding of the year.  So get to it … and enjoy your Winter downtime!

… if this Spring you want it to look like this!

Blogger’s lament

Winter bleak, cold and dark;
Tho’ “Not so bad.”, Past Winters bark.
Still it saps this writer’s mood,
His efforts at sage interludes.

He sits and stares
At keyboard wanting,

Pressure builds.
Will readers stray?
Cannot you find
Something to say?

Hurry, the mind urges
Or they will wander
To some other place
To slake their hunger.

Resist!  No surrender
To that nagging command,
Temptation to toss them
Whatever’s at hand.

Just try something new,
That you want them to see.
Do it for you to
Dispell your ennui.

And so it occurs on a day with no spark
An effort to purge those fears that harp,
That threaten with a mild depression
Over a blockage in written expression.

The Forecast Blues

Tonight: Snow, followed by up to 1/2 inch of ice! … Changing to rain, then to a rainy, icy mix tomorrow night.

I can’t take much more of this.  Of course, it could always be worse.  The Mid-West can expect up to 2 feet of winter wonderfulness from the same storm.  So we’re not getiing the worst of it.

Where is global warming when you could really use it?!?

It ain’t easy …

… writing a blog, or anything else, I imagine.  Despite my goal to contribute to this endeavor on a semi-strict, regular schedule, experience thus far indicates that it just isn’t that easy.  I am concerned despite the fact that NO ONE as yet has been permitted to peek at this effort of mine.

But it’s not like there’s nothing to write about.  From the events in Egypt to early maneuvering in the 112th Congress, there is plenty of material out there.  Fact is, you have to be in the mood to write anything meaningful. Otherwise, you just end up with a lot of muddled, directionless drivel … Kind of like this.

Yet there are times when I cannot wait to get at the computer to put thoughts and ideas to the ethernet.  I imagine other blogger/writer types probably experience this as well.

In my current state of mind, I can readily identify the time of year as one possible cause.  The Dead of Winter is upon us.  This is the worst time of the year for me. I hate it.

The holidays are behind us; Spring seems to be miles away; and there’s very little I like to do at this time of year … that doesn’t involve doing the kind of domestic chores I abhor.

And this weather ain’t helpin’!  Snow snow everywhere … It must be piled 4-5 feet deep along the edges of anything paved. And any public area with a parking lot looks like a Himalayan landscape.  Some of these mounds look like they will still be with us on the 4th of July.

Anyways, it’s a real mood killer.

So what’s the neophyte blogger’s solution?

I think I have to develop some likely themes for those Geez-what-do-I-write-about moments.  This will at least give me ideas for subject matter that can be developed during these dry times.  And I think, once I clue people I know into my secret little project here, I can solicit ideas they might have for promising topics.  That is assuming I end up deciding that this venture is worth someone actually viewing it.

We’ll see.