Winter Woes from Head to Toes

As I sit, sweltering on a hot summer’s day, I’m reminded of all the troubles in winter.  It’s like a cool, refreshing breeze.  So glad it’s summertime!

In winter, from the top of my head I feel that brain freeze, which is far more fun from ice cream.

The winter brings static to my hair.  Most days my hair just flies everywhere.  Brushing only makes it worse.  Makes me wish I had shorter hair if that didn’t make me colder still.

My mind is troubled in wintertime, wondering what the weather will be. Will it change my plans?  Travel itself is far more worrisome. Black ice can be deadly, not to mention conditions that are difficult to see in. All the extra accessories needed in winter mean I must keep track of everything – hat, gloves, scarf, boots . . .

How about the glare of sun on snow?  It can be more blinding than in the summer and it hurt my eyes much more.  I may not always have my sunglasses close by.

Some want to tell me how beautiful winter is with icicles dripping from trees and rolling unbroken sheets of white snow.  I’ll admit that a newly fallen snow, on a clear night, in the moonlight has some appeal.  But those icicles can get dangerous if they decide to cut loose.  Those lovely sweeping vistas of snow don’t last very long.  There is just too much stress associated with the snow and ice to be beautiful to my eyes.

As the old joke went, I’m built upside down. In the winter my nose runs and . . .  my feet smell. Well, maybe, but we’ll get there.  So often in the wintertime, I awake with a stuffed head. The dryness of the heated air often has me blowing blood. If not, the inside of my nose is crusty and dry. Neither are pleasant.

The skin on my face (and my whole body for that matter) gets very dry in the winter.  Chapped lips, sore and cracking, are a painful but common occurrence.  Try talking or sipping water in the bitter cold and you will feel its sting.

My shoulders are often up near by ears from stress over the weather, wondering . . .  Its burdensome nature can weigh heavily on those shoulders. Even days after the storm the going still may be difficult. A simple trip to the store becomes an exercise in patience. Like the holidays, you may find grocery store shelves picked clean in the offing of a snow storm. (Even though around here it would be rare to be trapped for more than 2 days.  Some cannot live without bread and milk for two days!)  Most of us have plenty of food for a day or two. Still my shoulders remain hunched.

I don’t do it myself, but many people must get out and shovel in the winter.  A dear friend of mine loves doing it.  Cleaning windshields too, can put a strain on shoulders and upper arms. My shoulders anyway are busy carrying layers and layers of clothes, scarf, hat, etc.

Turtlenecks are my daily wear in winter. Often with a sweater over top. All the clothes are heavier and thicker, hereabouts. Those layers are important as that icy cold air makes my lungs ache as it comes in.

I eat much heavier meals in the wintertime.  A simple salad just doesn’t cut it.  I long for warming soups, cheesy dishes and other such comfort foods.  The result is to make me feel too full and sluggish. And put on weight!

Let’s not forget fingers. Dry cracked cuticles are never fun.  Every time I turn on a light switch I get zapped.  My fingers get stiff when they’re cold, and don’t move as well. Muscles in general, can ache in the winter from cold (or the aforementioned shoveling).

Not sure quite where this fits.  Maybe around the hip area.  In winter, if you’re not careful you may rub up against that nasty combination of salt and sand that collects on the car.  Our cars live in a garage, but if they are out at all in the winter time, they are likely to be caked with the stuff. Get near it, opening a door or pushing past, and you will be marked!

It is not unusual to find that mixture stuck on your shoes or boots as well.  My toes get so cold in the winter it forces me to wear more socks, which could, in fact, make my feet smell.

Where Could She Be? On the Porch

Circa  March, 1986

As she opens her eyes, she sees hints of sunshine through the curtains.  She rolls over and kisses him on the cheek.  Then she gently crawls out of bed, slips into one of his sweaters and tip toes through the living room.

In the kitchen, she pours herself a tall glass of orange juice and takes it along as she makes sure the screen door shuts softly behind her.

The green, blue and brown world in front of her is sparking from the sunshine.  The air is sweet. She sits on the porch railing surveying the countryside.  Her gaze fixes on the rippling waters of the lake that stretches out in front of her, several miles away.  She sits back against the supporting beam, sipping her juice and smiling in between.

Just then the screen door swings open and he comes out to join her.  Without a word, he walks over to her, turns her around to face him, and comes to rest between her legs. His arms around her, he kisses her briefly.  As he looks out beyond her towards the lake, he sighs.  I love it too, he says, softly.

He steps back, takes her empty glass and puts it on the small table.  Then he sits on the railing beside her.  His hand around hers. They sit in silence for some time, taking in the view and smiling.

After a while she hears him let out a slow, audible sigh. He hops off the railing, scoops her into his arms and carries her back to bed.

The curtains are now open and sunlight is flooding over the bed.  They make love within the sunbeams.

When the sun moves, they rouse themselves and together fix a light breakfast to eat on the porch.  Afterwards, they sit for a long time on the porch, sipping coffee, stroking hands, talking easily and admiring the view.

Let’s walk!  He says.  A quick change of clothes sends them scampering off to the lake.

True Aim

It had a strong, but soft leather strap.  There were powerful symbols sewn into it, adorning the length of the bag.  Inside, it held 5 silver and 5 blue arrows.

When she heaved it over her shoulder, it rested as if it had always been there. Instantly she felt more comfortable, maybe even safer. Much like a hug from her mother who had fashioned the bag for her. Hooked to the side of it was a bow, long and wooden.  She easily unhooked it.  It felt smooth in her arms.  It was of a perfect weight and proportion to be easy to hold, without forgetting its power.

Softly, in the breeze she heard a voice say, “Use your True Aim and the Truth will be yours.”  Not understanding the words, but strengthened by them all the same, Meredith ventured further.  Further than she’d ever been before.  She was afraid, but with the quiver of arrows and the bow by her side, she felt like she could.

Presently, she came to a clearing.  A large field spread out before her.  It was beautiful with tall grasses and wild flowers.  She had the sensation of being completely open and free.

Across the field she spotted a tiger prancing toward her with fangs beared.  She lifted the bow, retrieved an arrow, used her true aim and hit the tiger in the chest.

The tiger did not fall.  It stood still.  Meredith approached it cautiously, with another arrow ready.  As she got closer, she realized it was not after her, at all. She reached down and retrieved the arrow.  It looked up at her and purred, so she patted it lightly and whispered that she was sorry for striking it.

“Kind maiden,” it said, shocking her. The voice was soft and friendly, but cracked a little.  “I am sorry I frightened you. I am just so hungry. Could you share some of your food with me so I don’t have to eat you?

“Why yes, Mr. Tiger, I would be happy to share my food with you, if you will not eat me.”

Together, they walked back through the woods, talking easily about the creatures that lived there, as they shared her bread.  The tiger knew much.

“Use your true aim and the truth you will find,” the wind whispered.  The tiger raised his head and sniffed.

“Where does that voice come from?” she asked the tiger.

“I know not,” the tiger answered.  “But I believe when your arrow pierced me, it restored my voice. I hadn’t know what to ask before when I was a mute tiger.  Now I ask, what is my true aim?”

Just then the tiger turned into a man wearing a loin cloth. He shook his head as if he were still a tiger and said, “Your kindness, fair lady, has now freed me.  I had been trapped as a tiger for a long time. Thank you.”

“You’re welcome.  Do you now know your true aim, sir?”

“I am a painter,” he said simply.  “What is your True Aim?”

And in that moment, Meredith understood.

Just 3 Bites

It was a long time ago, in a place far away.  Gladwyne Elementary School in the early 60’s.  Mr Fetter had been the principal as long as I could remember, and before that my brothers knew him in their time.

My Fetter was a wonderful man. A round, soft kind of demeanor, with a red face and white hair. Kind of like a cuddly teddy bear.  He reminded me of Walt Disney in some ways. At our morning break, he would be behind the counter, with an apron on, serving up cold glasses of chocolate milk, along with a quip for each student.  At lunch time, he would man the cooler, selling popsicles and making us smile.

In my last year, Mr Fetter retired to much fanfare.  Dr. Winters took over.  He was sharp-nosed, black haired and wiry with sallow skin.  He brought to mind Richard Nixon or Severus Snape for this generation.  He tried, for a time, to work the chocolate milk line, but lacked the necessary eloquence for that kind of repartee.

The new regime decided that popsicles were not to be sold after lunch anymore. Instead, a microphone was set up in the lunch room for announcements.  One of which was that each student had to take at least three bites of their vegetables.

You can’t blame a guy for trying to improve the eating habits of his students, but we were appalled at such an intrusion!  I always liked vegetables and was a good eater.  One day, the vegetable must have been spinach or some such thing that kids don’t like.  I ended up taking three bites from many plates.

Someone must have seen me. As I stood in line to deposit my empty tray, Dr. Winters was there to ask if I’d taken my three bites.  “Yes, sir.  I did.”  I smiled at him.  He then declared he didn’t believe me, and proceeded to feed me three more bites.  Right there in line!

At the time, I don’t recall feeling bad about it.  I liked spinach and didn’t mind three more bites.  I had the satisfaction of knowing that even if this looked embarrassing, I was taking one for the team and plenty of people knew it.

In the Haze of Jerry Garcia

From the early 1980’s

I wonder if I can still capture what I experienced last night.  I went to Palo Alto to see the Jerry Garcia band perform.

After two years of some intense hippy de-programming, I find myself actually frightened by the scene in the bar where the show is to take place.  Hundreds of people in peasant blouses, hippy beads, and tie-dyed shirts.  And hair, my God, I’ve never seen so much hair in one place!  It is as though I’ve stepped into a time machine.  I feel like a stranger amongst them. I quickly order a glass of white wine with some ice, so as not to appear too “sophisticated” to ask for the wine on the rocks, with a wedge of lemon I usually request.

Talk to these people?  Heavens!  What do I say?  “Jerry’s sure put on some weight, hasn’t he?”  He may well have been fat for years.  And that question could get me put out on the street.  You never mention Truckin’, Casey Jones or Sugar Magnolia, any of their “hits.”  Which are really the only songs I know.  I am one of those rare breed that feel neutral about the Grateful Dead.  They are all talking about drugs and the last show and the New Year’s Show and the show before that . . .

Finally, about 11:30, Jerry comes out.  People are screaming and whistling.  Jerry is leaning over the amp, memorizing lyrics maybe, or choosing songs.  He could be snorting a line of cocaine, it’s hard to tell.  He is a big man, with lots of hair and a large beard.

You can feel everyone in the place getting off with him.  I, myself, have been “dosed” by my date, with some herbs that are supposed to be like cocaine and marijuana mixed.  Sounds like a conflict of interest of me, but it appears that high is the common state.  Maybe this is a gentle way for me to participate.

10 or 15 minutes after his arrival on stage, he finally starts to play.  It’s part of the trivia game to note what he opens with, I am told.  People are up on their feet with a hysteria you don’t usually see until the last two or three songs.

Jerry is one of the more interesting guitarists.  Of course, it’s entirely possible I have no idea what I’m talking about, having engorged myself on too many Neil Young leads.  The bass player must be pretty good, though.  Anyone that can keep up with Jerry’s space outs, must have something going for him.  He has one of those funky fretless basses. There are two backup singers who probably have a broader range.  Here they do little more than echo what he sings or plays on the guitar.  I am glad that most of the songs are bluesy. I can sway back and forth in my seat and look like I am one of them.

But the music is not the big draw here.  The interesting factor is the audience. I’m not familiar with LSD, but I would swear at least 85% of the people here are tripping. There is the muscle boy in his tank top, stomping away to some ancient rhythm he feels deep inside, having nothing to do with the music in the bar on planet Earth.  How about the lovely ballet boy, flailing his arms and long blond hair everywhere?  Or the cyclist at the next table, with an IQ of about 2, somehow finding the beat?

With all this energy and excitement flying around the room, Mr. Garcia has his head down.  The wild hair and abundant beard make him look like a mass of hair sitting atop a rotund body with a guitar stuck to it.  Every once in a while he picks up his head, steps up to the microphone and says something unintelligible that sends the crowd into squeals of joy.  While he plays, except for the movement of his fingers, he’s absolutely still.  His lips don’t move, his body does not rock.  I have to wonder where he goes when he is playing. At one point, I look up because the girls have stopped singing unexpectedly. The drummer, too, is silent and looking confused.  Jerry is out there on some weird plane of tripdom and only the bassist and the die hard Dead Heads can follow him.

I’ve decided that Jerry is actually an enigma.  He exists only within the confines of his guitar.  Perhaps he’s just sitting around his living room, drinking beer and playing guitar.  The image of Garcia on stage is only a hologram projection.

Number 1 Mansion Drive ~

I remember it well.  I was probably not more than 13 or 14 when my parents announced we were going to sell the house and move.  This was not a happy thought for me.  I loved where we lived. Our house was surrounded by a large yard and woods.  My best friend lived next door!  My room was perfect just the way it was. I was totally against this move.

One day, I was home sick from school and my parents said we were going to look at a house.  I felt horrible and was in no mood to go house shopping with them.  I don’t know if they didn’t want to leave me at home in my condition, or whether this was a ploy. I stretched out in the back seat, in silence, and wallowed in my anger as we drove.

When we arrived at 1 Mansion Drive, I had to admit that was a pretty cool address.  There were lots of trees around the house, I liked that.  For some reason, there was no Real Estate agent to let us in.  So we had to peer into the windows.  The sunken living  room intrigued me.  I wanted to see more!  The kitchen had a big brick oven that fascinated me.  My father was elated by the greenhouse sticking out of a window.  The yard was small, but as we walked around the back, I saw a gigantic hill behind the house.  It could be fun to explore. The house was a two-story. Not as long as our rancher, so at first glance it looked smaller.  But as I walked around the perimeter I figured that it might be a lot bigger.  Maybe this moving thing was not such a bad idea.

I don’t know what became of that visit.  Not consulted on the adult qualifications, up to and including the price of the house, I wasn’t told.  But I have to say that it changed my feeling forever about what could be had when one moved.

Many years later, I was driving in the area where this house was.  I had a vague idea where it was.  If I remembered correctly, it was this side of Route 3, and possibly off Route 252.  It could be . . . there it was!  I whisked past it at the speed of the road.  The trees had grown bigger and the road was just a break in the trees.  I couldn’t see a thing.  I wondered if that hill was now covered with condos or a strip mall.

How vivid that early memory was to me as it all came rushing back.  That house, number one Mansion Drive, remains with me today.  And how it opened me to the idea of moving.

A View from San Francisco Bay circa 1984

“The sky is clear and the stars they are bright.  It’s a lovely night.”   Gerry Beckley  must have been talking about last night on the San Francisco Bay. Absolutely breathtaking!

It was a warm night, which is rare. I was seated in the bow of a multi-sail sailboat.  The moon was almost full. For viewing purposes, it was as good as full.  The huge sails above me were flapping gently in the breeze. To my right were the Richmond mountains, black against the striking sunset of electric orange, yellow and red.  In front of us stood the city of San Francisco in all its glory. You could almost see the separate districts glittering in the fading light.  Just starboard of the city was the Golden Gate Bridge, finally looking golden in this light, stretching across to Marin.  Nestled in the lower part, shining and shimmering was Sausalito. Port side showed the moon streaming down onto the water and the Bay Bridge – almost forgotten, though equally as expansive, if not as alluring as the Gate.  Behind us, the East Bay looked like hundreds  of diamonds on a sheet of black velvet.  The closer lights looked like gold shimmering amidst the glistening diamonds.

Where should one look?  It was all so incredibly gorgeous.  It made me fall in love again. In love with my magical island city, my desire to live in Marin, my cozy Easy Bay, my unconditional love for my friend, Curt, who invited me on the boat.  My willingness to put up with whatever I have to in order to live here.  It is truly heaven.

Could one ever see anything so incredible in the Schuylkill or the Delaware Rivers?  This is the most beautiful place I‘ve ever lived. Even North Carolina,  with its wonderful long leaf pines and rolling hills, can’t compare with the majesty of the rugged California mountains and the awe-inspiring redwood trees.

We’ve got sand, we’ve got the weather, we’ve got more TV and rock stations than Southern Pines and Philly put together. We’ve even got a music channel without cable.  We’ve got rhythm and man have we got music! Everywhere, all the time. I haven’t even begun to tap the possibilities.

What a perfect place to live!  If one has money, one can live in nature’s finest and still be no more than 20 minutes from an incredibly exciting, bustling city.

This is my dream.  We’re not talking Gladwyne here, we’re talking mountains and sea, and luscious blue bay, tall redwoods, interesting plant life, exotic produce and space. Yosemite Park is a mere 3 hours a way.  Los Angeles, 6.  San Francisco is here! Who could ask for anything more?

I guess I would ask that there be fewer tourists and that the East Coast, where so many that I love still live, was not so far away.