Tag Archives: winter

The season’s upon us!


My tree. Thanks to Beth Barany for taking the photo!

Here’s a picture of my Christmas tree. It’s not really a tree. It’s a traffic cone that I liberated from a construction site and then wound with lights. When I first got the cone, I used regular Christmas lights, the old-fashioned kind. They generated so much heat that they made the rubber that the traffic cone was made of smell (there’s nothing like the smell of burning rubber for the holidays), so I switched to LED lights that I got on sale after the holidays were over. They do not generate any heat, and the tree is now as fabulous in every respect as I thought it would be.

The other thing about my tree: I keep it up all year round, so it’s not exactly a “Christmas” tree. It’s just a tree—or, really a traffic cone—with lights. So for anyone who worries that I’m being insensitive to cultural diversity, it’s just festive home décor.

It’s too, um, avant-garde for a lot of people. I love it, though.

Best wishes for everyone throughout the next month or so!

The day I sang with Pete Seeger


peteSeeger2A long time ago, when I was an aspiring journalist, the Newspaper Guild, the union for writers and editors, was on strike against the daily newspaper in the town where I lived. A lot of newspaper unions, like unions everywhere, were losing ground in those days. If these editors and reporters lost the strike, they’d lose their jobs, and then if they wanted to keep working on newspapers, they’d have to move somewhere else. Where their future would be just as shaky.

The strike hung on through the winter. The cold often exceeded -20 degrees. Walking a picket line in that kind of weather isn’t just miserable; it can be life threatening. Because many of my friends and acquaintances wanted to be hired into those good jobs, too, we wanted that union to survive. And to help out the strikers, we often walked the picket line that winter to show our support.

The shift changed at 6am, so it was important to be out there when scabs drove through the gates for the morning shift. And one day when I got out there at 6am, standing in wind so cold I thought my teeth would shatter, there was Pete Seeger. He took off his gloves and played his banjo and sang a song. I think it was “This Land Is Your Land,” but I wouldn’t swear to it. We all knew it, and we all sang along.

Pete Seeger died today. When I looked at the photo tribute The New York Times posted, I noted how many times he’s standing on a stage with other people, highlighting and sharing their stories. That’s the way I’ll remember him, too. Standing outside on that freezing road, singing his heart out with a bunch of people who needed his voice.

Writing obituaries


In my younger days, I wrote a few obituaries. Every time I did, I thought about that person’s life. What they must have experienced. How it felt. Who they left behind. How they’d be remembered.

The other night on the news, somebody interviewed two guys in the San Francisco airport who were bound for Green Bay, Wisconsin, to attend the Packer/49er playoff game. They were dressed in tee-shirts and their 49er (lightweight) jackets.

I don’t have to tell you how cold it’s been in the Midwest. The predicted wind chill factor for tomorrow’s game is -40. That’s right, minus 40. The actual air temperature by the end of the game will be below 0. People watching from the stands, if they stick it out to the end, will be sitting outside in those conditions for up to three hours.

The interviewer said, “How are you preparing for the cold?”

One guy said, “We have our Jerry Rice tee-shirts and our team spirit!”

The interviewer said, “Packer management is issuing hand warmers to all 70,000 fans—Packer and 49er. What about that?”

One guy said, “We won’t need hand warmers! We have our team spirit!” He might also have mentioned he’d be clapping too much. I might have over-interpreted his remarks.

I’m worried about those guys. To sit outside and watch that game, they need long underwear, lined pants, snowmobile suits, insulated boots, thermal socks, heavy mittens, fur hats, heat packs, foot warmers, hand warmers, blankets, and something warm to sit on. And probably other things I’m not thinking of. Living in the Bay Area, those guys probably don’t own that stuff. And they looked like they were traveling light.

As much as I admire—if “admire” it is—their courage and team spirit, those guys won’t survive the weather conditions in Green Bay wearing Jerry Rice tee-shirts and their team spirit. They just don’t have a clue about how cold -40 is. I’m worried about them, and I’m worried about their families.

I’m even worried about the obit writers. Just thinking about what it must feel like to freeze to death in -40 conditions is enough to send a chill down my spine.

So stay warm, my friends. Sometimes team spirit just isn’t enough.

Happy New Year!


New-Years-Moon-Lady-GraphicsFairy-thumb-485x400Best wishes to everyone out there in reading land. I hope you have the book and beverage of your choice, the football game of your dreams, or the party of the century. Whatever turns you on for the first day of the new year.

It’s very cold today here in Wisconsin, not exactly my kind of weather. But I’m warm and dry, which is huge, there’s a fire in the fireplace, and I have a cup of tea and my laptop. So all is well in my universe.

Best of all, my one resolution for 2014 is simple: make no resolutions. Last year I went with “Be a better person,” and we all know how that turned out. So with the no-resolution resolution, I’m expecting a happy new year. And I hope the same for all of you!

Lazy Holidaze


I’m visiting family in Wisconsin for a few weeks, so of course Wisconsin is having record snow—a foot more than average. According to the Green Bay weather station, it’s snowed 19 days of the last 26, and I swear I’ve been here for every one of them. My mother has a snow guy, who frees us from the frozen prison we call our house. Otherwise, it would be grim, indeed. At least for someone like me, who’s used to California weather.

Something about the holidays—the cookies, the central (over)heating, the inadequate clothing, I don’t know what—I’m struck by lethargy. I don’t want to do the work I brought along, I don’t want to put away the decorations or sweep up, and—heaven forbid—I certainly don’t want to shovel snow. I just want to lie on the sofa and read. Post-Christmas shopping sprees are not only not for me, just the thought of them gives me hives. Of course, my family isn’t big on gift-giving, so we don’t have any pressure to go out and find stuff for next year.

So, I think I’ll just pour myself a refreshing adult beverage, grab  a cookie, and check out my Kindle. Hope you all are enjoying your holiday!

Feeling the weather, under and otherwise


I caught a cold. I have all the usual symptoms, plus an earache and dizziness. I’m feeling massively sorry for myself, I’m out of soup, winter’s arrived, it gets dark too early, and the apartment is cold, too. To cheer myself up, I’m reading Dead Lagoon by Michael Dibdin, he of the Aurelio Zen mystery series, fairly recently made into a three-part BBC/Italian TV miniseries. The miniseries was very beautiful to watch but hopelessly confusing. The book–this one anyway–is a lot better. I’m enjoying it. It’s fitting my mood. In Dibdin’s world, Venice is dark, dank, narrow, smelly, dying, corrupt, fascist, and poor. And it doesn’t have any soup, either, except the kind of nasty stuff you’d find in a canal. Yup, perfect.