The Snow Man

One must have a mind of winter
To regard the frost and the boughs
Of the pine trees crusted with snow

– Wallace Steven’s

T.S. Eliot wrote that April is the cruelest month, but I disagree. For my money, I think it is February that tortures the soul the most. It may be the shortest of months, but the toll it takes upon us is the greatest because it lacks the one thing that sustains us. Hope.

February will go as it comes; in a stinging wind.

We drove an hour North for 20 Prospect Jr.’s hockey game yesterday. Out across the flat, turf farms, and swamp land north of the city. The sunlight diffused through a gauze of clouds, not bright enough to wear sunglasses, not dark enough to open your eyes, the sky and the snow blurring into one another. Only the trees stood out against the gray light; small brown brushstrokes on a canvas of white.

It made me think of days in my youth, out walking on Dan’s farm. We’d put on our Sorrels, and parkas, and tramp back through the corn stubble to the woods, like arctic explorers. Step after step, our boots would crack through the crusted snow, as the wind cut into every sliver of exposed skin. Squinting, and stumbling, we’d reach the shelter of the woods at last. There the birches, and fir trees would break the wind, and we could once more open our eyes.

All around that gray wood, the north side of the trees were covered in a rime of ice. We’d search for the remains of an old Model T, rusting somewhere deep within the wood. I loved the woods in the winter time, it seemed so much larger than it did in the green folds of summer. With no leaves to block our view, and no swamp to wet our feet, the whole woods belonged only to us, and the few deer that watched us as we pushed silently through the thickets.

We’d walk for hours, until frozen and hungry we’d make our way back towards the old red barn in the distance. Our stomachs would groan, and ice would form around our scarves, but we knew that warmth, and home, were waiting.

Like those walks through the winter woods, these days of February seem to be an endless exploration that begins where it ends, in a chair inside the kitchen, with a hot mug to warm our hands. I could ask “what is the point?”, but I already know the answer. Some journeys exist just to test our strength.

February will winnow the strong from the weak like it always does. This is not an expedition for which we will be awarded with treasure. The only point is to finish, and live to walk through the woods again.

As I look out the window of the car on our way home, the sun has faded even more, as a froth of gray clouds descends from the north. The weatherman on the radio is warning of more snow to come. Already the first flakes have begun to fall.

Eyes half closed to keep out the wind, we search in the distance for the woods.

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Local Boy Makes Good

OK, it’s more like local boy makes trouble…

A big thanks goes out to Ray Coniglio for putting one of my posts in today’s edition of the Batavia Daily News.

Click Here to Check it Out.

Thanks Ray!

And for any folks who have just made their way here from the Daily News, welcome. Please pull up a chair, while I put a fresh pot of coffee on. Help yourself to the stories along the sidebar=====>>>>>

and no matter how much the characters may resemble you, rest assured it is entirely a coincidence. Just ask my lawyer.

Descent into Keene Valley – 1990

There are times and places that float like a mist in the border country of my memory. If I try to focus my mind on them, they slip away like fog, leaving behind scraps of scenes that could be either dreams, or memory. Try to pin them down, and they disappear only to reappear later, in the periphery of my vision, when the seasons change and my senses recognize a forgotten scent. Then the mist creeps back into the corners of my consciousness, and I remember.

I had made the drive down to rural Hartford, from our apartment in the country that morning, jacked up on cheap coffee, replaying over in my mind how I would answer their questions, and sell myself. With sweaty palms the drive seemed to take forever, but I made it in time for the afternoon interview. This was my third round of interviews with ABB Combustion Engineering and it would all be made, or broken by this trip. I needed this job badly, before graduation dumped me into the back bedroom of 20 Prospect, over educated, under employed, and awash in debt.

The interviews had ended well, but late. I took my suit coat off, and loosened my tie, not wanting to let the feeling go. Alone, in a strange city, with nothing but my car, and a briefcase full of empty notebooks, and corporate brochures, I felt so grown up. No, I wanted to savor this feeling of freedom.

I climbed back into the car, and began the four hour drive back to Potsdam. It was the middle of the week, and I had blown off class to make the interview. Winter was ending in Connecticut, and already the brown grass was showing through the scraps of snow around the office parks. If all went well, I could be back in her room by 9 o’clock. She would want to know everything about the interview, what they asked me, what the position offered. I couldn’t wait to tell her.

Traffic was flowing fine all the way up I91 to Springfield, where I pulled onto the Massachusetts Turnpike and headed west. By the time I reached Albany, and turned onto the Northway, the sun had already set. Traffic thinned as I got north of Glens Falls and the highway began climbing into the edges of the Adirondacks. Just tractor-trailers, and myself, climbing and descending the hills, playing leapfrog on our way North.

Exiting the Northway, onto US 9, I left even the trucks behind, and turned up and into the mountains. When US 9 turned off towards Elizabethtown I continued on to NY 73, and the trees closed in on the sides of the road, until only a tunnel of pines remained. The banks of snow rose like hay bales along the shoulder. The road narrowed, but I only drove faster. It was past 7 o’clock, and I had the road to myself. The little 2.2 liter engine in the Plymouth strained on the climb, but I wouldn’t let up. I knew she was waiting.
Hwy 73 near Lake Placid

Through the heart of the High Peaks and the winter desolation, I kept on the gas. Husker Du was blaring inside the car, but outside only the silent trees saw me pass. I was driving too fast, and I knew it. One patch of ice, one deer in the road, one misjudgment of a curve, and all could have been lost in darkness, and ice, but there was no thought of slowing down. I threw the car into the turns, and downshifted on the descent to save the brakes. When the road straightened I jumped back on the throttle and accelerated over the frost heaves, the car leaping forward into the small cone of light in front of me.

Down into Lake Placid, and on through the slow, sleepy, towns of Saranac Lake, and Tupper Lake, I caught my breath. When I turned onto 56 to follow the Racquette River out of the mountains and back across the blue line, the race resumed, but the adrenalin had faded. Around 9 o’clock I pulled into the parking lot outside her dorm. The lights from inside glowed like gold. Stepping from the humid warmth of the car, my breath billowed like fog in front of my face. I put on my coat, and stepped forward toward the lights.

Clarkson in Winter

To run like a deer over the frozen landscape, chased by the wolves of doubt. To step out into the clearing, with your breath billowing before you, was a primal sense of being alive. Standing outside of her dorm that night I didn’t know what stood waiting in the dark around the next bend. Looking back now through the shifting fog of memory, I realize for the first time that I didn’t care.

Bridgeport Ferry

Water churns up from behind, and the ferry hesitates for a moment, before the gap between the boat and the dock begins to widen. I climb the steps to the top deck and walk to the railing. I look out into the parking lot, and she is still standing, watching the ferry pull away with one hand shielding her eyes…

It had been 2 years since we had last seen each other. As I was walking towards the stage to graduate, I looked down, and there she was, sitting in a chair with his family. She was dressed in a short polka-dot dress, and white stockings, as she smiled, and held up the camera.

My heart burned within me, and my face went flush with anger and embarrassment. The camera flashed, and then I was on the stage, shaking hands, and being handed an empty portfolio. It was over before I knew it, and it wasn’t until hours later, after my folks had left for home, that I walked out into the field behind the house, stood beneath the gnarled old oak tree in the fading light, and cried.

Two years later I was sitting alone in a hotel room in some small Midwestern town still thinking of her. As winter rain fell outside, I wrote her a Christmas card, and wished her a Merry Christmas wherever she was, then mailed it to her parents without adding a return address.

I expected nothing, and yet I hoped that if I did not include a return address on the envelope, she would try to write back. She always enjoyed a challenge. Months passed before a letter arrived in my mail.

I had just come home to an empty apartment, in a wet and cold Minnesota spring, when I opened the mailbox, and her letter fell out. Before I had read a word, I knew the hand writing. She was living in Long Island, and working for an electronics firm, still struggling with the transition from college to the “real world.”

We corresponded for a few months, back in those days when people still sat in quiet rooms, beneath desk lamps, and composed thoughts on paper. All through the spring I traveled for work, always wondering if I would find another letter when I returned home.

The letters led to phone calls, and before summer had even arrived in full, I found myself in Hartford for work. I called her and arranged to visit her over the weekend. So when Friday arrived I drove to Bridgeport, and crossed the Sound. She met me on the dock, her eyes darker, and wider than I had even remembered them.

It felt so strange to see her again. I had spent so many nights thinking of how different our lives could have been, if she had stayed with me instead of him. Driving back to her apartment I looked across the car and realized she was a different person than the doe eyed girl that had me so twisted in knots at twenty-one; a little older, a lot more sure of herself. They had broken up not long after graduation she told me, and she had yet to start dating anyone on the Island.

Her roommates were gone, and we spent the weekend together talking non-stop, and laughing at things that we knew only each other would understand. At times she seemed so close I could have reached out and kissed her, and at others she seemed less substantial than a ghost haunting a dream. If I closed my eyes, and listened to her voice, I was right back in Potsdam feeling the stabbing pain in my gut like the night she told me she was seeing him.

I slept on the couch in her living room. Laying there in the darkness staring at the ceiling, I wondered if she was ever going to make a move, or let me know what she wanted. As close as she was, she remained a riddle whose meaning I would never understand. All I knew was that I could not bear to be rejected twice.

When Sunday came she drove me back to the dock. We sat on the curb waiting for the Bridgeport Ferry to arrive. Every moment now was precious, and seemed to be slipping from my grasp. We talked in generalities, and pretended not to wonder what we would do next.

The ferry approached like a storm cloud across the water. After the cars had loaded, I turned to her to say goodbye. We hugged, then stepped back and paused. She hesitated, and so did I. This couldn’t be goodbye. She leaned forward again, and I stepped toward her, but for reasons I will never understand I could not bring myself to kiss her. We hugged for longer this time, and I knew it was goodbye.

…now the space between us widens with each second, until the dock begins to grow small in the distance. The ferry rolls with the waves on the Sound, as I lift my arm and wave for one last time.

She stands upon the dock with one hand over her eyes. The sun glimmers on the water, and in a moment, she is gone.

Congratulations! You might already be a winner!

Ever since I won my major award, and achieved massive fame and recognition, I have been feeling guilty. You see nothing good can happen in my life without inducing an equal and opposite amount of guilt to make up for it. Don’t say the Nun’s didn’t do their job well.

So I have been thinking about various ways that I might be able to “pay it forward” and share my newfound wealth and fame with others.

So I considered signing up for one of those “adopt a highway” programs, where local groups volunteer to pick up trash alongside the road. However, I soon discovered that there is no such thing as an “Adopt the Information Superhighway Program”, so I wouldn’t be able to repay society by cleaning up a one mile stretch of the interwebz. Bummer, because I don’t know about your corner of the interwebz, but ours is just littered with trash.

Then I considered using my fame and fortune to become a super hero, and fight crime. I always wanted to wear a cape! However, when I tried on the spandex suit, I decided that the sight of me in tight fitting clothes was not really the benefit to society that I had hoped it would be.

So I went out on a walk last night here in Salt Lake City to see what kind of good deeds I could do. I found a drunk lying passed out on the sidewalk behind the State Liquor Store downtown, and considered doing the good Samaritan thing and bandaging his wounds, and nursing him back to health. But then I remembered that I am not really a big fan of people in general, and strange drunks in particular, so I chickened out and kept walking.

Finally, this morning as I woke before heading out on the next leg of my tour, inspiration struck. I would create my own award, like Alfred Nobel, to repay my debt to society by recognizing the heroic sacrifice, and efforts of a deserving individual who is trying to make the Interwebz a better place. YES! That would be my legacy! An award that raises the profile of another blogger destined for greatness!

So interwebz, I broke out my mad photoshop skills, and my shaky trigger hand, and crafted the following award;

(All graphic design inspiration goes to SubWow)

This award honors the blogger with either the sexiest legs, or the horniest unicorn on the interweb. Because if there is one thing this world needs more of, it’s horny unicorns and sexy legs. And perhaps Nutella.

So without further ado, it is my honor to award the first annual “20 Prospect – Sexiest Leg / Horniest Unicorn Award” to Miss Patricia Marie Punker, of the always funny www.pattypunker.com

*applause*

In order to accept this award the recipient must vow to grace the interwebz with either a set of sexy legs, or a horny unicorn.

20 Prospect – LIVE ON TOUR!

I never sleep well the night before a trip, but having a 6 am conference call on Monday morning did not make it any easier. Trust me, this call wasn’t my idea. I’m not a big phone call kinda guy to begin with, but holding a 4 way phone call between Belgium, Japan, Korea, and the US at six in the morning pretty much guarantees that I will not be bubbly and effervescent. God forbid the day that the company gives us video cameras, and insists we hold the calls over Skype. The world is not ready to see this face at 6 am.

So I dragged my butt out of bed at 5:40 am, and let the dogs out. Before I even had a chance to pour a cup of coffee, the Indomitable Moxie and Maggie the Wonderdog were going berserk in the backyard howling and barking. So I stumbled to the window to see what the hell their issue was. In the pre-dawn gloom I could see them standing over a dark object in the back of the yard, sniffing at it, and howling. I opened the door and yelled at them to shut up before they woke the neighborhood, but that only sent them running off in circles patrolling the perimeter for intruders. They had gone into Canine DEFCON 4;

INTRUDER ALERT! INTRUDER ALERT! FIND THE INTRUDER! CATCH THE INTRUDER!

So cussing, and swearing, I put on my snow boots and went outside in my pajama’s. It was a balmy 12 degrees out there, and the dogs were clearly not going to come when I called them. I trudged through the snow to the dark object, and discovered it was…

(WARNING – THIS POST  RATED PG-13 FOR DISTURBING SCENES – Look away Elly)

It was a partially eaten frozen rabbit. It appeared to be a foot, leg, and part of the body. I didn’t see any bunny ears, so it’s entirely possible it was a cat, or something else. If it was a rabbit, it obviously wasn’t a lucky foot, unless you were the fox. I’m sure Mr. Fox considered it very lucky. I know Maggie did, because she ran over and picked it up in her mouth and trotted off on a victory lap around the yard with it like it was the Lombardi trophy.

After 2 minutes of swearing, and chasing, I was able to recover the remains of Mr. Bunny, and corral the dogs back inside the house. My friends, this is not a good way to start the morning.

I poured some coffee, fired up the computer, and dialed into my call. The dogs however, having caught the scent of live fox, and dead rabbit, were not ready to go back to bed. So between their growling and barking, and the background noise from Europe and Asia, I had no idea what the hell anyone was talking about. Thank god for mute buttons. Now if someone could invent a rewind button for my life too, I could go back and get some more sleep.

I will be travelling for the next few days, on a whirlwind tour of Salt Lake City, and San Jose, blogging to packed houses, and sold out arenas to cash in on my new found fame. That’s what happens when you win a major award, everybody wants a piece of you. Don’t worry though. I vow not to let fame and fortune change me. I will still be the same blogger that I was before. I’ll just be able to afford to smash my laptop on the ground like Pete Townsend when I finish my posts.

Blog & Roll Baby! Blog & Roll!

If you’ll excuse me, I need to have a sharp talk with my personal assistant. I found a brown M&M in my bowl. How many times do I have to tell her that I ONLY EAT THE GREEN PEANUT M&M’s? You just can’t find good help these days.

A Major Award

Yes I feel like the “Old Man” from A Christmas Story this morning, for I have won a major award!

What is this major award you might ask. Is it a leg lamp?

No it is not a leg lamp.

Have I finally been crowned king of the internet?

No, I am not the king of the internet. Not even the court jester. I’m like the guy that cleans the stables’, second cousin Eddie. No, not that Eddie, the other Eddie. The short one with the funny nose.

Today I have been bequeathed with the “Life is Good” award by the lovely and talented Stephanie over at “Seriously??… Reeeally?….. Seriously?”

I think it could use a unicorn, but then again, couldn't we all?

Please, go on over and check her out if you haven’t already.

And by check her out I meant read her blog people. Jeez, get your minds out of the gutter.

Please don’t be intimidated by the fact she’s Canadian. We welcome all sorts of peoples here on the Front Porch. Even Canadian’s. In fact, I can speak a little Canadian so that helps.

Not only is she a talented and funny writer, she is also very easy to blackmail. She pretty much coughed up this award without so much as contacting the RCMP. (That’s Canadian for Royal Canadian Mounted Police. You know, those Dudley Do Right guys that protect the King and Queen of Canada)

(Closed circuit to Stephanie. The pictures and negatives will be arriving via UPS in the next day or two)

So this is the point in the blog where I am supposed to graciously accept the award, and blush about how I don’t deserve it. Screw that.

WHAT THE HELL TOOK YOU SO LONG INTERWEBZ?

I have been blogging my butt off for almost two years, and this is the first award I have received. Nice interwebz, real nice. You really know how to make a guy feel loved. Now if you’ll excuse me, I will continue with this post so I can get back to stalking you all. A serial killer’s work is never done.

The way that these internet award thingies work is this; To receive the award you have to answer some questions, then turn around and forward the award and the questions to another blogger.

What do you mean this sounds like a chain letter? It’s a MAJOR AWARD PEOPLE!

Ahem:

1. If you blog anonymously, are you happy doing this? If you aren’t anonymous, do you wish you started out anonymously, so that you could be anonymous now?

I find that being a 300 lb serial killer requires a certain amount of anonymity even in these permissive, immoral times in which we live. I had considered blogging under my own name but the little voices inside my head advised against it. Right after they told me that Michael J. Fox is the antichrist. He’s also Canadian. I’m not sure if the two are connected. You’ll have to ask Stephanie.

2. Describe an incident that shows your inner stubborn side.

I am proud to announce that my watch is now working again. Last month I had the battery replaced. It died in June. So for the last 6 months I have been going without a watch as I slumped through the days sagging under the burden of knowing that I had to replace my watch battery. Now that I have accomplished that feat, and freed myself from the tyranny of self doubt and anxiety, I can go back to worrying about getting my oil changed in the Mazda.

OK, re-reading that I realize that it’s probably more an example of laziness than it is stubbornness, but I wrote it and I am NOT going to go back and edit it at this point.

3. What do you see when you really look at yourself in the mirror?

Four cheeks and a couple of chins. (My six pack abs are hidden beneath several six packs at the moment. Sorry ladies.)

4. What is your favorite summer cold drink?

I hate when I have summer colds. They are the absolute worse. I think because the weather is so nice, and there you are laying on the couch in a pile of Kleenex wishing someone would just put a bullet into your head. So I guess I have to say I don’t really drink much beside water, and some warm 7-Up mixed with Pedialite. It’s good, you should try it.

5. When you take time for yourself, what do you do?

Can you elaborate on this “time for yourself” thing? I seem to recall having something similar once, but since Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect and 20 Prospect Jr. came on the scene I’ve forgotten. I also used to have a wife, but I seemed to have misplaced her at the moment. It’s entirely possible we forgot and left her at the hockey rink, or gym. Then again, maybe I should check the laundry room.

Excuse me.

Yep, she was in the Laundry Room.

6. Is there something that you still want to accomplish in your life?

Something. Anything. If you have an idea what it might be, please let me know. I tried Opera, and Interpretive Dance, before this blogging thing but I have yet to make my mark in any of them.

7. When you attended school, were you the class clown, the class overachiever, the shy person or always ditching?

I was a hormone addled, frustrated wallflower as my stories on this blog have highlighted in excruciatingly painful detail.

8. If you close your eyes and want to visualize a very poignant moment in your life, what would you see?

Did my therapist put you up to this question? Because I’ve already told her about the incident in Mexico with the maracas, and the baby goats, and I do not want to talk about it again.

9. Is it easy for you to share your true self in your blog, or are you more comfortable writing posts about other people and events?

Do my evasive answers to these questions give you any indication? No? Damn. I guess I can’t deny it. I like to open a vein from time to time, and lay it all out there. It’s a stunning act of courage to step up and take ownership of your life by sharing it with others anonymously.

10. If you had the choice to sit down and read a book or talk on the phone, which would you do and why?

Do you mean talk on the phone with another person? I mean like, a human being? Because I’m not really into that touchy, feely, communication stuff.

WHEW!!! That was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I’m exhausted from the interrogation. Was it just me or was there really a bright light shining in my face?

So, the time has come to tag another couple of people in this game of internet tag. So I have chosen to bestow this honor upon two of the funniest 300 lb Serial Killers ladies on the interweb, whose blogs don’t get anywhere near the traffic they deserve. So come on people, let’s give it up for;

Dufmanno, and Sister Merry Hellish, of Inside Out and Backwards!

Tag you’re it!

*runs away*

*shouts over shoulder*

NO GIVEBACKS!!!