Flowers in the Snow

Not the Blizzard of 1888, but they say the Northeast got a lot of snow. We got three or four more inches last night and into the morning. More than in January or February, and enough to catch the back yard croci in early blossom.

Flowers in the Snow 2017They’re hardy flowers. I’m sure they’ll survive the day or two of snow cover.

The snow’s already mostly melted off the streets and driveways and sidewalks, so it hardly counts as a nuisance. Still, it’s hard to believe the view from the back door will look like this in three months.

Thursday Loose Ends

While the Northeast is buried under snow, I look out onto a patch of northern Illinois — my yard — that’s brown. The heavy snow of December gave way to a moderate January, by local standards, and all the white went away. It’s cold out there, but it doesn’t look like February, which is usually marked by unmelted snow in some spots, or at least in the shadows.

I noticed the other day that My Favorite Martian was on demand, so I watched the first episode. I don’t have much memory of its original airing, from 1963 to ’66, and I don’t remember seeing it in syndication, so it’s essentially new to me. Verdict: mildly amusing at times, mostly because Ray Walston and Bill Bixby had some comic talent. But I don’t think I need to watch many more episodes, thus putting it in the same class as Mister Ed or Leave it to Beaver.

Reading a bit about the show, I learned that Bill Bixby’s full name was Wilfred Bailey Everett Bixby III. In our time, that would be the original name of a hip-hop star. Also, just before he died, he married Judith Kliban, widow of B. Kliban.

Hadn’t thought about B. Kliban in years. Didn’t know he was dead, but he has been since 1990. Somewhere at my mother’s house (I think) are collections of his cartoons that I bought. One is called Never Eat Anything Bigger Than Your Head. Words to live by.

At a magazine rack in a big box store not long ago, I saw a copy of Rolling Stone. I was shocked. It was so thin you could put it in a box and use it for Kleenex. The magazine was also standard size, or smaller, not the tabloid that by rights it should be. It was like running into an old acquaintance who’s now dying of a wasting disease. Guess its real presence is online now anyway.

“Acquaintance” because I never read Rolling Stone that much. Not all together my kind of magazine. But I would pick it up and look at in doctors’ offices or from friends’ coffee tables or the like. And I have to say it often had interesting covers, even if they depicted celebrity musicians I cared nothing about.

Last Friday, I dropped by the visit the Friendship Park Conservatory, a small conservatory that’s part of the Mount Prospect Park District. Nice to see some green now, even if the pit of winter this year isn’t too deep.

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount Prospect

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount Prospect

The last time I remember being there was in late summer, when it was green outside the conservatory as well as inside. Back in 2005. The girls were a lot smaller then.

Friendship Park Conservatory, Mount ProspectEarly this week, Junk King paid a visit to a house on my block.
I’d heard of the company, but never seen one of its distinctive red trucks before.

Thursday Residuum

Remarkably rainy January so far. Even when it hasn’t been raining these past weeks or so, the skies have looked pregnant with rain. So it’s been a wet January, not an icy one. That was the case at UIUC, as the last of clinging frozen matter thawed, as it might in a normal northern March.

UIUC January 15, 2017

Blame it on climate change? I’d be tempted, but weather isn’t climate. Besides, there’s a blizzard lurking out there in the near future, or at least heavy snow. Winter will not be denied.

A few days ago, I approached a four-way stop to make a left turn. Directly across the intersection another car arrived to make a left turn. To my left, a third car arrived to make a right turn. We all got there at about the same moment. We all made our respective turns concurrently. Can’t remember when that happened before. Had a fourth car to my right wanted to make a right turn, it would have been truly remarkable, but we had to settle for a three-way synch.

At a World Market last week, I saw bottles of Tito’s Handmade Vodka for sale. I couldn’t ever remember actually seeing any before, as opposed to hearing about it, though I don’t go to a lot of liquor stores.

Last month, I heard Tito himself on the radio, pitching his creation. He didn’t quite sound like his high school self, no one would, but it was him all right. I was pretty sure I hadn’t ever heard advertising for Tito’s beyond sponsorships on public radio (the ad I heard was on a commercial station). Maybe Tito’s needed to up his ad budget in the face of competition.

I’m most of my way through the book River of Doubt, about the Roosevelt-Rondon expedition into the deep Brazilian rainforest. Reading it, you think, how did anyone survive that trip? They faced untreatable diseases, looming starvation, dangerous animals, venomous bugs, an extremely hazardous river, a murderer among their crew, and the potential for Indians to attack at any time and wipe them all out. At one point, a very sick Theodore Roosevelt seriously contemplated overdosing on morphine. Not too end his pain, but to avoid being an impediment to the rest of the expedition. His son Kermit wouldn’t allow it.

Amazing how close TR’s bio came to ending with, “Led expedition down the River of Doubt in Brazil, 1914. Never seen again.”

The Ambassador in His Salad Days

Today was about as foul a day as can be, marked by cold rain that varied unpredictably from drizzle to downpours. Strong winds blew nearly all the time. As much as 60 MPH, the National Weather Service said. At least it was warm for January, above freezing, or it might have been a blizzard.

Did a short item about Bill Hagerty recently, who will probably be the next U.S. ambassador to Japan. A little research told me that he went to Vanderbilt. A little more research told me he was Class of ’81, or two years ahead of me. I didn’t know him, and he certainly didn’t know me, unless it was as one of those characters who wrote for the student magazine Versus. Which he wouldn’t have, because no one pays attention to bylines, even if they read the articles.

I hauled out my copy of the ’81 VU yearbook, The Commodore. The spine cracked a little. Grumble. Anyway, Bill Hagerty’s with the other SAEs on p. 301 and his senior picture is on p. 396, which lists him as William Francis Hagerty IV, econ.

Bill Hagerty at Vanderbilt 1981

The girl immediately to his left — who presumably had nothing to do with him except for alphabetical placement — is a sad story I don’t know, and didn’t know then. Her caption reads, “Haberman, Harriett Susan, elem ed. May 20, 1959 — January 23, 1981.”

It Flings a Crystal Veil

The other day, I thought to look at NOAA’s forecast for the winter. It seems to be a La Niña year.

“The current seasonal outlook for… 2016-17 favors above-average temperatures and below-median precipitation across much of the southern tier of the U.S., and below-average temperatures and above-median precipitation in portions of the northern tier of the U.S.”

Snowfall Schaumburg Dec 11 2016Uh-oh. Looks like that’s already under way. Snow fell Saturday and Sunday, pretty much straight down. No major storm, but ’tis enough, ’twill do.

Nearly six inches all together, according to my wooden ruler measuring snow on a flat surface. Ann went off on Sunday to go sledding with her friends, something I never did at 13, and reports having a fine time.

That’s not bad, but the days ahead are supposed to be pit-of-winter cold.

Which can make for nice clear-light twilight. Looking east.

Moon Over Schaumburg

And looking west (both pictures taken December 12, about 42 degrees North).

Schaumburg Dusk Dec 12, 2016No more snow pics this year unless there’s a real corker of a blizzard, something along the lines of 2011. I might post dogs or daughters in the snow, though.

Christmas Lights, Mañana

A foot of snow isn’t expected tomorrow — as we got on December 1, 2006 — but we are experiencing sliding temps. Feels about like winter now.

Also, the Christmas-industrial complex has revved into high gear, as usual. I was going to do my little (very little) part by stringing lights on one of the bushes in the front yard, though not lighting them for a week or more. On Monday, it rained all today, so I didn’t do it. Yesterday was relatively warm, but I forgot to do it. Today, I thought about it, but temps just above freezing put me off.

Tomorrow? Well, maybe. Depends on whether I feel like doing it tomorrow, or whether I feel like doing it mañana.

A Short Visit to Wheaton

Rain again Sunday night, to add to the slosh on the ground left by Saturday’s downpours. No doubt about it, the weekend was wet. Here’s the view of the water from my car on Saturday, as I waited in a shopping center parking lot.

April 30, 2016Wheaton’s a prosperous suburb and the county seat of DuPage County, Ill., and easily accessible from where we live by surface streets. We used to go there with some frequency to visit the small but pleasant Cosley Zoo, which is operated by the Wheaton Park District, especially before recessionary pressures (apparently) inspired a new admission fee for non-Wheatonites, ca. 2010. These days there’s less demand among the younger residents of the house, who aren’t so young any more, for zoo visits.

We’d mulled going further afield on Saturday, but the persistent rain and cool temps nixed the idea of any outdoor destinations, so we headed to Wheaton. Not to the zoo, but to see the DuPage County Historical Museum, which we’ve passed by but never visited.

But first things first: lunch. I’m happy to report that the diminutive Mai Thai Cafe at Main St. and Wesley St. is still in business, and still services good Thai food at popular prices. Spicier than some other North American Thai joints, too, enough that there’s a sign posted at the restaurant warning customers to think twice about ordering the spiciest versions of its dishes.

Not far to the west on Wesley St., in Wheaton’s pleasant shopping district, we spotted a post-accident scene of the kind that makes you wonder, how did that happen, exactly? (Like this one.)

Wesley St. Wheaton April 30, 2016The car on the sidewalk’s clearly been smacked from behind, but it doesn’t look like it plowed through any of the planters on the sidewalk to get there. Maybe it jumped onto the sidewalk just so, narrowly missing the planters. Or did it back up onto the sidewalk somehow? If so, why, after being rear-ended? I didn’t inspect the scene closely, so I’m certainly missing an essential piece of the puzzle.

I took the shot from about a half block away, under an awning, because it was raining. Three or four other people were taking pictures from there as well. That’s the early 21st century for you: an era of easy photography that often doesn’t clarify anything.

End of the Week Debris

Rain, I don’t mind. Miserable cold at the end of April, that doesn’t seem right. That’s what we have, with the promise of slightly less miserable cold during the early days of May.

Here’s a picture of my nephew Dees, taken (probably) by one of his bandmates while they were in Atlanta. I doubt that they’d mind me posting it.DeesAJA fellow I don’t know, who seems to be an Englishman — or at least an English-speaker — living in Germany, left me a message at BTST, asking whether I knew the exact location of the Goethe Institut in Lüneburg. He’d attended classes there the same summer I did in 1983, though in August, and if you Google “Goethe Institut, Lüneburg,” I’m the first hit. He must have found me that way. Guess not many other people have posted about their fond memories of the place.

He had the chance to visit Lüneburg again and wanted to see the school. Sadly, I had to tell him I didn’t know the address after all this time. It isn’t on Google Maps, so my suspicion is that it’s long closed. I vaguely remember hearing about plans to close it, even when I was there, but wouldn’t swear to anything.

Apparently he made it to Lüneburg in late April and didn’t see the school. He did find that it was snowing.

If I remember correctly, that’s the handsome Lüneburg Rathaus. But I never saw it during a light snow.

Prickly Dark Clouds

The skies over the northwestern suburbs were particularly dramatic on the evening of April 25, 2016. Around 6 p.m. I prepared the dog for her walk, naturally one of her very favorite things to do, but as soon as we got out the door, rain fell. Dark clouds had moved in suddenly and were making noise, too. We went back inside, the dog very reluctantly.

The rain was over and it was partly cloudy again in 15 minutes or so. I took her out for the delayed walk, but after about 20 minutes dark clouds returned and made more noise, though much of the sky was still blue. We got home without incident a few minutes later. The sky toward the northwest looked like this.

Clouds! Don't strike me, Zues!Toward the north-northeast, like this.

More clouds!Pictures don’t do them justice. They were mighty fine cloud forms. As it turned out, not really storm clouds, just a mite prickly. Those came later in the evening.

At Least I Won a Coffee Cup

By mid-February, looking out at scenes like this is pretty tiresome. But there it is.
Feb 15, 2016Saturday was bitterly cold, even for February, which nixed any notion I had of going to Chinatown to watch the Chinese New Year’s parade. I’ve never been to one of those, so I toyed with the idea. But not when temps are single-digit Fahrenheit.

Sunday, snow. Monday, gloom. But at least we have the option of warm beverages in well-wrought ceramic cups, such as these.

cupsThe black one with the Sam Hurt illustration of a prehistoric creature and his cup — “Early Breakfast” — was a thoughtful Christmas present this year from my nephew Dees and his girlfriend Eden.

The blue one — “Take Time for Fun” — I picked up at a park district facility last week. It was a prize.

A week earlier, two days before the Super Bowl, we’d visited the same facility, and I noticed a contest in progress. Guess the final score of the Big Game and get three months added to your membership. Write your guess down on a slip of paper with your name and address, and put it in a big box (refreshingly low tech, that).

So I guessed Denver 24, Charlotte 17. I was vaguely aware that Charlotte was the favorite, but I still wanted Denver to win. Not because I cared anything about the game, but so I could complete a slide show like this the next week, after having predicted that Denver would win.

As for the numbers themselves, I pulled them out of the air, though I made them football-plausible. 24 = three touchdowns + extra points + one field goal, while 17 = two touchdowns + extra points + one field goal.

I proceeded not to watch the Super Bowl or any of its ridiculously expensive commercials. On Monday, a woman from the park district called to tell me I’d won a coffee cup. Everyone who guessed 24 as the score for Denver got one, it seems — eight or 10 people. Two people, she said, had gotten both scores right and won the membership extension.

One thing people say at this point is that “I’ve never won anything,” but it isn’t so for me. Among other things, in grade school I guessed the number of jelly beans in a jar and won the beans — I picked my house address as the number — and once I was a member of a trivia contest team at a corporate meeting, and won some movie tickets, though that was partly because of my knowledge of obscure facts, not just blind luck.