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Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter, Old Man

I JUST SPENT a pleasant but chilly afternoon activating all of my gasoline-powered lawn-care equipment to run their fuel tanks empty, raising an unholy ruckus in the neighborhood. It’s my payback for suffering, every warm Saturday, to the sound of the muffler-free mowers scalping the grounds of each nearby house – but I’m blinding myself to the probability that those steering such clamorous machines hardly could care. At the end of the task list is its most depressing component: firing up the snowblower and positioning it to eat the driveway’s first accumulation. Some people insist that washing the car makes it rain. Moving my snowblower exacts a parallel meteorological payment.

It officially happens when I flip the office-wall calendar page to December and realize that the year is pretty much shot. Have I accomplished what January suggested would be so easy, so well within reach? Hardly. And as the daylight hours shorten and the air screams with chill, there’s clearly no chance of getting anything done before we’re warbling “Auld Lang Syne.”

Which means it’s time to mock my indolence by buying not only a new wall calendar but also a costly day-planner refill. Out come the November diary pages, almost as clean as they day they were printed, to join the similarly pristine rest of the year. What were November’s triumphs? A scrawl on 11/19 reads “10:30 am. Dr. appt. Bring [illegible].” A little farther down the page: “4:45 pm. Pick up L.” Short for “hang around the Albany area for most of the day so you can fetch your daughter from school.”

Thankfully, there’s coffeehouse time available on a day like that (and a day like this, similarly scheduled). The tumult of the surrounding chatter becomes white noise, unpleasantly punctured only when some witless dunderhead hauls out a cell phone and hollers into it his side of the conversation.

But even the days of coffeehouse ease are about to end, contaminated by the disease called Christmas music. It’s the only context in which programmers and hearers alike subject themselves to such shit as “It’s a Marshmallow World” without murdering someone, preferably Johnny Mathis.

And even that piece of treacle can’t come close to the aural horror of “The Little Drummer Boy,” a masterpiece of simpering melody conjoined with the lyric equivalent of colonoscopy, if a colonoscopy can be steeped in melodrama alongside its native ingredient.

With that song I invariably am assaulted when I venture into restaurant or retail store, and so I limit my travels, further reinforcing the hemmed-in feeling.

I fight it by taking short, panicky walks along the rural streets near my house. This actually is an effort to make up for all the warm days I missed in carrying out a long-promised exercise regime. Now I have the cold, which gets particularly harsh on my neighborhood’s hillside – to blame for these shorter strolls, which will peter out once the ground is white.
The comfort of being indoors is dulled by evidence of the projects that languished all year. The bedroom is full of sheetrock, waiting to cover the old plaster walls once I finish stringing romex across the attic floor to power new outlets and a long-desired heater. Painted-shut windows wait to have their sashweights restrung and their panes reglazed. The water pump in the basement is leaking. Books languish in packing boxes awaiting shelves, the wood for which long since was acquired.

It is with all this in mind, and all of it easily swept to the rearmost cupboard of my mind, that I pour a generous shot of Drambuie and settle on the couch beside the warm, snickering wood stove. The dog stirs and sighs. The cat kneads my knee. The sweetened whiskey reminds me that there no sense doing a damn thing right now. January will get here soon enough.

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