The Ice Storm

fog and trees

Thomas E Bush IV

Yesterday was not a day to be out of doors. Ruby, our red Pathfinder, was covered in a sheet of ice, icicles hanging like fringe from the side mirrors and the bottom of the doors—not the surrey with the fringe on top. We had to venture forth. Ruby saved me during a car accident almost 4 years to the day; she would come through for us today.

We were out of salt, so Lorin scattered kitty litter on the front steps and walkway before we left. It does the trick, but it’s a bitch to clean up later.

It took about two hours to drive from New Jersey to the Bronx—there was an accident on the Bruckner Interchange. We headed to the Whitestone, onto the Cross Island Parkway, then onto the LIE. It took another hour to reach Long Island with the brakes acting up, Lorin pumping them to try to unfreeze the brake pads. It took a while to come to a full stop on icy roads. It was a white knuckler of a ride.

When I allowed myself not to be afraid, I took in the sky: thick and white, only the outlines of trees visible. Hauntingly beautiful and composed.

Cold, snow, ice and loss have mixed together into a kind of cosmic blender. A gentle snow fell the night of my accident in 2011, the first time I diapered my mother, recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Another January has come, and Lorin’s father has passed away after a heart attack from which he never awoke. Lorin, his dad’s girlfriend B and I were at the hospital on and off for nine days. The palliative team at Bellevue Hospital kept him very comfortable, and he died peacefully. A good death, you could say.

We gathered on Long Island with family for bagels and coffee, to look at photographs, to reminisce and make plans for a memorial, most likely in the spring.

“Dad liked nature,” Lorin said. He would have liked to see the flowers in bloom.

Out of the ice and into the bloom.

He sang in the choir at his Lutheran church. They laid his robe over his chair during the church service yesterday.

We drove his girlfriend B back to Brooklyn, Lorin still pumping brakes, no ice falling, but heavy rain.

When Lorin lit up a cigarette, B said, “That reminds me of your father.”

“How many did he smoke a day?” I asked.

“Only 2 or 3. I’ll miss him when I’m at home,” she said.

It was a little easier driving home, but still scary at times. At times we stopped breathing, I think.

This morning, I scraped off the cemented-on kitty litter on the stairs and walkway with a shovel, disposing of as much as I could; some was frozen under a layer of ice. Later on, Lorin hosed off more of the litter and put down liquid blue Ice Melt. We dropped Ruby off at the mechanic.

A London Broil’s in the slow cooker, listening to the new age music channel, Soundscapes.

No ice storm in the forecast. We welcome the mundane.

The Weight of Lunch

His and Her's

(photo credit: Jen Gallardo / flickr)

By L.E. Swenson

We started carrying lunch to work consistently about a year ago. Prior to that, I would grouse and complain that I didn’t want to carry lunch. It was too heavy! I had childhood socioeconomic creeps from growing up in the privileged section of the North Shore of Long Island. 

“Only the poor kids had their brown bags at lunch, and dammit, we are not that poor.”

We are that poor. Only poor people resort to the financial self help gurus like Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman.

We did the math and that tore it. We were spending upwards of $300 to $400 a month on lunch and Starbucks and snacks. I was doing the lion’s share of the spending. Some days, I would buy breakfast too. None of this conspicuous consumption helped us get out of debt, nor did it do my waistline any good. In fact it helped my waistline turn into a wasteland. Rich Manhattan lunches for 10 to 20 bucks a pop were killing us financially and physically.

For those of you who live in sprawling commuter cities, let me take a moment to describe the plight of the NYC commuter.

My mother and brother were visiting me from Savannah, Georgia.

My brother who was 9 at the time asked our mother, “Why does he (me) carry a backpack?”

To which Mom replied, “This isn’t like home where if you forget something you can just drive home and get it. You have to bring everything with you when you leave the house in the morning.” 

My mom left the New York area for Savannah some 20 years ago and when asked, she always has the same response, “too many people,” followed by, “I don’t want to have to have a battle plan every time I leave the house.”

I have since moved to the suburbs and find that not only have our battle plans grown sparser, but the amount of stuff we have to leave the house with has increased in proportion. The suburban commute is not so much a battle plan as a war of attrition. You bear it as long as you can, and the battle plan is simply stated: “Get to work on time” and “Get home as quickly as possible,” and hope you didn’t forget anything.

To the urbanite/commuter here in NYC the weight of lunch can greatly increase the “schlep” factor. With the exceptions of the 1% who travel around the city in the relative comforts of cabs and flunky-driven cars, we urban backpackers have to be aware of our carry capacity, and lunch just adds to the weight. 

The New Normal demands that we grow a little stronger, carry a little more, indulge a little less and find more enjoyment in the little things. Like a homemade lunch. 

L.E. Swenson received his bachelor’s degree in English from S.U.N.Y. Buffalo. He went on to study Theater at the New School for Social Research and received his Masters of Fine Arts in 1999. He has performed in regional theater at Buffalo’s Irish Classical Theater and Shakespeare in Delaware Park. He has written, acted, coached and stage managed in the New York area and continues to write and work in New York.