The Cosby Effect: Bastardizing my Childhood and Fouling up the Future

20 Nov

Photo via Ted Eytan / flickr

I wasn’t going to throw my hat into this ring, but the Bill Cosby cluster currently in the news is messing with my nostalgic head.

I’m 37 years old … I mention that because, as a young Gen Xer, I was a spectator during what were arguably Cosby’s most active years. We played Picture Pages together first, then I spent a few years imitating Fat Albert’s signature Hey, Hey, Hey greeting.

When The Cosby Show first aired, I was too young to stay up and watch it, so I would creep out of bed and crouch on the stairs where I could see the TV through a small window in the kitchen. When I did graduate to an 8:30 bedtime, I’d watch in my parents room, sitting on the floor with my knees tucked under my chin. I got a special treat once, being allowed to watch his comedy special Bill Cosby: Himself with my parents and cousins… I didn’t understand all of the jokes, but his impressions of his wife breathing through labor and after Novocaine at the dentist had me in hysterics. And even after a first taste proved I didn’t really like them, I still asked my mum for Jell-o Pudding Pops every week.

Cosby’s influence continued into my pre-teen years with A Different World, a spin-off that took place at the fictional Hillman College. In thinking about it today, I realized that the show might not be why I went to college, but it was one reason why I was excited about the prospect from middle school right on up to graduation.

I don’t know if the allegations we’re hearing now are true, or if some are true and some are false, or if Cosby’s silence is an attempt at refusing to dignify lies or avoiding an admission of guilt. Some of the stories we’re hearing have a disturbingly true ring to them, others don’t.

What’s most notable to me, though, is any other public figure from my past probably wouldn’t have me thinking about it so much. If we were hearing about Ron Howard, John Cusak, or another champion of the eighties, I’d probably absorb the headline and wait to see how the story panned out. This one just has me feeling alternately sick and sad. If Cliff Huxtable is an inescapable sod, how will we be able to rein in our cynicism and suspicion of others moving forward? Is this the tipping point at which we enter a world where every celebrity, role model, or influential figure is viewed with a raised eyebrow?

Moreover, will every explosive accusation from now on be analyzed to death by a slew of talking heads who pore over every clip, every interview, and every article looking for something inflammatory, whether it’s the truth or not? Yes, we see this kind of ‘reporting’ already, but the Cosby Circus really has me ruminating on what our media coverage is turning into. In my eyes, the women coming forward are being turned into a side show. If they are telling the truth, that’s another assault on them. If they — or some of them — are lying, they’re positioning themselves as the next permutation of low-rent reality TV. We’re in a world now where a CNN anchor has been given a platform to tell women they should just bite the penis of the man forcing them to perform oral sex. I won’t even get started on how ludicrous that is, but what’s next — a demonstration?

For decades, Bill Cosby has been synonymous with World’s Greatest Dad. I used to put him up on a shelf with the best dads I knew, including my own. I can’t do that anymore, whether it’s the result of his own actions or those of damaging stories spinning out of control. It’s getting too hard to tell… and we need to change the channel. Quick.

We Have a Winner!

17 Nov

IMG_8999Congratulations Joe Schneiderman  – you’ve won the 2014 Blogtoberfest Guest Post Contest!

What has he won, Jax?

Well, Joe – you’re the lucky recipient of a stack of Leaf Behinds by Winstanley! These nifty chotchkes are made with seed inclusion paper, which is infused with a variety of wildflower seeds ranging from Baby Blue Eyes to Spurred Snapdragons. The mix of seeds has been optimized to grow in myriad climates, both indoors and outdoors — so just soak them in water, plant, and wait for the growing to begin.

 

 

Oh, and here’s a link to Joe’s winning post, Concord.

 

Vote Now for your Favorite #Blogtoberfest Post!

5 Nov

It’s November, which means we have one more Blogtoberfest task to complete before moving into what’s commonly known as — duh-duh-duhhhh — The Holidays.

Take a minute to vote for your favorite guest post! The winner will receive a prize to be announced soon, plus the overwhelming pride of having won a blog-writing contest.

The contenders…

Blogtoberfest Guest Post: Concord, By Joe Schneiderman

31 Oct

Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.21.16 AMNotwithstanding that winter approaches, notwithstanding that the days end sooner, clear and sunny fall days are part of what make New England great. One is neither oppressed by humidity of summer nor taunted and frozen under a blue sky in winter. Rather, there is a cornucopia of color that one can simply enjoy. Fall vacations should be more frequent.

Last Sunday, October 20, I awoke in Marlborough, Massachusetts to one of those gorgeous days. In the month leading to that Sunday, I had been reading about Concord, Massachusetts, inspired by one of my heroines, Justice Martha Sosman of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. (Further discussion of Justice Sosman qua jurist can be found in last year’s Blgotoberfest Post.) Justice Sosman had lived in Concord all her life-indeed, when her mother died, she moved back in her aging father at their family home-and lived with him into his own advanced age until her own untimely death. Justice Sosman had also participated in a Concord Oral History Project (as had retired Chief Justice Herbert P. Wilkins) and painted a fascinating picture of the place. And, befittingly enough, October 20 was Justice Sosman’s birthday, although I was not consciously cognizant of this fact last year.

I originally set out from Marlborough uncertain of where I would head. But, somehow, it dawned me that Concord couldn’t be too much further. And, beyond Justice Sosman, I knew Concord’s unique place in our history. The sun was high and the sky was a full shade of blue after dreary clouds and rain through. The setting was perfect. So, fuck it. Concord was calling me. I would go for it.

I followed Boston Post Road/U.S. 20 east through Marlborough’s downtown, which eventually released me to Sudbury. I had no idea that Sudbury and Marlborough were ancient-that is, both communities were incorporated in the 17th Century-and there was the Wayside Inn to prove it. From the once urban edge of Marlborough, I was in the country again in Sudbury. Although not a formal state highway, a sign beckoned to the left-Sudbury Ctr., Concord. I turned and listened. Soon, I found myself in Sudbury Ctr., junctioning Route 27 at the Town Common, one direction would take me to Natick, another to Acton. History was well-preserved there-an ancient stone guidepost also pointed to those communities and others in Middlesex County, and, of course to Boston. (Those guideposts are part of what make driving through the wiles of Massachusetts fun-you will have an idea of where you are going even if you aren’t an official state highway, and are conspicuously absent in Connecticut.) But, there was the green sign with its’ side right arrow pointing to Concord. That’s where I would go. (And, I cannot remember it at the time, but, I was on, appropriately enough, Concord Road.)

Sudbury Center soon gave way to a shroud of woods, and the full fall palette. Endless open fields soon broke the shroud, some guarded by stone walls, houses occasionally appearing along the roadside. The sun was bright and the temperature was pleasant-I had my window down and I was smiling, savoring everything about it. The open road in New England of a Fall Day is a modern and more seasonable tribute to Robert Frost. Concord Road remained and became further rural, colonial farmhouses, farm land and open fields became my companion heading north. The bright sun and the hues of orange, yellow, and red contrasted against the fields and grass. Is this suburbia? Am I really so close to Boston? Have I actually stepped into a transporter and driven into Western Massachusetts? Am I going to encounter Andy Dufrense’s stone wall and Red’s money buried underneath?

Well, maybe that last thought didn’t really occur to me. But, eventually, I arrived in Concord. And, much to my surprise, the next sign read-to Route 2. So, I headed for Route 2, a bit of a Janus among Massachusetts highways. Scenic for much of its length, it also fluctuates a superhighway, depending on where you are. The fields turned into forests as Route 2 approached-a divided highway traversing and missing Concord Center.

Or was I on Route 126 this whole time coming into Concord from Sudbury and Lincoln? I cannot remember. I remember passing over railroad tracks, and I know that I was on Walden Street because I passed the Concord District Court and the Concord Firehouse, both of which are located on Walden Street…Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.21.26 AM

Regardless, I found my way into Concord Center. Beautiful homes and historic buildings (blocks, really) lined the streets, suburban jerkassdom had spared this downtown. People were out on the street, also savoring this weather and day, much as I was. Soon, I was at the green, and, much to my surprise, Route 62 appeared. One of the longest roads in the Commonwealth, Route 62 parallels(ish) Route 2, running from Barre out to somewhere in Essex County (the coast, viz-Beverly.)

And I had found it again. But, that was not my interest. And I thank you for indulging my roadgeekery. Lowell Road and signs for the Historic Park beckoned. Soon, I was on Liberty Street, and, finally, I was in Minute Man Historical Park, approaching North Bridge. The weather was warm, no doubt inspired by the sun. I popped into the Visitor’s Center, enjoyed the exhibits and the Ranger on duty, and, soon, I found out that there was Drilling as Minutemen at 1:30 at Hartwell’s Tavern. Having dumped tea in Boston Harbor, I knew where I would head later that day. My more compelling interest was to visit North Bridge.

From the Visitor’s Center/Headquarters, it’s a scenic downhill across open fields to North Bridge. The view is incredible, I could picture a Red Fox jaunty and happy coming up from the river bank. Soon, I was crossing the bridge. An old wooden structure, the Concord River flows northward below as a sizable obelisk sits sentinel at the other bank of the bridge, guarded by a tall and prominent Minuteman-at the site of the shot heard round the world.

Here is where our country was born-when the people of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Bedford, aScreen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.21.35 AMnd Acton defended their homes against the British. What happened to that spirit of community? What happened to that spirit of vigilance? What happened to that spirit of altruism? Are we simply doomed to repeat our mistakes and to beat on like boats against the current?

On the other hand, what does it matter now? The spirit of the people of Concord and the Minutemen live on, not as ominous spectres. They are a raison d’être for those of us who refuse to accept and want to improve our world. That should be legacy enough.

But enough of philosophy. What a gorgeous place to be on such a fall day. And there was so much more to behold. Not everyone preferred the history, some were walking dogs, some were even taking advantage of the Concord River.

Sitting on that river’s east bank was the Old Manse with a redcoat explaining its full history to those of us lucky visitors. A 1770 Colonial, the Old Manse (Scottish for Mansion) was the inspirational location of two Emersons (Reverend William and Ralph Waldo), and later, Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne. Had I more time, I would have likely gone inside. And, in a testament to civility and that the spectre of war would not consume us with bitterness or blitheness, sitting behind North Bridge was a monument to the Queen’s Redcoats who fought and gave their lives.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.21.45 AM

But neither Emerson nor Hawthorne was the only one inspired in Concord. So too was Thoreau-which I did not know. Indeed, Concord was a center for abolitionist-and feminist-sentiment. Louisa May Alcott lived on the road to Bedford and protested for the vote. And, of course, Martha B. Sosman founded her all-women partners firm with furniture from the Sosman barn in Concord-and tirelessly strived to make the law of the Commonwealth sound. What finer place could there be for a Renaissance lawyer-historian-writer?

Time to head for Hartwell’s Tavern.

The downtown of Concord Center soon gave way to ruralness as I followed Cambridge Turnpike southeast and Concord soon became Lincoln. (This I did not know-that Concord and Lincoln were neighbors.) Unfortunately, construction and poor signage led me astray down Route 2, rather than Route 2A, which paralleled the Battle Road and the Tavern. But, I soon found my way again-urban bloodhound kicking in to smell my way along. I parked and I was able to tour the Tavern. However, there were not many tall folks when Hartwell built his tavern. So, I had to watch my head-much like Paul Revere and William Dawes (who were captured not far from the Tavern, but were able to warn Dr. Prescott of Concord who took refuge there.)Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.21.55 AM

Being tall soon proved a liability again-and I was the oldest and largest Minuteman recruit-and why none of the fathers and mothers joined the children (aged 5 to 12, or so) in the drill is beyond me. But, I wanted to serve as a Minuteman-and so I would. We were issued muskets, given strict drilling and formation orders, including to stand at attention, how and what direction to pivot. (I stood out and erred at least once. But, thankfully, I was not made to do pushups.) Our Commanding Officer did, however, impress upon us that we were the line of defense for the people of Concord-if we were able-bodied, we were to serve-and to be ready. So we marched, took up our firing positions, and BANG! And, our Commanding Officer was graceful and certified us as Minutemen-even me.

I wandered west along the Battle Road from Hartwell’s Tavern. Stoneposts, much smaller versions of the obelisk at North Bridge, sat along the gravely trail. 14 Miles to Boston Harbor? 14 Miles to Boston Harbor? Yes, Joe. You’re that close to Boston.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.22.03 AM

At Merriam’s Corner, naturalists could divert to a trail to the vernal pool to see amphibian life. Not far beyond was the Bloody Angle. Harkening back to the Bloody Lane at Antietam (so I’ve been told by Ken Burns, I haven’t yet been to Antietam), a great skirmish was fought at this point on the border beyond Lincoln and Concord. Open fields and farmland, not dissimilar to what I had passed, allowed the militia to ambush the British on their retreat to Boston on April 19, including the Woburn Militia…Yet, behind the Bloody Angle, modernity crept in. There was a trail…leading to a parking lot. What was there, I did not know. But, I felt strangely out of place as I explored along that trial. How had this happened? I returned to the Battle Road and the Stoneposts that would lead me to Boston.

Our Commanding Officer was now drilling and demonstrating a musket. One musket could not do very much-it was inefficient, difficult to load and aim (hence why and how had poor a Minuteman earned his name). That being said, a line of muskets and militia could be-the musket balls would form an effective wall of ammunition.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.22.15 AM

Guided by his colleague, our Commanding Officer marched, presented arms, made ready, and…

FIRED.

The sound was like standing next to a small explosion. Not deafening, but it certainly got your attention. A healthy puff of smoke followed. And, impressed at the spectacle, we applauded. I greeted the Commanding Officer, Ed, and thanked him.

I headed back to Concord Center from Hartwell’s Tavern. I remember the signs for Walden Pond (which I still haven’t visited yet, D’oh!). There was still daylight and daytime, and Sunday was lively, so, I went for a walkabout in Concord Center, window-shopping mainly. (Although, I want to say I bought something of some sort, but, I can’t remember.)

Concord Center was imminently walkable and savvy, there was an antiques store, kitchen store (my Mom would enjoy that), a cheese shop, the Main Street Market, the Concord Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.22.26 AMBookstore, even a Concord Toy Store. The Police Officer directing traffic was even genial. As the sun remained bright, I was glad to shed my jacket for my red oxford alone (a red oxford, I might add, I’ve had since age 15.) And not a single chain store offended the eye or the sense of justice. These are real people with real livelihoods doing things their own way. (If you can believe it, there’s even a lingerie store right on Main Street off the Town Common-which has been named Monument Square, right next to the site of the Milldam.) Concord Center reminded me of the one thing I pine for from my years in New York-not being per se reliant on a car and being able to walk places. Concord Center has that positive quality with treelined sidewalks (which exist in New York) and people there. (As I recall, I gave Justice Sosman a tout every time I spoke to anyone at length on the street or anywhere else.)

My walkabout inspired a catch-up phone call to my friend, Bob. Not having spoken in some time, we covered all the bases, including about that thing called relationships. The alley behind Main Street Market led to Keyes Road and, a quick turn sought cleverly (or maybe not…) put me on Main Street westbound. Businesses gave way to houses and Concord Academy. Eventually, a curious purple sign greeted me.Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.22.39 AM

Not surprisingly, I followed the sign. Houses soon gave way to businesses again, and the Concord Depot, befittingly, located on Thoreau Street. With a beautiful mural on the trainbound side, the Depot was still in use as a coffee shop and other businesses, and still other businesses, including New London style Pizza and a French Restaurant lined the other side of Thoreau Street. A Starbucks appeared at Sudbury Road opposite the Mobil Station. But those chains did not seem woefully out of place or casting pallor.

The sun gradually lowered in the sky, a chill entered the air-signals that I would eventually have to head for Hartford again. So, I walked back up Sudbury Road to downtown-a healthy mix of Victorians and Colonials (assuming I remember my architecture correctly)-aspirationals and inspirationals for ideal homes and spaces. Main Street soon appeared, and the Concord Free Public Library sat on the southwest corner. If it were open, I would have stopped in-the space looked magnificent from the outside. Books are friends and we deserve the right space to enjoy them-and the Concord Library looked like precisely that-with room to spare for history and culture.

Having fetched my jacket, I started looking for dinner. I wound up not searching very far, I was at Concord’s Colonial Inn in the Screen Shot 2014-10-31 at 9.22.47 AMTap Room. Not having eaten of note (at least, I don’t remember having eaten) since breakfast, I was ready to eat. And I was a little chilled. I started with some soup and eventually opted for a burger-with NH Bacon. NH Bacon? New Hampshire Bacon? Yes, New Hampshire Bacon. There was some entertainment forthcoming, and, I inquired after but ultimately did not sing. The crowd was outgoing, and not surprisingly, I was able to hold court with them. (Which, I might add, is not a term from my lawyerly side. It is a term the Firemen used.) Coffee and dessert followed, and eventually, the clocked tolled 7:30, and it was time to head home.

The streets were empty but not deserted as I walked back to my car from Monument Square. To the contrary, traffic continued along Main Street/Route 62, and I was grateful for my jacket. The streets were also lit and there were businesses open, not many, but a few. The quiet wasn’t eerie-something I disdain in small towns and miss about New York. Concord therefore remained bright and felt special as I entered my Theresa (my car) and turned westbound for home.

Our story continues….

Route 62 remains a scenic tree-lined avenue all the way out of the Center, and will take you to West Concord, Maynard, and other points west. But, it was not my points west. I needed Route 2 again. So, I merged onto Elm Street, which did indeed bring me to Route 2 West-in the upper part of West Concord, on the other side of the Assabet River (the other river besides the Sudbury that flows into the Concord River in Concord.)

And we arrive finally at the abominable rotary. Concord has always been home to, well, well, well…It was first known as the Concord Reformatory, with its own railroad branch line (and now a rails to trails). Now it’s known as Massachusetts Correctional Institution (MCI)-Concord. And, sitting caddy corner to it is a State Police Barracks and the minimum security Northeastern Correctional Center, resembling a farm. And, lanes appear and disappear, Route 2 converges with Route 111 and Route 119, Barretts Mill Road diverges to one side, so does Commonwealth Avenue….It’s not fun to drive, especially for the first time at night. Hence the name “abominable rotary.” Concord gives way to Acton; Route 111 diverges to Boxborough. Ten minutes later, at Littleton, Route 2 connects to I-495, and is the beginning of the end, the way home, offering three wide lanes and the scenic views of the Wachusett range, a most pleasant ride to contemplate the day in Concord.

 

Joe Schneiderman is an attorney and a writer based in Connecticut.

A Blogtoberfest Favorite: Top 10 Halloween Haunted Homes

29 Oct

TopTenRealEstateDeals.com has the Top 10 frightening news stories on haunted homes, ghost towns and scary castles.

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The loud crash in the middle of the night. The lights that turn on by themselves. The scratching at your window on a blustery night that bleeds the courage from your veins. It’s Halloween, that spooky time of the year when ghosts, goblins and zombies might be just around the corner. Dracula’s Castle in Romania, scary haunted hotels, celebrity haunted mansions, and a Colorado ghost town for sale at $2 million, TopTenRealEstateDeals.com picks the Top 10 horror media news stories for 2014.

“American Ghost Towns”
Former gold mine and railroad boom towns, an abandoned amusement park, even an Alabama site that was planned as the state capitol. A look at former American boom towns that are now ghost towns.

“Top 10 Haunted Castles”
A frightening look at the world’s most haunted castles: Dracula’s Castle in Romania where the infamous vampire may have impaled thousands of his victims, the Bloody Chapel Castle in Ireland where prisoners were thrown into deep dungeons with sharp spikes protruding from the floor, and the Austrian Moorsham Castle where women suspected of being witches were tortured and killed.

“Colorado Ghost Town For Sale”
Uptop, Colorado was an actual ghost town when two sisters from Boston bought the empty hamlet in 2000. After years of restoration, the ghosts are gone and the sisters are selling for $2 million. The mountain location comes complete with a dance hall, train depot, log cabin, saloon and chapel.

“Famous Murder Homes For Sale”
What happens when a house that was the site of a gruesome murder or suicide goes on the market? NBC has the details on the Oscar Pistorius, Mary Kennedy, Sharon Tate, Jeffrey Dahmer, Nicole Brown Simpson, Heath Ledger, JonBenet Ramsey and Amy Winehouse death homes.

Murders, suicides and mysteries are at the center of haunted hotel legends across the United States. Glamorous hotels including the Biltmore in Miami, the Parker House in Boston, the Shoreham in Washington, D.C. and the Bourbon Orleans Hotel in New Orleans are upscale hotels that offer their guests the possibility of a ghost experience.

“Celebrity Haunted Homes”
Some celebrities seem to have it all. Money, fabulous jewelry, great cars and haunted homes. Nicolas Cage and Anne Rice both lived in haunted homes in New Orleans and Loretta Lynn’s Tennessee plantation home has several ghosts including the spirit of a Civil War soldier. Some people say that Marilyn Monroe’s ghost can be found at the Brentwood, California home where she died in 1962, and Lucille Ball’s ghost yucking it up at her long time home in Beverly Hills.

“World Famous Haunted Homes”
America’s spookiest, scariest, bone chilling homes in the United States. Homes of serial killers, celebrity suicides, Amityville Horror, Lizzie Borden, abandoned castles and other homes of ghosts, monsters and demons.

“Historic Haunted Homes”
Frank Stranahan moved from Ohio to the New River area, now known as Fort Lauderdale, as a young man in 1893. He became wealthy as a land owner building a thriving trading post, the area’s first post office, and the Stranahan House. However everything collapsed in the 1920s and Stranahan committed suicide when he tied an iron gate around his head and drowned in the river in front of his home. His home is now a haunted museum with up to six ghosts in the middle of the upscale Fort Lauderdale condo corridor. Tour five historic haunted homes including a Civil War hospital in Virginia, Andrew Jackson’s Tennessee mansion and the Stranahan House.

“Top 10 Movie Haunted Homes”
A look at ten scary movie homes including the English manor Bly House from “The Innocents,” the Colorado Overlook Hotel from “The Shining” and “The Amityville Horror” home.

“Most Americans Will Buy a Haunted House”
According to a Realtor.com survey, 62 percent of Americans would consider buying a haunted house.

Visit TopTenRealEstateDeals.com for more celebrity, historic, famous and ‘spooktacular’ homes for sale.

Blogtoberfest Guest Post: Three Days in October, by Joseph Bednar

24 Oct
October 29, 2011

I’ve had better Saturdays, and that’s before the snow arrived.

My wife and I spent the afternoon starting a big kitchen project, installing a tile backsplash between the countertops and cabinets. We’d already several hundred dollars on the tile, and I would have been happy coughing up another $500 to have someone come in and cement it up.

But Jenn was confident we could do it, and she’s usually right about those things. Once we got the pattern down, she sawed pieces with a tile cutter in the driveway, then applied a coat of mud to a section of wall, and I’d follow by laying each individual piece. It was slow, methodical work, and honestly, I don’t relish big household projects with the gusto Jenn does. But I have to say, it looks pretty awesome today.

The forecast called for snow across Massachusetts Saturday evening, which was odd for late October, and not ideal for the dogs; besides our own pair of springer spaniels, we were dogsitting two golden retrievers, and would have preferred a dry weekend so they could spend lots of time outside in the fenced yard. But maybe, we thought, it wouldn’t be a lot of snow.

By late afternoon, however, it was coming down hard — to the point where Jenn started to worry about the dogwood outside our back porch. Her mom had planted it decades ago, and when Jenn built a little mulch garden beside our patio, she made the tree, maybe a dozen feet tall, the centerpiece of the design. We love that dogwood. But the early snow — wet and heavy — was bending the branches troublingly low, so I went out with a big broom and shook the snow off the branches, soaking myself in the process. But the snow kept piling up on the branches, so I did it again a little later. And again. And again.

We lost power around 8:30 p.m., and wound up sitting by candlelight in the living room with our 6-year-old son, Nate, and four nervous, panty dogs. After he went to bed, we stayed up a little longer, looking out the big bay window at the snow and the irregular flashes of greenish lightning — or what we thought was lightning. That burst of color, we learned later, was actually a power line snapping and landing on wet snow. We saw a lot of flashes.

Eventually, after shaking off the dogwood one last time, we retired to bed. I fell asleep quickly, but Jenn didn’t; she was too worried about the trees, which audibly groaned and creaked outside. As she posted on Facebook around midnight, “Can’t sleep. Just lying here listening to trees falling and Joe snoring.” And later, just before 1:30: “Just lost a whole tree and large branch. Extremely freaky night. Can’t believe Joe is sleeping thru this. Oops, something’s cracking, going to check it out.”

If the night had a soundtrack — besides the gusting wind, cracking branches, and ice sheeting against the windows — it might have been Ojo Taylor’s “Animals and Trees”:

“The wind is up at 3 a.m. The power’s down till God knows when.

A candle does a minuet, moving shadows and silhouettes.

Silence, please: all the world is on its knees.

Mother Earth will have her say. Mother Earth will have her way.”

But still I slept. I don’t think Jenn ever did.

October 30, 2011

I awoke to the clatter and whine of snowblowers and chainsaws.

It was a clear day, with muted skies in the morning giving away to searing blue later on. Temperatures, chilly at dawn, would eventually rise into the 50s, melting most of the snow — well over a foot, in fact — and leaving the world a slushy mass of wet, jagged branches.

Every yard — and, unfortunately, several damaged roofs — were covered in them. Dozens of smaller trees had been plucked out by the roots because the unfrozen ground wasn’t ready to bear the snow weight. We were lucky; we lost all or part of seven trees, but nothing fell on the house, or even the shed, deck, or backyard fence. Even the dogwood, which bowed dangerously during the night, survived and regained its shape in the morning.

People were walking up and down the street, marveling at the damage, but also the stark beauty. In the early hours, before the mercury crept up, the fallen branches lay caked in thick snow. Everything would be ugly soon enough, as city workers disposed of half-fallen branches, leaving the treescape jagged and raw, but for a moment, the world was mostly calm — the grinding chainsaws aside — and oddly pretty.

No one had power, and frankly, we didn’t expect to get it back anytime soon. So we ate lunch that day next door, in a circle of fold-up chairs in Jenn’s sister’s driveway. (We live next door to her brother as well, at one end of a horseshoe-shaped street named after their grandfather.) We figured we’d be throwing out our refrigerated food soon enough, so everyone brought over what they had, and we grilled dogs, burgers, and beans, eating on paper plates in our laps. We chatted and laughed and counted our blessings.

But then the sun went down, and the rustic charm of having no power became oppressive. The house cooled quickly, even after the warmish day. Meanwhile, we needed milk for cereal, which was all Jenn or the kid wanted for dinner, so I jumped in my SUV and headed to a Stop & Shop we’d heard was open, about four miles away. While driving, I realized I had no gas — I mean, none — but I kept going, figuring one of the gas stations near the store might be open as well.

The traffic on Memorial Drive leading to the supermarket was terrible. Everyone, it seemed, was converging on this one patch of Chicopee rumored to have power, and as I crept along, the digital meter that showed how many miles I had left in the tank dropped from 3 to 2 to 1 to 0. Once at Stop & Shop, my heart sunk; only one gas station was open, and the line at each pump was probably 30 cars long. So I bought my milk, got back in the car, and headed home, hoping the fuel gauge was programmed with a tiny bit of leeway. I probably should have parked somewhere and had Jenn pick me up, but my phone had run out of charge hours ago.

“And then to me she softly speaks, screaming in silence mysteries

of long ago and far away —
the world had always lived this way.

Somehow I know she points her finger at my soul.

I’m a child left all alone. I’m an orphan without a home.”

But I managed to make it home, and everyone ate their cereal, and then … just went to bed. After a day of cutting and dragging branches across the yard, no one was really in a talking mood; warm blankets and a long sleep made more sense. So we snuffed the candles and called it a day.

October 31, 2011

Thanks to a Cumberland Farms near our house that unexpectedly opened Monday morning, I was able to drive to work, as downtown Springfield’s block of office towers isn’t quite as vulnerable to power outages as tree-lined, residential streets. I don’t remember if our son, who was in first grade at the time, had school; if not, he surely spent the day at one of our workplaces, reading and drawing pictures and building Legos.

The previous night had been cold, and we were worried about the pipes freezing if the temperature dropped and the power didn’t return. Jenn and I were able to charge our phones at work, though, so at least we had some communication with the outside world.

Fortunately, Halloween would be our last day without power. Our city runs an electric utility that’s separate from the region’s larger energy conglomerates, and linemen had been working around the clock since Saturday to restore power, one neighborhood at a time. Other Western Massachusetts communities — from urban centers like Springfield to little burgs like Monson, where another of Jenn’s sisters lives, and which had been ravaged by a tornado just five months earlier — would be offline for more than a week.

We still had no power as Monday evening fell, but no way was our son missing out on trick-or-treating. So Jenn grabbed a battery-powered lantern and walked him around our circle, looking for signs of life in each window. Even neighbors who could offer no candy were polite, and while he didn’t collect many treats, he was happy to make the effort. There was a certain appeal to treading the moonlit street, hunting and gathering for sustenance like the tribes of old, had they been after Twizzlers and SweeTarts, rather than roots, berries, and the occasional rabbit.

It remains, in fact, a fondly remembered Halloween. After the two of them returned with their meager haul, we again sat in our candlelit living room, four dogs at our feet, and told stories. I probably shared the one about the mid-’70s blackout in Bridgeport, Connecticut, when the lights went out just after Mom served a meal with a side of cooked spinach. I liked it, as opposed to raw, leafy spinach (blecch), so for years afterward, when Mom said we were having spinach with dinner, I’d ask, “the kind from the blackout?”

We were chilly, even under sweatshirts and throw blankets, as we shared memories and relaxed with our dog pack, but I remember just enjoying the time together — the bond of family, the peace of warm thoughts, on an odd, cold Halloween night.

“The television, blind and dumb. The window beckons me; I come.

I see animals and trees. I catch a glimpse of mystery.

Progress, though, will soon return to steal that which I have learned

and ridicule the candle’s flame. Tomorrow, all will be the same.”

And then, at 8:30, almost 48 hours to the minute after we lost power, the lights flickered back on, and the boiler in the basement clicked to life. As my wife shared on Facebook soon after, “Power back on!!! Go Chicopee Electric, we love you!” The following weekend, we were out raking leaves and twigs when one of the utility’s trucks lumbered by. We, and others working in their yards, turned to the road and loudly applauded.

After our son went to bed, the house slowly filling with heat, we stayed up and watched the Chiefs outlast the Chargers in overtime, 23-20. I’d have to go shopping the next day to replace everything from the fridge that I had bagged and tossed out earlier in the evening, but overall, life was good — much better, in fact, than for all the folks in our region who would have to live with the cold and the oppressive nighttime darkness for another week.

It had been a charming, if slightly bone-chilling, Halloween. But we’re modern folks. Give me light. Give me heat. Give me Monday night football.

Screen Shot 2014-10-24 at 2.20.42 PMJoe Bednar is a business and healthcare writer from Chicopee. At Slurrify, his latest personal blog, he’s counting down his 200 favorite albums and telling his unexciting life story out of order

THE WICKED WITCH OF THE WINTER

19 Oct

writerjax:

An out-of-this-world October post from danspace77! Follow his Instagram – an awesome photo and mini-lesson in astronomy every day.

Originally posted on danspace77:

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Photo Credit & Copyright: NASA/STScI Digitized Sky Survey/Noel Carboni. CLICK photo for full size and see below for links.

Let’s keep Halloween week rolling! Every year in the northern hemisphere as summer begins to cool and the nights begin to grow longer, IC2118 or as it’s known, the “Witch Head Nebula” begins to appear nightly. Located approximately 900 light years distant in the constellation of Eridanus (yep, not Orion), the Wicked Witch of the Winter (as I call her) is actually a 50 light year-long reflection nebula that’s being illuminated by the famous blue supergiant Rigel (not shown) the lest foot of Orion. If you have a photo of the constellation Orion and it’s at an anatomically heads-up position, at the bottom right you will find Rigel and to the right of the star you will see the witches face. It will however be upside down though so you may…

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