Ten Years of b.rox

Sweetgum Buds 2

Ten years ago today I started writing here at b.rox. I didn’t give much thought to the content of that first post, in terms of setting the tone for the future. I just wrote about what was on my mind at the moment.

I’m fascinated by cycles, including the cycle of seasons.

In retrospect, however, I must say that seems uncannily prescient, foreshadowing a theme which has become so much more prominent in my thoughts, my writing, my practice, my life. Also, the emergence of spring buds as subject is a fine metaphor for beginning a new project.

I don’t really write much here anymore. A chart of the life-cycle of this blog would show a peak around 2006-2007, with some vigor continuing until the autumnal equinox of 2012, followed by a year of intentional silence. (Though I didn’t note it explicitly, that first post was very much about the vernal equinox.) These days mark a sort of senescence, I suppose, as I mostly post links to writings published elsewhere.

One of my primary impulses to write here was the same impulse that motivates my private journal writing: to mark the days as they pass and keep track of the interesting stuff that happens in my life. That. combined with the urge to share. But that act of sharing publicly has ultimately come to feel more like a limiting factor. These days I’m back to writing in my private journals more intensively than ever.

My friend David Bryan has suggested that the writings on this site might make an interesting book, which would include the flooding of the city in 2005 and the process of recovery, from a very personal angle, with the birth of my daughter as a natural ending point for the story. I appreciate this idea, thought I think a better arc might focus on our house, from our purchase in 2002, through the flooding and reconstruction, ending with the sale in 2009. I even have a title in mind: The Wizard of North Salcedo. I often felt like a wizard as I fixed kids bikes on the sidewalk in front of our house.

It’s funny to note that The Wild Hunt began one day later. What a different trajectory that site has taken.

And as a final note, I’m not sure I ever mentioned it, but the tree pictured in that first post did not survive the flood. We cut it down in November of 2005.

Sweetgum Stump

Even the stump is gone now, but we’re still here, and so is this site, even if it’s looking more like a stump itself these days. Thanks for reading, y’all.

How Long the Storm?

Street Salad

Isaac is gone, but his odor lingers on.

Seriously. There’s a smell in the air, a certain peculiar smell I can’t describe. I’m not sensitive to smells. I often think if I was more tuned in to my sense of smell, I’d have a radically different way of being in the world, more animalistic perhaps and less hyper-rational. I don’t notice many smells. But this smell I do notice. It reminds me of the smell after Katrina, which at the time I thought was all mold and rot. Now I’m not so sure. There was plenty of mold and rot, to be sure, but this is maybe something else that was also in the mix. It sprang up almost immediately after Isaac’s winds died down. There were massive amounts of live oak leaves scattered all over, damp with rain. Could that be the source of the smell? Those leaves don’t decay quickly. But perhaps they have some kind of mold growing on them, there already before they fell. Who knows.

It’s not an unpleasant smell. Not entirely pleasant either. I might say it smells like mold without any mustiness if that makes sense. Fresh mold. I’m trying to invent terms to describe a sensation for which my vocabulary is inadequate. But every time I catch a whiff, it brings back memories from 2005.

How long does a storm last? My boss speculated that people who haven’t lived through such storms don’t understand. The storm itself was only on us for a day and a half, right? But we were watching Isaac since August 21st. Most people around New Orleans lost at least a week of work to Isaac, factoring in the preparation and the subsequent power outages. When I got back in my office, it took a full week of rescheduling and catching up before things got back to what is laughably referred to as “normal” around here. For some, though, “normal” is still a long way off; some offices were compromised by the wind and rain and mold has set in. Remediation is under way.

As of today, two full weeks after Isaac’s landfall, our city streets are still lined with piles of debris, mostly branches and sometimes whole trees that have been cut down to size, stacked and bundled. They sit waiting to be carted off somewhere. (Probably a landfill, more’s the pity.) It’s a massive task and the city just doesn’t have enough crews to get it done quickly. I fully expect there will still be plenty of work remaining to be done in a week’s time. At that point, Isaac will have dominated our attention, or at least impinged upon our collective consciousness, for a full month.

I’m talking about those who weathered the hurricane with minimal impact. For some individuals, some families, some communities, the road to recovery is much longer. For those folks, the consequences of Isaac will linger long after his smell has faded from the street of New Orleans.

Tree

It wasn’t until after Labor Day that I passed by the bayou and saw what Isaac had done to my favorite tree.

Tree

This is the tree where my daughter got her name back in 2008. Throughout the 2010-2011 school year I stopped at this tree almost daily for a moment of contemplation. This tree survived a lightning strike last year. But I’m afraid Isaac may have dealt the death blow.

When I saw the damage, I was devastated. I embraced the tree and my tears flowed freely.

In the forest such a tree might continue to live for many years, but this tree is in an urban area, on public land, and highly visible. Some time in the last week, the tree was trimmed back and all the dead matter removed. Half the tree is gone now. The trunk remains and one major branch, giving it a lopsided, severely asymmetrical profile.

Will the humans allow it to live? I guess that’s the question. So I called Troy at the Orleans Levee District. He said their policy is not to cut down such a large oak, as long as there is life in it, without special authorization. I contacted his boss to say I want to help in whatever way I can, either to save the tree or to plant a new tree it if this one must be removed.

Second Guessing

I’ve also been reflecting on our decision to stay in place for Isaac. Was it the right choice? There’s room for disagreement even in our house. Over the past week Xy has repeated “Never again!” whereas I’ve found myself saying I’m glad we stayed.

So what were the pros and cons of that decision? It’s tempting, though foolish, to look at what actually happened.

Sleeping Arrangement

For example: On the negative, the winds were kind of unsettling. None of us slept well that first night, when Isaac made his stumbling landfall not once but twice. Our whole house shook. Our house shakes whenever a truck rolls by, but sustained shaking for many hours is worrisome. Also, we were without power for four days. That was the worst of it.

Problem is, any analysis of our decision should be based on risk assessment, on what could have happened. To judge our judgment based on what actually happened is foolish — and irresistible, inevitable. Human nature, I suppose.

A tree could have fallen on our house. But it didn’t.

What’s the worst that might have happened? Here’s one nasty scenario: Hurricanes can spin off tornadoes faster than a late-70s sitcom. In fact Isaac was responsible for some tornadoes in Illinois. Tornadoes, to me, seem like tiny superfast hurricanes, much more unpredictable, highly destructive though much more limited in scope. So, a tornado could have hit our house in just such a way as to make it collapse and kill us all. I have no idea of the statistical likelihood of such an event. It would be interesting to compare that to the risk involved in, say, driving an automobile on the interstate.

In the end, though, it doesn’t come down to a rational analysis of statistical data. As I talked to people about their various plans to evacuate or not, I found a lot of it had to do with their previous experience. The authorities warn us that every storm is different, yet we can’t help comparing to the last one. Some people had a bad time in the evacuation for Ivan, which experience led them to stay for Katrina. Our Gustav evacuation informed our decision for Isaac.

I’m worried that going forward I’ll have an overly rosy memory of Isaac which will tempt me to stay at some point in the future when I really should go.

And so forth. There’s no escape from second-guessing.

Further Divergence

I’m still thinking about Isaac. My writing hasn’t been able to keep pace.

They say every storm is unique, and certainly Isaac was very different from Katrina. Yet comparisons are inevitable, despite being problematic. One headline put it this way:

Drenched New Orleans passes big post-Katrina test

The US Army Corp of Engineers has done a lot of work since the floods of 2005. In monetary terms, it’s something in the neighborhood of $14 billion. I have no idea how many hours of human labor that represents. I still believe we should aim for a higher level of protection. We should build not for a so-called hundred year storm, but for 10,000 year storm, as the Dutch do. But that’s a separate gripe. One story coming out of Isaac is that the work the Corps has actually been tasked with appears to be effective. New Orleans was not flooded by Isaac’s surge.

But immediately outside of these federal flood protection structures, communities did flood. Braithwaite. LaPlace. Slidell. Lots of homes under water. (If you want to help the people who were flooded, please consider making a donation to Beacon of Hope.) A key question is, did our flood protection cause or exacerbate flooding elsewhere? It will take a while for that analysis. But if the answer comes back yes — if the system that keeps my home dry floods someone else’s home — what then, I wonder?

We Are OK

Hurricane Aftermath Party

So the storm came and lingered. Like us, Isaac dithered. Someone described him as the drunk Louisiana uncle who crashes on your couch when you were really thinking the party was over. Eventually he left.

We weathered the storm with no damage. Bit of a leak in the ceiling of our kitchen addition, but nothing to speak of. We lost power, and I’ll write more about that later.

Right now I wanted to take a moment to say thanks to all who held us in their thoughts over the past week, and to the friends who offered up their homes to harbor us. I want to let you know we’re alright.

Addendum: I don’t mean to speak for anyone else. It bears remembering that over a hundred thousand people are still without power. Also, a bunch of towns were flooded by Isaac. When you’re home is underwater, things are generally not “OK.”

The Evacuation That Wasn’t

So remember how I said we were heading out — buggin’ — evacuating?

That didn’t happen.

We were planning to go, but the hurricane parties here were just too good to resist.

Ride the Storm Out

Actually the real reason is that our anticipated path was looking worse and worse for a return drive. Of course we could have gone west, or east, but straight north was where we wanted to go, and that wasn’t looking very smart. Personally I was inclined to stay here anyhow. Xy was vacillating, changing her mind every twenty minutes or so. Realizing we’d need to drive back through the storm to return home sealed the decision.

Continue reading The Evacuation That Wasn’t

Isaac Calculus

Isaac: Hurricane Force Wind Speed Probabilities - 120 Hours

Isaac cometh. Looks like he’s headed our way for sure. Forecasters say he won’t be superstrong, “only” a Category 1 hurricane when he makes landfall on the anniversary of Katrina. But then forecasters aren’t so adept at predicting hurricane strength. And it’s looking more like we’ll be on the wet side of this storm.

To bug out or hunker down, that’s the question. It’s not always easy to calculate the best course of action. A host of factors come into play, and for each person the calculus is slightly different. When I stated that there were actually many good reasons to stay in place, a friend of mine challenged me to name twenty. An intriguing challenge, but I won’t have time for that now, because our decision has been made.

We’re buggin’. I think we could have ridden this one out. Ultimately, though, our decision was made because of private external factors which I’m not at liberty to divulge. Not trying to be all mysterious, but there are certain things I just can’t put out there for public consumption.

This will be our third evacuation in the thirteen years we’ve lived here. Once for Katrina. Once for Gustav. And now for Isaac.

Sooo…. Catch you on the flip side. Good luck, New Orleans.

The Heat Up North

When I arrived in Bloomington, people were already complaining about the heat. “You must have brought this heat up with you from New Orleans,” they joked.

I wondered what they were talking about, because as far as I could tell the weather was pretty nice. If anything I found it a little chilly, especially in the mornings. By midday it was pretty comfortable. The sun was pretty intense, and not much cloud cover. In fact I got a little sunburnt just about every day.

What I noticed most of all was that the air was so much drier than what I’m used to in New Orleans. I mentioned this to a friend who’d just arrived from Montana. (No, it wasn’t J, it was Ben Murphy — despite what you may think there are more than two people who live in the state of Montana.) He guffawed, because he found Indiana downright humid. So you see, it’s all truly relative.

But all this took place before the Great Midwestern Heat Wave of 2012 began. It started to ramp up on the day I visited my sister and her family. When I returned to Bloomington it was in full effect. Temperatures soared into the 100s. I checked the paper daily (more on daily papers later, meanwhile see Nola Anarcha’s must-read series) and noted that the high in New Orleans was a good ten degrees cooler.

Madness.

And it was dry. So dry. It hadn’t rained in a month. My mom, who grew up on a farm and thus has some empathy for farmers, said the corn crop in Indiana was ruined. Today I read it’s the harshest drought in half a century.

That Friday afternoon, June 29, I rode my borrowed bike across town, maybe twenty minutes, just before 5PM, to meet a friend for cocktails. That was a mistake. I’m used to riding around New Orleans in some heat, but this was something else again. When I arrived at my destination it took a good thirty minutes for the sweat to stop pouring out of my body.

Easy to get dehydrated under those circumstances. I took a water bottle with me everywhere and drank a tremendous amount of water.

Given all the hype about climate change, it’s hard not to jump to conclusions. I know it’s a hasty generalization, but I can’t help wondering where we might be in a hundred years. Will New Orleans be under water, and the Midwest a desert? Fallacious logic, perhaps, but one can’t help speculating. Especially in light of those guys at Stanford who say we’ll have permanently hotter summers in a couple decades.

The following week was amazing, and not just because of the heat. I’ll fill in the details later. For now I just want to note that I was relieved to head back south to cooler climes. Never thought I’d say that. When we got back home, New Orleans had just received a good drenching, and the temperature was in the lower 70s. At 4PM in July? That’s just weird. Since then it’s rained almost every day and I’m seeing fairy rings everywhere.

As I write this now, it’s 85ºF in New Orleans with 48% humidity. Frankly that’s bone-dry for us. In Bloomington it’s 99ºF with 16% humidity.

And the drought goes on…

Tropical Storm Warning

Mix for Lee.

Update: Figured I might as well stick all my related Tropical Storm Lee observations here.

On Friday, as I prepared to ride home through a gentle sprinkle, I was approached by a pair of slightly nervous students. “Are you from around here?” They were not. They wanted to know what to expect from this tropical storm business. I told them it looked like street flooding would be the biggest problem, so prepare to hunker down. You might have some trouble getting from Point A to Point B.

Early Saturday morning we work to wind and rain coming in bands. Persephone was mildly peeved that cartoons were preempted, but I was impressed that the paper arrived. The garbage was collected. The mail was delivered. Our house sprung a couple of minor leaks. But we did not lose power.

By midday we were catching plenty of sunny breaks. I made a run to the grocery. They had wild caught salmon at a great price, but you had to buy the whole fish. I ended up with farm-raised filets. That evening I found myself grilling in a heavy downpour. It’s easy if you lack all common sense.

That night Persephone put on a necklace “because I have to be very pretty for Tropical Lee.” Here’s her forecast:

Today, Sunday, was more of the same. During a break in the weather Persephone and I went for a walk around the ‘hood. We saw lots of downed branches, but they were all very small.

Our street never flooded, and we never lost power, so this whole storm is looking like no big deal for us. (It’s been a very big deal for other people in other places.) That leak in the kitchen is the only real problem. Perhaps insurance will help.

Gin & tonics seem to go pretty well with tropical storms.

As I write this, shortly after sunset Sunday, we’re getting another lashing of rain, but I think the worst has passed.

Subject: New Orleans Streets to Avoid During a Storm

Hot on the heels of my “Streets of New Orleans” mix, I get this e-mail with the subject line, “New Orleans Streets to Avoid During a Storm.” Apparently this was released by the NOPD. I have to say in all my years of living here I’ve never seen such a list.

New Orleans Police Department Public Information Office
Streets in Greater New Orleans Area Prone to Flooding

(September 1, 2011)- The following is a list of streets where residents have reported significant flooding during past storms. Residents are advised to stay at home during the forecasted storm unless an emergency makes it absolutely necessary for them to get on the road.

Calliope @ Claiborne towards Tchoupitoulas St
Calliope & Tchoupitoulas St On-ramps
I-10 and Tulane Exit towards Claiborne
Airline & Tulane Ave intersection
4400 Block of Washington
Washington Ave. near Xavier
All surrounding streets to St. Charles flooded, Gravier/Tulane/S Dupre, S Claiborne/Washington.
Claiborne/Orleans Ave.
S Carrollton/Palmetto
Magazine/St Mary
Broad/Louisiana Ave./S.Claiborne
Josephine/Prytania,
Earhart/Jeff Davis-Carrollton
500 blk of Lake Marina
Canal Blvd/I-10/Navarre
Erato/S Genois/City Park/Carrollton
Washington Ave. near Xavier, Washington
Gravier/Tulane/S Dupre
S Claiborne/Washington
Simon Bolivar & Calliope coming from Loyola Ave under the overpass
Poland Ave from St Claude to N. Claiborne
S. Claiborne at Joseph
Holiday to the Crescent City Connection
Shirley and DeGaulle
DeGaulle under the Westbank Expressway
General Meyer from Pace to Shirley
Richland and General Meyer
MacArthur and Holiday
Tullis
Garden Oaks
Chelsea
Vespasian and Wall

Hmmm. We’re expecting Tropical Depression #13 (to be named a storm any moment now) to dump a bunch of rain on us over the Labor Day weekend, so this is timely information. However, I can think of a couple omissions just off the top of my head: Palmer near Claiborne, Banks near Jesuit.

Rain Punk

So yesterday I was over at Dr. Tim T’s office in the music building, helping the good doctor sort through some video issues. Midway through our session it started to rain, and Dr. T and I both agreed that it was nice to be back in the pattern of afternoon showers here in the summer. Last summer these never materialized and the southeastern states have been in a drought ever since, or so it seems to me.

But soon the rain was really coming down hard and heavy, with thunder and lightning. Then a guy from the film crew shooting upstairs popped in the office and said water was gushing into the recital hall. We ran upstairs and saw indeed that rainwater was pouring down in two places. The way the place is configured it was hard to see exactly how the water was getting in, but we surmised there was roof damage. I called Physical Plant to report the issue.

The rain continued. I made my way back to my own office by dodging from building to building but I still got pretty wet. A couple hours later it was still raining when I rode my bike home. I got wet again, but of course it stopped raining as soon as I got home.

That night, Xy and I watched the third disk in the second season of Treme. We were done at midnight. I stepped outside in my robe and noted some activity at Banks Street Bar, and then I remembered: Creepy Fest! It was kicking off at Banks Street Bar, and I was missing it. I ran back inside, pulled on some shorts and an undershirt, and made my way to the bar just in time to see Nick Name & The Valmonts take the stage with a blistering cover of “C’mon Everybody.” I was drawn right up to the stage and was soon surrounded by a small crowd. Here’s a video of them doing a Sonics cover at another local bar last month.

They played that last night too, and a bunch of others like “Louie Louie” and “Surfin Bird” and “Maybeline” and “Let’s Get Fucked Up,” all in the same intense and incredibly loud amped-up punk rock style. The singer (Nick Name) was wearing a shirt that said “Rock ‘n Fucking Roll” which would seem to sum up their philosophy pretty well. The audience broke into slam dancing at one point, and I hauled my 44-year-old bones out of harm’s way right quick. There was a time when I would have been an avid participant in such shenanigans but I guess those days are gone. Besides which I was still wearing my damn Birks which I use as house slippers. Not exactly prime gear for the mosh pit.

But I loved the show these guys put on, and I was digging the crowd. I saw a young African-American man wearing an Eyehategod cap. I saw passionate and playful public displays of affection amongst beautiful people of the same sex. I saw a mohawk spiked up a good twelve inches. There was a full moon shining outside. I felt that my life was complete.

And I had a brief moment of revelation. I felt there was some deep connection between the scene unfolding around me and the thunderstorm earlier in the day. It was so clear and so interesting I resolved to write it all down.

Now, of course, I can’t remember what I was thinking.

Then The Unnaturals started to play. I guess they wiped my mind clean. From what I can tell they’ve been around for years but I’d never seen them before.

The Unnaturals

Amazing. Mostly instrumental, surfy, amazingly huge sound for a three-piece. I especially liked a grungy bluesy number wherein the barefoot bass player put down her instrument and sang. I liked her bass playing too, but appreciated the change-up. And the sounds coming out of that silver guitar refreshed my soul.

They got done about 2:00 AM.

My ears are still ringing. My soul was not feeling so fresh this morning, but that’s another story.

Later: Now that I’ve had some time to mull it over, I’m prepared to take a guess at the parallel between the rain and the rock, which I glimpsed briefly and then forgot. Perhaps it was this. I felt a comfort at returning to an old familiar pattern. The summer afternoon rainstorm, the late night punk rock show, both are old familiar patterns which I have missed. The rain reminded me of summers past here in New Orleans. The show took me back further in time, and to another place, to Second Story or Uncle Sparky’s basement in Bloomington. I remember one night counting no fewer than sixty people in the crowd whom I knew on a first-name basis. At Banks Street Thursday night, I knew no one — not a soul. Yet the vibe was much the same.

Spring Thaw

Kalix, April 28, 1986 (twenty-five years ago today)

Spring Thaw

Spring Thaw

Spring Thaw

All of a sudden Sweden melted and I found myself in the Garden of Eden. No kidding. Today it got up to +10ºC. There’s still snow on the ground in lots of places, but much of it has melted now. Parched-dry streets streaked with rivulets of flowing water! Mirror-like pools in people’s front yards, reflecting a brilliant sky and an unclouded sun. The wind could be chilly, but you only felt the wind on certain streets or on a certain side of the building. And out of the wind it was warm. I lay down on a park bench and slept. Outside! Unbelievable.

Footnote: 10ºC = 50ºF. I had to look it up, because I’ve forgotten my Celsius just like most of my Swedish. Anders Celsius was a Swede, by the way. He died 267 years ago this Monday.

Long Underwear

Damn, it’s cold today. How cold? I think it may be 32ºF right now. The high is projected to be 44ºF. That’s the high, not the low. That is absurd.

After riding around in the cold too much yesterday, I wised up and pulled on the long underwear this morning. Some people are surprised that long underwear still has a use at our latitude. I know a guy who moved here from Minnesota and threw away all his cold weather gear. Man, did he regret that. He’d never been so cold as he was that winter. Because it does get cold here occasionally. Not always, and not as cold as the Great White North, but cold enough to put a chill in your bones. Cold enough to kill you, if you’re not prepared.

There have been winters where I didn’t need my long underwear even once. Unfortunately this is not one of them.

Of course, I’m more sensitive to the cold than some people. I don’t mean that I chill easily, though I do. I mean that since I mainly get around on a bicycle I’m exposed to the elements more than people who simply go from one climate controlled environment to another.

And, despite my complaints, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think it’s all for the best. In fact, I bundle my girl up and subject her to the elements as well. Here’s a picture from a day that wasn’t even half as cold as today.

Scarfed

You should have seen her today. Warmer coat, warmer hat, only a narrow slit for the eyes. Alas, I didn’t take a picture.

As we ride the bike, we talk about how cold the wind is, but it can’t stop us. Why? Because we’re tough. Nothing can stop us. And then we sing a round of “Frozen Ones.”

Yes, New Orleans has a winter. Visitors who come in the warm months have trouble believing this, but it’s true. We live in the subtropics here. The very definition of subtropical is that we still have a winter, no matter if it’s mild.

At this time of year I almost always begin to yearn for the true tropics, to escape winter forever. I’d like to at least visit. I start reading about places like Dominica and browsing travel sites. Highs in Dominica are in the 80s this week, with plenty of rain. I always thought getting to the Caribbean would be easier from New Orleans, but there aren’t any direct flights that I know of.

So anyway, I’m staying here for now. I hear we may get back into some more reasonable temps in time for my birthday. I’m pulling for the 70s.

Eclipse + Solstice

An interesting pair of celestial events is in the offing. In addition to the solstice (Tuesday 5:38PM central) there’s a full lunar eclipse which should be visible in North America all night after midnight tonight — weather permitting. Unfortunately, here in New Orleans we’ve got a good chance of cloud cover all night. But it’s the first full lunar eclipse in three years, and the first coincidence with the solstice in something like half a millennium.

Phases of the Moon

Persephone is very much into the moon. It’s one of those aspects of the natural world we can appreciate even though we’re in the city. She knows all the phases, more or less, and considers the moon her sister. I’ve explained to her the concept of an eclipse, though I’m not sure she understood. So, if the weather cooperates, and if the eclipsed moon looks interesting enough, I may rouse her out of be in the middle of the night to take a peek.

Partial eclipse starts at 12:32 AM (Central Time), with the total eclipse beginning at 1:41 AM. The total eclipse will last 72 minutes, until 2:53 AM. Or so I extrapolate.

Frigophobia

It’s been cold in New Orleans lately. The last two nights we’ve had freeze warnings. I don’t think it actually froze, though.

Fortunately the new insulation under our house seems to be making a huge difference in terms of our general comfort level. The energy savings remain to be seen.

I still find cold weather a challenge. My body seems to be deeply offended by any temperature below 70ºF. I’m not really comfortable until we hit 75 or 80º. It looks like we’ll get close to such temperatures again in a couple days, but right now it’s just hitting 40º and it was much colder on the morning bike ride — especially factoring the wind.

When venturing out in the morning, I gird myself my remembering that a) I come from hardy Norwegian stock, and b) I lived for a year by the arctic circle. I even have a photo to prove the latter.

Polcirkeln

It doesn’t look too arctic in that picture, but it was taken in August.

But back to cold mornings here and now: I bundle Persephone up thoroughly, with coat, hood, mittens and a scarf over her face to protect her tender cheeks from windburn. She’s only got a few minutes on the bike, though; I have a longer ride after dropping her off. It’s really not too bad until I turn off Jeff Davis onto Drexel Drive. That’s always the windiest part of my ride. Not sure why. Maybe the Washington Avenue Canal has something to do with it.

And yet I really don’t mind a cold and windy bike ride. It’s a brief ordeal. I dress appropriately, and I get through it. I’m active and moving the whole time.

No, it’s the sedentary parts of my day that are more of a challenge. When I get into my office my body temperature is usually elevated from the exertion, such that I can’t tell how cold it really is. This morning the thermometer told me it was 61º in here. After an hour or so, my body temperature subsides to its normal level and I really start feeling the cold in my fingers.

I’ve never understood why I have a tendency to sweat when I’m cold, but it certainly adds to the general unpleasantness. Some basic net searches turn up plenty of info about people who sweat in all climates, but that’s not me. I don’t sweat excessively in the heat. It’s only in cold weather that this bothers me, in particular when my feet sweat. Anyone with cold, wet feet is truly miserable. My fingers are cold to the bone. No, I don’t have Raynaud’s. They are just uncomfortably cold, not discolored or painful. And my palms are sweating. What the hell is going on?

When I mentioned this to my podiatrist last week, he made a remark about it being a “sympathetic reaction.” That phrase led me to this:

Also sweating responds to your emotional state. So when you are nervous, anxious or afraid, there is an increase in sympathetic nerve activity in your body as well as an increase in epinephrine secretion from your adrenal gland. These substances act on your sweat glands, particularly those on your palms of your hand and your armpits, to make sweat. Thus, you feel a “cold” sweat.

This would seem to bear out a long-held suspicion of mine — that I’m sweating because of anxiety about the cold. In other words, it’s psychological.

In fact, the name of my second, abortive blogging attempt from way back in April 2003 (a good year before I started this one) says it all: Frigophobia.

The universe is basically a cold place. Heat is a mysterious aberration. No one really knows where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that it is slowly going away. The universe is cooling, and in time it will chill out completely.

This morning it was around 60º F when I left the house. I was wearing a light sweater, a shirt, and an undershirt. After a ten minute bike ride to get to work, my hands were still like ice.

The air conditioning is out of control in my office. It’s so cold we all have to wear sweaters. We all run space heaters in our offices to offset the air conditioning, which cannot be turned off or adjusted by us directly.

I’ve been reading about Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Raynaud’s Disease. Many people have suggested that I might suffer from this, but years ago a doctor told me I didn’t. I’m inclined to trust her diagnosis. The coldness of my hands and feet does not come in the form of attacks. My fingers do not discolor. I do not experience pain.

I don’t have Raynaud’s. I just have cold hands.

My hands are cold. My feet are also cold, sometimes colder than my hands, sometimes warmer. The rest of me is fine.

I used to worry about my “core temperature” dropping. But it is very unlikely that my core temperature has anything to do with it. Indeed, the ability of the human body to maintain the same basic core temperature for many decades is a marvel. I’m not going to freeze solid and die anytime soon.

Two concerns dominate the thoughts of one who fears cold, besides the obvious factor of temperature; these twin concerns are: Moisture and Insulation.

Nothing is eternal. Even the idea of eternity is a fraud. Time is only temporary. The universe is ending, slowly, dying the Cold Death.

Calling it a phobia is probably overly dramatic. But it seems possible that my sweating is caused by anxiety. I wonder where that came from? What’s the root of this anxiety? Perhaps that year up by the Arctic Circle has something to do with it. It was a fairly grim time in my life. In any event, I wonder if I could overcome the anxiety and be more comfortable. It seems plausible but I’m not sure where to start.

Cold Front

Another cold front passed through our area this weekend. On Saturday it was unseasonably warm, on Sunday unseasonably cold, and all day long Sunday I felt out of sorts — not quite right — like my body was out of tune. Nothing severe, but a tiny headache, a touch of fatigue, a slightly upset stomach, general irritability and uneasiness. It adds up.

I found reference to this in an article by Jon Wright.

Perhaps the most stressful weather condition is the passing of cold and warm fronts. A cold front coming through your “neck of the woods” means more than just a drop in temperature. It also means complex changes in the barometric pressure, wind direction, humidity, and even pollutants that may be carried into a forecast area. All of these changes affect our bodies, our endocrine systems, our nervous systems, and our cardiovascular systems.

I do not like cold fronts. I generally don’t enjoy cold weather, period, but as noted above the passing of a cold front entails so much more than that. I swear I feel the drop in pressure deep inside my gut. I’m wondering what I can do to offset these feelings when the next one comes through. Do I need to stock up on calcium, phosphates, sodium, magnesium? Should I regulate my blood-sugar? I wonder if my hypothalamus and pituitary gland are out of whack, and if so what I can do to promote their function.

At least this was a dry front. I really don’t enjoy those cold fronts that drive storms before them. I would like to learn to relish such events instead of dreading them.

Meanwhile we are bracing for the coldest weather of the season so far overnight. We might even see some frost. We’ll be putting our new insulation to the test. I think I noticed a big improvement this morning, in terms of the air temperature underfoot. But the morning bike ride was tough.

Concrete Equinox

Our equinox celebration was a little chaotic, because the guys who are re-doing our driveway showed up somewhat unexpectedly to pour concrete.

Nevertheless, we persevered. We had a few friends and neighbors over. I invented a simple cocktail of champagne, Sence rose nectar and wild hibiscus flowers in syrup. The flavor was probably more appropriate for the vernal equinox, but hey — these were the items I had on hand from Tales of the Cocktail. So I just pretended we were in the southern hemisphere.

(I almost forgot to mention that this was the end of my alcohol-fast, which began after Lammas, roughly. I called it a “sobriety binge.” This was not my first such venture nor my last, I’m sure; it seems like a good idea to give my liver a break from time to time; in this case I was motivated by a concern that my tolerance was getting too high. But a doctor I visited recently seemed to interpret this bout of abstinence as a danger sign. Me, I always thought the danger was when a person can’t stop drinking.)

I’ve taken note of the equinox for years, and often yearned to celebrate it, but I think this may be the first time I’ve actually done so. It felt good. I even made a little demonstration for the kids. Gauge held the flashlight while I tilted the globe back and forth. But through the general chaos I’m not sure anyone actually absorbed the concept.

Meanwhile the guys outside were pouring concrete until well after dark. I raised a toast to them, but they didn’t notice me over the roar of the cement mixer.

I also discovered my own sister has no idea what an equinox or solstice is. I will have to give her an astronomy lesson next time I visit.

Another circle of friend gathered at the Fly and improvised a ritual with “marching drums for music and some cut wild flowers to toss into the river,” which sounded cool.

In addition to the equinox, it was also the first night of Sukkot (חג שמח!) and the Harvest Moon. A festive time by several measures.

So how did you celebrate?

I will write more about the whole driveway odyssey once the project is finished.

Back to School

Instead of strengthening into a named storm, Tropical Depression #5 petered out and dissipated into nothing but a bunch of rainy weather. If it had played out differently, school might have been cancelled, but as it was today was the first day of classes at Xy’s new school.

Back to School

Yes, she’s teaching again, as I mentioned a couple months ago. Since then I’ve been joking that she needs to plan on working there for at least ten years. But it’s not really a joke; I hope she finds a measure of satisfaction and (dare I say it) peace in this position.

As long as I’m wishing, I’ll extend that to all teachers everywhere.

Some schools did indeed close today, including Persephone’s new daycare, a fact which I did not discover until I got there and found the place locked up and deserted. But “Dada’s school” is open so it’s an impromptu “Take Your Daughter to Work” day for me. It’s pretty quiet here, as summer sessions are over and the fall semester has not yet begun.