Slab of gloom, dash of doom

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Blech. After spouting off about how much I love January, it’s now time to turn over the coin.

What’s bad about winter in Michigan? Days like today. Gray. Wet. Not cold but not warm. No snow. In the hierarchy of Michigan weather, this ranks at the very bottom for me. I’ll take a blizzard over this. I’ll take a tornado.

This is three-day-old leftover meatloaf weather. It’s cheesy ’70s love ballad weather. It’s pilled rayon stretched-out brown sweater weather.No amount of coffee and chocolate can compensate for days such as these, when the air temperature is warm enough to melt the snow — the shiny white frosting that covers the fetid cake beneath: a marbled mix of frozen earth, sodden trash and melting dog crap on a bed of dead grass and salt-stained concrete. Yummy.

In spite of this negative report, I unfolded the stroller and hit the pavement, desperate to brighten this dull day. What I observed along the path: Not many others out today, only the diehard joggers and students (I live by a school); a crew to rival that of “Extreme Home Makeover” quickly replacing a home roof, along with some frenzied carpet cleaners guiding a humming vacuum hose through the front door while appliance store workers wheel washer, dryer, refrigerator and stove through a side door. Can someone say insurance claim?

I observed copious amounts of dog poop and local fast-food restaurant trash all over lawns and sidewalks — I guess folks just get lazy in the colder months, counting on Mother Nature to cover up their sins; tattered, faded evergreen garland still clinging to porch rails and gutters no longer looks pretty, time to remove signs of Christmas; and even the nicest lots with the best landscaping looks forlorn in this light.

Moods are down. I met a woman today visiting from out west to care for her daughter, who just gave birth.

I don’t know how anyone can live here, she says to me. It’s awful. No wonder so many people here are depressed. I can’t wait to get back home.

Thanks, lady. That means a lot to those of us trapped here.

I wanted to defend this area, point out how we are tough, we can handle it, how there’s a good side to all this.

But who am I kidding? Based on the phone conversations I’ve had in the past week, everyone I know is either contemplating suicide, going to the tanning bed to combat SAD, drinking heavily, or packing for a Caribbean cruise.We aren’t tough, we just cope with whatever works to fend off the gloom and doom. So, if you don’t mind, I’m going to put on my polyester sweater, heat up the meatloaf and listen to some Debby Boone.

What's good about January

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Notice the lack of punctuation? What is good about January is not a question. (Winter haters out there, I hear you.) It’s a statement. Supported by pictures.

When January warms up a bit it’s the most gorgeous time to stroll the local zoological park, which is what I did with Girl from the East. First stop, the polar bear exhibit. I feel bad for these arctic animals when I see them┬ápanting in the July heat. But this is closer to their element.
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On this clear, crisp afternoon, we had the park to ourselves. Just a handful of us diehards, bundled up against the almost 60-degree weather we had a few weeks back.┬áNo lines or crowds to dodge. The indoor exhibits were so quiet we could hear the hay crunching in the giraffe’s mouth as it ate.
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And the reward? A visit on the way out to the indoor garden, butterfly house and aviary. I won’t set foot in this place in the summer.

Crabby McCrab Crab

Ugh. If my life were a meal right now, it would be a big bowl of soured milk.

Our whole routine is off, way off. Many things happened in the last month that messed up my well-oiled machine. Among other things, the Chinese classes have been put on hiatus, and the cost of going to the community center doubled, making the choice to stay in the right one for now.

Furthermore, Little Miss has issues with wearing hat, gloves, boots and coat and it’s been nothing but dangerously cold outside. Lately, I’ve opted to stay in rather than fight that battle two three times in one afternoon. On most days out of the house, I’m pelted with a boot or a shoe at least once while driving. If I turn around, I’m greeting with Little Miss’s Chesire grin, socks pulled off feet and slipped on hands that won’t accept gloves, and bare toes wiggling.

While it’s hilarious to read about, it’s really very unfunny the third time you re-dress your toddler inside a marginally warm vehicle in a windswept parking lot. All these distractions amounted to a very expensive moving violation ticket issued to me recently. It’s based on something so asinine I can only gather it was drafted as an easy way for the city to make quick revenue. And I’m too embarrased to fight it.

So inside we sit, gazing out at the sparkling snow, the birds flitting from bush to feeder and back, the few brave souls out walking. Girl from the East has been cranky and difficult all week, due to, I’m sure, a lack of exposure to her peers and sufficient intellectual stimulation.

What does that do to me? Right now it’s a personal mental challenge to stay focused, stay positive and stay busy. I’ve been up to my elbows in long-postponed home repairs: recaulking the bathroom shower stall and tub, repainting water-damaged areas of the walls, paperwork, and more projects too boring to recount.

Seriously, if caulk is at the top of the list . . .

Life without TV

So, the writer’s strike presses on. Not only are this season’s shows jeopordized, but now it sounds like next season could be canned as well. Award shows are all facts, minus the glitz and glamor of the red carpet. Late-night talk show hosts are forced to wing it. What’s left? Reality shows. Ugh.

Does anyone care? As a former writer and member of a writer’s guild, I sympathize with the basic concept of the striking workers. If you don’t make a united stand now against the networks, while you have the strength, you never will be able to in the future. The trade union to which I once belonged is a largely deflated balloon, having lost most of its money and its might during a crippling strike in the 1990s. I know a little about the giving of the workers and the mostly taking of the big companies. The result, an erosion in quality. Case in point here: reality TV.

Funny. In doing some research on this, I read that the last writer’s strike in 1988 lasted longer than the current one. I don’t even remember. That’s because I don’t really watch TV much. Not then. Not now.
Except “LOST”, which hasn’t aired a new show since May 2007 and if we fans are lucky, maybe a handful this year. I watch about 1-1/2 hours of reruns (“Everybody Loves Raymond,” “Sex and the City,” “Simpsons”) nightly as I exercise in my basement. It’s just what’s on and gets the best reception. Otherwise the TV is off and books are open or games are played or I’m just doing something that’s not TV. So, I don’t care much. Even about “LOST.”
Which even shocks me.

One year later

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Still stuck on Christmas. It’s 60 something degrees outside (highly unusual for this region and time of year) and I still have all my decorations up. No. I’m not one of those who keeps it up until Easter eggs can be hidden in it.

Just marveling at how much our little miss has blossomed in the last year.