Category Archives: TV Shows

Unblinded by Science

This weekend was Earth Day and also the March for Science around the country. My friend Mike and I went to the march in Boston, which was transformed into a rally for safety reasons. That might sound suspect, as plenty of other big cities managed to have marches without mishap, but Boston is so chock full of hospitals, universities, and businesses engaged in scientific research of all kinds that marching around is probably fairly redundant. We just gathered at the Boston Common and swept our arms in a broad circle to call out the all the science going on around us.

You might ask, what is a one-time failed biology major doing at a science rally? A one-time bio major who eventually accepted herself and became a word girl, that is. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to mid-life. My ex is a nurse, I have science and math kid, and I work in communications at a hospital. And while my kid can render me inert by flashing his calculus notebook with derivatives, slopes, and tangents, I have come to appreciate the importance of science and math. I have also come to appreciate all the people who do it much better than I do and actually enjoy it, leaving me to play in my word sand box. So, thanks for that. Also, thanks for creating all of the vaccines that prevent small pox, chicken pox, and all the other poxes Shakespeare liked to insult people with. Not having to battle preventable, contagious, deadly diseases leaves more time for my writing and yoga and, you know, that crazy thing called living.

At the rally, school kids from across New England who had won an essay writing contest read their work, and they were all about cleaning the air and the water and needing science to find cures and look for other planets we could live on — clearly these kids aren’t betting on us to fix this in time. I can’t say I blame them; they are way savvier than we were at that age. When we were in school, we used stone tablets, ate bark off of trees, and called this Earth stuff ecology. Remember this symbol?


I have clear memories of coloring this on many purple-inked mimeographed handouts, oops, I mean stone tablets. I also remember the message being simpler; mostly it seemed to involve not littering. I drew a lot of pristine landscapes with full trash cans, and I picked up a fair amount of litter; although back then it was mostly soda cans and paper bags. But the general idea has stayed with me all these years, even though I didn’t even like science for a good number of them. That’s what education is supposed to do, so how come it hasn’t sunk in for some people? I’m talking to you, Cheeto Flea and your minions. Maybe a little more coloring in Cheeto’s youth might have helped us out here. Or we can just stick a Crayon in his eye now.

If science teaches us anything it’s that evolution is not always a progressive process, so here we are some 40 years later having to explain why science and the environment are worth protecting. I get that there is a lot more we should do — we need more social justice-informed funding; we need to figure out how to make the cures we do find more affordable to everyone who needs it; we need to make the information about science discoveries more accessible to everyone and be able to say why it matters. Science is a long game of patience and persistence, which is kind of a drag in our very impatient society. After discovering penicillin in a failed bacteria experiment, it took another 10 years before it was actually usable as a treatment. Many discoveries take longer than that.

So, yeah, science needs some defenders, and that’s why I was so excited to see another part of my childhood at the march, Beaker, from The Muppet Show who is the long-suffering assistant of Dr. Bunsen Honeydew. I know Beaker is a true man of science because only a scientist would have the patience to get waylaid by a grinning middle-aged women who busted in just after a kid got his picture with him. OK, maybe he was a little scared too, but the point is we all have something to contribute — as users of science, practitioners of science, or fictional characters based on science. Eyes wide open, we’re watching.



I Miss the Bermuda Triangle

What ever happened to the Bermuda Triangle? Growing up in the 70s and 80s, it was everywhere, and as a kid I couldn’t get enough of it. If it wasn’t being featured on the premiere 80s mystery show “In Search Of,” (by the way narrated by Leonard Nimoy), it was the topic of some Sunday night television special. We were dazzled with unexplained ship and airplane disappearances. One minute planes and ships were innocently flying through the airspace off the coast of Florida, and the next minute *BAM*! They went off the radar and were never heard from again. And of course there was never any evidence of wreckage or survivors in life boats. Believe me, before people got to see all kinds of crazy stuff on the internet, this was freaky.

For an 8th grade school project, I read the bestseller Bermuda Triangle, by Charles Berlitz. As part of the project, I wrote him a letter — hand-written in my best cursive and mailed in care of the publisher. How quaint, I know. He responded with a typed letter, hand signed. A real writer wrote me back! I think I asked him about his research, and as I was an aspiring writer, how to write a whole book on one subject, or some such star-struck nonsense.

I wished I’d kept the letter, especially to revisit the “research” part. The other day I went out to dinner with my friends Chris, Joe, and Mike — named in alpha order so there are no favorites (except you all are my favorites, I promise!) — and in “Sex and the City,” fashion, I boldly asked, “Whatever happened to the Bermuda Triangle?” I thought maybe it had fallen out of pop culture favor, what with those Kardashians and the celebrity-of-the-week seen prancing around on the beach in a bikini distracting people from really important pop culture topics like the Bermuda Triangle. But, sadly, no. Seems it’s been explained! Countless hours of video and film, thousands of pages devoted to this amazing mystery. Explained.

I was crushed.

Chris said that some sort of ocean gas had been determined to be the culprit. At least I think that’s what he said. I was taking solace in an excellent glass of red wine. But I couldn’t accept that as the final decision, and so I went to Wikipedia, and while I was grateful that there was even an entry, what I found there was even worse. There were a whole bunch of reasons debunking my beloved Bermuda Triangle, including that the *ahem* research was rather spotty for many of the books written about it. Charles, how could you! The authors seemed to leave out crucial details, such as when you look at the data, ships and planes disappear equally from all parts of the ocean. Turns out it’s big, empty, and likes to kick puny human ass with ginormous storms, and yes, there are those gas thingys Chris mentioned. All of which amounts to accepting that my childhood fascination is less significant that the Kardashians. And that’s a bitter pill to swallow.

But I’ve learned a thing or two about the internet. All I need is a new, unexplained disappearance, and then I can use social media to let everyone know.  I can reach a whole new audience who has never heard about the Bermuda Triangle, and all I need is one baseless, yet authoritative assertion to get the ball rolling. Maybe I can contact Charles Berlitz with a ouija board. I just can’t let it go without fight.

Well maybe I can. As the night went on, Joe decided if I had a pseudonym, it should be Sexy Pants La Rue. That’s how awesome my friends are; we can cover the waterfront of engaging topics. So if I can’t get the Bermuda Triangle back on the map, at least I have a cool pseudonym. Take that Kim.


The Re-Flex Flex Flex

My friends and I have many fond memories and bonding moments over Duran Duran, that fabulously stylish 80s band that saved MTV from the early years of music videos. This was a bleak, dark time when videos were new, and music producers would cover a set with shiny plastic or satin sheets or whatever they could find hanging around the office, throw the band in, with or without their instruments, and say, “Go!” (I’m talking to you Flock of Seagulls in “I Ran” and Billy Squier in “Rock Me Tonight.”) Duran Duran changed that by being stylishly dressed, good-looking, and creating lush visuals that were like mini indie movies. They may not have made any sense, but they were wicked fun to watch.

My dancing friend Mike and I share a particular fondness for the song “The Reflex,” and the video is part concert footage, part classic Duran Duran arty presentation, and part animated waterfall crashing over the audience. This is ground breaking stuff, people. One scene in particular captured our imaginations, and we revere it to this day. In my highly reliable memory, the video pans on a guy dancing way up in the nose-bleed seats and he has this fantastic bouncy move — legs and arms completely match the beat of the song. This is no shot of screaming fans generically bouncing up-and-down with hands in the air. Oh, no, this guy has the moves. Mike and I always copy that move whenever we are dancing to the song, we always mention him when we hear that song, and heck, we talk about him randomly even without the song. It’s not an overstatement to say he’s our video dancing hero.

So one day after yet another reference to The Reflex Dancing Guy, I had a hankering to once again see him in action. I watched the video breathless, waiting for him. At first I was swept up in the rush of 80s fabulousness as Mssr. Simon Le Bon crooned, swaggered, tossed his 80s hairdo around, and pranced about the stage. The arty flashing of random images of light and shadow on profiles and naked torsos, the sparkling, in-sync dancing back-up singers, the double screen shots — all food for the 80s soul. My god, they were music video geniuses. But after about a minute, I slowly came to my senses. Where was Dancing Guy? I looked harder as my heart rate elevated. More Simon with closeups of his beautiful face and pouty lips and his wicked cool hoop earring. Left ear only, which all the cool people knew meant he was straight.

I started breaking out in a sweat. Had I imagined Dancing Guy? In my mind he took up a quarter of the video or at least was shown two or three times; I mean, he’s got those moves. Where the hell was he? Finally, there he was at time stamp 1:31, and whoops there he went by 1:32. If I had looked at a text message, I would have missed my glorious hero.

Huh. He must come back again, I thought.

But no, The Reflex Dancing Guy got only his 1.5 seconds of fame. Don’t get me wrong. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of the three minutes of this delicious slice of 80s, including the girl who lifts her head from her hands with tears streaming down her cheeks. This is the real deal my friends. All videos that followed have Duran Duran to thank, and I can say that because I was forced to watch the pre-Duran Duran Buggles singing “Video Killed the Radio Star,” a hundred times.

But I have to admit that if I were watching the video today, I might have missed The Reflex Dancing Guy who changed my life. I can only surmise that my deep love for Duran Duran and MTV’s merciless rotation allowed me to see this guy enough times for him to become my fantastic dancing icon. So, thank you, Dancing Guy. I can only hope to inspire anything similar in anyone for any amount of time.


Dirty Laundry

It’s been one of those weeks where work suddenly went from 100 to 1,000 and none of us could figure out if we were just recovering more slowly than usual from the post-Thanksgiving food coma or if work really had picked up exponentially. I found myself constantly chanting calming mantras more in the style of George’s “Serenity now!” in Seinfeld than like a person attempting to access her higher self. My Higher Self does seem to go off to a mountaintop and leave me when the going gets tough. Witch. And even though Higher Self had abandoned me, I was still trying to be good and not manage stress with cheese, chocolate, and wine, my weapons of choice. As an alternative, after work I was looking forward to seeing a friend who makes me laugh–the perfect antidote to work stress, right?

Then he had to cancel. Uh oh. My wafer thin determination to do the right thing melted faster than a communion host in a guilty Catholic’s mouth.

Right. On to the grocery and liquor stores.

I secured them without mishap and headed home not feeling nearly as guilty as I should have, but the universe wasn’t quite done with me yet. As I pulled into my driveway, my headlights illuminated a carpet runner hanging from my upstairs neighbor’s balcony, which, by the way, had been greeting me all week. This time there were also three additional piles of throw rugs clustered around my front door.

Serenity now!

You see, the laundry situation started this summer. Laundry was hung out on the balcony nearly every day, all summer long. Just on the railings, mind you, not on a clothes line or racks which would actually keep them, you know, near your house. So all summer long I pulled into my driveway to see various towels, socks, jeans, men’s underwear (yes, lucky me) on the ground huddled around my door as if they were trying to escape the neighbors. I can’t say I blame them. I came face-to-face with one of the glassy-eyed residents of Laundry Fetish Central and realized I wasn’t dealing with your garden variety annoying neighbor. She came out on the stoop, looked around blankly, and then stared at me as I retrieved my mail. She didn’t speak.

“Yes?” I asked.

“Oh. I thought you were the visiting nurse,” she answered slowly, even though there were no cars anywhere in sight on the street. No cars except for my car. In the driveway. Where I park it. Every day.

Then as I was walking to my door with mail in hand, she swiveled her head slowly to the mailboxes. “Oh, did the mail come?” So many ways to answer that, but I decided walking away was best. Not that she even noticed.

All summer I was tempted to leave the laundry where it fell, but they seemed to forget it was out there, and, anyway,was the one who would look like white trash with laundry peppering my walkway. So sometimes I threw it back up on their deck, and sometimes I hung it on the railing to their front door. Neither way stemmed the laundry tide.

I figured I just needed to hang on until the weather got cold, but they just seemed to shift from clothes to rugs. The long one in the picture above has been there all week and has been rained on twice. As much as I try to imagine it is a royal banner to welcome me home to my castle after a day out riding on a beautiful steed (serenity now!), I can’t quite get past the big stain and the 80s colors. My friends and I have been trying to figure out what’s really going on. Is this really a laundry fetish or something else? Do they “take in laundry” like a depression-era housewife trying to make ends meet? Is that even a thing anymore, “taking in laundry”? This summer I did see one guy in front of the house taking laundry from the house and then folding it in his car. Is it a drug-induced obsession or are drugs so cheap you can use them to pay for laundry? Is it a literal laundering scheme, like they distribute drugs in pockets of cleaned and folded pants and shirts? Dang, I should have checked those pockets this summer.

Because we watch too much TV, we were convinced we were on to some novel trend of people on drugs doing laundry for nefarious purposes, so I Googled “drugs and laundry.” But as you’d expect, the references were primarily more of the pedestrian metaphor variety. What a disappointment. Still we think there’s more to this than a laundry fetish. I mean, who does that much laundry without a dryer?

Or it could be just the universe messing with me and poking me like the Annoying Orange–Hey! How about some work stress? Hey! How about a friend canceling? Hey! How about some more freakish laundry? Higher Self finally showed up and joined me in the car, and as I stared at new piles around my door, I realized the only thing I could do was laugh–heartily at myself.

As stressful as my week at work was, it was because the actual work seemed to pile up. It was not like that job I had a number of years ago when I worked for a woman we referred to as the dementor. I will see my friend again at some point and laugh, and as weird as Laundry Fetish Central is, I’ve had worse neighbors.

Plus, it’s bound to snow soon, and then the rugs will get covered up like a real laundering scheme. Now that’s some serenity.


Hey Slim, Can you Spare a Seam?

Hey, fans, I have a mild case of tendinitis, so I’m reposting one of my first posts, from way back in 2014. Remember those crazy days? Neither do I. I’m good if I don’t wear the same thing twice in a week. I think this one still works–don’t let me know if it doesn’t.

I swore to myself I wouldn’t do it. I wouldn’t become one of those middle-aged people who starts making suck-in-breath-I’m-shocked comments about what the young ones wear. I came of age in the 80s and was partial to the punk look, so who am I to judge? Safety pins in the skin, ripped leather pants, ripped everything, really. And so I drolly viewed the bare midriff shirts, the strapless tops, bra straps where no straps should be, Ugg boots with everything. I even was able to overlook the trend of pairing a regular-length top with leggings that were see-through, giving more an impression of hosiery rather than pants. Really, what’s the difference between ripping your pants to strategically reveal parts of your body and thinly veiling the lot with hosiery, er, I mean leggings? So there I was, smugly walking about with my superior acceptance, when I got blind-sided by the men’s slim-fit fashion suit. At first there were too few to register. But then I went to social media conference, they were out in full force. It might as well have been a men’s slim fit fashion suit conference. Complete with the big, black, thick-rimmed glasses and hair lightly gelled to spikey perfection, they were earnestly standing in small groups tapping on their phones and iPads and tweeting and posting. When I returned home, the slim suits, like a new word I’d just learned, were everywhere. Which is pretty astonishing when you consider only a small number of men can actually wear them and look good. All it took was one to send me teetering into middle-aged frumpiness.

I told my friends in groups about this horrible fashion turn, these suits. The ones who knew about them helped explain to the ones who didn’t, and everyone looked at me blankly when I got to the suck-in-my-breath part. Dang. So it wasn’t a mid-life thing. Or, rather it was something far more insidious—a mid-life thing masquerading as a high school thing. The suits were the cool crowd, and I was, once again being left out. Even worse, this was cool fashion with a geeky twist. Being a smart girl in my high school was the kiss of death, but useful as an adult. As I fumbled with my Twitter account among these slick slims, I was even robbed of the smart label. But there was something else. I’d become immune to women’s fashion because it changes all the time. But men’s fashion, especially office attire, rarely does. With all the new technology and constant information to keep track of, I’d come to depend on the fact that other than the ties getting wider or slimmer and the jackets styles varying slightly, men’s fashions were something I didn’t have to think about. But suddenly here was an entire new look that brought me right back to that high school awkwardness. So there I was settling into a good dose of frump, when “Modern Family” had their geeky, earnest dad character Phil, buy a new slim suit to look nice for his wife who was under a lot of stress. He spent most of the episode not being able to move or bend and she didn’t even notice except that his suit was too small. In the end, of course he splits the seams and bursts out of the thing. It was quite vindicating. I had noticed something that a top-rated, pop-culture commenting TV show had noticed. I can’t be all that frumpy. Now if they would just do a show on the see-through leggings.

Guardian of Harlan Ellison’s Coat

I had one of those weeks at work where everyone was stressed and tasks that should have been easy were impossible. Here’s a helpful tip: if you are looking for an engraving company that will put a nice looking plaque on a block of metal of a specific size and only have a few weeks to do it, choose another kind of label. Just sayin’. As my coworkers and I were working frantically on the alternate labeling option, I was transported back to another task that should have been easy and wasn’t. (Cue the “Wayne’s World” wavy hand thing that indicates a trip to the past.)

In the 90s I worked at the Boston Center for Adult Education and we had an annual writing festival. It was always a difficult task trying to find a headliner big name writer who we could afford. One year we totally lucked out with John Irving, and had been having a hard time matching that success. Trying to think outside the box, we decided on Harlan Ellison. Some of you will know his name—if you’re a hard core fan of science fiction or of the original Star Trek. Harlan wrote one of Star Trek’s best episodes, “City on the Edge of Forever.” Non sci fi fans may know that episode because a gorgeous young Joan Collins was the guest star.

Writers, like rock stars, can come in all kinds of temperaments, and so we weren’t sure what to expect. The year before I started working there, they had landed Kurt Vonnegut and I was still traumatized by the stories of how difficult he was. John Irving was much nicer, and just as detail oriented in person as he is in his fiction. We had a discussion about the very old, defunct alarms on the windows of the room he was waiting in before his talk. The center was housed in a former mansion built in the early 1900s. “Must have been one of the first home alarm systems,” he mused, eyeing it intently.

Harlan Ellison was no household name, so I expected a humble, nerdy, sci fi guy. What we got was a big ego who blew into the center unannounced on the afternoon of his talk and started issuing orders to us about what he wanted, where, and when. The phrase, “You’re not famous enough to be this bossy” came to mind. Then he thrust his jacket at me and told me to get it pressed for the talk at 7pm. He instructed me to make sure the sleeves were “rolled,” not pressed, and before I could even scrape together my feminist dignity and regally refuse, he blew back out the door.

Great. After a quick huddle with my coworkers about my best shot at getting this done, I set off to find a dry cleaners. There were easily half a dozen within walking distance of the center, so I wasn’t too worried. I was more annoyed than anything and wished he could have asked for a bowl of M&Ms with the green ones picked out. However, it soon became clear that I wasn’t getting that jacket pressed. One after another the dry cleaners looked at me blankly and said the presses were all shut down. Apparently it was common knowledge to all but me and my coworkers that one doesn’t get clothes pressed after 12 noon. How awkward and uncivilized of us to ask! Each dry cleaner sent me to the next: “Well, we don’t do it, but Charlie’s down the street might still have his press on.” They knew damn well Charlie was sitting there, presses off, scarfing up coffee and cookies, but they had some sort of code, and I was obliged to cover a six block square area with a crumpled jacket for naught.

Then I tried his hotel. Of course they use the same dry cleaners, so the answer was the same, with the additional tease of, “Well, one of the maids might be able to iron it by hand…” Briefly raised hopes “….but we couldn’t take responsibility if anything happened to the jacket…” were dramatically smashed. And what a jacket it was. Vintage cream linen with a psychedelic lining of brilliant swirling colors. I didn’t want to think what Harlan might do to me if that jacket came to harm.

But the hotel did give me one final option. Being an adult ed center, we had all manner of household items at our disposal, including an ironing board and an iron. So there I was at 5 pm, appropriately enough on the upper floors of the center which would have housed the servants, sweating over Harlan’s damn jacket. The sweat was due to both the unusual June heat and nervousness of accidentally marring the jacket—I mean there must be a fact-based reason why so many cartoons and comedies feature clothes with a burned hole in the shape of an iron. And did I mention I avoid buying clothes that need ironing? I ascertained that “rolled” sleeves meant no crease down the length, which is a lot harder to do than it sounds. Then at one point, the iron steam sputtered and made a small mark on the one of the sleeves. I panicked and tried to get it up with a wet cloth, but it stayed fast. Luckily, it was more on the bottom of the sleeve than the top. And then the clock struck the appointed hour and it was time to go.

I carried it as carefully as I could to avoid any additional wrinkles, which you know is impossible because linen wrinkles when you sneeze on it, but I managed to get it there and hand it to him. I waited for him to ask me who the hell had done such a shitty job pressing the thing and/or rip me a new one for the mark. He whipped it on without so much as a thank you or a fuck you and got ready for his talk.

So far, so good.

Honestly I can’t tell you what the hell he talked about. All my concentration was on that mark on the jacket and replaying the ghastly afternoon in my head. I was also trying to come up with smart retorts if he called me out.  And then it was time for Q & A, and after a few questions about I don’t know what, he called on a guy, who simply said, “I like your jacket.” The world stopped.

“This old thing?” Harlan answered nonchalantly. I was having trouble taking in breath. He rattled off something about getting it in the 70s and my life started passing before my eyes, much like the Guardian in the episode Harlan wrote that shows the passage of time. And then he slipped off the jacket in one fluid motion: “Here take it.”

Time stopped. I felt like it would have been the perfect time to jump into the Guardian so I could go back to that afternoon. When Harlan tried to hand me his coat, I could tell him to take his jacket and stuff it up his Jeffries tube. Actually I was more like McCoy who had just injected himself with cordrazine and was going crazy. My coworkers had to hold me back from lunging at both Harlan and new coat owner. But what was the point? Harlan left the stage with his big ego intact, perhaps even bigger for being so generous to a fan. The fan was happy to have landed the fabulous jacket. I had to be like the Guardian at the end of the episode. (Spoiler alert my ass, that episode is 48 years old, get a grip for god’s sake.) Kirk wrenchingly lets his lover die so that Hitler won’t win in World War II, and the Guardian says, “Time has resumed, all is as it was” (or some such, I’m a fan, not a mechanical recording device). But Kirk isn’t as he was and never would be. And neither was I.

Long Winter? I Think Not

Saturday was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s 148th birthday. Being an obsessed fan of the Little House on the Prairie books, I had a very visceral reaction to the Google doodle, which was made out of some kind of textile. First, I uncharitably thought that the textile image was some cheesy nod to being a pioneer. Other doodles don’t get that kind of patronizing treatment. Then I got mad because in the scene Laura and Mary are next to each other, with Laura in front, but still close to Mary; yet she’s noticeably taller than Mary. Laura is the younger sister and she shouldn’t be taller, even given the perspective of the scene. (I told you I was obsessed). Third, Mary is holding a stick with a ribbon on it. That’s just plain ridiculous. They never played with a stick with a ribbon on it. If there were a scrap of ribbon around, and that was a big “if,” she would have put it on her corn husk doll, not tied it to a stick to run around with. On top of it all, the proper visuals for Little House on the Prairie, as anyone with any brain cells knows, are the marvelous illustrations of Garth Williams. Although the first book, Little House in the Big Woods, was originally published in 1932, a revised edition with Williams’s drawings was published in 1953, and then again in 1970, which is the version I have. Sadly, I only have the slowly disintegrating paperbacks that I painstakingly bought over a period of years, on an allowance of 25 cents a week. I know it sounds like those stories of being a pioneer and walking 10 miles in the snow to school, but it’s true. And at $1.50 a pop, plus tax and having to wait for the trip to the mall, that was a labor of serious book love. It should not be a big surprise that I could slip comfortably into an indignant rant about this weird doodle.

But then I clicked on Google doodle link.

And of course it was a fascinating (and I begrudgingly admit fitting) story about twins Jack and Holman Wang, the creators. They are about my age and remembered the show fondly. Harrumph! The image depicted is loosely based on the opening credits of the TV show. Hmpf. The fabric was created by needle felting, a labor-intensive process that enables sculpting with wool. All right, all right. Uncle! I still went to my bookshelf and pulled out the books to look at them again. Look at the real illustrations.

The Google doodle was timely–Laura Ingalls and her books have been on my mind this past month as part of my no-heat saga. If you missed it, my house was approximately 60 degrees for about three weeks—not life threatening, but certainly annoying. One of the thoughts that kept me calm was comparing it to a couple of winters described in the Laura Ingalls books. The scenes are so vivid and well written, you can’t have been a kid and read them and forgotten. In fact, a friend had a similar thought when she was reading my no-heat blog posts. For her the stand out scene was during a days-long blizzard and Pa had to hold on to and follow a rope from the house to the barn to feed the animals. It wasn’t that far away, but the wind was so severe and the visibility so bad, Pa could have easily gotten disoriented and frozen until spring. Which at that time on the prairie came in July.

For me there are two other scenes that made me feel like my no-heat situation was the height of decadence. In one of the houses they lived in, Laura and Mary slept in a loft in the same bed with like 100 quilts. One morning they woke up to snow on the quilt. Snow. On the top quilt. It had come through the cracks in the roof. Think about that for a minute. Um, yeah, 60 degrees is a pretty lame thing to complain about.

The other scene that I remember is in The Long Winter, which I should reread because we here in New England are definitely feeling like we are reliving it. We’re not, and here’s why: For Laura that winter on the prairie was an ongoing series of blizzards that lasted three and four days. As a kid I was astonished that a blizzard could even last that long, never mind have them one after the other. The trains from the east couldn’t get through, and the supplies dwindled, including firewood. But they did have hay and Pa devised a way to twist lengths of hay into hard sticks they could burn. Of course it burned quickly, so Laura and Pa had to twist hay whenever they weren’t doing anything else to survive. It kind of blew my kid mind. And if that wasn’t hard enough, when they weren’t twisting hay, they had to grind up wheat kernels into flour. Constant hours of survival tediousness for months. Wicked fun.

As I stare down the naked barrel of yet another multi-day storm that will dump up to two feet of snow in the Boston area, I realize not only have I completely mangled that metaphor, but I have also very little to complain about. I have to hoist snow up a five-foot pile. I have to work from home. I have to negotiate two-way streets that the snow has reduced to one lane. Boo hoo. Laura turned 148 on Saturday, and if she were here, I’m sure she’d brush the snow off her quilt, turn over and tell me what I could do with that pile of twisted hay sticks she made while I was moaning about shoveling. Happy birthday Laura.

Photo credit: