Sunday, February 01, 2009
Neither Man nor Beast
It's that time of year again when I make my annual oath to move to California.
We're into that really ugly part of winter now. Most days are bitter cold, the holidays are over and spring is so far off it feels like something I dreamed up on a three-day binge.
Whenever the icy breezes tears through me, I want to put my head back and scream, "what am I still doing here?"--and then run away to some place where the words "wind chill factor" have no meaning.
So, once again, I'm swearing to God and anybody else who's listening that this will be the last, goddamnit, the absolute last winter I will ever spend in New York.
I want sunshine, warmth, and blue water. I want to visit sandy beaches all year round and ogle women half my age in tight bathing suits.
I'm tired of hiding inside my house like a grizzly; I'm weary of wearing a bloated parka that makes me look like the fat man at the circus; I'm fed up with sneezing, sniffling, coughing, choking, and most of all I'm tired of talking about the flipping cold weather.
This just in: Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow, which, of course, means winter will continue. I hope that little obnoxious little critter has a bodyguard.
I went to my local butcher shop today and as I was chatting with the cashier, the conversation turned toward...the cold weather.
The cashier said it was supposed to warm up for a few days before the mercury tumbles back to artic levels.
"I can't stand it," I whined.
"C'mon, it's winter," she jokingly snapped at me. "What do you expect?"
"I want to move to California!"
"And then you'll have earthquakes!"
Well, at least I'll be warm and tanned when I croak.
Since I have failed to act on my threat to move--another yearly tradition--I have to resort to positive thinking.
Earlier this month I bought a large bottle of daily vitamins. So, trying to look on the bright side of life, I reckoned that when I finally consumed all 120 vitamins in the bottle, it will be spring.
I wonder if I can hurry things a long a little if I took two pills a day?
But at least I have a roof over my head. I was hanging laundry in the basement last week when I looked out the back window and saw this beautiful black cat walking around my backyard.
He--I think he was a he--approached an overturned trash can lid on this freezing cold day and began licking a patch of ice that had formed there.
I have never been so close to an alley cat before. Usually they bolt if I get within 30 feet of them. I felt like I was watching a nature documentary about animals in the wild, which this fellow clearly is.
He couldn't see me through the window, but every so often he'd look up, as if he could sense he was not alone.
It was startling to witness this struggle for survival so close to my home. When I see a stray cat, I always assume they'll get by somehow. Well, this is how: by licking filthy ice in a trash can lid.
I wish I could do something more these animals, but we live in a society that has a poor track record of taking care of its people, let alone the animals.
Just two blocks from my house Mexican day laborors stand freezing on a street corner looking to get any kind of work.
And even if you have a roof over your head, it's not much without heat. In Michigan, a 93-year-old World War II vetern recently froze to death--slowly and painfully, authorities say—-after the electric company installed a power-limiting device because of more than $1,000 in unpaid bills.
This man survived the war, just like my father, but he ended up freezing to death in his own country. As a young man, he signed up for the good fight and served in a war that most people barely remember.
The retired foundry worker lived alone after his wife died a couple of years ago. The couple had no children and the man's nephew believes his uncle's mind may have been slipping.
In light of the old man's death, the governor of Michigan plans to call for wide restraints on residential gas and electric shutoffs.
I find this story so terrible in so many ways. Is this how we take care of our senior citizens and our veterans? Did anybody have the brains to figure out what was happening here?
Certainly the power company can't be expected to just let people ignore their bills. I've have some personal experience with enough deadbeats to know that there are people in this world who simply refuse to pay for anything.
But there has to be some kind of system in place to prevent this kind of thing from ever happening again.
I think of my father, who suffered from Alzheimer's Disease. What if he had no one to keep track of his bills? Would he have frozen to death in our family's house?
And I think of myself in the coming years. I'm not getting any younger and I have no children. Will I be found in my house some day--alone, wrapped up in sweaters?
I saw that black cat again the other night when I came home from work. He was perched on the steps to my kitchen door as if he were the home owner.
I was going to the back yard to throw some away some fliers that had been stuffed in my mail box, but I didn't want to disturb him.
It's not much, but if he can shield himself from the cold winds a little bit by sitting outside my house, he's more than welcome.
I think I'll go take a few more vitamins now. I'm feeling a little chilly.