Sunday, February 14, 2010


I waited for you winterlong.
You seem to be where I belong.
It's all illusion anyway.

— Neil Young, "Winterlong"

I think "winter long" should be two words, Neil.

Winter in New Jersey. February 10, 2010, 4:50 pm, in a snowstorm.


It's been a month, so it's time to say it. Runner Girl is gone.

The last time she ran past me was January 13. That was a Wednesday. Then I got a cold or flu thing and did not go to work the next two days. And since then it's been four full weeks without a single sighting.

It could be she's running at a different time. But I imagine she has left town. I imagine her last day was that Friday, and I missed it. I didn't know. I imagine she was going to say something on Friday and it would have gone like this.

I turn when I hear her coming up behind me. She gives me that little wave. I know by now that it's to avoid breaking stride.

"Bye. I'm moving away this weekend."

"What? You're part of my morning routine! What will I do?" She passes me as I say it. She turns her head to the side so I can hear her last words.

"You'll get over it, Joe B."

"Well... Bye! Good luck!" I'm calling that out that to the back of her head as she runs off into her future.

And I would be sad for a minute and a half. I'd be thinking there's still Dog Guy, but he's not always there right on time. I guess he has to go when the big dog is ready. Only one person I see on my walk to the station is punctual enough to be part of the routine. One person I saw on my walk.

After a minute and a half, something she said would sink in. Joe B?!

That's how I imagine things. Drama. Emotion. Mystery.


So, we had one heck of a snowstorm on Wednesday. It was going to be the Blizzard of 2010 (and that is pronounced twenty ten), but something about it didn't last long enough to qualify. It was still the Nor'easter of 2010. Fourteen inches of the white stuff.

Let me tell you something that made my day. When we've had a good snowfall, what I've done in the past is shovel the walk from the house to the street, and then start in on the packed snow left by the town's snowplough at the end of the driveway. Doing that much would get me to where I'm tired, so I'd go inside and sit for about fifteen minutes, and then I'd be ready to go back out and finish the driveway to the front of the car. I thought the little break was the right thing to do. There's no reason to kill myself. It's not much of a delay.

Now hold that thought, because I need to back up for a moment. I was going to tell you about running sometime. Maybe I will later on. Back in June I wrote about taking long walks. As the cold weather approached I decided to shorten the time I was outside by running part of it.

I ran a half a mile the first time I tried. That was great. I never ran a half a mile in my life. I couldn't run five hundred feet in May. Once I knew I could do a half a mile, once I'd done that a few times, I started stretching it out bit by bit. I used Gmap Pedometer to locate the tenth-mile marks, and I did six tenths and then seven tenths.

One thing I found out was that the first tenth is the hardest. I usually get a sinking feeling that I can't do this today, I'm not getting enough air, I should be nice to myself. But it has something to do with increasing my metabolic rate, because if I run through that nonsense, it passes and I feel fine. Then I just run, and my mind wanders like it did when I walked. I told myself most of the Summer of '69 story while running, before I wrote it down. Jane Doe too.

I played head games for the first few weeks. I'll just run the half a mile, I told myself, and then I can decide whether to do more. I always did more, but I didn't have to commit in advance to what seemed an insurmountable distance.

A day came when I got to the eight tenths mark and I still didn't want to stop. So I didn't. I went for what I guessed was two tenths more. I stopped at an intersection so that I would be able later to measure what I had done. Oy! It was 0.975 of a mile! That's about 13o feet short! If I had run across that street and past two houses, I'd have had it!

That's what I did the next day, and in fact I went a few houses farther because I found a place where the word SCHOOL is painted in the road to warn drivers. I use that now as my finish line. And I don't need the head games. I know I can do that mile.

Remember the snow? I am really digressing here. To make a long story short, I now run that mile, walk ten minutes, and run a second mile. The second one comes easier. But it's been so damned cold for two months now that I just cannot get myself out every day. It's not fun when it's so cold. All I am doing is maintaining my current ability and current weight, and waiting winter long for better weather. It's making me crazy.

OK, so, there I was Thursday morning. I went out to shovel ten inches deep off the walk, two feet of packed snow from the end of the driveway, and fourteen inches behind the car and all around it, and after that I would need to knock a foot of snow off the car and shovel that away.

Here's the thing I wanted to tell you. This time I didn't stop in the middle of the job. It's not that I was trying to prove anything. I just didn't feel tired. In fact as I worked my way into the driveway I was starting to get that really nice happy feeling I get from running. I came back into the house feeling great.

But I'd be feeling even more great if the snow would stop— we're getting more Monday night!— and if the morning air would be above freezing. That's all I ask.


On Wednesday I stepped out around eight in the morning and took some tree pictures from right outside the front door. You know you can click them to make them larger. Give them a minute. You'll like these.

I went out again just before five in the afternoon and took more trees. The cloud cover and the late hour made everything grey. At this time I also got the street view you saw up at the top. The young family with the dog and the sled just happened to be right there near the gas light, so what could I do?

The storm was over on Thursday. I did the shovelling I mentioned around eight, and then I drove to town feeling all happy and strong and got myself some fresh bagels for breakfast. Nice. The sun came out bright that morning and warmed things up.

Isn't it great how clear and sunny it can be after a big storm? After lunch I stepped out without a coat or shoes to grab a few more pictures. It was so nice out I walked all the way down to the street in my bare feet. The last one here is looking straight up at the blue sky.


That's all I've got. It was pretty bloggy this time, wasn't it?

I have a good idea for a short series but it involves me walking around and looking at things outside and taking some photographs, so it's going to wait just a little. Instead there's an indoor project I can tell you about.

Next time: Subway Map.

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