PATRICK MCVAY

WRITER

My Musings

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The Bitters

We in New England suddenly find ourselves in the midst of a rare and shocking cold snap. This may be the warmest winter in recorded history, but don't tell that to this weekend. This weekend is getting in the faces of other weekends and tweeting out "How ya like me now?!" It's strutting and preening and signing autographs because today we're going to see some of the lowest temperatures in something like a hundred thousand years!

What's that? Sorry, my fact-checkers say we were still in an ice age 25,000 years ago.

Whatever. Stop arguing with me. The fact is we've got some bitter air here in New England, bitterer than the international bitterness units (IBUs) in my New England IPA. As someone who worries about just how bad climate change is going to be, I am curious if this is the last time we'll see negative temperature values in Boston

I decide to step outside into the wind-swept night to see what the bitter cold felt like against my supple skin. Would it feel like I had landed on another planet? My daughter joined me outside for about 30 seconds, and both of us nonchalantly declared that it was no big deal. Then went back into our warm house. In truth, we weren't in the wind.

Then, at 1 in the morning, with the wind blowing and the thermometer reading -8 degrees F, I step outside to find a rabbit chilling in the backyard, literally, not seeking the warmth of one of those rabbit holes we all keep talking about going down at work. Maybe this one was relegated to the sofa for the night, rabbit-wise.

This morning the rabbit is gone, presumably not frozen to death, and maybe chased back into a hole by one of our several neighborhood coyotes. Based on how it felt last night, the coyotes did that rabbit a favor. 

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Grassy

Picture of a chairlift at Sugarloaf Mountain with very little snow It's All Natural

My youth is pocked and peppered with tiny bits of memories of something called "grass skiing." Sometimes I wonder if grass skiing was really a thing at all, or if it was just a dream I once had, or maybe something I saw online. Except it was the 1970s and there was no "online." It might have been an ad in a newspaper, in the sports section or maybe metro, a small rectangle in the corner on the page otherwise devoted to department store bras. In my memory, there's a person in shorts and a t-shirt, holding ski poles and smiling on a mountain bluff, wearing bright green ski boots.

At the time, I was a young skier, willing to believe that I could extend the joys of winter by skiing in the summer. But this didn't look quite like the skiing I was used to, where your boots are strapped onto boards that slide along slippery, cold stuff. The grass skiing I imagined from the ad I saw was more like strapping skateboards to your feet and rolling in the weeds helmet-free, a recreational sport seemingly designed to wreck knees and cause heads to make contact with large rocks.

I didn't ever ski on grass. I just remember that you could do it at a mountain I frequented in winter, called Labrador.

A recent trip to Sugarbush mountain in Vermont reminded me of grass skiing because although I was there to ski, many of the slopes were covered in carpets of grass rather than snow. The northeast has never had as reliable snow as the Rockies, even when I was skiing in the 1970s, but snow guns help to fill in where mother nature hasn't. You can ski on this fake snow, though it's not quite the same as skiing on the packed powder that forms after white stuff falls from clouds. But one thing you can't do is make snow when the temps are in the 50s. I'll be honest: warm weather in wintertime depresses me, indicating that climatologists haven't been kidding, and that my favorite recreational activity may not survive in these parts past the mid-21st century.

There is still time for this winter to be rescued. Mother Nature could brew up a storm any day, dumping a foot or two of snow on the hills so that the February break isn't a bust. Two big storms is really all we need this year. But in the future, grass skiing may be our best bet. 

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Oh Canada!


I'm starting to wonder if our neighbor up north decided to throw in the towel. "You guys go ahead without me," says Canada, rooting around in an old metal cooler for an ice-cold Molson's and cracking it open with its teeth. "I've had a nice career, but it's time for me to put up my feet and watch 'Hockey Night in Canada'."

Hockey Night in Canada? It's not even Hockey Week in Canada, thanks to the wicked Coronavirus variant du jour, Omicron. 

This bodes not well for my Canadian family. I sent a friendly, personal letter to the maple leaf country in the spring of 2021 asking if it would be a terrible imposition for it to verify that my children were bona fide citizens, able to travel freely across the frozen tundra and maybe attend one of the lower-priced institutes of higher education that Canada has on offer. Alas, no response. I had done the same in the spring of 2020 and waited more than ten months before Canada sent back a terse note rejecting the applications on technical grounds: "Your children's photos aren't dated."

Darned Canada and its bureaucratic red tape!

I didn't whine but sent applications anew with dated photos, knowing that arguing with such a large country would be a waste of time. I've tried to argue with countries in the past, and I always lose. Large nations have lots of lawyers who advise them to stall, and an inbox that no one monitors. Plus, Canada is too busy trying to figure out how to make the best use of newly melting artic ice to respond to my queries. The scheme Canada hatched to fill 2-ounce plastic containers and sell each as "a former chunk of iceberg" that is "refreezable" was thwarted when the original bottlecaps it ordered leaked, undermining the marketing message that "tubes of melted iceberg make perfect stocking stuffers." Canada tried to get replacements before the start of the holiday shopping season but were stymied by supply-chain issues. Meanwhile, the ice keeps retreating and there is no room to store additional water. Serves you right, Canada!

I expect that our wintry pal next door will eventually come to its senses and will send me a response along the lines of, "We reject your applications on the grounds that your children's photos are out of date." Though technically true, this is only because Canada has been rooting around for more beer in the ice-filled cooler instead of processing my application.

I cling to a small measure of hope, given that as Canada is settling into its Barcalounger and reaching for the remote, the NHL is postponing all games for a week. Just enough time to open a few more applications and make good on my request. 

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J'Biden Era Haikuage

 

People's Arms. That's right!

200 million shots

In 100 days

 

We are good people

But we still have far to go

Repair. Restore. Heal.

 

There's nothing new here

The Affordable Care Act

We're restoring it 

 

America's Day

Democracy is fragile

The world is watching 

 

Strategy is based

On Science, not politics

Truth, not denial

 

 

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