The Bar Chronicle: #29, ‘There Are No Canaries In The Canary Islands…’*

*strange as it seems. I started this episode of ‘TBC’ in early 2020 and failed to finish it. Just found it, so here we go…

The cold and flu bug sacked two of us from our 29th ‘Bar Night’, including the ‘guest of honor’, tonight was to be his ‘swan song’ before heading for the Sunshine State, leaving us behind to suffer Lake Ontario’s winter wrath.

Of course, going south for warmer weather automatically designates you as the official buyer of rounds upon your return. He knows that and is eager to accommodate. Who wouldn’t be?

However, we still had a quorum, a legitimate excuse to ‘party’, four of us. And, we did, after the appropriate toast and well wishes.

Caverly’s Irish Pub, on South Ave., is still our favorite watering hole and we headed there again, on a Tuesday evening this time, instead of the usual Wednesday, and were surprised to find a full house. Don’t people know it’s winter?

That full house meant a loud house, so we ordered our ‘stouts and lites’ and made haste to an empty back room for some privacy and relative quiet. For me, even a ‘back room’ requires cupping the ear.

Tonight’s conversation seemed a bit different. We tabled any talk of extra terrestrials, for now, and filled our hour with brief , yet serious discussions of declining church attendance, Sudoku and humor, at the risk of repeating stories that we probably told in prior meetings.

We even discussed the importance of drinking water.

I came prepared with an article to share on health tips. One tip urged people to drink enough water, 8 cups a day. I’ve never been a big water drinker and find it challenging to swallow eight cups a day but have discovered that adding a dash of scotch makes it more palatable. Or is the other way around?

Starbucks coffee shops have very good water. It should be, it’s filtered three times and during hot summer months, I add a cup of water to my coffee order. And it’s free.

We ended the night on comedy. Laughing is a prescription for ending the day, or anytime, isn’t it? See what you think.

One among us knows how to set up a joke and he did it perfectly during our talk about stations in military service. He was in the Canary Islands at some point and dutifully noted for our consumption that, believe it or not, there are no canaries in the Canary Islands. I have no idea on the veracity of that statement, but he was setting us up, after all.

In the course of our discussion, the same gent offered that he also had been to the Virgin Islands. And guess what’s not in the Virgin Islands. That was my first thought, but no, it’s canaries, again. Think about it.

We headed home shaking our heads and chuckling because, it’s true, laughter is the best medicine.

Steve

Note: this was the last time the ‘Bar Nighters’ met before the Covid-19 pandemic shut down our gatherings. We next met in February 2021 via Zoom.

For more stories, check my WordPress blog, S’amusing, at ‘srbottch.com’

Today, I Shoveled Snow

Here’s another story that I first wrote several years ago. I thought it was worth reposting in view of this winter’s weather. Enjoy!

Announced by all the trumpets of the sky, Arrives the snow…” RW Emerson

Today, I shoveled snow. Yesterday, I shoveled snow. And the day before that, I shoveled snow. It’s winter in western New York and we live with a steady diet of snow

Along the winter shores of Lake Ontario, steady snowfalls are the norm and removing it is more than a daily ritual. It’s a right of passage for youngsters and an absolute necessity for adults who get up, get out and get to work. Commerce doesn’t stop for weather, here.

Growing up in central Massachusetts, where measureable snowfalls also were a common occurrence, kids there learned to shovel at an early age, too. It was not an option in a blue collar neighborhood where dads had to be at work early and on-time.

All able bodied males in the house, young or old, manned shovels, clearing driveways and walks to help get workers on their way. Plow service and snow blowers were an unaffordable luxury for most families.

All that was heard on eerily quiet, ‘three decker’ lined streets the morning after a nor’easter, was the scraping of metal shovels over frozen pavement, and dry, fluffy snow squeaking underfoot with each twist of our black buckled boots. The task of finishing a job fell to the young school boys with nothing but time on their hands. Time and energy.

Snow shoveling is a low skill task, even the tools are simple and aptly named, ‘shovels’.  Bend, scoop, lift, toss, use your legs not your back. But those weren’t instructions my dad gave. He was more direct, knowing that I could figure out the mechanics, myself.

“I expect this driveway and sidewalk shoveled by the time I come home from work”, he announced, without mentioning my name or even looking at me. It was understood whom he was addressing, the skinny kid and the only one left home after he and big brothers went to work.

My dad’s directives were always clear and concise. The fewer the words, the stronger the message. Besides, mother always made sure the work got done, as prescribed.

And when the jobs were done, the neighborhood became a bevy of street hustlers, as I and other like-minded junior entrepreneurs with shovels slung over our shoulders, eagerly slipped and slid through heavy snowdrifts, knocking on doors with wet mittens, competing for whatever snow removal opportunities were left at neighboring houses.

We had no business plan or even understood the value of our labor. Regardless, we would shovel walks clean to the pavement, keeping tempo to imaginary cash registers ringing in our collective heads, totally dependent on the client’s generosity. Sometimes it was good and other times, not so good. But the greater lesson of work and reward was invaluable.

Now, I still find myself taking on the task of snow removal. It rekindles frigid memories of finger and face freezing days under the watchful eyes of my father and the lessons he ‘taught’ me.

One thing is certain…I can’t wait for the return of summer in western New York!

srbottch

Today, I Built a Snow Fort

Living in western New York requires a hearty soul when it comes to weathering the weather. Every winter, Mother Nature throws her best punch at us. After lying mostly dormant this winter, she reminded us of her mood swings with a pummeling of snow that stopped drivers, closed roads and shut down businesses.  And some of us thought Spring was on the way.  Ha!

How do people along the Niagara Frontier handle Mother Nature with her long, dark winter nights, and mornings crisp enough to snap the nose off your face if you wiggled it? Only one way, we take what She’s blown at us and make it our playground.

We tug on long johns, wrap ourselves in downy coats, then race out-of-door to play, just as we did when some of us still could race.

Against cheek numbing winds, we schuss down snow-packed mountains on narrow flat boards. We clamp on snowshoes and break new trails in deep silent stands of nearby woods.

Dull skates and old sleds are rescued from dusty web covered garage lofts or backyard sheds. Blades and runners are honed and waxed to make perfect for gliding over new ice or flying down slick hills on our bellies.

The brilliant sunshine on a wintry day makes a frigid five degrees feel like a tepid ten. We are survivors!

Me, I call on a time when kids were always outside, playing games that strengthened our bodies and stretched our imaginations. Today, I built a fort in my backyard blanket of cold, cotton-like snow, a dugout snow fort.

My fort today was not unlike one I built back then, simple but strong. A mini fortress, big enough for a cadre of ruffians and a cache of snowballs, just in case real ruffians showed up, as they often did. And amid the screams and yells, and maybe a curse, was the splatting thud of snowballs finding arms and legs and an occasional noggin’.

Those snow castles gave us a place to escape, a place so cold that only the energy of our youthful exhuberance kept us warm, as a pint size ‘band of brothers’ huddled together, making plans for our next adventure.

And what better place to have that adventure than on a corner snow ‘mountain’, the high, hard packed hill of shoveled or plowed snow, perfect for a game of ‘King of the Hill’.

Winter is a great time to test our endurance, to demonstrate our vim, vigor and vitality. Come Spring, we will scratch a notch in our snowpant suspenders as a symbol of success against the elements. We shall prevail!

Today, I built a snow fort. And tonight, under the cold, star lit sky, I’ll climb a corner snow ‘mountain’ and declare myself, King of the Hill!

srbottch.com

Dedicated to the kid in every adult, builders of snow forts, and those who challenge themselves in the great outdoors.

Winter, In Name Only…

“Thy tooth is not so keen, Because thou art not seen”
(Shakespeare, As You Like It)

snow 4
february 3, 2015

“Where is Winter?”  The calendar tells me we are in its grip, but the thermometer says, not so. 2015 brought thigh high snows, yet 2016 has seen nary a flake. “Where is Winter?”

No Snow
february 3, 2016

Our daffodils, normally unseen until April, are breaking ground, and like a periscope, daring to peek at a most unusual sight…grass, in February.  “Where is Winter?”

I almost expect to see worms wiggling out of my way as I leave prints in the soft underfooting of my yard, a ground seemingly unfrozen. But they know better, this is just a tease before arctic air dares to return for an end of season blast, the way firework finales finish a show.  And my orange snowblower looks content to be idle, gathering dust instead of devouring snow. “Where is Winter?”

Today, I saw a flock of Canada geese heading north. Were they locals who call this home, or the real birds that migrate when weather signals them to go?  Oh, let it be the latter. I do admire watching their hard work, these harbingers of the changing seasons. I called to them, “Where is Winter, eh?”, but they were far gone.

I am not a ‘winter person’. Neither the snow nor the cold make my life comfortable. I grumble about it. And just when I’m ready to say, ‘enough with this nonsense, Mother Nature senses my frustration and begins the change to the most beautiful stretch of weather from April thru November. It’s the reward for my patience with her.

But for now, the strange calmness that has enveloped us along the Niagara frontier reminds me of the sailors on the listing Pequod, waiting and waiting for the wind. In our case, the winter wind. I do not miss the winter, wherever it is.

I believe I am not alone…am I?

Buckland in Winter
Buckland Farm in Brighton, NY

srbottch

http://srbottch.com

to my Rochester Instagram followers, whether you are winter fans, or not