Reading The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

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I started reading The Handmaid’s Tale the other night. Finished the introduction and reached page 8 when the headline of Montana’s special election, a House candidate body-slamming and punching a Guardian reporter, uh, distracted me. Then he got elected and raised over $100,000 post assault. So much for all those anti-bullying campaigns. America! It’s survival of the most bloated out here. The Bloatest. Th well-bloated class. That’s a fun word. Bloated. It reminds me of jelly donuts.

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We know. We’re all reading the same headlines. We’re rooting for the same sinkhole. Maybe we all have the same growing urge, but we’re patient. We’re not alone.

I’m reading Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot very very slowly. Take comfort in knowing we’re all no-see-ums on a beautiful blue speck. Early in the book Sagan writes:

On the scale of the worlds – to say nothing of stars or galaxies – humans are inconsequential, a thin film of life on an obscure and solitary lump of rock and metal.

Back on Earth, it’s super author Margaret Atwood to the rescue. For years, since reading and loving The MaddAddam Trilogy, I checked out The Handmaid’s Tale from the library only to return it unopened. –

Oryx and Crake

The Year of the Flood

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-The Handmaid’s Tale is a dystopian novel and in my view those are no-funs. As Atwood says in her new introduction, written in February 2017, most are implausible. But now it’s been adapted into a show I’d like to see. Considering the headlines and bloateds, The Handmaid’s Tale seems like a sweet vacation. It’s fiction, right? Couldn’t happen for real.

In the intro, Atwood tells of writing the first draft while living in West Germany in 1984. The fear, paranoia and oppression of the time inevitably influenced her writing. When she realized she was writing speculative fiction she set some interesting rules for herself. Every element is taken from history. She invented no technology or laws or practices.

We readers have no buffer. We cannot assure or comfort ourselves with Oh this would never happen in real life. It can. It has. At some point in history everything in this book has happened. The approach is brilliant. Dark and sobering, but brilliant. When it gets too dark, I’ll read more Sagan. That’s my plan.

Again, I’m only on page 8. My boyfriend commandeered my copy for his commute. On his way home he was so engrossed he hurried to the wrong train and wound up in Williamsburg. This morning he was late to work because he missed his stop reading. The book is really good, I hear.

Have you read it? Am I the last one to the party?

Normally I let Raj steal a book if he wants because I have a stack of others, but I’m in the mood for this one. Our compromise is to share. He gets it for his commute and every other night. We haven’t switched off this way since reading the Harry Potter series.

I know The Handmaid’s Tale is going to be great. I don’t expect it to ease any anxieties and anger, but the appeal is similar to that of historical fiction focused on resistance. Perspective. We’re inside it and sometimes when you’re too close you lose perspective on the good things individuals are capable of. We stand in their way with actions of hope.

Remember to remember our fallen heroes this weekend.

 

The Likeness by Tana French

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The beautiful day of my birth came and went last week. All I wanted to do was take my Tana French book beneath a shady tree and read. Think this doesn’t sound exciting? Read Tana French. Spend a few weeks sick first then read Tana French and you’ll absolutely understand.

Nobody believed I wanted to disappear in a book on my birthday, so we went places instead. Now that I’ve finished The Likeness, I still want to disappear in it, specifically its midsection. I liked this book so much. One glance at the cover elicits longing if-only’s, and this cover doesn’t come close to doing the story and writing justice. Nobody writes like Tana French. She’s one of the greats. The first two books I read by her, In The Woods and The Secret Place, set the bar high. This one blew me away. It sealed the deal. Cemented our forever friendship however one-sided. I’m renaming our neighbor’s cat Tana French.

This is part of The Dublin Murder Squad series. I’m reading them out of order and so far it hasn’t mattered. They stand alone.

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I plan to read everything Tana French ever writes simply because her writing is intoxicating. Reading her is effortless. The action and physicality of characters and settings are accessible and lingering, but also nuanced. A paragraph about a home’s former grandeur reveals a layered glimpse into Ireland’s past and the social conflicts still imbuing how people relate. I take my time with these books. They could be quick page-turners, but speed comes at a cost. I prefer re-reading as we go just for the pleasure of enjoying her words again and again.

Besides being written like a drug, the story is fascinating. I’m not giving any spoilers here. Not telling you anything beyond the gist of the premise.

Detective Cassie Maddox is surprised when her boyfriend Sam calls her into a crime scene. He’s on the Murder Squad but she transferred to Domestic Violence months ago. She’s even more surprised when she arrives to find her former boss in undercover on the case. Once she sees the body, her life changes forever. The victim is her exact doppelganger. Weirdness gets weirder when she learns the woman went by the name Lexie Madison, an identity the detective invented a few years back for an undercover assignment.

It was like going blind; my eyes couldn’t take her in. She was impossible: a high-fever hallucination, a screaming crack straight across all the laws of nature.

The temptation to take her former boss up on his proposal to go undercover as Lexie in the massive Georgian home she was living in with her five close friends is irresistible. Whitehorn House is near a small village outside of Dublin. Inside Whitehorn House, it’s another world.

That house shimmered in my mind like some fairy fort that appeared for one day in a lifetime, tantalizing and charged, with those four cool figures for guardians and inside secrets too hazy to be named.

French digs deep into the psychology of Lexie/Cassie and her four mercurial housemates. You can almost see each scene from every angle and moments open up that you don’t want to ever end. The suspense chimes in from a low hum to a piercing turn around! at the end of every night. We have no idea who the killer is or what happens once Stabby McStabStab thinks Lexie’s alive. We don’t even know the victim’s true identity.

That’s the gist.

Then there’s all the waves of earnest wanting that come rushing at you throughout. The lives of “unfettered thought” that Lexie and her friends dream of when they’re secure in the bubble of academia is a stark contrast to the “real world” awaiting. To them, the lives they want is just as real and valid, if not more, however unconventional.

Every choice has a price. They talk about paying that price for the things you want. So you have to really want them because then the price is worth it. Choose things you don’t really want just because they’re on the path of least resistance and imagine the bitterness of realizing you paid a higher price.

What struck me is how simple and luxurious life in Whitehorn House seems. Possibilities are so bright inside and on the sprawling grounds, where it’s right to patch pealing wallpaper with lovely fabric and spend a whole day sanding and painting and caring for your home. They don’t have to ask permission or rush off to make a few pennies working crummy jobby jobs. They work constantly – physically and studiously – but they do it without fear and struggle, content living within their modest means because their means are just enough. You don’t want Cassie to ever leave because then we have to go, too.

The Likeness is labeled a Mystery, but it doesn’t read like a whodunnit. It’s the Why and ideas that drive this story. Why is where the story breathes and morphs and inevitably breaks your heart because you know it can’t go on. I didn’t want it to be over. Very disappointed in French for ending this book.

Soaked my brain in coffee and didn’t build a fence

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Having my first cold coffee of the year. Why so long since? Because we were out of chicory and cold coffee without chicory would be like Twin Peaks without Dale Cooper. Most stores around here sell a brand of chicory in an orange box, which is really good. We get ours at Puerto Rico coffee company because the place smells like what the whole world should smell like. Plus I pass this store weekly. It just wasn’t top of mind. It took the dread of 90 degree temperatures to finally remind me what’s been missing from my life: Chicory!

Our cold coffee is very strong. We use the coffee sock cold brew jar and fabric filter. Fill it up then stick it in the fridge for 12ish hours. It brews for 12 hours. Perhaps we’ve figured out why it’s so strong, Watson.

I am not picky about coffee as long as it tastes good. Even bodega coffee is forgivable after a taste of something sweet to curb the burnt bitter bites. With cold brew we find the best results come from finely ground grinds and a heaping scoop of chicory. Raj and I had a cup this morning then he left me alone here, defenseless with another 4 cups of the good stuff begging for ice and just screaming my name.

I drank it all.

It does feel strange to turn the AC on in May, but it had to be done. The men outside are very loud. For weeks our fancy neighbors have been making a racket here and there. We were warned there’d be some noise as they were having a fence put in. A fence. There are currently three massive luxury buildings going up around us.

We are no strangers to noise. A fence is nothing. One summer, I helped my dad put up fences around backyard pools. We dug a lot of holes. I remember splinters, lots of Neil Young, blisters, and eating WaWa hoagies with raspberry iced tea on our breaks. I do not remember … jackhammers. They are using jackhammers to break ground. I’m sure they have good reason but help me. For the last few weeks, they show and make a lot of noise for an hour or two then leave. Why they chose this 90+ degree day to work all day is a mystery. Our AC drowns out the noise, but I can’t stop watching them place cinder blocks, measure, dig, smoke.

I’ve been at the window most of the day when I should be working but at first it helped me concentrate. Now it’s like we’re in it together. Yeah, I’m in my air conditioned apartment sipping very strong ice cold coffee rather than breaking a sweat doing stuff, but I almost feel like my watching while bouncing and lifting weights has contributed in some meaningful, essential, what-would-they-do-without-me way. Don’t mention it.

Speaking of Twin Peaks, Fire Walk With Me is the worst movie I’ve ever seen in my life. I’m still excited to go back, but expectations are drooping as to whether the new episodes will be any good or not. Lots of celebrity cameos is not a good sign. There are celebrity cameos in Fire Walk With Me. Yes, David Bowie. But they all added up to nothing. I showered after watching it.

Thinking of wonderful things in the world, I found a Misfits Famous Monsters CD. It was cracked but the moral of the story is this is a glorious album and it’s streamable on Spotify. High energy music is equalizing some of the unexpected coffee effects. Hopefully next time the fence builders look up I won’t be there waving back like a weirdo.

Free Comic Book Day May 6 – Capes take two

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Bozo is in town. Streets around the Hellmouth are fittingly lined with sanitation trucks. Knowing blondie is surrounded by garbage trucks makes me almost as joyous …

as all the lovely comic books hot off the press and ready for our eyeballs.

This Saturday is Free Comic Book Day, the happiest day. Repeat: If it’s for free, it’s for me. Every year I find a few gems for my nieces. Last year, Science Comics! were a hit. This year they’ve requested stories with … capes. I tried so hard to steer them from superheroes and I failed big time. So instead of fighting it we’re making them capes to go with the reading.

This is my second round of cape-making for them. The first round didn’t turn out as I pictured them in my head. Still don’t know what I did wrong, possibly sewing them by hand in poor lighting. This time will be different because I begged my sister to sew them with her machine. She asked for the pattern like an amateur.

The pattern is just sew two capes with snaps at the collar and maybe a hood. I sew the way I bake, which is not always the best approach as it produces not always the best results, but when something does turn out it’s magical because it’s certainly not due to hard work and know-how.

In lieu of a sewing pattern, I’m busy barring the door from villains like, oh, slimy bigots in suits wielding executive orders and golf clubs. My buddies must harness their own powers, along with all the rest of us.

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Giant Days … pillow fort reading until Twin Peaks

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I started watching Community whilst sick and now all I want to do is build a pillow fort on a rainy day. Inside there will be a room for eating pie and damn good coffee, a place to roll around in Twin Peaks anticipation. Two hours of glory on May 21st. Possibly later for us as Showtime isn’t one of our three channels, but my sister’s recording it for me or she’s out of the family.

Also in my pillow fort will be a room for reading Giant Days and eating crumpets. I ate a crumpet nearly every day when I lived in London. Now I can’t watch or read anything set in England without aching for one lightly toasted with a little butter and preserves.

Unfortunately there are only 4 volumes of Giant Days so far. Discovering how fantastic this series is so early in is almost like watching Twin Peak for the first time and getting really excited that there are two whole seasons of wonderful strangeness only to arrive at the second season and find the party long over, all the magic gone save for the dreamy opening sequence, which I’d live on were it chewable.

Giant Days and Twin Peaks have nothing in common other than that I want more of both RIGHT NOW. I’m ringing my sick bell for them. Ideally Special Agent Dale Cooper brings me volume 5 and then we fly away.

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dalecooperBoom! Studios publishes Giant Days and Lumberjanes so I expected to like it, though the intended audience is older for Giant Days. The series follows three close friends, Susan, Esther and Daisy, in their first year at university. The stories are small slices of their lives – dating, yearning, looking for an apartment too late. It’s best to go in with no expectations. I was told Giant Days is hilarious. So funny. So when I read the first volume and didn’t harm myself laughing I figured it was another overrated comic. It’s not.

I read it again because the colorful characters and lively artwork are too good to put down. Giant Days is universally amusing addictive eye candy. The characters are wildly entertaining. I’m not into fashion, but even their detailed outfits are fun. The whole experience of reading each volume is total joy.

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Curious to see a fresh reaction, I handed them over to my boyfriend without saying anything. He laughed a lot and I think he has a thing for Daisy. Everything I like about the series, he likes, too. The characters are so different from each other. Then there’s a handful of side characters who are just as endearingly flawed.

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There’s so much to like about Giant Days. I missed the hahas the first time I read the first volume because my arms were crossed demanding to be delighted. Every character has their own sense of humor. Their stories are grounded in reality while the tone is heightened in silliness. The dynamic of every relationship varies and evolves. It’s a pleasure to read because the series hits so many different notes and the friends have genuine moments of regret, loneliness, delusion, lust, hope, failure and other good time emotions. You can even read it in my imaginary pillow fort.

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Life Of Agony show and new album

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We took the subway to 14th street. The train smelled like stale beer and Friday’s pepperoni pizza re-discovered on the fire escape Sunday morning. I checked my bag and was relieved to discover antibacterial stuff my nieces gave me for Christmas. I put some on my hands and wiped the excess on Raj. Seconds later I realized what I’d done. We were on our way to a Life Of Agony show covered in sparkles and smelling like candy.

Many years ago we saw Mina Caputo on the street somewhere in the Lower East Side. This was before or maybe during her transition. LOA wasn’t on my radar for a long time. Anyway my boyfriend melted into a giddy 14-year-old and just opened his arms (which Mina graciously dodged), expressing his love in happy expletives. It happened again last night only this time Mina was on stage and larger than life, holding an entire ballroom of lifelong fans.

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We were in the presence of greatness. All at once the crowd surged forward and around and some very enthusiastic fisty dancers broke through into their happy place. This incredible band thrilled a lot of people yesterday as they finally gave the world new album. A Place Where There’s No More Pain is everything I didn’t know I needed.

Mina Caputo performed with such confidence and swagger. Her voice is as powerful and gripping as ever. You can argue it’s even better but why bother comparing when all that matters is that they’re making great music again and now it’s coming from a good place. After months of empty horribleness, seeing them live filled me. I felt so lucky to be there. I never thought I’d get to see them perform. Now here they are right when we need them with a brand new album.

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My sisters call me The Pusher. When something is good I just want everyone in the world to read it, hear it, taste it, do it, go experience it. I’m not allowed to push things on them anymore, they say. We have different tastes, they say. Fine, I say.

Their loss. But the show’s magic bubble hasn’t popped yet and I’m feeling the urge to … push. Listen to Life Of Agony. Check out their new album over and over. Go see them and have a good time. You don’t need to be a lifelong fan to appreciate the new album. This isn’t a nostalgia trip. They still have so much to say. And if you’re ever lucky enough to see any of them on the street, please give them our thanks and love but maybe don’t try to hug them.

 

I demon NYC

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I thought I saw the best license plate this morning. I was alone and doing something I haven’t done in so long on a neighborhood run – listening to music. Volbeat. We’ve traveled hundreds of miles together, me on foot and them in my ears driving me on with big theatrical sound and lyrics full of drama. I used to worship the bands I loved. Now they feel like friends. They’ve been there through every incarnation. When we’re together I’m more myself.

So basically I was running with some of my friends, my singing playing friends, when we passed this truck and had to stop for a laugh. Clear as my eyes could see the license plate said: I DEMON NYC. Only all squished together.

For a moment this made me very very happy. Some special soul used “demon” as a verb on a license plate. For a moment I lived in a city where people declare they demon. I want to demon, too, if it involves anything more than tearing up the streets and filling my lungs with the yummy taste of hot tar. Okay. I read it wrong. The plate actually said something about Demo.

The blurred world is magical. This is why I don’t ever wear my glasses. They’ve never been the same since I sat on them anyway.

 

 

Guess who doesn’t have a little toe anymore

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A phrase came to mind as I completed this year’s taxes. It’s one of very few Bangla phrases I know and usually save for bad restaurants. It translates to “They slapped us in the face and took our money.

This was a frustrating year to pay taxes. I just didn’t want to do it. Who does, knowing the money could actually go toward a wall ordered by a born millionaire who didn’t have to pay his own taxes for 18 years? Wouldn’t it be nice for those of us who do pay taxes if we could indicate where we want at least a percentage of our dollars to go? Filing would be more engaging than stressful, more fulfilling maybe.

But it’s done. I’ll have my reward now.

Does anyone else reward themselves for doing their taxes? This year someone special (ME!) is getting hiking boots. I’m tired of slipping on boulders in old running shoes. Lyme disease-spreading ticks are supposed to be at an all time high this year in the Northeast, which they say every year, but I’m treating myself to more insecticide, too. Chemicals!

Since filing was especially annoying this year thanks to the electoral college’s president, I’m also baking me a pumpkin chocolate chip loaf. They say pumpkin isn’t in season right now. I’m going to share a deep dark secret. Our pumpkin that we got back in October is still on our mantle. It’s fine. I keep waiting for it to liquefy or reveal itself for the alien pod it is. I check it for rot every day and every day it’s fine, a little lighter like it’s hollow inside. I’m not baking the actual pumpkin. We kept it up over the holidays by our leg lamp and hung streamers around it for New Years. We put a hat over the curled stem for St. Paddy’s and now there’s a bunny on top. Maybe the fountain of pumpkin immortality is the corner spot on our mantle? We’ve come so far together, been through so much. The pumpkin is a part of the family. It’s like the lazy aloof cat we can’t have because of allergies.

With all the distraction of taxes and rewarding myself, I completely forgot about April Fools’. So when my little sister I called I answered with the first thing that came to mind.

“I cut off my little toe.”

She screamed, “What?” Then there was a glorious stunned silence, followed by “How?” And more horrified questions. My answers were just vague enough and I said I’d send her a picture because if I did cut my toe off I would take a picture for my Dead Stuff newsletter.

The picture was a drawn toe with “April fooled you” written, but I guess it took her a while to open because she thought it was a picture of my real severed toe. She called my dad before I got to him so for a little while both of them thought I’d cut off my own little toe and was sending around the picture. For good measure I included my other two sisters in the horror.

I got them. It’s funny how effortless it was to make my family to believe I cut my toe off. Good times.

 

Here is New York by E.B. White

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Elwyn Brooks White, better known as E.B. White, gave us Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little. Journalism students may recall his work from a slim writing bible he co-authored, The Elements of Style. All three have a place of honor on what I introduce to guests as Grandpa’s Shelf. My paternal grandpa built this modest oak shelf in the early 1930s. It’s sturdy with a dark wood stain and three slightly upturned shelves. When my dad gave it to me I finally had proof that I’m his favorite child. This is the thing I grab if ever there’s a fire. Its very heavy so a brave, fireproof volunteer will be needed to grab the other end and make sure none of my books fall off while we haul it down the steep, narrow stairs.

I’ve lived in the city so long I’ve stopped counting the years. Yet White’s apparently famous 7500-word essay, since printed into a book, is new to me. ‘Here is New York‘ was first published in a 1949 issue of the lavish travel magazine Holiday. For his contribution, White left his home in Brooklin, Maine and returned to the city where he made his name.

I don’t usually seek out NY-centric reading, feels redundant, but spring is the hardest season for me to live here. Reading this essay is part of my on-going effort to enjoy the city again. May as well while we’re here. While not exactly the upper I was hoping for, it’s a quick (30-minute) read well worth checking out of the library.

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I expected to follow White on a long, nostalgic walk through Manhattan’s various neighborhoods. I don’t know why I had such a specific assumption of this essay, there’s at least as much analysis of the city’s essence and people as there are physical observations. White writes gorgeous descriptions though. He details walking past a free evening concert in Central Park. Brass horns fill the evening and, as if in response, The Queen Mary blares it’s own off-key horn. You feel like you’re walking beside him, pleasantly aware there’s no other place you’d rather be.

I’ve seen this essay described as a love letter to the city. While his fondness is evident, his tone seemed like one of someone glad to be gone. New York is much easier to love from a distance.

The city is like poetry: it compresses all life, all races and breeds, into a small island and adds music and the accompaniment of internal engines.

White stays in the city during an August heatwave. For this he has my sympathy. Summers are abusive here. Even reading about summer in the city makes me itch. If you’ve never had the pleasure of walking through New York on a sweltering day, imagine every drop of will and hope oozing from your eye sockets while the grit and fumes off millions of well-dressed sweaty flesh bags seeps into your pores and solidifies until there’s very little of you left in your own body. Why not come in October instead?

So New York in August, 1948. White arrives to experience and reflect on the New York he used to know. Alas, visiting his old city is impossible; it’s already gone. Any longtime or former New Yorker can probably relate. The city you first meet is fleeting. Before you know it, walking down a block is consumed by remember whens. Looking at new buildings and businesses and people only reminds you of the ones no longer here.

White circles back to change being the only constant in a place always reinventing itself and never quite catching up. There’s nothing in this essay that doesn’t ring true. He captures it all in this thorough, timeless representation of the city as a living machine. It still feeds on yesterday’s dirty dogs. Today it spits out sleek predictability and $5 “punk rock” Popsicles, but has no clue what to do about the cracks, and there are so many cracks. Cracks and ghosts.

The normal frustrations of modern life are here multiplied and amplified-

The people who come here do so for a reason. Many find their tribe or relish the city’s “gift of loneliness and the gift of privacy” that White refers to in his opening line. Others tap into a bottomless source of inspiration and drive. With some chutzpah you can still get your foot on a stage or in a fancy office or wherever it is you want to be.

-but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience – if they did they would live elsewhere.

One section refers to the people who live or work here as composing three different New Yorks: that of commuters, of natives and of transplant dreamers. In considering post-war atomic fears, his thoughts on the city’s vulnerability to airplanes is an eerie prophesy of 9/11. A part that stood out addresses the city’s growing diversity. Imagine if we had a president today capable of believing and articulating this same sentiment:

The city has to be tolerant, otherwise it would explode in a radioactive cloud of hate and rancor and bigotry.

It was fun to learn that E. B. White and I have something small in common. We both worked as ushers in theaters – he at the Metropolitan Opera and me on Broadway. I loved ushering in college. Through it I met all sorts of people, had time to read and got to swap shifts to see tons of different shows. Highly recommended for students.

This little book gives its audience much to chew on. Readers who love the city will find more reason to love it. Those of us who no longer feel at home here will find camaraderie and validation. Still, like White and countless others, I’ll always remember the city as I knew it when I knew it.

 

Sunday morning and I won, I won

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On a blue sky Sunday morning I ran out to brush the snow off our car while Raj made banana pancakes and ground two of our favorite coffee beans into one smooth weekend blend. I waited five days to deal with the snow on our car because I could – alternate side parking was suspended. Also I had high hopes for a second shot at a real blizzard. Leaving the snow was like keeping the welcome mat rolled out. Then I remembered what the windshield guy said this past December.

On Christmas morning at my sister’s in Jersey, I stepped outside to find the back windshield of our car smashed. The shattered glass was still in place until a slight vibration, from some innocent angel closing one of the doors, triggered a festive shower of broken green glass into our back seat. Ours was one of several windows smashed on Christmas Eve. It took days to get it replaced and when the man finally came he gave us this big lecture on clearing snow from the glass otherwise risk the wrath of opposing temperatures when the sun hits it like a laser. His point didn’t apply to our situation (temperatures were nowhere near freezing and there was no snow). He didn’t have much to say about the guys who hang out at night in the woods behind her complex. Pretty sure they’re not roasting marshmallows. Anyway, I’ve been better about clearing our car when it snows just in case.

Okay, I’m not that much better. And the snow I intended to quickly shoo from our glass was actually sealed by a thick crust of ice. Our little scraper was no match. The funnest part was cracking the crust up like crème brûlée. Only instead of tapping deliciousness with dainty silver I punched through, feeling like one of the toughs who order their chocolate peanut butter recovery drinks with vanilla soy milk.

After pancakes we roamed. Weekend mornings are my favorite time for roaming. Sometimes there’s a fellow carrying two cups of coffee and a paper bag full of somethings you know are going to be good. He’s bringing those treats and coffee back to someone he loves or likes enough. Parents look less harried pushing strollers or watching a little one on a wooden bike with no pedals ride off on scurrying feet Flintstone style.

We roam in bright synthetics because it doesn’t feel like Sunday without going for a run. Sidewalks are my least favorite running surface, in case you’re wondering. Soon we reach the park and opt to run on the slushy trails. I’m happy for the breathing room and no piles of trash to hurdle over. Races are aplenty in the park starting around yesterday and continuing through November. They flood the park with Woo-ers and plastic cups. The best part is when runners stand around blocking the paths after they’re done.

Runners are my peeps and races are a huge source of encouragement for many. That’s great. I’m just not a fan of the ones in the local park every single weekend because they’re all so loud and messy. Oh, well. I recently discovered a new-to-me running route for most weekends. It’s much longer, race-free and spans a number of waterfront stretches.

On this final day of winter, Raj and I race each other on the home stretch. We’re nearly to the end when I hear the first bagpipes. They might be for the St. Paddy’s Day parade in our neighborhood. They might be Woo-ing me to the finish line seconds ahead. He says it’s hard to say who won. I say it’s easy: I won. I WON.