Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Cold is here-when do I just give in to it?

The cold is here- when do I just give in to it?

The cold is arriving here in a chilly city famous for its winters, Buffalo.  There’s a macho sensibility with putting up with the cold.  When do you turn your furnace on? Apparently never in September, even if your’re freezing.  That’s part of the Buffalo character and it’s our conversations these days. 

“I turned the heat on ,”  I confessed to  a woman waiting for the bus.  She’s from Florida so her heat is already on.  At the dentist’s office, the assistant tells me her tenant asked if she’d turn on the heat.  Her response, “Bundle up.”  And that’s what I’ve been told more than once. Yes, this is Buffalo and even those who can afford to, wait until it’s way too cold before they succumb.  There was one October when I ran into a friend shopping who said she was avoiding going home because she didn’t want to put on the heat.  That’s how far it goes.  Another friend simply didn’t put on heat until it snowed.

Night time temps here dropped to 43 last night.  That’s about as cold as it got in Barcelona.  There we had a different dilemma.  I never had central heat so I moved through chilly spaces in my flat to get to the warm rooms- bedroom and living room.  One acquaintance from Iceland said she was colder in Barcelona than in her country.  The indoors was chilly but the outdoors never got to the point it does here.

Thankfully since the years I lived abroad, fleece and down have entered our lives.  My last foray into a Buffalo winter was spent in a secondhand Swiss army coat that reached my ankles and weighed a ton.  Before that I don’t remember feeling the cold.  My sister though said I spent winters in our big farmhouse wearing a GAA (girl’s athletic association) jacket and a wool hat. My hair was tucked up under the hat.  I remember the prickly feel of the hat on my forehead and the deep solitude of snow surrounding us, inch upon inch piling up.  The snow was the icy cover I needed to survive those years of my mother’s long slow slide into her illness and death.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

3 activities where the after is better than the during

What I like best about these activities is that no matter how much I suffer while doing them, how I feel afterwards more than compensates. The first is going to the gym or exercise in general. It’s hard to get started. As I lie on the sofa, I see the obstacles to going for a bike ride. First is a steeply pitched overpass I have to cross that takes me over a highway and back to the neighborhood where I used to live. Just visualizing it makes me reconsider getting on my bike. And that same ride is what gets me to the gym. But once I do, the endorphins fly and I feel marvelous no matter how hard I have to pedal to get up the slopes (on a bike you notice any incline more than you ever would walking). Another activity that falls into the same category is meditation. Again there’s a resistance to just sitting down and while I’m meditating, I can’t believe what passes through my head. There is the struggle to find the right position, then there’s hunger, then the barrage of thoughts that range from the utterly mundane to the actual problem solving solutions. But that’s not where my mind is supposed to be. But regardless of where I’ve been, the after effects stay with me. I’m calmer and more likely to find pleasure in the smallest details. And of course, there is giving poetry readings. Margaret Atwood has a great short story, “Lives of the Poets” in her collection “Dancing Girls.” The character in this story finds herself lying on the floor of the bathroom with a nosebleed before every reading. Well, it hasn’t gone that far with me, but there are reasons public speaking ranks high in lists of fears. It does get better with practice and preparation. Mostly I’m happy when I finish a reading and find people have listened to my work (and perhaps even applauded).

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Politicking. Can it be true? The election is only 2 months away. Can I bear any more advertising and insanity? I don’t have a TV but political ads crop up every time I open any page on the Internet. You’d think I was President Obama’s best buddy considering all the e-mails I get from him and his team. I could scream “uncle” enough already but there’s one more convention to go. This one I can bear to listen to, parts of it at least, though it may prove to be less shocking or amusing (Clint Eastwood) than the Republican one. That leads me (as so many topics do) to politicking in Spain. Political campaigns are publically financed so all the ads for the parties (once they gain a certain percentage of votes they are eligible for public financing) are grouped together at the end of a regular TV program with a warning before and after that this is political advertising. This made them very easy to avoid and since most often it was the same ad repeated, millions weren’t spent on drumming a message into our heads. Here I did hear a person interviewed on the radio about her choice of candidate for president, say she’d decide once she saw all the ads. I never heard anyone say that in Spain. This campaigning goes on right up to the bitter end. On election day I have been handed ads, pamphlets, and flyers as I was walking into the polling place. “Isn’t this a bit late?” I asked, surprised and annoyed as these were shoved into my hand. In Spain there was the “dia de reflecion”. That meant there were no ads in any form of the media. Voting took place on Sundays which gives more time to vote. There’s no scrambling to vote before going to work or worrying about long lines afterwards. So when corporations are people and money can determine the result of an election, wouldn’t it be great to have public financing and less circus?