And now for something semi-hilarious

This weather, for starters.

It’s actually not funny anymore when you observe what old Mother Nature has been up to lately. It’s just straight up dangerous. In fact, when I wake up in the morning, I think to myself: “I wonder how cold it’s gonna be today.” Thoughts of food, breakfast, or peeing come second. And I don’t want to move from the space I’m in. I want to stay in bed and remain at a comfortable temperature.

So I pick up my phone and check the weather. Locally, it’s below zero. Regionally, it’s just about zero. And across the nation, it varies but the consensus remains the same: it’s frickin’ cold; just around zero. And it’s predominantly below zero with wind chill no matter where you are. I also notice that schools are closing. Some have even kept students indoors for the night. Steak-um’s for lunch yesterday, kiddies? Well, you got’em again today! I’m sure the kids are digging the massive sleepover, but the teachers? Yeah, probably not so much.

In Atlanta, folks have been stuck on highways for as long as 24 hours; gas run out and going nowhere. One individual left his car and walked 4 miles to the airport, leaving his rental in the sea of cars stuck in the second ice age. Again, wow! Very impressive. If it were uphill, then I’d be even more impressed.

And when I turn on my computer, I see that the top 5 trending items for the day are:
1. Amanda Bynes
2. X-Men movie sequel
3. Justin Bieber mugshot
4. Puppy commercial Super Bowl
5. Justin Bieber vacation girl

Nothing catches my interest so I log out and go about my day. All the while making certain that I don’t wear less than three shirts and two pairs of pants. Remembering, it’s frickin’ cold out there.

But here’s the semi-hilarious part of this post: around 9 pm, I get a phone call from family asking me if I saw the state of the union address.

“What’s that, you say? That was tonight?”

“Yes, did you see it?”

“No. I did not.”

How embarrassing. Regardless of where your political stance lies, it’s hard to believe that the “unnamed Justin Bieber vacation girl” trended higher than the state of the union. What’s more, those other things trended higher on my radar. That’s the really embarrassing part and I’m ashamed to admit that. It’s not even semi-hilarious when I think about it. It’s just sad. Sad that I didn’t seek out something else. And sadder still that I allowed myself to think that there was nothing else out there. Frick.

So here’s hoping that you weren’t like me the other day. Here’s hoping that when you awoke, you did something like this: “Wow, it’s still frickin’ cold out but hey, it’s the state of the union address tonight. I should probably watch that. If nothing else, so I have an idea of what other people may be talking about tomorrow and not be in the dark about really important stuff.”

Yes, that’s much better.

Tornado Warnings, Tornado Watches, Tornado Touch downs, Tornado….

I’m often baffled by weather reports. It’s not that they’re presented in some overly complex or complicated manner, it’s just that I don’t understand what their purpose is sometimes. Specifically, in the case of tornadoes. Why all the hoopla when it comes to tornadoes anyway?

Most anyone can tell when a bad storm is brewing, can’t they? You look into the sky and you visibly see the dark clouds congregating. The air becomes a little colder, the wind blows a little faster, and every animal within a certain radius either scurries into hiding or disappears altogether.

And then there’s us. Human beings. We stare up into the atmosphere, take it all in, and then wonder if it’s really going to storm or not. We look at the person next to us and pretend like we know a thing or two about rain: “Hey, it looks like rain” (and by all accounts, it usually does). And when the rain actually does come, we can reassure ourselves that hey, we’re pretty good at predicting the weather.

That’s the long and short of forecasting storms. Nothing too puzzling about it. But then there’s tornadoes. The brother of the hurricane; sister to the tsunami; and the cousin of the earthquake. You’ve got your extended family like the hailstorm, the blizzard, and the tidalwave, but tornadoes are truly a force which stands alone. Mudslides, flash floods, and volcanic eruptions can be just as few and far between, but nothing grabs the attention of local weathermen (and the casual onlooker) like the tornado.

They’re somewhat alien-like, aren’t they? Like a big tentacle coming out of the sky, just waiting to snatch up us puny Earthlings. It’s all very War-of-the-Worlds type stuff and yet, it’s a common phenomenon that we have to avoid and calculate if we are to stay well clear of the tornado’s wrath.

Which is why we have so many ways to announce their approach. The tornado “warning”, the tornado “watch”, we even have smaller versions of the tornado called “microbursts”, which kind of become tornadoes but aren’t really at all. It’s like we wanted it to be a tornado, but hey, it just didn’t have the whole funnel thing down enough. Move along please.

I’ve often wondered why that is the case. Why we always get in such a tizzy as it pertains to tornadoes. Is it because of the movie Twister? A film which puts Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt as certified “storm chasers” – folks that literally rush after the nearest tornado in hopes of being able to study these anomalies of nature. Think Jaws but without the water and you’ve got a good handle on what Twister tried its hand at accomplishing. Audiences were introduced to Cary Elwes playing a bad guy, “Bob’s road” became a real place, and people were led to believe that tornadoes made sounds like screeching aliens or roaring lions as they tried to “devour” everything in their path. My favorite part in the movie (somewhere near the middle) is when we’re educated on what an F-5 tornado is. For those who aren’t up to speed, the F-5 is a term of measurement on the Fujita scale – a scale which calculates how vicious tornado is by how it destroys or “eats”, as portrayed in the film. And when someone asks what it would be like to witness one, a fellow storm chaser slowly states, “The finger of God”.

Ooo, I just got goosebumps.

Well, Twister isn’t that old of a film and I’m fairly certain that tornadoes have been around longer than Bill Paxton or Helen Hunt, so what’s the deal? I know that many people (myself included) will frequently have dreams where a big tornado, scary and nasty, sucks them up, never to be seen again before waking up in a cold sweat. I, for one, have been chased by bears, wolves, and crazy people with chainsaws in my own dreams (don’t judge) but nothing is quite as terrifying as being sucked into a tornado. Look up what that means in a dream dictionary and it’ll tell you something like this: “you’re in turmoil”, which shouldn’t be much of a shock anyway. But the truth is, there’s a reason why we’d make a big budget film about tornadoes and a reason for why they’d represent tumultuous circumstances in the deep subconscious parts of our minds. And that reason is two-fold: tornadoes present us with an incredible sense of awe and simultaneously, an overwhelmingly unpleasant sense of fear.

In one regard, we are amazed by their power. A single funnel cloud can lift a whole house from the ground and deposit it miles away from where it once stood. And because of its dramatic power, the tornado is something to be afraid of. There’s nothing cutesy or cuddly about a rampaging twister – you either get out of the way or face the consequences of being swept up in its path. But that’s not all. Tornadoes are very specific in where and when they touch down. Unlike a hurricane which covers a huge blanket of space, the tornado leaves a trail that is easily seen from up above. Like the footprints of some giant monster moving about the countryside, tornadoes end up leaving their mark wherever they go. In that way, the tornado seems to be alive somehow; like it’s actively picking and choosing where it decides to run amok. We all know that it’s not possible for the tornado to decide which way it goes, but its unpredictable nature appears to give some illusion of thought process. Even if it’s totally chaotic, we still feel like the tornado was out to get us somehow.

Then there’s the fact that we can’t fight back. We don’t call in the national guard or the army when a tornado is imminent. That’s silly. The tornado will have its day and then it’ll be gone. Like a really bad in-law or a sudden rush of diarrhea (great parallels, right?), the tornado cannot be combated through conventional means. There’s no special weapon to take down a tornado; we can only move aside and wait for the chaos to be over.

I find this all rather fascinating, to be honest. As a kid, I loved storms. My family had 10 acres of land which sat on a hillside overlooking a vast valley. The horizon stretched from one end of the Earth to the other, or as far as you could see. So when a storm rolled in, you could see it coming from miles away. That was pretty cool, as I recall. And I sometimes wondered what it would be like to see a tornado coming in from off in the distance. Trees would sway from the mounting currents of wind, the grass would come up out of the ground, and the furniture on the front porch would move slightly, but none of those of things would have remained if a tornado were to hit unexpectedly.

My family’s house was never hit with a tornado and for that, I am grateful. But I always wanted to see one up close anyway. I’d be mindful of weather reports in our area and if the chance arose to see a touch down, I’d think about running off to go see it. And that’s when it hit me. The other realization as to why the tornado is so awe-inspiring and so deadly frightening at the same time: its proximity.

We can’t get close to hurricanes and be untouched, we can’t sit through a blizzard and enjoy the scenery, and we certainly can’t observe an earthquake in casual fashion. But what we can do is take in the sights and sounds of a roaring funnel cloud that’s within striking distance. That’s the difference-maker. I’d wager to guess that when people hear “tornado watch”, there’s a mixture of emotions taking hold inside. On one end, there’s that normal reaction which says, “Ok, I better stay inside tonight”, but I’ll bet there’s another part of us that says, “I wonder if it’ll get close enough that I see it up close.”

It’s interesting how that works. Most people don’t go running down to the nearest shoreline to see a tidalwave or a hurricane as it approaches (that just ain’t right), but the tornado gives us an opportunity to get up close and personal. To be feared? Yes, absolutely. Don’t go running out to storm chase because of this blog. I”m not saying that, but bear in mind the sheer magnitude of seeing one in close quarters. A truly frigtening experience, and yet altogether stunning at the same time.

Or just as the movie says, like the “finger of God”.

Hard to write when it’s nice out

The weather took a serious turn for the better here in OH and it’s affecting everyone I see. “Mild grumpiness” has turned to “slightly happy” and “fairly hostile” has become “somewhat approachable”. It’s a relief to see people in such good moods all day, even if it’s the result of a little vitamin D coming their way. I, for one, am also relieved. The only problem is trying to come up with what to write about.

When it gets nice outside, I don’t want to be inside. I’d rather be outside; as would most other people I’d imagine. If you’re a writer, that’s a bit of a conundrum to be in. You almost wish that the environment wouldn’t play such a hefty role in your writing process, but guess what, it does. As a child, I liked being outside. Rather than grow out of that phase, it’s stayed with me my whole life. So when the weather goes from chilly to “hey let’s wear shorts today”, I get jumpy and head outside.

And outside means no laptop, no pen and paper, and certainly no publishing of blogs. Granted, I could pop open my iPhone and jot down a quick post, but who would see it? If you’ve been stuck in a cave for 6 months (like the rest of Northeast OH) then you ought to be outside when the sun comes out. Leave that iPhone or Droid at home. Kick a ball around or just run up and down the sidewalk (sounds crazy, but could be fun). That’s seizing the moment, if you will.

Conversely, my time to seize the moment is when it’s too cold to venture beyond my apartment. Sure, I’ll write in the summer – that’s a given – but it may not be with the same frequency that I do in the winter. By spring’s end, I should be enjoying a decent book; not just writing one.

So what do you write about when the sun comes out? Well, nothing really I guess. Just a few short quips on the importance of being out I suppose? That sounds about right.