One singular sensation

Oh joy. Snow I can take; cold I can take; wind I can take. I can take all three at once, but when the snow is hard and the cold has that bone-aching quality and the wind needles into every pore, you wonder why you’re here. And so I started the day by musing, aloud, whether one day we might seek a warmer clime.

“No!” Gnat cried. “I don’t want to move!”

Neither do I; I love the seasons. The endless permutations of yellow and brown in fall, the wild heedless eruptions of spring, the way summer settles in and falls asleep until fall picks its pockets, the endless permutations of autumn, the majestic arrival of winter, even the crisp antiseptic severity of January. But – at the risk of earning hoots and catcalls from all the partisans of winter – I am not particularly pleased by the knowledge that I won’t see an 80 degree day for seven months.

So I built a little cigar room in the basement. Bought an air filter, installed it in the storage room, and now that’s where I go to have a draw. As the season progresses I plan to clear some space and set it up for podcasting. Maybe even get one of those “On the Air” signs, just to complete the affectation. The air filter seems to work, anyway; the tell-tale aroma of fifties-Shriner-convention has not yet curled its way from the basement. A small compensation, but on a day like this, it helps.

Because it was miserably, punitively, uselessly cold. Gnat slipped on the ice on the steps on the way to the bus. I slipped on the ice on the steps on the way back from the bus stop. Jasper ran out the back door, hit a patch, did a blurry little jitterbug that should have been accompanied by a Hanna-Barbera sound effect. The house was cold; the bathroom tiles were cold, the bathrobe was cold, my clothes were cold, my coat was cold when I took it from the entryway closet, which itself was cold. The car was cold when I started it up to pick up Gnat.

It seemed like a lot of cold.

And apparently it affected my brain, since I showed up at school an hour too early. Dang. So. Off to a boutique that sells gifts and home décor items; I found nothing. I never find anything there. But it’s the kind of place that seems like it will pay off some day. Then the grocery store, where I told the day manager about the Bad Chicken Episode; he checked the product, and not only hadn’t it been pulled, there were several suspiciously cloudy packages still available for sale. He refunded everything without a receipt. I did not ask for a refund on the white sauce I ruined by adding the bad chicken, because frankly that was my fault. I smelled it; it smelled bad; I still put it in the sauce. Honor requires I eat that one, so to speak.

Picked Gnat up from school. Target. Dropped Gnat off at a birthday party, wolfed down dinner in the car, went home and started working. The book proposal is now finished, and will go out tomorrow; huzzah, etc. Now I have to write a column, and go to bed; early interviews tomorrow. I leave you with a double Screedblog, if you care, and a minor revised version of a Joe chapter, the last one I rewrote. From now on it’s all new stuff. Old version here, new version here.

But of course:
I went downstairs to finish the cigar and saw a stack of old clips I’d unearthed tonight while rearranging the storage area. A Washington Post Style section. My byline reads “Minneapolis talk-radio host and Newhouse News Service columnist.” The other commentators on the page are Mary McGrory and Arianna Huffington, who is chastising Colin Powell for something or other. The only story on the page that stands the test of time is an elegy to Woodies, a department store in downtown DC that had just closed its doors. It reminded me of everything I loved and loathed about DC. The politics, the culture, the insularity, the bottomless self-regard – those were the things that defined the city for the overclass, and they were the things that interested me the least. The city itself, its history and traditions, its brand names and bygone glories – that was the DC worth knowing, worth studying, worth exploring. I was never happier in DC than when I found some obscure statue somewhere, complete with forgotten hero poised on the plinth, staring into the face of destiny with resolution and faith. Chances are you’d never heard of him – and this was before Google, so you couldn’t go back to the office and read all about it. Just a stone man on a stone block with pigeon dreck dribbling down his nose, reminding you that fame fades. Fame is eroded by the work of a million tongues, all shaping the names of the people who come after you. If you’re lucky, you get a statue. If you won a battle, you get a fountain. If you liberated a continent, you get a traffic circle, and people go round and round every day without a thought of what you did. How glad I was to leave. How little I miss it. But what I wouldn’t give to be sitting outside my favorite DC bar in a warm and merciful May right now, flattering myself with the sound of snarky gossip.

Just for one night. Because it’s cold here; it’s cold and far away. From what? I can’t tell; I can only sense the distance.

Oh, right: SPRING.