Sunday, August 14, 2011

Checking the Weather

By Kelly Jean Cogswell

We’re up in the Catskills with no car and I’m obsessed with the weather. Will the storm hold off until I can hike to town and back for groceries? Will the sun last long enough to dry the laundry? Is that rain, or just wind moving through the birches or elms or whatever has that silvery bark and dangly, whispering leaves? Will I catch pneumonia if I get soaked?

I check the thermometer probably as much as I used to check the news, and use my dial-up Internet minutes to visit Yahoo’s weather page. It’s a change from activist drama, and the spectacle of blundering politicians on the U.S. stage. They’re doing their best to destroy what remains of the economy, while trying to blab themselves into the hot seat of the White House.

Among the Republicans, there’s no heavyweight preparing to emerge as a serious, thoughtful candidate, but that doesn’t mean anything. In the 2000 bid, George W. Bush ran mostly on charisma and that gee-shucks grin of his. For that matter, a nice smile didn’t hurt a flip-flopping Obama, either, when he was on the campaign trail. We like a genial president. Not too short. With nice, thick hair.

Pretty soon, they’ll all come into town and wave the flag and shed crocodile tears over New Yorkers dead these long ten years. If I could, I’d stay in bed until November. Up here, the only thing I listen to on the radio is Yankees baseball, and even then it’s more for the human voices than the suspense. Somebody’ll get a hit. Somebody won’t. After nine innings or so the guys will go home with another win or loss. I don’t much care.

I get philosophical up here staring at the sky. I have a cold. I’m depressed. With a few minor edits, I’m prepared to announce resistance is futile; nothing will ever change. Or can. Mark Twain in his day was already announcing American politicians were all scoundrels, and I see no reason to dissent. And Thoreau, who retreated to Walden Pond, but apparently within a safe distance of his mother’s cooking, declared you could pick up last decade’s newspaper and it would read more or less like one from the next full of political or economic intrigue, and a war here or there.

How can you argue with that? There is always a war. There are always politicians and merchants and missionaries lying through their teeth and bamboozling the population at large. Even riots seem the same. The broken shop windows and burning cars in London seem like the second act of the riots in Paris a couple of years ago, also set off by the death of two minority kids at the hands of cops.

Community organizers hold a sedate march or two, then testosterone takes over and rioters damage above all the mostly poor neighborhoods where they live themselves. That’ll show ‘em. That’ll change things. Protesters, of course, say they’re doing it to show their anger with the cops, and the racist system that leaves them unemployed and unemployable, and cuts services to the broke before taxing the rich. But every now and then a kid would admit, “I like burning cars. It’s fun.”

So why lift your eyes above your navel? Try to push back? Or influence the outcome? Why pick a team when there are idiots on all sides? Why cheer? A lot depends on perspective. The usual reasons have to do with the particulars that fill in the blanks. Just where is that pesky war? Whose house burned down? Was it your sister on the latest foundering ship? Are you part of a community still getting hit with an epidemic? Is it you loading your suitcases when you can’t pay the mortgage?

Or did you just recognize something of yourself, something human in that emaciated body on the front page of the newspaper? Or that pedestrian on the way to town? It happens every now and then. That leap of kinship. Lately, I’ve benefited myself. Our neighbors recognize my backpack now and have begun to stop, offering me lifts into town or back. They slip me phone numbers. “Call. We’ll arrange something. We go into town almost every day.” They know we’re two women together and don’t really care. What they can’t get over is how we have no car. Now that’s perverse. One neighhbor, Carol, has ordered all her friends stop. What does it cost them to pull over? I almost always accept. Grin. They already know where I live.

Today, thunderstorms are likely, again, with a high of 71. There’s a chance of rain weighing in at eighty percent. Tomorrow, more rain and thunderstorms in the afternoon. Then showers. Then thunderstorms. Then showers. Still, I’m covered.

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