ARE WE IN OZ YET, DOROTHY? – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My ex husband, Larry, and I lived through a very atypical evening in Florida many years ago. We were visiting Larry’s mother, Dorothy, in Pompano Beach, Florida. She lived in a fifteen-story condo right across from the ocean and had a magnificent water view.

My mother-in-law, Dorothy, with our son, David on her beach

One night, Larry and I decided to go to the movies. Dorothy decided to stay home. We got out of the movie after dark and headed home. We came upon a police barricade complete with flashing lights and multiple police cars. We were routed off the road and in the wrong direction.

A short ways down the next road, we came upon another phalanx of police cars with flashing lights detouring us even further away from the condo. What was going on?

Larry and me on Dorothy’s balcony in Florida

Larry decided to ignore the barricades and head back in the direction we needed to go. Suddenly we saw a tree uprooted and leaning against a house. Next we saw a car upside down on the roof of a garage. One whole side of the street was total chaos and the other side was perfectly intact. I could see a glass collection in somebody’s front window on the safe side of the street.

As we got closer to the condo, we noticed that there were no lights on in any of the houses. We caught sight of the condo and it was also dark. We started to pull into the car port outside the parking garage at the condo. But it was gone! The roof was off, smashed and folded in on itself, lying on the ground. The cement blocks that held the roof up were strewn around, as were several cars.

We left our car outside and ran into the building to make sure Dorothy was okay. Just as we got to the building, the lights went back on. That meant that power was back and we could take the elevator up to the apartment.

Apparently, while we were in the movie, a tornado had hit the town, going directly through the condo’s parking area. A tornado on the water is apparently unheard of. We were the exception that proves the rule!

There was extensive damage all around. It took months to fully repair the damage to the condo. Dorothy weathered the storm safely inside, but a lady in a nearby condo was sucked out through her patio doors as she tried to close them. She was killed.

It happened so quickly, we managed to miss the whole storm. We avoided what Dorothy described as a terrifying experience full of horrifying sounds and flying objects. We were pretty freaked out just seeing the damage a tornado can do first hand.

I’ve seen disaster footage on TV many, many times. But it doesn’t hit home until you see it in person. It gave me a new respect for Mother Nature. And a new fear for what climate change may have in store for all of us down the road!

WRONG OFFICE

I woke up this morning to the roll of thunder. Not one of those loud bangs that means it has struck nearby … or worse, struck the house. We have been hit by lightning three times to date, so I’m good with rolling thunder. It’s the violent crack the means we’ve been hit I worry about.

The dogs, on the other hand, are unhappy about any kind of thunder. Rolling or on target. They are also happier without rain. Something about the falling wet stuff puts their big black noses completely out of joint. Mind you, they are fine with cold, heat, and snow. Just not rain.

I needed to get the dogs out the door … and they weren’t going. I got one out, the next one came in. They ran in three directions at the same time and Duke went into a frenzy of fence leaping for no reason I could determine. And then, the clouds opened up and it really started to rain. Very hard.

We had a vet appointment for Duke that same afternoon. He needs a new rabies shot. I’m beginning to think tranquilizers wouldn’t be a bad choice either. I called the vet and agreed I’d call back at around 1:30 if the weather was still dicey.

The sun came out for about two minutes then promptly disappeared again leaving it as close to dark as it ever gets during the day. Another rumble of thunder. I called the number. I explained in detail why we could not make it today. The final point was that the only way we would get Duke into the car would be for Garry to carry and hoist him in — and Garry was not up to the lifting. So I asked for a new appointment.

“I think,” she said, “that you were trying to call your veterinarian.”

“This isn’t the vet?”

“No,” she said. “This is your doctor’s office.”

“Oh.” I thought about that for a minute. “It was nice of you to listen to the whole story.”

“No problem,” she said. “But you probably should call your vet.”

I called the vet. I double checked just to make sure it really was the vet this time. I made an appointment for next week. Same time. Same vet. Same place. Same dog.

I really appreciate that the manager at the doctor’s office listened to the entire spiel before suggesting I call the vet. It made my spiel to the vet much more efficient. Practice makes perfect.

WACKY WEATHER – BY ELLIN CURLEY

My ex-husband, Larry, and I had a knack for traveling to places where the weather was uncharacteristic and extreme.

Our first big trip together was our honeymoon, which took place three months BEFORE the wedding (don’t ask!). We spent three weeks in England and France at the end of June. Summer. I packed one long-sleeved shirt, one sweater and one light coat, just in case. Most of the photos of me are in these three pieces of clothing. I wore them almost every day. It was like a blustery, chilly fall day for the entire three weeks.

Me freezing in France on my pre-wedding Honeymoon in late June

My first trip to Disney World, in Orlando, Florida, was in March. Not summer but still warm in Florida. Except when we were there. It was so cold, my only souvenir from the trip was a pair of gloves – which I wore every day!

Me in my turtle neck sweater and gloves in Disney World, Fla. (pregnant)

We’ve been in Florida when the orange tree growers were frantically putting blankets on their fruit trees to try to protect them from the deadly frost. We’ve been in Los Angeles, California when the swimming pools were freezing over. Record cold weather was reported in both places.

We went to Yosemite National Park in Northern California in the fall, expecting nippy weather. It was a record-breaking 95 degrees the whole time. We had to buy shorts and tank tops to survive. We also had to cancel many of the hikes and climbs we had planned because I don’t do well in hot weather.

Me in Yosemite Nat’l Park in the heat

The funniest weather story took place in Florida during one of those record-breaking cold streaks. I flew to Larry’s mom’s condo in Pompano Beach, Florida. Larry met me there from a business trip in Colorado, where he had done some skiing. We were enjoying another uncharacteristically cold snap. Larry called the office in New York City to check in. The lawyer back home asked him about the weather. Larry replied that it was 19 degrees out! The New York lawyer said, “Great! You’ll get in some good skiing!” Frustrated, Larry answered, “Schmuck! I’m in Florida now!”

This wacky weather curse must be attached to me, because it carried over to my second husband, Tom.

We took a canal boat trip around the countryside of England in April. It was over 90 degrees for several days in a row. That would have been an anomaly in England in August, let alone April. One day Tom actually got sun stroke and came home with a wicked sunburn. People asked us how our trip went and we told them about the sunstroke. Invariably we would get a confused response like, “Oh, you were in Florida?” or “I thought you were in England!”

Tom and me on our canal boat in the heat

One of our vacations was actually ruined because of crazy weather. We flew all the way to Hawaii, expecting the beautiful scenery and the consistently idyllic weather we’d been told about by our friends. We went there primarily to go on dive trips in the pristine waters. Unfortunately, there had been a hurricane just before we arrived. The water had been churned up so badly that the ocean stayed muddy the entire week we were there. There was no visibility underwater so all of our dive trips were canceled.

To add insult to injury, it rained every single day and was overcast the whole time. The sun came out for the first time to taunt us as we drove to the airport to go home!

Kauai, Hawaii in the rain

We also lost a day on a cruise because of bad weather. We were scheduled to leave on a cruise to Bermuda from a pier in New York City right near Tom’s office. He had always dreamed of walking to the pier and getting on a cruise ship. We were finally doing it!

Instead, a tropical storm delayed the incoming ship and rerouted it to Boston. We not only lost one day of our trip, but we had to drive all the way to Boston to get the ship. So much for Tom’s dream cruise from New York City.

Weather has not always been my friend in my travels, though overall, I’ve lucked out more often than not. However, the crazy weather stories are much more fun to write about. So, let’s hear it for funky weather on vacations!

AUGUST 10th – AS THE WORLD ROLLS ON

Share Your World – August 7, 2017


What was the last URL that you bookmarked or saved?

Wunderground.com. It’s the local weather station. Local for everyone, actually because it’s based on everyone’s private little weather station in backyards, fields, and other non-official places.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

I often get better information from them for my immediate area. The bigger weather stations give me the weather for the region, generally Worcester or northern Rhode Island … but we live some miles away.

Even a few miles and the weather can be surprisingly different. It may be pouring  five miles up the road and sunny here. Or vice versa, of course.

Do you believe in the afterlife?  Reincarnation?

I don’t know. I really don’t know. I stopped thinking about it because I haven’t the slightest idea. No one has come back from the other side to tell me, so … until then? I haven’t any idea.

If you were or are a writer do you prefer writing short stories, poems or novels?

These days, blogs are fine. I’ve written technical manuals. Instructional books. One novel. Lots of short stories. Mountains of letters.

Whatever I’m writing, it’s the right thing for me to write. So, for now, this is the right thing for me to write but maybe next week, it’ll be something entirely different.

What inspired you this past week?  Feel free to use a quote, a photo, a story, or even a combination. 

Nothing inspired me this week. A few things genuinely pissed me off, but that’s not what you want to hear. So we’ll stick with “sorry, not an inspirational week.”

OH! THE FLOWERS THAT BLOOM IN THE SPRING, TRA LA

Speaking of blossoms, there hasn’t been much of a spring. Tra la.

Mostly, there have been torrents of rain. Weeks of dark gray, overcast days . Once in a while, we get two or three sunny days, then the rain is back.

Heavy downpours intermingled with drizzle, fog, mist and a fairly bone-chilling cold. The bone-chilling spring is moving inexorably into an equally bone-chilling summer, or so it seems, I’m pleased to report that I can see fat buds on some of the lilies in the garden. They aren’t blooming though. Not yet. I have hopes that the first sunny day, which is due to show up maybe next Wednesday, will bring them out. Meanwhile, the day is more than a little bit nightish. Dark, cold and of course, rainy. At least today it’s a light rain. Yesterday’s was torrential.

We hardly ever “get out,” but in the middle of last night’s downpour, we went out to have fun (and we did, too). That’s another story. It was a long drive not made easier by the weather. Not going out is a money thing, but really, it’s a “where would we go anyhow” thing. Fine cuisine never made its way to our fair hamlet. If it got here, the owners soon discovered no one was willing or able to pay for it and moved. This isn’t a fine cuisine kind of place. Uxbridge is a working class city. A good burger is haute cuisine and although I can appreciate the elegance of a well-made burger, I can do that at home. I don’t go out to eat food I can easily prepare in my kitchen for 1/4 the price.

This is a very Main Street village. Yes, some people make more money than others, but there’s no sense of this being a city on its way up. Holding steady is what we are doing and that’s not bad, considering the fate of many other small towns. I can live with “hanging in there” as a local scenario.

We are almost finished building a brand new firehouse in the middle of town, conveniently located maybe two hundred feet from the original fire house which is underneath old Town Hall. There is also (same building) (no longer in use) (but maybe they should reopen it) jail there. The building is from 1889, apparently our last major building spree in Uxbridge.

Main Street, Uxbridge in front of City Hall.

I have heard tell housing prices are rising. We should check it out, I suppose. I ought to do it — just to make myself feel better — but then, I think: “If we sell this place, where would we go next?” This house is not old, but old enough. In good shape structurally — a roof that doesn’t leak, a boiler that keeps pumping heat, electricity that works as long as you don’t turn on an air conditioner in the living room while using the microwave or mini-oven — it needs cosmetic fixing. Paint. Molding. That kind of stuff.

With all the well-known limitations of this house, we are comfortable. Okay with politics and even with some of the weird decisions our so-called local government makes. Our blue heaven. Massachusetts has many foibles including bizarrely convoluted politics, but somehow, we manage to take reasonable care of people. There is more than enough complaining and whining anyway, but at least in this commonwealth, you can go to a doctor and get treated. Good doctors, top-notch hospitals, and a forgiving attitude towards medical hardship. It makes dealing with our weather easier. Especially for those of us who aren’t the healthiest individuals of our age group.

The non-snow places to which we might move are loaded with people I prefer to avoid. They are entitled to their opinions, but I don’t want to sit and listen to them.

It is peaceful here. Quiet. Rush hour? Nope. The closest we get to that is when there’s a parade in town and you either get there early to park … or you have to wait until it’s over. Road construction? Where in New England can you go where the months from snow-melt to more snow isn’t construction?

The flowers may not be expressing themselves with their typically hardy blossoms, but people are okay. We don’t shoot each other. No one hauls heavy artillery to the grocery store or Walmart. Maybe they think about it, but they don’t do it. That’s a big plus.

So, we’ll hang around.

Next? If only I magically make the stairs disappear!

SUMMERTIME – MAY IN THE MIDDLE

Photo: Garry Armstrong

This is how it works in New England. It starts with winter. Which may begin as early as September, but more typically gets moving around Thanksgiving … but may hold off until late January. The worst winter we ever had (that was measurable) started January 29, 2015. We hadn’t had so much as a serious flurry.

From the end of January until March, we were hit by just about 12 feet of snow. That is a lot of snow, no matter how you count it or what measurements you use. Other years, we’ve gotten significant snow in early November and not seen the ground until the following April.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

About spring. It’s our most ephemeral season. Many years, we go directly from winter to summer without a weekend to go buy a bathing suit. The first year I spent in New England, the temperature hit 90 degrees in early April and never dropped until suddenly, in September, the temperature fell by 60 degrees. Autumn arrived.

Pink wildflowers by the river

This year was as typical or at least as typical as spring gets. Cold, wet, cold, wet, windy, cold wet. In the middle of May, overnight, the clouds broke. The next day, it hit 96 degrees on the clock in the middle of town. While all the cold, wet, and windy weather was doing its thing, flowers were budding and leaves were beginning to pop.

Thus, I went out and took some pictures today. I was surprised that we have no sign of roses yet. Usually we see rose buds by mid May, but not this year.

Look closely and you can see the tiny black caterpillars destined to eat every leaf on the trees.

Bad news? The caterpillars are back. Tiny little Gypsy Moth caterpillars are crawling all over the oak trees along the canal. How bad will it be this year? No way to know. We had a lot of rain and that may help … but there’s really no way to know. Our property has been sprayed as much as we can without killing everything. It won’t solve the larger problem, but it will make it possible for us to come and go from our house without getting assaulted by hairy, poisonous caterpillars.

I’m trying to focus on enjoying the flowers and leaves while we have them. And hoping the trees survive another defoliation.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

There’s nothing “gradual” about weather in this part of New England. It doesn’t change a little bit from minute to minute. It can change with hilarious suddenness. Back when Garry and I were living in Boston, one warm November day, we walked to the nearby bar to grab some lunch. We were wearing shorts and tee shirts. We were there for an hour and half.

When we hit the door to depart, it was 35 degrees and blowing a minor gale. We ran all the way home.