Storm Comin’   (2016Jan23)

Saturday, January 23, 2016                                               12:20 AM

Friday morning we woke to a cold house and a broken furnace. This was not supposed to happen—there was no storm to knock out our power (yet) and we moved our fuel tank from underground into our cellar a few years back, so the fuel is supposed to be free of impurities that once sometimes clogged the filter—impurities that come from having an old fuel tank buried and rusting in the yard—mostly water condensation, with a touch of rust flakes. We were understandably disappointed that the winter cold had found yet another way to come at us, after we thought we had come to know what to expect. A spring in the fuel pump had broken, or so the repairman said, and it was repaired later in the day.

Now we’re expecting an historic storm tomorrow, just as we have recovered from a very shivery morning—these are incredible inconvenient and uncomfortable things—the loss of heat, and now the prospect of a power outage—but they do give a person perspective. Politics and personal demons seem to fade away in the face of possible exposure in one’s own home—I understand there are already tens of thousands of people down south who have lost power from the storm that is expected to show up here tomorrow—and two people have already died in what I heard described today as “all of winter in a single storm”.

We’ve almost become used to terrible storms in recent years—people are aware that the temporary inconvenience of a big snowfall, while serious, may be less dangerous than the high winds and potential coastal flooding that are also forecast this weekend. It’s a bad time for a lunar high tide—those on the coast have more reason to fear the winds than the snow. A big storm was forecast last year—and then pooped out in reality—if only this storm will poop out before it causes too many too much hardship. But I’m a pessimist and I expect the worst.

My neighbors all have generators—I don’t know why I persist in doing without one—every winter there’s at least one power outage from storms—usually more than one. Westchester is tree country and while the trees are beautiful, they tend to get weighted by snow or ice, and blown by the wind—with the result that they inevitably bring down a power line, or a few hundred power lines. One year we went three days without power—which meant three days without heat, among other inconveniences—so again, I can’t imagine why I keep putting off getting a generator—I was raised to just live with power outages, but there weren’t a lot of easy-to-use, affordable generators back then—so I guess I’m just an old guy.

For someone who hates getting a chill, I’m a terrible homeowner—I should get modern windows to replace the old sash ones (that are missing their respective storm windows and screens, anyway)—moreover, this house was originally a summer cottage, and I’ve never had it properly insulated—winters here are much more a nightmare than they need to be—and it could all have been avoided if I hadn’t been putting off these simple improvements for decades.

You’d think I’d appreciate the winter, when my inability to get out and about keeps me from braving the terrible road conditions—but the truth is I feel worse in winter when Bear has to go out, when I should be telling her to stay home and let me run errands and shopping trips in the bad weather. That’s what a husband is supposed to do—it’s what I used to do, when I was fit enough. It’s hard to be a hero when you’re old and sick. I hate not being a hero.

One bright spot in all this is that our daughter is warm and safe in sunny California, and well on her way to making me a grampaw sometime this summer. Here’s a picture of her work in progress:


Stormy Weather

Bear & Bozo

We were so suave, so debonair, so silly….

We were so young, back then. Aww.

Anyway, A lot of rain last week, so all my improvs (Jessy and I are considering a change–from ‘Improvs’ –which I’m sick to death of– to “Piano Arguments” which, Jessy informs me, is what ‘piano arrangements’ appears as, to the dyslexic.)

Again, so all my recent Piano Arguments have ‘storm’ in the title, except for ‘Deep Thoughts’ (which, I know, is Jack Handy’s bailiwick–but it’s just the one piece, and it really wants to be called ‘Deep Thoughts’). Nevertheless, it does contain the word Deep–and like the Brit Pop Singer, Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep”–it suggests the briny deep. And everyone knows that a storm in lower Manhattan may be very destructive, but it beats the hell out of being caught in the middle of the Long Island Sound during the same storm….

With a little boogie in it...

With a little boogie in it…

With a little ray of sunshine in it

With a little ray of sunshine in it

With a huff (small Italian car)...

With a huff (small Italian car)…


with deepest regrets

with deepest regrets

So, hoping for a dry spell–weather-wise, that is–and looking forward to next time…


Thoughts on Blizzards


Blizzard! Fine with me. Sorry about anyone getting blackouts or road-stranded, but I’m a well-seasoned stayer-inner and I have no plans or meetings that can’t be delayed until better weather. One cannot fully appreciate ones home without some outside conditions one would hate to be stuck in. Snow and high wind may be deadly, but they’re very pretty from behind a cozy window. This is the essence of human existence—a dry cave, a roaring fire, both warding off the cold and dark. In our case, it’s insulation and an oil-burning furnace, but it’s all the same thing—Mother Nature is a bitch out in the open—but she’s merely scenic from behind the warmth and shelter of a human dwelling.

Our larder is stocked, our tub is full of water, we’re as ready as we can be for a black-out, or a forced migration. The wind has battered we New Yorkers twice already this season—we’ve been ‘pre-disastered’, as John Irving’s “Garp” would put it. Better still, we’re not only in good stead, probability-wise—we also have a lot of very recent maintenance on the utility circuits to help us through a rough time. Mother Nature can still kick our ass, but she’ll have to use some elbow grease!

I’ve got a new medication that quells my ever-worsening tremors—it makes me kinda punchy, but it is such a pleasure to have the use of my hands back. I’m thinking of recording some Brahms in the near future. This respite can’t last forever—I’ve got to make hay etc.

Claire has several days of school-closing to bask in—she still has studying to do, but no travel, no classes, no working part-time for the Dept. Head. Snow is weird, man—it gives you a day off, but it doesn’t let you visit anyone.

Music can never be expressed in words alone. Light can never be expressed in paint alone. Even love’s expression leaves off at the limit of an embrace. Artists must always face the futility of their efforts, trying to do what cannot be done—and in the end it is the effort, not the achievement, which resonates with an audience. Art begins as an ache, a compulsion to fully share our thoughts and feelings—and the harder we try, the more beautiful our failures. But to be an artist is to put success permanently out of reach—otherwise, someone would have done it right already, and we’d be finished with art.

It is strange to think that science is the same—it seems more rigid, more absolute, but it is just as ephemeral as art, just as impossible of completion. Our answers always create many more questions, we discover physical ‘laws’ only to discover their exceptions, we quest among the four dimensions of our experience for explanations of a universe with dimensions more than twice that number. We use perspective, in art, to transform a flat two-dimensional canvas into an illusion of three-dimensional space. In science, we strain our brains to encompass the truth of a universe that (most theorists agree) exists in an estimated eleven dimensions. What those remaining seven dimensions have, as their ‘length’ or ‘width’ or ‘timespan’ characteristic, we may never know.

And even when we get answers, they can be incomprehensible. The number one-billion is such an answer. We can name it, we can do math with it, but we can’t really comprehend it. We can break it down—we can try to get to know it—it’s one-thousand million, it’s ten to the power of nine, it’s too many to count out loud. From a practical perspective, even one-thousand is too many to count aloud—thinking of one-hundred as ten tens is just about the limit of human cognizance. Every culture has its cut-off point with numbers—the older societies would stop at ten or twelve and count anything more as ‘a lotta’. We snobbish sophisticates have one, too—we call it Infinity. If any count exceeds a googolplex (an incomprehensible amount, itself) we don’t bother with further measurement, we just say ‘infinity’.

Or take that ‘quantum’ theory—particles and energies become interchangeable, and both become uncertainties—our universe becomes a mass of ‘probabilities’—how sad for the scientists, to discover that the final answer to the universe is ‘maybe’. Then there’s string theory, or chaos theory, or Mandelbrot equations—sharp-minded scholars study for years, not to actually understand, but just to gain a better appreciation of what we don’t understand!

So when someone tells you science is cold and machine-like, don’t you believe it. If there is anyone on this planet that has the best appreciation of the mind of God or the purpose of existence—it is a theoretical physicist, not a preacher. The awesome complexity, the mind-numbing vastness, the mystery of the human race, the deadly power of the energies that stream through infinity, beyond our little ‘Goldilocks’-planet cradle—the nature of life is far better represented by science research than by enforced ignorance and faith in magic.

You don’t have to worry that the ‘charm and magic’ of your life will be dulled by trading religion for theoretical physics—they are equally humbling, equally inspiring, and equally arcane. (In truth, I’d give the edge to science—it goes way past the childish fears and transference of the great god, HooDoo.) If science has a drawback, it is the infinitesimally remote part that we humans play in the universe. So, there is a choice to be made there—some people, I’m sure, would be more comfortable with human-centric belief systems. It’s a matter of dedication to the observable truth.

I see science as something which cannot be ignored. I see religion as something that holds us back from admitting what’s as plain as the nose on ones face. The church rose up against witches—in the process, they destroyed pharmacological lore that had taken hundreds of generations to accrue. The church rose up against astronomers—in the process, they persecuted the most intelligent scientists of their time. The churches of the Southern States once quoted Scripture to justify their desire to keep human slaves. The church fought against equality of human rights between the sexes—in the process, they kept a boot on the throat of womanhood for centuries—and this fight, and others, still plague us here in the 21st century.

The trouble with all this is that the church never fought applied science when it was uninvolved with scripture—light-bulbs, telephones, cars, radios—the churches were all Jake with this stuff. But the Amish show us that religion and technology are not comfortable sharing a couch together—we can live in a magic world or a science world. The modern major faiths are trying to maintain the magic of a world that has been photographed from heaven, seen people with artificial hearts in their chests, and rolled beneath the window of a seat on the Concorde at twice the speed of sound. Our science is our magic—we don’t need the magic of primitive cultures anymore. We have answered some questions that older civilizations assumed were unanswerable—we have done what was once thought un-doable.

We can’t cling to the faiths of the ignorant past and progress in our scientific study at the same time. The Jihads of the Islamic and the Papal Bulls of the Catholic are but two of the most obvious points of friction between common sense and the charm of religion. The faiths we have can come from ideas and beliefs. We all have faith, but some faiths are friendlier than others—our faith in each other is a positive good. Other faiths held by more pious people can only be described as nonsensical. But, good or bad, a person’s faith cannot be changed by force—nor should it be.

That is the importance of religious freedom. Two groups of people—each side sure that the others are mad as hatters. We can only live together in peace if we all allow a little leeway for each other.