This winter I’ve been experiencing rhinorrhea pretty much on a daily basis. In fact, I’m hit by a bout of rhinorrhea whenever I go outside for a walk on a cold day.
No surprise there — rhinorrhea is the high-falutin’ medical term for a runny nose, from the Greek word for nose. (That’s why plastic surgery on the nose is called rhinoplasty, incidentally, and it’s got nothing to do with comparing the size of the schnoz being operated on to the horn of rhinoceros.) My daily dose of rhinorrhea therefore isn’t a cause for alarm, it’s just an annoyance.
I begin my walk in the bracing cold, take some deep breaths of the crisp, clear air, and about halfway into my stroll my nose has turned into a roaring mucus machine and I’m leaking fluid like a sieve, leaving me to either sniffle it back down or remove the glove for a quick wipe-off with a tissue. But it’s just a temporary fix, because inevitably the sputum production ramps up again for however long I’m outside, making the Kleenex box my first stop after I get home.
So congratulations! That irksome runny nose means you’re perfectly fine and your body and its defense mechanisms are working as millennia of evolution intended. Just be sure to keep an endless supply of nasal tissue on hand for the winter, because you’re going to need it.
The weather app on my iPhone cautions that it’s 2 degrees Fahrenheit outside, on its way down to a low temperature below zero. There’s a brisk 14 miles per hour wind blowing steadily from the west that, combined with the temperature, has created a wind chill factor of minus 16 degrees. And the National Weather Service has issued a warning that the extreme cold and wind could produce wind chills as low as 40 below zero, which could cause exposed skin to experience frostbite in as little as 10 minutes.
That kind of scary cold is an assault on all that’s holy and everything warm and pleasant in the world. But nevertheless, in a few minutes, I’ve got to take an exuberant, cold-loving dog out to do her business. What to do?
Alert the armed forces! It’s time to deploy the Mad Bomber!
The Mad Bomber is easily the warmest hat in the house. In fact, it’s easily the warmest hat in any house. Made in China, it features a nylon shell, natural rabbit fur trim and interior lining. It even has a little clasp that allows you to lock the hat around your chin, the better to protect those delicate, flabby neck wattles by swathing them securely in fur. When you don the hat, your encased head immediately begins sweating.
Of course, it’s not a stylish piece of headwear, as a bit of doggerel I composed some years ago acknowledges. The Mad Bomber belongs on the head of a rustic villager trudging across the windswept Siberian tundra, or perhaps your high school janitor out salting the teacher’s parking lot on the coldest day of the year. But then, no one turns to the Mad Bomber for style. It’s deployment is purely a defense mechanism, designed to give humans a chance at surviving the most brutal temperatures and crippling cold.
Schiller Park is wonderful every season of the year, but I really think winter is when the park is at its best. On a snowy day like today, the footing is treacherous — if even dogs are slipping, as they were this morning, you know you’ve really got to watch it — but you just can’t beat the winter vistas.
Thanks to the melting of the snow we got over the weekend, followed by the persistent rains that fell more recently, Schiller Park had become Lake Schiller this morning, with many of the pathways completely flooded. The whole area had a certain ghostly beauty under the light fixtures, with the watery areas just beginning to freeze as the temperature dropped.
I imagine the Columbus water reservoirs are full to bursting, given the amount of precipitation we’ve received already this winter. If California wants to bring an end to its long-standing drought, I’m sure the water-logged states of the Midwest would be happy to work out a trade in which our excess water is swapped for the Golden State’s excess sunshine.
Yesterday I walked to and from the office with temperatures in the 20s and a sharp, cutting wind reddening my face and sending my suddenly flimsy raincoat flapping around my legs.
This morning I woke up and, as I stood in our warm kitchen sipping a blessedly hot cup of coffee, I heard rain on the roof. I looked out into the backyard in the pre-dawn darkness and saw the glittering evidence of the Queen Mother of Crappy Weather on every plant, tree, shrub, and fencepost. Yes, that’s right — a dreaded onslaught of freezing rain has coated every object in ice. Freezing rain, for those lucky people who’ve never experienced it, means that it’s not quite cold enough for precipitation to fall as snow, but just cold enough for the rain to turn to ice once it hits the ground. It’s the worst winter weather of all because it’s cold, and wet, and frozen all at once, and it means the commute this morning will be slick and treacherous for drivers and pedestrians alike. There’s a breeze, too, and the weather page helpfully reports that it feels like 22 degrees out there.
It’s the kind of weather that makes February in Columbus inarguably the worst weather month of the year. But, it’s only November 15. Hey, Mother Nature! What gives?
We’ve once again experienced an abrupt mash-up of the seasons here in the Midwest. True fall weather has been fleeting, and it seems like we’ve moved directly and too quickly into winter. For those people, like me, who think autumn is the best season of the year — well, we feel cheated. We know Old Man Winter is going to arrive sooner or later, but can’t he at least wait until after we’ve had our Thanksgiving dinner before he hits us with freezing rain and another round of “wintry mix”?
If you’re in the Midwest, brace yourself, because it’s too cold too soon . . . again.
Today the 2018 Major League Baseball season starts. On Opening Day, fans of every team can approach the new season with optimism that this might just be the year for their team to win it all.
Fans of the Cleveland Indians, like Russell and UJ and me, are hoping that, on this 70th anniversary of the Tribe’s last World Series title, this might be the year that the team ends a very long drought. With the winless streak now celebrating its 70th birthday, we think it’s time for its mandatory retirement. And after last season, where Cleveland won more than 100 games but lost to the Damn Yankees in the playoffs, Tribe fans are hoping that the team has the pieces in place to make another legitimate run for the championship banner.
But Tribe fans are not alone, of course. The start of baseball season is great, because every baseball fan everywhere feels inward optimism about their squad, even if they won’t admit it publicly. Lightning can and does strike. Sometimes teams just gel, and unlikely heroes emerge, and rookie phenoms actually pan out. Every year, it seems, there is a Cinderella story, and at the start of the season every fan hopes that their team will end up donning the glass slipper. The sense of hopefulness and possibility is intoxicating — but also can be brief and ruined by reality.
This year, though, at least for those of us in the Midwest and East who’ve been enduring the Winter that Won’t Go Away, there’s another reason to celebrate the arrival of baseball’s Opening Day. If the Summer Game is finally here, we can hope that summer itself isn’t far behind.