Al Lamanda here. Sometimes in life, s#&t just happens all by itself and seemingly for no good reason. Trust me; there is a reason, and a cause and an outcome. Most of the time, we’re too busy leading our lives to recognize the reason and cause, just the s#&t that happened to us and the outcome, and sometimes not even the outcome is revealed to us until much later down the road.
Some prime examples of some s#&t that happened to me for no good reason over this past miserable winter (stop me if you’ve heard any of this before) started in late December. It snowed (yeah, I know, you too) often and a lot. Except that it didn’t snow as scheduled. By this, I mean I would watch the weather report and it would say to expect up to a half foot of new snow the next day. I would prepare for the snow beginning with the exotic dance of moving the cars so the plow guy can plow the driveway and backyard. The dance of the cars is followed by positioning the shovels and boots for early morning use. Come morning, I would be fully prepared to shovel the walkway, deck and return the cars to their regular less exotic spots. Except that in the morning, there wasn’t a hint of snow on the ground. Odd, but the weather channel does make mistakes from time to time. Except that a few days later, the weather report didn’t mention snow and I woke up to nearly a foot of snow on the ground. No fair as I didn’t get the chance to conduct the exotic dance of the moving cars. This, it will, it won’t weather reporting went on for weeks leading up to the storm of the millennium, nicknamed by the weather gods, the snowicane. The snowicane had people running to the stores for bottled water, canned goods, bread, candles and batteries as if they were all contestants on The Price is Right and their names had just been called. Expected snowfall totals of three feet, with hurricane winds and power outages, so the weather gods predicted. I went to bed fully prepared and awoke to a few inches of fluffy snow that I swept off the walkway with a broom. And went about my business of packing and preparing for a planned vacation to Puerto Rico. Then, thirty-six hours before the flight, the airlines and weather reports issued a travel advisory. Snow. Winds. Snowicane conditions. The day of my flight, which was canceled by the way, the news stations were gloom and dooming about the raging storm while I was looking out my window at a calm, sunny day. My flight was rescheduled for the following morning, a day that no mention of snow or storm was in the forecast. So as I drove to the airport in a whiteout conditions, two things crossed my mind. The first was that I would never make it to the airport. The second was that I would never make it to Puerto Rico. Although we took off in a white out, the flight was surprisingly smooth sailing the entire trip.
While in Puerto Rico, enjoying the 85-90 degree sun, I kept hearing reports of snow and frigid cold back home, but decided to worry about that later and relaxed on the beach. A few days before leaving for Puerto Rico, this happened.
I was writing at my desk when I noticed that my cat was taking a keen interest in something on the rug. I investigated and discovered that my cat was watching a lady bug. I was about to squash said lady bug when my better half intervened on the lady bug’s behalf. Because lady bugs are cute little creatures that bring to mind Herbie the Love Bug, my better half had a fit that I wanted to kill it. She wanted to set it free. When I politely pointed out that it was six degrees outside and said Herbie would freeze to death, the result was the same as squishing the little bugger. Lady Bugs are beetles, smaller cousins to the dung beetles who spend most of their time rolling around in … well, you get the idea. Also, they bite. So while the better half and I were discussing the merits of squishing or freezing the lady bug, it up and vanished. We conducted a search of the living room, but the little bugger was nowhere to be had. I suspected that my cat had solved the matter by simply making a snack of the little creature and didn’t give it a second thought. Until the warm sunshine of Puerto Rico was behind us and freezing cold and snow greeted us at the airport. Along with hundreds of lady bugs in the house. They were everywhere, and I do mean everywhere. In lamp shades, the rugs, window ledges, my desk, my keyboard and even the bathroom sink. About the only place the lady bugs weren’t was inside my cat’s stomach, because as it turns out my cat doesn’t like to eat them, just watch them crawl around. My better half changed her tune of save the lady bug and you can guess the rest.
A few days after returning from Puerto Rico and dealing with the lady bug situation, this happened. I woke up and stumbled to the bathroom and brushed my teeth. Usually brushing your teeth is about as exciting as, well, brushing your teeth. Except that usually when I run the water in the sink, the water drains. Usually. Not that day, no, no, no. That day the sink just filled and filled even though the drain hole was wide open. I checked the kitchen sink, same thing. My pipes weren’t frozen, but the septic tank was. According to the company that deals with this sort of thing, while I was away basking in the sun, the lack of running water coupled with the sub-zero temperatures resulted in a frozen septic tank. The first order of business was to remove the snow from where the tank is buried in the backyard and then await their arrival. Easier said than done when there is six feet of snow covering the location of the tank. The emergency company said they would be there within the hour, which meant three, so I had plenty of time to remove the snow. Three hours later, when they arrived, I had the area clear. And the ground was frozen. Rock hard. So on a freezing February day, I stood by and watched as men with jackhammers tore up my yard. To unfreeze the tank that froze because I flew to Puerto Rico in a blizzard on a day when it wasn’t supposed to snow but did anyway. And while I was standing there in my yard that now resembled a construction site and smelled like a three-hundred-cow dairy farm, I felt something nibble on my left ear. I removed my hat and, you guessed it, found a lady bug.
So sometimes in life s#&t happens and most of the time we don’t know why and what the outcome will be, but sometimes we do. If we reflect back upon it.
At a recent library event, I was asked by a young woman if I always knew I would be a writer, and if so, when did I know? The answer to that question goes back a very long ways to some s#&t that happened to me when I was eleven-years-old.
My roots are in The Bronx, a borough of New York City. I grew up with cement sidewalks, three-sewer stickball and open fire hydrants in the summer as my beach getaway. Summer tans were acquired on Tar Beach, otherwise known as flat, tar-covered rooftops. We didn’t swim or water ski or play volley ball in the sand. Snow was good for just one thing, snowball fights. Nobody skied down a mountain and drank a hot toddy afterward at the lodge in front of a crackling fire. The only crackling fire I ever stood in front of as a kid was when a neighborhood house burned down, which was a frequent occurrence in The Bronx. People would bring lawn chairs and we would sit and cheer on the fire department and hope they would leave the hydrant on afterward. Sometimes, if the fire was big enough, people would bring food and drink for the firefighters and make it an all day event. Bets were placed on how much furniture the firefighters could save so that afterward the owners of the burned down house could have a fire sale.
I was, I believe eleven-years-old before I ever set foot out of The Bronx. Some distant relatives got together with my parents and decided it was a good idea to have me spend a month with said distant relatives at their place in the country. Which turned out to be a three-hundred cow dairy farm in upstate New York (which is how I knew what my backyard smelled like on that cold day in February some fifty plus years later.) My first impression of my distant cousin’s farm was that (you guessed it) it smelled really bad. There were no sidewalks or tall buildings and nothing was made of cement. There were a lot of cows and they seemed not to do much of anything except stand around and chew a lot. The large farmhouse was clustered with old stuff in every corner of every room, and the television was a small black and white set that sat on a small stand in the kitchen that didn’t get much use due to poor reception. Why, of why, was this happening to me? My distant cousin was an avid reader, as were his kids and books were everywhere. There must have been five hundred books scattered about the house. Now I’d read books before, it was required for school, but never for fun and usually meant a written book report to follow. Why read when you can watch Bonanza, Have Gun Will Travel and Gunsmoke?
That opinion changed during the second week on the farm. After dinner one night, when there was nothing to do except watch my cousins read, it was suggested to me to dig through the library and find a book to read. Up to that point, I had learned to milk a cow by hand, something still done to warm the cow up before using the milking machine, to shovel manure without getting any on me, to bail hay and make my own butter, so why not try reading a book.
I went through the library and found a paperback copy of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne. My first impression was what’s a league and do you need twenty thousand of them? But, bored with nothing else to do, I sat on the living room sofa and started to read. It was the first time in my life that I read something for pleasure and not because a book report was due. Without ever leaving the sofa, I was transported to faraway lands on wild adventures and met exciting heroes and characters, and all without turning a knob or buying a ticket. I finished the book in two nights and read Around the World in Eighty Days next. After that I discovered H. G. Wells, Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle. On the day I was to return home, my cousin allowed me to take whatever books I wanted to read. I took about a dozen. On the drive home, my dad put a ballgame on the radio, but I was too busy reading in the back seat to listen. It was then, at age eleven that I knew that one day I would be a writer, and hopefully to be able to transport someone to a faraway place and take them on an adventure without them ever having to leave their living room. That burning desire to be a storyteller has stayed with me since and burns as brightly today as when I was eleven.
So sometimes s#&t happens in life, and sometimes it may smell like a three-hundred-cow dairy farm, but sometimes that’s not such a bad thing.