Saturday, January 7, 2017

Scarf-less and Stubborn

When I no longer thrill to the first snow of the season, I'll know I'm growing old. ~ Lady Bird Johnson

Amen, Lady Bird, nowhere near there yet.

Just last evening, Mac and I had agreed that there's nothing quite like a snow forecast that brings on the sleepy excitement of waking up in the middle of the night to peer outside and see the white stuff coming down steadily, knowing you'll wake up to a winter wonderland.

Taking my anticipation to heart, I woke up twice during the night and went directly to the living room window - the one that overlooks a street light, the better to gauge how thickly the snow was falling - before padding back to bed for an 11-hour night.

What? Snow is also the ideal time to catch up on sleep.

Good morning. It's beautiful outside and the conditions are challenging, but I'm up for a walk if you'd like to get out.

Would I! After yesterday's paltry two miles, I'd have certainly gotten out by myself, but here was conversational company offered up by the weather gods. Count me in.

First, though, I had to call Mr. Cosby with whom I'd scheduled an interview at his house today for a story. He sounded relieved when I canceled.

"Ever since they started talking about this snow, I was worried about you driving over here," the elderly man said. "They're telling people to stay in and don't drive, young lady!"

Well, that was easy.

Walking along Broad Street, I got behind a woman walking a massive St. Bernard and the words came out of my mouth before I could stop them. "Shouldn't that dog have a wooden cask around his neck in this weather?"

When she turned around laughing, we realized we knew each other. Turns out she is fostering the 160-pound dog whose owner moved away and couldn't take him. "He loves this weather," she gushed. "He's going to want to stay out all day in this!"

Which, I would think, is exactly the reason that she should consider having a cask - we discussed whether it should be bourbon or brandy, although we know each other from a wine bar - so that she's got motivation to stay out as long as the well-insulated dog wants to.

Or maybe that's just me.

Going down the hill on Fifth Street toward the river, I asked of the sole walker coming up how difficult the incline had been to navigate. "I'm not gonna lie, it was hard!" he tells me and the color of his face attests to it.

Even going down had its challenges since the angle encouraged a far faster rate of movement than the slick and uneven surface warranted.

Still, I like to think that I am somewhat of a walking pro, or, at the very least, I've had enough experience to be out when the talking heads are warning humankind to hunker down and stay in. The best part was I had a willing partner in crime to do it with, so we set out from Brown's Island to explore.

Using my experience rationale (and knowing we couldn't access it from Brown's Island because the river was so high), I led him down the canal walk with the explicit intention of introducing him to the pipeline walkway.

On the snow-covered sign explaining the pipeline, someone had drawn a smiley face to greet us. It was obvious that others had preceded us earlier on the steps down, but sufficiently long ago that the footprints had already been covered over.

Still, it was pioneer enough for me.

As many times as I've walked the pipeline in every season and every weather condition, I'd never seen it look quite as charming. Lines of snow at each seam in the walkway made it look like a white railroad track going off into the horizon, while drifts covered all the little islands and land masses on either side.

I'd just been on the pipeline Thursday, but the river was even fiercer today, rushing especially high on either side as we navigated the normally uneven and now snow-covered and uneven pipeline itself. I already knew we wouldn't be able to make it to the end, but even so I was taken by how far along the pipeline the river had risen since Thursday - probably another six or eight feet.

It wasn't the first time I walked the pipeline only to turn around and retrace my steps and I doubt it'll be the last, but for the pipeline virgin, he really couldn't have asked for a more splendid introduction to my favorite walk.

From there, we meandered towards the Low Line before making a U-turn and heading west on Cary Street with a clear goal: interior warmth. Someone (I'm not going to mention any names) had neglected to wear a scarf and his face was freezing off.

Meanwhile, Little Miss 2 tanks tops, 2 long sleeved shirts, wool pullover, fleece tights and jeans, 2 scarves and gloves was just fine for a change.

Trudging uphill, he commented on the incongruity of footprint-covered sidewalks despite infrequent sightings of other walkers. By far, the highest concentration was a clutch coming out of Triple Crossing Brewing en masse, although for all we know, it was because they were closing early.

Dramatic enough to spark discussion, every detail of the landscape had a beauty worth noting (and completely photograph-worthy), whether it was polka dots of snow captured at the base of a fluted black column or snow-covered branches set against brick walls.

Walking into horizontally-blowing snow, we both knew we could get to 821 Cafe only to find it closed, so we kept Lift in mind for a fallback since they'd been open when I walked by earlier. I'll admit I was thrilled when we got to 821 to find them not only open but almost completely full.

But not for long, so we'd inadvertently managed to time it perfectly. I was even enamored by today's musical bag, which skewed heavily '70s - dare I say disco-like?- instead of the usual harder-edged thrash.

In the spirit of a snow day, they were going through a lot of Texas Beach Bloody Mary mix today.

My favorite long-time server came over to greet us and I couldn't resist asking if she hated people like us who felt the need to venture out in a blizzard, thus ensuring she had to work in this mess.

"A little bit, yea," she said wincing, but grinning. "No, no, you're fine, but we're closing the kitchen in an hour. Besides, I already know your order." Half order, black bean nachos, Boom.

Some would feel shame about being so predictable, but I'm not one of them. The problem was, my friend was new to 821 and hadn't a clue what he wanted off the large, laminated menu.

To buy time, I asked for Espolon on ice, causing her to smile ruefully and share some of her own memories from the old Sprout days that involved drinking Espolon from the bottle in the back room while playing baseball with a band's new record that she and her fellow workers deemed dreadful.

As many times as I ate or heard music at Sprout, I can't say I saw any ball games there. But the funny part was when she asked about my friend's drink order, inquiring if he was "going down the same path" as me. Oh, the innuendo.

Negative. His need was for hot tea, the better to compensate for his scarf-less state and resulting frigid hands. I can honestly say that for the first time in memory, my hands registered as warmer than my companion's and I'm talking male or female.

It was a mighty proud moment for me.

Things warmed up when he said that he was happy to share a full order of nachos with me, 'though when she dropped them off, he observed dryly, "We probably could have shared the half order."

We tucked into them as the dining room began to empty out and the kitchen started closing down. Wiping down a table nearby, our server looked over and nodded approvingly, saying, "It's really nice you finally found a nachos partner."

Tell me about it. Black bean nacho-eating conversational walkers aren't exactly a dime a dozen, you know.

Needles to say, we polished off every last bean of that full order (puh-leeze!) while he battled with himself about whether to drive in this weather to keep his plans tonight or whether to cancel and hunker down to enjoy the snow from a cozy perch at home.

Unlike me, he didn't have a Mr. Cosby to wag a metaphorical finger at him and tell him not to drive.

Only once we were the sole occupants of 821 did we suit up and head out into the horizontal blizzard, or at least for a half a mile or so before we parted ways so he could go his way and I could go mine.

I know, I know, that sounds like a classic R & B lyric (see: Billy Paul's stellar "Me and Mrs. Jones"), which may have to do with how I decided to spend my house confinement since getting back. Right now, it's the dulcet tones of Teddy Pendergrass of Harold Melvin and the Bluenotes.

Next up, the Chi-Lites "You Got Me Walkin."

It was beautiful outside, the conditions were challenging yet I don't know that I could have enjoyed 6+ miles on a snowy afternoon more.

I'm not gonna lie, it was easy.

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