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September 29, 2016
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The Big Chill

Contributed photos

At the moment, the weather is the main topic of conversation throughout the Upper Delaware River Valley region and with good reason—it’s freakin’ cold outside! Actually, “cold” doesn’t begin to describe what we are experiencing, and both local and national news stories are doing their best to describe what we on the East Coast (and much of the country) are going through. Meteorologists have dubbed it a “polar vortex” (sounds like a sci-fi film) and “arctic blast” (isn’t that a chewing gum?) but as far as I’m concerned… there are no words. To make matters worse, I decided to begin the New Year with resolutions of epic proportions: cutting down on caffeine, and smoking cessation. I swore that I wasn’t going to share this tidbit with anyone, for a variety of reasons; but here I am, tearing my hair out, stuck in the house and screaming.

Seven days in, 2014 has (IMHO) been a challenge. Last week (during the blizzard) I had an unfortunate run-in with a deer while navigating my way home, and although I’m happy to be alive, I’m sad that Bambi didn’t make it. The front end of my pickup is gone, but both Dharma (the Wonder Dog) and I survived, and for that I’m grateful. Desperately wanting to smoke, I managed to get the truck into the garage (after five attempts), shoveled a path to the front door and hunkered down, (foolishly) glancing at the thermometer. Cringing at the reading (minus eight), I flipped on the television, seeking diversion. Scrolling through my choices, I threw an ashtray at the wall and wept. “200 Cigarettes” was playing, and while I might be a fan of Ben Affleck and Dave Chappelle, I was in no mood. Grumbling and cranky, I flipped channels. Because of the holiday, re-runs were rampant, so I began a search for a film that would take my mind off the temperature, smoking, my truck and snow. I love old movies and am a fan of both Bogart and Bacall, but “Key Largo” sounded frustrating, (too many palm trees) so my search continued. “What are the odds?” I whimpered to the dog as “Coffee and Cigarettes” appeared on screen. Described as “a series of vignettes that all have coffee and cigarettes in common,” it did not seem prudent, so I continued to scroll. “Turner Classics sounds safe,” I rasped at the screen, and having never heard of Warner Brothers’ “Bright Leaf” I settled into the couch, covered in blankets, with the pup ensconced on my lap. I dimmed the lights, ignoring my desire to smoke and sighed. Minutes into the movie, made in 1950 and starring Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal and (once again) Lauren Bacall, I sat up and screamed, causing the pup to run for cover. As it turns out, “Leaf” centers on a 19th-century tobacco farmer (Cooper) building a successful cigarette empire, while seeking revenge on old enemies and finding romance (Bacall). Oh Em Gee. A preview of “Now Voyager” featuring Bette Davis blowing smoke in Paul Henreid’s face was enough to cause me to turn off the TV, while flinging the remote, howling.

Checking the weather report online was depressing. With a wind-chill prediction of minus 20 looming, I scrolled through Facebook, seeking diversion. Sure enough, the frigid temps were the main topic and I (momentarily) took solace, knowing that I wasn’t alone. The Catskill Chronicle’s Carol Montana weighed in by commenting that “It’s minus five in Grahamsville, with a wind-chill of minus 25.” Oy. “Holy Moly!” chirped FB pal Donna Amato, “Cuddle up with Dharma!” Noting that it was warmer in Alaska, Iceland and Antarctica, I threw up my hands. “Can’t handle this,” I cried, “I need to smoke!” Calling my closest neighbor, I begged for a cig. “No way” she replied “just deal with it.” Boots, gloves and parka donned, I trudged to the garage, only to find the door frozen shut with no way out. Shaking my fist at the universe in general, I slinked back inside, a broken man. Stupidly, I went back to the Internet. Angrily responding to my friends in Florida and their snotty posts, I took no comfort hearing that it was even colder in Maine and checked the ashtrays for butts. “I need help,” I wheezed, and called a “help line” ( The nice man on the other end was sympathetic and offered up some helpful hints, while I did my best to not let him know that I was close to tears. “It will get easier,” he said. “Hang in there.” With the faucets gently dripping (pipes froze last week) I’m despondent but resolute. Nick Naylor’s “Thank you for Smoking” is on TV in a few minutes. I think I’ll read a book.