Bike, Bike, Bike…

Florida Great Blue Heron

We didn’t see this heron yesterday, when we bicycled in the park, but we did see egrets. It was cold, about forty and I’m sure that the egrets were thinking that it was a lot nicer on Friday and why did I come north again so soon? The spring peepers were croaking, but because of the temperature, their peeps were at a much reduced frequency and at a lower one too. (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to figure that sentence out.) Saturday, was the stormy day and I only ventured out twice, once to retrieve the paper (barefoot) and again to go to the store. There were plenty of other shoppers in denial there, shivering in t-shirts, sandals, shorts and sleet. I felt so manly, while wearing my first pair of big boy pants for a week. It was one of those Unforgiven days here, bad enough to almost kill Clint Eastwood. The sparrows that usually inhabit the bush behind the back porch, were instead clinging to its screen, just to get under the eaves.

There is flooding, as described on the national news, but it is nowhere near as bad as ’93, at least not yet. If you recall, the ’93 flood didn’t crest until summer. For now, it’s just a matter of rounding up all of the usual suspects. That being the habitually flooded. It will take months more of very heavy rain, to come even close to the ’93 flood. Although, we did attend a Science-on-Tap talk on regional flooding and almost every river in the bistate area has experienced higher flood levels then since ’93. Maybe the weather is not the problem?

“Last week, it seemed that all of the bad guys got away with it, Donald Trump, Jussie Smollett and worst of all Duke.” — Thank you, Colin Jost. Last night, at least one bad guy went down, when Michigan State beat Duke, for the Final Four, by one point, in the final seconds. Live by the clock, die by the clock.

Oh yeah, big bike ride this month! Got to get our tender tushes in shape. Turn them into hard asses. You’ll all probably will get tired of hearing about our bike exploits soon enough, but yesterday we did notice one oddity. Three paddle boats had been mysteriously displaced from the boathouse to the “temporary” police pasture west of the park’s department yard (about a quarter-mile, plus 100′). Could it have been from last weekend’s storm? The wind wasn’t that strong and there wasn’t that much rain. One or two would be accidental, but three seems deliberate. Could it be that the police are retraining their horses as sea horses? Nah. Most boats are just holes in the water, but I think that these hulls have been repurposed to become water troughs. 

Jesus Rays on Jesus Day

Jesus Rays over the Atlantic

It was a restless night. The wind was blowing. Causing the back porch screen door to blow open and then slap back with a loud clap. Eventually, I got up to latch it. Anne thanked me when I returned to bed. It had awoken her too. The latch didn’t hold though and the slap clap of the back door began again. This time, when I got up again, I went down to the basement, out the basement door and retrieved my utility brick by the side of the house. Wending my way back and then to the back porch, I placed the brick outside the screen door, but I couldn’t quite place it as close as I would like, which allowed the screen door to still slap clap, but at a much reduced volume. Sleep eventually found me again.

In the morning, it was raining cats and dogs and I was awoken again by the boom of thunder. I got soaked fetching the paper. The morning rain, gave way to a pleasant afternoon and we went for a walk. The sun even peaked out for a while. It was warm enough that we extended our regular walk. We went to Starbucks for late afternoon lattes. On the way home, the skies darken again, but radar indicated that we were in no immediate danger. Later, NPR sounded a thunderstorm alarm, but the squall line passed uneventfully to our north.

The wind came up again, causing the digital broadcast TV signal to disintegrate across the screen. We switched to Netflix and its wi-fi Chrome-casted signal. We binged the remainder of Russian Doll, which morphed into a buddy movie for uptight New Yorkers. Then watched SNL. By then the wind had subsided.

This morning dawned cold, but bright. For some reason, we got up an hour later than we had expected to. Winter storm Taylor had passed to the east, but not without leaving one last calling card. Our sign of inclusion had been blown up the street. This is one of those signs that reads, “No matter where you are from, we are glad that you are our neighbor.” A message that is repeated in Spanish and Arabic. Undamaged, I replanted it. It looks like it will be a nice day.

Barefoot in the Snow

Barefoot in the Snow

Newly fallen snow, as yet untouched and clean. Me, barefoot, moving rapidly with toes getting cold. The paper, wrapped in plastic, lies by the curb. Couldn’t it have been thrown a little closer? Maybe, I should change my subscription to a digital only one. The other two papers that I subscribe to are digital only. Why? Because the Post’s website is that awful. So, barefoot through the snow I go. I ventured out barefoot, once more. The snow was deeper, but my footsteps were fewer. This time it was for recycling. In the afternoon, after the snow stopped, I shod myself and cleared the car and walks for tomorrow. Earlier, I heard that this was our 18th snowfall this winter, which seems like a lot. According to the person telling me this, since our first snow occurred on November 19th, we are due one more, before winter relinquishes itself. If true that would be nice.

The Gateway Arch

The Gateway Arch

Beginning with the Civil War and its interruption of Mississippi River traffic, the Saint Louis riverfront began a long decline. Once the third busiest US port, by the twentieth century, it had fallen into decay. Trying to recapture or at least commemorate its role in westward expansion, city fathers hit upon the idea of a monument. Its site, the site where Saint Louis was originally founded, was cleared. An architectural contest was then held to select a design.

Of five finalists, two designs were created by a father-son, Finnish-American pair, Eliel and Eero Saarinen. A mistake sent the congratulating telegram to father Eliel, but quickly corrected, son Eero was named the real winner. This mistake was understandable since the two men shared the same last name, first initial, workplace and even birthday. Eero’s initial design work was performed with pipe-cleaners planted in the living room rug. Preliminary designs called for a shorter arch, built with quadrilateral sections, instead of equilateral triangles, with which it was finally made. At 51, Eero died before his design was built. 

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On NPR this morning, the local announcer was reciting the temperature, first for the satellite affiliates, which were all minus this or minus that. Finishing with Saint Louis, where the temperature was “negative”, negative five to be precise. Anne took exception to being singled out in such a less than positive manner.

When I picked Anne up from school last night, she giddily announced that she had heard a rumor. Hoping for something salacious, she instead told me that two teachers had told her that there will be no school today. The principal later confirmed that an official announcement would be made at 3:30. I hardly call that a rumor. So, no school today and maybe no mail either, we’ll have to see about that. The paper was delivered, but still sits out on the sidewalk. So close, yet so far. I’ll go out to get it, when it “warms up” some. I’m positive! The trash man is working. I saw him pop in-and-out of his garbage truck, with his bald uncovered head and empty our dumpster at the curb. While I kvetch about the weather, it is with the realization that the plunging nadir of this cold snap has already passed. Highs in the sixties are forecasted for this weekend.

Still, this cold front has done its job. I’m not talking about the comradery that comes from a shared sense of schadenfreude. I’m speaking of budget authority for another trip to Florida! I think it was that couple from Chicago, who we met at the arch that tipped the balance. We were thinking of a getaway and Chicago was on the list. They were already heading south and we’ll just be joining their migration. There is plenty of planning yet to be done, but warmth here we come.

Shut Show

Smallwood’s Anole

The government is still shutdown and now, so is Saint Louis. We got a respectable 8″ last night and it is still coming down. In truth, ours like the government’s is only a partial shutdown. Our one-block street is plowed, all the way down to black top and the paper was delivered, eventually. We might even get mail today. There is some heavy-duty shoveling in my future that was made only worse, when rising temperatures heated our aluminum awning enough that the snow piled up on it slid to the ground. Now there’s a rampart at the walk’s head.

Local television is serving up a combination of fear and schadenfreude. Be afraid, don’t venture out or you’ll end up like these unfortunates. Don’t they look miserable? If TV cannot find enough misery, then they manufacture their own, by sending out the newest-cutest reporter to suffer in the elements for you.

We’re all making much adieu about nothing. This storm was well forecasted. Because it first hit during the evening rush hour there was additional turmoil, but everyone had plenty of time to fill their fridge. Hunkering down for a day or two in winter is not all that bad. Everything will be right again by Monday.

Yesterday’s sojourn at the zoo was a tribute of sorts. In 1982, Saint Louis experienced its greatest snowfall in living memory, 19″. We still felt new here and called ourselves Babes in Toyland, having ventured out alone onto the world stage. It was a Saturday and we had attended a matinée at the Esquire. Exiting the theater, we were greeted with thunder-snow. We had plans to visit friends that evening, but begged off. The city was closed for a week.

Like today, it was still snowing the next morning. We lived closer to the park then and took advantage of our sudden richness to cross-country ski. None of the roads were plowed and there were few cars moving. We eventually found our way to the zoo. The entrances were closed, except for a service one, where the gate had been wedged open. We asked an employee, who was climbing through the gap in the gate, if the zoo was open? After thinking, he said yes.

There was not much to see. All the buildings were closed. Including the pictured anole’s herpetarium. The only animals that we saw were the sea lions, who were loving the snow. A sole concession stand was open and in it had gathered some of the zoo’s staff. Sipping hot chocolate, we overheard one man exclaim that he had driven 20 miles to get here, because he had “200 herbivores to feed.” Talk about an essential employee. 

Wolf Lichen

Wolf Lichen

Letharia vulpina, commonly known as the wolf lichen is bright yellow-green, shrubby and highly branched, and grows on the bark of living and dead conifers, most commonly in the Pacific Northwest and the northern Rocky Mountains. This lichen is a symbiotic relationship between algae and a fungus. The algae help photosynthesize the light from the sun producing sugars for the fungus to eat. The fungus in return help plants absorb the mineral nutrients necessary for growth in extreme environments. This specimen was found near the Old Faithful geyser basin in Yellowstone. This species is toxic to mammals due to its yellow pigment, which is not chlorophyll, but vulpinic acid and has been used for years to poison wolves. It is also been used as pigment for dyes and paints.

The snow began, but I was already out and about. I went over to Forest Park. It was pretty deserted. I visited the zoo and pretty much had it to myself. On the way back, I swung by Art Hill, but it was still too early to see any action there, but the grass was getting whiter by the minute. The city had dumped a couple of truckloads of firewood. I cut through the art museum, but I couldn’t stay very long, because they were going to close early, due to the weather. The streets were all snow-covered, as I carefully drove home. I’m waiting for Anne to call, so that I can rescue her from school. Then we’ll hunker down for the weekend.