3 January

Bombogenisis. When Godzilla Becomes A Storm From Hell

by Jon Katz
Storm Of Storms

Over the years, the weather media has figured out how to personalize and dramatize big storms. They name them, promote them for days, jack up their ad rates,  and do everything they can to scare everyone in the path half to death.

They have outdone themselves with Bombogenisis, a Godzilla like storm they are calling a bomb cyclone expected to demolish the East Coast, it is the End of Days, it seems. Even the more staid National Weather service is running out of warnings breathless enough to scare anyone who is listening. After all, we cant all evacuate our country and our planet.

I looked up  Bobogenisis, the horror storm of storms. Since it seems unlikely that life as we know it will continue on after Saturday, I should say my farewells now,  in case there is nothing left her on Sunday – and to think we hoped to go to the movies. I thank you all and wish you peace and compassion, perhaps we will meet and do it again in a warmer place.

If you substitute “Godzilla” for “bombogenisis,” you understand what has happened to our media’s representations of Mother Earth and her weather.

For those of you who are curious, and not yet numb enough to learn,  Bombogenesis is inside talk long used by meteorologists, the people our leaders say can’t be believed when they claim the earth is dying due to human greed and ignorance. Even the members of Congress might become believers by Saturday, the scientists are using up hyperbolic words faster than Texans use up bullets.

Bombogenisis occurs when a mid-latitude cyclone rapidly intensifies, dropping at least 24 millibars over 24 hours. A millibar measures atmospheric pressure. This can occur when a cold air mass collides with a warm air mass over warm ocean waters. The formation of this rapidly strengthening weather system is process called bombogenesis, which creates what is known as a “bomb cyclone.”

People are praying for me and  Maria and the farm on Facebook, which is what happens when the most  horrific storm ever is nearing you and your life.  On the weather maps, we are not in a good color zone.

The truth is, we are not in danger, “Grayson,” as the storm has been named (a WASP storm?) is supposed to rampage out over the Atlantic and mostly threatens Southeastern New England – Boston, Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard.

It is likely, say the weather pundits that the storm will wreak havoc on the Northeast. It sure has our attention, the wind chill on Saturday is supposed to go as low as – 45 around here, and that can, in fact be life-altering.

When this kind of thing occurs I do two things. I think about all the people who have it much worse than I do. Our lives are not in danger, our farmhouse can easily survive the storm as it is supposed to come here. The cold and winds are serious, and we will take them seriously. Even if our power goes out, we will live. We can get help if we need help. Many people can’t.

We know what to do: many layers of clothing, cover as much of our skin as we can, go outside in five to ten minute bursts, not longer, stockpile some water for the animals in case the power goes out or the frost-free line to the barn freezes and the animals have no way of getting water. We have plenty of firewood and  good to eat and are already putting money away for the heating oil bill, which we expect to get bigger than Gus’s esophagus.

We think of the farmers, out all day saving cows and  starting tractors and  chipping away at manure.

We think of people in the Midwest and Maine and other places where the temperatures are even lower than here. We think of the people down South who are not used to this and are especially threatened by Grayson. And of course we now think of the homeless (more than 50,000 in New York City alone) and refugees and immigrants who often have no safe place to go in such bitter cold. We seem sadly to be  getting used to the idea of suffering and accepting it.

I embrace the idea that everyone has it  harder than I do, and fights tougher battles in life. That is a source of perspective, and empathy, and i quickly realize I am lucky.  I am not the one to pray for. Our home is not about to blow away, we will not perish. If the electricity goes out, we will have two wood stoves to warm us until there is  relief.

I do worry about the animals, if the wind chill does get to -45, they will be in some danger. We are opening up the barn stalls so they will have protection from the wind. They should be fine, and we will grain them and check on them continuously.

And we will keep the heat and fires going all through Saturday, the descent into Winter hell. As the farmers say, if you stay with it, you will get through it.

I also think  more and more of Mother Earth, and i believe these storms are a message from her, a plea, perhaps a last chance call to save her and us, to help her heal and accept the responsibility for what we have done to her. It is horrible enough what we have done to her, even less excusable is the way we turn our backs to her suffering. In my mind, a sacrilege.

I believe Mother Earth is speaking to us when she sends us storms like this. “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain,” said Pope Francis in his encyclical “Laudato Si.” Never, he said, “have we so hurt and mistreated our common home as we  have in the last 200 years.”

The human environment and the natural environment deteriorate together, warned Francis. In our country, our leaders do not seem to be listening, it appears that loving Mother Earth might be bad for business. They have no idea.

In the Kabbalah, God tells his people that they must care for Mother Earth and treat her with love and dignity. If they don’t, he vows, he will return and wreak havoc on the planet. He sends his angel Shekinah, the Divine Feminine, to police our world and find polluters and greedy people who despoil Mother Earth. He commands her to chase them down and send the cherubs to sting the cheeks of the despoilers and tear their garments.

I don’t pity myself or fear for myself, there is no need to pray for me or for Maria. If you wish to pray, please pray for our Mother, our home, our future, and for the people in the storm’s path.

That’s the message I get from the storm they call the “bomb cyclone” bearing down on so many helpless people.


3 January

Banners From The Army Of Good

by Jon Katz
Banners From The Army Of Good

The ingenuity and creativity of the Army Of Good is a marvel to see. I was amazed to see Mansion Activities Director Julie smith hanging up these home-made banners that read “Round House” for the cafe that supplied the pizzas for our lunch. Another, bigger  banner read “New Year’s Pizza Celebration” and hung in the dining room. I have no idea who made these banners or how they did it, but I am grate for them.

They lit up the room and got the residents all excited, the only thing missing was confetti for a ticker-tape parade. We folded them up and stored them to use them again. Thank you, whoever you are.

3 January

The Mansion: New Year’s Pizza Celebration

by Jon Katz
New Year’s Pizza Celebration

We had our Mansion New Year’s Pizza Celebration, somebody even sent banners from the Army of Good for the windows. Food is important at the Mansion and other assisted care facilities where I have worked. Meals are the most structured part of the resident’s lives, a special lunch or dinner is a big deal.

Changes in routine are special, they give everyone a lift.

I ordered 30 pizzas from the Round House Cafe to serve 32 residents and five or six staffers. Five or six of the residents couldn’t eat pizza, so the kitchen staff prepared sandwiches and soup for them. The pizzas were a great heat, a way of marking the new year. Scott Carrino drove them over from the Round House Bakery just before noon.

After the lunch, we had a poetry workshop and worked together on poems about love and about Red. I’ll share them tomorrow. I’m pushing the idea of occasional special lunches – we think the next one might be Valentine’s Day or the Chinese New Year. The Round House Cafe made the pizzas today, they are thinking about a Valentine’s Day lunch.

Breaks in the routine are important, and the residents loved the range of pizza choices – plain, pepperoni, vegetable, eggplant, and about five other kinds of pizza. Each had two pieces to start, and then asked for more if they wanted more, and there was plenty to go around – it was a big hit.

Everybody had seconds or thirds. After the residents were fed, the staff came in for their own pizza celebration. Maria came along and we helped serve and clean up.

Thanks so much for supporting this, and sending banners and supporting the pizza fund. We are making a real difference in the lives of these vulnerable people.

3 January

A Talk With Mickey On Main Street. “Saturday Will Be Different.”

by Jon Katz
Mickey On Main Street

Mickey has good clothes and proper shoes for the winter, his step brother George Forss takes good care of him. Mickey and I see one another often, he is a creative dresser, just like my wife, he has his own style, summer or winter.

Mickey was a bright student at a special New York City High School for the gifted, he had a schizophrenic drug breakdown during the 60’s, and never fully recovered. He came to live with George more than 20 years ago and has an apartment in George’s house.

He wanders freely, mostly along Main Street, where he walks back and forth every day in all kinds of weather.

We don’t often talk much. I take his portrait a lot, and he is the only photo subject I pay, I give him from $3 to $5 and pay for his lunch if he is hungry. He loves the home fries and chile at the Round House. A lot of people in town watch out for Mickey, and give him money for coffee or cigarettes.

Today, I sat down with Mickey, and I told him I was worried about Saturday, and he paid close attention to me and asked me why I was worried.

I said the cold that day would be serious and frightening. The wind chill was expected to be -45 and a person could contract frostbite in under ten minutes, especially if the face and fingers are exposed. Mickey never covers his face or wears gloves.

“Mickey,” I said, “I am not one to fuss about the winter, we are all used to cold up here, but this one is different, a major storm with very high winds and brutal temperatures is coming through Friday night and Saturday, and I am just suggesting you stay home on Saturday with George. I’ll call George and make sure he knows about the storm, which I am sure he does, he pays attention to things.”

“Mickey,” I said, “this is none of my business, but I think Saturday is a day you might think about staying home all day, and we can make sure you have coffee and food if that would help you.”

He looked at me, and said, “okay, okay. Saturday will be cold.” That’s right, I said, and I will look for you to remind you.

I am sure Mickey will be all right, people keep an eye on him all across Main Street, I just had this concern about him, that he might think Saturday will be just another winter day, like so many others.

But Saturday will not be just another day, and we will be fine, and will be protected and safe, but I know that is not true for so many other people in so many other places. This is a tough time for the vulnerable in America, nobody seems to want to pay for their care.

In my town, we check on the elderly alone in old farmhouses in this kind of weather, and on people like Mickey, who just might not know to be careful on Saturday, or precisely how to be careful. Mickey was paying close attention to me, I think he understood what I was saying.

I will make sure. The forecast reports are frightening, and we will open up the inside of our barn to make sure they all have fresh hay, warm water, grain and shelter. That is all we can do. I have great faith in our farmhouse.

I’m glad I caught up with Mickey, it was on my mind.

3 January

Meet Wayne At The Mansion

by Jon Katz
Meet Wayne

Wayne came over to me at our New Year’s pizza lunch, he wanted to thank me for the new sweatshirt I brought him. This week, the residents have sometimes felt some of the chill from -20 temperatures, as have everyone else in my town. The mansion furnaces are going round the clock.

Wayne is new to the Mansion, he is a lot of fun, he loves jokes and he always helps out, even clearing tabletops in the dining room from his wheel chair.

He came to the Mansion with few clothes, and between Wal-Mart and some local thrift shops, we have been able to flush out his wardrobe, he needed some warm and flexible clothes.

I am becoming something of a rather deadly clothes shopper, I look for bargains and quality. Wayne looks sharp in his new sweatshirt, he says he might just sleep in it. He says he is a reader, and asked if he could have a couple of my signed books. For sure.

I think Wayne would love to get some of your letters. You can write him c/o The Mansion, 11 S. Union Avenue, Cambridge, N.Y., 12816.

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