Friday, December 16, 2011

The weather report and other annoyances

It is supposed to get cold this week, very very cold. In fact, Sunday is supposed to drop to 12°! That's 20° below freezing, or -11° for you Celsius fans. Of course, I doubt it will get that cold because the five day weather forecast out here stinks. Hell, even the right now weather is off. It's supposed to be dropping below freezing as we speak, but I just walked my dog out there and couldn't even see my breath. It's in the mid-forties for sure. I'm more then certain that it will be cold. I'm in far eastern Maine, the fact that my toes are still intact this late in December is flukey if not downright miraculous. Still, it's like this every week, I check the forecast and then toss it out the window because it's off in every sense. If it says it's gonna rain, it's sunny. If it says it's sunny, the sun has died and we are propelled into a nightmarish world of perpetual darkness.

There are some interesting behaviors around here that I'm not sure are part of a larger tradition that I am unaware of or is only local. Since Thanksgiving a large number or people and businesses have put single electric candles in each window. Normally I would take minimal notice of this kind of thing, but when it started popping up around town like a virus I couldn't help but spot it. Every window, one candle. I've never seen that before. I'm guessing it's a New England thing, something from way back that the rest of us Americans have forgotten in our haste to move West.

Another interesting thing people do around here is only live in the back of their houses. I'm serious. A lot of the houses around here are quite large and consist of three distinct parts. There is the front, original part, the back, used-to-be-a-carriage-house-but-now-converted part, and the part added later to connect the two. At night around here every house front is dark, but, if you walk around, there is a single window in the most back corner possible lit up. Just tonight I passed a house that I pass almost every night with my dog that I swore has been empty the entire time I've been here. I've never seen any signs of life from that house, no activity, no cars out front, and definitely no lights. Tonight I came upon it from a different angle then normal and sure enough, one back window lit.

The only thing I can think of is that the older parts of the houses around here are poorly insulated so people stick to the back, between the carriage house and the facade, where the newer construction might be more warm. The other idea I had was that it's possible that, since most of these houses were built before 1910, there is a sort of Victorian idea that the front of the house is for entertaining guests, while the back is more of the common family area. Whatever the case I really can't stand it. I know, it's an odd and sort of callous way to feel, but the only effect that all this rear-of-the-house living does for me is make every single building around here appear abandoned. There's just no life around here at night because, instead of having a house that looks warm and occupied, everything is dark and empty, like a dead city.

And one more callous thing I shouldn't hate but do. People around here are way to quick to stop and let you cross the street. Maybe it's all the years I spent in a city, but people are just way too polite in that regard around here. They even stop when you have no intention to cross, and then they honk at you to let you know they've stopped. I can't count the times I've been paying attention to my dog sniffing someone's yard, not even looking at the road, only to be honked at. And then I look over and the person in the car is waving me across, as if every person on a sidewalk who has stopped walking only did so to cross. My dog stops, I stop. Unless I'm looking impatient at a crosswalk I don't need anyone to let me by. I appreciate it when it's needed, like there's a huge line of cars and I won't have a chance to cross unless some kind person stops for me, but if you are the only person on the road, even if I am obviously interested in crossing, just go ahead and pass, I can wait the extra four seconds, I'm gonna wait in anyway just to make sure you plan on coming to a complete stop.

I know I know, how can these things bug me. It's always the little things with me. It doesn't bother me at all that the grant I'm supposed to get from the school still hasn't come through and my tuition remains unpaid until it does. It doesn't bother me that all this warm weather is probably the result of global warming and in five years this city will be under glacier-based water. It doesn't bother me that I've been craving (and indulging) an unhealthy amount of sugar lately. But people stopping to let me cross the street? Those bastards.


  1. The candle in the window is probably a East Coast to Mid west thing. Back in the 1700s when the Puritans were in charge it was one of the only ways to show you kept Christmas as the Puritans did not.

    People living at the back of the house possibly goes back t o that time as well. Or people want that abandoned house look so when a burglar gets in they can surprise him or her!

    The normal layout for a colonial home was a central entry, usually facing the road with a stair case. To the right and left were the sitting room and the parlour. The rooms above were weirdly the sitting room and parlour chamber. Which ever was the main bedroom was also the place a lady would entertain her friends. Running the length of the back of the house was the kitchen. Once in a while, as in the house I docented you had a central chimney. But, the kitchen was warmest and probably had the most light, there was always work to do, and rooms were multi purpose. And, even today, if a house is not well insulated you will want to be where the wood stove or fireplace is. I know people who close off the front of the house and only put in enough heat to keep the pipes from freezing. I don't know much about Machias but most of Northern Maine is pretty poor so they may be economizing.

    Not having any porch lights is weird though. I have the porch, walkway and garage area outside lit and my office light is usually lit but the kitchen and family room are at the back and so is the master bdr so those rooms are the most likely to be lit. Oh yeah - that's also where the TV is in most houses. If you leave a bunch of lights on people think you're from away and a wastrel.

    I moved here from away and there was a degree of culture shock. When we moved here in 1984 it was a very white state, and any store over a certain square footage could not be open. We still have some blue laws with which a Godly Christian Society imposes its puritanical will on the pagans and the Jewish residents of the state. For example car lots are not allowed to be open on Sunday.

    It was freezing here today and we were outside shingling the damn shed.

    Good piece on your mom's blog.

  2. Come down to Boston for a visit. If you try to cross the street, the drivers will look the other way, pretend they don't see you, then run your sorry ass over. Without spilling a drop of coffee from their Starbucks cup or interrupting their cell phone conversation.

    I was almost run over twice while pushing a baby carriage. At a cross walk.