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Tuesday, March 4, 2014
I Didn’t Guess – I Looked It Up
Lake Leelanau, hidden from sight
The weather. What else? Other conversational topics, one by one, drop by the snowy wayside. We still have a range of topics, don't get me wrong, but it's narrower, if you will. There's how cold it is, how much snow we have, how much propane we've burned, the price of propane, the cost of snow-plowing, how much longer the cold weather is going to last, how much more snow we're going to get, and so on and so forth.
Is anyone else out there old
enough (actually, I know some of
you are) to remember the slogan of our old grade school “Look It Up Club,”
sponsored by World Book Encyclopedia?
“WE NEVER GUESS – WE LOOK IT UP!”
Back when encyclopedia
salesmen (as I recall, they were all men) came to a neighborhood, their first
stop was the neighborhood school. Only after the school bought a set or sets of
the beautifully bound, colorful volumes, and the pupils had signed pledges
never to guess but to look up answers to all their burning questions, did the
salesmen fan out to residential homes. My parents plunked down good money for
the white binding. Why? I think it was more expensive than blue or red, and the
information was the same, regardless of the binding, and my parents were
generally very frugal and canny consumers (or shoppers, as we said then). The educational value of so much
knowledge must have gotten in the way of the careful calculations they normally
Andrei Codrescu didn’t grow
up in the U.S., but his wife did, and she was a member of the “Look It Up Club”
in her day. Codrescu’s little essay on wasting time online – or, more to the
point, having his time wasted online by others – only begins with mention of
the Club and then goes on to more current concerns. Worth reading, though.
Won’t take you long, either. Then -- your assignment, should you choose to accept it -- let me know what you think about what he says.
What I set out to look up
this morning online, though, wasn’t the old grade school “club” but snow and cold records
for northern Michigan. (Dawn got me started.) I remember very clearly my first
winter in Traverse City and how one had to enter intersections with the same
caution necessary on Illinois farm roads in late summer. Illinois: tall corn.
Michigan: tall snow. No visibility around the corner. No visibility until you
were in the intersection. That’s
how it was on the roads that winter. And the view from indoors? Snowing. Never not snowing.
"Seasonal Road" - love this designation!
Anyone who is dubious or
skeptical and/or too young to have been around for the Up North winter of
1970-71 can look it up here, but if you don’t want to bother I’ll save you the
trouble: 184 inches. What did I know then? I’d never lived so far north and
thought that such a winter must be typical. Streets, sidewalks, and alleys were plowed
around the clock, and life went on as usual, as people shoveled their roofs (I’d
never seen people shovel snow from roofs before), and icicles grew two
stories in length, descending from second-story eaves clear to the ground.
There were a lot of “sword fights” among kids in the neighborhood.
My neighborhood is rural now
The coldest day ever in Leelanau County? We stayed overnight with friends one New Year’s Eve, and I swear the outdoor thermometer at their old farmhouse read – 40 F on New Year’s morning,
but do you think I can find anything like that online? As I recall from the time (early 1980s?), the official temperature
was not as low as their thermometer reading, but the air was definitely cold enough to chill lungs. We walked to
the home of neighbors of our friends for New Year’s Day brunch (no way cars
were going to start: ignitions just clicked when keys were turned and made no
further effort) and were only able to do that because there was no wind
whatsoever. No wind chill, but that’s how cold it was, children: The wind had frozen stiff and couldn’t
If you are interested in
average temperature, snowfall, humidity, heating and A/C costs for Leelanau,
you can find all that here, but I’ve looked up enough for one day. Time to read
a little poetry. Or I could just close up shop and go ice-fishing. Time to toss a coin....