It’s no secret that I always get a little morose around this time of year, guys. To be fair to February, a month that I have panned for many, many years and am planning to pan in this blog entry (try saying that five times fast) my mentality starts to shift in mid-January, reaches its antapex around Valentine’s Day and begins to gradually improve thereafter. Generally by mid-March, I’m back to my oft times holly and jolly self. Cue Easter, baseball season, the hockey playoffs, playing outside, et cetera et cetera. To be fair to January and March, though? Generally only 50% of each month sucks. The other 50%? Not bad at all. 100% of February completely blows.
I’ve always been this way. I guess its just something about the Dead of Winter that gets me down. Granted, it wasn’t always this bad. Pre-the mid-1990’s, I would get slightly bummed out but not overly so. In truth? I’ve had my fair share of good experiences in January, February and March throughout my life. Even a few of the overwhelmingly bad experiences have been tinged with a silver lining or two, i.e. happy memories nestled amidst the sh*tty ones. But for the most part? The aptly named Dead of Winter has been a time of pain and disappointment for me on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence.
Why do I hate February? I guess I should start with a definition of the Dead of Winter. In actuality? The Dead of Winter refers to the coldest part, or the middle of winter which, chronologically, is more the end of January/the beginning of February than just February. Alright. I’ll concede it: Point, February. That said, it has seemed that over the course of my life, January has actually been pretty nice. Normal. Temperate. Higher then average temperatures; little or no snow save for the Blizzard of 1996 which buried the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware for those of you not from around here) under three feet of snow for a couple of weeks.
February, though? Without fail, the temperature generally plummets an extra 10 degrees on the outskirts of Philadelphia and the sky almost immediately starts chronically crapping hard or loose–depending on the track of the storm–white stuff. This year has been no exception. While we here in the tri-state area have been spared a major storm thus far and are dodging another bullet tomorrow and tomorrow night whilst points north of us get a “historic blizzard,” we’ve been subjected to multiple… what we call “Nuisance Storms.” We’ve seen the sun for about an hour total since February first and the temperature has barely been above 32 degrees Fahrenheit (it’s 34 degrees Fahrenheit now per my Weatherbug phone app; conceded, then: Another point for February). The fact that that overrated groundhog Phil predicted that Spring was right around the corner this passed weekend is lost on me. Really? What the hell does an over sized rodent know? He doesn’t have to shovel his walkway, dig his car out or occupy a three and a half year year old and an eight month old because he can’t go outside. He gets to hang out, warm and cozy in his Hilton of a tree stump whilst the good people of Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania cater to his every whim. Freeloader. He reminds me of my Biological.
All together now: Ouch.
No sooner had I written the above paragraph then the National Weather Service revised their forecast for this area and issued a Winter Storm Warning. Christ, I hate Karma. I probably shouldn’t have talked trash about my Biological. When will I learn? One to three inches of snow tomorrow night just became three to six inches tomorrow afternoon in to tomorrow night with one to two inches per hour possible at the height of the storm which, incidentally, will be during my drive home tomorrow night and which which, if history is any indication, will be further revised by the time I go to sleep tonight in to a Blizzard Warning. Jesus, February. Thank you again, sarcasm fully intended. And Phil? Thanks for nothing. I’m sure you were right and Spring likely is right around the corner if you live south of Virginia. But the rest of us? We’re likely screwed for another six weeks regardless of whether you saw your damn shadow or not.
It’s not just the environment on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence in February that gets my goad, though. There are other aspects of it. Take sports, something which you may or may not know per what you’ve read on this blog I am an avid fan of. Guess what? I am. Anything and everything Philadelphia sports-related save for the 76’ers who for the most part have been a non-entity in this town since 2001. February marks the end of the football season with the Super Bowl, something that the Philadelphia Eagles have only participated in twice–in 1980 and in 2004. Both times they were favored to win. Both times they lost. Furthermore, the one team that has managed to bring home a championship since the mid-1980’s, the Phillies, are still in off-season mode and while Spring Training does start up in mid-February, it’s not enough to satiate the need for something. Anything. The Flyers? I love them. I always have and I always will. But I’ve got to be honest, here: They’re a disappointment. Yes, they’re competitive every year and yes, they rarely miss the playoffs but really? They haven’t won a championship since 1976. Even the 76’ers have won one more recently. Bernie Parent got old, Pelle Lindberg unfortunately got dead and Bobby Clarke got fired by the organization a few years ago (though I believe he’s back now in some capacity). The glory days of Flyers hockey are, I’m sorry to say, far behind us. Remember how many Stanley Cups we were supposed to win with Eric Lindros? We were supposed to be a dynasty. How many did we win? Nada. Zilcho. Zip. Meanwhile, the Sh*tsburg Penguins have won a couple.
One more time with feeling: Ouch.
My point is that February is, for the most part, a dead time for sports here in Philadelphia and always has been. The Wing Bowl? It’s not a real sport. The Big Five? March Madness, guys, not February. When you’re down… when you’re bummed out, sports has a way of filling the hole that exists within your heart, mind and soul. Unless your teams stink. Then, you just feel worse. Hopefully you see my point. Yet another kick in the nads from February. Thank you, sir. Can I have another?
Sure. Why not? I should note before I continue that yes, my approach to this blog entry is different than it normally is. That’s because I’m a different me at this time of year. I’m not always the living and breathing facsimile of a smiley face that I hope you know and maybe even love a little. In truth? I’m actually pretty damned depressive, as if this composition up until this point hasn’t proven that. Amazingly enough, though? Most people crawl up in to a ball and wait for the moroseness to pass. Me? I’m actually more prolific when I’m like this. If you enjoy reading this little pseudo-psychotic musing then that’s a good thing. There may be more. But if you like your your blogs light and fluffy, maybe you should redirect your browsers elsewhere. I honestly don’t know how bad it’s going to get.
Relationships. I’ve actually been in many relationships at this time of year. I am, in fact, in one currently. It’s called a marriage. Roll snare drum. Oft times in the past, even before my wonderful wife entered my life, I had a warm body to cuddle up to in February. Most February’s I had a Valentine. But most times the relationships in question were anything but warm and fuzzy like my teddy bear, Ixo Facto. Yes, guys, I have a teddy bear. I don’t sleep next to him and never really have. He occupies an almost permanent place in my Man Cave/Cara and Natalie’s supplemental playroom/office next to stuffed Yoda and stuffed Pikachu. He rarely emerges from the depths of the Marsh Household save for on the rare occasions that Sultana Cara carries him to bed with her and he joins, for a night, the stuffed harem that occupies her toddler bed. Ixo? He’s been a fixture in my life since the mid-1990’s and he is the last, remaining product of, surprise surprise, a February relationship.
Said relationship was intense, but short lived. I generally don’t think or write about it but at this time of year? When the cold impinges upon me from all sides and “Nuisance Storms” become Winter Storm Warnings before they become Blizzard Warnings? I’ll admit: I do. I’m helpless not to. I spent a handful of years ruminating upon its failure. Mine. In the end, though? I realized that ruminating upon it was destructive and counterproductive. I purged it from my mind as best I could and moved on with my life. And boy oh man, am I glad I did. Had I not… had I instead decided to dwell upon it I never would have met Nicole. Scratch that: I likely would have met her but I never would have embraced her as a partner and companion the way I did. We never would have married; we never would have bought a house; we never would have produced two beautiful, though at times troublesome daughters, one of whom–Cara–is a Sultana in training and the other–Natalie–is currently on a hunger strike and is perfecting her projectile vomiting skills (ah, parenthood). My life would not be what it is today and while I cannot be 100% sure, I’m pretty sure that I would be miserable. I once believed, as Bob Dylan said, that “chaos [was] a friend of mine.” Now? I believe that it is my own, worst enemy, especially with my well-documented idiosyncrasies. Normalcy, though? It is my closest compadre. My bro’. That said…
Death. The big finale. The ultimate journey. Call it whatever you want to call it. Death has not necessarily been a constant companion of mine in February’s passed but it has been an ever-present concern. Ever since 1997. Back then, I and my brethren all lived in State Pen, Pennsylvania and even the ones that didn’t were frequent weekend visitors. Back home, the only father figure that I had known since my Biological skipped town was fading fast, a victim of the Big C (that’s Cancer for those of you that have never heard the term or seen the Showtime series). There was nothing I could do. Said father figure actually didn’t pass until the end of March, 1997 but those days? February? Those days were the toughest. In the waning days of his life he was little more than an unresponsive figure in a hospital bed but in February of that year? He was still cognoscente of what was happening to him. And he was suffering.
I guess in a way it was good that I was a hundred plus miles west of him but deep down inside, I wanted to be there. I wanted to be beside him at the end but he, always strong-willed, wouldn’t have it. “Stay where you are,” he said to me in one of the last real conversations we had in, you guessed it, February, “finish school. It’s what you’ve been working toward. Whatever happens, don’t worry about me. I’ll be fine.” I knew that it was lip service but I agreed to do as he asked. I guess it was the last request he made of me for I cannot remember any others. A few weeks later, he was gone.
I wasn’t there when he passed. I was working on my senior thesis–“Job, Melville, and the Abandonment of the Human by the Almighty”–when my sister called me to give me the news. I remember being equal parts saddened and relieved: Sad that he was gone but relieved that his pain had ended. And I was speechless. I couldn’t write; couldn’t vocalize what I was feeling, not even to my State Pen brethren. But I remember thinking backwards in disgust. Another sh*tty February, I thought over and over again as I drowned my sorrows with Red Deaths and Long Island Iced Teas. And that thought? It has stuck with me since despite the fact that his big finale… his ultimate journey didn’t commence until almost a month later.
Many others have passed from this world to whatever world lies beyond “this mortal coil,” “this insubstantial pageant,” at this time of year since. I’ve heard many explanations why. Some argue that it’s a question of loneliness because of the “Post-Holiday Doldrum.” Others say it’s simply the deep, winter chill claiming it’s rightful victims. Me? I believe that it’s February. F*cking February. There is something inherently base and decrepit about this month that defies explanation and while I honestly don’t have any proof outside of the speculation that has filled this blog entry thus far, I know it in my gut and I feel it deep within my sometimes cramped fingers. Like tonight. There’s a dull throbbing something going on deep beneath my skin that I hope is nothing more than the impending weather making its presence known. No “dry twist,” I hope (thank you, Stephen King) though admittedly, it does run in my family.
Speaking of the weather, it is now 12:21 AM on Friday–the day of the storm, alias “Winter Storm Nemo”–and the National Weather Service just revised their forecast again: 6-10 inches in and around Philadelphia, Pennsylvania which includes mine, Nicole, Sultana Cara and Natalie’s little homestead in Broomall, Pennsylvania. I’d have continued this blog entry sooner but I had to run out and buy some gas for my snow blower which I will at last be able to use. I’ll give it to you, February. Another point, albeit a reluctant one. At least I have a new toy to play with tomorrow night. More good news: The worst of the storm is also not supposed to arrive until after I get home from work. Sh*t. Point, February. I’ve got to hand it to the current bane of my existence: It’s managed to rack up a few positives over the course of this composition.
Still, I will always hate February. This blog entry? It is an Anti-Appreciation of a month that has, over the course of my life, taken on mythical status in my pseudo-mad mind. If you’ve followed “Random Musings” for a while you know about my Appreciations. “The Mix Tape – An Appreciation” and “Contrary – An Appreciation” to name a few. All are linkable via the handy, dandy little “SEARCH” box on the right hand side of your screen. Just type in “appreciation” and watch what happens, Andy Cohen! Or don’t. It’s entirely up to you. If you choose not to please, forget that I mentioned Andy Cohen. In fact, forget that I mentioned him entirely, even if you choose not to look at any of my previous work. Thank you.
If anything deserved an Anti-Appreciation it was this. February. The Dead of Winter. Right now, Phil the Groundhog is rolling over under his hand-knitted covers in his five star, tree stump Hilton Garden whilst the rest of us prep for a “historic blizzard.” It’s not going to snow much in Punxsutawny, Pennsylvania, one of the perks of being a couple of hundred miles west of the tri-state area when a Nor’easter like “Winter Storm Nemo” comes roaring up the Atlantic coastline. Earlier tonight, the Flyers lost to the Florida Panthers in a shootout and the Eagles informally announced the signing of their new Defensive Coordinator. Um. Yeah. Okay. Is it baseball season yet?
I glance out the window beside where I write these words at the red sky overhead. What’s the old adage? “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight?” Wow. That seems pretty counter-intuitive since most nighttime, red skies that I have seen in my life foreshadow a nasty spell of upcoming weather. I briefly wonder what that person that gave me Ixo Facto so many years ago is doing right now. But then I look over at the sleeping figure of my wife and realize how insignificant those thoughts are presently, and have been for well over a decade. I further wonder if my Biological is glancing up at the sky from wherever he is, currently. But then I realize the truth: Whether he is or is not does not matter. He has his own Karma to contend with, independent of mine.
And the lone father figure that I gave a sh*t about? He is long gone, a victim of the Big C almost 16 years ago tonight. God rest his soul. He used to love nights like tonight: The silence outside, like the silence I beheld an hour or so ago when I ran out to the gas station to get fuel for my previously unused snow blower. “The calm before the storm” he and the people on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existence called it and will likely continue to call it for many years to come. Admittedly? I see the truth in their assessment then and now and despite the time of year…
Despite the way February is crowding me currently with its frigid embrace…
Despite the way that I cringe at the prospect of another couple of weeks of it…
Well, guys? It could be worse. I could be a 76’ers fan.
Goodnight, all. Winky emoticon. Smiley face. Roll snare drum.