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Judy Atchinson's A Stubborn Woman
by Judy Atchinson

A Stubborn Woman

A Daily Gazette community blog
QUEST leader's wanderings and musings


The overland and sea trip to Nova Scotia (continued)

I left off at 4 in the morning waiting yet for another snow plow and seriously considering my death. All things considered I decided this was not such an awful way to slide out of existence. You just fall asleep and freeze to death was just what I figured, me and Wilbur. Brian by now was just an after thought. I was pretty pissed at him.

We were all dozing peacefully, when I sat up “Brian -- start the car, turn on the lights,” I screamed. And I do mean screamed. The reverberations were probably loud enough to be heard by the snow plow, who was now receding rapidly down the road. The car and the windows were so enveloped in snow that the plow lights looked like a candle in the wind.

Well, the plow was going the wrong way, but the road in his wake was plowed, so we started moving. Still pretty slow. Down the center lane, one windshield wiper flapping uselessly and the window insisting at icing over from time to time. Because of the lack of outside light, and the heaviness of the falling snow, it looked as if we were traveling into the revolving tunnel of light and ice. And we have 45 miles to go.

Long and slow but we came, finally, to the end of that road at a T crossing face to face with an “Irving Gas” station. Pit stops for everyone and gas for the car. Turn right and head for the border crossing for Calais/ St. Stephen. No problem with customs, no lines at customs. Just utter silence everywhere and the sky was turning gray and the sun, which was invisible, was coming up.

We still had a fairly long drive on the Trans Canada Expressway, and we knew the 8 A.M. ferry was long gone. So eerie going down a 5 lane highway with no cars, and the wind whipping the snow into drifts on the road. No trees here, just barren wasteland which allowed the wind to do anything it pretty much wanted. And plowing through snow drifts was a new dimension, in and out of body experience.

I called a hotel in New Brunswick and had no problem making a reservation. We pulled in at 11:30 A.M. and the car looked like a moving igloo. And, duh, of course the ferry had been canceled and a tidal surge was expected, so it probably would be cancelled the next day, which was Monday, New Year's Eve. After eating some pizza -- feeding three slices to the dog, taking a hot shower etc. –- we decided to try the land bridge on Monday, otherwise we would be stuck in this hotel until Wednesday. So no contest. On Monday morning we set off for the land bridge, which offered an 11-hour drive to Yarmouth -- just 45 minutes from our destination. So you know exactly what we did, carping and sniping at each other, just like Jackie Gleason and Jayne Meadows. We drove to Yarmouth, where I absolutely insisted we go grocery shopping, seeing as how we only had a jug of water and 6 cans of dog food in the car. And, oh yes, my Christmas stocking and its contents. Chocolate, may I never see it, smell it, or eat it again.

So we went to a nice big grocery and stocked up. I mean there was no food at the camp except a can of pineapple and 4 bags of Ramen Noodles. And, oh yes, 4 containers of the best in gourmet salt. We were pretty pissy, tired and hungry and; oh-oh cold alert. The cabin was 34 degrees. Now I knew the heat needed to be turned on and a pathway shoveled and the water pump primed and started. And of course no sheets on the bed. But somehow at the end of this journey that felt like a journey through a special circle of hell. A cold circle, not a hot fiery one, at this point, a hot fiery circle seemed like a pretty good idea.

Well, the sea wind was howling and that’s a damp wind, and our triple-paned windows did nothing to keep out the chill. Chill -- c’mon now, frigidity -- that’s a much more accurate way to describe things.

We put the sheets that were wet and cold on the bed, fed the dog. He had it better than anyone else. After all, he has a luxurious fur coat. And we got into bed under every blanket, coat, sweater, rug, etc. in the place. This was New Year's Eve. Welcome 2012/2013. Well, the temp went up to 42, and stubbornly stuck there. I was wearing 3 pair of padded socks and the floor still felt like an ice floe.

Every one of our towels was nailed to every one of our windows where we could watch them billow in the wind sweeping through. I began throwing clothes on the floor in the bedroom because it did cut the chill -- somewhat. It was New Year’s Day, a huge holiday in Canada. Every single store was closed. “See,” I said nastily, “I was right, it was a good thing that we went shopping yesterday!” Actually, periodically we would go sit in the car to warm up. Not to long though, cause all the gas stations were closed!

Wednesday finally came around as it usually does. And we went out to find an auxiliary heater. Well, my husband went into Walmart and came out with a large package. “What did you get,” I asked eagerly, having visions of myself basking in normal clothes and doing normal every day things without dragging a blanket around over my shoulders. “All they had,” he said. “Uh-oh” this little voice inside me said. “You didn’t get one of those little oil filled radiators, did you?” “Yup, all they had.”

Now we have a joke at QUEST about those evil things. My office is the size of a small closet and has one heat outlet that doesn’t work well, so we put two -- yes two -- of those contraptions in and it still doesn’t get warm. Tifa says, “We could all blow in our hands and make more warm air than those nasty things.” And she’s right.

Needless to say Brian and I had a little talk in the car, which was at a very high decibel level. He kept insisting that this is all there is anywhere. For a smart man he was acting kind of stupid. $80 for that worthless piece of metal. So we went to the local hardware store -- he protesting every mile of the way. And gee, whiz, there it was, sitting modestly in the corner, a small white box about the size of a medium Christmas present, “A Milk Barn Heater.” $100 -- and cheap at any price.

We took it home and it heated everything. It was 67 degrees. Everywhere. You could aim it anywhere and it worked. Modestly and quietly, it just sat there in its space and actually did what it was supposed to do. Now, now don’t get me wrong, we couldn’t take any towels down, or pick any blankets up, and I went out and blew $12 on a pair of foam insulated slippers at the local Frenchy’s, an icon for Nova Scotia thrift shop buyers. That’s where I also bought my faux fur vest, which never came off my body for a solid week. We splurged $1 for a crock pot and I made chili with stew beef -- it was marvelous. But now it was Thursday night and we were leaving to catch the 8 A.M. ferry on Saturday and of course the cabin had to be closed down for the winter, water shut off, drains flushed out and anti- freeze put in and heat and electricity turned off. The movie on the ferry was one of the worst I had ever seen and the ride home was quiet and uneventful. My daughter met us at the door, hands on hips, saying, “I don’t want to hear about it, you just came back from an extravagant vacation.

Meanwhile, back home ...

I wasn’t going to add this but I changed my mind. Some agency got $300,000 to rehab an indoor swimming pool. In Rotterdam. Yet we have a closed pool at the YWCA, because of lack of funding to repair it, and no pool at the new City Center YMCA, and a shortened summer season in many of our pools right here in the city. Let’s hope they are all open this summer.

We have poverty and mayhem on the rise and code violations everywhere you look. I just have to look next door to QUEST to see the aluminum siding falling off the building next door, and the second floor front door, leading to the second floor porch, blowing in the wind. And I never wasted my time wondering about the front sidewalk. Gee, it was never shoveled -- what a surprise. We are so lucky in having S.I.C.M. for a neighbor, they not only plow our lot but they shovel our sidewalks.

In this age of cutthroat competition, this is truly Christian love blossoming forth -- thank you. It’s the youth, who haunt my day and marking my sleep. Ty again put up in a cheap motel with the rest of his family. He’s 12 now and so ashamed and bitter.

And there’s Moo Mah and Kiki being good citizens and speaking out to the principal of Mount Pleasant about the three white boys who jumped the Guyanese boy and beat him so badly he wound up in Albany Med. And the mass of underage smokers flocking around the main entrance to the high school every morning. Where are they getting all of their cigarettes and isn’t it illegal for them to be smoking on school property? And my little family whose home just got raided last month and whose dog was shot and killed in front of them. No one is allowed back in their apartment so they too are living in a hotel. And step daddy is out and attending drug court -- yes drug court -- even though 4 guns were found in the house and crack and heroin, and the man has a record and there were 4 children living there. And, oh yes, mom still has the kids. I speak often to the birth father who is distraught, helpless and frightened. He has been clean for 3 years now, has his own apartment and a real life. Bravo John.

There’s my mouthy community service boy, whose facial aperture I want to sew shut. But it turns out he can juggle. So he can do a small class every week. WIN -- WIN -- that’s what I like.

Then there’s Shamel -- 12 years old -- mom never knew or cared where she was; tonight I saw her with 2 other girls running drugs on State Street. The boy who was in charge of this crew couldn’t have been more than 15 or 16.

We passed 3 different cars on 3 different streets being towed or ripped apart by the police. “I knew that one was going to be stopped,” another 12 year old crowed in my car. “I just knew it.”

We melted down our chocolate Santas tonight, used our crock pot, and all the kids fondued apples, pears, grapes. They had never done anything like this before. And we found a new place to leave bread and pizza, the City Missions new living complex for young moms and babies.

I am proud of my boys going out and ringing door bells- explaining who we are and what we are doing.

This can offset the evil they see surrounding them everyday. We also had a lesson in economics today. The local store selling under-the-table phone chargers for your car. No Box, No Papers -- just chargers. $30 at Verizon, $7 at the corner bodega. And it’s a 10 year old telling me where to get it and how much it is.

It’s 8:30P.M. and as I drive down these streets I see 7-, 8-, 9-year-olds playing in them. It’s 34 degrees and it’s garbage night. They’re playing in the trash heaps. Small mountains of filth, and refuse, throwing stuff and laughing and giggling. These are our streets and these are our children.

Are you weeping?

I am.

“Not a single stone to throw at the dog -- the wintry moon.”
-- Tan Taigi

A perfect ending almost getting hit broadside by an out-of-control police vehicle, we passed by Dollar General -- 5 police cars in the parking lot. A robbery -- it’s now 9:27. I'm going home.

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