Try it. Who knows, you may even like it.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Another view of Buffalo's freaky October storm

Of course there are a few people around who believe that everything has been reported that needs to be reported about the freaky October storm that fractured our trees, downed our wires and bolstered Buffalo’s international reputation as the home office of winter.
How wrong they would be. It may be over but it will be generating copy for years, especially from those who spent time shivering in unheated, darkened homes, fingers iced, toes curling, ears tingling, wondering when their lives would return to normal. People in situations such as that have a tendency toward contemplation. There is little else to do, so soon they are thinking thoughts they would have never bothered thinking, striving for storm related insights.
I emerged from that period of cogitation with thoughts of two men who changed my life and the lives of countless others. I first thought of Joyce Kilmer when I heard that initial loud crack followed by a thud that shook the ground. A huge limb had fallen from that towering maple. Other limbs, some larger, some smaller, would fall, reinforcing my reverie about Joyce Kilmer, who wrote the only poem I can recite without prompting. You probably know it, too, but I am ashamed to say that I reached middle age without memorizing any other poem. Please join me as we recite:
I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree
A tree whose hungry mouth is pressed
Against the sweet earth’s flowing breast;
A tree that looks at God all day.
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;
A tree that may in summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair;
Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.
Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.
I must have been pretty young when the class learned that poem because I can remember the giggles and the knowing glances when we came to the words “breast” and “bosom.” But I remembered the lines all these years, and especially thought of the poem as our trees, ill-prepared for winter, so innocent and so vulnerable, were brutalized.
My thoughts turned in another direction when the power was restored. Light! Heat! Action! Deprived for days, one of the obvious questions was: What’s on TV? The answer at our house: nothing. The cable was still not functioning. There was more snow on the screen than in the parking lot at the mall.
That brought to mind the contribution of the other individual who had a remarkable impact. His name may not be as familiar as Joyce Kilmer, but Marvin Middlemark was an extraordinary personality, and I thought of Marvin as I damned Time Warner for its frustrating recorded message and for its exasperatingly slow response.
Marvin invented rabbit ears. He was a tinkerer and previously his prize creation was a water powered potato peeler, which met with limited success. But he hit the big time and made millions with the rabbit ears, which sat on top of the television set and functioned as an antenna. The big houses might have had a rooftop antenna, but, for most viewers, rabbit ears were essential. Before rabbit ears, many TV watchers had a wire connected to an indoor antenna in the attic. Rabbit ears simplified the process, improved reception, and came in various styles and price ranges.
Middlemark sold his rabbit ears properties for millions in the mid-’60s, fiddled with various other concepts, including a method for re-inflating and restoring used tennis balls, and died in 1989. But his memory lives on among those who remember his creative work with the rabbit ears.
I thought of Marvin as I foraged around in the basement and in the dark corners of every closet, trying to find a pair. No luck. How could I have been so shortsighted, so confident in the efficacy of the cable companies, that I years ago tossed my last pair of rabbit ears into the trash? My plan was to locate a pair of rabbit ears and hook them up to the TV until the Time Warner guys got around to servicing their customers.
I finally borrowed a pair from a friend who was perceptive enough to keep them, even as he advanced, first to cable and then to dish. Like you, I have other storm stories I could relate, stories of generators, chain saws and traffic lights, but Joyce Kilmer and Marvin Middlemark provided me with compelling memories in a time of trouble. (end)


Post a Comment

<< Home