John McIntyre, whom James Wolcott calls "the Dave Brubeck of the art and craft of copy editing," writes on language, editing, journalism, and other manifestations of human frailty. Comments welcome. Identifying his errors relieves him of the burden of omniscience. Write to, befriend at Facebook, or follow at Twitter: @johnemcintyre. Back 2009-2012 at the original site, and now at

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow day 2

Woke in the middle of the night to the sound of thunder amid the snowfall. No trace at 7.a.m. of the three shovelings from the night before. Easily two feet of snow on the ground — likely more, though drifting makes measurement difficult. Some permanent damage evident on the holly tree in the yard. Snow wet and dense, flung by periodic wind gusts. Second low system moving out of Kentucky and headed this way.

Cleared a path from the front door to the street, and K. and I tunneled from the back door to the garage. Not that either car could proceed in snow this deep, and the prospects of seeing a city plow on Plymouth and Roselawn are nil. Will wake J.P. later to put him to work on the sidewalk. Two neighbors wielding shovels but no one else on the street.

Started the dishwasher and the laundry to get as much done as possible in case the power goes out. K.’s banana-nut muffins warm from the oven. TV news interspersing warnings — do not attempt to drive anywhere except in an emergency — and the comical — reporter standing out in the snow picks up a handful to show us what it’s like. Bless his heart, everybody within his viewing area knows what it looks like. Mayor tweeting that there are 137 trucks on the road plowing and salting. Shout-out to my former Sun colleagues housed in a hotel up the hill from Calvert Street so they can continue to put out the news.

Coffee and bourbon holding out. J.P.’s chilis last night — one beef, one veg — highly satisfactory. Today perhaps a good day to bake bread. Salmon for dinner tonight. Morale remains good. Cats dozing.

No rehearsal of the Cabinet scene from Annie today, likely no church tomorrow. Seventeen more damn articles on usage issues and figures of speech to write and a book manuscript to finish editing.

Holding steady.


  1. Stay warm! Hope your electricity and bourbon hold out, but if one should fail, I hope your bourbon holds out. :)

  2. I just posted a comment that would go better with this piece. Please put it here if that's simple to do.

  3. Our indoor/outdoor cats increasingly stir-crazy. May be a tossup as to which of us gets eaten first.

  4. Virginia MerchánFebruary 6, 2010 at 10:45 AM

    What a delicious piece of writing, John...

    Thank you!

  5. Mr. Lackey's extended comment attached to yesterday's snow day post would, he says, serve better here:

    Patrick K. Lackey said...
    Holy crap! I had to shovel a path so our two dogs could make it to an evergreen tree, under which the snow is shallow enough that they can do their business. I can't recall a single storm dropping this much snow during my 14 years in Iowa. And it's still snowing. My single-sentence poem to celebrate this storm: "It's snowing; won't be mowing." Did you ever wonder on a morning like this how many words rhyme with snow. Can't find my trusted rhyming dictionary. A person with such a book could compose a snow poem with the rhyme scheme AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA. There's ample stuff to describe. My trash cans appear to have been lit on by towering white domes, presumably from space. The snow did an astounding job of balancing atop wood fences. My body and dog Oscar yearn to run, as usual, but the snow says no, so we won't go. Nonetheless, must force myself to stop babbling. There's no cause for hysteria. Though the snow continues, it's not yet over our heads. Actually our glass is half full. We in Pikesville missed the winds, and someone, a long time ago, harnessed electricity. If only babbling paid, and by the word. Wish snow paid by the inch, or in the case of this storm, by the foot. One question for Jed Waverly from upstate NY. Are snow forecasts there ever given not in inches or feet but in yards? I'd hate to hear the words, "Expect up to a yard of snow."

  6. Few things are more satisfying and magical than being snowed in, especially in a warm place with good food and good company. Alas, here in NYC we only have a magic-free dusting.

  7. Snow is still falling here, across the river from Harrisburg. The bird feeders have been busy. Ham and bean soup is under way and eventually there will be blueberry muffins, and the laundry's done. (Same worries about power here.)

    I'm glad we got some wood inside yesterday, because the woodpile is invisible today.

    My thanks to any newspaper carrier who braved the roads last night, and my commisseration to the circulation staff members who will be taking calls from furious customers whose snowblowers have jammed because a newspaper buried in the snow got sucked into the snowblower.

    Barbara Phillips Long

  8. Stay warm and dry, my friend. And if the electricity fails, remember that there's one thing two people, without electricity, can do to entertain themselves. (Got me through Hurricane Gustav. I'm just saying ...)

  9. Patricia the Terse du NordFebruary 7, 2010 at 1:34 AM

    In Central - not Upstate - New York, we hire teenage boys to shovel: they like to be paid and reappear in summer to mow the lawn..I suggest some of you start to call parents in your neighborhood. We often measure snowfall in feet, and unless there are ice and wind as well,people manage to plod along. Oswego - to the North - and the Tug Hill Plateau - Northwest - get hit hard a couple of times a winter: they are used to it, they are prepared and they cope. The police, hospitals and emergency services are well-trained and prepared. It serves to slow everybody down, and reminds us that we, for all our racing about, meetings, commitments et al, aren't particulary important in the grand scheme of things. My brother and sister-in-law, near Annapolis, are settled in. He shovels, and she is cooking for a Super-Bowl party. If no one can travel on Sunday, they'll have a lot of food in the freezer.They've not been plowed yet, but as they aren't planning to go anywhere for a while, it doesn't much matter. They have firewood, food, CDs, television and plenty to read. The power went off for an hour, and came back on. Unlike California, we and you don't have mudslides and earthquakes. Plod steadily on and enjoy the quiet.

  10. Patrick: Yes it is common to hear weather reporters in Upstate refer to feet and yards of snow on a fairly regular basis. Would you believe that there is a friendly competition among the cities in Upstate NY to determine who has the greatest snowfall during a winter season? There is real disappointmet when a city "loses."

    John: You are doing a marvelous job of coping with the snowfall in the Baltimore area, making it into a gentle adventure. I hope there are a fireplace and bowls of popcorn in the picture, also. Your daily snowed-in reports are well-written and worth saving for those days in July and August when residents of the D.C./Baltimore area are attacked by the humidity demons and the temps soar.