The plunge to nowhere.

A few days ago I announced my participation in the Paupack Plunge, a charity wade into a frozen lake in northeast Pennsylvania, and solicited your support for the big event.

How’d it go? Well … not according to plan.

My part of eastern Pennsylvania got a foot-plus of snow on Thursday, followed by something like three more inches today (which is still falling as I write this).

Since Lake Wallenpaupack is up north in the hilly rural regions, and since I drive a compact car that takes icy roads like a derelict shrimp trawler takes a strong sea, I did not have confidence in my ability to get there. So I decided to take a regretful pass on the Paupack Plunge.

This was Friday morning; today's snow is not included.
This was Friday morning; today’s snow is not included.

I regretted that I would be unable to take the Plunge. I’d publicly announced my intention to do so, and even gathered a donation or two. A promise made is a debt unpaid, as the saying goes.

So I decided the next best thing would be for me to find some body of water close to my house and plunge into it by myself, to show my solidarity with the war effort. Those people who donated to support me surely expected something for their gift; they didn’t do it so I could sit on the couch and eat bonbons.

That best-laid plan went awry too. I spent an hour cruising from crick to crick this morning in the towns surrounding my house. Every one was either overlain with snow or impossible to reach without a team of elephants.

(There was always the Lehigh River, but I decided to take a pass on that. I wanted a smaller and more controlled setting for my  personal Plunge, just in case I had a heart attack or something.)

Me casing out a potential crick, which is off to the right and not visible in the photo. You’ll note a No Trespassing sign, which made it even more ill-advised to try to reach the water.

In the end I was unable to prove my mettle. I could not — or simply did not, depending on your perspective — get myself in the cool, clear water. I failed to fulfill my promise.

But, some sort of futile gesture still seemed to be called for.

So I did my best.

Whaddya want for a snowy day?


Christmas Eve.

In case anyone missed me, I went home to the suburbs of Rochester, N.Y., for a couple days with the family. I neglected to cue anything up for my absence, and was having too much fun to take time to write.

I got up this morning to another horrifying news story, this one close to home: A gunman in the next town over killed two volunteer firefighters and wounded two others after intentionally starting a fire that destroyed several houses. The gunman apparently killed himself, as well.

I could probably have gotten to Lake Road in Webster, where the shootings happened, in 20 minutes from my parents’ house. I know this because this past January, gripped by a random desire to go see the lake, I did just that. In my younger days, I used to go to that neighborhood for high-school cross-country meets at Webster Park, too.

I stared at Twitter for a couple of minutes, trying to think of how to share this vitally important personal connection with the world — including my Lehigh Valley Twitter pals who had heard about the story and were already talking about it.

But I kept my mouth shut, for the following reasons:

1. No one cares whether I have any kind of tenuous personal connection to current events.

2. I have no context to add that would help anyone understand why some asshole (sorry, Ma) would take potshots at volunteer firefighters on Christmas Eve morning.

3. First-person stories are overrated. In the past two weeks I’ve read the “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother” column (from the mother of a teenager prone to psychotic spells) …
… another column about how autism does not correlate to violence, from a mom using her gentle autistic son as first-person evidence …
… and a blog post from a local journalist I respect, who used to buy records  years ago at a store in Newtown, Conn., and asked readers to spare some prayers for a place that “used to be my backyard.”

I know that sometimes personal tales beg to be told; and the ones I list above all came with good intentions and useful messages.

But the presence of Mother No. 2’s gentle autistic son is a single anecdotal story; it is not in itself an argument against linking autism and violence. (I couldn’t agree more with the conclusion. I just think that any specific example deserves one sentence, tops.)

And the local journo’s time spent in Newtown 20 years ago does not add anything to the appalling nature of the shootings there. My feelings about the event are unaffected by anyone’s peripheral personal experiences. (I would suggest that Newtown is everyone’s back yard now, regardless of whether you’ve ever actually driven through it.)

Similarly, I do not expect that anyone who knows me will feel any differently about the Webster shootings, or have any deeper understanding of what went on, because of my limited connection to the town.

It’s just another event that reminds us that senseless violence and stupidity can happen anywhere, anytime … even to volunteer public servants doing their jobs in a nice neighborhood the day before Christmas.

Where next, I wonder?

# # # # #

I was going to try to end this on a more uplifting note … oh, yeah, I remember now.

We got a nice storm the night I arrived in Rochester. Not a life-disrupting lake-effect snow bomb; just maybe three or four inches overnight to cover everything in white. I went running in the first cold flakes, and shoveled the driveway the next day with my dad and older brother, and felt rootsy and connected and at home.

We also took my kids to our family’s longtime sledding hill of choice. The day was windy and the snow cover a little shallow, but fun was still had by all.

I brought my point-and-shoot (Kodak, natch) … and while I was taking a couple runs down the hill, I shot video.

Perhaps the sight of a grown man kicking up his heels and taking to the bunny slope will add a little cheer to somebody’s Christmas.