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It began in the middle of Saturday morning. A heavy, cold, fat rain pelting down with bits of snow-slush stuff that began to accumulate on the ground. That’s what the freak Northeastern snow storm of October 29 looked like here on the north shore of Long Island.

Yes. Snow. And most of our trees haven’t even started to turn color yet. It still looks like late Summer out there. 

It was an ignoble end to my brave and courageous cosmos.

I had a late morning dentist appointment in Sea Cliff (for those who are keeping score, this was two Saturdays in a row) and it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go visit the Sea Cliff Library.

The library is smack in the middle of town, in the old Methodist Presbyterian church. I really should have made better notes: I tend to not take notice of Protestant sects, but I’m sure that to a Methodist and a Presbyterian, it’s a big, big difference. To all Methodists and Presbyterians: does this church/library look like one of yours?

I’ve walked past the Sea Cliff library for years and only recently (due to all my dental work of late) noticed that what I thought was an old church was, in fact, a working library. So when I stepped inside for the first time this Saturday, I let out a little “Ooooo” of appreciation upon seeing the churchie details still intact. 

I pulled out my camera and started to take photos; the librarian said one word to me: “Architect?”

I replied with one word, in a half correcting/half apologetic tone: “Illustrator.”

That’s a little writing table there, placed for use in a snug cubbie in the fiction stacks. Which reminds me that one of the senior managers at my job recently asked me to clear something up for her: “Are all novels fiction?” she asked. “Yes,” I said. “But aren’t there true-life novels?” she asked. “No,” I said: “That’s narrative non-fiction.” She persisted: “But not all short stories are fiction, right?” she asked. That’s the kind of question you can’t answer yes or no: because of the way it’s phrased. She went on, “Because aren’t some true books written as short stories?” “No,” I said. “If a non-fiction book is written in short chapters or in a series of essays, that’s an episodic devise of the narrative.”  “Oh,” she said. “OK.”  She didn’t sound convinced. I told her to check the stacks next time she goes to the library: short stories are shelved with the fiction.

And then it occured to me: Why isn’t poetry shelved with the fiction books? Calling all Librarians: can you answer that?

That hole in the ceiling is from the lengthy investigation going on in the 100-year old Sea Cliff Library to find out where the rook leaks. I live in a 100-year old house. Roofs in old buildings are tricky. They’ve been looking for the source of the leak for about three months. I know government work when I see it.

I read a few publishing biz blogs — my own agent, Betsy Lerner, has one of the most popular and brilliant blogs out there. And without fail, all the agents who blog have complained that they receive dozens of queries from would-be authors who want this agent to take a look at their “fictional novel”. I had always thought they were joking — I mean, really. A “fictional novel”??? But apparently, there is some confusion out there in the USofA about what IS and what IS NOT a novel.

I love the way snow-rainy streets reflect light. I hate that I can’t paint it (yet).

And this whole “fictional novel” thing made me think about how people on the outside of a particular industry (publishing, plumbing, physics) often use the terminology of that particular industry in totally naive/show-offy and inappropriate ways.

I happen to be a graduate of the Gemological Institute of America. I can grade diamonds and colored stones, and can authenticate jewels, gold, and objets of virtu. I did just that for a few years as the Faberge Expert for Christie’s auction house in New York. Yadda yadda yadda.

When I was deep in the jewelry biz, I used to have to deal with rookies, customers who had a tiny smidgen of information about gems which they mistook for knowledge. I’m sure that to their own ears they sounded as if they’d cracked the code when they asekd to see a “blue-white diamond”, or they demanded to have a “pink sapphire” for their engagement ring, or, when they bragged that their necklace was “32 carat gold”. But as a person with a certain expertise [me], it was hard to keep a straight face when I heard that kind of talk.

“Cognac” and “Black” diamonds are pretty funny too, by the way, to a gemologist. That  is, a gemologist not trying to pawn off crap throw-away rocks as “the latest style”.

“Canary” diamonds are OK, though.

The snow was having a steamy effect on the Long Island Sound. I was actually driving home when I saw this, and pulled the car over so I could roll down the passenger window and snap a photo. In that short time, a Sea Cliff cop had pulled up beside me to see if I had car trouble. I was annoyed at first (because I’m very cranky), and then I realized that this was a very sweet thing to do. It was MESSY out there: roads were flooded and slick, and this nice cop was checking up on the crazy old bag in the Camry Hybrid with the hazard lights on in the middle of the main sea-side boulevard.

Thank you, Sea Cliff Police Dept. I drove half a block and pulled into the beach parking lot so I could jump on top of a picnic table IN THE FREEZING FREAKING RAIN/SNOW to take this photo:

I call it: Mist on the Long Island Sound with Huddled Sea Gulls. Each and every sea gull — called Herring Gulls in America, but  “Silvered Gulls” in France — is a Braveheart. There is not smarter or gutsier bird than the brave Herring Gull.

And then I peeled out of that parking lot are tore home because I had to give my blog readers what they want from the Blizzard of October:

The Champagne-O-Meter. 

This is 1:15 in the afternoon. That’s Oscar in the backround, in the igloo.

We opened the “rabbit hole” in the side of the house so by the next hour all the outdoor cats had made it into the warm basement for the duration of the Blizzard of October.

2:15. Funny how you forget what icy-cold snow feels like after three months of Summer.

3:15. I’d had enough of the snow – having traipsed around Sea Cliff (I did not mention that the snow and rain mix is freezing and uncomfortable and totally drenching every second that you are out in it) I really did not want to haul myself out into the backyard to photograph this damn bottle of $7.99 champagne.

4:15. It was getting dark, so you can’t really make out the leaf that has blown against the bottle at his point (and the damn flash wouldn’t work on the camera). Nice comment on the FALL snow, eh? I had a brunch to go to the next day and by dashing out in this slop to take these photos I knew that my hair was a total loss from getting dumped on by these outings and I’d have to torture myself with a wash and a blow dry before the night was through.

5:15. I finally go the flash to work!

But it was actually quite dark, and I was thirsty, so that was the end of the First Champagne-O-Meter of the Winter of 2011-2012.

And one more thing: Marquise-cut diamonds are another peeve of mine, an offense to everything I know and love about diamonds.

What is it about people from outside your area of expertise that peeves you?

15 comments to The Blizzard of October

  • janet bellusci

    in the dewey decimal classification system, POETRY is it’s own entity (811) under the broader category of LITERATURE (800) which includes FICTION (813). i will assume this is because stylistically it is so different that dear Melvil Dewey had to separate it, validate it, as he did with ESSAYS, SPEECHES, etc. the question from my students which used to really stump me was “why aren’t FAIRY TALES in fiction?” that, my friends, is in FOLKLORE, (398)…go figure. anyway ~ for EASE OF USE, in most public (and school) libraries, FICTION is completely separated, in the “F” or “FIC” section, so regular folk don’t need to be bothered with dewey’s exactitudes.

  • janet bellusci

    by the way ~ thanks for your opinion about “black” diamonds. i thought i was the only one who thought they looked like CRAP!

  • Janet

    I hoped there would be a champagne-o-meter today, so thanks for that. Interesting blog all around, so thanks for that. Gulls on a beach in snow: special thanks for that wonderful photo, too.

  • Carol

    What is it about people from outside your area of expertise that peeves you?

    Do you really want to go there! Ha.

    Love your blog, always look forward to it.
    Happy to not have snow yet, it reared its ugly head a week ago and moved on with in hours-one of life’s disappointments to me is snow. Cannot stand the stuff.
    I also love your excuse for consuming that bottle of champagne!

  • That library is amazing!

    (The weather? Not so much… and thank you for clarifying about those brown diamonds- I have seen them advertised and thought “but isn’t that just a crummy diamond?”)

  • Shelley

    What a great post! The library looks like a wonderful place to spend an afternoon.

    Love the snow-rain reflections, and I can totally see you painting them to perfection! I know you’ll figure it out (and show us how you did it!).

    What peeves me about people outside my area of expertise? Not too much, because I don’t have a real “area of expertise” sad to say. However, I have worked for many years at a creamery. We make butter. We are not a dairy. Dairies have cows. Creameries make dairy products.

    I do get tired of people calling and wanting to know all about our cows. Those uneducated questions provide entertainment value too though. After many calls one day asking if we had manure for sale, I was sorely tempted to say “there’s no manure here, but we do have a lot of bullsh*t”!

  • I worked in a bookstore for years and know only too well about people not knowing what “fiction” means. One example: a fellow insisted that we point him to the “nonfiction novels” in our store. After a lengthy discussion, we determined that what he really wanted was the True Crime books.

    That library is fabulous! As are the brave gulls. I do hope the champagne-o-meter doesn’t get an excessive workout, though.

  • Eileen Alston

    In elementary school nowadays we are required by the big business people, who get to decide the “standards” we need to teach by, so our students will grow up to be good test takers (because obviously that will make them successful in all aspects of life), that we need to cover non-fiction twice as much as fiction. The best thing is that poetry is considered non-fiction! So I get to spend time reading and writing wonderful poetry with nine year olds (and there abouts), and no one is the wiser. Ain’t life grand!

  • Eileen Alston

    P.S. I’m trying to get a champagne-o-meetr going at my house, but haven’t had much luck yet. I love the idea!

  • What a super library!!!!!!!!!!! Hooray that they kept the building and put a library in there!!!!

    Love reflections. On anything. Absolutely anything.

    I program computers for a living, and hate when people say “software program.” Like “bundt cake,” it’s the same thing, twice. Only both in English, rather than two different languages.

  • Nadine

    Gulls, shmulls. Oscar and Bibs are brave in my opinion to stay outside in that snow. Those igloos might not be strong enough to withstand a tree branch falling on them.

    I work in New York City real estate and it’s the other “pros” who annoy me when they invent new neighborhoods to disguise where a property really is. “South Slope” (it’s really Greenwood Heights), “North Carnegie Hill” (Spanish Harlem), “Clinton” (Hell’s Kitchen) are just a few recent inventions.

  • Kate

    I respectfully disagree. John Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood are both classic examples of nonfiction novels (please note: I realize these titles should be underlined. My iPad doesn’t). While the tales are largely true, they do sport some artistic leverage. For example, how could Mr. Capote possibly know what the soon-to-be-murdered mother and daughter talked about in a private conversation (if I remember correctly)?
    That said, I realize that people who wish to submit “fictional novels” to agents probably haven’t read Capote lately.

  • Deborah

    I love the wintry shore photos. In general, I feel more drawn to the brooding seascape than to the sunny summer scene. Is that so wrong?

    My pet peeve, from when I worked in bird/nature stores: a ditzy lady would come in and talk about how she planted a nice butterfly garden, but the “worms” started eating it, so she had to spray poisonous chemicals on it. I guess it’s being annoyed by the lack of common sense (doesn’t every third grader know butterflies come from caterpillars [which are not worms]?)rather than pretending to know more than they really do.

    And lately I seem to be on a crusade to correct people when they say cocoon when they really mean chrysalis. Butterflies form chrysalises, moths make cocoons (although there are a few exceptions in both directions).

  • Randi

    My pet peeve, from when I learned English at my mother’s knee, is when people misuse the prepositions I and me. People who would never say “Give it to I” instead of “Give it to me” have no hesitation in saying “Give it to Tom and I” when “Give it to Tom and me” is the correct way to say it. I hear it everywhere and mostly when it would be very rude of me to correct the speaker so I just bite my tongue.

    Thanks for your great post, which gives me the opportunity to vent my spleen.

  • Shelley

    Other pet peeves…people (such as former presidents from Texas) who say Nuke-You-Ler when using the word Nuclear…all the folks in my office who like to eat Eye-talian food (maybe they should go to Eye-taly on their vacation?)…and especially, writers who use the word “viola” instead of “voila”!

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