And then I went outside to shovel and never came back

All set with this, thanks. #snowpocalypse

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

37 days till Sanibel Island … 37 days till Sanibel Island … 37 days till Sanibel Island … #snowpocalypse

A photo posted by Daddy Scratches (@daddyscratches) on

Nine hours after I took those photos, the epic blizzard — which, at the time that I snapped those shots, already had been raging for 16 hours — finally stopped.

Twenty-five hours of continuous, uninterrupted, “Holy shit, it’s really coming down out there!” snowfall.

Some people love snow. I am not one of those people (which I’m sure comes as a shock to those of you who already have read such classics as “Fuck you, snow” and “It’s the least wonderful time of the year”). Many who hear of my disdain for snow react with some variation of the following: “But Jon, you’re from Boston, aren’t you? You should be used to this!” And, yes, fucknuts, I am from Boston, and I am used to this … and neither of those things means I filled out a survey while in utero and checked off the box that said, “Hey, when this balloon bursts, I’d really love to pop out someplace where frozen water falls from the sky and the air is many dozens of degrees lower than my body temperature.” Two people from Massachusetts had sex 46 years ago and suddenly I’m supposed to embrace the concept of freezing my ass off and clearing a bazillion cubic tons of ice crystals out of my driveway with a really big spoon? I don’t think so.

Some people like to keep up with snow removal by repeatedly venturing outside in the midst of a raging blizzard so they can shovel incrementally throughout the day. I am not one of those people either. To me, that’s right up there with using the “snooze” button … and I would much rather set the alarm to go off at the time at which I actually need to get out of bed than have it startle me awake multiple times on the same morning. No thanks.

Unfortunately, I also am not one of those people who can sit back and relax while waiting for the storm to end … not when I know that the storm’s end will bring with it a herculean and loathsome task that I just want to attack and put behind me. And so, instead of going outside and shoveling incrementally throughout the day, or sitting back and relaxing while waiting for the storm to end, I basically spent all of Saturday prowling the house from window to window, engaging in a ferocious staring contest with Mother Nature. (I lost.) In the words of my ever-perceptive wife, I was “lit to pop.”

By nightfall, with the storm still in full swing, I had convinced myself that the shoveling would have to wait until morning. And I allowed myself to operate under that delusion until the snow finally let up around 8:30pm … at which point the pent-up, psychotic, “lit-to-pop”-soldier part of my brain yelled “Suit up, bitch! It’s ‘Go’ time!”

Let us travel back to 9 p.m. Saturday night, shall we? And since the front and back doors of the house are snowed shut, let us open the garage door to see what’s what.


And then my soul died.

Why would a human being willingly choose to live in a place where this happens? (Sadly, I cannot answer that question to my own satisfaction … which explains the inner turmoil raging inside me every winter.)


“Yes, I’m sure it looks ‘awesome’ to you, you pajama-wearing freeloader.”


This is the face of a man who, at the moment this photo was taken, would gladly have set flame to a convent full of nuns bottle feeding a litter of fluffy, white, baby harp-seal orphans if doing so would have gained him access to a snowblower.

“What’s the latest you’ll stay out till?” asked my wife.

“I don’t know,” I said.

“Midnight?” she suggested.

“Sure, midnight.”

What followed lives in my memory as a swirling blur of “The Howard Stern Show,” Skrillex, Sam Adams, water, sweat, and a total-body workout whose demands far exceeded my current level of fitness.

I shoveled. Like, forever. It would surprise me very little, in fact, to learn that the time I’ve spent writing this blog entry has been nothing more than an exhaustion-induced hallucination, and that I’m still shoveling right now.

By the time I finished clearing all of the two-car parking area (which extends from the garage to just past the rear of that van you see peeking out from beneath a snowdrift), it was 1:30 in the morning. So much for midnight … and so much for stopping.

“He’s not coming in until he finishes the whole thing,” my wife (I later learned) told my distressed mother (who was staying with us) just after midnight. “He’s in ‘Army’ mode now. He’s a like a robot.”

She was right. On Saturday night/Sunday morning, I tapped into that generally unneeded reserve of mental and physical strength whose existence I discovered while suffering through basic training many years ago. The point at which a normal human being feels like they’ve used up everything they’ve got? If you can push past that point, you’ll likely discover that there’s still a lot more left in the tank. Like, 70% more. Sure, accessing it requires slipping into an altered state that causes you (or, at least, causes me) to behave more like Heath Ledger’s Joker than a normal human being (which explains the maniacal cackling my neighbors probably heard in their dreams while I was performing “Snowpocalypse Now” in my driveway) … but once you know it’s there, it’s a valuable asset … and, ever-so-occasionally, I like proving to myself that I can still get there.

I didn’t know what time it was when I finally reached the part of the driveway into which the plows had directed waves of tightly compacted snow (because I had decided at 1:30 that I wasn’t going to look anymore); I just know it felt like I was shoveling rocks and half-dry cement. Whatever the case, it was about that same time that a dude driving a mid-sized snowplow got himself stuck in the end of a nearby driveway. (I later learned that this happened at around 3:30 a.m., at which time my mother told my wife that she’d not heard the sound of my shoveling for about 10 minutes. This led to my wife looking out windows until she finally spotted me at the end of the neighbor’s driveway, wedged between a snowbank and a plow blade … a disturbing sight, I’m sure, but it turns out I wasn’t trapped; I was just helping Plow Guy dislodge his truck. Because what I really needed after six-and-a-half hours of nonstop shoveling was a physical challenge.)

When we finally freed the truck, Plow Guy hopped out and pulled his billfold from his pocket.

“Dude, I don’t need money; I just need you to clear the end of my driveway.”

Given the the fact that there was nowhere within the confines of my driveway for him to push the snow, he did his best to shove some of it to the left and right sides … a boon to be sure, but it still took me about an hour to shovel away the rest of the cement—I mean snow.

With the end of the driveway finally cleared, I hopped in my car and started it up. The dashboard clock read 4:29. Yes, really.

By the time I finished cleaning off my car, my wife’s van, and shoveling away the snow where they’d been parked, it was 5 o’clock in the morning and I could barely keep my eyes open. I showered in a state of semi-consciousness, wolfed down a bowl of cereal and collapsed into bed with plans to sleep until June.

In spite of those plans, I woke around 11 a.m. … but still, I was determined to sit on my ass all damn day. Unfortunately, the snowplows that cleared the street while I slept had again filled in the end of my driveway, so my trusty shovel and I were reunited much sooner than I’d hoped we would be. Thankfully, Round 2 was a much lesser ordeal, and the Scratches Compound soon had a driveway that was envied by all who laid eyes upon it.

Street from driveway
Driveway from street

Sadly, the same could not be said of my front walk. Although I briefly flirted with the idea of shoveling it clean as well, I ultimately decided that front-door access was a luxury we could live without.

Blizzard 2016

“Front Walk” – a Daddy Scratches haiku
My dearest Front Walk
You can fuck right off till spring
I’m done with this shit

By Monday morning, I was back in my office, nursing a sore everything, and envying the kids’ snow day. So imagine my surprise when this happened:


See, you guys? Being a complete psycho isn’t just fun; it’s GOOD PARENTING.

Joker Scratches

Father of the Year
(Why so serious?)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get back to these Gulf Coast real-estate listings …

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  1. Posted January 29, 2016 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m so sorry! I feel your pain. I really *hate* snow (unless I’m looking at pretty pictures of it from a beach somewhere) and currently live in Canada. So. Ew.

    OTOH, our winter has been delightfully mild this year, whereas you have been utterly dumped on. Ewwwwww! I’m so sorry!

    Just think. Only 37 days till Sanibel Island.

    Hahaha! pyjama-wearing freeloader. =D

    *After reading some more of the post* Oh my gosh. I’m so so so so sorry.

    Also, you are a true hero and deserve brownies. Look at that pristine driveway! Holy cow!

    …. Holy cow! Holy cow! And then your son shovelled the walk??!!
    bloody hell donotcrydonotcrydonotcry oh bugger I’m tearing up. That was just awesome.

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:25 am | Permalink

      Yes, if the only snow I ever saw again was contained in the pages of, say, National Geographic, and I saw it while planted in a hammock tied between two palm trees near the ocean, that would be just fine with me. 🙂

  2. Posted January 29, 2016 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    Bwah ha ha ha! The “Some people love snow” paragraph made me cackle. I love this post. Great job, and great son. (This is about the time my younger brother starts muttering “[Number of]-days-til-Opening-Day, [number of]-days-til-Opening-Day,” but I’m thinking you and your son have been there since the end of last season.)

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      We are, indeed, counting down the days … and we have tickets to the the first Spring Training game of the season … and to say that “I can’t friggin’ wait to be in Florida” would be a massive understatement. 🙂

  3. Posted January 29, 2016 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

    Good job, the both of you. As an Alaskan, I’m glad to see you have a good shovel and not one of those silly flat pieces of aluminum. Even worse, I was in Mongolia in November and watched a poor fellow clear snow off a hotel parking lot with a flat piece of plastic about 30×30, with NO handle. He pushed the snow into piles and then loaded the piles onto his plastic and carried that over to a corner of the lot. Photos to prove it will be on my blog in the next couple days. Take care of your shovel.

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      As an Alaskan, I would hope you have a snowblower instead of a run-of-the-mill shovel! But thank you for complimenting my choice of shovel. 🙂

      Just read one of your Mongolia entries. Very cool! Not the vacation destination I’d have picked, but I admire your adventuresome spirit!

  4. Posted January 29, 2016 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    Holy cow! Ignore my complaints about our tiny, little ice storm.

    Yes, you should move south just a tad. You would laugh at what we call a “winter storm.”

    Obviously, you are a good example to your son!
    Gigi´s most recent blog post: The Great Escape…My Profile

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      Thanks. I’m tryin’!

      And, yes, I’m sure your version of a “winter storm” differs greatly from mine. 😉

  5. Posted January 29, 2016 at 11:54 pm | Permalink

    Those photos remind me of a few of the Idaho snow storms of my pre-teen years, deep enough to make tunnels around the front yard that lasted until it warmed a bit. Now that I’m “three-fourths the way down the other side of the mountain”… to speak, I cherish the memories, enjoy the photos and thank God for all the rain in my part of Washington. Thanx for all the laughs I get at your expense. <3
    Rilly´s most recent blog post: Happy New Year 2016…….My Profile

  6. Val from Cape Town
    Posted January 30, 2016 at 4:07 am | Permalink

    Whereas we in the Southern Hemisphere just sigh with envy at the thought of snow, your photos made me realise that it is not all ‘pretty and white’ but hard work too!!
    Well done both of you. You did a fine job.

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Val. Glad I could help you appreciate the downside of snow storms! 😉

  7. Posted January 30, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    Holy cow that is the longest driveway I have ever seen. And your kiddo is awesome.

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      It looks even longer when you’re shoveling it! 😉
      And I concur about the kiddo. 🙂

      • Lis
        Posted February 10, 2016 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Our driveway is at least three times as long. Global warning over the last 30 years has changed our climate from “at least four to five HEAVY snow falls a year” to just a thin layer of snow per winter. Shoveling was such a task, I was at it for whole weekends at a time.

  8. BB
    Posted January 31, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s time for you to invest in a couple more shovels. My kids have been conscripted to help shovel since about age 8. If anyone’s shoveling, everyone’s shoveling (obviously exceptions are made for illness or injury). Excellent job clearing, though! I also think your loyal blog readers should chip in to purchase a Scratches Snowblower. I’d contribute!

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      You make a good point. Might be time for me to set up a snowblower drive! 😉

  9. GG
    Posted January 31, 2016 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    First of all let me say a belated Welcome Back! I’ve been reading you for many years. But for a while you wandered off….and then so did I. Now we’re both back, whew!
    I grew up in a Chicago suburb, which is why one year after graduating college, I hopped in my sweeeet blue Firebird and drove like hell to CA. Now I live in San Diego where I am spending my declining years (I’m 53).
    Your post brought back memories and made me laugh…your face in that 5th photo is just EVERYTHING! I laughed all the way through your post until the part about your son shoveling the front walk, at which time someone must have started chopping onions up in here….sigh. So while I read a lot of blogs, I never comment. But this time I just had to take moment to say ‘Atta Boy to both you and your son!

    • Posted February 1, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Thanks for coming back, thanks for commenting, and thanks for the ‘Atta Boy! 🙂

  10. Julie
    Posted February 8, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    Well, I admit, I stopped checking in for a few weeks. Lo and behold, a Scratches post!!! This one served to remind me how thankful I am to have been born a fourth generation Floridian. I have extended family that don’t own long pants. When I moved “up north” to Savannah, I didn’t own closed-toe shoes. I can’t even imagine dealing with snow like that.
    I did see snow once…in 1989. We had three inches and the city shut down for two days. I was thrilled! But, that was enough for me.
    Glad you’re back and even closer to Sanibel Is.
    **You always wonder if they’re paying attention and when you’re pretty sure they’re not…SIDEWALK!!!

  11. Posted February 9, 2016 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    Loved this, we did the same thing at our house only we weren’t out till 5:30 in the morning..and the guy up the street has one of those digger/snowplow things and came down and finished up for us…bless him..and you can be proud of your son and vis versa…

  12. Amy
    Posted April 9, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    Are you still shoveling? Hope you survived the winter and hope the red socks have a good season ?

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