it's beginning to look more likely that i've contracted the flu. it must've happened on that day when i went to the mall and touched a whole bunch of dirty laptops. in hindsight it seems like a great way to get sick but i didn't think of it at the time. anyway, last night i had a terrible time falling asleep. my symptoms don't include fever, but i did experience some cold chills. it took me a while to realize it because normally it's kind of cold in my house anyway. but when i was in bed under the covers and couldn't get warm and in fact kept feeling colder, i knew something was wrong. i ended up running into the guest bedroom and stealing all the blankets. i slept underneath 4 layers plus an additional layer of pillows for increased insulation. only then did i feel warm, but maybe it was the weight of all those blankets.

i had this plan of waking up at the crack of dawn to go outside and take some snow photos. but since i went to bed sort of late and still fighting what i now know to be influenza, i didn't wake up until well past 10:00.

when i looked out my living room window, my entire street was alive with activity, as neighbors were out in force digging out from the snowstorm. clearing the walk was easy compared to excavating a car. not only was there no place to put all that snow, but the snowplows would periodically come down the street and push back a pile of snow against the cars. it was a sisyphean task.

i got dressed and went outside, ready to get to work. most of my sidewalk had already been cleared, half by my neighbor don, half by another neighbor trying to dig out his car. since there was no where along the sidewalk nor the front of the house to put the snow, i ended up digging a pathway into my backyard and dumping the snow there. it made for some slow work but i eventually cleared the rest of the sidewalk and my stoop.

mutual suffering tends to bring people together. i've often met new neighbors during these excavations. skinny jeans paul, whom i've met before, was outside digging out his convertible. he put a green tarp over the soft top to prevent it from collapsing. i met jennifer, who lived right next door, digging out her own car. she'd lived in cambridge for years (although she moved into the neighborhood last september) but only recently bought a car, which she was now kind of regretting. there was mike the machine, who had a no-nonsense way of digging out, and after he finished his car, he went across the street to clear the storm drain underneath a mountain of snow. during a break, dennis came down the street offering us free hot chocolate. i also noticed that harris street was entirely plowed for some reason; maybe the fact that it sits midway between cambridge and somerville had something to do with it.

after i finished shoveling, i grabbed my camera gear and went out exploring. the snow had pretty much stopped by that point, but the occasional strong gusts of wind would create the snow version of dust storms. down every street were neighbors digging out. since the sidewalks were still buried, people ended up just walking in the street. with the driving ban still in effect, there weren't any cars on the street. the only vehicles were slow-moving snowplows of different sizes. i proceded to walk down to harvard square. every once in a while i'd pass some people in skiis, or maybe even snowshoes. the landscape had a desolate look to it, post-apocalyptic, but in a good way.

(more later, including my walk to harvard square, followed by my walk to the cafe to help my father shovel, and then finally to belmont for chinese new year dinner)

i saw people sledding down the steps of the widener library. the university had roped off sections to prevent students from doing just that, but folks got around the minor inconvenience by having friends hold up the ropes (so they don't get clotheslined). it's entertaining but also kind of sad; if they really want to get a good sledding experience, they should find a better hill (like around fresh pond or the park by alewife station).

i could've stayed in harvard square all day taking photos. having 2+ feet of snow dumped on the local landscape offers a lot of choice photo opps! but alas, i had elsewhere to be.

from harvard square i walked to the cafe via concord avenue. my father was already there plowing the sidewalks. the snow emergency driving ban hadn't been officially lifted yet, but he said he heard there's a special dispensation for small business owners we need to get to their store. from what i saw at harvard square, no stores were opened other than CVS, which must've been doing some brisk business since i saw a lot of people with CVS shopping bags. the only vehicles on the roads were snowplows, who now had to contend with the influx of curious pedestrians walking in the streets (since most sidewalks were still buried). every once in a while i'd see a private vehicle, mostly SUV's since they're the only ones that can handle the snowy conditions.

when i finally got to the cafe a bit after 1:00, the sidewalks had already been plowed. the cafe was closed but my aunt was inside. after dropping off my things, i went to go find my father, who was digging out my grand uncle's backyard and the back of the nearby restaurant.

my grand uncle's chinese astrophysicist tenants came out of the house to take some photos. they hail from southern china and don't often see this much snow during the winter. even for us locals, it's been a while since we had a major snowstorm. i suppose we were lucky since the blizzard happened during the weekend. the astrophysicists helped out with clearing the snow off the flat roof of the restaurant.

we finally finished by 3:00, but the city plow trucks had pushed up a hill of snow along the side of the street that we weren't able to get out of the parking lot. at first we thought we could just dig out with shovels, but there was just too much snow so my father got the snowplow and we spent another half hour just digging out of the parking lot. by then my mittens were soaked, my socks were wet from snow getting into my boots, and the sleeves of my jacket were frozen.

throughout all of this blizzard of 2013 coverage, i haven't once heard any mention of the fact that the blizzard fell on the weekend of the chinese new year (vietnamese and korean as well). how will asians get to family members for that traditional new year's feast? even though the actual new year day is sunday, my parents were holding dinner on a saturday since it was more convenient. i thought maybe they might postpone it until tomorrow or even next weekend, but they decided to have it today despite the inconvenience.

my grand uncle didn't come, so my father delivered some food to him when he went back to the cafe to pick up my 2nd aunt (my 2nd uncle didn't come either). originally my sister wasn't going to be here either - spending chinese new year with her non-chinese friends - but her party was cancelled so she had no choice but to eat with her family. my aunt and uncle went to pick up binbin.

i used the backend of my chopsticks to pick up food because i didn't want to spread my germs. every once in a while i had to blow my nose. my sinuses did clear up a bit, but my taste buds weren't at 100%.

new year and birthdays all coincided in the same week, so a lot of presents were given, although none on my part since i've long ago stopped giving presents. i got a headwarmer from my aunt, a chocolate bear, and a $50 gift card to lowe (the closest one is in far away saugus). binbin got me a scarf. my sister got me a set of matryoshka nesting measuring cups. my aunt also made a chestnut-filling sponge cake for my father (and also for her, since they share the same birthday).

after dinner my father gave my aunt and i a ride back to cambridge. my neighbor was a real mess with less than half the cars dug out, but at least they finally plowed harris street. i still have a whole backyard to dig out which will have to be tomorrow morning.