Jan 28 2005
My wife called her cousin in Long Island, New York, just to see if they were OK. It was the blizzard, you know? Twelve inches of snow had fallen — an inch an hour. The roads were impassable. The front yard now stretched for snowy miles. The cold was pounding on the front door, demanding to come in. The insulation in heavy jackets had called a strike, tired of all the overtime and demands to keep people warm in steadily declining conditions.
The salt had frozen. The wolves were out asking people for spare change. The snow was marauding through town, drunk and kicking over street signs. And if the federal government didn’t start dropping-in hot chocolate, people were surely going to die.
Well, these are things I figured happened in a blizzard. I’ve never witnessed one firsthand, and never want to. Check that: Most of me doesn’t — the part that gets so cold that my internal organs tie-up into Christmas bows and makes my toes want to drop off and crawl to warmer climates.
I’m third generation from Tampa, and before that, two-thirds of me came from places where you’re lucky if ice will last in your drink. My DNA is coded to withstand heat, like Teflon, and has several warning labels about letting the temperature get below 50. “Caution: In freezing temperatures, skeleton may eject from body. Look for it in Key West.”
I don’t know blizzards, but some strange part of me — the part I’ve asked doctors to surgically remove and then beat with a mallet — longs to see one. To see the mountains of snow. To step out into it, only to find it has swallowed me whole and that I’m trapped until spring, when it thaws. To shovel paths and chip ice off of windshields. To get frostbite and finally try out hypothermia.
Just like most northerners don’t understand what it’s like to go through a hurricane — “I thought it was some wind and TV reporters pretending to get blown away” — I haven’t an ice crystal of knowledge what it’s like to bear the brunt of a blizzard.
I have a romanticized few of snow, and it never involves the bone-curdling cold, being trapped in your house or how it makes heating bills resemble third-world debt.
I’ve only seen snow a handful of times in my life.
As boys, my father used to take my brother and me to Gatlinburg, Tenn. There they have a mountain where you can go skiing and sledding Tennessee-style, which is to say Dolly Parton serenades you and there are moonshine stills on the trails.
They never had any real snow — any powder. It was has-been snow, now frozen solid like icebergs and lying on rocks and paths like drunk men on the couch watching football games.
“Hey, pass me the peanuts,” the lazy snow would moan, slowly trickling away.
On occasion they would make more snow, but as well as I can recall, skiing down this mountain was like skiing on frozen gravel. There wasn’t the swoosh like you see on TV where jets of snow fan up. Instead there was a rooster tail of sparks that followed you, and because the whole slope was like a hockey rink tilted at an angle, the method they had taught us to stop — the snow plow — didn’t exactly work.
A quarter-mile of screaming later, and after zipping through the gift shop, I would finally come to rest in the parking lot, my skis smoking and pine tree needles puncturing my thighs like some horrible organic acupuncture.
I always wanted on those trips, but never got, a lot of snow. I wanted to be buried in it. To get the full experience out of it. To live it like an Eskimo.
Well, part of me did, and still does. The other part (shivering uncontrollably) is trying to talk me into a trip to Key West.