Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Perfect Storm

According to those who keep such records, this has been deemed the wintriest winter month since 1880. It has been called "Snowpacalypse", "Snowmaggedon" and "Snowtastrophe."

The first snowstorm was fun--lines at the grocery for bread, milk and toilet paper and dire prognostications of tv weatherman pointing towards a coalescing mound of doom, a digital mound marked "potentially paralyzing" extending from Western Pennsylvania through Philly, Baltimore and the DC area.

When all was said and done that first Saturday afternoon, it was impossible to find one's automobile underneath huge snowmounds, but, damn it, was it fun. I emerged midday to find my normally busy Pittsburgh street had undertaken the quiet timbre of a zombie film, just before attack--in what once was a busy shopping street, now an eerie silence. Soon people emerged shellshocked yet smiling--the shambling masses began to saunter down the road, a crazy gleam in the eye, a heavy duty ice shovel in the hand. Somebody once described George Romero's filming of "Night of the Living Dead" in nearby Monroeville in much the same vein.

Then the sun came out, a covenant that God had not abandoned his people. Things got more lively. With stores and shops closed, my street would soon morph from Romero to Rockwell, neighbor greeting neighbor, amateur photographrs everywhere. Couples emerged in their best snowclothes, smiling and drinking hot chocolate. Parents pulled kids on sleds. Groups of South Asian students, for whom it was the first snowfall, united to build a snowman in front of an apartment complex. In a moment ripe with comic potential, an urban cross-country skiier emerged in the middle of the road, sun glinting off his glasses like this was a resort street in a chic Colorado ski town.

"Hello, hello!" Neighbor greeted neighbor. We didn't realize how long things were gonna be like this.

Now, I love snow. And I really don't mind cold, crisp weather either. Winter is a season of introspection, a time for rest and growth, for the kind of turning-inward that leads to spiritual growth and maturity. During cold weather micro-organisms gear up in the soil, and contribute to a hearty growing season in the spring and summer It also makes it that much better when the first little crocuses of spring pop their heads above ground. I think we tend to forget that sort of thing in the west; we want everything here and now.

But, let's be honest here, cabin fever can also make one absolutely f@#king crazy, especially when trying to extricate a vehicle from three feet of packed snow and ice, which should, seriously, become a sport in the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics. The first time, I did so with a dustpan and garden rake, the second time with a bucket and dishpan, until a cute guy stopped to help me shovel out, apparently coming back from the airport after flying in from Los Angeles. Public service announcement to the men of Pittsburgh: if you find yourself single during a blizzard of Biblical proportions, this is a very, very, very good way to meet ladies! If I were a dude, I would be wondering around with a shovel and de-icer. Seriously.

The snow and ice lends a sort of ridiculousness to daily endeavors. Ultimately, we are reminded that Mother Nature ultimately trumps our desire to get everything we want in there here and now. This is especially apparent in the fine art of operating a motor car on an intersection which possesses the gradient of a Minnesotan ice-fishing lake, such as the one in front of my apartment. This should be another Olympic sport, incidentally. Every five minutes someone gets stuck. (And then they're, like, "Well, I was just going to Target, and..." WHEN THERE'S A BLIZZARD STAY THE F@#K AWAY FROM TARGET!!) When people tire of honking in vain, they push the offending car. Then the helpers slip on the ice and fly up, Three Stooges-like, into the air, landing on their backs. There is much screaming and swearing and even more honking. Then the UPS truck gets stranded on the ice. (The dead will rise and the USPS, FedEx and UPS will continue to make their deliveries.)

The snow is melting now, and things are beginning, less and less, to resemble feudal times. My mother visited after the first blizzard and was amazed to see cars plunged into snowbacks, footprints in snow as walking paths. At just the right moment, somebody actually leaned out an apartment window and poured a bucket of water onto the pavement, like a slop bucket.
Snowmen of all shapes, sizes and sartorial savvy linger over the streetscape, although they are now mellllttiingg. A tall cyclops snowman in front of a tattoo parlor, several Steelers snowmen and my favorite, a beer-swilling, coffee-drinking little guy outside of a sports bar. He wears a visor and sports Mardi Gras beads. At one point, he had been made anatomically correct through the use of a broom handle, although someone soon corrected this--it was a family neighborhood, after all.

(To be continued...)

No comments:

Post a Comment