14

First Snow, And I’m Out of Here

True, and true.

It snowed today in Madison…

…and I’m flying to Atlanta first thing in the morning.

Peace out, y’all.

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8

The Worst First Snow Ever

It’s funny how the smallest things can get you thinking about a story to tell.

So, today, I was getting a new car after spending Thursday and Friday of last week shopping. I know, I got one last year, but it was under extreme circumstances, and my dad said that if I wanted to, in 6-12 months’ time, I could trade it in if I wanted, so I took him up on it. I looked at about four cars at two different places, one in White Marsh and one in Timonium. I ended up finding a practically new used car (2014, only 6700 miles on it) at the place in Timonium. The salesmen was from the African nation of Burkina Faso, and while I waited the requisite several-hour wait for a new car, all the usual questions came up, including “tell me about the first time you saw snow.”

He didn’t have much to say, but it reminded me of when my family hosted these two girls for my high school’s basketball tournament. They came from Miami, and I’ll call them Meghan and Melissa, because both of their real names actually started with M. It was February, and it had snowed the week before, but most of it was gone. The first afternoon the girls arrived, the topic of snow came up. Meghan had visited New York in the winter before, so she had seen snow, but Melissa, who was born and raised in South America and had only recently moved to Miami, had never seen snow. When my dad mentioned that he saw some snow still on the ground at a local mall, Melissa went crazy, so my dad took her to see the snow.

They arrived at the mall at sunset, and indeed there was snow.

But it was the littlest, grossest mound of black parking-lot snow there ever was. Looking something like this.

Still, that didn’t stop Melissa.

She bolted out of the car, in her jacket, capris, and little hemp sandals, and climbed up the little mound of snow, and stood proudly on top. Her first ever snow. She thought that it was the most exciting snow ever, even when we told her it was probably the worst bit of winter. She asked if she could eat it, to which my dad was like…normally, yes, but not this black snow. Or yellow snow.

And that’s the story of Melissa’s first snow.

Oh, and I bought the car. It is new and cute.

0

Sign of a Bright Future?

I mentioned conspiracy theories today in a conversation with someone, so I’d like to address another that recently came into my mind, both while shopping at Marshalls and then later when I was bored because of course, I have a million things that I have to do but end up slacking on.

Sunglasses.

I never liked sunglasses growing up, because I had actual glasses and could never wear real-person sunglasses until I was a teenager and contact lenses saved me from hating myself forever. I kind of have a thing for really funky, almost girly sunglasses, but never granny glasses, never. Actually, I really like the free plastic ones they give away at events – I have one on my dining room table that says “I ❤ ISRAEL” on the side – but I’m a little too old to be wearing them in public and be taken seriously at the same time. Ever since I moved to a very sunny place (Houston) followed by a place that’s not sunny but when it is, it’s blinding due to the snow (Madison), so sunglasses have been nice for things like driving and walking and avoiding eye contact with certain people. Sunglasses are also probably useful in Vietnam and Guyana, the two newest countries on my traffic (welcome!) There are so many cool kinds out there, and they’re usually pretty cheap.

The problem?

Every time I buy sunglasses, just as I start to really love them, they either a) break, or b) disappear. Usually it’s the first one.

I could give you a rundown of every single pair of sunglasses that I ever bought, but suffice it to say that they’ve been stepped on, sat on, crushed in a bag, and of course, forgotten somewhere. It’s almost to the point of laughter – every time I’ve taken a big trip, my sunglasses have been the first thing to go. I lost them early on in Ecuador, someone sat on them when we got to Slovakia, and I sat on them my first day in Israel. Occasionally I acquire new ones before the trip is out, but usually, I wait until I’m like “gee, now that was a situation where sunglasses would have been helpful, and I didn’t have them.” And then I get them, start to really like them, wear them everywhere, only to have something happen to them. And since the cheapest ones at the west side Marshalls (yes, I actually went to both) were over $15, I think that I have solid proof that I have, indeed, purchased and lost/broken all the $10 and under sunglasses in the world.

Anyway.

Just bought soap.

0

Excuse Me, For I Shall Be Exiting Via the Emergency Snow

I should totally not be blogging right now, but today I got my first visitors from a country I have not been to, Ukraine (Ласкаво просимо!) and a country that I have been to, Slovakia (vitajte!).

In January 2012, I got to spend two wonderful weeks in cold, wintry Slovakia (which was not nearly as cold as it is here at the moment, -6 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill of don’t-even-tell-me degrees Fahrenheit) with Dramatic Adventure Theatre. Jesse and Mary, who have been running this program for a decade now, are fantastic people and I can’t wait until I have the chance to travel on one of their trips again. I went with them to Ecuador as a part of ACTion: Ecuador in 2009 (three weeks after I graduated from UMass!) and was thrilled when I was chosen to be a part of their team in Slovakia. Based on that trip, I made connections and received the inspiration for my thesis, but this post isn’t about that.

Of all the memories and stories from both DAT trips, the one that stands out to me happened on one of our final days on the trip, and didn’t have anything to do with theatre or travel. We were staying at a privat (hotel) in the town of Zdiar, a resort town in the High Tatra mountains, doing independent writing/artistic projects, and preparing for the trip home. My days in Zdiar were usually spent exploring the town with Richard, our group’s translator and my roommate for the trip. One day we were walking back from somewhere (I think it might’ve been the day we discovered the secret resort hotel, but that’s another story) and we had been walking for quite awhile. It was getting late, and my legs were so tired. Our hotel sat sort of in the middle of a hill; to get into the town, you walked up a steep path towards the houses/restaurants/businesses, and to get down the road leading out of town, you walked down a steep path directly parallel to the first. This created a pretty sheer and severe drop, getting up to several stories high, and as it was winter, it was covered in snow. As we passed some children playing with sleds and riding them together down the cliff of snow, I wondered what it would be like to do it. I wanted to slide down the hill too. It sure beat walking. I asked Richard if he wanted to do it with me; he said no, that I had a backpack full of souvenirs (true) and that we didn’t even have sleds (true) so how would we get down the hill? Then, I dared him to go down the cliff on his bottom, and then I realized that that method of nudging does not work in Slovakia. Maybe he would do it if I went first.

“I’m going to do it.”

I looked out over a drop of at least four stories, then took my backpack off my back and strapped it to my front. “I’m going to do it,” I said, once more, as he looked at me, incredulous. “Those little kids just did it on their sleds; I can do it without one.” He still didn’t believe me until I crouched on the ground, then sat and scooted to the edge of the cliff. “Last chance, Richard, come on, do it with me!”

I waited a few seconds, then wrapped my arms around my bag and pushed off the cliff.

Richard couldn’t believe it, and neither could I.

I started off with my eyes closed, but opened them when I started to pick up speed, whipping through the snow. It was incredible. I could hear the roar of the spirit of the avalanche (or maybe just my coat causing friction) and I watched as the scene skewed itself, as if the mountains were moving upward as I landed on my feet, standing in knee deep snow, and now at the bottom of the hill. I dusted myself up and shrieked with delight, I looked up at Richard, waving at him to come down.

He just shook his head and moved away from the edge, continuing down the hill on the same path, whereas I had chosen The Path Less Traveled. Or at least less traveled by crazy grownups. After I checked my bag to make sure I hadn’t broken anything, I proceeded up the less-steep lower path.

And that’s how I beat Richard back to the hotel.

2

Take This Snow and Shove(l) It

It snowed yesterday.

It snowed…a lot.

Well, here in Baltimore at least.

Granted, I haven’t seen any massive snows yet in Madison (or none that I think are that massive) but this snow is pretty deep for the East Coast. Driving back from dinner last night, we saw some religious family’s car in a ditch; no, I’m not generalizing, they were transferring stuff to another car and all the men were wearing black hats. It was pretty to watch it fall as day turned to night, but when I woke up in the morning it hit me. Not the snow, but.

THE SOUND.

Plunk. Plunk. Plunk.

My sixty-seven-year-old father, out there with the broken brown snow shovel that belonged to my grandfather. The first thought that hits me is that how does a snow shovel have that much value either monetarily or sentimentally to be kept around for this long without us buying another. The second thought is usually interrupted around this time by –

“…go outside and help your father/come here and help me.”

Begrudgingly, I usually put on my coat/boots/hat/gloves/scarf and head outside to help. My brain sends out messages like, “why, snow, why?” and “why have I been appointed, no, relegated, to being the snow shoveler?” and “couldn’t the parents have hired someone to do it, like they usually do when I’m not around?” and “why don’t we live in a warmer climate?” and “is this the only reason that people have children?” and “why is there stuff blowing at me when it’s CLEARLY NOT SNOWING ANYMORE?” All these thoughts were going through my mind this morning as for the first time in a very long time, I shoveled snow.

In Massachusetts, it snowed, but I lived in a house where shoveling snow was not my responsibility. When I lived in Israel, it snowed just enough to mess up everyone’s schedule for a day, all for some frost on the ground. Ironically, the winter I spent there was that of Snowmageddon here in the USA, and I reveled in that joy, and now that I’m forced to live in a cold climate, Israel actually got pounded with shovel-worthy amounts of snow, so I reveled a little bit. When I lived in Houston, I remember getting blank stares after explaining what an ice scraper is when a friend found mine sitting in the backseat of my car. In Wisconsin, I live in an apartment, so the only snow removal I do is wiping the car and scraping the ice, which is a little annoying but once you make a dent and heat up the car, nature does most of the rest.

But getting back to this morning, I bundled up against the cold, initially wondering how hard could it be. I don’t know how long I lasted – it was probably around fifteen minutes – but it felt like hours. It sucked. So much. Just because we live in a house with a driveway that isn’t even that long. I did a few hard squats and lifts here and there, but I spent more time pushing the snow with the back of the shovel to pile it up on the sides, doing one REALLY tough ice scrape and then chipping away lightly at that spot for a little bit, and even kicking the snow out of the way. I have to give him credit, my dad did do most of it, and granted, I should help out around the house now that I’m home for a few weeks, but does the outside of the house operate under that same clause? By the time I’d finished clearing some semblance of a path and had run out of thoughts, that feeling emerged beneath my gloves; that lovely feeling of being so cold that if your fingers were to be cut off right now you really wouldn’t even notice because they are so numb that oh my God I need to go inside RIGHT NOW because I’m losing it. And them.

So, I put the shovel back, went back inside, took off my gloves, and wondered if my fingers would ever be functional, again, or if I’d have to type from now on using the Voice function on my new iPhone and if so I need to practice with that. But then, there was the glory of making the magical drink called coffee and slowly getting the feeling in my fingers back again, with each revitalized digit sending waves of joy, pleasure and accomplishment.

At least I got some exercise…question mark?

Anyway, on a happier note, I chose yesterday afternoon to drop my car off at the shop to have some things fixed on it, and when my mom took me to pick it up this morning, it was all shiny and clean from sitting inside a garage all night. As I drove home, I tried not to make eye contact with any other motorists; not everyone wears mittens these days.

0

An Adventure in Snow and Ice

Last night I got an idea for a story to write, so I stayed up writing until 3 AM for no good reason at all, after which I told myself I’d get up at 10 at the latest…yeah, didn’t happen. I was in bed until the afternoon and then on the couch, not doing much, until I got dressed, dragged myself out into the snow to Michelangelo’s for a cappuccino and sandwich around 3:30 (ironically, when it started becoming night again). I decided to head out to do some last-minute shopping before the trip: Marshalls, Walgreens, and Metcalfe’s, for some candles, toothpaste, and last minute sustenance items for tomorrow’s drive back to Baltimore.

Walking back to my car in the dark, I realized that the accumulated snow on my car merited a cleaning, so I figure, no problem, ten minutes. I wipe off the snow, and what greets me is something that I’m completely unprepared for…

ICE.

Not just ordinary ice, thick ice. Coating all the windows, front, back, and side.

I took out my ice scraper and began to…well, scrape the ice away. Seeing as I couldn’t find a single spot in which to stick the scraper end, I bashed it into the windshield hoping I wouldn’t shatter it (that’s not possible…is it?) to make a small crack in the impenetrable wall of ice, and used that to scratch a tiny hole that slowly grew bigger. I did the same on the side and back. A half hour later, I had barely made a dent in the windshield, but decided to go anyway. I got into the car, with about a ten-inch window of visibility towards the front. Ok, I’m just going to have to duck and be extra careful, I said to myself. With the defroster cranked up and the wipers going, the back window was beginning to thaw out and I could roll down the side windows for some extra perception, but the windshield was going to be a problem. I just hoped that I’d make it out and back alive.

My first stop was going to be Metcalfe’s, so I prepared to turn right on Langdon, when I realized…I can’t see a thing out of the passenger side of the car. Well, left turn it is then.

After a few carefully navigated turns, I found myself on Johnson Street, which was slightly more paved than Langdon. At this point, I was starting to feel a pain in my neck from the awkward angle at which I was twisting it to see out the sliver of non-iced windshield. I can’t go on like this much longer, I gotta stop, pull over, and scrape some more. The problem: there was nowhere to pull over and there were other cars on the road as well, making it difficult to change lanes or make any sudden stops.

The heat generated from the car started warming up the bottom of the ice sheet so that if I sat with my head forward, granny-style, I could see the whole road through the thin strip that was slowly getting clearer. Only that hurt my neck even more, so I kept going.

All of a sudden, it got darker. It was then I realized that I had no idea where I was driving, or what road I was on. All I knew is that I was heading east. Then I realized I could barely see in front of me. Were my lights on? I turned my brights on just in case. Wait a minute…had I scraped the snow off my headlights?

Fuck.

I was driving on a dark, country road with an ice-covered windshield and the only light coming from a car that was behind me, shining on either side. This wasn’t good.

However, I was keeping within the lane as best as I could, obeying the speed limit (like I had an option) and remaining on the road without crashing. I saw some lights up ahead – maybe there’s an intersection coming up. At this point, Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero” came on my iPhone, and with a chorus of dun-dun-da-dun-dun, I was tearing through the wintry road like a crazy person, the ice melting away just enough to get a clear picture of the whole road if I looked forward a little bit. It felt so intrepid, like that daredevil showdown scene in Footloose, only with just myself, a bunch of snow and ice, and no Kevin Bacon.

At the song’s end, I came to a large intersection – Route 15 – where instinct told me to head south. I had no idea how far I had gone – perhaps I was in Columbia County by now or something – but the intersections on this much larger and better-lit road bore names that I didn’t recognize. Just when I felt hopelessly lost, I saw a “Welcome to Madison” sign, and the lights of West Washington in front of me, ensuring my safety. The icy windshield was about half-gone. At a red light, I opened the Maps app on my iPhone. I had taken County Road CV out to just past the airport, where I have to go to pick up my dad tomorrow. Unfortunately, I missed the turn onto West Washington, but took Milwaukee Ave to get me there just as well, arriving at the East Towne Marshalls at about 8:15. I parked and turned off the car.

I’d made it. Through the ice and snow, and dangerously low visibility, I rode it out and got there alive. It would’ve sucked on a National Lampoon level if they were closed…

But they were very much still open, so I did some shopping, and then made my two more predetermined stops before getting home. I was about eighty dollars poorer, but my windshield was almost completely clear and I felt so alive.

1

Masterpiece Youtube: “Winter Song,” Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

That’s So Jacob presents: Masterpiece YouTube

Episode 6: “Winter Song,” Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, 2008

I never thought I could ever feel this cold in my life. Never in two years of living in Massachusetts did it ever drop this low on the thermometer. It’s in the single digits here in Wisconsin, but it feels like negative double.

This music video is a quaint animation piece I’d expect more from someone like Zooey Deschanel. But it’s from Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. Bareilles is known for her one mega-hit (or meta-hit), “Love Song,” which come about presumably after a producer told her to write a love song and she turned the tables with a “fuck you I’m going platinum.” At the time, Michaelson’s career hadn’t really taken off yet, but she’s picked up plenty of steam in the past five years.

The lyrics of the song are rather simple, and the story it tells is of two young girls in a snowy environment. An old-timey cuckoo bird brings us to a cute little cabin with two girls with hearts on their cheeks. They are presumably sisters, although one’s a brunetter and one’s a redhead. Their cabin is adorable, but oh so very isolated. They go and pick up small objects from the ground, and then WHOA THEY’RE FLYIN’ ON A LEAF. And then it dumps them conveniently next to their cabin, using their dresses as parachutes, as I’m sure no dress in the world does. Their home is full of old, dead plants. They go to bed, and the next morning they drag a huge sled out to play with and go on an epic sledding adventure. Far from home,the girls keep walking on their search for something. It gets dark. All seems hopeless until a ray of sunlight peeks through and a flower blooms. The scenery changes, the snow melts, and things bloom. They run, and even though they just took a several second long sleigh ride quite a distance away, somehow they’re merely feet from home. They get home, and seeing their former snow fortress transform into a lovely little blue bungalow. Brunette jumps in the air, and despite the fact that the weather has now greatly improved, they run inside their house, but not a moment too soon as a tree bursts through from beneath their foundation, and now they live in a treehouse. I hope they zoned for that.

In short, this video is a flashback to simpler days when gathering fallen hearts, having awesome leaf and sleigh rides and attempting to grow plants was all there was to do in the world. The isolation is countered by the sweetness and homeyness of the cozy cabin in the woods, a place I’d love to escape to, snow or not. For some reason, I can’t deal with the cold but I spent all day gazing at a snowfall instead of doing work, which was probably not a great idea, but it just felt peaceful to me. To me, falling snow doesn’t mean shoveling, falling, and driving in it – it means hot chocolate, fuzzy pajamas, and bracing walks to town in awe of the beautiful, even blankets of snow covering the earth. Everyone in Houston said I was crazy for choosing Wisconsin and its snow over Texas, but all in all the cold eventually goes away and spring will come, more beautiful than ever. Until then, you can be warm and enjoy the snow anyway. Plus I’ve got plenty to entertain myself with in my own apartment.

The story of the song’s inception is an even better story – apparently it was crowd-sourced by Twitter. I don’t have a Twitter account but I’d make one if I could get Sara Bareilles to write me a love song out of it.

Oh, right, she won’t.

This episode of Masterpiece YouTube has been brought to you by procrastination. Procrastination: Make Big Things Go Farther Away and Become Scarier, and Small Things Become Bigger, More Immediate, and More Comforting.