Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snow Tales

The blizzard has passed, leaving in its wake waves of anger, frustration, poor behavior and outright lunacy.

I’m not much of a television watcher. Being in front of the set for more than an hour or two makes my eyes and brain glaze over, so like many, as soon as the storm was announced, I headed to the library to stock up on books. I checked out about a dozen graphic novels. I’m a huge fan of Alan Moore, writer of V For Vendetta, From Hell, Watchmen, and a host of other titles, and whose adaptation of Swamp Thing almost single-handedly created the ‘mature’ comic book.

I also got titles from lesser known authors, and here’s something I discovered: most of them weren’t worth reading. Some were poorly drawn, others poorly scripted, others still haphazardly laid out and laughingly inaccurate. I particularly enjoyed one volume set during World War Two were the heroine was called Ms throughout. Political correctness before its time. So now I wonder how, with the publishing industry in flux, do some of these lesser works ever see the light of day?  They’re not cheap to buy; many cost upwards of $25, and I don’t imagine the majority of graphic novel readers have huge disposable incomes… Another publishing mystery, one of many.

Snow brings out interesting behavior. My friend Jane Feather, a writer extraordinaire and the author of several New York Times bestsellers, told of an encounter she had in downtown Washington where she and her husband Jim live.  “This morning I had an errand to run, on foot.  It seems easy as long as you're prepared only to walk in a square... Sidewalks are clear, roads are clear, but there's no comfortable or safe way to cross at a crosswalk. Either you climb over two foot piles of moldy snow or paddle through two feet of grimy slush. On my way from 24th and L streets, I waded, climbed, paddled through an impossible crosswalk in my trusty Uggs and met a most elegant young woman, well-groomed, and wearing a pair of four-inch stiletto-heeled suede boots approaching the quagmire. I don't normally address my fellow pedestrians, but I couldn't help myself as I felt cold water seep into my Uggs. I said, "You're wearing the wrong shoes." She gave me a bleak look and said simply, "I know." I did her the courtesy of moving along and not watching to see how she negotiated the crossing. Really makes you wonder what Land of Oz she thought she'd greeted that morning.”

I had an encounter with a snowplow. After spending a couple of hours clearing my driveway with a snowblower wielding friend, I watched as a county plow barreled down my road to deposit another eighteen inches of snow that re-blocked my driveway. I yelled. The driver, I’m pretty sure, gave me the bird. I shoveled again.

An hour later, the scene repeated itself, though I wasn’t there to watch it. I persisted in shoveling. As I was doing so, a snowplow—perhaps the same one, perhaps not—came growling down the street. This time, I stood my ground protecting my hard-earned excavation. The driver veered slightly and blasted past me, showering me with slush. I yelled an insult and gave him the flock—not one finger, but four. He stopped, and the door to his cab opened. He stepped out, looked down the street at me—a largish infuriated man wielding a red plastic snow shovel from CVS. We glared at each other for a moment. He climbed back into his truck.  Later and quieter of mood and spirit, I guessed the man had probably been working twenty straight hours and was as short-tempered as I was.  

Still, it made me wonder if there’s an evil genius coordinating the plowing. In my neighborhood, only one lane of most major thoroughfares was freed. This led to impossible traffic jams, overheated engines and tempers, and cars abandoned and blocking the way.

In downtown Falls Church, a suburb of Washington, DC, the main roads were cleared promptly, but the next morning, though it hadn’t snowed during the night, another two inches of freezing slush brought traffic to an almost standstill. The plows had come in the wee hours of the morning and somehow managed to spread the remaining snow across the width of the road, where it froze.

I saw a heated argument over a parking space. It involved a blond woman in a new Mercedes SUV and a small, bndled man in a dilapidated Toyota. The Toyota won because, I suspect, the man yelled an unending string of dark curses in an unrecognizable language. It made me proud to be bilingual. Later that day I watched my cat disappear in a snowbank and witnessed a first—feline embarrassment.

The morning paper was not delivered three days running. Neither was the mail, which made me wonder about the USPS unofficial creed: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”  Damn. Another axiom, victim of the blizzard.



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