Ah, the middle of October, when thoughts naturally turn to ghoulish pumpkins, crunching leaves, and drunk Germans. Unless you live in Minnesota, where we got our first snow a few days ago. Granted, it was only a couple inches, but THAT”S NOT THE POINT! I want to have burnt sienna tinted thoughts of baseball and bountiful harvests. I should be trying to find my rake, not my windshield scraper.
I’m no meteorologist, but I think we had four days of autumn this year. We had a lovely mild summer, with none of those four-day stretches of ninety-three degrees and eighty percent humidity during which an entire city becomes cranky. But no matter how nice summer is, Midwesterners know that it’s all a tease; winter will always show up, distract us with a week of crisp, clear forty-five degree days, and then proceed to stick its frozen boot up our fat Midwestern asses for five months.
I’m not a native Minnesotan. But I’ve always preferred cold-weather cities to the other extreme. Do the math with me—no matter how cold it becomes, if you put on enough layers, you’re no longer cold. You’re unable to move because of all the layers you’ve had to put on, but you have defeated the elements. Whereas, in someplace like, say Phoenix, even when you’ve removed ALL your layers, you can still be miserable. Cold places are better than hot places—Q.E.D. (which stand for ‘quod erat demonstrandum,’ which is Latin for ‘I took some advanced math classes and for some weird reason remember the Latin phrase for ‘there—I proved my point’)
I’m not a native Minnesotan, though, and I don’t quite think like one yet. The first time I saw the temperature forecast on the front page of the newspaper (news used to printed on paper) and read “8 degrees,” I thought it was a typo. That’s missing a digit. That’s not enough degrees, I thought. But Minnesotans have this amazing, resigned calm about the whole winter thing.
Everybody here has the same attitude you see in “Chinatown” when the photographer says to Nicholson, “Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.” Here, it’s “Stop whining, Sven. It’s Minnesota.” Everyone seems to have accepted their fate. It’s a strange, mass-delusional badge of pride, making it through a brutal winter. You get to the other side of it and people pat each other on the back saying, “Yeah, that winter in ’88—the pipes froze, Grandpa slipped on that sheet of ice, we had to drive in whiteout conditions…” You don’t hear people say “Man, remember the summer of ‘92? That was awful—it got really…hot.”
So people in Minneapolis do the rational Scandinavian thing. We cope. We trudge through snow banks, each of us wrapped up like old Ukranian women walking through the shtetl, muttering things like “We have a great theater scene here. We have a great theater scene here. We have a great theater scene here.” And there’s no use complaining, because when you do, a local is always nice enough to point out “It could always be worse.” Thank you, Captain Perspective.
I like that people here openly taunt Nature. For example, skyways. If you haven’t experienced one, a skyway is an elevated, enclosed climate-controlled bridge, and Minneapolis has a series of them connecting, essentially, all the buildings in downtown. It’s like a Habitrail, with hamsters in suits and Starbucks kiosks. And it’s our way of saying “Screw you, God. That winter bullshit? Bring it on.” (note: if there is a God, then what I’ve written is satire and I don’t actually mean “Screw you.”)
The best thing about winter is spring. I grew up in Southern California, and sure, they have seasons. I’ll never forget the first time I felt the subtle change as the calendar turned from the Brushfire Solstice to the Mudslide Equinox. But there is no feeling quite like that first time the mercury hits fifty after five months of ridiculous, marrow-chilling temperatures. The entire city erupts in a communal ‘woohoo!’ that can be heard as far south as Des Moines.
So I’m fine with winter. I embrace the invigorating chill, and the wind that cuts through you like a set of knives from an infomercial. It’s just too soon. Snow this early in the year is like giving someone a Nobel Peace Prize after a few months as President. It’s beautiful, but it’s too soon.
I’m just not ready to get all Currier and Ives-y. It’s too soon to start thinking about when I have to mail gifts I haven’t even bought yet. It’s too early for winter storm watches, and weather advisories, and road conditions. It’s too early to hear that “the temperature is thirty-one, but it actually feels like it’s nineteen.” I’m not ready for…ah, who am I kidding. I’m a Minnesotan now. Bring it on.