A Winter’s Tale

(9AM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Tonight Eastern Standard Time will begin.  Again.  And that, around here, is the dreaded beginning of horrible Winter.  This, after all, is Upstate New York.  I’m nestled against the Massachusetts border.  And the beginning of Eastern Standard Time fills me with utter dread.

What stands between me and actual, below zero winter?  First, deer hunting season.  A very few hunters, fewer by far than a decade ago, will stagger drunkenly into the woods before dawn and send the grotesquely overpopulated deer into an unparalleled panic and frenzy.  They’re already crazy because they’re in rut.  The deer will then run into the roads and into cars.  Why don’t they avoid the cars?  Two reasons: first, they think the roads are made of ice, so they’re afraid of running on them.  And second, there really is a  reason for the phrase “a deer in the headlights.”  This doesn’t begin explain why deer run into the sides of passing cars.  And it doesn’t explain why the shoulders of all of the roads are filled with deer eyes reflecting headlights and waiting for an unfortunate moment to run into the road.

Second, football.  Football around here is closely related to drinking too much. This shouldn’t surprise you.  It  wouldn’t be so bad if there were a fleet of cabs or volunteers ready to take sports fans home from wherever they are watching the games. But, well, there just aren’t.  And there’s no real demand for that.  Why is that?  People who are very drunk make very bad decisions, chief among them are (1) hitting on women 25 years younger than they are and (2) thinking they are sober enough to drive home.  The former gets you a bad reputation and potentially a punch in the nose; the latter, a criminal prosecution.  No, I can hear you wondering about this. Let me set the record straight: nobody, no “sports fan” in that condition ever “gets lucky.” Ever. Forget about  this idea.  It is a delusion.

On weekdays in winter, there are about 12 cars per day on the main road.  At night, the police greatly outnumber the drivers.  After midnight, police feed on tippling drivers- those are the only ones driving— as if the cops were lions and the drunk drivers were the Chrisitans or antelopes, or some other horned, edible animal.

The biggest problem is that in Winter it gets dark at 3 pm.  And then the sun doesn’t really come out again for three months.  This leads to chronic, widespread Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  When the sun does shine, as it does very rarely, it’s utterly blinding, as if we had been living in a dark cave for months on end.. And because of the unremitting cold and dense dark, otherwise sane people immediately want to remove all of their clothing when the mercury hits 20 degrees and bask in the sun’s mighty rays. This is a natural reaction.  But it’s also horrifying.  My neighbors and I are by then generally pale, and pretty fat to keep warm, and we have no business parading our nakedness.  Even in front of our own mirrors.  And at 20 degrees hypothermia sets in in minutes.

I can hear you saying, “It can’t be quite that bad.”  Hah.  I can hear you saying, “There must be things to do.”  Hah. You have no idea.

We do have a public radio station to keep us company.  But it seems to have only two programs.  Prairie Home Companion, which it seems to play on a loop throughout the weekend, and Fundraising, which plays during the week.  The station tries to raise $800,000 per fund drive.  That is a huge amount of money.  And there’s also commentary.  Unfortunately, it seems there is only one commentator.  And he’s on all the time, expressing his opinion or raising money or both.  My opinion? Let me try to remember the last time any sane person asked for that.  It seems the radio station has decided to have millions of transmitters and only 3 programs.  This is a recipe for seasonal insanity, if not depression.  

The rest of it is predictable.  And unspeakably ugly.  At 25 below zero, nobody’s car will start.  When you sit on the seat, it will make a distinctive sound.  “Crunk.”  You will turn the key.  Nothing will happen.  Nothing. No click.  No lights.  Nothing.  You will then hurry inside the house, but your face will already be frozen before you get there. And when you get inside, you’ll wonder why there is no real heat inside the house either.  The answer to this is that oil is close to $3 a gallon as I write this, and headed higher.  Nobody is going to set the interior thermometers at 72 degrees. That is a temperature reserved for Arizona.

I am now watching the clock.  I know that later this evening, I will be gifted with an additional hour at the onset of Standard Time.  I wish an hour could be taken away from me, deducted from the Winter.  I’m worried.  Hunting season will come and go shortly, and football with come to an end at the Super Bowl. And then, and then there will be many, many days and nights that are so cold that possums will try to come through the cat door.  And small foxes will try to hide in the basement.  And you’ll be able to split an oak log by hitting it with a ballpeen hammer.  And it will go on like that interminably.

Tonight Winter will begin in all of its glory. I dread it.

cross posted from The Dream Antilles


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  1. May the sun shine on your face.

    Thank you for reading.

    • Xanthe on November 7, 2010 at 13:05

    I’m thinking of moving to Duluth – I live in Illinois now.  Your diary “gives me pause.”  That is a phrase I like and here is a chance to use it.

    This winter, I have promised myelf to study algerbra and brush up on my Italian.

    Or — I can lay on the couch and watch soap operas.  

    unfortunately, I’ve got to walk the dogs so I’ll get out and hope the ice isn’t too bad.

  2. else?

    Largely, winter sucks because it induces involuntary hibernation — we just want to curl up and forgeddaboutit — at least that’s how I feel.  I would guess that many feel that way, as well.  

    Thanks for reminding us of the realities of winter, davidseth!  Boy, could I relate to it — just didn’t want to SO soon!

  3. I did two Winters in Minot, North Dakota. I remember the Sun setting at 3pm. -40°F some days. Plugging the car in so the block didn’t freeze.

    And why I am back in California.

  4. and thread makes me feel better about living in Oregon. I too am preparing myself for winter, but it always seems to come too soon. We get the no light SAD but it’s a wet deluge of rain for 8 months instead of snow and cold. Our winter peaks in December-January and we usually get a couple of snow storms. The storms come from two directions the coast and Alaska through the Columbia gorge. The gorge storms are the worst as they bring bone chilling wind and we get silver thaws and black ice as the arctic meets the tropical and the water freezes suddenly.

    On Saturday the rains started, we went out that night and it was beautiful on the streets. We drove on rivers where light’s reflected and the cars hydroplaned with colorful oily wakes. The best way for me a native Californian, to make it though is to go out in it and merge with the dark and wet, cabin fever and insanity are my other option. By March however I yearn for the means to go to a hot sunny beach and burn out the wet. Waiting till July 4th for sun tries my patience.    


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