i put about as much trust in weather reports as i do in my horoscope. storm fronts, bleak financial outlooks, they're all the same hocus pocus whether they come from al roker or jeanne dixon. that is why, even though i consciously know it is december and it is duluth, i'm always surprised when i wake at 1:08 p.m. on a saturday to a blood bath, only with snow.
the snow as mythology way of thinking means that i don't have a shovel in my trunk, moon boots in the back seat or tires with even the slightest indentation of tread. it's like i truly believe that maybe this is the winter where it won't snow. february will come. i'll be rocking a wife beater and flip flops, look at your over the top of my sunglasses and say "told ya so."
in the interim, each snowstorm feels like a personal cold affront.
i don't know where you live, but when we get a snowstorm here in duluth, the entire town turns to anarchy: wide-eyed panic at the grocery store where shoppers are going all Y2K on canned corn and pork rinds and two-ply charmin; the cashier at the liquor store smells like he has been doing laps in captain morgans' swimming pool; for some reason every jackhole in town bundles up, grabs six friends and walks down the middle of superior street. but only when they've grown tired of walking down the middle of fourth street. the more evolved just stand in the middle of the street.
"i feel stupid," a late teen says to me, traipsing through drifts. "i'm wearing sandals."
indeed he is: his answer to winter is a pair of plastic adidas athletic sandals and cotton tube socks. seems we struggle with the same form of denial.
by mid afternoon there is already an abandoned car stuck on lake avenue, its hazards blinking "took bus to florida" in morse code.
i meet up with some friends in the late afternoon.
"fricking drivers going 20 miles per hour," f. scottie complains.
"i drive 20 miles per hour," i say.
"but at 9 a.m., when it just seems like it might snow?" he says incredulously.
"probably," i say.
"it took me 45 minutes to get here," jcat chimes in.
"it took me 45 minutes to get here, too," i add.
i don't tell them that this is because i stopped at both the liquor store and the grocery store. just because i make fun of people shopping like its 1999 doesn't mean i don't do it, too.
when i've finally had enough of the downtown scene, i attempt to maneuver my civic from my parking spot. rubber burns. rpms whinny. a lanky teenager pushes my car into traffic. i immediately pull into a covered parking ramp, where my car will hybernate for the next 15 hours. my car's base towers approximately two apples high off the street.
not to mention "duluth" means "if your boyfriend has a nice view of the lake from his apartment, it just means he lives up hill and you won't be able to drive there in the winter" in swedish.
moccassins drives bubbles and me home. he has a truck with four wheel drive. we bust through drifts and scare the living shit out of all those gawkers standing in the middle of fourth street. we zip up hills like we're in a humvee. i'm convinced that if he wanted to, he could drive up the front steps, through the front door, up more steps and drop me off at the couch.
four wheel drive is an admirable quality in a friend.
i'm home for approximately 10 seconds -- just long enough to change into pants that aren't snow soaked to the knees -- when i call bubbles.
"meet you on the corner in five," i tell her. "we need to walk to twins bar."
and here is where the night gets fun; here is where i finally figure out what is so big about walking down the middle of the road. twins is packed: at least four people snowboarded to the bar -- these athletes still have goggles on their heads; one guy walks past me holding a pair of cross country skis. i've seen a handful of people traveling via snowmobile in the past two days.
its karoake night at twins. i sing two songs poorly. about 19 kids perform "mandy" in the style of barry manilow. a 20-something outside of the bar tells two 40-something women: "you don't look forty! oh my gosh! seriously! you aren't 40! get out! wow!" they coo with appreciation. this younger woman is lying: they do look 40. in fact, i'd say they are 45ish. if i were them, i would be insulted that this woman is insinuating that you cannot be attractive and mid-40. instead, when she goes inside, one says to the other "she was nice."
as soon as she says that i say, "i really like your shoes."
"where'd ya get that hat?" a man asks me at the bar.
i suspect "urban outfitters" will make about as much sense to him as the aesthetics involved with having his two front teeth.
"the cities," i say.
"i'm scaring you, aren't i?" he asks.
i laugh nervously.
the next time i'm outside, a woman eagerly greets a stranger coming into the bar. "i saw you have alaska plates!" she says. "and i thought, well that guy'll sure know how to park in this stuff!" he oozes past her with a polite smile.
"that was my son," her friend says.
"really?" she squeals. "well, then that makes him my ... uncle! why didn't you introduce me?"
this guy got tazered. while a nice photo op, i'm pretty sure he was wrongly accused and that the actual bad guy escaped out a back door. still. ...
anyway, it all comes down to this: if you want to like duluth, you have to park your car someplace safe and do more of this. walk in the middle of the road on your way to the bar, take photos of college kids skitching, drink a beer in a pair of wet jeans. watch a guy get tasered.