· ESSAYS

Richard Strom

I've written about winter in Fargo before. If you write stuff and you live in Fargo, you're going to do that involuntarily, because winter is such a fact of your life. No, not because it's amusing, or inspiring, or moving in any way better than dread and contempt, but simply because it's there, like it or not, from roughly October to June. No, I don't really want to hear from anyone about how lucky we are to have the "four seasons" and blah blah blah.......sure, but three of them last roughly 45 minutes. Oh, I've gone all poetic on the tar-butter taste you get on the back of your tongue (frozen exhaust) and the perilous Parkinsonian shuffle across the interminable plain of parking-lot steppe and all that. But today I'm here to tell you all that winter in Fargo really is: a vast and relentless pain in the ass. This morning I said to my beloved daughter that the perfect metaphor for it is that of having a five-pound coffee can slowly but forcefully inserted into one's anal orifice....but that was too mild, it really should be thought of as a tall column of five-pound coffee cans. 

 

Allow me to enter into evidence all I had to do to drive said child to school this morning. To begin with, I had to rise and shine in the dark, to take in the view that daily inspires me: a parking lot full of filthy snow, the hind end of another Soviet-style apartment building, and an alley full of glaciated garbage. Then I had to dress warmly because I had to go out there. Go out I did, four floors below, out the front door, around the corner, down the unplowed alley. Did I mention it's snowing AGAIN this morning, blizzard warning in effect all day? Some of you who aren't from here might think that a Dakota blizzard wind comes from one direction, but you'd be wrong---it comes from ALL directions. There is no shelter. So, once having mushed to the parking lot I had to, in this order: unlock back door of vehicle, so I could without monkeying around stow my extension cord. The extension cord is for our friend the block heater. If you're wise and By God I Am, you plug in around here. Then I climbed into the driver's seat and cranked her up--yeah it started again: first triumph of the day. Then around the front and into the snowdrift that's permanently there to unplug, then back around to put the cord (frozen into a stiff tangle) away. Then, making sure it's running right, that the defrosters are all set just so, I can find my scraper/brush thing to clear the approximately one ton of snow off the old heap. I'm fussy about doing this right. Unlike some of my neighbors who will just punch a hand-sized hole in the windshield snow, I clear it all off, all the windows, and of course the hood. One wishes not to be the fool who cannot open the hood of the broken-down car in February because it has about 700 pounds of crusted snow atop it. Once I've done that, and am covered head to toe with wind-driven snow, I can go back inside, four floors up, remember, and let 'er warm up. Which I did. Then, having become wet from the melting of the wind-pasted snow, I can go back out into the wind, with predictable results. The drive was also predictable. Some Fargoans have a perverse taste in transportation, meaning that unlike myself, a sophisticate of great intelligence, they prefer to drive the types of vehicles LEAST suited to winter in Fargo. That is to say that the wise, such as myself, who are driving unstoppable four wheel drive beaters, are handicapped by the omnipresence of machines entirely incapable of locomotion through more than 7/8 of an inch of snow. The operators of these machines, these Buicks and Grand Monkeys and sportswoopycruisemobiles are also the very people who refuse to clear any more than the previously-mentioned fist-sized hole to see through. So, even though I can see and am driving a thing capable of moving along at two or three times the speed limit in utter safety, through the blizzard, the presence of these dim mental dwarves makes the ride to good ole North High, home of the Spartans, an exercise in sphincter-tightening tension.  

 

And then reverse the jaunt---reverse the plug/warmup process (that's IF somebody has left me a place to park), oh, and now you've got to scrape ice from your wipers so they aren't permanently frozen in place when you need them again. Do this roughly 900 times per winter. Is it any wonder that one of the tallest buildings in my neighborhood is a psychiatric hospital? And then, once again snow-plastered from head to toe by the from-all-directions gale, you can seek shelter, out the alley, around the corner, four floors up. I'd like to thank the driver of the semi from Sysco Corp, who, pulling into the alley, had NO time to wait for me to get out, no, that 12 seconds was too much to spare, who forced me to clamber into snow up to my waist to get out of his way....but who then had PLENTY of time to sit in the warm cab of his truck, because he didn't want to face what I, standing in the alley, had to say to his mega-sorry ass when he finally got down. Yes, I did give up waiting on him. This time.  

 

And that's a report from my winter wonderland, fellas and gals. Most of you live here and know the truth. But some of you may expect that there are mitigating factors to all this misery.....that there is some benefit, some payoff inherent in being HERE. For the record, that is incorrect.

Besides being the King of the great nortvoods, Richard Strom is the bad hoochie-coochie man of flyfishing, and is still at large in the Paris of the Prairie. 

Free lutefisk to subscribers! (No, not really.)

Brian's Freezer Burn Playlist

Fall Breaks & Back To Winter (W Woodpecker Symphony) ::: The Beach Boys

The Freeze ::: Albert Collins

 Winter Again ::: Hirth Martinez

Cold Cold Cold ::: Little Feat

Cold Feet ::: Fink

 

Cold Weather Blues ::: Muddy Waters

Hump Thru The Winter ::: Fantastic Negrito

 Cold Rain & Snow ::: The Grateful Dead

Frozen Warnings ::: Nico

 

Snow ::: Jesse Winchester

Chilly Winds ::: John Stewart

 

My Winter Coat ::: The Roches

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