Real snow

The memory of those days swept over him like a nightmare–the people they had met travelling; the people who couldn’t add a row of figures or speak a coherent sentence. The little man Helen had consented to dance with at the ship’s party, who had insulted her ten feet from the table; the women and girls carried screaming with drink or drugs out of public places. The men who locked their wives out in the snow, because the snow of twenty-nine wasn’t real snow. If you didn’t want it to be snow, you just paid some money.
–F. Scott Fitzgerald, Babylon Revisited

I emerged from my house today to do some late-in-the-day errands and had to clear pounds of snow off my car. A lot of my neighbors were clearing their drives too, so we all saw the spectacle of a very large “V” of geese making a very late exit (maybe from Onondaga Lake) and headed very due south at a very determined pace. Five minutes later, another whole flock doing the same. Today was the kind of real snow that sends even the bum geese packing.

I don’t know when snow stopped being considered a normal part of the American experience. You used to see it in TV and movies all the time. But then it somehow become something quaint or exotic — considered unnatural for humans to have to endure. Or rather, in our wealthy land, no American should have to endure snow. If you didn’t want there to be snow, you just threw money at it. First, money gave people wings to fly like geese away from the snow. Then, more money convinced the geese that they were exotic tropical birds.

Then the money melted like snow.

4 thoughts on “Real snow

  1. sean

    yes! exactly. how did this happen? it used to be, in hollywood, the television shows and movies all tried to create a phony ‘typical’ american experience that involved living in places where people wrote winter coats, even if it was pretty clear that the children in the plasticene families were doing their throwing on those coats in places where the snow never flew. snow was just part of the deal. it was another level of normality. somehow i doubt, in the 20s or 30s or 40s or 50s, that a reference to syracuse or buffalo would be met with a sneer and a ‘how do you stand all that snow?’ there was a lot of snow, but it wasn’t exactly balmy in detroit or cleveland or chicago or milwaukee or even in gotham. if anything, as bing made so clear, it was a celebratory deal, a quality linked to some deep, sentimental image of home: you went to vermont for a white christmas (when statistically, dammit, you had a better shot in syracuse).

    but i’ll tell you what: maybe there’s a little backlash. i’ve run into a remarkable number of people win recent days, including the stormy friday morning we spent hawking papers for ‘old newsboys,’ who have said: ‘you know what? i kind of like this.’

    because it’s kind of home.

    like syracuse china.


  2. Len

    >You used to see it in TV and movies all the time. But then it somehow become something quaint or exotic — considered unnatural for humans to have to endure.

    More people live in urban areas than not nowadays … when we were living in rural areas, the snow was “natural”, when we were just moving to the cities, it was “nostalgic”. Now it’s neither for a lot of people. Hollywood can’t make money from it, either, they’re trying to relate to the urban-living demographic.

    We’re in so much of a hurry that it seems like we can’t wait a little while for the roads to be cleared, either … watch the drivers on the roads behind the “reporter next to the highway” stories on the news … they seem to believe that they shouldn’t have to slow down for snowy or icy roads.

  3. Robinia

    Well, Len has some of the demographic switch right– but, I think it may be less rural-to-urban than North-to-South that underlies the change. Syracuse, interestingly enough, played a major role in that happening: the population shift to the Southeast, Florida, Southwest and Southern California was all made possible by the popularization of home and (especially) business air conditioning (thank you, Carrier). Prior to that, the insufferable heat (and, in the Southwest and Florida, humidity) ensured that these areas remained primarily plantation economies. After AC, all kinds of industry and people pulled up stakes for the South. The big exodus began in the early Seventies, and it went quick once it started. Grew like office buildings in Houston, it did.

    Now, of course, all this is based on cheap oil. You can solar-heat a house up here in the snow (snow actually reflects more light into the house, for a passive solar type like mine). But, it is harder to arrange post-oil-and-coal-energy air conditioning.

    Beautiful segue there into the Maddoff thing. Still shaking my head on that– and thankful that the btus in my firewood patch are remaining very stable and very slow-growth-oriented…. you can enjoy same second-hand in a secure European location: …. not my company, just my tree ;-)

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