On Snow, Language and the South. Sort of

January 22, 2016 7:18 pm
Clemmons, NC

A car catches fire in Raleigh, North Carolina as drivers battle heavy snow on Wednesday, February 12, 2014.
A car catches fire in Raleigh, North Carolina as drivers battle heavy snow on Wednesday, February 12, 2014.
Yesterday, everything closed because it was reported we were going to get snow today. And so around 3am this morning, it started snowing and by 6am when I left early for work, the roads were already slippery. Luckily, the only other people on the road were people like me trying to beat the onslaught of clueless drivers who only ever drive on snow/ice once or a twice a year and have to be reminded, catastrophically so, what it means to have snow in the south.

I’ve learned that snow here is not like the snow that you and I grew up with which was crunchy like styrofoam and could be scooped up and thrown as snowballs or be sculpted into snowmen. The word “snow” here means something very different than the rest of the country’s usage. It’s more akin to the Southern phrase “Bless your heart” meaning anything but. Having had the phrase said to me in most variants, I propose that if one could fully explain all the nuances of the phrase “Bless your heart” then one would grasp the frustratingly complex character of certain Southerners I have come to know (you know who you are.)

So, Snow here is not “snow.” The closest thing it is is ice. And then it’s not like the ice you see hanging from trees in intricate and delicate shows of filigree. Here snow/ice generally is more like gritty sand. Sometimes folks here will call it “sleet” but again it not what you or I would call sleet which i tend think of as being wet and splooshy and behaving more like thick, very cold rain. Instead, “sleet” here is granular and pelty, as in to be pelted in the face with. This sleet falls frozen and stays frozen, quickly forming nice laminar sheets of inch-thick ice that is as impossible to drive on as you trying to imagine me skating gracefully on a rink.

When people laugh about the Southern Snowpocalypse of 2014 and the seeming ineptness of cities like Raleigh and Atlanta, I want to remind them (oh people of Colorado) that their hubris is misplaced because they are comparing apples-to-oranges. Northerners would do no better if they were subjected to the same conditions Southerners were and are. As I spend more time here, I learn this is true of more and more things. That’s all I have to say about that. For now

So, I stand outside with the kids and see them try to play on and with the “snow” which can’t be used to make snowballs or snowmen because it behaves like dry sand. Nor can it be sledded on because the snow then functions like an Olympic Luge track; the kids accelerate too fast and have to bail/eject from the sled to avoid certain doom.

Nonetheless the kids and I are having fun. There is nothing like a Certified Snow Day in which the World decides that while yes, it’s going to pummel you, it’s also going to equally pound everyone else, which makes days like this have a certain lightness of spirit, where the daily grind and load lessens because you can not go/do anywhere/anything or you will end up both literally and metaphorically in a ditch, which I think gets at something about what it means to live in the South where its rules and language aren’t readily apparent to me and even when they seem clear, may not actually be what is really going on. But with the help of some people down here, I have learned that the World is in fact not Hobbesian nor Malthusian, or Darwinian. And that’s a good thing to know. Even if they don’t actually have real snow in the South.

Friday Night in Elkin, NC

20 Oct 2012: 9:10pm

Last night, Scarlett and I saw a small art showing; seemed like most of the town showed up to support the first showing of the painter. Scarlett very much liked the paintings, but was even more pleased with the hors d’oeuvres and that she could help herself as she pleased. Soon she took up with two other girls, quietly munching her food, as lady-like as I’ve ever seen. The paintings are good and thought-provoking and didn’t immediately reveal themselves and deserve to be seen by as many people as possible so go visit.1

Afterwards we decided to walk down to the Reeves Theater which was showing The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Before the show, there was a discussion about whether there was nudity or not and memories were fuzzy and hazy since the last time it was actually viewed by some was 20-25 years ago in Boone which has somewhat different flora and fauna, so to speak. I wish we could have stayed but it was getting way past our bedtimes and while it would have been memorable to see Elkin folk doing the Time Warp, we had to get going.

So we walked past the theater and Scarlett was giving a long, sideways stare at Riff Raff Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show who was out on the side walk, already waiting to welcome any uninitiated Brads or Janets that might stumble in. As it was, a group of teenagers were keyed up to see the show and I would have really have liked to have stayed and gotten their thoughts after show and whether anything would would have seemed unusual—let alone shocking—given the movie is now more then thirty-five (35!) years old.

The Reeves Therater is playing the movie again on October 26th at 8pm.

  1. ! []

At Play in the Soccer Fields of Elkin


6 Oct 2012: 5pm est
Elkin, NC

It is early Saturday (5:30am) morning and the fog can be described as Oregonianly-coastal thick or—as I am learning around here—opaquely smokey and Appalachian: mountain fog so thick that it wipes clean the world. Even in the pre-dawn dark, the fog is white and displaces the night so entirely that it’s like looking at a negative image of the nighttime, everything white except for objects, now composed of just shadows, existing disconnected from everything, just floating by you. I am slowly, very slowly jogging1 with the dog because I am trying to lose weight and you have to start somewhere. The dog is out a few feet ahead of me but appears suspended mid-fog.

We enter the city park and start slogging on the track. The dog weaves from side to side on the track, head down, smelling out the track’s passages. The dog enjoys these early outings while I constantly reign in and play out the leash in order to give wide berth to the oncoming runners who have been up much earlier than us, wearing their runner’s face with its hard inward gaze.

We finally circle the kiddie-soccer field, barely discernable from the rest of dark park except for the soccer goals, where later it will be bright and noisy and some what packed with adults and kids and the voices of mostly, adult men exhorting their kids to look at the ball or to get in there, to get into the scrum that kiddie soccer tends to devolve into and instead of interlocking heads and arms, they interlock legs and feet and if it lasts for more than a few seconds then at least two players will topple and then be lightly trampled by the rest of both teams still trying to get at the ball.

The kids on the team are without exception all good kids; they will try to do their best at whatever you are asking/telling/yelling them to, even if they have absolutely no idea what you are talking about. They will nod and then run as instructed, faithfully charging the Maginot line. However, it is getting clearer from week to week that the kids are getting it and once in a while (maybe once a game) you will see a pass from one player to another, premeditated and then executed that ends up being a goal. It is also exceedingly clear that when you mix 4–6 year olds on the same team, the five and older set will bounce the four-year olds off each other, scattering them like a remorseless pool shark breaking a racked set. Even the difference between a four and five-year old is like watching Bambi playing rugby with adult elephants.

It also shows just how fast these kids are growing and learning not just season to season but week to week: the inconsolable four-year old who can not understand why she can not score a goal will in the next season be the appointed tank that goes through the other team with a mindful intensity of the best pros. Scarlett2 right now is that four-year old and she does in fact mind every bit when she gets knocked down or pushed over, and has attempted to stomp off the field in protest, yet the other girl on our team (who is five) probably generated accusations of being a ringer after she scored off a goal kick, that is she kicked the ball from one end of the field to the other and scored; audible gasps of surprise were heard from the sidelines of stunned parents and onlookers.

  1. slogging is what i am doing []
  2. Mac right now is not playing. He has a cold and has been explaining the germ theory of disease to the other kids so that they know he is not playing because he doesn’t want the kids to get germs off the soccer ball if he should kick it. []