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 122014.
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 2025 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. []