Saturday, March 6, 2010

A Pilgrimage to Winter

There were reasons, damn pressing reasons or I would have stayed home, why I motored from sunny Florida to nasty Connecticut in February.  We drove Judy’s 13-year-old Acura.  (You didn’t think I was going to drive MY car up there did you?  Those people spread salt everywhere.)  Thirteen hundred miles in two days.  I hate to pay for motels when I can crash at my daughter-in-law’s place for free.  We Floridians are cheap and damn proud of it.  Not like northerners, who have no pride at all.

The first thing you notice is the appalling conditions in which Connecticut folks live.  I understand snow, a fluffy white concept I learned in my youth, but folks in Connecticut don’t even keep their snow clean.  Wherever I looked, the snow was crap-colored and offensive to the eye.  My mother taught me that there was no excuse for dirty.  (I assume she was speaking literally, not metaphorically, since I can think of many excuses for metaphoric dirt.  Besides, with mom, linguistic gymnastics were limited to gently taking the Lord’s name in vain and some classic motherly sarcasm.  “Did you wash your ears?  You could plant potatoes in them.”)  Anyway, the damn snow was filthy.

Connecticut is full of beautiful women.  (I know – I changed the subject.  Stay with me.)  Not like Clearwater Beach during Spring Break, but beautiful in a strong, liberal, Scandinavian and Irish sort of way.  The problem is that all the women in Connecticut were swaddled in polyester and down, head to toe, with just their strong, liberal, etc. noses sticking out.  What’s the point of that?

Another thing is the darkness.  It’s freakin’ DARK up there in February.  The sun goes down before it comes up, so you have to feel your way around like teenagers in the back seat of dad’s Chevy.  That’s probably why the women dress defensively.  It was so dark I spent the whole week wearing eyeglasses with plain, see-through glass, no tinting or Mylar or anything.  It was primitive, like rubbing sticks together or drinking beer from a plastic cup.

All this time, sunny Florida was, well, sunny.  People were frolicking on the beaches.  (Okay, Canadian people were frolicking on the beaches, but it’s good to know your COULD frolic if you wanted to.) 

Bad as Connecticut was in February, it did not prepare us for driving home through New York and New Jersey.  That’s where the blizzard struck.  It snowed sideways from the GW Bridge to the Delaware River.  It can’t snow sideways in Delaware itself, which is too small – all the snow lands in Pennsylvania, where it piles up on the Turnpike in front of TV cameras.

By shear grit and steering in the direction of the skid, we made it to North Carolina, where the sun came out and people started saying “y’all.”  We stopped in Rocky Mount, which turns out not to be a real town at all, but a collection of highway intersections.  No one lives there; everyone commutes from Raleigh to work at Shoney’s and the Bass Pro Shop on I-95. 

If you go into a restaurant in North Carolina and ask for a non-smoking table, there’s only one.  The best strategy is to ask for a table next to that one.

We haven’t become Florida natives yet – you have to speak Seminole to achieve that status – but we are starting to feel like foreigners in Connecticut.  Sometimes I think that’s a little sad.  Then I go to the beach.


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