Thursday, February 18, 2010

Suburban Archaeology #9: Ole Bessie and the Plowman

My winter experiences have become a comic farce of navigating around typical suburban life that others seem to perform as rote routine while I, being born, raised and living my entire adult life in the nearly sub-tropical region of Gulf Coastal Mississippi, have pretty much become a Don Knotts movie character. I crashed on this planet Hoth six years ago and I am (believe it or not) still acclimating to this icy tundra during the Antarctic months. The laws of science, at least as I thought I knew them, seem not to apply here in winter. Things that I never could have envisioned freezing do freeze, and everywhere around me becomes a gigantic ice-skating rink.

Along with my unending quest for warmth, my equilibrium and common sense just go totally out the window during this time. Something as simple as jogging with the dog quickly becomes Sesame Street on Ice, as he drags me skating for dear life down slippery sidewalks. Typically, resulting in the predictable whack and thud of my landing square on my bottom. I find the hurt to my pride stings far greater than the cold wind full of needles stabbing at my cheeks, or even the blue mark that I'm sure is now gracing my frozen Southern keester. The skating around on snow boots is one thing, and certainly comical, but being an Olympic gold medalist at Jeep-sliding toward oncoming traffic can be a terrifying experience; leaving me questioning, “what the hell am I doing here?!?” In an era of heated seats and goose down comforters, the season is tolerable however and I do find enjoyment in several of its activities.

My least favorite has to be taking care of winter maintenance issues in Iceburbia. Our first year in Minnesota was spent living in a quasi-urban apartment and I must say that the biggest (and admittedly only) thing I miss from that year is having myself a daddy (The apartment maintenance guy). Furnace is busted? We'll send someone over. (Because I'll admit that being from Mississippi, I didn't even know what a furnace was.) With heated underground parking garages and no concern for shoveling anything but dinner into my mouth, those were kinda the salad days, winter-wise. Enter the suburban picture. Now, “Old Bessie” is my new daddy. A mammoth, twelve-year-old snow blower I inherited in a friend's divorce, this baby should have flames painted on her sides. I set my iPod to the Beach Boys' “409”, throw on my sunglasses and crank up what sounds like a drag racer in early burnout. The thrill of throwing snow in blasting fifteen foot columns makes me feel just like a kid again and I don't mind the fact that I can't feel my toes so much. That Tim Taylor-esque grunting you hear...that's me.

While I'm having the time of my life with the blower, the delicate interplay between me, my mailman and the city plow guy is something straight out of a John Hughes movie. The script would read a little something like this: Snow falls. David shovels driveway in early morning hours. Plowman shoves snow from street into David's driveway and in front of David's mailbox after David has already left for morning meetings. Mailman won't deliver David's mail because he can't reach mailbox and leaves David a note stating that David should consider shoveling his snow. David gets note and shovels out mailbox. Because it's been snowing all day, Plowman returns to shove more snow in front of David's mailbox just as David gets ready to shovel driveway again before dinner. It snows all night while David is sleeping...rinse, repeat. Rinse, repeat.

As a final note, I offer the illustrations as a gift from me to you. One Minnesotan (ahem) to another, just trying to get through the last throes of winter's icy grip together. I create my illustrations mostly by hand using primarily “architectural” means: utilizing technical pens and Sharpie markers on tracing and sketchpad paper, then by doing final renderings of color and some digital bits in Adobe Illustrator. Both the colors and geometries I employ when drawing people come out of a desire to render the human in an abstracted form, making for more whimsy and modernism, as well as to create a sense of communal sameness among all races and ethnicities. A little art always makes the cold days easier.

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