Growing up in Fort Wayne, winters were always something to look forward to because there was always the chance of a snow delay or cancellation. A delay meant staying home for a couple hours longer and playing video games. A cancellation meant playing video games all day. Having spent most of my life there, brutal winters were just something I came to expect. Truth be told, they had lost their appeal years ago when I either had to walk a half-hour to work in knee-high snow or drive in the shit.
I've had a love-hate relationship with winter over the last few years especially. What had actually begin to change my mentality about the harshness of winter was a combination of John Fante's "Wait Until Spring, Bandini" and Henry Rollins' "Get In The Van". Fante's book romanticized winter as a time of proving yourself all the while falling victim to your own shortcomings. I applied the hard touring of Black Flag in Rollins' book to the life I had began leading (working hard, sometimes sixteen hours at a time, and hardly sleeping). Both books sort of centralized in my mind what I had always felt throughout the rest of the year. The vastness and dreariness of winter complimented my mental and physical weariness and, ironically enough, balanced me out.
The first snowfall of Winter also reminds me of when Robin and I first fell in love. We warmed ourselves to the bone with the thoughts of each other. Nothing, not even ice-storms or blizzards, would keep me from seeing her. I ran my body and car through the gauntlet when we first got together and the crunching of snow and ice beneath my feet became the soundtrack to nights spent wrapped up in each other, red noses dripping snot with smiling, rosy cheeks.
As much as I may romanticize our Winter from back then, we were glad when it was over. Part of the appeal of moving to Portland was the fact that the Winters here don't get very rough. After twenty-plus years of it, we both needed a break.
And then a funny thing happened. A year and a half had passed since being in the Midwest during Winter and, while discussing past Winters with people here in Portland, I came to realize that most of them didn't believe my Midwest Winter horror stories. Like the time an ice-storm knocked out power over a third of the city for weeks. Or any number of times when the temperature (not the windchill) didn't even get into double digits. They all seemed to have found it hard to believe. Most of them have never experienced a blizzard. Hell, a kid I work with the other day asked me what a snow drift was. I thought he was fucking with me. Turns out, he wasn't.
I have never been one to embellish stories when it comes to past Winters. I lived through them and the fact of them is better than any fiction I could dream up. Coupling this realization with the release of "Heart Beats Pacific" by Banner Pilot, I began wearing these stories like battle scars. I became proud of the Midwest, missing it like an old friend. My future was founded amidst snow drifts while planning an escape, and my heart still beats Midwestern blood. These are things that can never be changed, and I find that quite comforting.
So, readers, I will leave you with Banner Pilot's brilliant song "Alchemy" as a reference point. I hope this makes you appreciate the Midwest as much as it does Robin and me.
been living under frozen sky,
but we've all got ways that we get by.
you changed your name,
the one you had it didn't fit right.
and i know you'd dream of something else
if you could sleep nights.
i know, so tonight i'll stay here with you.
there's nothing else i'd rather do.
we'll look for reasons for why we're here,
we'll blame the season for this fear.
i'll say everything'll work out
like I know what i'm talking about.
but all this snow keeps piling up,
we dig it's never deep enough.
just need a change in atmosphere.
it's like winter's earlier each year.
sidewalks across this town
are icing up, we're sliding down.
look for a place to drown, find a bar a block away.
you're just a kid bruising up.
if I could tell you
how many times you gotta fall
before you break through i would.
cold drinks and snow falls, i'll pick up your phone calls.
i get too wrapped up in my own shit.
we order one more round and sit.
and i know when you're living under sheets of snow
it can look like the worlds gone black
but remember that the sun comes back.
at least they say it does.