Wednesday, January 18, 2012


My arms feel weak. I’ve just been shoveling snow. Shoveling snow is a novelty. It reminds me of growing up in Minneapolis, Minnesota. But this is Seattle snow. Seattle snow differs from Minneapolis snow in the way that the Taj Mahal differs from the Space Needle, or Istanbul differs from Fargo, North Dakota.

The snow in Minnesota is dry and powdery, like the dandruff of angels. The snow in Seattle is wet, like cement. Like the dandruff of Godzilla.

And Seattle has hills. Steep hills. Upon which the snow melts a little during the day, as temperatures rarely drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit during the day, but then plunge to the lower 20s during the night. So the slush turns to ice. Which is treacherous and invisible.

Driving after a snowfall in Seattle is not impossible, but it is difficult. It is not uncommon to see a Metro bus, an articulated leviathan, immobile and abandoned in a ditch, or jutting out over a retaining wall overlooking I-5.

Everything takes on that enchanted, Doctor Zhivago look. Omar Shariff and Julie Christie in a mansion full of ice crystals. Otherworldly, romantic, but doomed. Ominous, sinister, weirdly baroque.

Luxuries such as walking are suddenly awkward, effortful enterprises, like speech therapy after a stroke. Until enough cars and people mash the snow into a hardpack of ice and slush, running assumes the heroic dimensions of space walking, or competing in the Iditerod with a team of feral cats.

I begin checking the temperature obsessively about once every 30 minutes. A rise in temperature by one or two degrees means the snow will beginning dripping from the shrubbery and falling in chunks from eaves and gutters. Means that the main arterials will be free of ice and easy of traction and the side streets will still by dicey in places, but negotiable if one drives with caution. A drop in temperature means another day trapped in ice. Means broken arms, broken legs, people unable to make it to work, additional stress for the people who can make it to work, and car accidents and canceled medical appointments.

Roberta lost one of her ice grips on her way to work this morning. Her store is sold out. She will have to walk home with one ice grip. I went to look for it on Roy and 5th Avenue North but didn’t find it.

I have an appointment tomorrow of oral surgery, a bone graft, in preparation for a tooth implant. The office didn’t call to cancel, so the onus is on me to find a way to get there tomorrow. I tried shoveling as much snow as I could from our car, regretting not buying chains. Sometimes if I can get the right start on our easement I can make it to the bottom without crashing into any trees or people. If the snow doesn’t melt by tomorrow afternoon, I will have to board one of Seattle’s many petri dishes. Roberta tells me the number 18 and 28 go to Ballard.

It’s 3:25 p.m. KOMO News says it’s 30 degrees with 92% humidity. They’re predicting a low of 36 degrees tonight, a high of 46 degrees tomorrow. If they’re right, which I hope they are, the world will be released from its jail of snow and ice, I can skip a ride on the petri dish and drive to my surgery in style, listening to Bob Dylan croon “Beyond Here Lies Nothing.”

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