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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Buffalo snow lobotomy

The weather in Oakland is showing off. A mere week after New Year's Day, we have been having one sun-drenched balmy day after another. It is ludicrous how nice it is. We're talking shorts and t-shirts nice. To think that a mere four years ago, we were sunning ourselves in Buffalo, New York. And by "sunning" I mean "trying not to die from the damn cold".

If you grew up with the hell that is the lake effect snow then I applaud you. Lake effect snow is caused by cold winds going over giant bodies of water and deciding they clearly need to party. These winds then dump all the energy and water vapor they've picked up in the form of snow. In April. Because it can snow from October to April in Buffalo. Or anywhere else along the windy paths of the Great Lakes, aka the snowbelt. No snow any where else in North America? There's some in Buffalo.

This means our adjustment to the vagaries of Buffalo winter frequently involved pain. One Christmas Aunt MacGuff visited us from the bucolic environs of the New York City suburbs. We had to pick her up at the downtown Buffalo Amtrak station. Or as we liked to call it, The Narnia Station, because it was fucking impossible to find.

Located in a completely isolated patch of gloom under five conjoined freeway overpasses, it's like a setting of a horror movie in its abandonment. Nowhere on Earth has deserted areas like Buffalo (well, except Detroit and the Rust Belt). When we were forced to turn from a plowed street to an unplowed street and got stuck on the deceptively compact snowdrift, we thought we might die.

Conditions were not awesome. Night had fallen. There was a harsh windstorm coupled with the driest snow you've ever seen. We couldn't see more than a foot or two in front of us. Getting out of the car felt like we were being sandblasted in the face. The moment I stepped out, my hat flipped off my head and rolled down the street like a tumbleweed. It disappeared almost instantly in the snow fog. Part of me thought it was pretty like a movie, most of me was screaming "My hat!" and leaping fruitlessly after it.

Husband-cat appeared out of the fog and handed me an ice scraper. He managed, in pantomime, to convey that snow shovel wasn't in the trunk and if we didn't die in the wilds, he would kill whoever had moved it. It took us twenty limb-numbing minutes to break up the icy snowbank enough to extricate the car. By the time we were done, I couldn't feel my head. Not my face, mind you. My head.

As we inched away from the intersection from hell some headlights appeared behind us. I turned around to see if it was another traveler doomed to get stuck like we had been. It was a snow plow. In its own plodding way it cleared the remains of our snowbank. and disappeared into the fog. I heard a dull thudding sound and turned around. Husband-cat was banging his head against the steering wheel and cursing. He stopped when he couldn't feel his head any more either.

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