This isn’t a We-Know-How-to-do-it in the North story. I’m not from the North. I’m from the Upper Midwest. I’m not sure I never knew how to do it.
In Charlotte, snow rents. Snow lives in Minneapolis. I wouldn’t mind, now that my kids are grown and gone, never seeing it again. I flew to Charlotte from Minneapolis Monday. When I woke up in a suburb called Minnetonka, the temperature was 13 degrees below zero. When I drove to the airport, it had warmed to nine below.
The weather in Charlotte, even the last two days, is much more civil. I love to see my neighbors make peace with it. Two of them built a great snowman with green tennis ball eyes.
Walking down the street early Wednesday evening, I saw no cars but four pedestrians. I stepped into two bars to see if they were open and immediately left. They were overrun.
I was just walking around. I’m not good at staying in.
In Minnesota, you embrace the cold or pretend to ignore it.
I skied maybe five times, and it wasn’t fun the way basketball is fun or tackle football in the snow is fun. Tackle football in the snow was fun until I was clipped from behind chasing the guy who intercepted my pass and blew out my left knee.
I liked driving a snowmobile. A friend of mine's familily had a place in the country, and we’d jump on the snowmobiles and take off. They’re a blast to drive. The tough part is finding your way back. I’d remember taking a left at the snow-covered house and a right at the tall trees. But all the houses are snow-covered and most of the trees are tall. Getting lost was, at least for awhile, part of the appeal.
When I was a kid, I played basketball. As I remember it, the Catholic school kids played basketball and the public school kids played hockey. When my brother switched from the Catholic school to the public school, he switched from basketball to hockey.
I was a terrible skater. I’m pigeon toed so the blades kept hitting. I could run a little, so I played boot hockey. We played on boots instead of skates and used a plastic ball instead of a puck. It was a big enough deal that there were leagues.
Sometimes I'd pretend I was in the Alaska Jack London wrote about, trying to return to civilization, and topple into a snow bank. I kept that game to myself.
The best thing we did as kids and later with our own kids was get on a sled and go down a hill. You fly, and you never really know when or how a ride will end.
There was a great hilly park with multiple runs four blocks from the house where I grew up. At the bottom was a tennis court and beyond the court a two-lane road and a lake.
We’d go all day and then, moments before we froze, walk to somebody’s house, usually mine because my mom never kicked us out no matter how wet our clothes were.
Like any kids, we’d get bored after a few hours. A friend of mine named Al happened to have some rope, and we tied our sleds together. We were on our stomachs. We started at the top of the steepest run. We were flying, and we had no idea when or how the ride would end.
It ended on the tennis courts. I saw Al go to the right of the metal pole tennis players would attach the nets to, and I went to the left. I still remember looking at Al, and at the rope, and at the pole, and wondering what would happen.
What happened was I learned more about physics than I ever would in school.
The rope tightened and the sleds stopped.
We didn’t. We were like little Supermen, flying above the court, arms outstretched. I wondered if we could clear the road and reach the lake.
The though ended when we hit the ground.
We stood up dazed, looked at each other and laughed. We never did it again.
I’d do it now, though. All I need is a rope and a sled and somebody to take Al’s place.