Saturday, February 6, 2010

Snow Joke

Pittsburghers are a hardy lot. They work hard, play hard... smoke, overeat, drink... fight... wreck cars with abandon... fire guns randomly at odd hours of the day and night... make “terroristic threats”... and some of them even indulge in that mysterious criminal behavior called “involuntary deviate sexual intercourse” -- a kind of all-purpose, catch-all charge that is tacked onto the end of every other list of offenses. A guy can be arrested for having an expired driver's license, and he'll still wind up also charged with involuntary deviate sexual intercourse – I just don't know how that works, frankly. But it adds to the list of offenses that are so ill-defined that anyone can be charged with them, and how can you argue? It's like the Salem witch trials -- “prove you're not a witch”. Impossible to do.

But in any case, here was a gaggle of my neighbors this morning, up and down the street, trekking to the convenience store for the requisite bread and milk, digging their cars out of snowdrifts, and generally putting a stoic face on things. Ironic that this had to happen on the biggest shopping day of the year. Am I confused? Is it the day before Thanksgiving, or “Black Friday”, or the day before Christmas? Heck no – it's the day before the Super Bowl, and even when the Steelers aren't playing it is tantamount to a national holiday in Steeltown... and predictably, the first products to be completely sold out in the stores yesterday were not bread and milk, after all, but nachos and salsa... and all of the other overly-salted, overly-sugared, trans-fat-laden garbage that gives Pittsburghers their svelte figures and enhances their healthy lifestyles.

Well, I guess I shouldn't complain. I used to live outside Washington, DC, where there are plenty of secret football fans... secret because football, despite being “America's game”, is still considered a bit “blue collar” by snooty suburbanites. So you have the hypocrisy of people stocking up for the Super Bowl, but when you call them on it, they say, “Oh no, this is for the reception following Cameron's ballet recital.” It simply wouldn't do, you see, to admit that one watched football – ugh! Animalistic! “A bunch of sweating gorillas”, etc. Not that the denizens of DC have much to show for their consumption of oxygen – most of them are lawyers, and spend their careers embroiled in cases that the average person cannot begin to understand. The Great Game is played with paper, and briefcases, and tailored suits, in elegant halls lined with mahogany and bedecked with gold leaf – and you and I pay for it all. (Does this make me a “populist”? Maybe so.) So, compared to all that, Pittsburgh is downright refreshing, and I have not regretted, even for an instant, having moved here. And this is despite being called impolite names whenever I venture out onto local roads – or even just while walking down the street. But it makes me feel like I belong. It's like that old exercise called “doing the dozens” that constitutes a major facet of inner-city black ghetto folkways – it's all part of the toughening process. It's a challenge the way a vaccination would be – either deal with or don't, but if you don't you're a wimp. Plus, let's face it – a major snowstorm gets people out of doors, it gets them exercising, and it gets them talking to each other. How many other events can make that claim? Normally, we're all in an autistic state in front of the TV, or sinking into a pool of oblivion at the nearest bar. But something like this happens – kind of like an invasion, if you will – and people get to know each other. It's a fine thing.

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