Monday, February 13, 2006

This Story Has No Point, Nor Does It Have A Climax, And If You Look For Either You Will Be Severely Disappointed




It's 5:15pm on Sunday night here in Watertown, MA, and there are about 18 inches of snow outside. The snow is still falling, but they expect it to stop in the next hour or so. Quite a snowfall, but it doesn't compare to...

THE BLIZZARD OF '78!!!

Sherman, set the wayback machine for Fogeyville.

Fogeyville, Mr. Peabody?

Yes, Sherman. We're going to visit the site of an interminably long reminiscence that has no readily obvious reason for existing.

(Even the reference comes from Fogeyville. If you're under 30, you probably have no idea who Sherman is, nor should you. Mr. Peabody, though, he's another story. It's not every day you see a talking dog who invented a time machine. And he wears glasses!)

Anyway, there was this blizzard, see? And it happened in 1978? So, like, we called it the blizzard of '78, man? It was awesome, dude! It was, like... like... uh...

It was a big snowstorm.

It was February and I was 20. I was also unemployed. Therefore, I used to go to bed at around 2 in the morning, after a healthy buzz and (sometimes) getting laid, and I'd wake up at 10am or so. That was important, the 10am thing. That was when The Beverly Hillbillies came on.

Being an out of work stoner, I was collecting unemployment benefits and enjoying the heck out of the whole experience. I think my last job at the time had been with Prudential Insurance, working in their office supply warehouse just outside of Brookline. I was probably getting $65 every two weeks in unemployment, but I was under no real pressure to get another job, at least until the benefits ran out. My Dad, bless him, wasn't on my back for any rent, and I bought food and other stuff for the house. My remaining money went for bass guitar strings, trips to the dog track, and bowling.

(I should mention here that the trips to the dog track and the bowling were actually profitable ventures. There was a six or seven month stretch during this time period when I went to the track almost every day with a couple of my friends and we made considerable money. Also, I was technically a professional bowler, having entered and won a couple of local tournaments. However, these are stories for another time that have nothing significant to do with this story. I will tell you all about them, someday, but for now it's just... Digression!)

(You should stick your index finger in the air and say that word as though you were Tevye in Fiddler On The Roof saying "Tradition!" and it will be much more satisfying.)

Anyway, on this morning, I woke up at a bit before 10 and ambled downstairs to grab a bite to eat. My Dad was already on the road. He was a salesman for Singapore Airlines and he had calls to make, so he had probably left the house around 7 o'clock. I grabbed a sleeve of saltines and a jar of peanut butter, stirred some Hershey's syrup into a tall glass of milk, and carried this stuff back into the living room. I switched on the TV, turned it to channel 38, and settled in to watch Granny whack Jethro over the head with a frying pan.

I ate the peanut butter and crackers while drinking the chocolate milk, all the time immensely enjoying Jethro's comic attempts at trying to make a success of a restaurant called The Hungry Gizzard. Then I smoked a bone and laughed like a loon while enjoying Barney Fife's law enforcement misadventures. Returning from Mayberry, I plugged in my bass and threw some Grand Funk and Black Sabbath onto the stereo, playing along for an hour or so. After that, I felt like reading a bit. I picked up Twain's Life On The Mississippi, which I was in the middle of at the time, and traveled back to the 19th century for a while.

Understand that I did all of this without ever looking at the outside world or hearing about it in any way. All of the blinds were drawn. The telephone was connected to an answering service for my Dad's job, so I didn't answer it unless whoever was calling gave me a signal (everybody who knew us knew that the code was to ring once, hang up, then immediately call back, otherwise we would assume it was business and let it go through to the service, which would pick up after three rings.) Also, this was before cable and satellites, so unless I got up from the couch to physically change the channel, it was channel 38 all day and they had no news coverage, so...

At about 2 o'clock, I decided to check and see if the mailman had come. I opened the front door and there it was. Lots of snow. Shitloads of snow. Snow up to the middle of the storm door, which was up to the middle of my belly. Snow, which I stood gaping at blankly. So much snow that the street was totally covered with more than two feet and not a living soul was anywhere to be seen.

Far out, man.

I got dressed (I had been in nothing but a pair of jeans since I got up) and pulled on my boots. This was awesome. I went outside and plowed my way through snowdrifts up to my chest. I wanted to see if anyone else was around to enjoy this with.

I trudged through the snow towards River Street, which was the main drag two blocks away. My street wasn't plowed, which was no surprise. The city of Boston sometimes never plowed Caddy Road, it being a side street off of a side street off of a side street. I reached Monson - nope; not plowed. Sturbridge? The same. And as I approached River Street, I saw that it was only slightly navigable. It was a busy street and cars had probably been on it, off and on, since the snow started, but it was still a mess.

I was enjoying the bejeezus out of this winter wonderland. I spotted a couple of my bowling/racetrack/unemployed buddies and made my way towards them. We exchanged amazed words as Mike lit up a joint that we shared. It was obvious that there wouldn't be any racing for at least a few days, so that was a bummer, but we had enough dope to last a while, so no problem keeping a steady buzz while we waited for the streets to clear.

After a bit more conversation, I made my way back to the house. After shedding my boots and wet clothes, I turned on the radio to get some news and see what the prognosis was. The word was that there had been 28 inches of snow and the city of Boston was pretty much shut down. Many people were stranded wherever they worked and would be staying there overnight. A state of emergency was declared by the governor, and there was talk of bringing in the National Guard to patrol the streets and keep down looting, etc., and everybody was advised to stay off of the streets except for emergencies.

I put Ted Nugent on the stereo while wondering if my Dad would be stuck someplace. I doubted it. My Dad was one of the all-time great snow drivers. If anybody would NOT be stuck, it would be him. If he had a Volkswagen Beetle at the Arctic Circle and had to be in Anchorage the next day, I wouldn't have bet against him. Downtown Boston to Dorchester, in 28 inches of accumulation? The only way he wasn't going to be home was if the authorities physically wouldn't let him drive.

The house was well-stocked with food and drink. I had plenty of cigarettes. The electricity was on and there were plenty of sitcoms and cartoons to watch. I had no problem with this storm. Other people weren't as lucky. My neighbor, Stephen Murphy, was stranded at his job. He was a shoe salesman. What in the hell did he do to amuse himself in a shoe store for 48 hours? You can try on only so many pairs of pumps before it gets boring.

(It was a women's shoe store.)

I heard a motor gunning outside. My Dad plowed his way down the street, slowly, fishtailing wildly but determined to get his big boat of a Chrysler into our driveway. After much maneuvering, he got it into position to go straight onto the slight incline by the side of our house. He rocked the car back and forth for about 25 minutes, while I shoveled, and he damned well got the car into the driveway, where it stayed for the duration of the snow emergency. He was one of the few who could have gotten around the city if he needed to, but he wasn't averse to taking a few days off while his bosses were under the impression that he couldn't drive in these conditions. We both settled in for a slothful couple of days.

And that's about it. I told you there was no point to this. After a week or so, the snow melted and everybody went about their business as usual. Some folks weren't as lucky as me, as some 90+ people actually lost their lives due to the blizzard. The total of property damage was somewhere above a billion dollars, I believe. Beyond those grim statistics, though, the Blizzard Of '78 seems to have existed only so that, whenever there's a storm these days, someone old (like me) can say, "Hmmff. You call this snow? Why, I remember...", and then go into the song and dance above while everybody rolls their eyes and tries to think up an excuse for leaving.

And you? You sat through this whole thing voluntarily, even after I told you what was coming. You poor soul. See you soon, with more pointless old-fart rambling.

3 comments:

Uncle Jim said...

Ah yes the 78' I had no electricity, but I did have a fireplace located in a room where I could close all the doors and where the two cats and myself spent the next three days. I did not have to burn furniture to keep the fire going.

Janet (fondofsnape@gmail.com) said...

loved reading that...brought back some of my own old memories :-)

Gary McGath said...

I was living in Nashua, NH, at the time, and working in Bedford. Drove home in heavy snow. Did a lot of digging and went to work the next day. We were short on staff for a couple of days since our employees from south of the border couldn't get in. You people in Mass. were wimps. :)