Tag Archives: cold

Verbal Brutality — A Still Life in Words


You ever get something on your mind and you cannot move on to something else because you can’t concentrate with THAT thought rolling around in your head? You know, kind of like getting “It’s a Small World After All” stuck in your head on an endless loop? I’ve run into that syndrome this fine Monday morning.

I was balancing out the checkbook from the weekend, pretty much the way I do every Monday, and I uncovered a couple of bills that had slid or slipped or — knowing me — been placed under a stack of other papers. One was the water bill and of course it was overdue so I went online and paid it immediately since Budge doesn’t ask for much, but running water IS one of her requirements.

Anyway, after settling up those couple of bills and scheduling out the taxes (which were ALSO resting comfortably under the aforementioned pile) I realized we had about a third of the money I’d hoped we’d have for Christmas. Now, please understand, that’s nothing unusual. It was just a little disheartening to get socked with this early on a Monday morning AFTER my awesome new-to-me laptop decided to lose it’s mind (and LCD screen) AND after spilling a heaping cup of Domino’s Extra Fine Granulated Sugar all over the counter and floor as I was making tea. I just wasn’t in the mood to be reminded of this particular incident, but . . . what’re you gonna do? There it was rolling around in my head and I’m hoping that telling this story publicly for the first time will help exorcise this foul mental demon. After all, I need the room up there.


So without further fanfare, I want to tell about the most brutal, most condescending, most intentionally hurtful thing ANYONE has ever said to me. Names have been changed to show how even with  BPD, Dysthymic Disorder, anger management problems, and all my other issues I’m not on the same level as this cretin, which gives me a certain cold comfort.

My Papa John had a 1965 Pontiac GTO that he was insanely proud of. He loved that car. When I was small, he would put me on his lap and let me steer it down the highway. The GTO died when I was in middle school, but instead of getting rid of it, Papa took it down to our little white church and put it up on jack stands (not blocks) and threw a nice cover over it. Our plan was for me to “fix it up” and drive it once I got to high school and got my own job. Apparently, at some point, Mr. Ash Whole, the antagonist of this story and filthy rich Pontiac aficionado, found out about the GTO and offered to buy it from Papa John for a pittance. Now, folks, Israel will give up the West Bank of Jordan and leave Jerusalem before my Papa John would have sold that car. So he said, “No thank you.” Undeterred, Mr. Ash Whole would make papa the same offer several times over the years.

Then in my senior year of high school, Papa John had his first major debilitating stroke. It wasn’t his first stroke, but it was the first one to take him out of action. Papa John gave me the title to the GTO and said to go ahead with our plans and as soon as he got well, we’d work on the car together.

Unfortunately, I found out that restoring cars is a rich man’s hobby. Even repairing the GTO enough to return it to the road proved to be beyond my means with my high school jobs. Fortunately, the GTO wasn’t eating anything, didn’t cost much in taxes, and was more or less safe from the elements.

Once Mr. Ash Whole found out about Papa’s stroke, he started turning up the heat on ME to sell him the car. Please bear in mind I had all the same issues back then that I do now, BUT I didn’t know anything was wrong with me, I just thought I was a slight jerk with a hair trigger temper. So I said, “No.” When he kept asking, I upped my response to “Hell no.”

Then, one night after I’d had a pretty disastrous day, the phone rang. This was in the pre-caller id days or I’d never have answered it. It was, of course, Mr. Ash Whole. We started going through the usual preliminary small talk that is expected of Southern men even if they DO hate each other but this time, he had a different tack. He went straight for the guts. He said, “Shannon, I’ll tell you, I’ve been trying to buy that piece of $#@! GTO from your grandfather and now you for too long and I’m just going to be straight with you, John’s never going to drive again and you’ll never get that car running on what you make at a grocery store– you need to sell me that car tonight if for no other reason than

(here it comes)

(the ugliest thing anyone’s ever said to me even to this day)

I know you are dirt poor and could desperately use the money.”

I didn’t have anything to say. He was pretty much right. I told him I’d come by his store with the title and the key after school the next day. What he gave for Papa’s beloved GTO wouldn’t buy a cart of groceries today.

Just as a little side note, I went to high school with Mr. Ash Whole’s son. Later on, I would be roommates in college with Mr. Ash Whole’s son and that dude was one of the most solid friends I’ve ever had. I can only figure he took after his mother. I never mentioned that conversation with his father to my buddy. He wasn’t real crazy about the man either. Still, that did open up some more painful wounds because he knew where the car came from even though he didn’t know the circumstances. With total innocence, he’d update me on his dad’s restoration project. Mr. Ash Whole poured thousands upon thousands of dollars into that car. Today, it is a national show winner.

I don’t think St. Peter allows driving where Papa’s gone to now. It’s most likely hard to get tire marks off golden pavement, so I doubt Papa could care less.

As for me, whenever I see a 1965 GTO, to this very day, I taste bile and — more than that — dirt in my mouth for hours afterwards.

Love y’all, keep those feet clean, and be careful what you say to each other.


Southern Snowstorm 2011


My Element in the elements

Okay, it’s cold around here. For everyone who doesn’t have access to a weather outlet, a huge cold system dumped anywhere from six to twelve inches of snow on us here in Upstate SC from Sunday night through Monday morning. Then, starting late yesterday afternoon, a soft misting drizzle coated the fluffy snow in a clear crystalline crust with the result being we won’t thaw out here for another week at least.

Budge’s district was out yesterday and by noon yesterday, their administration as well as every other district in this corner of the Heavenly Triangle that is South Carolina, agreed to phone it in again today. At the rate this stuff is not melting, tomorrow is very likely a wash and Thursday will be at least a two hour delay so the bus drivers have a fighting chance to spot the black ice slicks BEFORE the big yellow banana goes into the ditch. Of course, with this district extending all the way into the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, some parts of the county STILL won’t be passable and my Budge may not go back to school this week.

The unfortunate issue in all the preparation for and fighting of the snow is it actually makes things a bit worse in the short run. Our state and county DOTs have been doing a masterful job of clearing the interstates and main artery state roads, BUT, while the plows clear the snow away quite effectively, they cannot help but leave a thin sheet of water on the now-exposed asphalt. This sheet of water becomes a sheet of ice just as soon as the sun goes down. So in a sense, all those plows out on the roads now are acting as giant yellow Zambonis creating a veritable plethora of ice rinks up and down the roads. This results in many drivers, especially those who have more horsepower than brains, pulling a Paul Simon and “slip sliding away.”

Slick, frozen hills like this are what will keep schools closed for a good while.

Skidding off the road isn’t so bad in most places in the main roads because about the worst you can do is slide into the median or onto the shoulder, but once you make a turn or two and get back here into the sticks a bit, flying of the road via a sheet of black ice can be fatal. I’m thinking of one spot less than two miles from here where a long curve over an old bridge meets a long, steady, SHADED uphill incline. Now I know as surely as I know I’ll never own a Porsche that stretch of road is going to be slicker than snot on a doorknob until Saturday at the very least. Remember the bridge and the curve I mentioned? Well, the bridge has nice concrete guard rails, of course, and a set of metal guard rails extends from both ends and both sides of the bridge for another ten feet or so and stops right where the curve begins. That means anyone sliding down that hill — forwards or backwards — has a straight shot past the guard rail and down a 50 foot embankment into the Reedy River below the bridge. That water is deep and cold and I’ve seen more than one car winched out of there followed by four rescue workers struggling up the hill with a human sized black plastic zipper bag held between them.

To paraphrase CCR "Dut, dut, dut, lookin' out my front door."

Still, people don’t learn. People get all broke out in dumb when the white stuff is on the ground. The worst offenders are Yankee expatriates and guys who have jacked up four-wheel drive trucks. The Yankees scoff at us poor benighted hillbillies who can’t drive on snow. I hear it all the time, “Why this is a dusting compared to what we get every day up in X part of Yankee-land, I simply can’t fathom why you people can’t drive on it!” Well, Goober, the reason we can’t drive on it — and you can’t either, by the way — is it’s NOT SNOW. Anyone CAN drive on snow. Snow is easy. Once the roads clear a tiny bit OR once they get nice and compacted, it’s not snow anymore though. It’s ICE and NO ONE can drive on ice. Even James Freaking Bond can’t drive on ice! Watch Die Another Day if you don’t believe me.

The other goofuses (goofi?) with the four-wheel drives are just obnoxious and have no knowledge of physics. They reside in a safe and strange little world where the phrase “I’ll put ‘er four-wheel drive!” makes Mother Nature soil her gauzy shift in terror. In reality, the phrase, “I’ll put ‘er in four-wheel drive” is usually followed by the phrase, “any y’all got a winch or know a good tow company?” Once again, the culprit is ICE. The only difference between a four wheel drive vehicle and a two-wheel drive vehicle on ice is the number of wheels spinning helplessly as the car or truck slides inexorably towards the Ravine of Doom.

So, if you’re reading this around these parts, hunker down, make up some snow cream, drink a cuppa, and take a nice nap. Those of you up and out where this stuff is normal, be careful, and those of you in warmer, snow free clime — keep your obnoxiously sunny and cheerful opinions to yourselves.

Love y’all, and keep those feet clean!

I’m Dreaming of a white . . . Boxing Day?


Snow in the Southland is a rare commodity. Snow when people actually WANT it, like around the holidays, is nigh upon unheard of in these parts.

December 26, 2010

So, when the flakes started falling about sundown last night most of the grownups around me were just as giddy and giggly as the few children in attendance. Greenville County, South Carolina was experiencing the first white Christmas since 1963, according to our local weathermen.

The snow fell throughout the night and we were greeted by a blinding white landscape this morning. Of course, the Sun has peeked his head out now so what’s left isn’t likely long for this world.

Snow brings out a certain special madness among Southerners. We so seldom get a simple pretty snow that we aren’t quite certain how to take them when they come along. Here, our winter weather of choice is ICE. This region has been smacked by four big ice storms in my memory. The first big one I remember was in 1988. The Monday we went back to school from Christmas break, it started snowing and icing. We left school by lunchtime that Monday and didn’t return until Wednesday of the FOLLOWING week. We missed seven school days and got no spring break that year.

My sophomore year in college saw a big snow, too. I learned a very important lesson in that storm; education majors should not get into snowball fights with engineering majors — especially if said engineering majors have access to their engineering lab. Surgical tubing and some Gore-tex pouches will launch a slushball nearly 100 yards with enough energy to take a guy completely off a bicycle. The funniest part of that particular day, however, was the two foreign students from South Africa. They’d NEVER seen snow and were convinced the sky was falling and the world was coming to an end. After we bopped them with a few good snowballs and served both of them some homemade snow ice cream, they started to come around.

It was the ice storm of 2002 that caused the most damage of any winter weather I remember. We got three or four inches of ICE. This stuff had just enough snow mixed in for color. Ice isn’t like snow in any way shape or form other than being cold. Four inches of ice is HEAVY; heavy enough to bring down main power lines — the big boys on the steel towers, not just the smaller residential stuff. It decimated trees — especially pines and other evergreens that are soft woods and woefully unsuited for weight bearing. By the time the storm lifted, most of Upstate SC was out of power. Our neighborhood went five days in the dark and some of the more remote places, like Glassy Mountain up in Pickens, went a full two weeks without power. I saw crews from as far away as Alabama working on the lines. It was a serious mess, but ever since then, we haven’t had a major outage, mainly because all the trees and limbs threatening power lines came down in that storm!

So I hope all my northern readers will forgive me my excitement over snow. I realize y’all get more snow in a day than I’ve seen in my lifetime, but we don’t laugh at you when you can’t move in our July humidity, so you could go easy on us and our poor winter driving skills!

Now go out and have some fun in what’s left of the white stuff and when you come in, get those feet dried off and warm. I don’t want anyone catching his or her death over this Christmas break!

Love y’all and y’all take care 🙂

Why I Wear Crocs and Shorts in Winter


I’ll be the first to admit that the inside of my head isn’t a place most people want to visit, much less live or even stay for a while. It gets weird in here at times, even for me and its MY head. I think strange things; not so much “bad thoughts” or “thoughts I shouldn’t think” as much as  “where the blazes do these thoughts come from?” I’m sensitive to odd things. Odd moments make me emotional. Strange things can make me cry.

I also do some strange things. They aren’t strange to me. In fact, they seem quite normal while they are in the planning stages inside my head, but when they break out into the open, they make people look at me oddly. I’ve rather gotten used to it.

I guess one of the strangest things I do — as far as others looking at me goes — is wearing my Crocs and shorts in the coldest weather, often with a short sleeve shirt and no jacket. Folks think this is strange behavior, and they are always asking me why I don’t wear a coat or why am I wearing shoes with holes in them and other, perfectly valid questions. Even though I wear Crocs all the time, they take on a special meaning in winter.

Yes, I do get cold. I am fat and so have a goodly amount of natural insulation and it helps more than you’d think, but my arms get cold and my legs get cold and sometimes, my feet are too cold to feel. Still, I’ve never told anyone before — not even Budge or Mama — why I intentionally let myself get very cold, to the point that sometimes it actually hurts.

Here’s why.

When I’m letting myself get cold, I’m reminding myself that, no matter HOW cold I get — how cold I LET myself get — I’m never going to suffer from the cold in any way as badly as others have. Enduring a tiny bit of frigid discomfort is my small, weird way of honoring those people whose memories lay like limestone blocks on my soul.

No matter how cold I get or how wet and frigid my feet get,  I’ll never be half as cold as the men — boys really — in the trenches of the First World War. My feet aren’t going to go numb and get frostbitten and develop trench foot. I’ll be going into a warm house or car shortly, not standing constantly in ankle-deep water that doesn’t freeze only because the constant movement of men keeps the ice broken up.

No matter how cold I get, I won’t be anywhere near as cold as the political prisoners of the Soviet Union’s GULAGS. I read A Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich my first year as a teacher. It was hard. These were men, and some women, enduring the Siberian winter with nowhere near enough cold weather gear, working with bricks that would freeze to their hands. Not enough to eat, never warm for months at a time. Ice and snow everywhere, and all the time knowing you’re here because of your beliefs and principles — not any “crime.”

I read Night as a senior in college and I’ve never looked at cold the same since because God knows I won’t be as cold as the poor souls of Auschwitz, Majdanek, Mauthausen or the other hundreds of concentration camps spread throughout the Nazi Reich.

Every time I feel the cold, and especially the biting winds,  slashing into me so I feel myself trying to “draw in” for some relief, I see rows and rows of wretched men, women, and children standing on the appelplatz with snow on their shoulders and no shelter from the Polish winter winds. Standing in the elements, freezing to death for the unspeakable act of being born Jewish, Gypsy, Polish, or Russian.

I think of them trying to sleep on a wooden plank with a “blanket” — more of a worn bed sheet — for warmth, knowing through the winter blackness that dawn would bring no hope, no reprieve only more cold.

PLEASE understand I in no way claim kinship with the Shoah victims. Nothing I could inflict upon myself would approach the deprivations they endured, and certainly a few shivers and goosebumps can scarcely bring their suffering to mind, but I do attempt  to remember. And so, to honor their memory.

When I get bitterly cold, I know a warm shower, hot meal, and invitingly comfortable bed with mounds of warm quilts or an electric blanket await me just inside my home.

So, I know I’ll never fully understand the plight of the homeless in America’s cities, huddled about burning trash barrels, sleeping atop steam grates, stuffing their rags with newspapers — all the time trying to raise their temperature just a degree or so.

All the while enduring not only the biting cold, but also the biting stares of those who’ll never have to worry about their next meal or where they will sleep or what will happen to them if the temperature drops again tonight. Knowing that there, but for the grace of God, do I lie huddled while my fellow-men walk quickly past.

I’m trying to honor and remember these brave, damned souls who fought against Old Man Winter. From Valley Forge with its bloody footprints in the snow, to the bitter winters around the Chosin Reservoir and Inchon during the forgotten Korean War, to the Arctic and Antarctic explorers and all the snowbound, ice rimed humanity in between, in war and in peace, but always in cold.

Men and women, some fighting for God and king, some just down on their luck, many freezing to death far from home, but all denied the most basic human right — the right to be warm.

So that is why I often wear Crocs and shorts without a jacket in winter. It’s not much, but it’s the least I can do.

To give honor; to remember.

Love y’all and don’t forget to keep your feet warm, dry, and clean.