Monday, January 24, 2005

Blizzard at the Ritz

Here in New England there was a 24 hour-long blizzard yesterday. My girlfriend and I walked the few miles over the river to Boston, and stopped for tea at the Ritz. It was the only place we could find open. Sitting in front of the fire with hot chocolate and a plate of artisanal cheeses, I started ruminating on the sights we'd seen on our way there -- individuals, couples, and families digging out their cars; students attempting to make their way to the libraries at MIT; people like us having fun in the snow with skis or snowshoes; and just an all-around vibe of "we'll accept the hand we've been dealt by nature because there's no other choice (flights to Jamaica have been cancelled for the time being anyway) and nature itself is the most compelling DVD rental today."

On our way down Mass Ave., we noticed the only vehicles on the road besides the plows and police happened to be BMWs, Mercedes, Audis, high-end SUVs, and of course the Hummer, which if you're quibbling, is more low-end or prosumer assault vehicle than SUV. (It's a safe bet they carry just as much armor as 88% of the Humvees in Baghdad.) At first, I thought these fools might all be out there, flouting the state of emergency, just to prove their expensive vehicles were up to the task. But then there was the idiot in the orange Dodge Viper going nowhere, very fast, in the middle of Charles Street, blocking two emergency vehicles on their way to Mass General Hospital, and it became a little clearer that just maybe these people, the idling rich, were the ones with garages and hired snow removal service, and that they had no job to do digging out their cars and no worries about losing a precious parking space. This theory made much more sense. They just wanted to be out there enjoying nature's movie (or video game) with the rest of us, but for whatever reason needed to maintain their comfort levels adjusted to electronic whim. Just pull back into garage when game over, OK?

On our way back across the river, after the expensive vehicles had tired of their fun (and the Patriots game had begun), we noticed new legions of entrepreneurs out in force -- gangs of teenagers with shovels roaming the streets looking for a lucrative rumble with someone's driveway, and in many cases, succeeding. They continued making money today, when the lazier people, and the more infirm, decided it wasn't just the football game that had kept them from shoveling the night before.

The occasional blizzard says a lot about the state of the village. Through all the camaraderie on the streets, one can still see a little of the competition -- that small redistribution of wealth nature often brings -- that keeps us all going, essentially just trying to survive, as we call it family fun, or a way to earn a quick buck, while we forget for a moment the critical football game on in another city close by, where the sun just happens to be shining on fields of green (cleared of snow by some 700 people with shovels moments before game time).


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