Wintertime Blahs - This River City Town Gone Brown
Thursday, February 14, 2002
A Submission By Tom Edwards
Perhaps one word best describes the winter months of Southeast Missouri: brown. That's not to insinuate a relation to an obvious mental image that comes to mind or a popular slang utterance that comes out of people's mouths when they step outside in the morning and it's 38 degrees, damp, foggy, drizzly, and their appears to be an unforeseen solar eclipse-every single day. Expect confederate gray skies in the afternoon, raw air conditions, breezy enough that it hurts, and foggy in the evening-oddly enough with the same fog that was here in the morning-it'll just float a little higher for a couple of hours, hang out picking up a little pollution, and drift back down for the 5 o'clock work whistle.
A picture from the space shuttle of the lower Ohio Valley really says it all-it's as dingy looking as a pair of hand me down underwear fresh off of your brother's rusty-dusty-that used to belong to dad.
It's hard not to get the blues when you're living in "the browns"-and when it isn't brown-it's blackish brown-- at night. It's slightly better, but in a sense, more akin to periodic blindness. The whole experience is spiritually draining, and those who are connected and condemned by its pathology look for salvation anywhere they can-- even up to the heavens that are shrouded in sludgy clouds that hang heavy, nary move a solitary inch, and muffle the cries of the afflicted.
They say that light therapy can help-unfortunately sitting in front of a vanity mirror for 5 hours a day is about as appealing as eating a pile of imitation crab meat with a side of "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter!" and a pint of "O'Doul's". There is no substitute for the real deal-and how many people who work in fluorescent-lit offices have nice tans in February? You'll roll snake eyes on that one for an eternity.
I've heard that really hard drinking can help-and it does-until you realize you're not employed anymore come spring, you're giving congressmen tours of your cardboard box, and you've become emotionally invested in a stray dog that, unbeknownst to you, happens to be a giant wharf rat. Spending the winter doldrums awash in an endless stream of scotch, vodka, mai-tai, Kahlua and cream, isopropyl alcohol, and gutters can make the journey much more palatable nonetheless. You'll meet plenty of like-minded individuals who share your disdain for the winter-and the spring, summer, and fall-and lotto, their ex-bosses, their spouses, cigarette companies, Medicare, city hall, cops, what's their face, those sons o' bitches, UFO's, the little man poking his head out of the bottle of Wild Turkey, and finally pink dancing elephants that love to do the lambada on broken shards of glass in a puddle of Old Crow.
Self-help tapes claim to help you visualize a brighter day when mud gives way to grass, the sun rises above the rooftops, and everything doesn't smell vaguely like a damp woodchuck. Hypnosis may work but you might in turn take up smoking because for every person they treat, I believe they imbed another nasty habit into the subconscious so they can keep business up-every product has to have a subtle pattern against user. For a case in point, it's nearly 3 times as easy to break something when you misuse it now than in yesteryear. If you go to a hypnotist to kick your 43 cigarette a day habit, you may find yourself cured after a few sessions, breathing well, and feeling fit as a 295-pound fiddle. Just don't blame this messenger when you oddly find yourself attracted to and aroused by border collies-you'll then know exactly what I'm talking about.
I'm sure there are some group therapy sessions with somewhat sober members of the community who share their "winter brown" afflictions. Locking down and talking it through with flakes who come together with other flakes to cry about the lack of snowflakes might do some good. Their stories must drone on and on in a seemingly endless deluge of self-absorption, pity, and loathing. That could last until September when they all walk outside and discover that their bummer bunker convalescence overshot its mark. At least there'd be time enough to participate in the last games of the group therapy co-ed summer softball playoffs. I'd like to see the "PornBots" take on the "Coke Monkeys", and the "Obssessors" butt heads with the "Yankees" in the consolation games, and the "Sexaholics" square off with the "She-Dudes" in the finals.
There's always the seemingly tried and true method of leaving town on a plane for a few days. Clammy afternoons with the subtle stench of competing wafts of sulfur from factories on the outskirts of town can be only as close as your memories when you're in the friendly skies. (Where are all of the factories that make breath mints and how can we attract one?)
Lifting out of the blanket of cold, icy smog over Lambert Field and touching down in Palm Desert, California where everything is a hue of pink and everyone's skin tone is firmly in the earth tones -- feels really good-much like being Brad Pitt's thong. His wife's-not actually Brad Pitt's.
It's a sobering reality check lifting from the luminance of Palm Desert and sinking back through the layers of air detritus and yellow stratus 4 hours later to see the monolithic, sterile St.Louis Arch and the mocha bricked stoops and factories underneath the plane while the captain tells the cabin that it's 36 degrees, overcast, with splotches of muddy slush on the runway. Translation: "Southern Californians, welcome to Swampeast Missouri-the Armpit of the Show-Me State. Swampeast Missourians, welcome home. You are the hairs beneath our wings." It's the stuff of Dante's Inferno-like leaving a warm softcore porno and entering a huge open-air set of Hee-Haw. It's a short-term fix that reaffirms that fact that you live in the absolute buttliest region in the United States during the nether worldly time period between the two equinoxes.
To anyone stuck in "the browns", it's time to catch up on shut eye, hibernate, and keep the faith that beneath our fudgy earth there is a crocus waiting to pop up and maybe a blade of grass or two-I'd take a few weeds-or even moss-I'd even spray paint it-- but whatever happens-we must all keep our heads up and pretend that we will once again see a day when the sun shines on our Achilles tendon above the smelly foot that's lodged directly into the best Bootheel in the United States.