Having a sense of humor while living in Minnesota is not mandated by law, but it sure helps out. The most overused cliché here is: Minnesota has two seasons, winter and road repair. On a beautiful day like today, there are actually people, right now, praying for winter so they can go ice fishing or snowmobiling. If it wasn’t for all the ice arenas and summer hockey leagues, there would be hockey aficionados joining in the prayers.
I remember a ‘blizzard’ in Fort Bragg, NC. There was 4″ of snow over an 8 hour period. It shut the area down. In Minnesota it would have been called an early morning dew. The only vehicles moving had MN or WI plates. I had a dentist appointment that day. I jumped on my motorcycle and went to the clinic. The dentist, who was from Wisconsin, and myself were the only two in the place.
The governor can declare a snow emergency here in MN, but not all the people heed it. The kids love it though. They don’t have school and can go out and play in the snow drifts. There is no snow emergency in show business though, not even in the Great Halloween Blizzard of 1991.
It came out of nowhere. We had no warning and this was several weeks before we could expect snow. It started out as rain, changed to sleet, and then poured down snow for 4 days, 28 1/2″ in the Twin Cities, accompanied with strong winds. Both cities were closed down, except the State Theater. We were in production for the Minnesota Opera’s new production of CAROUSEL, which was slated to open in a week or so, and also the official opening of the renovated State Theater. Now I am not saying all the hands made it every day during that blizzard, especially those who had to rely on public transportation, and a lot of us were late several mornings; but we managed to get the production up and rehearsals in, and open the show and the theater on time.
Since it was still too early for winter, in two weeks or so, the snow had melted and the grass was still lush and green. And then came the Thanksgiving Blizzard. Not as heavy, not as long, but another holiday blizzard; and winter still had several weeks before it started officially.
Several years before when I was still at the Guthrie, we had the governor issue a snow emergency. It was a Saturday, which meant a matinee and an evening performance. After verifying that the shows were slated to go on, I, with the help of my sons, managed to get the truck to the highway and then I fought the white-out the twenty some miles to the theater.
Don Schoenbaum, the managing director explained to me and the other two members of the running crew, why he didn’t call off the shows. ‘I figure there might be some poor salesman sitting in a hotel room downtown, with tickets for the matinee. Nothing else to do. Won’t be able to come back in town for the raincheck show. Besides,’ he added with a smile, ‘I figure if I can get to the theater in this kind of weather, anybody can.’ He laughed. Wise guy. He lived less than a block away. Then I laughed. Like I said, to live in Minnesota, it is good to have a sense of humor.
There were maybe twenty people in the house for the matinee. And even though it was still blowing snow outside, there was almost a full house for the Saturday evening show. Needless to say, there were no walk-ups for either performance.
The Old Hand:
On days when it is so hot there are warning to stay inside, it helps to remember, not too many months ago, when there were winter warnings to stay inside. This story, that our friend Paula told us, happened on one of those days several years ago.
Paula had to drive her elderly mother to the doctor. The snow was almost causing whiteout, and sane drivers were taking it slow and careful. But there’s always some!!!
First, the black SUV came up fast, and just a few yards before it would ram her car, it pulled out opposite lane. And naturally, pulled back right, cutting her off. She braked and her car turned into a toboggan, sliding and refusing to respond to her steering. Luckily, as it began to spin, the front wheels hit the curb, and the car stopped.
She said she gripped the steering wheel and tried not to cry, and tried harder not to say anything. She knew any words that came from her mouth would be words that a person should not utter in front of one’s mother.
‘Paula, honey,’ her mother said and placed her hand on Paula’s, ‘Don’t let them bother you like that. Now I don’t know how it helps but try this.’ She held her fist up and then extended her middle finger in the direction the SUV took. ‘This is what they use to do to me when I was driving.’
So enjoy the summer even with the heat and mosquitoes. State Fair and going back to school is here. Next will come raking leaves and prepping the snow-blower.
Published SPPP Bulletin Board, 9/2/13
Now I am not one of those who pray for the winter to come. And when it’s snowing out, I especially love being retired and staying home. Even though for many, many years, our son, Danny, always has our driveway snowblown by 7 AM, whether I need to go out or not, I still don’t like the thought of fighting the snow and the cold. Unlike the Minnesota snowbirds who drive to Florida or Arizona at the first sign of frost, I have no desire to go to either location. But believe me, if it wasn’t for the fact we can’t be far from our family, my wife and I would be wintering in one of the Colonial cities in Mexico. We could still keep our winter sense of humor, but we’d be laughing in Spanish.