GK: January in Minnesota, fifteen below zero, windy, snowy, wind chill temperatures so dramatic even people in Florida get scared when they hear them - and yet for us Minnesotans, the cold makes us cheerful. Early in the morning, frost on the window, snow on our pillow, we wake up
Singing in the snow. Just singing in the snow.
What a wonderful feeling, it's twenty below.
Cold weather comes at just the right time, after all the gloom and foreboding of New Year's - the feeling that another year has been frittered away, and what have we accomplished really, nothing, where is it now the vision and the dream, alas poor Yorick, and so forth. Cold weather cheers you up - (DOOR OPEN. BLIZZARD. WOLF HOWL. DOOR CLOSE.) Cold weater happens to everybody. It's not just you. We're all in this together. That makes a person happy.
WHERE THE WIND COMES WHISTLING DOWN THE PLAINS
AND THE SNOW AND SLEET WILL FILL YOUR STREET
AND YO UWILL WISH THAT YOU HAD CHAINS.........
Cold weather cheers us up because it strips away some of our illusions that, because we thik we ought to bd something other than what we are, we feel blue because we aren't that, but cold weather shows us that we couldn't have been anyway so dno't worry about it. Cold weather is like a phone call from reality. (LOUD PHONE RING. PICKUP.)
SS (ON PHONE): Hello, this is your wake-up call. You are a mortal being. Your time here is brief. Your untapped creative potential is really rather limited - actually, right now you're operating at about the peak of your ability, believe it or not. Your personal charm is never going to take you far so don't count on it. And don't spend too much time worrying about your wardrobe or redoing yor hair. It isn't going to make much difference. Have a nice life. (CLICK)
GK: Winter is what makes you feel good to be not that bad and not feel bad because you're not fantastic. I had illusions of fantasticness for years, imagined myself as hip and young and surrounded by fans (SS: O wow. O cool. Like, wow.) there in my dressing room in Yankee Stadium (SS: O wow, like this is awesome, just to like meet you) after I had stood up in front of 60,000 teenagers and sung songs in a decibel rangethta set off garage door openers as far away as Conecticut (SS: O wow, it was so cool, I am like dear, I mean I cannot like hear anything) and then one day reality dawns on you in the form of winter. Or in the form of your children.
TR: Dad -
TR: Dad, you said you weren't going to be home tonight -
TR: I've got friends coming over. They'll be here in fifteen minutes.
TR: Don't call me Ricky. I changed my name to Derek. I told you a hundred times.
GK: Derek, I don't know why you're so unhappy -
TR: Because - you said you were going to go and you're still here.
GK: Honey - I live here. I'm your father. There's no way around that.
TR: Don't call me honey.
GK: I know it's a shock and embarassment to you but you're descended from me.
TR: You said you weren't going to be home tonight.
GK: I'm going. Okay? I'm leaving.
TR: Would you mind hurrying? They're gonna be here.
GK: I'm going to be home in two hours.
GK: I'll come in the back door. Quietly.
GK: I'll tiptoe upstairs. You won't hear a thing.
TR: I better not.
GK: Have a nice evening.
TR: What??? (AGONIZED GROAN) (DOOR SLAM. MUSIC)
GK: It's rough. One day you're the beloved dad, the giver of good things, the horsie, the old storyteller, the everlasting pitcher and outfielder, and the next day you're the family idiot, locked in the attic, drooling and jabbering. It wasn't like that when I was young. I venerated my parents.
TR (OLD FATHER): Come, my son - warm yourself here at the peat fire and I will tell you a traditional story.
GK: Thank you, my father.
SS: (OLD WOMAN): If we had more coals for the fire, I could prepare one of our beloved ethnic dishes such as macaroni and lutefisk.
GK: Here. (HE SETS DOWN HEAVY BAG OF COALS) I collected this coal along the railroad track, Mother ---
SS (OLD): God bless you, my boy.
TR (OLD FATHER): To fetch coal after walking your fifteen miles paper route - that's wonderful - Fifteen miles through that blizzard, and pulling over half a ton of advertising supplements on your little sled.
GK: Yes. But I was glad to do it - to earn a few coins for my family. (FEW COINS GENTLY DROPPED ON TABLE). Here. For you.
TR (OLD FATHER): Wonderful...wonderful...now we can pay for the operation for Miss Julie...
GK: Winter was our favorite time of year, when we'd sit around the coal fire and eat our macaroni and lutefisk and Daddy would do some traditional Scandinavian humming songs (TR AIMLESS HUMMING) and we felt close to each other.
SS (OLD WOMAN): We're just simple peasant people but we have a wonderful sense of interconnectedness, don't you think.
TR (OLD MAN): Yes. And we've kept alive a respect for old people that's been lost in urban culture. (MUSIC)
GK: Good manners, cheerfulness, industriousness, a sense of responsibility - these are qualities of northern people. Tennessee Williams was not from here.
(TR (SOUTHERN): You bring me nother one o them rum 'n Cocolas, Ginny Mae, 'r I'll blow you 'way with m'shotgun. (PIGS)
SS: (SOUTHERN): You ain't mah Daddy, Big Daddy. Mama tole me. Bout her and grampa.
GK: These people are not from this zip code. These people have not been through a real winter, otherwise they wouldn't be like that. Minnesotans don't hole up in compounds with automatic weapons and wait for the Second Coming - it's not in our nature. We don't handle snakes in church here.
TR (SOUTHERN): I have faith! (SNAKE RATTLE) The Spirit's with me tonight! It's in me! I can feel it! (SNAKE RATTLE)
GK: We sit quietly in church and afterward go downstairs for coffee and bars. Winter makes us behave right. Winter makes us realists. We know there is no free lunch, thanks to winter.
I'm -- puttin' on my parka,
Reachin for the shovel,
Gonna make the trail.
I - gotta feed the Holsteins,
Shovel down the silage,
Toss a couple bales.
(GK HUMS A LITTLE)
SS: Honey, are you going to the store?
GK: I could, if you need something.
SS: Well, I thought if you were going anyway -
GK: What would you like? I'll get it.
SS: Oh, I can get it tomorrow. You don't need to make a special trip. It's cold out.
GK: I'd be happy to. What is it?
SS: It's fifteen below zero out there. I was just thinking that if you were going out, then you could stop at the health food store.
GK: I can go to the health food store.
SS: No. That's all right.
GK: What would you like? Tell me.
SS: Well - I was reading this article. In Baby Boom Geriatric Magazine?
SS: And you know that part of Armenia where those people lived in that isolated rural area where the average life expectancy was a hundred and ninety years and people were still sexually active into their hundred and eighties?
SS: You remember reading about that? The rural area where there was no heart disease or strokes and no tooth decay and people's hair retained its natural luster and springness well into their hundred and fifties?
GK: I think I read about that, yes.
SS: Well, it said in this article that one thing those people had in common was that they ate a lot of beans.
GK: I see.
SS: Beans with the husks on. Natural beans. Raw. No additives.
GK: No, of course not.
SS: No sugar added. Just bean beans.
SS: Would you mind gettting me some beans?
GK: well, I'll tell you what. I bought a whole bunch of beans yesterday and put them down the basement.
SS: You did?
GK: I'm soaking them down there. I'll go down and see if they're ready yet. (FOOTSETPS) (SS OFF: Thanks honey.) (CLOSE DOOR) Man, I've got to put some lights down here... (STEPS ON STAIRS, CREAKING, THEN CONCRETE, SLOWLY. ECHO.) .... I can hardly see the steps. (CLICKS LIGHT SWITCH) darn...that bulb's burnt out too. (PAUSE) There's some kind of faint glow back there. In the corner. Where the beans are soaling. Is anyone there? Hello?
TK: Hi, it's me.
TK: I'm still here.
GK: What is that light you have on, Larry?
TK: You and I were best friends in high school.
GK: I know that, Larry.
TK: I was the popular one. You used to follow me around.
GK: Larry -
TK: And then you went away and I was all alone.
GK: Larry, what's the light?
TK: People say I'm weird. I'm not weird. - I like to be alone, that's all. - What's wrong with being alone?
GK: Nothing, Larry.
TK: People think I'm weird for wanting to be alone. They don't know. How can they know? They're not here when I'm alone.They don't know.
GK: Easy, Lar.
TK: It makes me so mad when people think that. What do they know?
GK: Larry, what's the light there, huh?
TK: I'm online.
GK: You're online.
TK: I like it online. I like it a lot.
GK: That's fine.
TK: There are groups on the Internet for people like me. Basement people. People who like to be alone.
GK: Larry, you just do whatever you need to do, fella.
TK: People in my newsgroup understand me very well. The know I'm not weird. I'm just socially challenged.
GK: that's good.
TK: I tell them everything.
GK: That's good.
TK: I tell them about the poems. I tell them about the kitty cats.
GK: Okay. Larry -- you take it easy, okay?
GK: You can stay down here as long as you don't come upstairs while we're sleeping, okay?
TK: Okay, I promise.
GK: Good. And remember, Larry -
We're singing in the snow, just singing in the snow,
What a glorious feeling, it's twenty below,
There's three feet of snow,
So lovely and white,
And the weatherman says,
We'll get more tonight.
Some folks may head south,
That's fine, let 'em go,
But I'm singin, still singin in the snow.
(DOOR OPEN. BLIZZARD. DOOR CLOSE. BAND CHORD BUTTON.)
© 1996 by Garrison Keillor