Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Our one snow-day a year

Well, yes.
I knew you all would be checking up on me today. Because all you Portlanders, plus you out-of-state weather zealots -- the ones who watch the weather channel for hours on end because it’s the only thing you can get on television where no one’s getting shot -- will have noticed that we woke up to a thick blanket of snow covering the city.

Wait. Blanket? Good God, did I say “blanket of snow”? If there’s one metaphor in the world that has been shamelessly overused, that would have to win the award. Isn't there a Dead Horse Award, or something?

But you know, I may be a writer and therefore expected to come up with original metaphors, but snow is not my subject area. Like most people who live here, I haven’t cultivated a sophisticated phraseology for snow. So sue me. I’m reserving my energy for developing language for subjects that I actually like. We in Portland only have a couple of metaphors that we use over and over again. One of them is blanket, the other one is winter wonderland.

If you had to wonder even for a minute if I resorted to driving my car today, you haven’t been reading my blog long enough. You must also not be a bike rider, because if you were, you would already know the thing that I discovered this morning, which is that in snow, a bike is a far superior mode of transportation than a car.

Yes, my friends, I passed everyone – except the other cyclists, whom, as I’ve told you before, I rarely pass. But even as the slowest cyclist, I passed ALL the cars – which were chugging along pathetically at 5 miles per hour, belching black fumes onto the formerly white snow and into the formerly crisp winter air, and doing so for a period multiple times longer than usual. They crept along, their wheels occasionally spinning uselessly or sliding sideways.

You could see their drivers huddled inside (one per car, as usual) thinking they were safe, thinking they were lucky to be in there. One car, with 2 nice women inside, stopped and offered me “a lift somewhere,” pointing out their rooftop bike rack, saying it would be no trouble. I said thanks, but I was having so much fun. They laughed good-naturedly (clearly a laugh of envy), waved, and drove on.

I had about five conversations on the way to my hideout, with other bike riders and pedestrians. That’s what snow does to people here. All life as they know it comes to a screeching halt. The entire city plays hooky from everything, and the usual West Coast friendliness, already borderline disconcerting, gets ramped up to yet another level. People talk to you in a way that makes you wonder if they’re some intimate friend whose name you’re not remembering because either they’ve had a major cosmetic reconstruction or you’re entering into the first stages of senility.

Here are a few photos from my ride in this morning. Now I will head back across town the other way, since it’s getting dark – but of course, it won’t be dark at all with all this whiteness to illuminate the way.

Never mind. Blogger is being an idiot again. I'll give this another try when I get home this evening. Do come back, you'll like them.

OK, I have returned and inserted pictures, all but one, of snow on the ironwork patterns of the Broadway Bridge. I will try again to stick in later on. This last picture is riding north on NW Thurman Street at about ten in the morning. At the top is the way to our garage before I walked on the snow to get my bike out of the garage.


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