Louisville in Winter

I dreamt about snow.

A dense, wind-blown drift, pushing in through two doors on opposite walls of my garage home. A father and son in snow gear staggered through one of the doors to help me move the snow. I was shocked – turned my back for one second and all frozen hell broke loose. All of my garage crap, ruined in the cold, white mess.

I woke with acid in my gut. The clock read 2:22 AM. The last time I woke up, it had read 12:52 PM. Some sleep, at least.

I was in Louisville, Kentucky, in a big, uncomfortable king-size bed, my limbs sprawled between awkwardly-shaped blankets, my head stuck between awkwardly-shaped pillows. I was hot and I was exhausted and I was anxious. More than anything, I was anxious as all goddamn, motherfucking get-out.

It was hardly my fault, though. The weather forecasters had been calling for the storm of the century to roll through Louisville while I was in town. Most forecasts called for a heavy band of snow to begin murdering every living thing at 8 AM. From my vantage point in the bleak darkness of night, 8 AM was a mere six hours away. Less than six hours! Barely a quarter of a day until I would be dead, a stiff, ice-encrusted corpse heaped with snow, abandoned automobiles, and other bodies in the wintry tomb that was Louisville’s fate.

Perhaps I would be frozen in a handsome pose at least. Smiling, looking like I was enjoying myself as Snowzilla 2016 sapped my lifeforce. Maybe I’d manage to strike a pose that says, “Oh, hello, I didn’t see you there, I was just freezing to death after my car spun off the road into a ditch.”

I grew up in Michigan, mind you, and not the part of Michigan that gets whatever snow, little storms here and there. I mean the part of Michigan where lake effect snowbands bring heavy white stuff every day from November to April. I am quite accustomed to snow. I have lived in it, driven in it, worked in it, made love in it, made love to it, done everything with it. Everything. So even a blizzard-of-the-century-type occurrence wouldn’t normally set me into an anxious, sleepless fit.

But I wasn’t in Michigan. Or Wisconsin. Or anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line. I was in Kentucky. Home to bourbon and some of the Appalachians and like, coal or something, maybe horses, but most importantly, home to very, very bad snow drivers.

I watched at least a dozen hours of the Weather Channel every week for the majority of my upbringing. In the winter, pretty much every storyline revolved around southern drivers absolutely losing their shit when it snowed. “300 Dead in Virginia as Wintry Dusting Causes Mass Chaos – President Feared Dead in the Cataclysm.” Southern drivers must spin the steering wheel frantically any time they see snow, as if an elephant suddenly materialized in the middle of the road. I can picture Colonel Sanders hollering at his wife while she white-knuckles the wheel, her eyes dead-focused on nothing at all: “MARJORIE, YOU’VE GOT TO TURN HARDER. AND ACCELERATE. GET AROUND THIS DAMN SNOW.”

Meanwhile, I’ll be sensibly braking and giving myself plenty of room and using my headlights and, you know, practicing good snow-driving habits. I’ll also be simultaneously rear-ended and T-boned while a front-end loader unexpectedly shovels my car into a fiery pit of other obliterated vehicles. In other words, I fully expect to be the first casualty of the impending snowpocalypse.

All this running through my mind at 2:22 AM. And 12:52 PM, for that matter. And while I was going to bed, and for most of the previous day. I had been working in a clinic where the front desk ladies asked every person checking in: “So, you ready for the snow?” Every few minutes, a fresh reminder for me that no, no one in Kentucky is ready for the snow, not even a little bit. I mean, no one explicitly said, “I’m planning to veer unexpectedly into a white rental car, pushing it straight into the Ohio River where the occupant will simultaneously freeze and drown.”

But I could tell that’s what they were thinking.

It’s safe to say I wasn’t specifically anxious about the snow, or even a blizzard-level amount of snow. I was anxious about having to drive 15 miles to my hotel room during the storm. And subsequently anxious about having to drive 15 miles to the airport the next day, where my flight would almost certainly be delayed, if not canceled. I was anxious, at the most basic level, because I was absolutely at the mercy of the weather. My destiny was no longer in my control.

I knew what I had to do the next day and the day after that. And I knew that I, personally, could do it. I simply didn’t trust that the rest of the state would allow me to do it without first killing me in a head-on collision. It’s like I could see the finish line of the race ten feet away, but those ten feet were an absolute mystery. Could be a stable path, could be soaked in tar, could be a slurry of blood, flames, and rusty nails! Who knows! Just gotta run through it on faith. And, if anything, I am lacking in faith.

A few hours later, 5:56 AM rolled around. I tossed and turned during the intervening hours, sleeping little. As the darkness outside beckoned the dawn, I lay there on my strange, fat pillow, watching the red numbers on the alarm clock glow towards 6:00 AM. My mind churned. What to do? Brave the elements? Trust that other humans won’t kill me? Suffer the vicissitudes of winter travel?

Or, perhaps, take matters into my own hands. To grapple my fate away from the icy grip of unreason and squire myself home of my own volition. In other words, to yell “FUCK IT” and just, figure it out.

I chose the latter. In my bed, sun now peeking above the horizon, I pressed my face into the stupid, weird pillow and gripped its pallid edges. “FUCK IT,” I yelled into the foam. “FUCK IT FUCK IT FUCK IT.”

And then I made plans. Or rather, I changed my current plans. I canceled my flight. I extended my rental car reservation. I changed the drop-off location to Madison. I walked outside, I got in my white Toyota Tacoma, and I drove home.

Well, I stopped briefly in Indianapolis. I mean, when else am I gonna be there? Might as well play tourist a little bit if I’m going to be spending seven hours in a truck.

But I took goddamn control of my destiny. There is no better curative to anxiety than to simply throttle whatever it is that is making you anxious. Winter storm got ya in a funk? Get the hell outta there! Problem solved. The good vibes flowing off me in the cab of my little truck could have struck dumb even the most dedicated stoner. I was absolutely riding high.

Meanwhile, I hear Louisville was completely wiped off the face of the earth. Where once was the state of Kentucky, there is now a vast, white gash in the earth, a landscape completely and utterly scoured clean of humanity by Winter Storm Jonas. I’m sure the Weather Channel has a story about it: “Kentucky Once Again As God Made It, Devoid of Anything – One Man Escapes, Feels Super Great About It.”

They’re welcome to interview me.

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