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Snow is for rich people
When my last newsletter went out two weeks ago, the Fall Festival of Shakespeare had just begun. While I’ve been aware of Fall Fest for a few years, this was my first time experiencing it, and it was incredible. All of the shows were enjoyable — the format of the festival is pure genius and makes it nearly impossible for any production to bomb — but a couple of them were truly transcendent. Not grading on a curve or being generous because they’re high school kids, a couple of the shows were among the best Shakespeare I’ve ever seen.
By the time my next newsletter goes out, the production of The Cherry Orchard that I’m in will be halfway through our run of shows. I currently have no information about ticket sales or a poster or anything, but if you want to see me perform in a Chekhov play the week of December 15th
When I told Stephen Welch that I was planning to re-edit and migrate some of my old blog entries to Substack, he suggested that rather than publish them with antedated timestamps which would quietly push them back into the archives, that I do a “Flashback” series to actually make use of the old content. So, until I run out of vintage posts, I’ll be doing semi-regular trips down memory lane where I re-edit and republish entries from my old blog.
Here is another “Flashback Friday” post originally written in December of 2009 about how much I hate snow. This might be my favorite blog entry of all time. I included it in my first self-published collection of short stories and essays. And yes, it is ironic that I hate snow and decided to move to Massachusetts.
As I write this entry I am surrounded by eighteen inches of snow and if you think that sounds awesome, fuck you. I hate snow. When I see snow I want to burn the world down, I want to spill oil into the ocean so I can light it on fire and grill baby seals. Every ounce of kindness or goodness in me disappears when the temperature drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. When I see snow I don't think of Christmas, I don't think of sledding or skiing or snowball fights. I think of frostbite, I think of hypothermia. I think of the horror of having to kill and eat your best friend when you're trapped on a freezing mountain top. Everything about the cold makes me feel depressed, trapped, but more importantly: it makes me feel desperate.
More important than the fact that cold weather is inconvenient, dangerous, or even deadly is the fact that snow is a powerful symbol of class struggle. So while I hate snow on a personal level because it makes me miserable, I also hate it because it represents capitalist culture in general.
Simply put: snow is for rich people.
My entire life the cold terrified me. Cold weather awakens some sort of primal self-preservation instinct in me, the kind of feeling you get when you look a lion in the eyes, when you come to grips with the fact that you are an animal, able to be killed by nature if nature chooses. We spend our lives hiding behind all the structures we've built to keep nature away from us. But sometimes nature comes roaring into our cities in the form of a snowstorm and we're reminded that our naive and bucolic ideas about nature and "the environment" are idiotic and nature is constantly trying to kill us.
I grew up in a house without insulation, without central heat, with a lot of exposed pipes that burst anytime the temperature went below freezing. My dad worked construction outdoors seven days a week to keep the lights on. We burned kerosene space heaters to keep from freezing so our house was always smokey and stuffy in the winter. My friends never wanted to sleep at my house in the winter because it would get so cold and the space heaters that provided warmth would give you nosebleeds. My dad hated winter and he hated snow because he worked outdoors and since I usually worked with him over Christmas break from school I grew to hate it too. Stepping into my childhood home in winter was not unlike stepping into the hovel of a character from a Charles Dickens novel. Bob Cratchit c'est moi.
When I got older, I realized that for the middle and upper classes, snow is beautiful and festive. For the wealthy in their warm houses, watching snow fall outside is serene and peaceful. The rich have all the North Face jackets and SUVs they need to enjoy cold weather recreation like skiing.
To the wealthy, snow is just another sporting thrill requiring thousands of dollars in equipment. The rich love to dabble in recreational discomfort. Things like safaris were once popular for the rich to see and hunt animals that poor indigenous people would either hunt for sustenance or flee for their lives from. Rich people starve themselves for aesthetic purposes in a painful irony as poor people die of starvation all around the world.
In much the same way, rich people love to experience cold in small doses from underneath protective equipment.
It wasn't until homo sapiens left our egalitarian hunter-gatherer roots on the African savannah that we developed sedentary civilization thanks to domesticated crops, and as a result created hierarchical social structures based on uneven distribution of material resources resulting from agriculture. The entirety of capitalist culture was created overnight by exposure to Europe and its miserable cold weather.
And in the end what does snow symbolize to most Westerners? Christmas!
Don't get me wrong, I love Christmas, but I can smell bullshit when I'm born into it, and Christmas is the yearly observation of a stolen festival celebrated by a imperial religion that encourages consumption under the guise of showing love and goodwill. What better way for the richest 1% of the world's inhabitants to show love and goodwill than to buy each other snowboards and new fleece pullovers?
So as the snow continues to pile up I am fearing for my life, wondering if I'm going to die of exposure on my walk to my shitty minimum wage job. I'm wondering if I’m still vegan if I have to cut open a tauntaun and crawl inside its belly to survive the Hoth-like weather in Richmond. Every snowflake that falls from the sky is another omen of my inevitable demise by mother nature. But it's nice to know that while I am fighting for survival on a basic primal level, some Ivy League brat is tearing down a double black diamond slope in Colorado and laughing about it later with his girlfriend as they sip cocoa in the clubhouse's VIP hot tub.