Thursday, December 27, 2007

White Fades to Grey

A big weekend storm was predicted. Saturday, two inches of slop fell early which later froze overnight leaving an uneven icy mess on the sidewalks. Sunday when I woke I looked outside at the trees rattling wildly in the wind and decided I didn’t really need to go out for the newspaper. The wind kept up all day with a fine powdery snow spinning madly but there was no accumulation in sight. My windows all look out on an alleyway with a small wild area across the way where I toss bread and nuts for squirrel and bird entertainment for me and the cat. Usually this area of the alley is where the drifts occur during snowstorms, giving wonderful illusions that the storms are much better than they actually are, but nothing that day despite reports of a foot or so of new snow expected.

The next morning, I headed to the side door of the building and found a three-foot drift right outside. A set of footprints wandered off to the side avoiding the highest points. Thanks to the drifts and plows, some sidewalks that have been cleared only show the top foot or two of most people walking along the white corridor. Around town, especially near big parking lots, there are mountains of the stuff big enough to hide a bus behind.

Back in one version of the good old days, I used to take a bus route which no longer exists across the Lake Superior snow belt of northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to visit a friend who’s no longer there. This bus traveled through the smallest hours of the night so this sparsely populated area seemed even more deserted than usual. Moonlight illuminated wild land home to glamorous species such as wolves and bears and eagles. In the small towns, the sidewalks were like tunnels through the snow; paths cut to the street seemed like they must surely lead to igloos. Or at another time of year, misty fogs swirled around the ghostly apparitions of deer along the narrow highways where the bus was the only sign of conscious human life. Eyes of various colors shone in the headlights. I would even choose this route when I rode the Hound (a dog of a way to get around, as Harry Chapin sang) to Boston, just for the opportunity of passing through this land.

Yesterday, I watched two documentaries, Grey Gardens (1975) and The Beales of Grey Gardens (2006). Two women named Edith Beales, mother in her late 70s and daughter in mid 50s at the time of filming in 1973 and 1974, former aristocrats, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis, lived with many cats and wild raccoons (who were fed white bread) in a decaying East Hampton mansion. At one point, they faced eviction until Jackie had the place fixed up a bit. They spent a lot of their time singing. Perhaps a little nuts, but oddly attractive and attractively odd, they were very lively eccentrics in a world with no room for eccentrics.

They’ve recently been the subject of a Broadway play starring Tony-winner Christine Ebersole, who attended my alma mater a couple years before I got there. There’s also a movie being filmed with Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore as mother and daughter, but at one point in the second documentary Little Edie says she wouldn’t want anyone playing her and I think I’ll honor her wishes and not see the Hollywood version of her life.

The mother died a couple years after filming. Somewhere among the DVD extras of the 1975 film, I heard that the daughter was living in Florida. This morning I learned that the daughter had died of a heart attack in her Florida apartment back in 2002. It was five days before she was found. I felt quite sad.

1 comment:

Lisa J. said...


I have fond "snowy" memories of my childhood... trekking through waist high snow in the back yard used to feel like an Alaskan expedition! Out here, we obviously don't get any snow. I miss looking at it, but mostly I miss the blizzards. I'm sure that doesn't make sense, but there was nothing more cozy than sitting inside, watching the snow come down. I don't miss it enough to move back, though. :p