Saturday, January 1, 2011

Why I love Mexico and hate Minneapolis

It is two days before New Year's and I am outside in a short sleeved shirt pulling weeds in my garden in Banámichi. The sun is shining and the sky is a brilliant blue.The temperature feels like about 72 F. The day is as perfect as they get. I love the winter in Banámichi.

Early in December I had to make a quick trip to Minneapolis. I flew out of Tucson on a warm Thursday and had a reservation to return the next day. All I had to do was lead a quick meeting for the Siddha Yoga Meditation Center there and I could go back to the sunny southwest. But this was not to be. The universe had other plans for me.

As the plane came in for a landing I could see that the farms and fields were covered with snow. The sky was leaden and outside the cold damp air smelled like it would start to snow again any second. I was thankful that I would not have to be out too much.

I dragged myself out of sleep on Friday morning with a rising feeling of nausea. I'll spare you the gruesome details - suffice it to say that I was too ill to fly that day, so my reservation was changed to the next day, Saturday. BAD choice!

By Friday evening I was feeling much better, however it started to snow during the night. By morning there was a good two foot accumulation in my host's yard. She called the airport and was assured that the flight would go. She said; "I can't take you to the airport - the driveway isn't shoveled and the alley isn't plowed. We'll have to call a cab." I had a feeling this was not going to end well.

The cab arrived and I waded through the snow banks to get to it. It was bitterly cold - an alleged wind chill of -18F. The cold went right through all the layers I was wearing. The cab driver was a courageous man - in places it was hard to tell where the road was - nothing was plowed yet. He kept telling me how beautiful it was and how after he left me at the airport he was going to quit for the day and go out to take some pictures. On the way I was astounded to see groups of people jogging and others walking their dogs as if this snow was the most ordinary thing in the world. Those Minnesotans are a hardy breed!

I was so thankful to arrive at the airport that I gave him a large tip and headed right for my flight gate. As I got there, I heard the announcement: the flight had been canceled because all the runways were closed. There was no way I was going home that day.

I re-booked the flight for the next day on a different airline and made a hotel reservation with the voucher I had been given. They assured me they had a shuttle. Two hours later when the shuttle still had not come I called again and was told the shuttle was not running because they could not get it out of the parking lot!

By now a sweet young Chinese girl who was going to the same hotel - the Ramada West - had latched on to me. Perhaps she thought I was a native and knew what I was doing. HAH!

Eventually she and I piled into a taxi van with a Canadian guy, a middle-Eastern family and a Somalian driver who hardly spoke English. He had an English study guide open on the seat next to him. Again I had this nagging feeling....I never had heard of any significant snowfall in Somalia.

We headed out on the freeway towards the Ramada West. The only way to tell it was the freeway was the tire tracks through the two feet of snow. The wind howled and blew snow upside down and sideways. It was almost a total white-out. The driver had to stop several times because the windshield wipers kept freezing to the windshield. In the cab the tension was palpable and no one said a word as the car slithered along the tire tracks. Finally we approached the Ramada and the driver slowed to look for the entrance. He thought he spotted the correct tire tracks in the wind whipped snow and turned right - directly into a snow bank. Now we were stuck!

We all got out to help push. I looked up and noticed that the hotel in the distance said "Ramada Inn Mall of America." I pointed this out to the Chinese girl and she started shouting at the driver who was now ineffectually poking the snow behind the wheels with an ice scraper. "You brought us to the wrong Ramada.!!" The driver shouted back in a high screechy voice that sounded on the edge of tears: "This only Ramada inn. No other one! You go!" The poor man was clearly out of his element. He was wrong - there WERE two Ramada Inns - I saw them on the board at the airport, and indeedy we were at the wrong one.

There was no point in arguing with him and he wasn't going anywhere in the near future - especially if he kept poking at the snow with that scraper. I decided that the only thing to do was to walk to this other Ramada Inn and hope there was room. I paid him, grabbed my bags and headed out across the snow-drifted field toward the building - probably 1/4 mile away. The Chinese girl decided to follow me. The tiny pellets of snow the wind blew  into my face felt like needles. The wind blew right through all my clothes and I could feel the chill on the skin of my back. Behind me the Chinese girl whimpered. Poor thing didn't have boots, hat or gloves.

We blew into the warm lobby on an icy gust and went to the check in counter. Not only did they have room, they even honored our vouchers! The Chinese girl vanished down a hallway and I never did see theragain. The snow had drifted against one of the glass doors of the hotel. I stood next to it to measure it - nearly 5' high!

The hotel restaurant was packed at dinner. No one could go anywhere - it was the only game in town. I ordered chili, thinking of warm spicy, sunny flavors - the taste of home. Meanwhile, two women came and sat at the table with me.. Edith and Gladdie. (In extreme circumstances Americans will act European and share a table.) They were on a church outing to see the Christmas sights and now they were snowed in as well.They still had their name badges on.

They asked me where I was from and I told them Arizona. "Oh, you're the ones with the screwy governor!" Edith said. I almost dropped my teeth. They were Middle Americans - I was sure they were Republicans - and THEY thought our governor was nuts! They also thought the chili sounded like a good idea on this freezing night.  When it came Gladdie took a taste and commented: "Oh, it's very well seasoned!" Personally I thought it tasted like ground beef floating in canned tomatoes, and I may have mentioned that I thought it a bit bland. Edith said: "Oh, you Arizonans like your food to bite you back!" Frankly, those two and their brand of humor were a bright light in a very dark night.

By the next morning it had finally stopped snowing. All the papers said that this was the biggest storm on record in the Minneapolis area. The roof of their stadium collapsed from the weight of it. At the airport, I could see the snow blowers on the runway blasting plumes of snow about 200 feet in the air. When my flight finally took off after about  4 hour delay (frozen brakes and a broken de-icer), I nearly cheered. Even if it was beautiful, I had had enough winter to last me the rest of my life.

I was so thankful to land in the 75 F sunny warmth of Tucson, and to head down to Banamichi, where a cold day might go as low at 50 F. It's been 45 years now since I moved to the Southwest. I truly have become a desert rat. I love hiking up some canyon and lying on a warm sunny rock by an icy stream fed by the snow melt in the mountains. I love gazing up at the bright blue sky and not giving a thought to the people in Minneapolis shoveling their driveways and jogging in a wind chill of -18F. Sunshine, warmth and the bright sunny flavors of chili and salsa suit me just fine now.


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  2. I guess your reasons are sound. Never really liked too cold much. meet & greet gatwick