polar vortex

Shivering Man Snow StormThe Hawk has come South and Hell has frozen over.

I can’t prove these two events scientifically but I am very sure both happened in the last few days. Suddenly, the area to the south of the Mason-Dixon line is the freeze-framed Land of Petrified Cold. Mother Nature has turned into a frigid, heartless, cold-blooded shrew.

weather-personIt hasn’t been this cold since… well… the Cold War. Even the woman on The Weather Channel says as much. “It hasn’t been this cold in thirty years,” she says. Of course, I ask myself, how the hell does she know since Weather Woman looks like she’s about twenty-four years old at most, is dressed like she’s at the beach on a hot summer day and is broadcasting from a warm television studio.

Thing is, real cold ain’t just digits posted on a wall-mounted, modern digital display. Real cold is having near frozen fingers and toes that, you swear, feel like icicles and sting every time you even think about moving one of them. Real cold is wearing two hats, three coats, two turtlenecks, four t-shirts, three pair of socks and a pair of long johns. (One of the hats is a ridiculous wool Yukon Territory affair with big floppy, fur ear flaps that no grown person – or anyone over eight for that matter – shouldn’t even be caught dead wearing.) Real cold is being dressed in so many layers it takes as many people to dress you as it does for a NASA astronaut putting on a spacesuit. When it’s real cold, it occurs to you that the FCC should allow TV weather people to cuss on the air “just this once”, for emphasis: “Viewers, it’s efing &^%$# cold out there. Keep yo ass inside!” Real cold is “…somebody, PUL-LEASE dial up that #$^&* thermostat before I come in there and $%#@&^% somebody! Real cold is hearing anyone, just come in from the frozen and windy outside say “Man oh man, I’m here to tell ya, that Hawk is say sumthin’ out there today!” Or it’s saying to someone, as you hurry them on their way out of the house: “Close that door quick Junior, you’re letting in the Hawk!”

If you’ve never heard of the Hawk – sometimes referred to as “” target=”_blank”>the Almighty Hawk” – you’ve felt him if you’ve lived long enough and survived even a few hard cold snaps. “The Hawk” is a euphemism, very likely originated by African-American members of the Silent Generation, who lived in the Upper Midwest, near the Windy City and Lake Michigan. The Hawk is the wind… but not just any wind. The Hawk is that cold, bitter, howling, Alberta Clipper, nuclear kind of wind – that capable-of-blowing-your-house-down kind of wind that cuts through to the bone no matter how many layers of clothes you might be wearing.

In research laboratories, scientists often use the Kelvin Scale to study the effects of cold. 0º Kelvin, the equivalent of -460º Fahrenheit is Absolute Zero, the temperature at which ALL motion stops. This includes even the motion of molecules – – or even the Green Bay Packers! In our recent real cold snap, perhaps a more useful tool than the Kelvin Scale would be the Melvin Scale. At Absolute Melvin all guys named ‘Melvin’ – and all of any of ther friends (which included all of us) – stop moving. At Absolute 0º Melvin, cars are near impossible to start, schools close, bazillions of airline flights are canceled and all bread and milk is stripped from the shelves at supermarkets, especially at Roger’s Fine Foods and Spirits at Little Five Points in Atlanta. At Absolute Melvin, even the Internet seems slower because ‘Baby its cold outside.’

In Southern climes, Absolute Melvin is also the temperature at which one of those folks not from around here, one of those occasional non-believers when it to the way we do things in the South during cold snaps, gives their patented ‘This Ain’t Cold Where I Come From Speech:

Man in the ice-holeYou call this cold!? You Southerners are such weenies. This ain’t nuttin! Where I come from we frolic around in our Fruit of the Looms in weather like this. We go to the beach—the nude beach– in weather like this. Hell, I walk to the mailbox in my Fruit of the Loom’s in this kind of weather. This ain’t nuttin, you little Southern weather wusses.

Of course, this is also the time when you want to give one of these know-it-all characters an earful, by giving them a left hook to the ear. You don’t do this of course, because after all, we Southerners generally have manners plus you have no attention of getting even colder by pulling your frozen hand out of your deep frozen pocket to make a fist. Instead, you just smile and do the only thing that a true Southerner, who happens to be sh-sh-sh-shivering cold can do: ignore the fool and mu-mu-mu-mutter to yourself that you “…hope this bastard will soon get his true comeuppance and get arrested for indecent exposure the very next time he’s walking his skinny, must-not-be-from-around-here-very-long’ ass to the mailbox in his Fruit of the Loom’s!”

I’m not really whining. I know the cold weather will eventually go away and things will get back to normal. I am old enough to recognize that you have to adapt to what life brings, cold weather and all. I also know things could a lot worse, especially if Weather Woman forecasts even a light dusting of snow up in the North Georgia mountains. There’s liable to be widespread panic on our big Southern city streets – and all of the bread and milk will disappear from the shelves at local supermarkets.

© The CocaCola Company

All in all we Southerners are generally lucky when it comes to cold weather. We don’t get THAT much of it and before you blink an eye and say “Jack Robinson” (or maybe “Peyton Manning”), it’ll be so hot and humid down in Dixie that you can hardly stand it. But even that brings opportunity. For example, in a few months, I can foresee me standing in line at Roger’s Fine Foods and Spirit up in Little Five Points with two ten pound bags of crushed ice in my hands on one of our notorious late Spring “it’s already 90º days” and the heat has begun to pound down like the fists of a relentless playground bully. Out of nowhere appears one of those insufferable not-from-around-here-very-long-know-it-all-complainers suffering through one of our late Spring already 90º days and whining about how hot it is and how things were much cooler this time of year where they came from. I swear, if there is a God in Heaven – or even a Nick Saban still at Alabama – I’m going to say to him:

You call this hot!? This ain’t hot! This is nuttin’. You just wait a month…’wait ’til the damn middle of June… when it’s 110º on Peachtree… at 9:00 in the morning, everything above ground is yellow from the pollen and even the freon in the air conditioner is boiling… and you’re sweatin’ like a bastard. Now that’s hot! And don’t you worry now that I’m just funnin’ you, or just goofin’, or just otherwise pullin’ your leg. I ain’t. That’s how it get’s around here. But don’t come complaining to us you little so and so. We don’t wanna hear it.

Heck, the so and so might even be a guy named Melvin.

But until a few days from now, when things get a little better as far as the ‘real cold’ is concerned, close the door quickly behind thee, you’re lettin’ in the Hawk… the Almighty Hawk.

Images: Shivering man in a snow storm - licensed by LikeTheDew.com at iStockPhoto.com © Pepgooner; Weather person - screen shot (fair use); Man in the ice-hole  - licensed by LikeTheDew.com at iStockPhoto.com © Olga Koronevska; Coke polar bears from screen shot of a television commercial (fair use) © The CocaCola Company.
Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell

Will Cantrell (a pseudonym) is a writer, storyteller, and explorer of the milieu of everyday life. An aging Baby Boomer, a Georgia Tech grad, and a retired banker, Cantrell regularly chronicles what he swears are 'mostly true'  'everyman' adventures. Of late, he's written about haircuts, computer viruses, Polar Vortexes, identity theft, ketchup, doppelgangers, bifocals, ‘Streetification’, cursive handwriting, planning his own funeral and other gnarly things that caused him to scratch his head in an increasingly more and more crazy-ass world.   As for Will himself, the legend is at an early age he wandered South, got lost, and like most other self-respecting males, was loathe to ask for directions. The best solution, young Will mused, “was just to stay put”. All these years later, he still hasn't found his way but remains  a son of the New South. He was recently sighted somewhere close to I-285, lost, bumfuzzled and mumbling something about “...writing' his way home.” Of course, there are a lot of folks who think that “Cantrell ain't wrapped too tight” but hope that he keeps writing about his adventures as he finds his way back to the main highway.