Sure, you get inclement weather boosters like Garrison Keillor extolling the virtues of winter’s austerity, but that time “Prairie Home Companion” was booked into the Alabama Theatre during a freak snowfall, I didn’t see him clamber out of his comfortably heated tour bus to gambol in the drifts on Third Avenue.
If indeed there is some spiritual insight to be gleaned from prolonged exposure to subfreezing temperatures and incident precipitation, I must remain agnostic. In fact, descended from at least a century’s worth of Sun Belt dwellers (though my great-great-grandfather called it the Sun Galluses), I believe I may be genetically indisposed toward winter.
There’s a reason some of the highest per capita suicide rates in the world are in the Land of the Midnight Sun, so here in the Land of the Mid-Afternoon Gloom, let us banish despondency with one of our occasional collections of Reasons To Be Cheerful, a list of random things that give me hope to continue and may you as well:
---The taco truck on West Valley Avenue. Ever since Lane McGiboney brought this wonderful conveyance to our attention, our taste buds have been tingling and our salivary glands working overtime at the very hint of those fresh, tangy carne delicias.
---RefDesk. Surely we have mentioned this one-stop online amalgam of information before, but in case you haven’t found the one website that connects you with thesauruses, driving directions, 48 different news sources and Today in Jazz History, all on one fun page, you’d best seek out www.refdesk.com.
---Still one more weekend to catch the “Life Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” exhibition at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
---2010 means now’s the time to pull out the old VHS of the movie of the same name to see how close Peter Hyams and Arthur C. Clarke came to getting this year right. And did you even remember that Helen Mirren starred in this?
---The Nissan Leaf. Why wait until 2011 for the GM Volt when Nissan is charging forward with its electric car in 2010? Well, maybe because you won’t be able to purchase a Leaf too far east of California. But, as they say in the electric car business, consider this a plug.
---If you join the Law Enforcement Local and International Law Enforcement Community online, you’ll have a chance to win pepper spray or a new stun gun.
---Infomania. Hidden away on Current, in the upper tier of your cable box, Conor Knighton, looking rather like Ichabod Crane’s precocious nephew, hosts the smartest, quickest cultural commentary on TV. Abetted by Ben Hoffman, the incomparable Sarah Haskins and a spot-on music critic known only as Sergio, Infomania is the only show of its kind you wish were longer.
---The Magic 8-Ball. Invented in 1946, it is still unsurpassed in predicting the daily weather, to a degree of accuracy that puts a bunker full of Doppler radar to shame. Here, I’ll show you. Magic 8-Ball, will it snow by Friday? I’m shaking it up. The answer is appearing a little more slowly than usual, probably because the viscosity of the fluid in the ball is being affected by the ungodly low air temperature. Aha! “It is decidedly so.” Beat that, Jimmy Spann!
---Jeff Underwood. Homewood, the metropolitan area of my raising, has always been a cross between Mayberry and Stepford, with politics to match. When Jeff became the city council president, he brought something to City Hall in short supply during recent years: common sense. It’s had the same effect on some of the old-time council members as water on Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz, but the result is equally salutary. Thanks to Jeff, there’s no place like Homewood.
---The fifth season of Lost. I’ll watch just to see how those crazy writers get themselves out of this Gordian Knot of a plot they’ve concocted.
---Mocha Java coffee beans from o kafes. They’ve got more exotic flavors and some harder to pronounce, but this reliably pungent and glossy bean, roasted right off Second Avenue South, fills a cup as sturdily as you could want.
---A total eclipse of the moon coming up December 21st. Yes, it’s a ways off, but I don’t even need the Magic 8-Ball to know that when I go out to watch it, the skies will be cloudy.
---Reed Books. Five Points Hardware. The Korduroy Krocodile. There are still local shops you can count on to bring the unexpected to a jaundiced consumer’s grateful attention.
---The Dixon Ticonderoga Number Two pencil.
---A forthcoming musical collaboration between Beck and Charlotte Gainsbourg, titled after the MRI machine in which she was scanned following a brain hemorrhage she sustained after a ski accident. Or I guess I could look forward to the new Blink-182 album.
---Boardwalk Empire. The new miniseries stars Steve Buscemi as Nucky Thompson, king of Atlantic City rackets in the dear old days of Prohibition. Just when I think I can finally cancel HBO, they pull me back in.
---Bob Bentley’s blog. Everybody’s got one, but this contemplative Oneonta lawyer’s writing makes you glad he does (jimbobbentley.blogspot.com). And speaking of good writing---
---Elizabeth Bishop’s poetry. It’s not her hundredth birthday yet, but anytime’s good for celebrating someone who could come up with this lullaby for a cat:
Minnow, go to sleep and dream,
Close your great big eyes;
Round your bed Events prepare
The pleasantest surprise.
Darling Minnow, drop that frown,
Not a kitten shall be drowned
In the Marxist State.
Joy and Love will both be yours,
Minnow, don't be glum.
Happy days are coming soon--
Sleep, and let them come...
Courtney Haden is a Birmingham Weekly columnist. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org.