AMERICA, OUR AMERICA: WHEN DID YOU BECOME A LAND OF WEATHER WIMPS? or A PHILOSOPHICAL RUMINATION ON THE ATLANTIC RED BALL WEATHERMAN
By DAN VALENTI
PLANET VALENTI News and Commentary
(FORTRESS OF SOLITUDE, THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2012) — We need a break, my good friends. For one day, at least, let us dial it down. Welcome to March, in like Al Pacino and out like a dove bar.
Thus: No reports of scandal today. No malfeasance, manipulation, or misappropriation of funds. No hanky-panky. No more murders or near murders, more more hit-and-runs and near hit-and-runs. No cops on the take, no firemen on the stuff, and no teachers on the lam. No triple murders, double dealings, or single payer.
None of that. Today, we bring you …
Three snowflakes have been reported hovering somewhere over Lake Ontario. They are tracking east, according to Doppler radar.
Stampede to the market to stock up on dried goods and canned goods. Hide the women and children. Call on the maker of ice cream to fight the concupiscent curds. Close the schools. Shutter the colleges. Somehow, though, keep the Dreaded Private Sector open and opearting. Private business knows the secrets of functioning in a snowstorm, super secret knowledge that’s wiped out of the brain cells of anyone who feeds at the public trough.
It’s March 1, taxpayers, and we finally got a snowflake more than a dusting of you know what. It’s March 1, suckers, and you paid for day off for many public servants, including Yours Truly, who yesterday, for fabulous sums afforded to us from the state treasury, received a day’s pay for not one drop of the professor’s work. Berkshire Community College closed, you see.
Rather, Dan, we took our evening, put on a parka and snow pants, went out back to the lower 40, and with coyotes (the four-legged kind) howling deep in the banshee distance, send lofted prayers to every snowflake. We laughed and welcomed each one to earth. While the world shoveled and worried, THE PLANET became a kid.
In Stockbridge, by the time White Armageddon had wound down, we had probably 3.5 inches on the ground. That total is if the snow stands on a piece of paper, inhales helium, and inflated its chest to puff daddy portions. In other words, we didn’t get a whole heck of a lot.
We let not the dark encumber what through the moon does slumber. // The stars of the night gladly lent us their light like candles, clear and without number.
That utterly inexplicable 21st century phenomenon known as The Weather Channel or How in the Heck Did We Get This Way?
The 24/7 news cycle, the eternal hurry the world has gotten itself into, invasive technology, and that utterly inexplicable 21st century phenomenon known as The Weather Channel have — among other factors — conspired to turn Americans into Weather Wimps. Adults fret and kids don’t play in it.
“Oh, I’m glad for the ski operators,” someone told THE PLANET yesterday.
“Why the fudge for?” we asked, only (like little Ralphie) we didn’t say fudge. We weren’t buying into the conventional thinking that,for some odd an unarticulated reason, we should play market favorites with the arcane dispositions of Mother Nature. The recipient of THE PLANET’s heresy reacted as if we were Giordano Bruno and she the messenger of the Inquisition‘s Holy Office.
“WTF,” as every other day of the week might say.
Ladies, and gentleman, if our developmental “experts” have de-commissioned the local economy to the point where we have to be glad for an undependable factor such as weather (as they have!) to boost what is one of the few functioning industries remaining in Berkshire County, we might as well do something authentically stupid. Perhaps it should be anything as colossally dumb as nearly killing a guy with a car and driving away without reporting it. We’re talking plain, old dirt dumb, such as not defining the job description for the most expensive department within the city of Pittsfield and casting the search net to the four winds, giving candidates a mere two weeks to reply.
You know The Weather Situation is serious when the local Boob Channel leads with the weather and the TV meteorologist, Bobpaul Caianokovach, hair not quite the usual state of perfection, appears on camera without a jacket, the arms of his dress shirt rolled up to the elbow, and his tie loosened. The visual tells us: He’s been “Working.” That’s how bad the snow is. He has his jacket off.
He whizzes and whirls through his fancy electronic goose steps over an electronic map, and he gives you the dreadful but sponsored play-by-play, the electronic special effects practically “3D-ing” the falling of actual snow. The special effects snow makes it all look like a video game, because, you see, it actually is.
Stuff it, we say. We would prefer going outside and actually feel the real snow falling. Let it hit our warm skin and melt. Let a flake land on our tongue. For this pipsqueak storm, we did just that. We went outside and had fun. Even shuffle boarding the cars to remove the snow turned into great whimsy. “It’s all attitude,” as our dear friend David Kolman used to say.
Asphyxiate the Meteorologist, Please
Most “adults,” though, fall into the worry and have infected their children, who now prefer Grand Theft Auto to sledding, snow forts, sliding, and snowballs.
Ohmygawd! We might get six inches of snow. The horror. The horror. It’s then you realize you have two choices: Buy enough supplies to last to quarter of Armageddon or wrap your mouth around the exhaust pipe of a BRTA bus and suck in, deeply. It is snowing. You have no hope. You are doomed.
Chuck Doppler radar. Screw the constant weather updates. Suffocate any media outlet that flogs the weather so it can sell a bunch of commercial spots to sponsors. Save your bitching (“too hot … too cold … too much snow … not enough snow”). Asphyxiate the “meteorologist.” Give me crayons depicting high and low fronts on a cardboard map. Send me the silence of my senses. Deliver no commercial interruptions into my sacred life. Supply the affirmations of happiness. Let me see …
… the Atlantic Red Ball Weatherman.
Weather in the Raw: Analog with Magic Markers Making Love to Cardboard Maps
Back in those thrilling days of yesteryear, when we received three channels on our GE TV set (WRGB Channel 6, WTEN Channel 10, and WAST Channel 13), we did not need the slickened, sickened “meteorologist” with his college degrees and celebrity status.
We had a “weatherman.” He didn’t go to college to study wind currents or sunspots. He was typically a jack-of-all-trades staff announcer. On WRGB, Howard Tupper, who also hosted a bowling show (“TV Tournament Time“), double-dipped as the weatherman. He used to open every report with a greeting and, “How’rya doin’, small fry?”
“Small fry,” we would think, mesmerized. “He knows me by name!”
Tupper had an Alan Ludden crew-cut-and-glasses look, a man who wore tweed sport jackets as if they were made for him, alone, in mind. He wore a microphone that looked like a toilet paper tube clipped around his neck.
Channel 10 had Bob Gordon as the Atlantic Red Ball Weatherman. Bob was younger than Tupp, with dark, wavy hair and the look of a white-jacketed waiter on a ffive-star Italian cruise ship. Gordon would report the weather dressed as an Atlantic Red Ball gas station attendant: A utility uniform of matching works pants and shirt, crisply ironed; a black bow tie and matching belt, and an officer’s service cap with patten leather bill. Back then, it’s true: Gas pump jockeys dressed more formally than today’s CEO in a “dress down” corner office. Petrol cost two bits a gallon.
Tupper and Gordon — we bounced back and forth between the two depending on factors which to this day have eluded my heroic attempts of discovery — stood in front of cardboard maps of the United States and the local viewing area. They would narrate the weather, hand drawing high front, low fronts, sunshine, rain, and anything else Mom Nature might want to throw to the plate.
This hand drawing of the weather inspired THE PLANET to write and perform one of our first comedy sketches, for an eighth grade talent show. Long before George Carlin did Al Sleet, the Hippy Dippy Weatherman, THE PLANET did Howard Hailstone, the DVTV (get it?) weatherman. My schtick consisted of narrating an absolutely improbable weather scenario and using a black Magic Marker to draw in the highs, lows, and whatever else I could dream up over my hand-drawn map. By the time I was done, practically the entire U.S. was blacked out. I ended with the English translation of the French for, “Where are the snows of yesterday?” which is, “Where are the snows of yesterday?”
It brought the house down. Then, as now, you had to be there, as I was last night.
Today, I saw a haunting image. I drove through a neighborhood rife with young families and children. Not one of the lawns or yards has a footprint. They kids had not played and were not playing in the snow.
You had to be there.
NOW, HOPING FOR MORE SNOW, WE SIGN OFF TO THE DRIFTS, the PALE MOUNDS THAT HOLD MY LOVELY DEAR.
“OPEN THE WINDOW, AUNT MILLIE.”
LOVE TO ALL.