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Nov 9, 2005

Winter in Wisconsin

I just returned from the ritual I hold with my roommate Mace each night. We step out onto the porch and have the last cigarette and conversation of the day. Outside, it is cold.

"You know what the low is for tonight?" he asks.

"Thirty-two," is what I guess.

"Twenty-eight," he says. "It's going to feel like nineteen when I get up to go to work tomorrow. Nineteen."

"Jesus," I say, "I can't stand this ****."

"It only goes down to like, forty in Oregon," he says.

We've been throwing around the idea of moving there once I graduate.

The wind sounds ugly. Has for two days now. It is by a long shot the most horrid sounding wind I've heard in my life. Like three banshees wailing at once. I've slept through thunder and lightning, but this is like a terrified cat hissing in your ear all night long. I detest it.

"Too cold," I say. "It shouldn't be a punishment to step outside. You shouldn't have to suffer."

"I agree," I think he said.

There was some interchanges I can't recall, but it lead to:

"Ice fishing is fun though," he says. "It's good if you like that."

I've never gone ice fishing. Wisconsinites abroad will vote to have me expelled from this state. Doesn't hunt, doesn't ice fish, snowmobile, or consume copious amounts of cheese, this guy's outta here. He told me about how he would go fishing as a young boy with a friend. There'd be a large group of them out there on the ice, pickup trucks and all.

"The sound a truck makes when it drives across the ice," he says to me. "Have you heard it?"

He tried to mimic the sound himself, and suddenly I found myself wishing I had heard that sound. I got the sense it was foreign, unique. Someone should write a poem about it.

That scenario brought me to another memory: driving across the ice. Something I've also never done, and I'm glad for that. When I was in fifth and sixth grade, there was an annual basketball tournament held in a city to the north of where I lived. I was on the "B-team," the other option being the "A-team." You figure out which team held the more skilled players. Anyway, I had friends on the team whose parents would drive straight across Lake Winnebago, because at this time in the year, the lake had solidified.

I remember the first year, my father had mentioned something about taking the lake route. A shortcut. As soon as he said that, I had that feeling in my gut that I later discovered while taking a plunge on a rollercoaster. The stomach feels like it drops. It's actually going up . . . But my stomach "dropped," and I wouldn't let him do it. We didn't. And that was the end of it.

I figured I wasn't going to die in a freakin' block of ice. That wasn't how I was going to go. No way. And why the hell do you think they made roads? This isn't the Oregon Trail. We do not need to attempt to conquer this lake. And explain that one to the insurance company.

"Do you think they'd give you a new car?" Mace asks. "You know, go down there with your scuba gear and take pictures of it?"

He made a peace sign and gave a quick wave to the camera. Winter in Wisconsin.