Finding the varmint behind all this snow

The Snowstorm of 2003

February 22, 2003|By Gregory Kane | Gregory Kane,SUN STAFF

SO, SHOVEL in hand, knit cap on the head and pulled down over the ears, scarf tied around my neck and winter coat zipped up to the throat, I sallied out Tuesday for the Great Baltimore Dig-Out of 2003.

It wasn't the first time I'd been out in the snowfall, mind you. I was out there Sunday morning, shoveling a good 2 feet of snow off my porch and walk as television forecasters were telling me that we'd get a total accumulation of about 2 feet when the snow ended Monday.

When I went back out a few hours later to shovel another 6 to 10 inches of snow, and did the same thing a few hours after that, and yet again a few hours after that, the forecasters were saying the same thing: total accumulation of about 2 feet.

So, as I threw spadeful after spadeful of snow from the street onto snowbanks on the left or right, panting, sweating, engaging in what seemed suspiciously like, at the very least, exercise, I pondered whom I could blame for my fate.

It's all about who gets the blame in today's America, you see. Who's accountable, who can be the scapegoat, who gets sued. In a society where folks can pick up a pack of cigarettes, smoke three to four packs a day and then blame tobacco companies for their nasty, unhealthy habit, it's clear we're about who gets the blame.

In a society where somebody is 50 pounds overweight and hasn't got the sense God gave a mosquito -- much less enough smarts to make the connection that exercising and eating more fresh fruits and vegetables, not gorging on fast foods, will take the pounds off -- it's all about who gets the blame. Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of smokers and fast-food junkies.

Here I was shoveling like a ditch digger, joined by other residents of the 4900 block of Edgemere Ave., who, realizing we weren't on the city government's A list of side streets that get plowed, figured we'd take matters into our own hands.

Heck, we're not on the city's B, C, D or E lists either. We're probably well down on the F list. So we applied conservative Republican philosophy to digging out the block: We'd do it ourselves. If we waited for the liberal Democrats running this town to do it, we'd still be snowed in on Memorial Day.

My son Ray and one of his buddies, Jamie, were among the group helping the block dig out. The spirit of Anibal Ayala Brisueno, the block's elder statesman and unofficial El Jefe who had died two weeks earlier, was present this day. Soon Ray and Jamie got to talking about which of their pals were in jail and which ones were out.

"I'm sooooo not feeling this conversation," I muttered to myself. How did I get in this position? Who was responsible for my unfortunate fate? Why was I the victim of one of Mother Nature's glitches?

It all came down to who gets the blame. I mulled over the choices.

What about weather forecasters? Wasn't there a long and hallowed tradition somewhere of killing the messengers?

Nah. Too obvious.

What about snow lovers, who no doubt wished this calamity on us? Where were these snow-o-philes now that they were really needed to dig out the 4900 block of Edgemere?

Snow means dangerous driving, traffic snarls and unnecessary manual labor.

But the snow is so beautiful, snow lovers claim. Correction. Serena and Venus Williams are beautiful. Snow, dagnab it, is just snow.

But there's a better candidate to blame. He's an ornery, insidious polecat of a critter who's been causing trouble for years now. And I mean critter literally. Shouldn't that darned groundhog be dragged into the nearest alley and clubbed into unconsciousness?

Yes, I'm talking about none other than Punxsutawney -- or Punsamonkey or Punsatongo or whatever the heck his name is -- Phil, that skulking varmint who's supposed to show up every Feb. 2. If he sees his shadow, we get six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, we don't. Or is it the other way around?

It doesn't matter. The point is, we've found the culprit. Either Phil gave us six more weeks of bad weather -- in which case he's to blame -- or he didn't give us six more weeks of bad weather, in which case he's a double-crossing weasel who should come on down to Pimlico and take his beat-down like a man.

So clean your grills early. We know what kind of meat will be barbecue fare this summer.

Woodchuck burgers, anyone?

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