Twin Citians could see the first snowflakes of the season as soon as Friday. That guarded prediction was issued by the National Weather Service today, based on the fact that the coldest air of the autumn will move into the region this weekend. Low temperatures will plunge into the 20s, with highs "struggling into the 40s," according to the weather service.
Cue up those Minnesota stereotypes, snow's coming. Ya, ya, it's a cold one, ya know. Uff da.
There are many times when I miss Minnesota. The pace, the people, friends, family, driving, small towns, saying pop instead of soda, not having to explain what hot dishes are. Then there are times like this, when just reading the forecast for Minneapolis - which is the only city many people east of Milwaukee and west of Fargo know in Minnesota so it's really the only city that matters to the rest of America - leaves my body shivering and my head shaking.
Often I insist to skeptical people that "winters there aren't that bad. It's basically just like New York." They rarely believe me, even when I tell them stories of unbearable humidity, heat waves, perfect springs, and summers spent on the lake under a bright sun. To them Minnesota is just another name used for Antarctica, in the same way Bombay is now Mumbai but it's still the same city.
Certainly the weather is the primary stereotype people unfamiliar with Minnesota hold about the land of 10,000 lakes and 100 blizzards, followed closely by the idea that everyone there speaks like Sarah Palin or a Coen brothers creation (those are two different things).
"Just how cold does it get?" they might ask, with the earnestness and curiosity of strangers asking Neil Armstrong what life was like on the moon. If I say something like, "Oh, sometimes like 20, 30 below," they'll cringe, and that's before I add the punchline, "and that's not even including the wind chill factor." Like all Minnesotans, I complain about the state's weather - even halfway across the country - while simultaneously taking some strange satisfaction in it, as if our ability to survive and sometimes even thrive in such conditions somehow speaks volumes about our strength and integrity. That's when I'll switch, and go from downplaying the terribleness of the weather to playing it up, in order to make my 28-year stretch there look as impressive as Edmund Hillary's trek up Mount Everest.
It's times like those when Minnesotans make it sound like the rest of the world has fallen for the lie that people can't control the weather. We do control it. And we like it cold and windy and snowy and miserable, and, hey, watch our breath freeze in midair as we talk and we love when our tears freeze to our cold faces too. We could make it warmer but we don't want to. And we like it because it proves how much tougher we are than West Coasters and Southerners and even, yes, New Yorkers and their average January highs of 39 degrees. Compare that to Minneapolis's average January high of 22 degrees.
No wonder people around me have misconceptions about the state, when I can't even keep straight whether the state's weather is just like here or a test of a person's mental strength and physical endurance.
So it is a bit colder, but not terribly so. It's not a barren land, unfit for human life. And being that I don't ice fish, snowmobile or ski cross country or downhill, I don't miss winters at all, even if scraping my car's windows in subzero temperatures did somehow make me feel like more of a man.
To be fair, New Yorkers don't have a copyright on believing in regional stereotypes. If big city folk on the East Coast believe housing options in Minnesota include igloos, many people back home picture New York as either a den of sin or a place that's slightly less dangerous than Baghdad. Actually, New York has the lowest crime rate of the 25 largest cities in the country.
A few years ago we were back home and went to a concert in downtown Minneapolis. We emerged shortly after 10 p.m. and the streets looked like Janesville's after midnight. Only a handful of people milled about and there weren't many lights. It felt more ominous there than it has ever felt in New York. Most of the time in New York, no matter if you're uptown, midtown or downtown, you'll be surrounded by people, and there's safety in numbers.
We were, of course, fine in Minneapolis and the only ominous things there that night existed in our minds. New York's safe, too, my Midwestern brethren. Maybe even safer. And certainly warmer. But Minnesotans might be tougher. Let that comfort you this weekend, as the temperatures plummet and the snow falls.