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February 9, 2001

I was all set to buy my skiboards (aka snowblades) online. I'd done my research, looked at closeouts, sales, and so on, and finally settled on a Web site that carried what I wanted at an affordable price.

Oh I'm sorry, were you just joining us? Hello, my name is Aziz, and I enjoy sliding down slopes while strapped to things I have some semblance of control over. It's one of the few things I can do that enables me to have fun. Another one is following my mind wherever it wants to take me. Sadly, the way my world is set up, I have little time to do that. But I'm confident that a better day will come. On the metro the other day a whole novel materialized in the DMZ in front of my eyes, with its grainy scenes, muffled sounds, and the plot with its crescendo, fall, re-rise, denouement and etcetera; and I scribbled furiously to put an outline on paper, thinking, there'll be time, there'll be time. At some point. So. Nice to meet you.

The order number? Disconnected. The address? Bounce.


I suddenly realized with all the shake-ups of the fledgling skiboard industry, a bunch of those sites might be ghost towns, their companies long gone, the clock ticking on their domain registrations.

I didn't want to end up with one of those BigFoot duds on sale on ebay by the bundle. There was only one place left to buy these things affordably: the ski liquidator that we'd been to a couple times last week, trying to get boots, poles and what have you for cheap. I knew, as of two days ago, that they had one pair.

Damn, I had work to do. And it was snowing, the kind of snow that's wonderful but which turns drivers in this area into even greater imbeciles. It was a lull in the day (traffic-wise), though, so I decided to make a break for it.


I stepped outside as the snow intensified. The flakes were like huge paws, touching pedestrians with the gentleness of a cat showing appreciation for having just been fed. Like Carl Sandburg's poem about the fog on little cat feet, like... you'll excuse me if at this point I lose interest in skiboards completely (the store still had them; I bought them; I came home) and focus on how snow seemed to come at the car headfirst no matter which direction I was headed. Complete whiteout on the windshield, puffs hitting the glass and exploding one after the other; it felt as if I was driving willingly into a blizzard, and upon exiting I'd find myself someplace else.


I did, and it said, "December 2, 1990, Iowa City, the first snowfall of winter."


That's what I wrote on the back of the photograph. I didn't make a note of whoever took it; I'm sorry if it was you. I remember someone shouting, "It's snowing," with a mixture of surprise and glee, because it was already late for that in Iowa; it was supposed to have snowed at least a week ago. I don't know why I ran out and stood with my friend Olga, and not someone else. I think it was the hair, frankly (hers, not mine) even though I don't want to imply here there was anything between us, and perhaps because in just a couple weeks she'd be going back to the Soviet Union. One-semester foreign exchange program. There was a Soviet Union then, but it collapsed not long after she left. Surely you remember.


When a camera flash catches those huge snowflakes in mid-air, it turns out, it turns them into white circles. Some act as strobes even -- see below how the brick wall right behind Olga's head is lit as if a prison searchlight is turned on it.



You want an Afghan reference with this one too? Very well. As I was driving nosefirst into the snowfall, the radio playing "One" by U2, the flakes hitting and splattering against the windshield, heater going full blast, as I was doing all that... scattered across a mountain pass in Afghanistan, 480 people, some of them children, were slowly freezing to death. They were trapped between warring factions.

The following day this was a three-line item in the Washington Post, which, as the Web clip below shows, knows its priorities when it comes to news.


Well, by then it was a new day anyway, and the snow had already packed off and left. It was time for Shari Macias to put on her boots and report LIVE from somewhere in the city on how crews were dealing with slush cleanup. Thank you Shari.

I hope you're doing fine, Olga.


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