Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Too Many Sport's Bras: A Long Winter's Coming

Originally Published August 10, 2014

Some people attempt to predict the severity of the oncoming winter by the color or prevalence of wooly worms, the hair density along the nape of a cow's neck, or if hogs are witnessed gathering sticks (in those few places where hogs are still allowed to enjoy their short existence with exposure to the outdoors).  Since I have moved to the upper Midwest I watch another indicator for my clues about the coming winter: the prevalence of spandex-clad homo sapiens in the area's parks, trails, and other public spaces.

Pyrrharctia isabella,: they say the thinner the brown band, the harsher the approaching winter.  Yeah right!Pyrrharctia isabella,: they say the thinner the brown band, the harsher the approaching winter. Yeah right!In our modern age most of us do little to prepare for winter.  Few of us stack firewood or even fill the larder in anticipation of long winter nights chilled within an inch of our lives and secluded from humanity.  Life in the modern world has leveled out the seasons a bit.  We still might need to be prepared for a few days of isolation or power loss but we are no longer facing month long bouts of self-sufficiency.

The biggest deprivation we continue to face is the most obvious: warm weather.  The deprivation is greatest the farther north you travel and by the time you reach Minneapolis, you can go half the year where feeling good and being outside are mutually exclusive.  In these northern climes the human mind, consciously or not, seeks to expand the body's exposure to the feel-good days of summer.  Business people recognize this fact, just compare and contrast the number of restaurants, bars, coffee shops and delis in the north with outdoor patios to those in the south.  They may be abandoned from October to May but for the rest of the year they are jam packed.

I like to walk and most of my walking takes place within ten miles of my home and I am more likely to see a wolf than a rollerblader.  Once every two weeks or so I take a tour of some part of the Twin Cities, part for a change of venue, part to acclimate the dogs to different environments, and partly to watch the strangest of the domesticated species: people.

Trust me, the more you see in August, the worse the coming winter.Trust me, the more you see in August, the worse the coming winter.People watching is fun but it is no secret that I do not like crowds.  In small groups or as individuals, human beings are harmless enough but as mobs they are unpredictable and dangerous.  Other than the occasional baseball game, you probably won't find me at any event catering to large masses of people.  I have never been to a dance club.  Luckily, I am only interested in the kind of bar that opens before the morning traffic gets too bad.

This weekend was no more special than any other weekend of the summer, and I felt nearly claustrophobic while walking beside Minneapolis' West River Parkway.  I can appreciate artfully worn yoga pants as any other American man, but I found myself overwhelmed at the crowds of spandex washing over the West metro.   Don't get me started on all the cyclists.  They were thick as locusts on Egyptian wheat fields.  The city really should The winter was so bad, they almost had to eat the neighborhood cyclist.The winter was so bad, they almost had to eat the neighborhood cyclist. issue a limited number of cycling permits per season.  The proceeds could be used to build dedicated cycling lanes across the city, and to build whipping posts for street cyclists who run red lights or use walking paths when there are clearly marked cycling lanes on the road.  

I would've had to call for someone to pick me up if I hadn't taken the opportunity to cross over into St. Paul on a couple of occasions.  By some strange ecological shift, outdoor exercise is far less common on the east side of the river.  Homo Sapiens on that side of the river are much more likely to express their need to be outside by going fishing or driving out to a cabin in Wisconsin. 

A clear-thinking individual would postulate that the my sport's bra index of human behavior is a backward-looking indicator: a reflection of our previous, abnormally long, winter.  But clear-thinking individuals rarely make predictions about the future, or do anything else that is very interesting for that matter.  So embracing that long-standing human tradition of spurious correlations, I am predicting the worst winter since Laura Ingalls Wilder about starved to death.  You'll have to decide for yourself how to best prepare.  I am going to take another walk today, but maybe I'll risk the deer flies of rural Dunn County to the Lycra clad swarms currently infesting Hennepin county's parks. 

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