A Buzzkill

A Buzzkill

My sister moved to the Midwest back in the 70s, and never came back to California. She settled in Minnesota years ago.

The one time I visited her and her children in the winter was an eye-opening experience.

She asked me to get a paper, and I walked out the door and….I thought my ears were going to fall off from the sub-zero cold.

I had neglected to put a woolen head covering on.


In the subsequent years I had a rather detached bemusement at her insistence on staying back there. After all, as a general rule, when Californians want the cold and the snow, we drive to it.

And if you live in San Diego, you can find a microcosm of extreme geographical differences all within a 2 hour drive – from the ocean, to the snow at Julian, to sand dunes at Borrego Springs. All in a 2 hour drive.

So in subsequent years I could never understand my sister’s intransigence at staying back there. She did have a job at a Fortune 100 company determining what America will see on the supermarket shelves, which was certainly interesting.

But the rest?

After my trip to Alberta a few weeks ago, I finally got it – about Minnesotans and the winter.

Unless it is extremely cold – like the dark side of the moon, they generally embrace the winter.

I was telling them that my stereotype of Minnesota winters is seeing a little wooden fishing shack that would be towed out on a frozen lake. Like in the movie Grumpy Old Men. 

His mother in law said that her family, in addition to a cabin by a lake, has a two story “shack” complete with many of the comforts you’d expect in a home, that they tow out onto a lake. So they can do their fishing in comfort, while watching the game.

And the last night I was at Lake Louise, I finally got it.

There was a bonfire, open bar, and a party by the lake after dusk.

A Buzzkill 1

In below freezing temperatures.

I got there a bit late, but rapidly adapted to the Minnesota way. One of them told me she had a different outfit of clothes for every 10 degree drop in temperature.

Suitable clothing (and covering your head!) is the key.

Great conversations, open bar, a roaring fire,  what wasn’t to like?

Then, about 30 minutes after I got there…the bartender started throwing water on the fire.

Talk about a buzzkill.

That party ended faster than you can…..well, I am missing the metaphor at the moment.

Even Minnesotans don’t want to stand around in the dark and cold.

In the Canadian’s defense, it was their Thanksgiving, and they probably wanted to get home to their families.

And like so much in Canada where we assume things are the same, their Thanksgiving is a bit different.  For one, of course, they don’t care about our Pilgrims landing at Plymouth Rock. And their’s is in October.

The origins of their Thanksgiving go back even further, to 1578.

It was an evening of both education and good times…

And I finally got it…



Update 11/02/19 0138: I was interested to learn in the above link that American Tories from New England, fleeing the new US after the Revolutionary War, introduced to the Canadians turkey and pumpkin [pie?] for their own Thanksgiving.

During the War, sentiment was divided by 3rds among those who favored independence, those who were still loyal to the Crown, and those who didn’t care one way or the other. After the War many Tories – those who wished to stay loyal to the Crown, fled to Canada or back to Britain. 

One of the most profound affect the Tories had I read in, I believe, the BBC’s History Magazine years ago. I have not been able to document this on the web, and unless my memory is completely shot, it was an American Tory who, aboard Captain Cook’s ship after the Revolutionary War, suggested to Cook that Britain send her prisoners to Australia now that the American colonies were lost.

Indeed, the first prisoners arrived in what became Sydney 20 January 1788.

I have mentioned it before but I am fascinated by how some profound things can come from  small incidents – involving 1 or 2 people.

In this case, it was a simple conversation out in the Pacific between 2 men.

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