Not more cowbell, please

by Yule Heibel on February 23, 2011

It snowed today. Depending on what part of the world you live in, this might not cause you to raise an eyebrow. But if you were where I am, you’d be really surprised – especially since this snowfall was a) unpredicted; b) unusual (for us); and c) really substantial.

Just a few days ago, while out walking at Summit Park, I took photos like these:



Today, however, we woke up to this:


…And that was just the start. Check out this photo from a friend who lives in a high-rise in James Bay – it gives you a good idea of what the roads looked like.

It snowed on and off for most of the day – we’re on a corner lot and shoveled the sidewalk on both streets three times. In the end, for just one day, it was fun, …in a weird sort of way. That said, I would appreciate a big melt now, with a return to regular (for here) programming, thank-you.

Late this afternoon, I went out to “beat the bushes.” Lesson learned: you don’t know how much you have until you have to take care of it. Years ago, I wrote a blog post (My Dominion) about my secret garden in the back, enumerating all the shrubs and trees. They are legion, squeezed into a tiny footprint of land. And there are more in the strip of side-yard and the border that runs along the front of the house. By the time I was done beating the heavy snow off their branches (the temperatures will fall tonight, and those branches would be likely to break under the weight), I was half-way cursing the abundance.

Anyway… What the heck does cowbell have to do with any of this, you may be asking (in case you’ve read this far). “More cowbell!” is a SNL parody (see the video here) of Blue Öyster Cult recording the song “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” A fictional band member plays cowbell and wrecks the piece – all the while encouraged by a daft record producer (played by Christopher Walken).

“More cowbell!” means a stupid obnoxious noise that interferes with real signal.

The cowbell I heard this morning on Twitter sounded along the following lines:

“Snow on the ground and Victoria grinds to a halt, again.”


“Snow: Grinding Victoria to a Halt Since 1872.”

Now, I’m not trying to single out those two voices – they’re merely echoing a refrain (that Victoria “grinds to a halt”) sounded each and every time it snows here.

It doesn’t snow here very often. But every time it does, the cowbell chorus starts up: Oh gawd, Victorians are soooo stupid, they’re such wussies, they’re such wimps, they can’t handle snow, blah blah, and so on. We’re such wimps – the rest of Canada laughs at us, we can’t handle real weather, …and more along those lines.

Here’s the thing: Victoria did not anywhere near “grind to a halt” today, and given the extreme snow at such an unexpected time of year (for us), it was actually a miracle that so much continued to function normally. Yes, there were fewer cars on the road, but that’s because the roads weren’t cleared. Why weren’t they cleared? Because: what we need isn’t more cowbell-in-a-chorus, but more snowplows.

Schools were closed, but I’ve seen schools close for less …in New England, that alleged mecca of snow-hardiness. The grocery stores were open. The used bookstore was open, as was the used furniture store. The restaurants were open, ditto the cafés. One hairdresser was closed. Just as well, it was a bad hair day anyway.

Many of these places were open because the buses were running, regularly, which meant staffers could come in to work. People who did drive were driving responsibly – not, as the cowbell mythos would have it, like silly snow-scared ninnies.

In short, the reality did not mesh at all with the perception that Victorians are soft and inept.

So what’s up with all the cowbell?

I think people need the dissonance, the wrong noise, the clang of disharmony because it confirms their specialness. Seriously: we would be just like “everyone else” if we didn’t have this handicap of being the stupidest people in Canada (who happen to live in one of the nicest places in Canada) who can’t even deal with just. a. little. bit. of. snow.

It actually wasn’t just a little bit of snow, and we dealt with it rather well, thank you. And that makes us merely stinkin’ normal, doesn’t it? Whereas “more cowbell” is the dissonant clang that insists we’re different and special. Too bad it makes such a dumb noise.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Mat Wright February 23, 2011 at 9:10 pm

Channeling your inner Mike Vardy! Lovely.

Well said. For the most part Victoria handled this unexpected, and quite large amount of snow, very well. What is interesting – similar to ‘real’ disasters, like the NZ earthquake, twitter was a phenomenal source of news.

Yule February 23, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Yeah, the “we’re so awful” cowbell as mirror opposite of “we’re so special” delusion is something I’ve pondered often. Two sides of the same coin, and it doesn’t buy much. 😉

maria February 24, 2011 at 7:52 pm

There is talk of snow down here in the SF Bay Area. It’s almost cold enough, and will be colder tomorrow, though they say there might not be enough precipitation for the much-anticipated snow. Snow is big news around here, and SF Bay Area tweeps have been busy tweeting about it. 🙂

Yule February 26, 2011 at 12:45 pm

I heard you got snow (via Twitter, of course)! La Nina is a VERY big sister, isn’t she?

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