FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Snow Day

Trip Shakespeare’s “Snow Days” isn’t a song that would usually find its way into my rock ‘n’ roll heart. There’s the bloated, almost operatic, singing. There’s the idea that “real” rock ‘n’ roll has its origins in the streets, not the highly academic origins of the band members. And there’s the academic “wit” of some of the lyrics. Chainfields? Motor Veins? But sometimes you just have to put working class chauvinism aside. “Snow Days” has a place in my heart and has had one since I first heard it on a trip to Minneapolis in the mid-‘90s, several years after its release.

It snowed yesterday in Springfield, MO. Snows aren’t unheard of in South Central Missouri or Northwest Arkansas, my primary locations since 1989. They are this early in the year. Having spent a good deal of my growing-up and adult years in New Jersey, there is a certain nostalgia attached to snow. But nostalgia is poor fodder for a good rock ‘n’ roll song.

I’ve got a story. Several, actually.

When my father was transferred to McGuire Air Force Base in 1965, snow days were an opportunity, not an escape from school. For the children of enlisted men, the opportunity was to make some money by teaming up with other kids to shovel the sidewalks. The good money was across the boulevard that separated the officer’s quarters from the lower income enlisted families. In those days, all Base Housing (except for General’s quarters which were comfortable brick houses with landscaped yards a few miles away) consisted of town houses built in courts of 18 units each. In our court there were something like 90 kids – one of the largest concentrations of juveniles in the whole complex and with a sufficient number of snow-shoveling age to form an impressive work force. We learned quickly that the best way to negotiate wages was to team up. Nowadays some people would probably refer to us as “union thugs.” As far as I can determine, Base Housing is now privatized. Probably the snow removal as well.

After my father left the Air Force my older brother and I would team up with other kids in the Holly Hills neighborhood of Mt. Holly (mostly ex-military) and then Prospect Heights, a working class neighborhood in Trenton. Old enough now to have a paper route, my parents were insistent on “saving money for college.” Record money would still be mostly dependent on the annual winter weather. From the beginning, I used the windfall of snow day cash to fuel my passion for music. First there were new singles by chart acts like Stevie Wonder, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Mamas & Papas, Aretha, Glen Campbell – mixed with 5 for a dollar cut-out singles of older tunes. I had a lot of catching up to do, having missed the soul wave in the segregated play lists of South Carolina. During the last couple of years of my snow-shoveling days it turned to albums. The last album I remember buying with snow money was the White Album. I probably wore that one out by January.

Once indoctrinated into the world of grown up labor, snow days meant something entirely different. They meant a brief respite from the ever-increasing demands of management. In the 21st century version of labor/management relations, things have declined to a point where labor is expected to brave the weather in all kinds of storms. There are no snow days. Show up for work or else. This includes all types of labor – lower level management, industrial workers, cash-register clinkers, fast-food workers, teachers… all of us. Lower pay, lower benefits, lower safety… “We are all outlaws in the eyes of (corporate) Amerika.”

The guy I most admired at my last job before I retired was the one who NEVER came to work if there was so much as 1 snowflake falling from the sky. The supervisors would make it a point of mocking and belittling him at warehouse meetings. “So-and-so made it and they live 20 miles away. How come you can’t?” It never flustered the guy. “I won’t risk my safety for this job.” He’d been employed there for about 15 years. He was a good worker, knew his job well. They threatened to fire him – never did. Everyone knew it was just his way of throwing the finger at an employer who didn’t want to pay him anything close to his value. Still… there were those who succumbed to the pettiness and labeled him a “sissy.” The fucking guy had more guts than all of them combined. As far as I know, he’s still employed there. I’m positive he didn’t go to work yesterday.

What has all this got to do with “Snow Days,” the song?

It’s this. Despite an aura of pomposity, when it comes right down to it, “Snow Days” envelops the subversive nature that is essential to a lot of great rock ‘n’ roll – this time with a beautiful arrangement and a calming piano break. It tells the tale of a dedicated and overworked teacher on a day when the snow is falling. And the respite that a day off can provide, if she’ll only take it. “There’s a blessing on the ground. Go home.” That’s rock ‘n’ roll.

More articles by:
bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
August 16, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Uncle Sam was Born Lethal
Jennifer Matsui
La Danse Mossad: Robert Maxwell and Jeffrey Epstein
Rob Urie
Neoliberalism and Environmental Calamity
Stuart A. Newman
The Biotech-Industrial Complex Gets Ready to Define What is Human
Nick Alexandrov
Prevention Through Deterrence: The Strategy Shared by the El Paso Shooter and the U.S. Border Patrol
Jeffrey St. Clair
The First Dambuster: a Coyote Tale
Eric Draitser
“Bernie is Trump” (and other Corporate Media Bullsh*t)
Nick Pemberton
Is White Supremacism a Mental Illness?
Jim Kavanagh
Dead Man’s Hand: The Impeachment Gambit
Andrew Levine
Have They No Decency?
David Yearsley
Kind of Blue at 60
Ramzy Baroud
Manifestos of Hate: What White Terrorists Have in Common
Evaggelos Vallianatos
The War on Nature
Martha Rosenberg
Catch and Hang Live Chickens for Slaughter: $11 an Hour Possible!
Neve Gordon
It’s No Wonder the Military likes Violent Video Games, They Can Help Train Civilians to Become Warriors
Yoav Litvin
Israel Fears a Visit by Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib
Susan Miller
That Debacle at the Border is Genocide
Ralph Nader
With the Boeing 737 MAX Grounded, Top Boeing Bosses Must Testify Before Congress Now
Victor Grossman
Warnings, Ancient and Modern
Meena Miriam Yust - Arshad Khan
The Microplastic Threat
Kavitha Muralidharan
‘Today We Seek Those Fish in Discovery Channel’
Louis Proyect
The Vanity Cinema of Quentin Tarantino
Bob Scofield
Tit For Tat: Baltimore Takes Another Hit, This Time From Uruguay
Nozomi Hayase
The Prosecution of Julian Assange Affects Us All
Ron Jacobs
People’s Music for the Soul
John Feffer
Is America Crazy?
Jonathan Power
Russia and China are Growing Closer Again
John W. Whitehead
Who Inflicts the Most Gun Violence in America? The U.S. Government and Its Police Forces
Justin Vest
ICE: You’re Not Welcome in the South
Jill Richardson
Race is a Social Construct, But It Still Matters
Dean Baker
The NYT Gets the Story on Automation and Inequality Completely Wrong
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Retains Political Control After New US Coercive Measures
Gary Leupp
MSNBC and the Next Election: Racism is the Issue (and Don’t Talk about Socialism)
R. G. Davis
Paul Krassner: Investigative Satirist
Negin Owliaei
Red State Rip Off: Cutting Worker Pay by $1.5 Billion
Christopher Brauchli
The Side of Trump We Rarely See
Curtis Johnson
The Unbroken Line: From Slavery to the El Paso Shooting
Jesse Jackson
End Endless War and Bring Peace to Korea
Adolf Alzuphar
Diary: What About a New City Center?
Tracey L. Rogers
Candidates Need a Moral Vision
Nicky Reid
I Was a Red Flag Kid
John Kendall Hawkins
The Sixties Victory Lap in an Empty Arena
Stephen Cooper
Tony Chin’s Unstoppable, Historic Career in Music
Charles R. Larson
Review: Bruno Latour’s Down to Earth: Politics in the New Climatic Regime
Elizabeth Keyes
Haiku Fighting
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail