Tonawanda News

December 20, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Not a fit night out for man nor beast

The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — It’s getting discouraging and predictable. It’s snowing. Whatever time it is, whatever day it is, it’s snowing. When it’s not raining, it’s snowing. 

Siberia must be like this (similarly, San Diego and its meteorological blandness, but without the snow). Whatever you do these days is done against a backdrop of snow, snow as metaphor, snow as obstacle, snow as constant counterpoint to eating, sleeping, breathing. Dostoevsky and Pasternak explained it better than I ever will, but snow is what you walk through, what you shovel, what you avoid when you go inside.

The theater that is your life, short-term, has a stage made of snow (and we are merely players).

The recent wave of you-know-what has blown a massive hole in a pet theory of mine, that Western New York winters are essentially 90-day endurance tests. Make it through January, February and March and you’ve made it through winter. Indeed, it can snow before and after those months, but it can be balmy as well. Winter now is whenever winter chooses to force itself in.

Walking around this snow globe of a village, several evenings ago on my way to some of Kenmore’s fine cuisine (Mike’s Subs on Delaware Avenue) — silent, crunch crunch crunch, a vortex of snowflakes in the air, and incredibly cold, I neglected to mention — the weather was an agent of heightened senses. Looking at neighbors’ outdoor Christmas lights and displays, televisions on and visible through windows, and me the only one outside, I felt like it was a movie, a nature film and I was a black rabbit being chased by a polar bear across the Arctic.

I pondered why more horror films do not use snowstorms, or winter, as backdrops to their plots. “The Shining,” of course, wherein a guy overdoses on his own imagination as he spends a winter marooned in an empty resort hotel. A haunted house of the mind.

This perpetual snow dump of ours, and its correlated cabin fever, can drive a person batty. It suddenly surprised me Scandinavia, Russia or Canada is not a hothouse of loco-in-the-cabesa fiction, with plots using snow as a catalyst.

Which brings me to “Night of the Living Dead,” a 1968 non-snowing horror film about zombies rising from their graves to annoy the more sentient citizens of Pittsburgh. It was made on a budget of about $1.50 with volunteer labor (including local television news anchors, who are featured as providers of bulletins about what’s going on) but in exemplary control of all the elements of the genre (which means it’s a scary movie, no matter how cheap it looks).

Funny, what swirls through the brain when one is hungry and walking through a snowstorm toward food.

Forty-five years after the zombie movie, a Pittsburgh opera company named Microscopic Opera (Pittsburgh, again) presented “Night of the Living Dead, The Opera” during the summer. Yes, an all-singing version of zombies, the opening of graves, the stalking of human prey, et al.

My friend Valerian Ruminski, impresario of North Tonawanda’s artistic jewel, the Nickel City Opera, saw it, liked it, obtained some rights to it and will present it in September on the stage of the elegant, opulent Riviera Theatre. (The opera company typically puts on a full-blast production in the summer, “Tosca” in 2014, and a smaller opera in the autumn, typically “Amahl and the Night Visitors.” It’ll be zombies in the fall, next year.)

So, in the midst of the Buffalo Bills’ season, next season, get ready for a horror opera (and yes, you’ll likely tell the difference), and try to avoid having the snow globe lifestyle in which we currently reside turn your life into a scary movie.

Instead, consider a short and penuriously produced film from 1933 (so short and so old it’s available on YouTube), “The Fatal Glass of Beer,” in which W.C. Fields, as a heavily upholstered Yukon prospector, stomps around a desolate cabin wearing his mittens and muttering things like “I think I’ll go out and milk the elk,” and whenever he opens the cabin door and dramatically intones, “It ain’t a fit night out ... for man nor beast,” he is struck in the face by a handful of preposterously fake snow tossed by an off-camera stagehand.

Except for the elk, life in Kenmore feels a lot like that, thus far this winter.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at