The First Winter Carnival

[Note: I am writing a few brief accounts—never recorded in notebooks—based on stories written later, published in a zine/book called Winter Carnival (1990) (out of print). There are no specific dates.]

One year, in high school, for Thanksgiving vacation, our family met with other relatives at a huge, old, rented house by the river, near Loudonville, Ohio and the Mohican State Forest. It was one of those weekends where it starts snowing and just keeps snowing. My brother and I were delighted, and we took our sleds and found a great sledding hill behind the house. We had a big Thanksgiving dinner, of course. The house was a lodge-style place, privately owned and rented out through the year, completely furnished, including games and books. I immediately found a book, MASH (1968), by Richard Hooker, and already familiar with the movie and TV show adaptations, was surprised to find the book quite different. I was a little obsessed with it, particularly the enigmatic “Trapper John” who sat around in a giant parka which he'd occasionally disappear into and emerge with a can of beer and opener. At one point he headed out into the snow to climb a nearby mountain. When they asked him where he was going, he answered: “Winter Carnival.”

That was where I initially got my idea for Winter Carnival—a winter tradition that involved some kind of exploration of the outdoors, preferably during a heavy snowfall, while drinking. That weekend, because of the increasingly heavy snowfall, we ended up leaving the house in the woods a day early, so we had quite a lot of uneaten provisions to return with. I helped pack up the car, and while stowing the beer in the trunk I let a few cans roll up behind the spare tire. Once back home, after getting unpacked, I retrieved the hidden beer. Left with a great snowy weekend, I went out wearing my Dad's old army jacket over my “trucker's vest” (men's insulated undergarment), and with all those available pockets I was able to conceal several cans of beer. Later, then, when out with friends, I'd casually reach inside, produce a beer, and pop it open. I'm sure my friends were as impressed with me as I was with myself. Becoming intoxicated, while it might happen, wasn't the point. The thing I realized was that some kind of magic happened. The snow, the outdoor setting enhanced the drinking, and the drinking enhanced the outdoors—much like adults drinking fine wine with an expensive meal—but this was better, because it was my thing. This was the beginning of Winter Carnival.