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Snow Down Pants
This hub is a little longer then what I usually write on the Hub, at almost 1400 words, but, I hope you'll enjoy it. I tried to follow my rules about white space and a pleasant lay out.
This story is true and was inspired by the realization of the brevity of life and by strong feelings of nostalgia for incidents that happened years ago, but seem like recent occurrences. it's a little self indulgent but I hope you enjoy it anyway.
Either way, thank you for stopping by!
Snow Down Pants
For most of my childhood and into my teens, my favorite band was DC Talk. I saw them in concert seven times between 1990 and 1998 and, even though now I can see much of their music (especially their early “rap” years) was quite cheesy, I still have a love for them, if for no other reason than simple nostalgia. Even today, you will find me proudly blasting their music discreetly through my headphones or wearing one of the many t-shirts of theirs that I still own under a sweater.
I saw first saw them at the Childs Center in Portland, Oregon as an opening act for Michael W. Smith. It was the first time major concert I attended where my dad was not a performer. I would watch them perform and picture myself on stage, as a grown up, dancing and prancing and rapping about the Lord. They introduced me to the finer points of Christian rap and, more importantly, showed me that you can break out of molds and do something new, which they did with each album until their eventual break up. By then, I was a legal adult and they were headlining the Rose Garden in Portland, Oregon.
In retrospect, this mold breaking attitude was the significance of their 1992 album, Free at Last , which was their first to really take them away from rap and hip hop and take them into the realms of soul, rock and dance. It won multiple Dove Awards, Christian music industry’s equivalent of a Grammy.
It’s also one of the first albums I associate strongly with specific events.
It was New Years’ 1992. Our family friends, the Hybl’s and my family were spending a snowy holiday in a luxurious rented house in Sun River, Oregon. Free at Last had come out just before Christmas and Travis Hybl, my best friend, and myself, had each unwrapped the cassette around the Christmas tree just days earlier. For this long holiday weekend, we, along with one of my brothers and Travis’ sister Tiffany, would listen to the cassette between bouts of Tecmo Basketball and Tecmo Super Bowl on the Nintendo. Professional video game athletics was only a momentary distraction from our inevitable future careers as professional athletes, which was sure to happen, even though none of us had much in the way of athletic skill.
“Go outside. You’re in the mountains!” It doesn’t matter who said this. It could have been Travis’ grandparents, it could have been one of his parents or one or mine. “It’s snowy and beautiful outside. We didn’t drive all the way up here so you could play video games!”
We’d continue to play video games. There would always be time to play in the mountains, but only limited time to complete sixteen game football and eighty-two game basketball schedules.
When the elders finally commandeered the television for their own purposes, we would return to wearing out our DC Talk cassettes and quote from it, this time while playing with our new remote control cars, practicing for our future careers as Hollywood stunt drivers. We’d race them all through the large house and as they would skitter across the hard wood flooring. We’d build ramps and launch them up and down stairs, into windows and, when decided to brave the cold, over and into snow banks. The cars wouldn’t make it through the weekend, but our dreams of driving stunt cars would.
The album taught us phrases like “Flippin’ the wax”, “Luv is a verb”, “Can I get a witness?” and “She said I love to smoke and drink while cursin’ like a sailor” and was completely memorized after the fourth or fifth successive listen. We tortured our parents with our incessant recitations of our new vernacular.
“It could be worse,” my mom would say, between rants about how the country was doomed to imminent destruction when Bill Clinton was inaugurated as president the next month. “They could be listening to rap music and learning how to cuss.” We went to public school. Learning to cuss was a lot easier than putting on a cassette tape. My dad would remind her of this and my brothers and I were soon sent to private school.
At night, we kids would all go in the hot tub and hang out. We’d drink soda, talk about football, our “sweet” Christmas gifts, our Tecmo battles and how we wished we were done with school so we could be grownups and have our own money. We’d stay there for our hours, until our skin would wrinkle and our hands would itch and burn from prolonged exposure to heat and chlorine.
A new game was invented in the hot tub that long weekend, inspired directly by the album. The album title refers to the old Spiritual, Free at Last , which was especially prevalent during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960’s. DC Talk, as a group of mixed race, was always passionate about tackling the issue of racism, especially in America and was one of the first bands’ to really educate me on the subject. As a white middle class American growing up in northern white suburban America in the post-Civil Rights Era, I had no firsthand knowledge of segregation and had never been overtly hated for my race.
DC Talk used the spiritual as the chorus for their song. It began with an intro that was attempting to be humorous but which we found cheesy and mocked by singing in high pitched tones “Free at last. Free at last. I thank God I’m free at last.” We noticed that this phrase could be rhymed with the words “Snow down pants” and we began to sing these words along to the track. We then surmised that this might be a good name for a game
“Here’s how it goes,” I said. We were all in the hot tub, steam rising off our adolescent bodies because of the falling snow hitting the hot water of the tub. “You get out, you grab snow. You put it down your pants. You stand outside the tub, in your suit only, looking at us, all warm and cozy, while you sing Snow down pants. Snow down pants. I thank God for snow down pants . Whoever sings it the most times before getting back in, wins.”
We all agreed that this seemed like a good idea. I quickly won the first game, lasting a dominating six choruses, though it’s likely my victory was more the product of rapid onset hypothermia induced insanity then any sort of bravery or strength. We decided to escalate.
“Okay, now, you have to roll in the snow while singing Snow Down Pants.” Unaware of the risk of pneumonia and heart attack, this also seemed like a great idea and we immediately partook. I sat down on a snow bank and began to roll, immediately feeling tiny needles all over my body and sang the song through chattering teeth. I tried to distract myself from the intense shooting pain by looking at the way the massive trees framed the moon and obscured the stars. I thanked God it had stopped snowing so I only had to worry about the snow I was rolling in and then realized it probably actually made no difference. I made it one again through six choruses. Travis, being four years older and more bulky then the rest of us, but apparently having the same lack of sense, won this version of the game quite handily, lasting nine.
The contest was repeated nightly, with the same winners and losers each time. No one got sick and no one felt bad about losing, though we all cringed when we’d reenter the hot tub after our turn and feel the needles intensify all over our body and gasp as our hearts would momentarily stop.
By the time we left the house at the end of the week, our copies of Free at Last had worn out and been eaten by our boom boxes. Our parents, discovering our game on the final night of competition, had passionately educated us about the dangers of extreme temperature change on the human body and told us we were not allowed to play that game ever again.
Not that we cared. We were kids. We were immortal.