Banana Belt, My Ass!

Woke up this morning to a temperature of -13º (yes, that’s a negative symbol in front of the number), which is about a million degrees below average. OK, maybe it’s only 40 degrees colder than normal. “Only” being a relative term!

Another relative term? “Banana belt.” In case you have never heard of a banana belt before, it is not this:

banana belt

The official definition of a banana belt is any segment of a larger geographic region that enjoys warmer weather conditions than the region as a whole, especially in the wintertime. Rapid City is considered the banana belt of South Dakota – even Wikipedia mentions us as an example of famous banana belts around the world (others include Whitehorse in the Yukon; Ireland and the U.K.; and Brookings, on the southern Oregon coast).

For the record: you cannot actually grow bananas in Rapid City or anywhere else in the Upper Midwest, in case you were wondering. But you can find temperatures 20 degrees warmer than in other parts of the state.

Usually, anyway. This winter has been the exception. It’s been relentlessly cold all over, for the last month+ and counting. Not surprisingly, February set records for third-coldest and sixth-snowiest in the city’s history.

All the locals are over it. Personally, the cold weather has really interfered with my ability to go for walks – a favorite pastime. So much so that I have taken to doing laps around the conference room table at work. I’ve been trying to do so surreptitiously because pacing in circles around a darkened room tends to give others the wrong impression about your mental state. Or maybe it’s the right impression? Whatevs! I have to do something to break up the monotony of sitting at a desk all day, and if I can’t go outside, I’m a-gonna walk indoors! Despite my attempts at secrecy, our bookkeeper caught me walking in circles on Thursday, which was mildly embarrassing. Luckily, she thought it was a good idea and asked if I’d be interested in walking up and down the basement stairs while I was at it. I had never even seen the basement before; I knew the building had one because we rent the space out to a recording studio after hours, but had no idea where the entrance was. So Anna gave me a grand tour. It’s a really cool space, sort of creepy  (though aren’t all basements?) with a labyrinth of rooms containing drum kits, microphones, and an iguana named Josie. How’s that for odd?

In any case, it’s nice to know I have cardio workout options within the building, given that March has come in like a lion and we show few signs of warming up anytime soon (though it is supposed to hit 35 by the end of the week – that’s progress).

Another embarrassing thing happened at work last week. Tuesday was our CFO’s birthday, so we had a little get-together in the morning with cake and balloons. One of those balloons ended up on the conference room floor, and every time I walked by (doing all those laps, you know!) I had this irresistible urge to jump on it. Eventually the temptation became too much to bear, so I did it – and the resulting pop was so damn loud, it sounded like a bomb went off. I guess because of the building’s acoustics? People came rushing out of their offices – even those in the adjoining chiropractor’s office – with terrified looks on their faces.


In this day and age, I don’t blame them for assuming the worst. I had to apologize for instigating borderline panic and explain that it was just me acting like I was 12 years old.

Why do these things always happen to me?!

When I’m not embarrassing myself at work, I’m actually getting things done. I knocked out another proposal last week. The work, while not glamorous, isn’t nearly as hard as I’d thought – or maybe I’m just getting the hang of it?

My big accomplishment, though, was taking charge of my personal finances. When I left Fuel last June, I just kept my money in the company’s 401(k) plan even though I wasn’t making any contributions. I figured I’d eventually find a job here and just roll it over. Well, I’m not actually eligible for my company’s retirement plan for quite some time, and I was tired of seeing the value of my portfolio drop without making any contributions, so I rolled the whole thing over to a personal IRA I’ve had since 2011. I’d meant to close it out back then and had withdrawn what I thought was everything, but because of market fluctuations there was still something like $13 left in there. I decided to just let it be, and in the ensuing years that amount had grown to $70. I guess that’s small-scale proof of the benefit of these types of plans! Anyway, I transferred my money there last week, and am in a position to make the maximum allowable contributions now. It’s high time I let my money work for me rather than the other way around.

We (err, Tara) got our taxes done yesterday and while I owed quite a bit for my freelance income, I’d been socking money aside and was fully prepared for this. The amount was much less than I’d anticipated, so we are in good shape to begin our house hunting this spring.

I have to say, this is the first time in my adult life that I haven’t stressed over finances. Too many years I lived paycheck to paycheck, and then – when I was unemployed for 20 months – I damn near lost everything. Actually having money is a novelty. I have been focusing hard on completely eliminating my debt, and will probably make that happen within the next few months. Life is good, and moving here was the catalyst to really turning things around.


Other than taxes and freelance writing and a quick trip to the grocery store during the tail end of a snowstorm, we haven’t done much this weekend. Kind of hard to get outside when the windchills are pushing -40º. We did walk over to Paddy O’Neill’s, an Irish pub in the lobby of the Alex Johnson Hotel, on Friday evening after work. Killed a few hours there with cocktails and some really good food. Then last night, we finally got around to watching Hitchcock’s classic “North by Northwest” on Netflix. We had never seen it before, but figured it was appropriate given the climactic scene atop Mount Rushmore. I have to say, we really enjoyed it! There was action, suspense, and humor. I get the appeal of Cary Grant now.

We’re going to make an effort to watch more older movies now. Queued up next: “Rebecca,” “To Catch a Thief,” “The Goodbye Girl,” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” to name a few. Some of those were suggested by you, my dear readers!

7 thoughts on “Banana Belt, My Ass!

  1. It just occurred to me that YOU are the reason for this polar vortex. You’re being tested to see if you have what it takes to stick it out in Rapid City. If you’d stayed in Vancouver, we wouldn’t have this problem. It would probably be 70 degrees in Portland right now instead of 35 with a 30 MPH east wind.

    That probably sounds downright balmy to you, eh? Well it doesn’t to me. Send me some of those pretzels you were yammering about a few weeks ago, and I might forgive you.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anything over 32º sounds like an excuse to break out the shorts now! BTW, Dot’s Pretzels are popping up in Ace Hardware stores out there. I’ve had several confirmed sightings in and around Portland. Hope you get to try them soon!


  2. I actually learned about banana belts when researching for our Finger Lakes trip last year. One side of Seneca Lake has a banana belt region where certain grapes flourish. Weird stuff! And there’s an iguana living in the basement at work? Really weird stuff!

    As an adult, the two biggest worries are money and health. Sounds like you’ve got them both under control. Nice work!

    And your title? True Midwestern Speak! 😂


    1. Ha…I guess it didn’t take long for the Midwest to rub off on me!

      I could not make the iguana up if I tried. I’m thinking I need to mosey on down there and take a pic.


  3. “the temptation became too much to bear, so I did it – and the resulting pop was so damn loud, it sounded like a bomb went off. I guess because of the building’s acoustics? People came rushing out of their offices – even those in the adjoining chiropractor’s office – with terrified looks on their faces.”

    Bwhahahahahahaha! OMG Mark, that made me howl with laughter because that’s something I would do! I love to do shit like that!!!

    Speaking of 401(k), I just recently took a look at what mine amounted to over these past years and was very excited to see how much I had in my plan. I also just found out that I’m getting to the age where I can actually withdraw it because I’m close to retirement. Yet, I have no plans to retire for a very long time (if ever), so I’m just going to let it build more money.

    ““Rebecca,” “The Goodbye Girl,” I LOVE those two films and have them on DVD.

    Have a grrrrrrreat week, my friend!


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