Jennifer Brooks
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There is a moment every winter when it feels as if winter is winning.

For Wes Burdine, that moment came as he faced a 3-foot-tall pile of grubby ice, shoved onto his shoveled sidewalk by a passing plow.

Grimly, the owner of the Black Hart of St. Paul grabbed an ice chipper and started clearing the path again. Until the ice snapped his ice chipper in half.

It's January. It's cold. It's dark. It's time to pack away the Christmas tree you've been using like a SAD lamp.

But through the cold, through the dark, through the fourth-snowiest winter on record, lights are glowing in the Black Hart and homes and businesses like it. There's warmth and laughter and a reminder that what gets us through a Minnesota winter is us.

So when Burdine tweeted out a chilling image of a broken ice chipper and intact ice, Minnesota responded the way it always responds when a car is stuck in a snowbank or a neighbor is losing the battle against January.

Tom Basgen, James Slegers and Brian Martinson, bundled up and cleared the way to Midtown's friendly neighborhood queer soccer bar, before Burdine could even price a replacement ice chipper.

"There are things that just grind your brain down about the winter," Burdine said. "But there's so much random kindness out there."

A Minnesota winter is a thing to enjoy, not just endure.

Anyone can enjoy our fluffy postcard-perfect snow. It takes a true Minnesotan to appreciate Lake Chipotle.

As too much snow turned into too much snowmelt last week, a delighted Minneapolis greeted the early return of the state's smallest, weirdest lake. One Uptown parking lot's poor drainage brought an entire community together to cheer on the neighbor who took a serene paddleboard cruise around the frigid mud puddle.

Putting one foot in front of the other isn't easy when that foot is likely to land on black ice or deep slush. But wonders await.

There's a reason Minnesota regularly lands in the Top 10 on those state quality of life rankings. Live, love, lutefisk.

The U.S. Pond Hockey Championships returned to town this weekend, even though for a while there was almost as much meltwater on Lake Nokomis as on Lake Chipotle. Crews celebrated by launching a joyous volley of airborne hot dogs into appreciative crowds.

A week of freeze and thaw and snow and slush forced the Art Shanty Projects — Lake Harriet's annual celebration of art, music, performance, ice sculpture and at least one lip balm-themed wedding chapel (the Chapsicle of Love) — off the ice and onto the beach, starting this weekend.

"I think it's really easy for people to get cooped up and then lonely during the winter," Burdine said. "You don't want to go outside because it's cold or the roads just look terrible. Then you're just watching more and more Netflix and feeling like you're going inside a shell."

January is hard on Minnesota businesses. Bad weather and Dry January resolutions can keep customers home. One big weekend storm could knock out a quarter of the month's profits if a bar or shop or restaurant has to close.

So it was a pleasant surprise when Burdine stopped by the bar one recent Friday — and realized that Black Hart was having one of its busiest Fridays ever.

It wasn't a game night. Minnesota United wasn't playing. Just friends who had missed their friends, coming together for an ordinary Friday of happy hour bingo, followed by the "RuPaul's Drag Race" watch party, followed by karaoke, followed by a $7 burlesque show emceed by Foxy Tann.

"It was enlightening to see people still wanting to celebrate and be out with other people, to just relax and have a good time," Burdine said. "That's why I do what I do here. It's what gives me so much joy."