03 January 2008

At Long Last Winter

We had a couple days early in December when the temperature got down to the low 20s (around -5C), but apart from that, winter hasn't been the onerous burden or frightful specter I had made it out to be in my mind. Today, though, the temperature has been dropping ever since dawn, and when I got home just after midnight, it was 17 (-8C).

Still nothing too serious, at least not compared with upstate or New England or the Midwest, but I think it qualifies as genuine winter, especially considering that tomorrow's high is supposed to be 24 (-4C). But it's hard to get too exercised about the awfulness of it all, even considering that a year ago at this time I was lounging on a beach in Sydney, because the current cold spell is supposed to last a mere two days before we're back to the kind of temperatures I was experiencing last week in San Francisco.

Which prompts me to wonder: why does 50 (10C) seem miserable and cold in Frisco and delightfully balmy in New York? Oh well; I'm not complaining in any event. In fact, so uncowed was I by tonight's weather that I walked uptown from Chelsea to Times Square (into the teeth of stiff northerly gale, I might add) when I could have just as easily taken the subway, and actually enjoyed the walk.

Of course I was wrapped up pretty snugly, with long johns, a sweater and polar fleece under my down jacket, topped off by scarf and (fake) fur hat, and apart from a few chinks in the ensemble where the wind was able to briefly get at me, I was almost completely comfortable. And not that I saw any baddies lurking about on the streets, but had there been, I almost felt as though even bullets couldn't have gotten through all that padding.

When I lived in the mountains of Northern California, it only very occasionally got this cold, but we did have to contend with an awful lot of rain. It was not unheard of, in fact, for it to rain pretty much nonstop for days or even weeks at a time (but only in winter; summers were bone dry). On such occasions, assuming I didn't want my road or my house to be washed down the side of the mountain, it was often necessary to get out there with a pick, rake and shovel to clear blockages out of culverts and redirect the torrents of water back into the gullies and ravines where they belonged.

I acquired a rain suit, consisting of rubber boots and a rubberized plastic jacket, hat, pair of pants, and gloves. Enveloped in this getup, I could happily shovel and dig for hours in the worst of downpours and come back to the house with no more than a smidgen of moistness having found its way onto my actual person. I'd never before been what you'd call a rain kind of guy, but there was an almost inexpressible serenity and joy about being able to defy the elements in that way, almost, I imagined, what it must be like for an astronaut whose snug-as-a-bug space suit enabled him to go weightlessly gallivanting in thin air (erm, the absence of thin air, I guess) hundreds of miles above the earth.

And that, my friends, is what it felt like tonight as I traipsed up 9th Avenue. The only thing that concerns me is that should it get a lot colder, I may not be able to add more layers of clothing and still be able to walk. But as my old friend Patrick Hynes always said, we'll jump off that bridge when we come to it. In the meantime, I think I'll re-attach my detachable (fake) fur collar to my down jacket so that I can make a fashion statement out of being warm. And hey, it's January already; spring's practically around the corner!

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