A cold hard look
Unlike meteorologists, I can’t predict our cold snaps. But I can predict what inevitably follows them on Facebook: My news feed gets clogged with postings from all my local “friends” who have since settled south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
They all say the same thing — how glad they are to live in Paradise, and while we’re freezing our dupas, they’re on the deck, in their skivs, sipping umbrella drinks.
What they don’t say is what they mean — namely, “Sure sucks to be you.”
Due to being lulled into their warm weather trance, what they don’t realize is most of us like to be here in winter. I’m one of them.
Yes, I know winter in the South is easier to deal with than winter here, especially when we’re in a couple of weeks of constant sub zero. That degree of cold raises holy hell with everything – animal, vegetable and mechanical. First your car door won’t open; then, after you get it open, it won’t close. Windshield washer fluid freezes, so rather than actually removing what splashes up from the road, the wipers just keep rearranging it. Furnaces conk out; pipes freeze. And that kind of cold can cut right through a jacket — without a wind.
So do I like the cold?
I taught writing too long to respond to any question with a Yes or No answer, so bear with me.
At this point in my life, I appreciate any weather that I’m on the positive side of the grass to experience. And like most relatively sane people, I prefer warm weather over cold. But living in My Home Town doesn’t really allow for my preferences, especially in, say, January and February (and sometimes December and March as well). Nope, the simple fact of life is if you’re here then, so is the cold. But so are a whole lot of other things, like snow to ski on, ice to skate on, and fabulous scenery. (Did you catch the full moon’s blue glow on the snow this week? If not, you missed a rare and beautiful dreamscape.)
Furthermore, those super-cold days? In order to have them, it can’t be overcast, so while it may be frigid, it’s also magnificent, with bright blue skies and a blazing sun.
Winning against winter
I think the biggest problem people have dealing with our winter is their ignorance. When I say “ignorance,” it’s not of things academic, but of things fabric. In short, too many people don’t know how to dress for the cold. And beyond that, they harbor the illusion that somehow they will — or at least they should — get used to the cold. Lemme say though you might adapt somewhat to the cold, the only way you’ll stay warm is if you dress right.
There are two different approaches to cold weather gear — new school and old school.
New school is all the synthetic miracle fabrics — Goretex, Primaloft, Polypropylene, Fleece, and all the proprietary stuff.
Old school is the ultimate miracle fabric — wool.
Suffice it to say, I’m an old school guy.
This is not to say the new stuff isn’t good and doesn’t keep you warm. It is and it does, and it’s a whole lot lighter. Just is, as Admiral Farragut might’ve said, “Damn the weight, wool speed ahead!”
I realize if you’re active in this environment – hiking, skiing, skating, camping — you’d be a fool not to wear the lighter gear. It weighs less and wicks better — both being vital consideration if you’re schlepping around the back country, channeling Roald Amundsen or some such. But that doesn’t apply to me, since the only winter schlepping I do is from the Sears lot to the post office and back. So wool — and weight — it is for me.
Now let me share a pet gripe with you. It’s those peeps who’ll say something like “I just don’t do well in cold weather,” as if their hypothalamus is busted or something. It’s futile to argue with them, of course, just like it’s futile to argue with anyone about anything, but the fact is they could do well in winter, if only they dressed for it.
And now a confession: Probably the reason I’m into old school fabrics is because of my old school – Paul Smith’s College. The school was almost all foresters then, and almost all foresters wore wool. Period. But wool wasn’t only the weapon of choice; it was a fashion statement, too. One look and you knew if it was Woolrich, Pendleton, Filson or Johnson Mills. And quite frankly I like the looks of wool plaid better than the new fabrics. I prefer how they feel, too. I think the aesthetic, and ethos, was best stated by Chris Woodward, who in referring to fleece pullovers said (succinctly if ungrammatically), “I don’t want no plastic next to my skin.”
But no matter what fabrics you wear, you need to follow one rule in order to stay toasty warm all the time. You need to wear layers, and to be sure there’s no space between them. The simple and sad fact is if you have a $600 parka and a bunch of space between it and your next layer, that space is going to be filled with good old frigid Adirondack air. And it’ll be continually RE-filled by it. But if you had a cheap-o outer shell and a bunch of layers between it and your bod, with no space in between, you’d be grinning like a jackass eating prickly pears long after Mr. Six C-Note Parka had turned blue and had slunk back to his living room.
One last note on my Anti-Jack Frost Crusade: No matter how warm your body is, if you don’t have hardcore winter boots, you won’t be able to stay outside very long. Or if you do stay outside, you’ll be a hurtin’ unit. And you’ll stay one, until you find a way to stuff your feet in your pockets.
No matter how obvious it is that you can be perfectly comfortable in the Adirondack winter, it won’t make any diff to the born-again crackers who put all those posts on Facebook. They wouldn’t come up here if they were promised a full wardrobe, a week’s stay at the Hotel Saranac and a guided tour of the press room of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise — all free gratis. Uh-uh, while they may talk about how they grew up here, the fact is not only do they live in The Land of the Lotus Eaters, but they are of TLotLE. And part of their delight in that is they get to make all sorts of snarky comments and smug snottyisms about our ice-cold environment while the only ice in their environment is in their Cuba libres.
Of course, all their kvelling about their redneck utopia, is a sign of selective memory, rather than undeniable truth. Yeah, sure, it’s warm there a lot of the time. And that’s why they have fire ants, gnats, flea infestations, cockroaches as big as bulldogs and other insect luminaries we don’t have. Wanna swim in the ocean? You sure can. You also sure can get stung by a jellyfish. And if you like gridlock, you’ll love the South.
Then there’s hurricane season.
So after Hurricane Xerxes has flooded and razed all the buildings left from that year’s previous hurricanes, the same peeps who were dissing us and our frosty follies are now posting a litany of their warm weather woes (and I suppose expecting an outpouring of sympathy from the denizens of Dogpatch of the North).
This past week, the weather has gone bonkers. Due to El Nino, La Nina, El Cabron, or maybe plain old karmic paybacks, the Deep South is getting nailed with a Deep Freeze. And, predictably, Facebook posts from my former fellow townies are rife with piteous cries about how brutal the weather is, how utterly miserable they are, and how it just ain’t fair.
I of course say something like, “Hope it warms up soon. Also hope you didn’t get rid of all your cold weather gear.”
What I don’t say is what I really mean, which is, “Sure sucks to be you.”