A week ago, when the mercury hit 36 below zero and we hit the national news, I steeled myself for the inevitable. It wasn't about the weather. Instead, it was the onslaught of e-mails from everyone I know in the South.
Almost every e-mail was the same - some form of warm weather I-told-you-so, like, "Hey, I'd just like to let you know that while you're up there freezing your dupa, I'm on the deck in t-shirt and shorts, sippin' a strawberry daiquiri."
The Floridians are the worst. Generally, their meteorological snottiness aspires to witty irony (and fails). An typical example: "Don't know if you know, but we're having a terrible freeze down here. It never got above 70 today and tomorrow's supposed to be in the low 60s. Brrrr!"
But here's what never dawns on them: There are people who, not only don't hate cold weather, but actually like it. I'm one of them.
Let's face it, even in the middle of the worst cold snap, the world presents a stark beauty that can't be found any other time. The mountains stand out in stark relief - something they do in no other season. The lakes present their own "landscape" and the chimney smoke going straight up to the heavens seems like it was painted by Currier and Ives.
Plus, the air! In moderate weather, we don't even notice air. We breathe in, we breathe out and it ain't but a thing. But go out in 20 below, take even a small breath, and suddenly air assumes a life of its own, as it freezes your boogers and ices your lungs. It's a rush and refreshment unlike any other and if you think I'd ever trade it or give it up, then you're a bigger Dope than me.
Not to say a frigid winter can't wear on one's nerves, because it sure can. And if you don't think so, you'd have to be either a rich guy who has everything done for him, or a total nitwit. Do I get tired of mummifying myself in seemingly endless layers of wool before I go outside, even for a little while? Do I dislike worrying about my sump line freezing and then having to thaw it out when it does? Do I loathe dragging my dogs off the couch and into the Great Frozen Wasteland, pushing, pulling and prodding all the way? These are not trick questions - the answer to all of them is a resounding yes.
But so what? It's just the price I pay for living here. And it's a price I'm willing to pay, as opposed to the price of living in the more hospitable climes.
Where it's warmer, it's more crowded. And while I realize there are people who love living cheek-to-jowl, who groove on gridlock, and who are perfectly comfortable not knowing 99 percent of their fellows, I'm not one of them.
And as for that population density? Like it or not, we're a destructive species. Concentrate enough of us in one area and everything hits the fan - pollution, alienation, violence, things we almost never have to confront in My Home Town.
Alienation is pretty hard to experience when a five-minute walk in town yields bunches of people I know, most of whom I like.
As for violence? Sure, we've got our smoldering nut-jobs, but I know who they are. If I find myself on the same side of the street as them, it's no problem: I just avoid eye contract and cross over to the other side.
How about some more drawbacks of the tropics?
One is it's a fabulous growing environment. So what grows there? Fruits and vegetables, of course. And you know what else? How's about molds, fungi and germs. And where do they grow? Everywhere -?on floors, walls, ceilings, windows, armpits, scalps, toes As far as I'm concerned, Florida is less a state than a giant petri dish and you're the agar.
Then, of course, there's the splendid array or creepies and crawlies. Yeah, sure, we've got black flies, and they don't. But they've got mosquitoes- swarms of 'em, some as big as bulldogs.
And the mosquitoes are just the beginning. They've got squadrons of gnats, battalions of cockroaches, armies of fire ants. Then there are black widow and brown recluse spiders, snakes of all sorts (heading the venomous list - corals, cottonmouths, and diamondbacks). And get a dog or cat and you've also got a world-class collection of fleas and tics.
Oh yeah, something else: Due to our weather, we spend most of the year pretty well bundled up. Not so for Florida, though: They can walk around in next-to-nothing almost year-round. The only problem is a whole lot of them shouldn't!
But let me tell you what most bugs me about people who live in warm climates: They're all experts on cold weather.
It's only logical. I mean, this is America : People who can't balance their checkbooks can tell you how to manage the federal budget. People who flunked the army physical can run the war in Afghanistan. People who've never had children can tell you how to be a perfect parent. We're a nation of experts - especially about things we really know nothing about.
And so it is with the cold weather "experts" from south of the Mason-Dixon Line.
They have two standard shticks that drive me nuts.
One is their knowledge of sub-zero weather. "Yep," they say with the smug certainty known only among the truly ignorant, "Once it gets to 20 below, that's it. If it gets any colder, you just don't notice it."
I don't know how they arrived at this timeless wisdom, but I do know the colder it gets, the colder it feels. So if anyone thinks there's no difference between 20 below and 30 below, it's because they've never experienced either.
The other thing that bugs me is the Humidity Lobby. These are the characters who'll tell you that what we have is dry cold, as opposed to what they have, which is damp cold. And, so the argument goes, 30 degrees in Miami is more uncomfortable than zero in Saranac Lake. Or maybe it's 20 degrees in Miami is more uncomfortable then 20 below in Saranac Lake. But it doesn't matter what the numbers are, because it's all bumpf.
First, 20 above is 20 above, and 20 below is 20 below, and you can bet your bip that never the twain shall meet.
Second, what we have here is hardly dry cold, or dry anything: The brutal truth is we live in a place that's cold and humid . I don't know why that is?- I assume it's due to a combination of all the lakes and trees we have, as well as Saranac Lake being in a mountain valley. But regardless of why it's humid, the fact is it's humid.
Don't believe me? Just Google the day's weather for us, and any point in the south, and find out for yourself.
I did just that, and here's the result: Miami. Temperature: 70 degrees, humidity: 82 percent. Saranac Lake: Temperature: 5 degrees, humidity (you sitting down?) 80 percent!
Or how about Boston? Temperature: 21, humidity: 77 percent.
New Orleans? Temp: 32, Humidity: 51 percent.
And this is no fluke: Our humidity is consistently higher than many if not most other places.
So do I correct people when they lay their misconceptions on me? Of course not.
After all, everyone's entitled to their own opinion - even if it is pure ca-ca. And if those folks think they live in the best place in the world, let them, because I know I do.