Fightin’ the fever

I was a hipster of 11 when I heard my first jazz song. It was “Fever” by Peggy Lee — her signature song — which had just been released.

The only verse that stuck I my mind is:

Everybody’s got the fever.

That is something we all know.

Fever isn’t such a new thing.

Fever started a long time ago.

The fever she was referring to wasn’t scarlet, yellow or dengue. It was love, or lust … or the usual weird combination thereof.

Of late, peeps are chattin’ up a fever that has nothing to do with Peggy Lee’s. It’s cabin fever.

I hear people in town talking about it, and I see them writing about it on social media, and frankly I’m tired of it. Aside from my lifelong dislike of public whinging of any ilk, it’s especially galling in this case since there’s no excuse for it.

Cabin fever, as the name implies, is being fried out of your mind from being stuck in your small, primitive, isolated dwelling at the end of a long, brutal winter. Well, guess what? First, no one here is stuck in an isolated one-room hovel in the windswept plains. All of us here are blessed with power, heat, running water, transportation and all the other trappings of civilization.

Second, as far as winters go, this one has been a delight. Sure, we’ve got cold and we’ve got snow, but that’s what we’re supposed to have. And when it comes to snow and cold, we haven’t had anything close to the winters of yore.

Quite simply, if you didn’t live here year-round in the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, you’ve no idea what an Adiriondack winter was … or can be. If you were lucky, they ended in late April, and if you were un-lucky, they began in early October. And while this winter we’ve had a few minus-20 days, back then we had weeks of them. As for snow? Long before people had snowblowers or trucks with plows, shoveling snow was as much a part of your day as brushing your teeth, except you shoveled more than you brushed (and sans ergonomic shovel, I might add).

So as for cabin fever today? Feh.

As I’d said, traditionally cabin fever hit at the end of a long, miserable winter. We’re having a lovely winter, plus we’re in the middle of it, with still a month to do. So if you’re gonna carp about cabin fever, how’s about waiting till late March? I won’t be any more sympathetic then, but at least I — and everyone else — will be spared your pity party.

Something else: What, I ask rhetorically, is My Home Town famous for?

To social climbers and status seekers, the immediate answer is all the celebrities who lived here, which is as silly as social climbing and status seeking themselves.

Yeah, we’ve had some renowned folks here, but for how long?

Einstein was here for a couple of summers, Mark Twain was here for one — as befit the world’s smartest man and the world’s wittiest one.

Our other resident of global rep was Robert Louis Stevenson. He arrived in early October and left in early April, being our only superstar who wintered over. And apparently he came here under the advice of his doctor, a misguided Brit who said Stevenson needed to seek “a more congenial climate” for what he thought was TB. Congenial? Let’s put it this way: After five months of freezing his haggis off, he and his fam split for Samoa, never to return. And while Samoa’s climate may not have been more congenial for his health, it was a helluva lot warmer.

So to say Saranac Lake is famous for the celebrities who lived here is disingenuous, if not downright dishonest. The simple truth is there are two things we’re famous for. One is often being the coldest spot in the nation; the other is being among the U.S. places with the fewest sunshine days. All of which means having long, overcast winters are the norm, so we just have to accept them. But what we don’t have to accept is cabin fever.

They saw the light

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD — get it?) is a pseudo-scientific name for cabin fever. And because it appears to have the blessing of the scientific/medical/new age community, lots of people embrace it as The Truth … and the reason something, or every damned thing, in their lives is a drag. A bunch of years ago, I got to witness a virtuoso performance of such silliness firsthand.

As the years are all a blur to me in my dotage, I can’t tell you exactly when this happened, other than decades past. But while I can’t remember the when of it, I can remember its what.

SAD had just hit the media as the latest threat to our delicate dispositions and thus was splashed on the covers of all the popular magazines. Along with SAD itself, the magazines touted a remedy for it — full-spectrum lights. Supposedly, the full-spectrum lights provided the healing power of Old Sol, hisself.

This “cure” was duly noted by one of our local institutions that must remain nameless — or at least select members thereof. The print was probably still wet on the magazines’ covers when the head honcho had a bay of full spectrum lights installed in his office. Then the clamor began among the lesser bureaucrats, who also wanted full-spectrum lights to alleviate their suffering, as well as to achieve status among the anointed. The whole shmeer shook out as expected — the lights were installed based on butt-kissing rather than any consideration of SAD.

Ironically, there was no noticeable change in their misery — or in their miserable dispositions. This led me to conclude the problem wasn’t meteorological so much as pathological. Then again, whatta I know?


All right, so after all that, you still say you’ve got cabin fever? What to do?

My only advice is to follow the two G.O.D.s.

Now don’t jump to any hasty conclusions. I’m not advocating you embrace polytheism, or theism of any sort. Uh-uh. Note: G.O.D is an acronym, and it has two definitions.

The first is Get Off Duff. The simple truth is absolutely nothing’s gonna improve by you sitting in your Lay-Z-Boy — including your blood pressure, waistline and disposition.

The second is Get Outside, Dammit!

Yeah, sure, it’s cold, the ground’s covered with snow, and the sky is overcast. But so what? Not only do those things not prevent us from having fun — they should encourage it. Maybe we’re stuck in winter, but we’re also living in a winter paradise. Flatlanders have to work and scrimp to get a weekend’s fun and activities here, while all we have to do is open our front door and diddy-bop out and about.

You can ski, skate and hike to your heart’s content. But if you’re not into sports, you can always just go for a leisurely walk, taking in fresh air and scenery that city and suburban types can only dream about.

But what if none of those things appeal to you?

Well, you can always relocate to a place with a more congenial climate.

From what I understand, it’s why so many people moved to Texas.


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