Sunday, February 9, 2014

Where Did Those Fun Winters Go Anyway?

Doris L. with Steve & Dave on the Frozen Menominee River (circa 1944)

Dear George,
I’d say winter was our favorite season as kids.  We’d build snowmen in the yard and big forts from which we could have snowball wars.  Most years we’d try to build an authentic igloo.  The walls would go up o.k., but we never could keep the roof from caving in.  Instead we’d use packed down snow to build a slide off the riverbank, sprinkle it with water overnight so it would freeze, and use it to sled down and coast for twenty or thirty yards out on the river.  As soon as the river ice was six inches thick, we’d walk across to Pig Island and explore the woods, looking for deer antlers and other stuff.  One year we tried ice fishing by chopping a hole through the ice, but, without a shack, it was too freezing.  At nighttime Steve and I would play basketball on our snow-covered driveway with the hoop on the garage illuminated by light from a desk lamp.  When we begged him, our dad would tie the family toboggan to the back of our Lincoln V-12 and pull us up and down Riverside Boulevard.  Sometimes after a storm we’d run barefoot through the snowdrifts in the front yard. All in all, winter was great. 

I don’t know what’s happened over the years.  Maybe it’s because I quit doing fun things, but winter has definitely become a drag.  This year has been the worst – temperatures dropping to 10 below, wind chills of minus 25, three times the normal amount of snow, and sidewalks that have been icy for over a month.  We’re just trying to last it out. 

The sheepdogs look like they’re well-equipped for cold weather, but they get ice and salt in their paws, and I’ve temporarily cancelled their daily half-hour walks.  Mike and Duffy don’t miss it.  They’re not very drawn to exercise, even under good conditions.  So instead of longer walks, we visit the front yard five or six times a day.  Even that’s hazardous.  Last week I walked cautiously down our driveway with Mike and Duffy on their leash, slipped on a glassy patch of ice, and fell flat on my back.  My shoulder and arm ached for a couple of days, but nothing was fractured.  Now I’m ultra cautious.

Driving, of course, is a hassle.  After a bad January storm I backed the SUV out of the driveway to go to my office.  The car seemed to have difficulty moving forward, and it was jiggling on what I took to be icy ruts in the road.  After about five blocks I pulled over to see if the axles were encased in ice.  Instead I found that my rear tire was flat and completely twisted around the rim.  The tire pressure had dropped because of the cold, and then the tire had come loose from the wheel.  It took AAA two hours to come.  Amazingly, the downtown tire service reattached the seemingly mangled tire, pumped it up, and said it would probably be o.k.  The car still was not running well the next day, so I took it into the garage.  They found that the power steering hoses had broken, probably because of the subzero cold, and fluid had spurted all over the engine.  Just another winter mishap, this time for $1000.   

Our house has been cold too.  We have separate hot-water furnace units in the basement and the attic, and the upstairs temperature has been stuck well below the thermostat setting of 70 degrees.  I told Katja it’s because we have a brick house and that nobody’s’ furnaces are able to keep their houses warm with these extreme temperatures.  She asked why the downstairs was warm, but the upstairs was cold.  Drawing upon my expertise as an Upper Peninsula native, I said it was because the upstairs is higher in the air and more exposed to the wind, plus it has a roof rather than a protective basement floor.  Being cold upstairs is perfectly normal, I said.  There’s nothing to do about it, and we just have to wear warmer clothes.  I don’t think Katja believed me since she called the furnace people an hour later.  The guy arrived later that day, “bled” our upstairs unit to remove an air blockage, and the second floor quickly heated up to 70 degrees.  I still feel I was correct about brick houses, roofs, wind, and second floors being inevitably cold, but I have to admit that we’re more comfortable now.

I’ve been trying to figure out how winter could be as much fun as it used to be.  I thought about playing basketball outdoors at night behind Clifton School or going tobogganing.  Then I decided it would make most sense to embrace winter vicariously by drinking more red wine and watching the Sochi Olympics on TV.  So far, that’s helped.  It’s only three weeks till March.  We can’t wait.

G-mail Comments
Gayle C-L (2-10):  David,  Looks cold in the photo :)    And I cant wait until March as well...  Stay warm..;)     G

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