Friend Annie Cross notes that a couple of days ago the temperature in Lake Placid, which is a short drive from her home in upstate New york, was an amazing minus-36 degrees, doubtless including wind chill ( which has never been explained to my satisfaction). At the same time, the temperature in Miami, she said, was high enough on the plus side to account for a 100-degree disparity between the two cities. Mercy.
Here in L.A. we’re basking in the mid-70s. but I can definitely relate, going back to my formative years when I was a neighbor to Annie. Winter up there was always an upper case “W” situation, and likely the place the word “brutal” was coined. From time to time over the years I’ve hiked back there to visit old friends, but even then, and moreso now, there were limits. After being in southern California since the mid-1960s, my tolerance to the icy weather has faded away and left me wondering how I ever endured it in the first place. Credit those early days to the toughness and probably dumbness of being a kid.
Dumb? Really? Well, what else can you say about a kid who declined wearing gloves in order to make superior snowballs, just in case? Or wore lighter coats to enhance speed down a snow-packed sidewalk? Or went out into the drifts sans boots because boots were not cool, but wet shoes were?
Too true. My older brother and I had managed, in times of challenged budgets, to score pairs of “dusty bucks” (can you just hear the Platters in the background?) back in the ’50s, which we wore home saturated, then set on vents that came upstairs from the furnace for a complete drying. When they became almost — but hardly — to hot to wear, we’d pull ’em on and go out once again to challenge the elements.
And that, people, was very much cool. Again, you simply could not show up at one of the local hot spots — there may have been two — wearing boots.
The whole point, I guess, was to laugh at adversity — snow and so on — and demonstrate a Viking mentality, if without the horns. To a degree it was expected. That’s why, if possible, you’d walk around with your heavy — but not too heavy — winter coat unbuttoned. It was thumbing your nose at practicality while bowing to fashion, such as it was. And, I now suppose, a loud demonstration of youth versus age.
Because frankly, as I recall it, the winter season seemed to be in season for most of the year. We saw snow as early as Hallowe’en night and as late as Easter, which managed to frustrate the girls who had bought light, pastel dresses to wear on Easter Sunday.
So Lake Placid was hit by the old cold snap. No time to lick the flag pole, but as soon as the sun made an appearance I’m betting the kids had abandoned the living room for the snow drifts, with or without gloves.
And still, I have to admit the glamour of a white world persists. While my appetite for snow on my boots (notice) has bounds, there will forever be a draw from photos of New York City that we saw following a recent snow storm. People walking and skiing in snow-filled streets that would otherwise have been choked with yellow taxis had an appeal that could not be ignored.
But after a week?