People who know me know I appreciate a damn jolly, damn robust, damn snowy winter. One of my all-time favorite things to do is to watch a snowstorm move into town on a Saturday morning. As long as I’ve got books to read, chili con carne to cook, firewood to burn, candles to melt and beer to drink, I can survive any nor’easter just fine.
But winter and me is not a complete Gable-Lombard love affair. I’m not crazy about driving in bad weather, now more than ever because my sporty 2012 Hyundai Elantra is on the road. And I like to keep the car on the road, not off the road into guardrails or into a 1973 AMC Gremlin.
Another reason — I don’t have a snowblower, so “Arms and the Man” are always assigned to clear 12 inches of snow from my long driveway.
I can’t be the only one glad shovels have been on stand-by this December, January and February. I know that every winter, guys who shouldn’t shovel decide to challenge winter and fight the snow. Some of these folks can’t handle 40 pounds of snow that feels more like wet cement, and suffer coronary consequences, fatal ones even. So doctors and nurses in hospital emergency rooms must be relieved that heavy snowfalls have stayed away.
The same medical thinking must apply for guys who think they can “fix” snowblowers by sticking their hands inside the stupid things. Always a bloody stupid mistake. And while I’m generally as sure-footed as a damn gazelle or mountain squirrel on snow and ice, I’m always wondering if this will be the season I slip, go down hard and break a 56-year-old hip.
I’ve been sleeping soundly into the morning. There have not been neighbors up at 5 a.m. revving up snowblowers to blow billions of innocent snowflakes to smithereens. Winter is green, and silence is golden.
There have been other perks, too. I’ve been wearing my black dress shoes to work just about all winter. My old, heavy brown shoes with the rubber Tiger Paws-like treads on the bottoms have made only occasional appearances on my feet.
Another one: I heat my drafty, old Albany stronghold with good old America-imported oil, and started October with pretty much a full tank of the stuff. The mild fall and early winter meant I didn’t have to crank up the old boiler all that much. Blood frozen in arteries does not bother me; water frozen in pipes does.
It’s true, I like a chilly house — 60 degrees is normal, 65 or 68 degrees is normal for company. Seventy means "Where's the damn fire?" When my brother Tim was briefly my roommate some years ago, he got to experience winter thrift in person. One day, when I was working and he wasn’t, we were talking on the phone for some reason. He said he had just built a snowman in the living room ... and could have sworn the snowman was slowly making his way to the fireplace. Ha. Ha.
I like to say mice have never been a problem because if one of the dopes ever moved in during November, he’d be out a week later. “Geez, it’s a lot warmer outside,” he’d figure, and shiver no more.
Anyway, this winter has brought neither heavy snow nor heavy cold and I just filled up the tank again on Feb. 1. I’m saving a bunch of dough on oil, and at $3.78 a gallon, that’s more beer and ketchup money.
The mild season has also let me dry laundry outside. Like the folks over at the “Greenpoint” environmental blog, I like to help Mother Earth when I can. That’s why I don’t even own a clothes dryer, and generally dry everything in the breeze. I haven’t had to visit electric dryers at my neighborhood laundromat this year; there have been mild and sunny days aplenty to billow sheets and shirts.
Lack of snow has also let me quickly grab firewood from backyard stock. In some years, I’ve had to clear snow from the tops of protective tarps and grab snow-covered pieces of ash and maple for my living room oven. Although I have missed tossing a snow-crusted log onto a roaring blaze, and watching the snow vanish in a steamy hiss.
I haven’t really been able to count many disadvantages. The beer and soda stored on my front porch hasn’t been ice cold this winter. In some years, I’ve had to move my supplies inside because they’ll become icy cold if I don’t. I guess that’s about it.
I know it can all change in a week. I also know we’re going to get socked with a semi-whopper of a storm in either February or March. I just hope it’s on a weekend, and I don’t run out of beer. Or matches.