Tuesday, January 20, 2009

On the Winter Blues...

I clambered into the van this morning at zero six dark, after having cleaned the snow and ice off the windshield and side windows. "It doesn't feel too cold out there", I commented to my spouse. We turned on the radio as we made our way in. "It's minus 16 degrees at the airport this morning...", the announcer stated. I looked at my better half and said: "It's a pretty sad thing when you can honestly say that -16 degrees actually feels balmy...".

Part of the national psyche here in Canada, has to do with how we deal with winter. It is at once a source of pride and grounds for a non-stop bitchfest, once the white stuff starts flying. Last week it hit -52 Celsius in Saskatchewan. And that was without the wind chill factor! Frankly, that's one bragging right they can keep all to themselves!

Wilfred "Wilf" Blezard remembers the coldest recorded day in North America's history. Now 82 years old, Blezard was one of four weathermen stationed at the Snag airport in Yukon, Canada, on February 3, 1947. On that day, the temperature dropped to 81 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.

"We had six dogs that stayed outside the barracks," Blezard said over the telephone from his home in Grande Prairie, Alberta. "Their breath created quite a fog above them."

Blezard remembers tossing water into the air and watching it freeze into pellets before hitting the ground, and listening to the magnification of local sounds created by the severe temperature inversion.

"When a plane flew over at 10,000 feet, it sounded like it was in your bedroom," he said.

On that day, Blezard and his coworkers for the Weather Service of Canada filed a notch into the glass casing of an alcohol thermometer because the indicator within fell below the lowest number, 80 below zero.

When they later sent the thermometer to Toronto, officials there determined the temperature at Snag had dropped to minus 81.4 degrees F, the lowest official temperature ever recorded in North America.

Can you imagine??? "Yes, but it's a dry cold...", some would say. (As their ears froze and fell to the ground...). Sure... You can have it!

This puts me in mind of a skit once done by George Carlin:

"Have you ever been driving around during the winter, you know... Just trying to get here and there, pick up some groceries, maybe? It's snowing, there's spray coming up from the road, you have the wipers on, the blower for the windshield, the radio for some tunes... Just trying to take care of business you know? Getting through the day... Then you get out of your car and go inside somewhere for a while. When you come back out and start your car, THE RADIO IS THIS GODDAMN LOUD!!!

You find yourself staring in horror at the radio, wondering: "Could I possibly have been listening to this??!!?!??" But then you stop yourself and say: "No! I know what happened... Some asshole broke into my car and deliberately messed with the controls!!!" "There's no way I would have done that!!!"

I hopped into the van the other day after my wife had been driving around in it. When I started it up, it was as though a drunken 17-year old had been out in it. The blast of sound from the radio literally pinned me to the seat!! "Jeeeeesus H. Christ!!!", I wailed as I frantically stabbed at the steering wheel mounted volume control, bringing the level down below 'ear-bleeding' range.

Winter... Who's bright friggin' idea was this, pray tell? My body and my soul are crying out for a week on a beach in the Dominican Republic. Punta Cana... the grounds of the Bavaro Princess, that endless sun-drenched beach that stretched for miles...those azure waters, warm and inviting, swirling around my ankles as we walked along. The wonderful array of foods, the evening entertainment. There are many other, more expensive resorts there, I have no doubt. But none could take the place of the Bavaro Princess.


I still have the pictures but I find it impossible now to evoke the actual feeling of being there. I used to be able to do that, but it's been so long now... It had been many years since I had been South in the winter, the last time we went. But once you go, you're hooked all over again. You know why people scrimp and save, and plan and scheme, to be able to escape winter for however brief a period. It is an absolutely wonderful feeling that I simply can't get enough of.

Ah well... in the meantime the sun is shining and there is nothing falling from the sky so far today. As they say: "Any day spent above ground, is a good day!"

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