Feb 17 2006
For three generations I’ve had a family member call the Sunshine State home.
Some member of my clan has sat beneath a palm tree here, sweaty and happy, laughing at the rest of the world. The farthest north anyone has ever lived is Kentucky, where my dad is from. In fact, I like to say I’m more Southern than most southerners since my grandmother came to Florida from Cuba. Top that!
Growing up as a boy in Tampa, Jacksonville was considered up north for me (I thought it was a suburb of Boston), and when I moved to St. Augustine in 1991 to go to school, it was as if I had moved to Alaska by the way the temperature would drop. You even have to wear coats up here and once in a while you might see frost, like this past week. In Tampa, you’re lucky if your ice pop doesn’t melt in February.
But as I spent the week hunkered down in the worst cold we’ve seen all year, trying to convince my boss that I DID have a doctor’s note prescribing hibernation for the rest of the season, I watched bone-chilling clips of all those crazy lunatics living up in that frozen tundra called the Northeast.
Way up there by the North Pole, in a place called New York, where frozen water falls from the sky. I asked myself, how do those crazy Yankees do it?
That’s where my wife is from, and at times like these, I pepper her with questions about living in it: “Did you ever see a polar bear? Did you ever see any yellow snow? Did you ever wrap yourself in attic insulation it got so cold? Why didn’t you sue your parents for living up there?”
Folks, it’s cold. It was cold down here, but it will freeze your fingernails off up there. Forget freezing your tongue to the flag pole. People get frozen to the refrigerator door going for a glass of water. Someone has to come along and chip them off.
And I for one couldn’t do it.
I cannot function in the cold. I have a hard enough time thinking straight when it’s nice and warm. Sprinkle chilly weather on me and I’m a babbling idiot. My insides coil up like a litter of kittens, knotting and twisting together to keep warm. “Can’t breathe or circulate,” I cry, hunched over in pain. “Spread out and stop squeezing the kidneys.”
This is probably why I am so fascinated by the Winter Olympics. The thought of lunatics from the coldest of places on Earth going outside to compete fascinates me. Why do they do it? There’s hot cocoa in by the fire. And how can they do it? I couldn’t.
I used to think winter athletes were convicts forced to entertain us during the time of year when no sane or rational human beings would go outside. It turns out I’m slightly wrong. They get record snow in the Northeast and they head out doors to ski, sled and generally try to get frostbite on regions of their bodies that civilized people don’t talk about.
Shoot, for me, even Tampa’s mild winters were almost unbearable when it came to sports. I remember playing soccer and my asthmatic lungs shriveling in the chill.
The wheeze emanating from those oxygen-starved organs was so loud that my teammates kept thinking the coach was whistling at us and stopped playing.
My teeth would chatter so bad during games, other players would accuse me of trying to bite them.
So I don’t know how those Yankees do it. How they make it through the winter. It’s ludicrous. Me? I’ll just keep hibernating and waiting for spring down here in the South. Then I’ll go sit beneath a palm tree and laugh when they all come down and complain about the heat.