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Stop The Polar Express – I Want to Get Off Now!

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Lake Michigan, Chicago, Illinois

We lovers of the film The Polar Express sometimes think, “Wouldn’t it be really great to be able to board a train that went all the way to the North Pole for a visit to Santa’s workshop?” Well, as the so called “polar vortex” sends air normally reserved for Santa and his elves this way, I have decided I have no desire to go up there even if I would get a chance to meet the jolly old elf himself.

 

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Minnesota, U.S.A.

No, this air is so cold that you could, as my mother used to say, cut it with a knife. Add to this the 25-mile-per-hour winds, and you get a wind-chill factor that borders on out of this world – literally out of this world. Case in point is Babbit, Minnesota, where it’s -38°C (that’s before calculating wind-chill) and colder than the surface of Mars. This is not just bitterly cold or frigid – it is severe, penetrating (don’t even believe that one about wearing layers), and Arctic-like in its intensity.

So far this winter I have shoveled for hours after two snowstorms, and now New York City (as much of the rest of the country) is blanketed with this cold weather from the North Pole. This is when things crawl to a snarl, equipment fails, trains stop running, and people move as if they are in slow motion. We aren’t just numb at this point; we are chisled by the icy air, and the thought of going outside is as promising as that trip to the dentist for root canal.

If you have kids you know that this is the time to “bundle them up” and make them look like the Pillsbury Dough Boy when they walk. My kids went out to school this morning with just their eyes visible, and as I followed them out the door, despite all of my preparation (three shirts, two sweaters, scarf, gloves, and hat with ear flaps) nothing would have kept me warm. Turning the ignition in the car, the engine made a groaning sound – as if to say, “Why are you trying to start me? Are you nuts?”

I have been looking for answers online and TV this morning. My question is – and I’m sure some of you are thinking it too – what happened to global warming? Well, judging from some explanations from the experts, it is not unexpected that global warming could cause these bouts of extreme weather. According to CNN International senior meteorologist Brandon Miller, “different types of extreme weather can result from the overall warming of the planet.”

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New York City

Here in New York we have had nothing but extreme weather all year, but especially in the last few days. We had a heavy snowfall last week followed by icy rain (causing the streets to glaze over and pedestrians to lose their grande cappuccinos as they flopped on their rear ends). On Monday the temperature soared to 60°F, creating a thick soup-like fog that would have rivaled anything found in London, and now today we dropped to 4°F and are dreaming of anything but a “white” Christmas.

As many of us face solemn days in this time after the holidays, the last thing we need is winter’s kick in the face. And believe me, that is exactly how it felt when I went out this morning. Jack Frost wasn’t just nipping at my nose; it seemed as if he were ripping it off along with my cheeks.

Watching TV this morning, the meteorologists were like dancing a jig they were so happy. As one of my local broadcasters stood before a map of the New York City area with all insanely low temperatures on it, he seemed positively giddy – like my kids when they learned school was closed on Friday because of the snowstorm. I understand that weather is this guy’s job, but for the rest of us this is nothing to laugh about or to celebrate.

So take all the cold weather tips and try them if you like. Wearing layers didn’t work for me today, although I imagine I would have been much colder if I had not tried it. My father used to say bears have the best reaction to winter – they hibernate, but most of us are not afforded that luxury. If you can stay indoors, do so. Drink your hot chocolate (or brandy if you so choose), throw another log on the fire, and try to stay warm.

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Paul Hogan in sunny Sydney, Australia

In the meantime my family and I have been treated to my niece’s pictures from her trip to  Australia. She is seemingly very happy running around Sydney in shorts and a T-shirt, playing volleyball on the beach, and taking a dip in the ocean. The heck with putting another log on the fire; I’d rather be like good old Paul Hogan and throwing another shrimp on the barbie. Oh, well, I can dream on such a winter’s day.

Photo credits – cnn.com; hogan – wikipedia

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About Victor Lana

Victor Lana has published numerous stories, articles, and poems in literary magazines and online. His books In a Dark Time (1994), A Death in Prague (2002), Move (2003), The Savage Quiet September Sun: A Collection of 9/11 Stories (2005) and Like a Passing Shadow (2009) are available online and as e-books. He has won the National Arts Club Award for Poetry, but has concentrated mostly on fiction and non-fiction prose in recent years. He has worked as faculty advisor to school literary magazines and enjoys the creative process as a writer, editor, and collaborator. He has been with Blogcritics since July 2005, has edited many articles, was co-head sports editor with Charley Doherty, and now is a Culture and Society editor. He views Blogcritics as one of most exciting, fresh, and meaningful opportunities in his writing life.
  • bliffle

    I’m sitting here in San Jose CA in shorts and sweater with sleeves rolled up, no socks, all the windows and doors open to let fresh air into my lair, with sunlight streaming through the broken overcast, contemplating a bicycle ride this afternoon. Here it is January and there’s not even a wisp of snow on top of Mount Hamilton, easily visible through my window.

    But I earned it. I started delivering newspapers twice a day (once on sunday) every day since I was 12 to earn money to go to college, where I hitchhiked back and forth to college to get a good job (you don’t know what cold is until you’re hitching 12 miles home in the gloomy chill of the Mississippi river valley at 6pm with a bitter wind pushing you and still an hours hike at the end). For fun, me and my buddy went ice-fishing on weekends, chopping a hole through 3 feet of ice with a steel chisel to catch big perch and walleyes. It’s fun to Beat The System.

    When I was 25 I moved to this place, which has moderate year round climate.

    Now, when I fly back to wintry Minneapolis to visit I wear a watch cap, cords, moderate sweater, wool sports coat and moderate leather gloves. Oh, and a cashmere scarf and Merino wool socks. Seems warm and toasty to me. Even those late nights years ago when I had to wait out on Hennepin avenue for an hour for my bus.

    You have to learn to dominate adversity. You have to learn to shout back at the howling storm: “Damn you! I’m too tough and determined to be beaten by a little wind and cold”.

    How else can you learn to survive in the modern world, with all it’s cheaters and thieves and businessmen, ex-wives and arrogant children?

  • Victor Lana

    Thnaks for the comment. Well, to be sure, our (NYC) climate has become more severe (both in summer and winter). Yet I recall my grandfather’s stories of the East River freezing over in winter and his walking across it to go over to Brooklyn, and that river has never frozen over in my lifetime.

    I envy your being able to wear shorts in Jnauary. I need to get someplace where I can do that.