Saturday, December 06, 2003

The Weather

Herald Square, Macys In The Snow. 06 DEC 03

Many people know I am a fan of weather. I grew-up in New England and there is always plenty of weather in the Northeast of the United States. I prefer the cold Winters to the hot Summers, but Autumn will always be my favorite.

I lived in Florida and I hated the weather that never really changed, except to get hotter. I was depressed by the sight of a front lawn Christmas display that included a creche, a Santa in sleigh with reindeer, and pink flamingo, all basking in 75F sunshine.

A move to California was more to my liking as the ever-changing climate of San Francisco reminded me more of home. I loved that I could leave my apartment in the Mission with the sun shining and not a breeze to be found, and make my way over a hill and find deep, chilly fog and stiff breezes after a sixty minute walk.

Many days I would make my way to Noe & Market and take a seat at Cafe Flore at eleven in the morning for a double latte and a spacecake, struggling to situate out of the sun. Two lattes later I could be rushing home with a chill to the bone because the sun rolled-out in a flash and the clouds rolled-in.

My move to Minneapolis was a lesson in real weather. Three months of very hot Summer, followed by two quick weeks of Autumn, seven cruel months of Winter, two weeks of lovely Spring, and a partridge in a pear tree.

I liked Minneapolis with its liberal culture of Scandinavian sensibility. A real sense of social responsibility and charity. A growing arts community, a fledgling punk movement, and a booming pre-Reaganomics economy. Sadly, the weather was not for me and a quick succession of minor, but unpleasant, events sparked a return to my hometown of Boston.

I do not think there is a city in North America with a more balanced change of seasons than Boston. Sure, there is the occasional year when the Spring or Autumn is nonexistent, and the occasional Winter that seems to prove that Hell is not hot at all, but a hilly landscape filled with snowdrifts buffeted with biting winds. These are seldom, though. Most years, Boston has lovely Springs, and Summers not-too-humid and not-too-hot, and spectacular Autumns that draw tourists from around-the-world, and Winters that have some snow and some cold and rare blizzards. Boston has a true change-of-seasons climate.

Since I live in New York City, which is only 200 miles from Boston, I do not quite enjoy the same fantastic climate. Two hundred miles doesn't sound like it should offer much of a climate change, but it does. New York City Summers, especially in Manhattan, can be brutally humid and much hotter than Boston.

I don't know how people lived without air-conditioning in New York City. I might find out next year when we move from our luxury apartment in Manhattan to a more family-oriented residence in an outer borough. Hopefully, though, we will find an air-conditioned apartment, because the Summer can be brutal. I had never heard the term Heat Index until I lived in New York, where the concrete and towering skyscrapers above and tentacles of the subway below all conspire to keep the heat in like so much hot air in a Jiffy-Pop waiting to explode. Linen and fans and air-conditioning and filtered water make the Summers bearable.

Winters are less predictable. A few years ago, Manhattan had a winter with a snowfall of zero accumulation. Less than an inch fell from the sky and none of it stuck to the ground. It was cold, but dry and very odd for a Winter in the Northeast. Last year we had quite a bit of snowfall. The city is lovely after a snowfall. The traffic is diminished and the pedestrians are mostly indoors, the sky is bright reflecting the snow.

Manhattan residents are, generally speaking, not from New York. Most seem to be from places where Winter is non-existent and they complain incessantly about the snow and cold. I always ask why they live here if they hate Winter so much. They always respond the same way, that they are here for their career and to make money because this is where the action is. They always say it with a certain amount of pride and conviction and I think they really believe it is a reasonable response. In truth, they are rather disgusting people whose sole purpose in life seems to be the acquisition of power through money and the acquisition of status through the consumption of clothing and products splashed with designer logos. They are horrible people who twenty years ago would never have dreamed of living in an urban setting, they would have ensconced themselves in some sterile suburb surrounded by people they never know and television sets providing them with a distorted sense of the world and their own personal ambitions. In these post-Reagan days, this ilk is now revered as the perfect American and instead of hiding in the suburbs where they belong, they have taken over many urban centers and helping to homogenize each American city with consumerism and Faux News.

People seem to take their cues about the weather from television, and now the internet. These media sell advertising by keeping tuners tuned-in, and one way to do that is to turn every event into an absolutely remarkable instance of the history of humanity being unalterably changed by a single event. Like a snowstorm. Weather in our culture is now discussed as if it was a new phenomenon, and each change in the weather is a reason to stock-up on supplies, stay indoors, complain to your neighbor, and be absolutely shocked, Shocked I Tell You, that it is snowing in New York!

Now . . . I love weather. I get excited by snowstorms and rain and wind and sunshine; but, I do not think these momentary changes in the climate are events worthy of news stories. It's the weather. There is no need for some bland, twenty-something, bleach blond, Hilfiger-clad, journalism school dropout cum model-spokesperson to read a script intended to move me emotionally. It's the weather! Weather is good. All weather is good. Sure there are weather-related disasters and crises; but they are few, far-between, and impact humanity on a smaller scale than fossil-fuel emissions, breastmilk substitutes, deregulation, war, cultural homgenization and rainforest depletion! Weather is good. We need weather!

The next time you complain about the weather, think of how the world would be without weather. The day you awake and there is no weather, you are in big trouble. I hope that day never comes because it will likely be the end of humanity. Until that day comes, love the snow! It's fun!


View from Herald Towers In The Snow. 06 DEC 03