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Thursday, Dec. 18, 2003 02:20 pm

Grace about town


Mom says one good thing about cold weather is that the bottle of water she keeps in her car stays icy-cold. Who wants icy-cold water when you get into the car after being in the icy-cold coldness, is my question.

My biggest fear about moving back to Spfld. after years and years in warmer climes was winter. A few years ago, when I was visiting here at Christmas, a foot of snow fell the day before I left for LA. It was mildly fun to shovel huge piles of snow out of my parents' driveway, but I kept thinking, "Thank God I'm leaving tomorrow!"

I survived my first winter here, but suddenly it's reared its chilly head again. I coped last year mostly by being surly and crabby and wearing many, many layers of clothing. But I'm trying to be more logical about it, so I've come up with this handy Survival Guide. Follow any one of my tips, or a combination of them, and hopefully we'll all make it to spring:

1. Ignore the cold weather altogether. My sister's boyfriend, Jim, is an enthusiastic practitioner of this method. He shows up at our house in shorts and flip-flops when there's snow on the ground. But he shaves his head (my dad refers to him as "The Bald Guy") and always wears a goofy-looking wool hat, even indoors. So clearly, some parts of his body acknowledge the cold, while he attempts to fool us into thinking he's not freezing in his flip-flops.

2. Embrace the cold. Yeah, right. This is more aggressive than No. 1, and frequently people who practice No. 1 also delve into No. 2. This involves sledding and skiing, cold-weather sports which involve plunging down a frozen hill of death, as I like to call it. I've fallen down walking in tennis shoes on perfectly dry pavement, so you can imagine my terror at the thought of rocketing down a mountain on a pair of very, very slippery skis, plus they even add wax to the bottoms of them so they become even more lethal.

I actually "learned" to ski one winter in college when I visited a friend and her family in Austria. Girl from one of the flattest places on earth, up in the Austrian Alps, attempting to learn to ski from an instructor who didn't have any kind of grasp of the English language. I did learn to do a passable snowplow on the bunny slope, but on the last day we traveled to the top of the mountain (I'm pretty sure it was the top of the world), and let me just say it wasn't pretty, and involved a lot of tears on my part. Someday I'll tell you the whole story, but it's still too painful to recount.

If you don't want to deal with the horror of outside, clearly this next option is for you:

3. Stay indoors. This is certainly fun, for a while anyway. I find it especially enjoyable if there's a roaring fire in the fireplace and plenty of hot buttered rum. And maybe some marshmallows to toast over the fire, and stuff to make s'mores (I can't believe all the lame "s'more making kits" suddenly advertised everywhere -- you don't need a KIT!! Next there will be kits for roasting hot dogs, with tiny little sticks for roasting over a little bitty butane burner).

The only problem with No. 3 is that even hot-buttered rum gets old after a while, and if I'm cooped up too long I'll start acting like the cats who refuse to go out in cold and snow but can't stand to be inside all the time -- I'll start tearing around the house, leaping onto the back of the couch, knocking things over, getting in fights with the other animals. Not good. This, then, is when No. 4 comes in handy:

4. Stay very busy. When I lived here years ago I was in a play, which got me through the bitterest of months, January and February. I was so focused on the play that I didn't notice the cold so much. The only problem is there aren't so many plays in January and February, and we can't all be in a play, because then who would come see it? Plus, when you have a job during the day, it's more difficult to get motivated to get out at night. Which brings me to my best winter survival tip:

5. Get out of town. Go someplace warm. Florida, Arizona, California, it doesn't matter where. If you can, escape for a few days or a week. Planning a trip will give you something to look forward to, and by the time you're back, there couldn't be that much cold weather left. Right? Except I remember when it snowed in April . . .

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