Friday, January 29, 2016

January 29, 2016--Snowbirding: The Weather

Everyone is talking about the weather. What with recent record snowfalls up and down the east coast, on TV and among family and friends the talk has been nonstop.

Down here in Florida, no matter the weather, it is always a major source of conversation. As you can see from this, written a few years ago, all that attention doesn't always sit well with our New York friends--

The Weather 
You speak to her.” 
Alice handed me the phone while I mouthed, “Who is it?”  She turned her back as I took hold of the handset and walked away.
“Yes?  This is Lloyd.  Hello.  Who’s this? ”
“Didn’t you say to me,” it was our New York friend, the novelist Peggy Samson, “that you never wanted to live in a place where the primary topic of conversation is the weather?”  I nodded and, as if she could see me, she continued, “Well, all I heard from you this winter  has been, ‘Today started out nicely but then the clouds came in and before sunset we had a thunder storm.’”
“Well, we did have many days like that and . . .“
“Also all you talked about,” there was no way to interrupt her, “was how cold it was down there during January and February, ‘When we woke up this morning, can you believe it, it was 36 degrees and there was even frost on the windows.’”
“But it was cold then.  And didn’t I also tell you that I had no right to complain?  That if we were up in New York it would have been good to have 36 as the high for the day?”
“Yes, you did say that very thing.  More times than I want to recall.”
“So?  What’s the big deal?”
“Just listen to yourself.  Do you know how boring you sound?”  I had to admit she was probably right.  “The breakfast group met at Balthazar this morning for coffee—Sharon [Short, the noted fashion editor] and George [Western, the noted interior designer] and James [Gilbertson, the noted anthropologist].  The usual regulars.  Though since you left they made the baguette portion smaller and raised the prices and no longer serve jam in ramekins, most of the time we talked about what’s become of you and Alice.”
“I can’t believe that.”
“What?  About the jam or that we spent the whole morning talking about you?”
“That you were talking about us.  I’ll manage to live with the jam situation when we get back in a few weeks.”
“None too soon.  We’ll have to do a lot of remedial work on the two of you.  And please don’t show up in green pants.”
“I don’t have green pants.  Though I did buy a pair of red ones at a local store here, Mercer-Wenzel.” I was having fun with her.  There is no way I would buy much less wear red pants.  I held back from adding, “At least not until next winter.”
I did ask, “But tell me more about the jam.  I assume they’re still serving jam with the croissants.”
“In those tiny jars that you get in first class on airplanes.”
“Do they charge for them?  That wouldn’t surprise me.”
“Not yet,” Peggy said with exasperation.
 “And what about the butter?  Is that at least still in the ramekins?”
“They now serve pats.  Wrapped in some kind of messy foil.”
“Ugh!  I hate that.  I know it’s very Euro, but you get butter all over your fingers when you unwrap them.”
“One thing that’s promising though.”
“And that is?”
“You’re sounding more like your old self.  You still have some of your New York spunk.  Maybe we have less work to do to deprogram you.  Sharon was worried sick that with your obsession with weather might have changed you so much that you’d come back full of reasons why we should feel good about the Tea Party.”
“Well, she’s sort of half right.  They do have . . .”
“This is just too much,” she screamed before I could say I was just kidding.  But she hung up on me nonetheless.
And then just last evening, Alice and I were sitting out on the lawn after our late afternoon beach walk and saw two of our neighbors who live in Massachusetts wandering toward us with cocktails in hand.  We hadn’t seen them for a while—they had been too busy with work up north to get here the past two months—and so there was a lot to catch up with.  Mainly about their health and their three children and seven grandchildren.
Everything they reported was good news, which we were very happy to hear.  
“Look,” Bill said, interrupting the updates, “that looks like a rain cloud to me.”  We all craned our heads to look to the south where he was pointing.  And sure enough, a few ominous clouds appeared to be gathering.
“For these parts, a typical mid-April, late-in-the day weather front.”  Everyone turned to Alice.  “On the Weather Channel they said we should expect this today.” We all gave her our full attention and nodded.  “But they also said there was nothing to be concerned about.  The weekend should be beautiful.  Partly cloudy with high temperatures in the mid-seventies.  And not much wind.  Just enough to keep things cool, the bugs under control, and the ocean in a nice state of agitation.  I love it when there’s some chop on the water.  Like now.”
The three of us in unison turned to the ocean, to follow Alice’s gaze, and sure enough there was just the right amount of wave action on the water.  Though there was a fly that was buzzing around my uncovered head undisturbed by the breeze.
“I should have worn my cap,” I said to no one in particular, while swatting at it.
“This breeze is just perfect,” Sally said.  “There’s a touch of humidity in the air and it takes the edge off it.  This is the best time of day.  But how was it, the weather I mean, since the last time we were here?”
“Let’s see, it’s been about five weeks, hasn’t it?”  Sally and Bill nodded.  “That was late February.  Is that right?”
“Yes, about then,” Bill said.  I could see him counting the weeks on his fingers.  “A little more than five weeks.  And we saw it was very cold during that time.  For here, I mean.”  Now Alice and I were doing the nodding.  “What was it?” he turned to Sally, “lows in the upper 30s and highs most days only in the 50s?  I think they set some weather records.  For all time lows.”
“We do remember that,” Alice said while looking toward me for confirmation, “in fact on the coldest day, the one where the high was only 49, the heater in our place stopped working.  These condo units, we learned, produce both cold and hot air but they’re really designed for air conditioning.  Not heating.  So it was probably overstressed by all the heating we were asking it to do.”
“That’s happened to us last year,” Bill said.  “And you’re right about the heating and cooling.  This is supposed to be Florida where even in the winter you have to heat the place only once in a while.  But luckily they came to fix ours right away.  It was a switching problem.  What about you?”
“The same with us,” I said.  “Fortunately.  But you know,” I quickly added, “considering the weather we missed in New York this winter, where there was a lot of cold weather and at times a great deal of snow, as I told our Florida friends who were complaining all the time about how cold it was, I kept saying to them, ‘I’m the last person to have the right to complain.  I’m so fortunate to be able to be here, to be able to afford to be here when it’s so cold and wintry up north.’  And, as you said, if we had been in New York, on many days we would have been thrilled to have 38 or 45 degrees as the high for the day.”
“Look there, look at how those clouds are forming.”  Again Bill was pointing to the south.  “I bet before too long we’ll have that rain storm Alice heard about on the Weather Channel.”  Again we all twisted in our lawn chairs to get a better look.”
“I agree,” Alice said, “I’m sensing some rain in the air.”  Sally’s chair almost tipped over from her effort to get a more direct view of the sky.
“I think I felt a drop,” I said.  “Since I’m bald on top, I’m usually the first to know when it begins to drizzle.”  I brushed at my scalp both to draw their attention to my balding and also as if to brush away the persistent fly and the beginning of the rain.
“It would be a shame if it developed into a storm,” Bill said, “We have reservations to have dinner at Veri Amici and I much prefer to sit at one of their outdoor tables.”
Always wanting to look on the bright side of things, very much including the weather, Alice reassuringly offered, “The Weather Channel promised this was going to be a passing event.”
“I hope so,” Sally said, “This is our first night here in more than a month and we were hoping for a real Floridian evening.  You know, under the stars with a gentle breeze.”
“You know, since I had that arthroscopic knee surgery, to shave my cartilage,” I added, “it’s like having a barometer in my leg.  Whenever it’s really going to rain hard, a few hours in advance it gets stiff and even painful.”  I pulled up my trouser leg to show them my repaired left knee.  “And I don’t feel a thing now.  Look.”  I flexed my leg to illustrate.  “A good range of motion and no stiffness or pain.”  I smiled at them, also to try to reassure them that they would have a lovely dinner under the stars.  “So you can count on beautiful weather later this evening.”
“But now I too am feeling raindrops,” Bill said, looking a bit deflated.  “Though the restaurant does have an awning and if it does rain there’s something nice about sitting under it and hearing the sound of it.”
In an attempt to change the subject from the weather in Florida, Alice asked, “So how was it up in Massachusetts while you were there?  From what I read, it sounded as if it wasn’t too bad.  I mean the weather.”
“And that made me comfortable about being here,” I jumped in to say, wanting to help make Sally and Bill feel better about the weather changes we were experiencing.  “I don’t like it as much when we’re down here and read about the awful weather you have up there.  I feel guilty that we’re in Florida escaping the cold and snow.”
“You shouldn’t feel that way,” Sally said.  She is the kind of person who is inclined to say things such as this to help you feel better—she is a junior high school guidance counselor back in Massachusetts and does that professionally. “You both worked hard for so many years.  You’re entitled to get away and live the good life.”  She spread her arms to take in the full expanse of the lawn and ocean as if to define further what she meant by the “good life.”
“It’s really staring to rain now,” Bill said, hunching over to keep the still gentle but intensifying rain from pelting his entire body.  “Maybe we should call it an evening.  Since Alice says it will be nice over the weekend we’ll have more time to sit out here together.  Assuming she and the Weather Channel have things under control.”  He winked at her while beginning to get up.
“But Alice’s right,” I said in support of her forecasting, “Look, look over there.  You can see the rain clouds breaking up and they’re moving east, aren’t they?  Which means that this shower will soon be over.  More important, you’ll have perfect weather for dinner tonight.”  Appreciating my confirmation, Alice was smiling and nodding enthusiastically.
Later that evening—and the weather did clear up well before Sally and Bill left for Veri Amici—Peggy called again from New York.  “Sorry I gave you such a hard time this morning,” she said, in her most contrite voice, “Do hurry back though.  We miss you.  Darling George said it’s not as much fun here with you guys out of town.  Isn’t that sweet since he’s really the one who’s always the most fun.” 
That was pure Peggy.  “And Jim, you know how political he is—almost a socialist—he said this morning, I forgot to tell you, that he’s actually interested in what you have to say about what all those smart Florida conservatives have been up to.  The only conservatives within five miles of here are the ones wanting to conserve what’s left of the original design of Washington Square Park.  But by Florida standards, even they are Commies.  Talk about boring.”
“We will be back in about three weeks,” I assured Peggy, “and we’ll be eager to fill you in on what we’ve been hearing and learning.  It is very interesting.  In fact, we spend so much time talking about politics and health care and economics that we hardly have any time to talk about the weather.”  I smiled toward Alice.
“I was just joking about that earlier today,” she said still trying to reassure me that she had only been needling us.  “Really.”  She paused then added, “Well, at least partly joking.  Talk about the weather to your heart’s content.”
Same old Peggy I was pleased to hear.  “I knew you were having fun with us.  Particularly the ‘at least partly’ part.  But, by the way, the weather,” I couldn’t help myself from adding, “has been very nice, though it was showering a couple of hours ago.  That’s Florida for you—sunny one minute, teeming the next.” 
I smiled at Alice when I read the note she had passed to me. “Enough about the weather,” it said.
“And,” Peggy laughed before she needed to hang up and race uptown to the theater, “we promise to forgive you even if you show up in those red pants.”

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