The mercury must fall below 20 before I entertain any notion of donning a touque, and gloves (a real rarity) — my inner Viking won’t have it otherwise. We aren’t there yet this week, though Washington’s air early this a.m. was ripe with winter bite. Also, the region’s first appreciable trace of snow arrived (in Maryland moreso than Virginia and the District). I bounced out of my home before 6:00 in the lovely frigid darkness, headed for the gym, unaware of the snow’s arrival. The surprise first snowfall, however modest, still is special to me; this morning’s was a modest tonic for my sad hockey soul of late.
There are nuisance elements to these unseasonably frosty conditions, I’ve been told, but I am genetically immune to them. I love being a native Washingtonian with deep Viking roots.
Depending on your perspective, we in D.C. are either cursed or blessed by the present Deep Freeze of December. I think you know where I stand.
When the mercury’s more seasonable — say in the middle 30s at morning rush hour — I draw silent amusement from my outdoor Metro platform encounters with otherwise robust-appearing men, layered for Siberia. Scarfs, leather gloves, thick wool pea coats — the works — encase these wussies of winter. NBA fan, I think to myself as I inspect.
Even before the arrival here this week of Mr. Deep Freeze — my all-time favorite Christmas party guest — I’d finalized plans for my first winter vacation. Not the Bahamas. No, come late January I’ll be off for a very long weekend in Maine, and my first-ever immersion in Portland’s Ice Bar celebration. Portland is also home to my favorite non-Dublin tavern, Bull Feeneys. I am investigating the potential of renting two snowmobiles that weekend for that my friend Michael and I can pub-rev it atop 750 horsepower and navigate a trip to and from that great warming spot.
This past Sunday I was enduring torture on one of my gym’s death machines (that’s any piece of aerobic equipment used by me in my middle-age), and overhead on a flatscreen TV my inner Viking was summoned by the illustration of the 5-day forecast for Washington’s week ahead. Those mercury numbers looked like winning Powerball digits to me. In my middle age, at the gym, it’s a powerful incentive to see such a gift from Mother Nature, especially at the holidays.
My thoughts raced ahead to this Saturday morning, with the reasonable expectation of shinny-viable conditions on some local skating ponds. I always pursue a deep burn in my exercise regimen, but at that moment I went extra hard in my routine. If I’m right, there will be kids out on that pond Saturday. My middle age is a grave disadvantage among them.
But since about Halloween I’ve shed nearly 20 pounds off my frame. Consequently I now sleep like a bear in hibernation at night, feel like a million bucks during the day, and, perhaps not so incidentally, on a recent Friday evening I got carded while purchasing some holiday wine. On a most personal level, there will be I think something special about this winter’s regional shinny: I will pursue it in the best shape I’ve been in in perhaps 12 or 15 years. Maybe it’s the eternal optimist in me, or the delusional imaginings of a shinny enthusiast who never yields the feeling of youth associated with that pursuit, but I believe that come Saturday I’ll still have something to show those kids.
This fairly extreme fitness regime I’m on — it’s partly themed on the battlecry of Do Not Go Gently into Middle-Age Without a Fight.
My body possesses this inner, innate radar for ice thickness on local ponds. I need call no park service recording for a safety assessment. I can drive by a pond in my Jeep and, cognizant of the cumulative incubating cold, fairly accurately interpret the conditions with but a few seconds of concentrated survey. Vikings have this ability, I think.
My pal Pepper emailed me last night to detail the thrill of looking out his New York City apartment window at the season’s first snowfall. After about 36 hours of email traffic largely themed on ‘What do you think we oughta do about Bruce?,’ that was a most welcomed missive, a bit of an electronic Christmas card from a fellow winter enthusiast.
Weather fronts like this week’s — so wondrously inexplicable so early in the winter calendar — bring out the inner Viking in me. You see, I remember all too well the breezeless agony of summer ’10. A part of me wants to drive to the gym in the morning with my Jeep’s soft top lowered, just to spiritually exorcise the humidity demons of summer.
I plan on skating a bit of shinny of my sorta private skating pond this Saturday. It’s only about eight inches deep and freezes quickly and well in week’s like this one. I’m not going to tell you where it is, for while it’s the Christmas season, for this experience, I’m not much in a sharing mood. Unless . . . you email me and pledge to haul out a goal for our game, and a cooler for warming afterwards.