I really can’t stay.
But baby, it’s cold outside!
I’ve got to go 'way.
But baby, it’s cold outside!
So goes Frank Loesser’s famous duet of fireplace seduction. But some New Englanders feel they really can’t stay and have to go ’way precisely because, baby, it’s cold outside. It’s cold in their bones. It’s winter and they have to leave the Vineyard. Are they wise or wusses?
When we first decided to move here, some folks looked at me as if I had grown an extra head. “You mean you’ll live on the Island in the winter? What will you do to not go out of your minds?”
Is it really colder, snowier, bleaker, lonelier, crazier here? I don’t think so. We are actually protected, if not insulated, by a higher hardiness zone than most of Massachusetts, by the gulf stream, by the warmth of community and by a quilted abundance of friendlier people.
Thankfully, we are also apparently not on the dance cards of El Nino, La Nina or Il Nono. Just look back at last winter. Where was it? Last winter in Vineyard Haven we had one day of actual snowfall — Saturday, Jan. 21. It went on for 10 to 12 hours. Then on Tuesday the 24th, you wouldn’t have guessed that anything white had come down three days earlier. It was all gone. And although we had our share of cold days, we never experienced frozen ground.
By the way, none of your high-toned weather services accurately predicted last winter on this Island. Not even the Farmer’s Almanac. I might have had better luck trusting my dog’s behavior, the change of his coat, the twitch of his nose or the cut of his jib.
This past spring, those meteorological wizards who predicted freezing snowstorms for us must have found new jobs as pollsters for Mitt Romney. What with everything available from the latest in divining tools to the latest in cyber software, you’d think forecasting would be more of a breeze and less of a twister. Then again, all things related to the moon fall into the category of lunacy, no?
If you can’t find a soothsayer, there’s always a naysayer, someone who says: “Just because last winter didn’t exist doesn’t mean you’ll see one like that again, not twice in a row. You’d better think twice. Make plans now to make a getaway.”
Getting away from the Vineyard in winter is not all that easy, at least not for me. My first concern, of course, is the weather. Will it allow us to make that getaway, or will something woefully inclement cause me to waste thousands of hours and dollars of preparation? Then there’s the care and lodging of Floyd, our 11-year-old yellow Lab. And how long will it take this trip for his separation anxiety to kick in and the vet bills to pile up for his neurotic teething on his leg? Then we have my own separation anxiety. This is something I now feel each time I leave my Vineyard Haven home to drive to Aquinnah. I don’t have the most positive outlook on travel, probably because I am related to my mother. Her view of life, her weltschmerz, can best be summed up in the motto: “Why have a headache when a brain tumor will do?” So I tend to look at leaving home as a negative experience. Unless we’re talking about our performance trips for Says You, the NPR comedy quiz show. For that, we go away six or seven times a year for long weekends where someone else is making all the arrangements and paying for them. Otherwise, for me, travel simply rhymes with unravel. Let’s start with getting there, wherever that may be. Winter trips to warmer climes usually involve flying. Since the Transportation Security Administration has taken over our airports, this method of travel has lost all its allure. It’s all been downhill since my carry-on was halted for harboring life-threatening shirt-collar stays. Seriously. And the airlines seem to have cut back the number of flights so they can cannibalize grounded planes and ram extra seats into the active fleet in the space once reserved for legs. Also, airline food, once an oxymoron, is now a memory.
Frankly, I have never heard the siren call of exotic places, no matter how warm they are. What I usually hear is the sound of unstable currencies rubbing up against unstable governments. My idea of a vacation does not include my being held hostage or being turned into an American piñata.
I’d rather crank up the fire, become an armchair traveler and curl up with a good book about some faraway place and let the appearance overtake the reality — an experience that’s much less expensive. Do I hear a haiku?
An app to bring you the sun
It’s mobile warming
Since you can’t predict the weather, why fight it? Roll with it. Let’s celebrate the off-season here with potlucks, eat by the fire and chat with friends — but not about the weather. People who obsess about the weather always make me think of Oscar Wilde’s play The Importance of Being Earnest: “Whenever people talk to me about the weather, I always feel quite certain that they mean something else. And that makes me quite nervous.”
Arnie Reisman and his wife, Paula Lyons, regularly appear on the weekly NPR comedy quiz show, Says You! He also writes for the Huffington Post.