Gone the Tundra


My early youth was spent along the coast of Maine. Winters were harsh. My father was native to Westbrook and every autumn would say, “There are two seasons in Maine. Winter and preparing for winter.”

He had learned this adage from his father and his father from his father, for no matter how corny the comment sounds it is true in Maine.

My family headed south to Boston in the summer of 1960. The season lasted weeks longer in our South Shore suburb. Winter was shorter than in Falmouth Foresides across the harbor from Portland’s Eastern Promenade. We lived in a land of four seasons and my mother loved the change in the weather.

“Just wait a few minutes in Boston and the weather will change.” My mother was a proud Bostonian. Her mother came from the lands north of the Connemara and said of her Ireland, “It was either raining, just finished raining, or about the start raining.”

The weather is a safe subject. A beautiful day owes little to religion. It is a gift from Nature and I moved farther south to New York in 1976 to fall in love with a painter from Pennsylvania. Ro left her Brooklyn Heights apartment several hours before my arrival. There was no letter of explanation. I could have returned back to Boston, except April was early spring in New York and the end of winter along the Charles River.

I’ve lived many places since that day; Paris, Hamburg, Key West, Perpignan, Isla Mujeres, Bali, Sumatra, Thailand, and Palm Beach. Weather differs in each location, but I’m used to the temperate climate of New York. It has been my home for over 30 years.

Winter was never much of a concern in New York. A scattering of snow here and there during the season. Global warming had transformed the five boroughs to a semi-tropical climate throughout the summer of 2010. The temperature rarely hit the high 90s. I threw the air-conditioner in the street. The harvest of tomatoes were glorious and I swam at Fort Tilton into October. The local meteorologists offered no predictions for the winter of 2010-2011. Their crystal ball of their science offered a mere ten days window into the future.

The first snowfall was on November 16. Light snowflakes swirling on the wind. December for the most part was normal. Average High: 44°F and Average Low: 32°F. Christmas in Boston was cold, but nothing arctic. I awoke on December 26 and my nephew was on the phone. His flight to Washington had been canceled due to an extreme weather alert. A major blizzard was aiming at the US capitol. 24-36 inches of snow. New York was next in line. I had been planning to leave Boston the following day, however the Weather Channel was predicting storm of the century status for the impending blizzard. My nephew and I evacuated Boston on the 11am Fung Wah bus.

The journey usually takes about 4 hours. The snow hit I-95 south of New Haven. We didn’t reach Chinatown until 3pm. Good time, but I had spoken with Ms. Carolina down south and she had said that the snow was heavy. I offered my nephew a bed in Fort Greene. He had work the next day. We bid good-bye with a hug and I took a taxi across the river. The driver dropped me at Frank’s Lounge for a drink. My landlord and his family had flown west to California for the holidays. They were out of harm’s way.

One beer turned into four and I finally exited from my local drinking hole into a full-blown blizzard. I barely made it home and the next morning I woke to a winter wonderland. 24 inches of white stuff. Nature had shut down New York. The mayor was pissed at the city workers for their response to the emergency, but the trains weren’t running and the mayor is a fuckhead. Bloomberg fired the EMS chief to appease the right-wing press who were blaming the lack of services on the unions rather than the epic snow fall.

January had its share of ice and snow. Winter was seemingly endless. I landed at JFK from Thailand. The airport was only accepting international flights. The entire Northeast was shut down.

Cars remained buried until the beginning of February. The city was the frontier of the tundra. Some meteorologists spoke about the New Ice Age. The Far North was very close last week. I left the city on a freezing cold morning. Winter had a month more to go at least.

The flight to West Palm Beach lasted a little more than two hours. Palm Beach was cooler than normal. I swam off Chilean Avenue. The sea was warmer than the air. I got a tan. The sun sucked out my aches and pains. A lingering cough disappeared in the warmth. I swam several times. The Sunshine State was the fountain of youth. I returned to New York.

No feeling about the weather.

The air was cold, but there was no snow. The tundra had been vanquished by several rain storms and a short thaw. Tonight the weathermen are calling for snow. A dusting. I’m walking over the Brooklyn Bridge to Manhattan. Winter is over this year.

Daring words for the end of February.

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