Monday, February 25, 2019

40 Degrees | Lefsetz Letter

That’s what my car thermometer just said.

Now if I was in Vail, that would be a heat wave, get any warmer and the snow might get too slushy to ski. But in L.A?

The weather is backwards in L.A.

I remember working at a summer camp in the White Mountains. By time you get to the middle of August, you’re freezing in your sleeping bag, you’re curled up inside, trying to suck your own heat.

But in L.A?

It doesn’t get hot until maybe September. Memorial Day? You don’t want to go to the beach, there’ll be a nip in the air.

And cold weather?

That happens in December. By time the New Year rolls around, it starts to get balmy. Hell, I’ve seen 90 in January many a time.

But this year…

I used to own a BMW that had a bell when it got to 36. For all I know, BMWs still have that feature. But I never experienced it until I drove to Mammoth. It went off and I had no idea what was going on. Was it a classic BMW defect, i.e. after owning a BMW past warranty, you’ve got to expect ghosts in the machine, that rarely reappear when you bring it in for service and you learn to live with. And I’m paranoid. If there’s a bell in the car, gosh darn, there must be something wrong.

But it’s just a feature. To warn you. Bridges freeze before roads, did you know that? I certainly do, having grown up on the east coast before the days of four wheel drive, before the days of all-season tires. Back then you put on your snows before Thanksgiving, and didn’t take them off until April. With studs, for traction on the ice. Today people use all-season rubber and think they’re covered, but they’re not. But those in the know today put snow tires on all four wheels, we never did that.

But on the east coast, in Connecticut, by time you hit March 1st, you’re almost in spring. Sure, it might snow, but it’ll melt. You break out your baseball glove and go to the park and fight the wind as you throw the ball around. But you’re eager, you’ve been waiting for this. Back when you watched the Grapefruit League on TV with no thought of going down to Florida to see it live.

But in California you can ski until July, but in Vermont, you’re sometimes lucky if you can make it to April 1st.

Which reminds me of 1971, an especially good snow year. We skiers remember. My friend Ronnie came to Middlebury in his sister’s Datsun and we drove for spring skiing at Stowe on April 21st. On April 22nd, we went to the quarry and jumped in, went swimming. In Vermont, if it’s in the fifties, you break out your shorts.

And when I go back to Vail will it even be winter? It’s supposed to be in the forties next week. Sure, it can snow. But will the surface be soft and wet and will I wonder where the winter went?

The years don’t start to speed up until you leave school.

Remember waiting for Christmas vacation, taking the bus home elated? I vividly remember that in high school.

I walked to elementary school. And my mother never took me and never picked me up, even the day there was a hurricane. I didn’t think twice. Actually, I enjoy battling the elements, as long as disaster doesn’t lurk. I like riding the chairlift in the snowstorm. But that time our tent blew over below Tuckerman Ravine…I was scared.

Have I told you I’ve been on the edge of death a number of times? I’m not boasting about it, it’s just that when you engage with nature, stuff happens. Mother Nature doesn’t care about you, no way.

Now next week it’s supposed to warm up a bit. Be 60 during the day. And with the sun higher in the sky, you feel the warmth, especially in your automobile.

But at night, they’re still talking less than 50.

So it’s a conundrum. I like the winter more than the summer. But after a while, you get used to the mild winters of SoCal. You probably read that it snowed here yesterday. Not where I was, and even though I saw pics, it’s hard to believe. They were citing a storm back in the forties in comparison, that’s how rare it is.

But I used to live in the cold weather.

And there you look forward to the warm weather, the spring, when everything comes back alive.

But the world is going so fast, and the older you get you realize it doesn’t care about you, and the focus is on the young, and you feel displaced. You want to tell someone that you’re freaked out about how fast time is going, you want to know what this means.

And they can debate all about global warming, but you realize all the predictions are gonna happen after you’re dead.

Then again, the “New York Times” said they’ve lost 23 ski days in the Rockies since the eighties. Vail used to be open until May, that never happens anymore. And they lost 27 in the Sierras.

But only 8 in Vermont, where the season was short to begin with.


I feel like a lobster. I’m in the pot, they’re turning up the heat gradually and I don’t notice it, but soon I’ll be cooked.

And so will you.


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