BETWEEN THE LINES - Suddenly, Alaska looks balmy

Tuesday, December 12, 2000

Got a full-fledged case of cabin fever, skin's flaking off, have shoveling blisters (well, my wife actually has those), body and mind starting to slowly decompose as major organs turn to frostbit slush.

And according to my desk calendar, this is #%@!*!! autumn.

Swell. Imagine what winter's going to be like.

Where are those scientists harping about global warming just now? They're on vacation in Flagstaff, that's where.

Then again, as our nose drippings turn to icicles here, it was a balmy 32 in Juneau, Alaska.

It's a comfy 37 in Calgary, Canada; a sweaty 36 in Moscow. It's 44 in Switzerland, 45 in Norway, 47 in Sweden, 54 in Germany.

I say we pack up the Speedos and head for Anchorage.

Every time someone comes in the office, a little swirl of wind and snow descend on my desk. It is so cold that the ice fishermen are catching carpsickles.

If I hear one more person whistling "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas," I'm going to have to deck his halls and roast his chestnuts on an open fire.

Suddenly, George W. Bush and Al Gore seem a lot less important than a new furnace filter and a window insulator kit.

Just for the record, I checked the Old Farmer's Almanac, which predicted cold and snow right when it arrived.

It says:

"Winter's coming fast and furious, Arctic blast and snowflakes flurrious. Your parka better have tight strings. Hark! A herald angel sings! Glory to the newborn son! Glory to two thousand one!"

Yeah, swell. Robert Frost with real frost.

Strangely enough, people seem at ease with the cold. You know how they get kind of jumpy when the weather stays warm this time of year - as in the past couple where it seemed the lake might not freeze until new year? They figure they will pay for it later. It is as if heat is borrowed on the installment plan.

Not this year, at least not this month. We owe nobody.

I envy the snowbirds, but then again, they are sissies. A little 36-below wind chill never hurt anybody. Keeps you tough. Keeps you moving. Keeps you sharp. Keeps you at one with the natural universe and the changing of the seasons.

And, as you can surely tell from this, keeps you quite insane.

I don't know if its La Nina, lack of ozone, nuclear testing, or just some big celestial prank, but there is no such thing as a weather trend any more. Freakish is the norm.

I can no longer fathom the weather any more than I could hope to untangle the Christmas tree lights that my wife stored away from last year.

I only wish I could run to Bomgaars and buy myself a fresh new box of weather with a one-year guarantee from the Underwriter's Laboratory.

Might as well make the best of it - take time to notice how the ice looks like sweet frosting on the evergreens, the way the weak sun glances off the snow-covered lake, the lacy patterns in the frost of your door. Snow angels. Breathe clouds. Sparkling icicles.

And then go inside, lock the door, crank the furnace to 95, throw a hot drink in the microwave and jam it on high until the paint starts to peel in the kitchen, pull a pile of blankets over your head, and stay there until June.

See you then.