Saturday, December 27, 2008

Oh, the Weather Outside is Frightful

Okay, I’d had enough. Really. Mild weather is nice, but this was getting ridiculous. Here it was, December and I was still wearing tired summer t-shirts and Capri pants. They were cute in May, but now they were faded and stained with margarita mix, cheese whiz and barbecue sauce from pool parties long past. I was more than ready to retire them, but couldn’t because once again, the forecast was for another record high.

"Might hit the 70’s!” the pregnant TV meteorologist exclaimed with glee.

I wanted to pummel her. And why are TV meteorologists always pregnant?

It’s not like I actually enjoy cold weather. Witness my trip to Alaska this past July, where every single picture depicts me as the Michelin Man, bundled in quadruple layers underneath my fur-lined parka. Only my eyes blinking “I am FREEZING” in Morse code are visible above the scarf that is wrapped up to my nose.

The temperature was 51 degrees.

And yet, in spite of being a native Californian and therefore a weather wimp, I embrace the iconic image of a Norman Rockwell winter: arctic winds, sub-zero temperatures, breath-taking ice storms and cozy snow days. I dream of donning festive scarves, cute caps and plush turtleneck sweaters. Watching house lights twinkle through the fog, ice skating on a nearby frozen lake and afterwards, sipping hot cocoa by a roaring fire or maybe stretched across the sofa, wrapped in a chenille blanket and enjoying a Gene Kelly marathon on AMC, snug as a bug while winter winds raged outside.

So optimist that I am, when autumn leaves began to fall, I hoped that California’s version of winter weather was right around the corner. I stocked up on hot cocoa, canned soup and scented candles. I replaced my cotton bed sheets with flannel ones, added an extra blanket and programmed my heater to kick on at 68 degrees. Happily, I resumed wearing my beloved winter jammies, the snuggly flannel ones that feel like clouds, even though my friend Dennis refers to them as “sex-repellant.”

I died.

My bedroom felt like a Finnish sauna. Nights were spent tossing and turning, spastically rolling around on flannel sheets that felt more like scratchy baking sheets straight from a 500 degree oven. I fanned across my bed, desperately seeking a cool spot while simultaneously ripping off the suffocating flannel strait jacket that I swear was emitting electrical currents throughout my body. Where did I get these jammies anyway, the gift shop at Guantánamo Bay?

Days were no better. Oh sure, mornings would start out cool, foggy even, giving the false illusion of a real winter. And of course I would think, “Ha! Just goes to show what that pregnant meteorologist knows!” One morning it was even chilly enough to warrant wearing my luscious turtleneck, accessorized with the new scarf I‘d been eager to wear. And I felt so Vermont-ish and stylish and cute as I strolled over to Starbucks with my greyhound, Elvis, who was decked out in his own fleece-lined coat. We sat outside where I sipped my favorite winter beverage, a steaming peppermint mocha, while Elvis solicited affection from passing dog-lovers.

But all too soon the fog burned off and I found myself sweltering in the torturous vise of my turtleneck as people walked by in jogging shorts, halter tops and flip-flops. I couldn't enjoy my peppermint mocha, made salty by the sweat dripping off my brow, and even my gentle Elvis had this scowl on his face that said, “Remove the coat NOW or I go for the jugular.” Before I knew it, I was tossing my unfinished drink in the trash and we were both racing back home to rip off our winter gear before one of us suffered a heat stroke.

Ah, but this week my wish has finally been granted: California’s version of winter has arrived. Brisk and windy eye-watering, nose-running days have been in the low 50’s and frost-covered nights have dipped into the unthinkable 20’s, providing the perfect excuse to don my beloved winter fashions. I am ensconced in multiple layers of camisoles and cardigans. I am swaddled in a plethora of sweaters and scarves. I am cloaked. I am protected. I am prepared.

I am freezing. And longing for the t-shirt days of record highs as forecast by pregnant meteorologists.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Devil of a Time

How does a tree figure into Christmas?

Seriously. I don’t recall any Douglas firs next to the Christ child’s manger. The Wise Men didn’t come bearing frankincense, myrrh and tinsel. So how did a tree become associated with a religious holiday?

I’ll tell you how: Satan.

That’s right. It had to be Beelzebub who realized this Christian holiday was getting a bit out of hand. Too much love. Joy. Happiness. Gag. So he introduced the notion that a decorated tree might be a nice spot under which to place our presents. In honor of the beloved Christ child, of course.

What a swell idea.

This explains why I have a devil of a time manipulating a 6-foot noble fir into a Toyota trunk. And why it takes 30 attempts, littered with a few unChristmas-like words, to get it out again with branches and dignity intact.

I drag it to my condo, leaving behind a trail of needles that enables me to find my way back to the car to retrieve the branches that remain in my trunk. They’re wedged between the spare tire and the stack of newspapers for recycling. The branches will go back on the tree.

Two words: glue gun.

After tangoing with the tree, knocking pictures off the walls and trinkets off shelves, after leaving a path of destruction from my front door to the living room, after responding to my neighbor’s 911 call that no, I am not being attacked by a home intruder, I finally finagle the son-of-a-birch on a stand that is missing one leg. I prop it in a corner and use a folded “Is Martha Stewart Living?” magazine as a makeshift fourth leg. I wrestle with a tangled with of lights that, glory be, actually work!

Until they’re on the tree, that is.

I use my grandmother’s wedding dress as a tree skirt because I can’t find the tree skirt I bought at Macy’s for $75. I locate the ornament hooks only after I step on them in my bare feet. My hair is standing on end from tree sap. The tree is leaning precariously toward the west and my condo looks like it imploded broccoli.

I am not in a Christmas kind of mood.

But the holiday spirit blossoms when I remember ‘tis the season of giving. I wrap gifts for my loved ones, wasting three feet of imported designer paper on a box that contains a tie tack. I curl ribbon until it disintegrates into dust. I cut my carpet along with the wrapping paper. I curse the Rubik’s Cube courtesy boxes from Nordstrom. I swear as I manipulate my body into yoga-type positions in order to lovingly wrap, tie and finish these receptacles of torture.

Hours later, boxes that look like bad origami sit nestled beneath the tree, which has shifted considerably towards the setting sun. I sit back, tired but satisfied. I admire my decorated tree and the handiwork beneath. The specialty gift-wrap. The silk ribbons. The gold-plated gift tags.

Which I forgot to label.

Then the tree falls.

Ah yes, it’s Christmas once again. I know full well that I’m in for my traditional yuletide of suffering, torture and abuse. Yet still I continue to put myself through the agony of Christmas trees and the wrath of wrapping.

I don’t know the devil why.

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