Thursday, October 21, 2010

"The Dark Season"

How does the saying go? “I have no dog in this hunt”?

That can’t be right. It’s a saying about competition. In a hunt, the dogs aren’t competing; they’re chasing another animal, which is also not competing, if you don’t count their competing again death.

“I have no dog in this race”?

That’s possible. A race is competition. But then you might as well say, “I have no horse in this race”, most people having a greater familiarity with horse racing than an event where a passel of greyhounds take off after a pretend rabbit.

“I have no duck…”

Sorry, that was typo.

“I have no dog in this fight”?

That’s it. “No dog in this fight.” That makes sense. The two dogs go at each other…

Oh, my God! We’re in Michael Vick * country!

* Michael Vick – a really good quarterback who arranged dogfights, went to jail, got released, and is now playing football again, because he’s a really good quarterback. But if you pay close attention, you will notice there are no dogs attending his games.

Okay, we’ve finally started.

“I have no dog in this fight.”

Apologies for the imagery.

The fight I have no dog in is the current baseball playoffs, which will shortly culminate in the World Series.

San Francisco, Philadelphia, the Yankees, Texas – I really don’t care who wins. (Though it was a thrill watching a longtime Blue Jay pitch a no-hitter in his very first playoff game.)

When I watch the winding down of the baseball season, all I think about is this:

Every pitch takes me one step closer to winter.

Actually, it takes us all one step closer to winter, but you may not care, and I really do.

I hate winter. I always have.

Regular readers know that I grew up in Toronto. Toronto is blisteringly cold in the winter. And the winters are excruciatingly long.

(Note: If you’re an avid skier, skater, snow-shoer, or tobogganer, feel free to skip this one. You enjoy winter; I don’t. But let’s still keep in touch, okay?)

Toronto gets dark early in the winter. When I went to the Toronto Hebrew Day School, and the orthodox of us (which did not include me) were required to be home on Friday nights before sundown, the school let us out at two forty-five, (rather than the regular four-fifteen), because by three-thirty, it was sundown.

In Toronto winters, the temperature plummets, and it stays there. The result of this is that the falling snow congeals into ice, and every sidewalk and curb is an invitation to hip surgery.

And then there’s the bundling. The heavy coat, the warm hat with earflaps, the thick woolen scarf, the fur-lined gloves, the calf-high insulated boots, and possibly long underwear. Along with your regular clothes, which are heavily layered, to insulate you from the penetrating Arctic chill.

None of this helps. The wind cuts right through you. And laughs.

My mind goes to a particular Toronto intersection. Eglinton and Bathurst. The sky is blackboard dark. (Which could mean it’s four in the afternoon.)

I have taken the subway north, picked up a bus at the Eglinton station, which takes me west to Bathurst Street. I get off the Eglinton bus, met by gusts of sleet peppering my unprotected face, I cross to the southeast corner, and I plant myself at the bus stop, waiting for the Bathurst bus to arrive, and carry me further north. Why I would want to go further north, I have no idea. Oh, yeah. I live there.

I cannot feel my toes. My ears are beet red, despite my earmuffs, which rarely fit snugly, and as a bonus, get painfully caught on my hair when I take them off. My nasal passages are either broken-faucet drippy or achingly dry. My face is a mask of skin-chafing frozenness.

The rest of me doesn’t feel that great either.

The Bathurst and Eglinton corner is a natural wind tunnel. Subfreezing blasts go straight to the bone, as I wait impatiently for the bus, stamping my feet to promote circulation, but really to take out my frustrations on the ice-encrusted pavement. There is only one thought in my mind. Well, two. “Where the hell is that bus?” And, “I don’t want to be here anymore!”

But wait a minute. I’m not there anymore. I’m in California. Where the sun shines every day. And winter has been officially banned.

Does California have seasons? Sure, goes the lame joke. “We have earthquake season, fire season, mudslide season…”

But those aren’t really seasons. They’re consequences. Earthquakes are a consequence of some tectonic shifting around, which is not, as far as I know, seasonally related. Fires mean it didn’t rain enough when it was supposed to, and mudslides tell us it rained too much.

More often than not, Los Angeles in the same day, over and over. The weather people could easily pre-record their reports, and then simply take off.

I don’t know, maybe I just took too many punches growing up, meteorologically speaking. It’s like the idea of winter haunts me, triggering buried but still active traumatic flashbacks.

I’m safe now. I live in a Temperate Zone. Winter cannot hurt me. It is no longer my concern.

And yet, with each thrown pitch, and the season inexorably winding to a close…

I know it’s coming.

And it continues to freak me out.

It takes a special kind of person to dread a season that the place he lives in doesn’t have.

Say hello to that special kind of person.


Anonymous said...

You're not alone. I have nightmares of those cold TO winters all the time - although my corner was York Mills and Bayview.

I get angry whenever LA isn't hot and sunny - I have become spoiled.


Anonymous said...


Pg said...

Why didn't you take the chaplain bus and have my mother pick you up at the plaza?

Joe said...

Being from Detroit and having managed to tunnel out and arrive in Miami, I agree with you.

George Freeman said...

I grew up, and currently live, in Manitoba.

I didn't think Toronto had winter. Just a cooler fall.