Sand In My Shoes: Hey, what the hell happened to winter?

The Non-Winter Of My Discontent




I’m standing here on the LIRR platform waiting for a Penn Station-bound train in mid-February wearing my fleece-lined hoodie, winter coat, wool gloves, and boots.

And sweating my buns off.

The sun pours from a baby blue sky like smelted gold and I frisk myself for my shades. The train is late but not because of inclement weather. I wish I’d swabbed on sunblock for my Celtic skin that is like kindling. I listen to confused birds chirping at each other across the tracks from leafless trees. I’m guessing the birds are asking each other, “Yo, is this weather another stupid human trick?”

I wish I was smart enough to whistle back that the two-month-early spring is a dirty human trick called global warming that is turning the planet into a patty melt. And that just like 40 is the new 30, it’s now safe to say that, with exceptions of a few rude cold snaps, winter is now the new spring.

Forget April showers.

It rained all through February. I carry an umbrella in my computer case. The last time I wore a hat was at my grandkid’s birthday party.

As I get older, I like winter and snow even less. So, part of me feels silly complaining that I only had to shovel my driveway once all winter, that I didn’t need to call AAA to jump start my frozen car battery, and that I didn’t skid a figure eight on black ice and plow into a nine-car pile-up on Sunrise Highway.

I should be doing a dance to spring.

According to the Northeast Regional Climate Center, the first two weeks of February were the wettest and warmest on average in Long Island history. We’ve enjoyed glorious days that are, on average, seven degrees higher than normal February temperatures. If Cupid fired his arrow from Montauk Point on February 1 and it landed in Westhampton on Valentine’s Day it would not have pierced a single snowflake.

There hasn’t been enough overtime all winter for a snow plow worker to pay off Christmas bills.

Back in my drinking days, in a century gone by, I once attempted skiing after a few hours at the ski lodge bar. I couldn’t get up Hunter Mountain on the T-bar. The guy supervising the T-bar told me to go turn in my skis and go back to the bar. I took his advice. All weekend. I never went skiing again.

So, I’m not sweating the lack of snow on the slopes. I also don’t climb snowcapped mountains because I don’t want my human journey to end buried in an avalanche on Kilimanjaro. I’m perfectly happy to re-read Ernest Hemingway’s masterful short story about that mountain by a roaring fireplace.

Growing up in Brooklyn, I used to love sleigh riding down Suicide Hill in Prospect Park, so I feel kinda sorry for city kids who can’t do much of that this winter. But the sleigh-riding children of the yuppies in the “new Brooklyn” would probably make their kids wear crash helmets and body armor and send them for $80-an-hour sleigh riding lessons first.

So those brats ain’t missin’ much.

But I do miss a great old-fashioned snowball fight.

But instead of snow, there were 2.29 inches of rain on Long Island in the first half of February, which the Islip weather station claims is a 129-percent increase of the 1.63 average.

It was too warm to fall as snow.

That is called global warming. So are the rising seas on our priceless coast.

And there doesn’t seem to be much of a winter on the horizon. The forecast for this week is mostly 40s and cloudy, and the 15-day forecast out of Islip lists four days in the 50s, four days in the 40s, and not a single day below freezing.

So, I’m gonna dig out my green shorts for St. Patrick’s Day.

I will admit that a part of me loves global warming. But I also love all the sweet treats in the window of Tate’s Bake Shop. Which reminds me of a brilliant, portly sportswriter friend in Los Angeles named Alan Malamud who often told me his drug of choice was pastry. I asked him if he had a sweet tooth. “All 32 of them,” he said, laughing.

On his way to work one day, Alan passed a bakery with the most delicious looking birthday cake he’d ever seen on display in the window. The cake had a SOLD sign on it with the inscription: HAPPY BIRTHDAY STEPHEN.

Alan stopped in front of the bakery window, ogling the seven-layer cream cake with strawberry florets the way some men regard a pole dancer. He grunted and thumped to work, banged out a marvelous column on the LA Dodgers, and at lunch time he found himself back at the bakery. The cake was still in the window. Alan stepped in, little bell dinging over the door, and said to the smiling counter lady, “Hi, I’m Stephen. I’m here to pick up my cake.”

Alan took the cake out to his car and ate it all.

My good buddy Alan Malamud, who was as sweet a man as were his teeth, also died of a heart attack two months before his 55th birthday.

All these warm, snowless days are as enticing and delicious as that birthday cake.

But the global warming is killing us as rapidly as pastry caught up with my pal Alan.

As I stand waiting for the LIRR in the balmy sunshine of mid-February, I can’t believe there are some people who still deny the perils of climate change. People like Rush Limbaugh, a cigar aficionado who denied climate change and also denied the perils of second-hand smoke. Until he was recently diagnosed with lung cancer.

Some people are willfully ignorant.

But even the birds in the trees know that springtime in February is a stupid human trick.

By the time I board my LIRR train, sweat drools down my back and I remove my gloves, coat, and unzip my hoodie wondering what the hell happened to winter. 

denishamill@gmail.com