Living in California makes you soft. Everybody knows that already, of course, but it isn’t the bad thing that some people insist it is. The only way it truly makes you a wuss is that cold becomes an abstraction. A forty-degree night feels downright frigid out here. It’s not really our fault, though, because although January should mean ice, here it means cherry blossoms and 70-degree days. Last weekend, I dozed on the sloping hillside of Mount Tam before crabbily waking up in the sun. “It’s TOO HOT,” I groused. “We need to go get a chocolate malt in honor of my father.” (Chocolate malts are always for Dad, and we did later procure one as a subtle paternal salute.)
A dirty secret that Midwest and East Coast transplants try — but ultimately fail — to hide is this: We don’t remember what winter feels like. We know it exists, of course, but the actual feeling of being miserably cold becomes an abstraction. The few of us who hold some romantic remembrance of freezing temperatures can just drive to the mountains if they’re really craving snow, but even then, it’s an option. You aren’t forced to deal with it. It’s a winter opt-in. See? California makes you soft.
Soft, and forgetful. Sometimes I think back to the brutal, whipped-wind winters I spent in Chicago and think, “Was it really that freezing? It couldn’t have been that bad.” I really believed this for a while and was considering a chilly visit back home until I came across my new measuring stick for winter nastiness: Reykjavik. Every time I’ve looked at the temperature in Chicago this winter, I then looked at the temperature in Reykjavik, and every single time it has been warmer in Iceland. Try it for yourself: Reykjavik weather and Chicago weather.
I am saying this not to rub the nasty weather in anyone’s face, but as an unnecessarily elaborate way to say that I went to Iceland and have many stories to tell, and will work on doing so this week.