How getting down saved winter
Aspen, CO Colorado
Getting down has resurrected my affection for winter. I mean the phrase literally and in the 1970s sense.
I’ve always loved skiing, making snow angels, and chucking snowballs at loaded canvas awnings causing small avalanches to slide off onto doorway idlers. But those are only wintertime activities. The truth is, I have grown to dream more often of palm trees than powder. Every January I vow to my wife that sometime in the ever nearer future ,we will spend at least one entire year of our lives living on the beach. In the meantime, I’ve taken to looking forward to trips to Grand Junction, because even the sight of dormant grass is hopeful.
Fighting cold winds seeping through double-pane storm windows by pulling the blankets over my head, scraping epoxy-like ice from my windshield and shoveling snow onto ever rising mounds at the side of my longer-by-the-January-day driveway increasingly hold the equivalent appeal of spinning my “all-season” tires through slick intersections, nothing but open road ahead of me and the rush hour jam quickly forming behind.
At worst, the heat of summer leads to chronic lethargy and thin shirts that cling to my spine with the glue of perspiration ” conditions exacerbated by drinking cold beer on the porch, but pleasantly so. Cold, on the other hand, is painful. Slam a half dozen gluvines as an anodyne, and what I get is a bellyache with a matching cranium throbbing at just the time I need to get up and clear the walks again.
Yes, until a recent rediscovery of monumental importance, I was the skier who disliked winter, annually meandering around the dark solstice in Aspen like Dr. Doolittle’s Pushme-Pullyou attempting to explain having two heads to residents of the San Diego Zoo.
About the beginning of February, my attitude would be about as blue as the local groundhog that couldn’t see his shadow, or anything else, because his hole had been plowed-in by the city streets crew again, and he couldn’t get out without straining his back and raising a few more blisters, so he didn’t.
Those days, I’m happy to say, are in my past. No, I am not shedding latitude and moving to a place closer to the equator. I got a new down parka!
Carrying around the burden of having to repay my brother for giving it to me is worth it. It has changed my life six months of the year and has made them as blissful as the other, leafier half dozen. Some days I can’t wait to put it on and head out into the subzero temperatures. It is amazing how warm it keeps me. It’s as light as a pound and a half of feathers. Its lining is soft as satin. With it obtrusively, yet burdenlessly covering my trunk, I head out into the ice and slush with the same carefree attitude as when I leave the house in August wearing a T-shirt and shorts.
How did we ever let this invention pass away after the ’70s? I’ll tell you how. It’s because we became distracted with disco, and John Travolta and his skintight white suit, repulsive as the latter was. But, letting the puffy down jacket with its horizontal baffles and rip-stop nylon shell fall out of popular use was a foolish mistake. It is tantamount to forgetting about the wheel because we don’t like its shape. It doesn’t matter what these coats look like, because, for what they are supposed to do, there is nothing better. You might look hot in the latest black offering from Gucci, but your goose-pimpled skin eventually will betray you. In a Mammut [or a North Face] down parka from your local camping gear store, you will discover what being hot really is all about. Make sure you buy your puffy coat with a hood, just to be sure.
Although it shouldn’t be blamed for the demise of the down parka way back when, technology has prolonged its absence from most closets for the past three decades. We became enthralled with the biotechnical magic of Gortex. If it worked in the arteries of heart patients, it had to be great for making parkas too. And, it allowed designers the freedom to make coats that didn’t look so backwoods. Suddenly, earth tones weren’t the only options. Fabrics with body allowed cuffs and collars of all sizes and shapes to be incorporated into designs. Winter clothes began to resemble clothes from the other seasons, only thicker. And, they began to function more like them as well.
Of course, “breathable,” waterproof, windproof, indestructible fabrics that can’t be dry cleaned serve their purposes. Garments made out of these materials keep wintertime outdoor aficionados from being chilled after exerting themselves, so they are mostly dry after performing terrifying feats like crossing knife-edge ridges between high mountain peaks or dodging cars while jogging on ice-rutted West End streets. Any kind of moisture that builds up, gradually or quickly, on the inside of these synthetic clothes will evaporate more quickly than, say, if you are wearing cotton underwear.
Needless to say, however, winter layers made of synthetic fabrics are way overdone when all we are trying to do is dash through town on a cold winter evening, moving from the sushi bar to a place where we can enjoy an after-dinner drink and desert. Since I’ve owned my down parka, I have adjusted my wintertime gait to that casual stroll I use so liberally around the Fourth of July. I’ve pulled my chin from my collar and have been able to lift my head to actually look around and notice how beautiful our town really is when it is 10 below zero. I actually am looking forward to being enchanted by Christmas lights in the mall in March.
Call me a sissy or whatever else you might actually, deep down, believe you are. I don’t care. When I’m warm, I can cop the breezy attitude of the islands as well as anyone. I love winter again because of my down parka …
… Or, maybe, it’s all the powder we’ve had.
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