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Baby It's Cold Outside1

The weather in Connecticut today was splendid. The sun shone and the temperature reached up, up, up — to 51 degrees fahrenheit today, not unlike like a child standing atop a chair, tip-toed and fingers pointing skyward (reaching for something or other that was, by its elevated placement, verboten to touch). Some rejoiced, "Yes, indeed our young-one has made it!" Others, the hand-wringers on television who'd rather err on the side of caution, were heard to comment ever-so-quickly that the weather in New York City had made it to 50; but we were five degrees behind; a measly 45. They'd told us yesterday that today it'd be an abominable, cloudy 38.

Why the heck can't they say, "Gee, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I was wrong. I'm sorry to all of you people who came out bundled up for frigid weather and are now being laughed at by those who decided to walk outside before dressing, and not take my word for it."

The moron I watched on the local CBS affiliate re-assured us that we'd enjoy but a moment of this balmy environment before, at rush-hour, the temperature would again plummet to unendurable lows. "Watch out for black ice on bridges, which freeze before the highway does!1" he cautioned. Would that my job would allow me to constantly underestimate a number upon which my job relies; only to be constantly forgiven when my error results in someone stopping me on the street to say "Hey, great weather today, isn't it?"

It's great for a weather reporter's job when mother nature exceeds their gloomy forecasts. It's also good for the folks who take care of coat-check booths. I gave the young man at the restaurant where I took lunch today $1 to take my overcoat and another dollar to redeem it (as if the cheap duster I wore was worth nearly as much as the cashmere overcoats from tailors in London that lined the coat-check racks.

The time a weather reporter's job makes me want to shoot him or her is when they predict a torrential ice storm for a major holiday (in this case, New Year's eve) and start the phone ringing with cancellations the morning of the prediction. Today, the weather for New Year's Eve was guesstimated at "cool and clear," but sadly, some of the people who cancelled (stupid idiots) are so self-conscious that they didn't have the nerve to call back and say "we'll make it." No, instead they're gonna gamble on another place, merely to save face, and won't be part of the magnificent party we have planned. But hey, that's the way things are when you're in a weather business. (I just wish they'd give restaurateurs, club owners, and music venues a break just once in a while, they have very little to lose and a bad forecast when indeed nothing comes of it has cost people their jobs and lots and lots of money.

I was still hot in a sun-bathed restaurant 22 floors up in an office building with too much heat. It didn't occur to me to also remove my tweed sport jacket; I guess because none of the other gentlemen in this restaurant had removed their jackets; indeed, several had made the lunchtime faux-pas of dining with their middle button closed. This made me extremely jealous because at this point in time I don't own a suit-coat nor sport-coat that doesn't appear a bit strained when I button it. I suffered the warmth by imbibing in far too many (3) highballs before lunch and opting for white wine (a boring Chardonnay) rather than red with my repast. The guy with whom I was having lunch was picking up the tab; so as long as he kept his jacket on, so would I. Overwhelmed by the heat, I recommended that I buy coffee and dessert at a favorite joint of ours near to his office. He agreed. Our overcoats were both open as we walked up State Street. Nearly simultaneously, we said "Goodness it was hot in there!"

We enjoyed a sunny but much cooler walk to our dessert destination. The restaurant either had problems with their heat or was being a bit too drastic with the energy savings. We kept sport coats on, and ordered coffee with cordials and the house specialty - warmed chocolate cake with hot chocolate sauce (we split it; I'm not that much a pig). Two and a half cups of coffee, two Grappas and two Drambuies later, we left. Suffice it to say on an airborne infrared sensor we'd have stuck out like Maraschino cherries in a dry martini.

My lunch partner (also my broker) is a good, old-fashioned guy, and very, very bright. He likes places like The Polytech, as it's affectionately called (Hartford's full of private clubs). I don't. The primary reason I don't is because I can't afford the four-figure annual dues, nor most of their offerings (at cocktail hour, however, they have wonderful free hors d'oeuvres for members and their guests). I also would not care for a membership at this particular club because aside from their cigar room there's no smoking. Would that I paid the same price at the Hartford Club, I'd be able to light the two most sublimely delicious cigarettes of the day; the one before afternoon cocktails; and the one after coffee, after dinner.

How ironic that the room I was dining in (Hartford's venerable Polytechnic Club) was like a steam bath (after all, wouldn't you expect a club named "Polytechnic" to have at least board members who'd see to it that the thermostat is properly regulated? All I could think of were the people in the offices below, who must, according to Murphy's Law, be blue with cold. I was once one of those people, at work on the 15th floor of a 55-story building in Manhattan which never did get the heating and cooling right. At that building, we'd go downstairs to buy a cup of coffee in the building's atrium and linger there to warm up; only to have to cling to our cardboard cups of thermal redemption upon returning to work. Then microwave half-coffee/half-water just to warm up enough to type and do paperwork.

The Global-Warming Vigil

It's days like this that get the Global Warming people very excited. In fact, several of them, I hear, had an outdoor cocktail party nearby including hors d'oeuvres (all properly melted in the broiler). In addition, they'd come up with a lovely gilt-framed portrait of Al Gore which they left inside the house (Heaven forbid the ultraviolet radiation due to the paper-thin ozone layer deteriorate the colors of the likeness). Only the Good Lord and those in attendance know whether or not offerings of food or money were left on the "Altar of the Melting Ice-Caps."

It's always enchanted me, the thought of the water level around Manhattan Island rising a foot or so. Then, not only would The Water Club still be afloat, but one would need a dinghy, water-taxi or other charming conveyance to reach its doors. Beside, the body parts which all too frequently can be seen by walkers along the parks on the Hudson River in lower Manhattan would probably wash up on the rocks, instead of battering the crumbling breakwaters, and then washing out into the view of passing pedestrians, as they do now. I can tell you from experience, there's nothing like a floating arm, leg, or torso to cast a pall on an otherwise romantic evening of dinner, dessert and after-dinner strolling in New York's Greenwich Village.

These keepers of the environment had apparently forgotten that a mere week ago ended the coldest continuous (2.5 weeks) snap of weather in the Hartford, Connecticut area since 1933. Okay, perhaps there is indeed global warming; but it ain't where I was this year, because I hadn't enjoyed a good old-fashioned 6" snowstorm before Christmas since I was young enough to shovel snow with vigor, and in no need of the expenditure of calories achieved by doing so. Well, I say, let's rev up the old gas-guzzlers and clean our filthy technology with chlorofluorocarbons from a spray can! I was nearly tempted to point old spray cans of whatever I could find at the sky so that the rays shining through would melt the remainder of the ice in my parking lot.

But Really, Folks...

The truth be told, I'm absolutely thrilled by the giant-steps being made by industry with regard to air pollution. More and more buildings that are erected are "smart" buildings; which squeeze every calorie out of a gallon of oil, cubic foot of gas, or kilowatt-hour of electricity. Corporate giant United Technologies' newest model of Otis elevator actually returns energy to the building. UT's Carrier air conditioning division has made strides in efficiency which are almost up to par with the technology that Japanese companies like Sanyo have come up with in environmentally-friendly, energy-efficient heating and cooling. (I installed Sanyo's state of the art efficient air conditioning in my restaurant four years ago and it's already paid for itself in energy savings.)

I divested myself of my gas-guzzling SUV. (Alright, alright; most of you know it was at my wife's advice but now you all know; she wouldn't let me keep it, 'cause "we're poor.")

The icing on the cake was when recently we were having trouble with the huge water heater at the restaurant. My wife smelled gas; I wasn't there, so I placed an emergency call. Not only did they confirm that the water heater was leaking gas, but (probably because it was the day before Christmas eve and they really didn't want to be there) they decided (over my wife's verbal vitriol aimed at them because they couldn't fix the water heater) "tagged" my furnace and locked off the gas valve to that it could no longer be (legally) turned on. (I could kick myself in the ass 'cause I'd hazard a guess that $200 in cash and a couple of cocktails would've convinced the gas company representative not to behave as he did.) The new furnace is going to cost as much as we got for my used SUV, in the long run. But hopefully, because we opted for an energy-efficient model, we'll recoup the costs quickly enough. The restaurant, despite electric heaters placed all over, has not been at a temperature of over 57 degrees since. Customers have sat down and then arisen, moments later, to leave, some silent; some complaining that the place is a "refrigerator." The workmen have promised me that the installation of the new one will be complete before our New Year's Eve party.

Karma sure came around and bit my wife in the ass and she's admitted it. Would it not have been for the Depression-era mentality to which she subscribes (the one which impelled me to get rid of my SUV, which was bought and paid for, and a great deal), the bad luck of needing the furnace replacement wouldn't have happened.

The gas company, meantime, is going to have to deal with reparations for a whole mess of damages (ripping out electrical wires — against code because they're supposed to find a circuit breaker; misreading of CO meter — our plumber conceded that there was a dangerous amount of rust inside the furnace, but why not just write that down instead of fabricating a CO reading and making me and my customers cold for a week?)

I wish you all a very happy, healthy New Year celebration. I get to celebrate two; the first day of the Gregorian Calendar, and Chinese New Year's as well, in February. What the hell, why don't we all celebrate the incoming year of the Boar (or pig, whichever you prefer). I'm sure that Buddha will forgive you heathens for double-dipping.

  1. "Baby It's Cold Outside" is a delightful, non-religious jazz song which is much more about Winter and snuggling than about the holidays. Music and lyrics by the great Frank Loesser. Dinah Shore and Frank Clarke hit the charts in 1949 with it for weeks, peaking at #4 on the Billboard Charts.
  2. The traffic in downtown Hartford, Connecticut has been absolutely out of control for years now. Who the hell are they talking to when they caution that one should drive slower, lest one encounter the dreaded, invisible "Black ice" and spin to one's death off of a highway overcross. Driving slow in our neck of the woods means keeping one's speed to ten miles per hour over the posted limit, no matter what the road conditions. Oh, I figured it out. They must've been addressing the 75-year old driver on Route 9 south who was driving 45 in a 65 mile per hour zone. She was rammed by a tow-truck, equipped with a snowplow, with vehicle in tow. The driver continued on his way and wasn't found. The driver who was hit could only tell law enforcement "a big truck honked his horn at me, and then he hit me, on purpose, and once I was in a ditch he continued on his merry way. The driver couldn't provide a description of either the truck or vehicle in tow, nor did any other drivers come forth; probably because they were delighted that the offending slow-poke had been gotten rid of. This story of a poor woman whose life could've been cut short by a reckless hellion brings me no joy, it merely underscores the fact that some people are far better off taking local roads to their destination.

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