In other parts of the country it takes sub-zero temperatures to set off a weather panic. In Napa, a freeze forecast does the job.
Yes, it was cold last week. So cold that when the raccoons tromped in their muddy feet to drink from a watering can on the back porch they couldn’t get a drop. A quarter-inch layer of ice sealed off the liquid.
I’m sure the bandits were as confused as I was delighted.
The first night the temp dropped into the 20s, the growth tips on the front-yard lemon tree crinkled up, confirming for the second year in a row that we had made a poor choice of tree and location.
Mindful of last year’s experience, Cheryl had suggested we cover our lemon and install lights for heat in advance of the freeze. That is to say, she wanted to baby it.
I had no interest. If our variety of lemon can’t cut it in the real world, then I know a peach or apple that would just love to take its place.
All along I’d thought of the lemon as a dubious choice for such a primo yard location. This is Northern California. Palms don’t belong here either.
But what about the human experience during this marathon bout of cold?
My coworkers at the Register are a tender group. They complain about the chilly office the year round, even in August. Last week’s raw weather escalated gripes to a new level.
People came to work in puffy clothing and were slow to disrobe. The guy next to me worked his shift in garb suitable for watching a Packers game at Lambeau Field.
For every person who mentioned the Golden Globe Awards or the Miss America contest, there were a dozen who went on and on about how they barely survived the trek in arctic-like conditions from Register parking lot to office door.
I did not succumb to cold weather panic. Born in Boston, I am made of sterner stuff.
At the Courtney place, we dial down the thermostat to 45 degrees when we go to bed. If there were a lower setting, we’d dial down to that.
When there’s a live body in the kitchen-dining area, we set the thermostat at 63 ... or sometimes 64 if one of us has had a particularly rough day.
If you bundle up a bit, 63 is a livable temp for indoor living. It’s possible to work at your computer and not have your fingers stiffen up. Sixty-three is ideal for home exercises. As hard as you might try, you really don’t sweat.
Forty-five degrees is a different story. I can’t sugarcoat 45. At 45, the toilet seat produces freezer burns. Fresh fish can be left out of the refrigerator.
I should note that our sealed-off bedroom is colder than the rest of the house. We’ve blocked the furnace vents. The room hasn’t been warm since October.
At bedtime, this means leaving the heated part of the house and plunging between sheets as cold as icicles.
This is rough stuff. One minute I’m drying off from my shower, perhaps even standing over the bathroom space heater’s hot blast. Then next I’m between the covers, enduring a particularly hideous form of cryogenic death.
I’m sure mankind over the millennia has endured this sort of thing and perhaps worse. Just think of the Eskimos and people who live in Wisconsin. But for a 21st-century softie, this is about as bad as it gets.
When my skin hits the sheets, I let out a gasp and thrust my legs over to Cheryl’s side of the bed. If I’m lucky, that’s where a barely functioning heating blanket has created a pocket of tepid warmth.
Why is there an electric blanket on her side and not mine? I’m not sure. Years ago, in a macho moment, I may have told Cheryl I didn’t believe in heating blankets, whatever that means.
In any case, she has one and I don’t. So, much like a hydro-fracker, I keep my head and upper body on my side of the bed, while deep down my legs are angled over to her side, siphoning off whatever warmth I can find.
About 10 minutes later, Cheryl makes her own mad dash to the bed and buries herself between the covers. I withdraw my legs, then attempt to wrap my entire self around her 98.6-degree body mass.
Cheryl’s accommodating as long as I don’t let a cold hand or foot touch her. If that happens, I’m banished to Siberia.
Kevin can be reached at 256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, P.O. Box 150, Napa 94559 or firstname.lastname@example.org.