Long Underwear

Damn, it’s cold today. How cold? I think it may be 32ºF right now. The high is projected to be 44ºF. That’s the high, not the low. That is absurd.

After riding around in the cold too much yesterday, I wised up and pulled on the long underwear this morning. Some people are surprised that long underwear still has a use at our latitude. I know a guy who moved here from Minnesota and threw away all his cold weather gear. Man, did he regret that. He’d never been so cold as he was that winter. Because it does get cold here occasionally. Not always, and not as cold as the Great White North, but cold enough to put a chill in your bones. Cold enough to kill you, if you’re not prepared.

There have been winters where I didn’t need my long underwear even once. Unfortunately this is not one of them.

Of course, I’m more sensitive to the cold than some people. I don’t mean that I chill easily, though I do. I mean that since I mainly get around on a bicycle I’m exposed to the elements more than people who simply go from one climate controlled environment to another.

And, despite my complaints, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I think it’s all for the best. In fact, I bundle my girl up and subject her to the elements as well. Here’s a picture from a day that wasn’t even half as cold as today.

Scarfed

You should have seen her today. Warmer coat, warmer hat, only a narrow slit for the eyes. Alas, I didn’t take a picture.

As we ride the bike, we talk about how cold the wind is, but it can’t stop us. Why? Because we’re tough. Nothing can stop us. And then we sing a round of “Frozen Ones.”

Yes, New Orleans has a winter. Visitors who come in the warm months have trouble believing this, but it’s true. We live in the subtropics here. The very definition of subtropical is that we still have a winter, no matter if it’s mild.

At this time of year I almost always begin to yearn for the true tropics, to escape winter forever. I’d like to at least visit. I start reading about places like Dominica and browsing travel sites. Highs in Dominica are in the 80s this week, with plenty of rain. I always thought getting to the Caribbean would be easier from New Orleans, but there aren’t any direct flights that I know of.

So anyway, I’m staying here for now. I hear we may get back into some more reasonable temps in time for my birthday. I’m pulling for the 70s.

Frigophobia

It’s been cold in New Orleans lately. The last two nights we’ve had freeze warnings. I don’t think it actually froze, though.

Fortunately the new insulation under our house seems to be making a huge difference in terms of our general comfort level. The energy savings remain to be seen.

I still find cold weather a challenge. My body seems to be deeply offended by any temperature below 70ºF. I’m not really comfortable until we hit 75 or 80º. It looks like we’ll get close to such temperatures again in a couple days, but right now it’s just hitting 40º and it was much colder on the morning bike ride — especially factoring the wind.

When venturing out in the morning, I gird myself my remembering that a) I come from hardy Norwegian stock, and b) I lived for a year by the arctic circle. I even have a photo to prove the latter.

Polcirkeln

It doesn’t look too arctic in that picture, but it was taken in August.

But back to cold mornings here and now: I bundle Persephone up thoroughly, with coat, hood, mittens and a scarf over her face to protect her tender cheeks from windburn. She’s only got a few minutes on the bike, though; I have a longer ride after dropping her off. It’s really not too bad until I turn off Jeff Davis onto Drexel Drive. That’s always the windiest part of my ride. Not sure why. Maybe the Washington Avenue Canal has something to do with it.

And yet I really don’t mind a cold and windy bike ride. It’s a brief ordeal. I dress appropriately, and I get through it. I’m active and moving the whole time.

No, it’s the sedentary parts of my day that are more of a challenge. When I get into my office my body temperature is usually elevated from the exertion, such that I can’t tell how cold it really is. This morning the thermometer told me it was 61º in here. After an hour or so, my body temperature subsides to its normal level and I really start feeling the cold in my fingers.

I’ve never understood why I have a tendency to sweat when I’m cold, but it certainly adds to the general unpleasantness. Some basic net searches turn up plenty of info about people who sweat in all climates, but that’s not me. I don’t sweat excessively in the heat. It’s only in cold weather that this bothers me, in particular when my feet sweat. Anyone with cold, wet feet is truly miserable. My fingers are cold to the bone. No, I don’t have Raynaud’s. They are just uncomfortably cold, not discolored or painful. And my palms are sweating. What the hell is going on?

When I mentioned this to my podiatrist last week, he made a remark about it being a “sympathetic reaction.” That phrase led me to this:

Also sweating responds to your emotional state. So when you are nervous, anxious or afraid, there is an increase in sympathetic nerve activity in your body as well as an increase in epinephrine secretion from your adrenal gland. These substances act on your sweat glands, particularly those on your palms of your hand and your armpits, to make sweat. Thus, you feel a “cold” sweat.

This would seem to bear out a long-held suspicion of mine — that I’m sweating because of anxiety about the cold. In other words, it’s psychological.

In fact, the name of my second, abortive blogging attempt from way back in April 2003 (a good year before I started this one) says it all: Frigophobia.

The universe is basically a cold place. Heat is a mysterious aberration. No one really knows where it came from, but we’re pretty sure that it is slowly going away. The universe is cooling, and in time it will chill out completely.

This morning it was around 60º F when I left the house. I was wearing a light sweater, a shirt, and an undershirt. After a ten minute bike ride to get to work, my hands were still like ice.

The air conditioning is out of control in my office. It’s so cold we all have to wear sweaters. We all run space heaters in our offices to offset the air conditioning, which cannot be turned off or adjusted by us directly.

I’ve been reading about Raynaud’s Phenomenon and Raynaud’s Disease. Many people have suggested that I might suffer from this, but years ago a doctor told me I didn’t. I’m inclined to trust her diagnosis. The coldness of my hands and feet does not come in the form of attacks. My fingers do not discolor. I do not experience pain.

I don’t have Raynaud’s. I just have cold hands.

My hands are cold. My feet are also cold, sometimes colder than my hands, sometimes warmer. The rest of me is fine.

I used to worry about my “core temperature” dropping. But it is very unlikely that my core temperature has anything to do with it. Indeed, the ability of the human body to maintain the same basic core temperature for many decades is a marvel. I’m not going to freeze solid and die anytime soon.

Two concerns dominate the thoughts of one who fears cold, besides the obvious factor of temperature; these twin concerns are: Moisture and Insulation.

Nothing is eternal. Even the idea of eternity is a fraud. Time is only temporary. The universe is ending, slowly, dying the Cold Death.

Calling it a phobia is probably overly dramatic. But it seems possible that my sweating is caused by anxiety. I wonder where that came from? What’s the root of this anxiety? Perhaps that year up by the Arctic Circle has something to do with it. It was a fairly grim time in my life. In any event, I wonder if I could overcome the anxiety and be more comfortable. It seems plausible but I’m not sure where to start.

My Big Chill

By strange coincidence, I found myself watching The Big Chill Friday night. It’s one of those super-famous movies that I’ve just somehow never seen.

Alas, when the flick was over and I turned in for the evening, I neglected to leave a trickle of water running, as I’d done Thursday night. This, despite the fact I knew we were still under a hard freeze warning, with potential record-breaking lows on the way. Sheer stupidity.

See, here in New Orleans many houses have pipes on the outside, exposed to the elements. You can get away with that here for years at a time.

Sure enough, when I woke up this morning, we had no water out the hot taps. The cold taps were working fine.

As I examined our plumbing with greater scrutiny, I concluded that most of our pipes are enclosed. The only place a couple feet of pipe are exposed is our hot water exchange.

Hot H2O Exchange

Those short little blue pipes leading into and out of our tankless water heater are what froze overnight. By the afternoon they were thawed and appeared to be no worse for the wear.

I tried to pick up some pipe insulation, but the local stores were all sold out. So I improvised, and wrapped the pipes in some foam which I cut from a mattress pad. I secured the foam with garbage-bag twist-ties. I’m actually pretty happy with the result.

As I was driving around Mid-City looking for pipe insulation, I saw the fountain in front of Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street had frozen quite beautifully.

Frozen Fountain

It was quite striking. I only wish I’d had a better camera with me.

Meanwhile the Banks Street Bar is advertising that, indeed, they “Have Heat.”

We Have Heat

Now we are bracing for round three tonight. It will be nice when things warm up next week.

Oh, as for The Big Chill? Not bad. Fun to watch. But I’m not sure I understand why it has such a rep. To watch the retrospective featurette, you’d think they invented the ensemble film. I’m not sure that’s the case. Maybe its success is simply a matter of generational resonance? I’ll have to quiz my boomer friends.

Coldest

We are experiencing the coldest damn weather since we moved here to New Orleans ten years ago. In fact it may break records going back much further than that.

Our new house is raised and has no subfloor. I’d been told a cold wind can whip under the floor something fierce, and sure enough over the last month I thought it was somewhat chilly. But this morning it was virtually unbearable. Lucky we have an upstairs. I think we may have to live up there for the next day or two.

It was cold enough I decided not to take the girl on the bike this morning. Instead, I bundled her up and put her in the stroller. After dropping her off at daycare I walked to work. I saw ice on the street in three places. The first time it didn’t even register as unusual. But the second time I started wondering, when’s the last time I saw natural ice here in New Orleans? I can’t remember.

Sometimes we get through a whole winter without a hard freeze here. The temperature may dip down and flirt with freezing briefly, but that’s not enough to produce ice. Hard freezes require several hours below freezing. We’ve had a number of those over our decade here, but I can’t remember the last time it was still below freezing at 10:30 AM.

This cold snap comes on the heels of the wettest month in the recorded history of the city. I’ve had enough extreme weather to last me a while.

(Oh, by the way, I lived up by the arctic circle for a year. I know what “real” cold is. Are you familiar with -30ºF? I am. But I also know at some point it’s just too damn cold, and we have reached that point.)

Cough Cough

What started as a mild sore throat ten days ago has moved through various stages. I had some nasal congestion for a while but now that’s gone. The throat got sore and swollen, but that’s gone too.

Now I’m left with a cough. This has seemed like a fairly normal progression to me, and I am assuming the cough is the final stage, though I’m not sure exactly why.

It’s been a fairly dry, non-productive cough, but pretty persistent and violent when left to its own devices. Therefore I have been doing my utmost to suppress this beast with various herbal teas, mentholated lozenges and of course dextromethorphan. (At these low doses DXM isn’t psychedelic/dissociative but it does seems to evoke some odd overtones, memories perhaps of my younger and more innocent days.) I mixed myself a gin sling Saturday night using Robitussin in place of cherry brandy. It was not good but it was surprisingly less bad than one might expect.

I got curious as to what the purpose of a seemingly non-productive cough might be. Simple enough: It’s an evolutionary adaptation for the virus or bacteria that’s having a field day in my body. Coughing is an excellent way to travel, if you’re a microscopic organism. Bugs that induce coughing can better succeed in replicating themselves.

By the time you know you’ve got some bugs, you’re past the infectious stage. Must not be the case with a bug such as this. So if you see me coughing — watch out.

I’ve just learned that the new way of covering your mouth when you cough is to use your shoulder or elbow or part of your arm instead of your hand. Boss-lady saw signs advising this technique in Canada. Makes sense. I hate when I’ve just coughed into my hand and then someone wants to shake it.

Uncommon Cold

I’m feeling better, though by no means 100%, and I’m back at work today. Ironically, as I’ve gotten over my cold, the weather here’s colder than ever. Yes, a cold front swept through overnight, and it’s mighty chilly in New Orleans. (Strangely enough our car has started without problems despite the recent cold weather.) How cold, you ask? Why it almost hit freezing. But not quite. The official low reading was 33ºF, from 6 to 8:00 AM this morning. Of course, with windchill it was below freezing, and Persephone and I definitely felt it. Fortunately it’s only a short walk from home to daycare. The temperature is climbing slowly now, and we’re only expected to crack 50ºF if we are lucky.

The above ruminations are posted for the benefit of my Midwestern friends and family. This cold snap is taking us below average, but it’s not setting any records. We do have hard freezes here, sometimes. But it’s been a while, and that’s fine by me.

Common Cold

My sore throat of a couple days developed into something that seemed more like a cold last night, so today I am staying home, resting, hydrating, and eating plenty of Xy’s patented chicken soup. Seems like I’ve had lots of little ailments over the last year that seem like mini-colds — a little briefer and less severe than the real thing. Maybe I’ve just forgotten what colds are like, or maybe I’m getting exposed to new kiddie bugs via daycare, or maybe Xy’s patented chicken soup nips them in the bud. Hard to say, but I hope to be back in the game tomorrow. This morning I was idly wondering, if someone invented a drug that cured the common cold but also increased one’s chances of getting cancer later in life, would it sell?

Hot & Cold & Inside-Out

The weather has been a bit on the cold side this week, by which I mean highs in the 60s. It was in the 60s in my office when I arrived Monday morning. But by Monday afternoon it was sweltering, over 80º F. Not outside, inside. And the internal temperature continued to run hot as the week progressed.

I don’t mind it a bit cool inside when it’s cold outside, just like I don’t mind if it’s a bit warm inside when it’s hot outside. But somehow when it’s the opposite — hot inside when cool outside, or freezing cold inside when warm outside — that’s beyond aggravating. It makes me feel physically sick. It also makes me angry at the sheer absurdity and wastefulness of it all.

I know a lot of big office buildings have climate control issues. We seem to get more than out fair share.

I’m taking Thursday off to work on the house. But if they don’t get this problem corrected soon, I may just have to take Friday off as well. I can’t think clearly in that environment, and that’s a big part of my job description — thinking clearly.

Partly Nippy

It was cooler today, with a bit of a nip in the air, the first hint of cold weather since spring.

I object to this turn of affairs. I don’t know if it’s my body or my mind that takes greater umbrage. But I can feel myself clench up, mentally and physically. I was a little uneasy and out of sorts all day.

Some people enjoy this. Some people — native New Orleanians even — seem to take relish in reminding me that it isn’t even really cold yet. Inevitably we get into the topic of how I grew up in Indiana, and how I lived in Sweden for a year up by the Arctic Circle.

Was I born with thin blood or am I just a mental case? Don’t know.

It’s cool in our house now, but not really cool enough to fire up our two wall furnaces. I expect it will be actually undeniably cold tomorrow morning, like in the mid-40s.

It will be warming up in a few days, I hope.

A little brandy helps.

Non-Starter

Again this morning with the non-starting car. I think this is the second time since I wrote about this problem back in January. Plenty of power, but no engine action. We both tried it repeatedly. Xy was about to get a ride to work with our neighbor Debra when she asked me, “Did you try cocking the wheel left and right?” I hadn’t, so I tried it, and then she started right up. Coincidence? Or could there be a connection?

Sometimes the car won’t let go of the damn key when you shut it down. Could that be related in some way?

At a frequency of about four times a year, this problem is the very definition of intermittent.

Speaking of possibly related symptoms, I’ve been feeling like I’m fighting some kind of a bug for about a month now, off and on. Yesterday I started feeling a sore throat, and today it’s slightly worse. So I’m taking it easy, trying to rest up and stay hydrated and eat plenty of the good chicken soup Xy whipped up last night.

Cold

We left the heater running in the kitchen all night, and it was still 45 degrees in there this morning. Times like these make me wonder if we shouldn’t have installed central heat when we were renovating downstairs. I think we actually had a light freeze last night.

I’m glad I’m not among New Orleans’ estimated twelve thousand homeless.

I wore long johns for the morning ride to work. Why does cold wind bring tears to my eyes? Luckily this cold snap will only last a couple of days.

Cold

Dang, it’s cold. Ever since the big rains that came through with the front on Monday, it’s been cold. All my life I’ve had central air and heat, until we bought our house in 2002. We have a couple wall furnaces, and they do the job, but you have to light ’em manually and we just don’t see much point when we know the weather will warm up again. So we suck it up. But that means it was in the upper forties/lower fifties in our bedroom this morning. Brrr.

44°F

It hit a low of 44ºF here in Bloomington yesterday. The high? 67º.

Yes, it gets that cold in New Orleans. Colder even. For a few days. In January. Not at the end of September.

This is why I don’t think I can move back to the Midwest.

Cold

The reason I hate winter is days like these. It’s cold. I’m cold. I gather that it dipped down to freezing for an hour or two last night. But that’s the temperature outside — what about the temperature inside? In my home office, as I type this, it’s 63 degrees. And that’s with the heat cranked up to the maximum. We can’t get it much warmer in this old house without insulation or central heat. I talked to my sister in Indiana last night, and she assured me that her living room was a toasty 72 degrees. Meanwhile I can’t keep my fingers and toes warm. I’d like to curl up under the eiderdown and dream of summer all day, but instead I’ve got to ride to work.

At least my office there will be warmer.

Brrr

Today we’ve got the first really cold weather of the season. This morning as I rode to work it was in the 40s. I wore five layers on my upper body: undershirt, tee shirt, long-sleeved shirt, sweater, sweatshirt. And of course I wore a cap. Two, actually. No long underwear, though, and no coat. I save that for mornings below 40 — which could come as early as tomorrow. It’s supposed to get down to the lower 30s tonight!

Chill

Cold weather has finally arrived in New Orleans. We have gone from highs in the mid-80s to highs in the upper 60s.

I guess this October was the hottest on record. It seems incredible that just two days ago I was sitting around my house in my underwear, totally comfortable. It also seems a little unfair that we couldn’t have some highs in the 70s for a while. Now, I have to wear a sweater on the morning ride to work. I have to wear long pants. And it’s windy! When I went jogging this morning it was in the mid-50s and the wind made it extremely unpleasant. When my heart started pumping and my body temperature elevated, my ears burned painfully.

People always say, “But you’re from Indiana” — apparently their idea of the Great White North — “you should be used to cold weather.” I tell them I know colder weather than that; I lived for a year in Kalix, not far from the arctic circle. And what I know about cold weather is this: I hate it.

The paper ran a front page story this morning on how happy everyone is about this change in the weather. Bah! I know my definition of cold doesn’t match up with most people’s, but I don’t care. You’re all a bunch of hot-blooded, thick-skinned freaks.