Richard Simons | Upper East 11th Street
Q. How did you and your family manage to make it through this past winter, which many have said was the worst experienced in the United States in over 200 years?
I think I can explain it as having the discipline to look both inward and backward. How else to duck the Southern California Winter from Hell? I’m sure you remember the temperatures diving dangerously toward 50. The bitter winds howling all night, sometimes reaching 20 mph. And one night it rained! The next day the ground was wet, just about everywhere.
To retreat from this apocalypse we sought out the fireplace in our living room, a small electric device that simulates the real thing, dragging along our thickest blankets. Staring into the electric coals, we revisited the old days, the days that climate change is now sweeping brutally into the past.
In those days we dove for abalone off the coast of La Jolla and raced bicycles through the mountains of Mexico.
At night we scraped down icy moguls at Big Bear and hurled ourselves off the Cornice at Mammoth. In the spring we camped in the desert and sought out its flowers and hiked its streams. We raced large sailboats to Ensenada and back, and pointed craft loaded with scuba gear toward San Clemente and Catalina Islands to plunder what few abalone were left. We yanked trout out of Lake Cuyamacha and yellowtail out of the Pacific Ocean. And in the summer we hiked the passes of the high Sierra to camp at lakes so high that trees don’t grow there, and the bears never visit. But deer come down in the morning to drink. And the trout bite in snowstorms.
But the coals spoke to me and they said “you must be done with it. For this now is the winter of our discontent, when the evil days loom soon and the years draw nigh wherein we shalt say we have no pleasure in it. It is the worst of times, it is the worst of times. The mountains of Mexico are slick with rain and the passes of the Sierra clogged with snow. Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made. . . . Yeah, though I walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death thy Rod and thy Reel it comforteth me” . . . what, thy REEL?? . . .)
My wife gently snapped me out of it. I think her exact words were: “You better pull your head out of your Ecclesiastes or whatever, dum-dum, or you’re going to miss it. The daffodils have been up for two weeks. And check out the ranunculus.” Incredulous, I tossed off my buffalo robe and wheeled myself out the front door. And there it was! The old world that I knew and loved. The ocean was still there and it was blue and a soft wind came off it. Everywhere birds were singing. Nearby the boys of summer could be heard practicing. Plink, plink. On the sunsplashed street that runs by our house young men drove by in open cars with pretty girls who laughed with teasing eyes.
Ah, I thought, maybe there is still some life to be lived in this world afterall. “Anybody wanna race?!” I screamed. “Wheelchairs? Crutches? Anything! I’LL BET I CAN WHIP YOUR BUTT!”