January 24, 2008

Never be warm again.

The weather is always worse in my neighborhood than downtown. The fog is thicker, the frost harder, the rain heavier, the puddles icier. It's microclimates ad absurdum; four miles and one small river shouldn't do that. But they do.

Right now it's freezing everywhere and even downtown is numbingly cold. I thought the municipal drinking fountains had been turned off, but when I looked closer I saw them plugged with tiny icicles. I've been practicing my Fahrenheit-Celsius conversions by watching the time and temp sign on the bank at 5th and Yamhill. There's not that much variety in the questions lately, but for Fahrenheit 30 to 35 I've got the answers down pat.

Last night I shivered my way home from work and arrived in my frozen neighborhood feeling certain it was colder than it looked. It's hard to gauge when the streets aren't wet; Portland's usual rain has cleared away this week and left us with this clear, biting cold so dry that there isn't even any frost in the mornings. No puddles on the street to ice over. No wet leaves on the sidewalk to freeze up. No dampness in the lawns to turn silvery overnight. No mist to freeze, no rain to slush, no water of any kind anywhere. But as I crossed Killingsworth I finally saw a little glint of water in the Martian dryness, a swirly puddle in the gutter defying the cold. On principle, because it's Portland and feet should be wet, I went to step in it.


It was frozen solid. Not a layer of ice on top, no, but inches of solid ice all the way down to the ground. It was the same when I thought I saw a puddle in the lawn outside my office; I walked over to look at it and the ice cracked and crunched under my feet. I never thought that 600 miles would make the difference between the Bay Area's breezy, damp winters and this frozen numbness, but then, I had forgotten that that breezy damp was only another 600 miles from the sun and warm wind I grew up with.

I'm very sorry to all the people I know who live in, or are moving to, Seattle. But I can't ever go any further north than this. I need the air to not hurt me.

Posted by dianna at January 24, 2008 10:07 AM

Man, I've been screwed by tricksy puddle-ice more times than I ought to admit. I think the ice does it explicitly to fool transplants from non-icy climes so that the native Northrons can make fun of them. Ice should not be so clear and pristine!

Also terrible: Big piles of brown slush. Ick.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at January 24, 2008 10:19 AM

I was going to suggest a space suit filled with warm air that you could live in until sometime in May. But given the ice factor, maybe a pair of soccer cleats needs to be incorporated in there.

Or: toboggan shoes! Why bike/walk to work when you can sled?

Posted by: katie at January 24, 2008 12:12 PM

When I first moved to New York my mom bought me a pair of rubber cleaty things that fit on the bottom of shoes and prevent slipping. They are also big and floppy and extend beyond the edge of the shoes by about six inches in all directions, making the wearer look like a huge dork. I've decided that the pain and humiliation of slipping and falling on my ass periodically is outweighed by the constant humiliation of looking like some sort of doofus snow-clown.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at January 24, 2008 12:23 PM

Oouch. In New York, no less, the fashion capital of the Americas (or so we stylish Northwesterners in our raincoats and hiking boots let them think if it makes them feel better). Of all the places one can be wearing dorky rubber ice cleats, that one seems more prone than average to respond with derision and social ostracism.

The ice is sparse enough here, due to the Martian lack of surface water, that I have been able to avoid actual slippage even with my tread-deficient workboots. The cold, however, is so intolerable that I am starting to daydream about moving to Mauritius. Or Guatemala. Or Bakersfield. Anywhere I don't have to bring a sweater is okay by me.

Posted by: Dianna at January 24, 2008 05:05 PM

Is your house at least warm? I find bitter cold is at least tolerable if I only have to endure it briefly in between long stretches of warm and snuggly.

Posted by: MoltenBoron at January 24, 2008 05:52 PM

interestingly it is generally warmer in seattle than in portland by 5-10 degrees. i know this because of my vista windows sidebar temperature gadget which i have set for multiple cities and which is updated continuously all day long. i don't know WHY it's warmer up there, but i'm assuming it has something to do with seattle being on the bay and having more temperate climes.

Posted by: michele at January 24, 2008 05:56 PM

Hey, wait, that's not fair! How can it be warmer up there and be snowing more often?? Now I feel like a sucker, stuck in the place where the weather sucks and there isn't even any pretty snow to make up for it.

Posted by: Dianna at January 24, 2008 08:16 PM

Seattleite's (er, Kirklandite's) two cents:

Snow/Icy roads suck when your car doesn't have winter (or even all-season) tires. Also, 24F on the way to work sucks. And not really breaking freezing for a week also sucks. And when I say "breaking freezing" I don't mean on the way down...

(I suppose that we technically broke freezing, but there is frost that hasn't melted all week.) There are going to be some severely dead lawns when this lets up. Oh, and snow this weekend, again.

Posted by: Erik at January 24, 2008 10:20 PM

Yeah, the last time I looked at your 10-day forecast it was rain, snow, rain, snow, rain, rain, snow, rain, snow, rain. Are you sure you don't want to outfit Bertram with some snow-friendly treads?

Anyway, lawns? Psh. Your neighbors could take a cue from mine and just let the green moss take over the whole yard. It's, you know, vaguely lawnlike. And apparently resistant to every weather condition known in this climate.

Posted by: Dianna at January 24, 2008 10:49 PM

Bertie has new wintery shoes now, but there was a day there where I had to stay home from work because my tires lacked sufficient traction. Weak.

And yeah, that moss is amazing stuff. The entire roof of my garage is covered with it. The snow melts and grass is blackened and dead, but the moss has, I swear, *grown stronger*. Someday this planet will be inhabited by nothing but cockroaches scurrying over endless fields of that moss. *sniff* It's a beautiful picture.

Posted by: Erik at January 25, 2008 11:37 AM