Take my tired boots, yearning to be tossed

Marina Times - Enter Stage Left: A New Coast
By Evalyn Baron
January 2012

Happy 2012. My resolution: to throw away my snow boots, let go of my last winter coat.

The old, grotty pair of boots is being trashcanned this week, the coat Goodwilled – even though folks have told me that if I visit Lake Tahoe, I’ll need those boots and regret the loss of that coat. But when I experience a Lake Tahoe winter for the first time, I want to do it in gorgeous, young snow-bunny boots, not the worn leather ones that have trudged through too many NYC winters, filthy with soot. I want the freedom of lightweight, pastel skiwear – even though I don’t ski – not the fake-fur caskets I once put on: coats so heavy, I’d get exhausted just wearing them.

Why this optimistic disposal of cold weather outerwear? Why this cavalier letting go of part of my wardrobe history?

Peter and I have lived here a full year now, but I’ll continue to share how I see the world from a West Coast greenhorn’s perspective and how that perspective differs from the squinty, grit-filled point of view I spent 40 New York City years developing. I write about San Francisco because it makes me happy. Reading this, I hope it makes you happy too, to be reminded what a swell city is yours. And what a pleasingly mild one, weather-wise.

For back East it may be a new year, but old snows are on the ground.

By New Year’s Day, and for the rest of the winter, those snows are filled with trash, filthy with traffic and pedestrian grime, and they are, of course, often yellow because of dogs on winter walks. It is fun to see how the pups are dressed up for the season, with cute sweaters, coats and lined booties, but the poor canine bundles still have nowhere else to go except into the piles of snow covering their familiar fire hydrants. So Bing Crosby’s White Christmas, which had us all misty-eyed just months before, becomes something entirely different after a long NYC winter. Add in the other doggie contributions discovered when the snow thaws, and would anyone like to write that song?

When the temperature drops on a freezing night, snowfall turns into a pedestrian’s downfall. Many were the winter events I missed because I couldn’t ice skate. NYC is difficult to negotiate with enthusiasm when you may break an arm or a leg attempting it. Sure, people shovel, spread salt, and New Yorkers trudge into their futures with a sigh and a workmer-like shrug, but it’s all grey, dirty and dangerous – a time of hazards I hope never to endure again. Blinded by heavy fog, I may bump into a building or two here in my new home city, but slipping on spiky ice? Never again!

Plus, you can’t wear pretty shoes in wintry NYC. Winter footwear, is clunky, uncomfortable, and thick wool socks ruin your pedicure no matter how long you give your toes to dry. I could ramble on about how ugly a NYC winter can make you feel: the grey skies, the nasty chill impossible to dispel with hot cocoa and rum, the short tempers getting shorter along with the days, the darkness that falls early both within and without.

But here? Entering this new year feels so much more benign.

Oh, I see San Franciscans bundling up in their gorgeous sweaters, crafted scarves, and light jackets, keeping their toes warm in calf-clinging, clean boots, looking all the world like good, solid citizens of Winter. But come on! Even when the mornings and late nights plunge to below 50 degrees, it’s been my experience that sunshine soon comes along and clouds disperse, warming this city up again to a very bearable temperature. I’ve laughed out loud when my fellow San Franciscans complain, “Oh , it’s freeeeeeeeeezing outside!”

Really? I mean, REALLY? Has the snow started falling yet? Have you felt the lash of icy rain against your West Coast cheeks? Have you slipped, bruising your elbow on that frozen patch outside your door? No? Well then ...

I know. I sound peevish and sullen. But I have an excuse.

It’s because my old snow boots are staring at me from across the room – they know they’re on their way out, after many years of hard labor on my behalf – and they are sending a curse across the bedroom floor:

May thick fog come, so you’ll stub your toes on those pretty palm trees! May you slip, may you slide! And your little dogs, too!

But as I pick the boots up, laying them gently in their trashcan grave, I smile, sensing both their weariness and also, possibly, a yearning for a well-earned rest.

Pace, old pals. Welcome to a warmer place.