How bad has the weather been in New England this spring?
It has been like going out for a Sunday drive and getting stuck behind a garbage truck. Like getting on board an airplane, pulling out of the gate, then waiting two hours on the tarmac. Like opening a package of chicken bought that very day at the grocery store and finding out, five minutes before dinner, that it's spoiled. Like having your children fight for two hundred miles in the back seat.
It has felt like giving the command to run out your Christmas card list and having your computer crash. Or like settling down Sunday evening to watch a videotape of the final round of a golf tournament and discovering that you have taped the History Channel's dramatization of the Charles Manson murders instead.
Like having your dog start to throw up early Sunday morning on a holiday weekend. Like hitting a pothole and blowing two tires. Like losing your glasses on vacation. Like buying a child a longed-for birthday present and having it break the very first day.
It's dirty floor mats in the car, a blown washing machine belt, a cell phone dropped in a bathtub, a skunk in the garage, a fox in the garbage can. The Red Sox drop three games to the hapless Oakland A's, the road to work gets torn up, a construction crew sets up shop next door and the workers play rap on their boomboxes.
You buy stock in a company and they restate their earnings the next day, your newspaper looks like a blackened sponge, and your tax return comes back in the mail because you forgot to put stamps on it.
LORD, IT'S BEEN AWFUL. The average high temperature for May in Boston has been about 51 degrees, a record low. It has rained all the time. We just went through a four-day Nor'easter, and I suppose we should consider ourselves lucky that it wasn't 20 degrees colder, because we would have had five feet of snow.
I stopped by a local par three golf course, a beautifully designed and manicured track, to browse their shop for used clubs. The pro begged me to play. The course, ordinarily jammed full of old ladies clucking around in high spirits, stood unmarked and emerald green, its parking lot empty.
"We're dyin' here," the pro said.
Back in the 1980s, when my wife and I lived in Los Angeles, various of our friends began to get fed up with SoCal's increasing traffic and crowding and burgeoning costs, and some of them moved East. We talked to one pal in his new Chicago digs.
"It's a much superior lifestyle," he said. "You just have to put up with some bad weather."
And so we followed and we were generally happy. We moved to Boston just before Christmas of 1990. That spring bloomed gorgeously.
"If it were this pretty here all the time," I said to Sally, "Boston would be more crowded than San Diego."
"Some bad weather" has perceptibly increased in the 15 years we've been in the area. People moon about "global warming," which is nonsense, but clearly the weather has grown gloomier and wetter. From the blazing droughts and watering restrictions common in the early nineties, we've moved to marshy floods. Half our yard has been underwater for two years. We had a skating rink there the last two winters. This spring, I have been barbecuing in the rain. (Don't do it; the spattered coals flame up and burn the meat.)
It is now sunset dark outside my windows -- at 4:30 p.m., less than three weeks before the summer solstice. I find myself longing for the warm black velvet nights of Beverly Hills, hang the traffic.
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