For some, winter is about sub-zero planning

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During my long weekend in the South Bay this December, my sister-in-law marveled at the frigid conditions I experience in the Midwest. For the benefit of you in L.A.’s temperate clime, caressed by the upper 70s as this is written, The Long View offers these notes on cohabitating with the polar vortex.

During my long weekend in the South Bay this December, my sister-in-law marveled at the frigid conditions I experience in the Midwest. For the benefit of you in L.A.’s temperate clime, caressed by the upper 70s as this is written, The Long View offers these notes on cohabitating with the polar vortex.

Make no mistake, it is cold. Dang cold. Colder than a well digger’s elbow. Colder than… (insert favorite phrase here). With the mercury inching above and below zero on local thermometers, the biting, piercing chill crosses the line from inconvenience to something resembling life-threatening peril.

True, no one worries about the milk turning sour during errands run after a stop at the grocery store. But without being properly prepared, the inconvenience of a stalled engine can bring danger. That is, it would not be difficult to freeze to death.

That said, life goes on. Despite the polar conditions one must get to work, swing by the post office, get the dry cleaning, etc. Because of this, people, I learn to deal with the elements. The old saying is this: there's no such thing as whether that is too inhospitable, but there is such a thing as not dressing for it.

One winter during my Gardena childhood I never had to wear more than shirtsleeves. Nowadays, the jet stream dictates my wardrobe. With the temperature plummeting this evening, I’ll don long johns under my jeans, as well as a turtleneck, flannel shirt, and polar fleece pullover beneath my winter coat. A scarf and hat are also necessities, along with a stout pair of gloves.

Despite this insulating ensemble, I will feel cold. A bitter breeze will slash at exposed skin; cheeks and nose will redden and lose feeling while fingers and toes register the pain of excessive heat loss. Even the most vigorous physical activity will not keep at bay the benumbed outcome of time outdoors.

So, we frost-landers choose our pastimes carefully. In extreme weather, we make soup, organize the junk drawer, paint the spare bedroom, and prepare our taxes. Yes, we manage to stave off cabin fever by socializing now and then. But you can bet we let the car warm up a while before climbing in and motoring off. And the wise among us ignore the concept of wind-chill; it is only as cold as you allow yourself to believe it is.

The long-range forecast predicts temps near freezing next week. We will regard this as warm. It's amazing how moderate 25 degrees feels once you are used to single digits. It's all a matter of perspective; in March we'll put on T-shirts at the same thermometer reading that moves Angelenos to reach for a parka.

Moreover, the difficulties we currently suffer will be instantly forgotten when nature paints the land in a new spring green. All we have to do is survive until then.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com.