A New England hero becomes another ‘Florida man’

  • Dan Mackie (Courtesy photograph)

For the Valley News
Published: 12/26/2020 10:08:16 PM
Modified: 12/26/2020 10:20:09 PM

Tom Brady, whom I once called not only the greatest football player of all time but possibly the finest human ever, has let me down. He recently said he has acclimated to Tampa, Fla., and vowed “you would not catch me dead” living in the Northeast — presumably because our weather no longer meets his standards.

Well, you won’t “catch me dead” in Tampa, which at the time of his utterance was cursed with sunny skies and temperatures in the high 70s. Sure, there is something to be said for that, but only if you lack spunk and an appreciation for the dramatic. Tampa’s December weather is a picnic in the park. Ours is a demolition derby.

Yes, you can spend your days puttering about in a Florida golf cart. But what about the crash-bang-boom excitement of driving in New England?

Recently we’ve had toasty sunny days, followed by arctic temperatures, bracing winds, frozen fog, historic snowfalls and afternoons so deeply gloomy that a moan of despair rose from the land. Or maybe that was the lament of Vermonters who can’t come to Grafton and Sullivan counties unless they are on essential quests.

It’s no wonder they miss us. In the vicinity of Route 12A the streets are lined with gold, or at least bright yellow cheeseburger wrappers. Our drive-thru lines are legendary, as impressive as the wagon trains that once crossed the prairies. Our toilet paper is softer, our canned peas sweeter, our parking spaces plentiful and generous.

And our weather is just as capricious as Vermont’s.

I have never resented our weather cavalcade. I’ve always lived in New England and will do so as long as being alive is an option. As Longfellow wrote, “Life is real! Life is earnest!” New England winter does nothing to dispute him. Endurance is our super power. But as a child I learned that fall leads to winter and winter leads to spring and spring leads to summer vacation, which is a pretty good cycle all in all.

I grew up in Rhode Island, where winter was milder owing to the warming effect of the Atlantic Ocean and the ready supply of steaming hot bowls of clam chowder. (The thermal effect adds up.) I cheered every year for a white Christmas, and for each and every “snow event” to close schools, which meant lots of disappointments as snow changed over to rain. Still, it was not uncommon for winter to suddenly get serious and dump one- or two-foot-plus snowstorms in February. We were thrilled. Between shoveling, sledding and snowballs, we lived life to the brink until our snowsuits were sodden. Even then we pushed on until dusk, or a second warning sign of hyperthermia.

Here in the Upper Valley, winter has been more reliably wintry than the seasons of my youth, although it’s lost some of its bite in recent years. But last weekend we were still dealing with a weekday storm that was supposed to bring a dusting to three inches and instead dropped more than two feet of fluffy surprise.

The snow was such that you would have done well to hire a Sherpa guide to explore my neighborhood. With all Sherpas apparently booked, people did what they could. They borrowed a faithful Saint Bernard, formed human chains, employed crampons and ice axes, and headed out. Even well into this week we were waiting for the city to plow the sidewalks so pedestrians wouldn’t have to dodge lumbering SUVs. Considering that four in 10 drivers recently posted distressingly mean comments on Facebook, it’s a daunting prospect. You worry about their state of mind.

But I don’t mind dealing with snow. I have two trusty shovels, and a neighbor helped me out with his snowblower. I cleared a path to the woodpile, raked snow off the roof, dug out our snowbound cars and fell asleep in my chair for a well-earned nap, the best sort.

I like to think the righteous chores and repeated testing of our mettle make us stronger, both physically and morally. Tom Brady may believe he will thrive in balmy Tampa, but I am not so sure.

Without the bracing effects of hardy weather to keep people in touch with reality, you end up with headlines that say, “Florida Man Charged With Assault With a Deadly Weapon After Throwing Alligator Through Wendy’s Drive-Thru Window.” (Thankfully, the gator wasn’t super-sized.) Or “Thousands of Gun Owners in Florida Planning to ‘Shoot Down’ Hurricane.” I blame the disorienting heat and humidity of the Sunshine State. Likewise alcohol.

As for our Tom, he may have one or two more good football seasons in him, but someday he may be just another Florida man, prone to Florida moments. Since I understand he is and will always be welcome at Mar-a-Largo, the potential for mishaps is even greater. I can only take in a deep breath of wholesome New England air and wish him well.

Dan Mackie lives in West Lebanon. He can be reached at dan.mackie@yahoo.com.

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