Archive for September, 2016

In Defense of Cold

September 26, 2016

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The following is from a talk I gave on September 8, 2016 at the Write Club in the Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.

Cold is not well appreciated. Cold is usually defined as the absence of heat. But can’t we say that the opposite is true? That heat is the absence of cold?

Cold gives us wonderful things. Cold gives us ice cream. Cold gives us popsicles. Cold gives us slurpees. And what does hot give us? Hot gives us sweaty arm pits. Hot gives us rashes. Hot gives us melting polar ice caps. What good is that?

When you travel, go some place cold. Go to Iceland, Greenland, Siberia, Alaska, the Yukon. Some place where you can’t work up a sweat. You won’t need ice cold drinks. You won’t need ice cubes. You won’t need air conditioning. You won’t have to pack sun screen. You won’t have to worry about having a bikini body. My Viking ancestors never had to worry about getting too hot. For them, every day was chill. The Inuit are the most mellow people in the world. And they have to eat whale blubber.

I hate hot. Many years ago, I had a job selling vacuum cleaners door to door. I only lasted two days on this job. The first day, it was hot. I was in Ventura County, which usually doesn’t get that hot, because it’s right next to the ocean, but they were having freakishly hot weather. It was around one hundred degrees. I walked around all day in the hot sun. I didn’t sell any vacuum cleaners. The next day, it was around one hundred degrees. I walked around in the hot sun. But then, we got a lead. You see, I was working as part of a team. Someone had found someone who was willing to watch a free demo of how the vacuum cleaner worked. So the team leader sent me to this house to do the demo. I knocked on the door, and this tall, bald man with a beard answer answered the door. He looked like an old hippy. He led me into the living room. I set up the display stand showing all the parts of the vacuum cleaner, and then I began assembling the cleaner I would use in the demo. As I was doing this, I noticed that there were people going in and out of the house who didn’t seem to be related to one another in any way. This seemed strange to me. Then I noticed that there was this huge pile of books in the living room. It was AA literature. Then it dawned on me: this was a halfway house. They had sent me to sell a really expensive vacuum cleaner in a halfway house. I had to think about what I should do. I didn’t want to make a scene. If I simply left without doing the demo, they might complain to the company, and I didn’t want to get into any trouble. So I decided I would do the demo really quick, and then leave without doing a sales pitch. Cut my losses. So I asked the old hippy guy where he wanted me to do the demo. He led me to a stairwell. It was in an enclosed space, and it led to the second floor. There was carpeting on the stairs, and the carpeting was filthy. Absolutely filthy. It looked as though it hadn’t been cleaned in years, maybe even decades. So I started cleaning this thing. There was no air conditioning in the house. There was no ventilation in the stairwell, no windows in the stairwell. By the time I was halfway done, my clothes were drenched in sweat. I mean, they were sopping wet. And I was wearing a necktie, which my job required. Nobody was paying any attention to me, except for this one guy who gave me a large bottle of warm gatorade. Which was nice. So it turned out that this hippy guy wasn’t interested in the vacuum cleaner at all. He just wanted someone to clean his stairwell for free. So I packed up my stuff and left. Walked around in the hot sun some more. Did not sell any vacuum cleaners that day.

I got home late that night. I took a shower and went to bed. I set my alarm to wake me up the next morning. My body felt hot, even though the night had cooled off. I didn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. I kept thinking the alarm was about to go off. Thoughts were rushing through my head. Crazy, half-formed thoughts. Finally, the alarm really did go off. I turned it off and went back to bed. I didn’t call in sick. Nobody from the company called me to ask what was going on. I spent most of the next two days flat on m back. I had no energy at all. I just felt exhausted. I lay on the floor, because I found it was cooler there. I was staying with my sister at the time. She was out of town. I was glad of that, because I didn’t want her to see me in the condition I was in. When I felt a little stronger, I took a cold bath. I drank cold water. The cold healed my body. The cold made well again.

So, I salute you, Boreas, god of the cold north wind. Bring your snowstorms, your blizzards, your glaciers. I am your obedient servant.

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