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Warmest greetings from a cold confidant

ROBERT KING
Published January 18, 2004

Dear Friends in the Frozen North,

For a while now, I've been pleading with you to come down and spend a couple of weeks basking with us in the January sun. But you kept coming up with excuses, and now look at you - bound up in snow, ice and praying you don't freeze to death in a rolling blackout. Serves you right.

I saw the other night where the temperature fell to minus 45 on some mountain in New Hampshire. In Florida, I don't think it could get to 45 below in a cryonics lab.

But it reminded me of a documentary I saw over the holidays about Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated voyage to the South Pole. As I recall, once it reached 45 below, Shackleton decided it was time to eat the sled dogs. Bon appetit.

I heard it was so cold in Maine - where they know a little bit about cold - that the governor declared a civil emergency. Maine is a beautiful state. But you couldn't get me to spend January there for all the blueberry pie in Portland.

Then I read that in New York City the ferries were stuck in the ice and people were warned that exposed skin would freeze in less than 30 minutes. New York is a happenin' place, but I can just see the cabbies laughing at the poor folks standing on the curb with frostbite. Things may be quiet and dull and slow here, but at least we can feel all our toes.

We Floridians - and especially all the gentle-hearted souls here in Hernando County - don't mean to rub our climatological advantage in your face. But, whewee! We are so glad we ain't where you are.

That said, it was probably wrong of me last week to snap up a "Sunny Florida" postcard at the Spring Hill Wal-Mart and mail it to my parents in Kentucky - where it was a balmy 11 degrees and the area was wrapped in a 4-inch blanket of snow.

I think that was the day my two daughters spent the afternoon - in shorts and a T-shirt - bouncing on their trampoline. But seeing as how the only bouncing you-all do is to keep your feet from freezing to the ground, you probably don't want to hear about that.

Did I mention that I took a boat ride off Hernando Beach the other day and got a little sunburn on my face? I hesitate to even bring it up, what with how your skin is all pasty and white and the only boats that move up your way are ice-breakers. But I can't resist.

Now, it's not my intention to make you jealous. But when we had the doors and windows open the other day, that gentle breeze blowing through reminded me of spring baseball, which - by the way - is right around the corner.

It was on one of these especially nice days that some of our friends dropped by - a Sunday afternoon, I believe it was - and brought us a pie they had baked using lemons from their back yard. It was dee-licious. And the gesture made it feel like Mayberry around here.

But you poor slobs up North probably don't want to hear about citrus trees, seeing as how you haven't seen fresh fruit in your lifetime. Heck, it's probably been four months since you've even seen the color green - and Christmas trees don't count.

Now, it is true that every now and then we have a cold day of our own. And when those days come, it reminds us of home - in October. You folks can go ahead and make fun of us because we may get a little shiver at temperatures you face each morning stepping out of the shower - provided your pipes aren't frozen and you can get a shower.

The one annoyance we share with you is high gas prices - and that's your fault! They tell us that gas is going up because you folks up North are burning so much oil to heat your homes that the refineries don't have any crude left to turn into gasoline. It's that old supply and demand thing.

That's a real bummer, seeing as how it's a really great time of year to fuel up the convertible and drive out to Pine Island. (I don't have a convertible. But I do like to ride with the windows down.)

So would you mind cutting back your thermostat a few notches to say, oh, 98? We're planning to take off to Fort Myers in a week or two, and at the rate you're consuming fossil fuels the price of gas will hit $3 a gallon.

Of course, there's still a lot of winter left - plenty of time for you to come on down and enjoy the season. Just hop on a plane. That is if your airports aren't shut down from the blizzards and they haven't run out of blowtorches that can de-ice your wings. Heh-heh.

See you after the thaw,

Your loved ones in Florida

- Robert King can be reached at 848-1432. Send e-mail to rking@sptimes.com

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