Dec 18, 2020

Winterizing Tips for the Hearty and Imbecilic

Cold showers even when you’re not on a hot date?

By Ed Goldman

Since autumn officially ends Sunday night, I’m going to start “winterizing” everything within my purview over the weekend. I’ll pour anti-freeze into my car’s radiator, leave at least one faucet in my home slightly dripping each night to help ensure against frozen pipes, wrap my outdoor plants in festive pashminas and encase my garden water spigot in old pajama bottoms. 

What I won’t do are (a) make my cat Osborn the Magnificent wear a scarf or wool cap, (b) stop wearing running shorts inside my home, which has central heating, and (c) sip hot cocoa in front of a roaring fire each evening. Oh, I have the cocoa fixings, a functioning fireplace and a supply of pressed-sawdust and real logs. The former are the ones often coated in wax paper that produce colors, hallucinations and possibly deadly toxins as they burn.  

Cocoa puffs

As a fireman’s son, I’ll of course insist on putting out any fires before I head upstairs to retire for the night. I realize that some of you like to be romantically lulled to sleep by the crackle of scorched logs thudding to the fireplace floor, where they shatter into a thousand sparks—and I’m sure you know that only a few of these would need to collaborate to ignite a conflagration that consumes the first floor of your home. I hasten to add that this can prove especially worrisome if your home has only one floor.  

I have some friends in the Sierra Nevada foothills, which are just about an hour’s drive from where I live—except during ski season, when it takes about 17 hours, not including refueling stops, bathroom breaks and the domestic violence that ensues when one half of a couple insists on installing the snow chains himself even though he’s never done it before and even though the price to pay a professional to do it (roughly $30 on Interstate 80) is less than a third of a ski-lift ticket (around $95 in Alpine Meadows). By the way, my using the terms “himself” and “he” is not accidental. 

Anyway these mountain friends do far more serious winterizing than I do each year. Among the tasks they busy themselves with are putting up storm windows and doors, and, if they’re leaving the house for several days, shutting off the water, draining and turning off the gas to the water heater, then blowing out the plumbing pipes with an air compressor attached to the laundry hookups. 

If they’re going to hang around for the frosty months, they also bring their more fragile plants indoors and for all I know, give them the aforementioned hot cocoa. It’s one thing to enliven a plant by talking to it—but give one a few tiny marshmallows and your formerly mopey dionysia may start doing a jubilant Bossanova. (Note: a dionysia is a flowering plant. But it’s also an ancient Greek festival. You’ll have to decide if you’d rather clean up after a  plant that may shed petals or an ancient Greek, who may shed far worse.)

One of the more important undertakings around this time of the year is to also winterize yourself. I don’t mean just wearing earmuffs and oven mitts while flossing, nor sweatpants and knee socks in your walk-in jacuzzi. I’m talking about the tips that come from national health experts, such as taking gradually colder showers to acclimate yourself to the weather change, and gradually wearing fewer garments than usual when you go outside.

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Dave Whitley, “a motivational speaker, coach, strongman and author of ‘Superhuman You’…either turns his shower water to cold or submerges in a big freezer of nearly freezing water in his outdoor shed. ‘At first it’s really miserable, then bearable, then kind of pleasant,’” he told the WSJ reporter.

I believed the “it’s really miserable” part but confess I lost interest after that. I lit a fire, made a vat of hot cocoa for my plants and me, sat back and, if you’ll pardon the expression, chilled. I don’t do anything gradually except age.

Ed Goldman's column appears almost every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. A former daily columnist for the Sacramento Business Journal, as well as monthly columnist for Sacramento Magazine and Comstock’s Business Magazine, he’s the author of five books, two plays and one musical (so far).