I swoon for summer. I get hot for the heat. The waft of barbecue in the summer air is like an aphrodisiac. For my money, nothing beats a road trip with the windows down and a great music playlist. Yep, nothing gets my dopamine flowing better than a pleasant day. But that’s the problem. As a lifelong Michigander, I’ve come to learn that pleasant days aren’t exactly something you can plan a picnic around.
Look, I’m not saying I hate Michigan. Back in the crust-stached days of my youth, long before the drudgery of deadlines and responsibilities and self-imposed nightly curfews, I’d be hard-pressed to think of a better way to spend a hazy crazy lazy summer afternoon than perched high atop a sand dune somewhere along Michigan’s coastline, overlooking the waters of the Great Lakes. The sunlight on my face, the breeze through my mullet, sent my spirits soaring as high as the ivory-colored seagulls that tumbled weightlessly above. The sky was like a floating blue sea I felt desperate to explore.
It’s the eight months of unforgiving, suffocating, tombstone-gray frigidness I can do without. The winter turns me into a grumpy hermit. My mood changes with every spike and dip of the mercury. They say the number of cold days and total accumulation of snowfall from this past winter was one for the record books, which might explain why I’m only now beginning to shake off the weather-induced PTSD that it caused.
During the Northeast blackout of 2003, my wife and I spent days without power in the sweltering August heat. Yet, I remember lying on my bed in the stifling greenhouse air of our house with a cooler full of cold beverages at my side, contently reading The DaVinci Code. But having to go just a few hours without power in the winter makes me ready to go all Donner Party ‘n shit. Old Man Winter’s a cranky old bastard who seems to be getting worse with age. Even after our well pump shattered and the fish in our aquarium died off from a string of sub-zero temperature days this past December, he just flashed his grin full of icicle teeth and kept pounding us more with temperatures so low that it stung your lungs to breathe. And as if this winter wasn’t bad enough, Michigan is scheduled to have a colder-than-usual summer season as demonstrated in the figure below:
Just look at a map. Whereas other states are shaped like squares and rectangles and wads of chewed up bubblegum, Michigan’s carved into the shape of a mitten, for Christ’s sake!
Before you go calling me a wuss, let me give you a quick and by no means all-inclusive run-down of some other things that don’t fare so well in the cold: Electronics, plants, car batteries, syrup, bears, bees, butterflies, fish. When it gets cold, water gives up and becomes ice. You don’t hear cardiologists telling their patients to move somewhere colder. Sure, you’ve got things like penguins and polar bears wandering the earth’s polar regions but in every wildlife video I’ve ever seen, they really don’t seem all that happy to be there.
As a guy who’s wading steadily deeper into the waters of middle-age, the idea of eternal life sounds more and more appealing. But it’s the mere mention of the word “cryogenics” that’s the deal breaker. I’ve requested that I be cremated after I die because I can’t stand the thought of lying in an icy coffin with my heart shriveled and withered like a freezer-burned apricot.
Being pale-skinned with a tantalizing sprinkling of freckles, I’m not exactly genetically conditioned to flourish in the summer months. With all the severe sunburns I’ve racked up over the years, I can almost guarantee a date with a dermatologist in the not-too-distant future. Still, I’d rather lie out on a lawn chair atop a sunspot than spend a few soul-screaming minutes on a frigid winter morning waiting for my car to warm up.
And so, dear Michigan, it’s nearing the time for us to say goodbye to one another. We’ve had some great times, for sure. Your lakes and rivers helped teach me to swim. Your quaint dusty back roads helped teach me to drive. And your forests and woodlands have provided me with some of the cleanest air around. In gentler times, your winters even helped me learn to ice skate and play hockey. But it’s time for me to move on. Someplace, anyplace, that’s warmer. For I’d much rather spend the rest of my days dodging falling coconuts than flying hailstones.