Mick’s icy post brings back other memories, like the one I’m about to relate. This was back before the wimpy things they call winters today, this was in the time of diamond winters, when the Albany streets were always icyslick unless the snow was up to here. As if that weren’t enough, the wind tunnel of the upper Hudson Valley rendered the Capital City close kin to Siberia, with a wind chill factor that shot the temp down to only 50 below or so when it was warm, in which atmosphere we’d stand at night on Elm Street corners being supercool in our thin nylon jackets, no hats, no gloves, being wind chill cool. “All you have to do is relax your shoulders.”
We thought of it as hardening ourselves against the elements. Which attitude served pretty well in the city, and even the country, specifically the country along historic country road 9J, the two-lane highway that will forever run south from Rensselaer along the east shore of the Hudson River. I call the 9J historic not only because it is, but also because of all the personal history it holds for Mick and I, as anyone who has read these sketchy chronicles can attest, with much more to come.
To get to the story. We were good in both city and country winters, as long as we stayed there and didn’t tempt fate. But tempting fate was part of our natures it seems, as I look back now from the promontory of all those winters. At the heart of one of the Hope-diamond winters of the mid-1950s, I and my cousins Jackie and Teddy, and a fourth guy who might have been Mick, with frost on our eyebrows were hitchhiking north on 9J back to my cousins’ house – we hitched everywhere in those days; all the regular drivers along the route (especially the Staat’s Express truck drivers) would pick us up – this time, though, it was a dairy farmer and helpers in his pickup, delivering milk to the dairy plant upriver. There was no room for us in the cab and the back was full of milk cans, but it was a ride and we were hard as diamonds; we all clambered up and sat atop the cans.
Then the dairyman took off on business doing about 60mph, and as our asses began to freeze to the icing milk cans our torsos stuck right up there in the hyperArctic wind, where there was nothing between us and absolute zero but our outer surfaces. When we were dropped off about 15 minutes later as icemen, it was hard to break free of the milk cans and then to get get down to the ground; when we tried to walk, we crackled; we had much to say but couldn’t talk, our jaws were frozen shut; our ears went “ting” if you struck them with an icy finger. Clanking against each other, we staggered through the warm snow up to the house and inside where it was really hot and we could melt and let the pain begin to roll us around in puddles on the floor.
We all subsequently managed to father children, though, so maybe it wasn’t as bad as I remember.