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The good and bad of balmy winter

It is as if we were in a parallel universe, a place where all is upside-down, the opposite of what it should be. Snow is rain, cold is mild and winter is mid-spring.

It has been The Winter That Wasn't. January was the warmest in 50 years. Men in shorts were sighted. Ski resort owners took to the bottle. Down coats hibernated in closets. Average temperature was 35 degrees. Lawns appeared. Plows disappeared.

It will not last. The lake is unfrozen. Even as you read this chill winds are blowing down from Canada. The snow machine will kick-start. But for one memorable month, Buffalo was Charlotte North.

I like it. I don't like it. I miss the white snow blanket and snowmen and the sled hill. I don't miss chill blasts cutting through wool coats and slogging through the snowmass to get from here to anywhere.

One man's guide to separating the good from the bad of our Absent Winter:

The good of it:

*No Weather Channel broadcast from Erie Basin Marina with howling winds, horizontal snow and an out-of-town reporter curled into the fetal position.

*Lack of shoveling means massive savings on Ben-Gay and Doan's Pills.

*Another 10 years of this and we'll lose our blizzard image.

*Nobody has yet asked, "Cold enough for ya?" (Actually, it's usually me who asks that).

*We are deprived of one of our favorite winter sports -- scraping encrusted road salt off the car mats.

*Front lawn looks greener than it did in August.

*I have yet to sink my foot beyond the top of my shoe into a slush hole.

*You can venture outside for a walk without donning 50 pounds of sweater, coat, scarf, long underwear, moon boots, wool hat and gloves, or bringing -- in case of sudden storm -- flares, pocket flask and global positioning device.

*Baseball mitts become year-round accessories.

*Your tongue doesn't stick to a metal pole when you lick it.

*Sadistic WBEN radio announcers can't intimidate the cold-weary by reciting "real-feel" temperatures.

But all is not balmy bliss. Temperate temperatures bring their own pain.

The bad of it:

*Deprives male drivers of the primeval rush of triumph as the 4-wheel-drive blasts through a pile of snow.

*Homeowners with garages are denied the smug satisfaction of watching the shelter-deprived scrape ice off of their windshields every morning.

*You have a carrot, two lumps of charcoal, stick, scarf and bowler hat -- but no snowman to put it on.

*You can't defrost the big freezer because it's too warm to stash the frozen food outside.

*You lean your skis against opposite walls in the basement, tie a rope to the tips and make a clothesline.

*Lack of freezing cold and drifts removes the best excuse for avoiding the health club.

*Your snowmobile sues you for neglect.

*You can't meet new people by sliding into the car in front of you at a traffic light.

*The wool sweater you got for Christmas is still in the box.

*You are deprived the opportunity for healthy emotional venting when an incoming snow plow refills the driveway you just shoveled.

*You pay monthly installments on a new fireplace that has yet to be fired up.

*Deprived of the macho satisfaction of manually clearing tons of snow from sidewalks and driveways, countless men suffer identity crises.

*And, worst of all: You throw a party and can't keep the beer cold on the back porch.


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