Thursday, January 31, 2008

OK, let’s let a shoe drop, a little bit…

Those of us who tough it out in Big Sur year after year have collective amnesia for the days and sometimes weeks of the winter when it’s so frickin' cold that living without central heating really begins to feel barbaric. This time of year I start to think about finding a nice big bear to make me a warm fur coat. We have to haul wood (in our wheelbarrow!) into the house every few days, and pick up pine cones in the forest for kindling, like characters in a medieval fairy tale.

In his un-insulated shack, geriatric neighbor Bob practically lives under his electric blanket. If the power goes out, he stays with us. If I’m home alone, dinner becomes leftover pasta and a big hot cup of tea (it's freezing in the kitchen) then to bed at 8pm, wearing flannel pajamas, a heavy sweater and socks. Being part of a couple is highly practical when it comes to stoking the fire in the middle of the night. Sitting in a heated car is a relief. In short, it’s simply too damned COLD.

I have a single friend who left Big Sur, after loving it for a decade, because she had HAD it with chopping wood and making fires in the winter. She'd sit on a big pillow directly in front of her wood-burning stove, smoking cigarettes, drinking red wine, and powering on her bellows. Now she lives with a thermostat she’s in love with and we have her handy dandy bellows. I think I’ll go use it right now, to see if I can warm up this room…

Hint: Lighting candles can create the illusion of warmth. So can drinking wine, and having one’s friends over to dance madly in the firelight.

The other pain in the ass about living in Big Sur is getting your car repaired. Basically, you’re sunk, since even “reliable” late model cars have problems. The nearest mechanic is 40+ miles away, so you can count on one very expensive towing bill should your baby die on you down the coast.

Like doctor’s appointments, car repairs can mean missed work/income, and imposing on your friends to make the long drive to or from the repair shop. In the event of complete mechanical failure, you’ll need that special friend who lives in “town” i.e. civilization, who can put you up for the night when your car craps out on you there.

I know this sounds like so much ungrateful whining. I can hear, "but you live in PARADISE!” in the background. But let’s face it, even Paradise can have its sucky bits, oh, yeah, I forgot, its challenges.

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