Daily, it seems, I either see or read about tragedy and pain. One of my neighbors has Alzheimer’s and is beating his wife. Another suffers from cancer leaving her dependent on a daughter more interested in her money than health. Always there are wars aplenty and domestic murders in the streets. Rapes, fires, and traumatic injuries abound. So do mental health problems and the common desperation of not being able to get ahead.
In such a hellish world, one should at least enjoy fair weather. But instead of that, what do we get: nuclear-force typhoons in the Philippines, merciless hurricanes in the Caribbean, nine feet of snow this winter in Boston, even more glacial conditions across northern climes, and horrifying heat in much of Africa and the Middle East. In that vein, one of the most saddening calls I’ve received comes from a reader in Laguna Beach: no longer can he tolerate “brutal winters” in that community south of Los Angeles, and half the year will have to abandon his four-million-dollar home by the sea and drive south an hour to live in Del Sur, five insulated miles inland from Del Mar.
“Yours is a tough and tragic story, indeed, but perhaps not as bad as that of a homeless man in Chicago,” I say.
“Have you been to Laguna Beach in winter?” Fred asks.
“Yes, but it must’ve been an unusually nice day.”
“You’ve got to suffer through it before popping off. You’re evidently unaware that December through March our lows are about forty-four degrees.”
“Forty-four degrees is far warmer than winter highs in most places,” I say.
“Forty-four’s only a number. I’m talking about the misery index when wind rips and fogs smothers us. We’re trapped and gray as Ingmar Bergman characters. Many times I’ve asked why I go on.”
“Why do you?”
“Folks in Del Sur say life’s better there in winter.”
“Why didn’t you seek refuge years ago?”
“Like those in the Gulag Archipelago, we were too beaten down to look up.”