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Walter Berg cleans about six inches of new-fallen snow from his driveway in St. Cloud, Minn., Saturday morning, Jan. 18, 2014. (AP Photo/The St. Cloud Times, Dave Schwarz)

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Withering Glance: A hard look at a cold state

  • January 31, 2014 - 2:46 PM

Rick Nelson and Claude Peck dispense unasked-for advice about clothing, etiquette, culture, relationships, grooming and more.

 

CP: When you showed up at my desk yesterday, fresh from the parking lot to bring me another delicious baked good, I had to guess it was you based on nothing more than your steamed-up glasses and a pink nose peaking out from the hood of your Arctic parka. An L.K. Hanson caricature!

 

RN: Exactly. That puffy maraschino cherry-colored coat can be seen from outer space, that’s how big it is. It’s the outerwear equivalent of a down-filled sleeping bag. But it’s warm.

 

CP: There are positive sides to this winter’s infernal chill. Men here are sporting scarves at their desks, which makes the newsroom resemble a Lanvin atelier.

 

RN: Are you and I still working in the same place? I’m beginning to wonder if this thin Arctic air has impaired your brain activity.

 

CP: Not sure, but it definitely hampers my determination to remain moisturized. I recently sanded an entire door jamb using just my cuticles.

 

RN: Please. If my chapped lips were a movie, they would be the scene in “Lawrence of Arabia” where a parched Peter O’Toole crosses the Nefud Desert — twice — before leading the attack on Aqaba.

 

CP: Friends in more temperate climates are always asking, “How do you endure it?” These softies live in places where they can wear a nice dark shoe in February without having to wipe it down each night with a water-and-vinegar solution. What shall we tell them?

 

RN: Start with a joke. For example, my friend Tibby has claimed “Polar Vortex” as his new drag name. Then quickly invoke our beautiful summers.

 

CP: Good idea. As opposed to unbearable Sun Belt summers that are best filed under Solar Vortex.

 

RN: That leads to the inevitable question regarding the preferred use of a sidewalk during an extreme weather event: Frying an egg, or freeze-drying one?

 

CP: Searching for a silver lining, as is my wont, I noticed that this morning’s extreme cold amplified the exhaust from my dryer, creating a sort of Magic Kingdom around the house. It had everything but warmth, palm trees, green grass and the piped-in “It’s a Small World” soundtrack.

 

RN: Fine. I’ll play along and add that the stars are quite beautiful at night when the temperature is a ka-jillion below.

 

CP: What about that old moon shivering down on a yard full of fresh snow. What about that? Hunh? I am asking this in a rising voice, edged with hysteria brought on by months spent hovering between 66 and 69 degrees on the thermostat.

 

RN: Give it a few months. You’ll soon be in the same state of high anxiety regarding your air conditioning.

 

E-mail: witheringglance@startribune.com

Twitter: @claudepeck and @RickNelsonStrib

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