Mr. Paul Keating, my fellow LIP writer wrote a great article about winter last month, with a lot of responses from people who were still wearing thermal socks. I’ll say that the popular response was anti-winter. And yet they still live through it every year, as with that Mid-Atlantic Blizzard that’s happening as I write.
I guess it would be the same for me when I chose the Philippines to live, and then if I groused about the rainy season. I’d get no sympathy (BTW, I like the rainy season!). In the early 1950’s while I was a wee tyke, my Mother told my Father that their middle son Paul was leaving New England at the first opportunity. “How can you know that?” was my Fathers query. My Mother explained that in the morning she would bundle her five sons in warm clothing to send us outside, two for school and the youngest three to play. And young Paul would return inside within twenty minutes and complain about the cold, the wet cold snow, and cold wind. I do remember that I really did hate the cold.
A few years later I had a revelation, presented to me at Minot Elementary School (it’s long gone now) in the Neponset area of the Dorchester section of Boston. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Ahearn had us do diorama of a village in Malaya (it was the name then) and I asked how they survived the winters living in a house that was made of grass? THE REVELATION: “They have no winter” she explained. My young little mind could not grasp that concept, and so, it must be a lie which I found out later, it was not, oh joy!
Geography is now the subject that has fired my interest, and given me a purpose in life. I then set a goal that I, Paul Thompson would dedicate my life to finding this place called the Equator, for it must be Utopia or at least the promise land. The quest begins!
Leap ahead to October 1964, the goal still boils within me, but how may I reach it? Off to the Boston Army Piers for my Selective Service Physical, passed 1-A, the Army recruiter tells me I’ll be called before the end of the month. But if I sign up now he’ll give me a choice of schools and or jobs. “So young man watta’ ya wanna’ do?” Drive a tank! I exclaimed. “Second choice four eyes?” he asked. This Navy Chief with a large cup of coffee in his hand said, “I’ll let you drive a ship.” They’re huge, which could be fun to do, it wasn’t. (Getting back to winter) The Navy Chief told me that if I show up Friday he would send me to Boot Camp at Great Lakes Il. I scowled; he jumped in real quick and said, San Diego CA. if you can be here at 5am tomorrow (I was there at 3am). My first taste of a warm winter in Southern California, and it was good! So good in fact that Boot Camp and the pain that went with it just didn’t matter, as it was warm.
Since that day I’ve have never lived further north than Norfolk VA. And that was too north for me. Albeit the ship’s I sailed took me too many very cold places on the planet, we just never stayed long. Nor had I visited New England unless it was the full summer season. (Mom said to Dad, “I told you so.”) Florida, California, South Carolina, Costa Rico, Puerto Rico, Philippines UAE, North Africa and Diego Garcia on the Indian Ocean and many, many more warm spots on Earth where the sun shines daily. As warm or even hot is good.
The goal in life should be to live between 15 degrees North and 15 degrees South skipping some of the not so good longitudes. I still look to the sky once in a while and thank Mrs. Ahearn for showing me the light of knowledge! Oh! The first time I found that equator, was when the Navy gave me a big certificate that made me a “Shell Back” and ten years later I became a “Golden Shell Back” when I crossed on the International Dateline. But I had to go through the punishment again to get it, kinda’ like “The Order of the Blue Nose” when I crossed the Arctic Circle.
I had found it, the equator, and it was excellent!