© 2011 Leighann Lord
Thanks to stand-up comedy I’ve traveled to and performed in 46 of the 50 United States, plus Guam. I’m missing Alaska, Kentucky, Montana and Washington. Under less than ideal circumstances I’m finally going to Alaska. That less than ideal circumstance? Winter. I’ll be doing shows at military bases in and around Anchorage and Fairbanks. I’m excited about getting closer to my goal of performing in all 50 states, but it’s butting up against my desire to be comfortable and by comfortable, I mean warm.
I get cold very easily. I carry a sweater in the Summer time because air conditioning is too chilly for me. I begin donning hats and leggings in September. And if I had my way, my house would be a balmy 80 degrees from October to April, but I live with a white guy who begins wilting at 70.
I’ve been watching the Weather Channel which, by the way, doesn’t include Hawaii, Alaska or Guam in its national forecast. Apparently we’re to assume it’s respectively hot, cold and who cares. The more inclusive Weather.com told me the local temperature in Anchorage is about 20 degrees. Okay, that’s manageable. Fairbanks: Minus 30. MINUS THIRTY?!? Is that a typo?
I seriously began worrying that I wouldn’t be warm enough. And by worry I mean panic. Everyone says it’s best to dress in layers, but how practical is that? I buy clothes to fit me, not some bigger, outsized version of me. That would, however, be a handy excuse: “I’m not fat, I’m layering.”
In preparation I’ve been stocking up on thermal underwear, wool socks and hand warmers. This is literally the time to cover your ass. So, no, I won’t be packing a thong. January in Alaska is great granny panty time. I need maximum skin coverage. At this point, I even regret shaving my arm pits.
I’m worried now about my outerwear. Everybody, and by everybody I mean Google, says down coats are best. I thought I had one, but when I fished it out of the attic, the label said, “Lining: 100% polyester.” Fantastic! I’ll freeze to death but at least I’ll be wrinkle free.
So that’s how I found myself, three days before take off, trolling through The Burlington Coat Factory looking for something to fit over multiple layers but didn’t make me feel like the abominable snow man. To their credit, BCF had a lovely selection of coats but the down linings topped out at 60%. Surely a January jaunt to Alaska warrants 80 to 90.
Shopaholic that I am, my attention soon wandered to a sexy, bright red, plastic rain coat that perfectly matched a red, patent leather handbag that I recently scored at Nine West for $10. Just as I began imagining how cute I’d look in the coat/bag combo, my Husband – who I brought along to keep me focused – whispered a gentle weather reminder: “Minus 40 degrees, but the wind chill makes it feel like, FUCK!”
And we’re back.
I don’t know why I never realized it before, but trying on a coat inside the store is somewhat pointless. You can judge look and fit, but not warmth. Wouldn’t it make more sense for there to be an outdoor dressing room where you can try on coats in the cold?
I eventually found a coat that has native New Yorker written all over it: black, full-length, slightly tapered at the waist. It’s no red rain coat, but I dare say it’s stylish. While there’s no standardized Zagat’s-type rating for outer wear, a tag on the coat sleeve read:
“Garments made of ARCTIC WARMTH™ have been specially designed for comfort and heat retention to keep you warm during moderate physical activity such as walking during Canadian winters.”
Translation, “Keep moving!” But that should be good enough for Alaska as well since it would have been part of Canada if Canada could have gotten her money together. Oddly though, the makers of the coat still hedged their bets a bit:
“For best results with ARCTIC WARMTH™ it is recommended to dress in layers in extreme cold weather in order to ensure better heat conservation.”
So much for “high tech fillers.”
Luckily a cold snap in New York has allowed me to field test the coat. So far so good, but 18 degrees in The Big Apple may not feel the same as 18 in The Big Chill. I hope I fair well in Fairbanks and by fair well I mean not end up a stylishly dressed ice sculpture.