It was a dark and stormy night. No kidding, it really was, and we were having dinner with old friends here on Long Island in their quaint, cozy AND FRIGGIN' FREEZING HOUSE. Our hosts, I'll call them Mr. and Ms. Green, had bought this little gem, their Dream House, because living in it gave them a sense of history. For me, just being in it for less than an hour was robbing me of my senses and leaving in their place a predictable and creeping numbness. After dinner we were all invited to the family room for coffee and dessert. The roaring fire was a welcome sight and I quickly grabbed a seat close to the flames in an attempt to stave off frostbite.
My relief was short lived, however, and I was soon reminded of Ralph Kramden describing his affliction (after a bowling injury) as feeling "like I have my head in the oven and my feet in the ice box." As it happens, just as the feeling was returning to my fingers I could feel my eyebrows singeing from the radiance of this cozy fire, while the back of my neck was developing a patina of Winter frost from the arctic blast blowing through the quaint leaded windows opposite the hearth.
Soon, the conversation came around to the changing face of Long Island. I'm sure that suburbanites the World over have been having this same conversation for decades. "They come here, crowd our schools and build their McMansions," complained Ms. Green. "Do you see that monstrosity they're building across the street?", she said, pointing to the window.
I tried in vain to turn my head and get a look, but the ice was now too thick and had formed a frozen collar around my neck.
"McMansion?", I asked.
"Yes!", she said. "They knock down the old homes, the ones with character, and they build those monstrosities!"
"Ah, McMansion. I get it. A clever term of derision for a home with walls and floors that are plumb and level.
Where all the drains work. Homes that are cool in the summer AND WARM IN THE WINTER! Who on Earth would live in such a place?"
For some reason we haven't been invited back, though we have spent many pleasant evenings with our new neighbors, the ones that knocked down the cozy, quaint structure that had been there since the Garfield Adminstration. In truth, we had lived here for fifteen years and I didn't know that house existed. When the new owners took possession they cleared away the brush and, what do you know? A house.
And in place of this quaint and historic structure, these Philistines, a Scottish-American family ironically named MacManschin, erected an eyesore; a monument to excess and personal greed. There, mocking me from across our narrow street stands a home that is actually habitable with enough room for Mr. and Mrs. MacManschin, the five little MacManschins, the Golden Retriever, along with pushy neighbors that show up on cold evenings in pathetic attempts to restore the circulation in their extremities.
So last night, as the wind howled and the temperature plummeted into single digits, my wife turned and asked what I'd like to do.
"We could fly a kite in the living room. Or we can grab a bottle of Frangelico and visit the MacManschin family across the street."