The Coldest I Ever Was

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Was also maybe the dumbest I ever was. Why did I think that in Portland, Maine, in January, I wouldn't need a heavy winter coat? It turned out that I needed one inside, let alone for frigid forays into the truly, deeply cold outdoors.

Chalk it up to the treacherous January thaw. In NYC, where I was living that year, the weather was downright balmy. Surely this warmth was spreading northward to Portland, I reasoned (and I use that verb ironically). But I'd not counted on the truly, deeply cheap-ass nature of political campaigns.

I went to Portland to spend two weeks with my partner, Larry, who was working on a Maine U.S. Senate race and living in campaign-provided quarters: an attic apartment in a nice old house that was quite charming except for the extreme LACK OF HEAT. Maybe there was a space heater, I don't recall; all I remember, because I was trying to write a paper for grad school at the time, is that I had to wear gloves to type on my laptop. Finally, it got so cold that I turned to a place that has long been a refuge for those seeking warmth. Together with a good cross-section of Portland's homeless population — mostly white, bearded and flannelled, which meant they looked like 90 percent of the other men in Portland — I enjoyed magazines, table space and the wonders of central heating. You gotta love the public library system.

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