Getting Warm

Kage Baker hated being cold.

She also hated bundling up in lap robes or blankets, or retreating to the couch with a coverlet when it was a cold day. What Kage wanted was a shirt-sleeve environment in a perpetually tropical mode – about 80 degrees was perfect for her. Then she only had to wear a hoodie to achieve the perfect temperature; she loved her hoodies, and had lots of them in a wide palette of colours and designs.

Somewhere along the line, she had decided that the hoodie was one of the world’s perfect garments.

Kage didn’t retreat, didn’t surrender, didn’t fort up. Being cold bored her, and she would fidget and mope loudly and finally find something to do that would keep her occupied enough that she couldn’t tell if she was cold or not. Sometimes it was convincing me to take her out driving with the heater turned up as far as it would go; we’d often end up somewhere drinking Irish coffee.

The best place ever was the House of Shields in San Francisco, which might be the oldest bar in the City (Time is strange there, so the claim is not entirely clear.) Its  gorgeous bar was found in the basement of the hotel across the street, when the ruins were cleared after the Great Earthquake. The Irish coffee served there looks as chaste as a nun: a smooth layer of cream on top of a black, black, black well of coffee, in a glass mug: no floofy whipped cream. No ice cream, an American aberration some places. Bushmills. Sigh … wherever we were, we’d drink until the sugar and caffeine and alcohol had us gibbering and twitching. Then Kage would tell me horrible ghost stories as we drove home in the dark, until we were both in hysterics as we sped through the dark … ah, good times.


Man, we were warm after that. Twitchy as weasels with hot flashes, but sure enough warm.

I’m much less susceptible to the cold. But as I’ve aged, it’s gotten harder to stay warm. In the last year, especially, it’s gotten harder and harder to stay warm. And when I’m cold, it hurts. The only solution has been to retreat to bed under mounds of blankets, and sleep.

Mind you, it’s getting better lately. The year 2015 was a black hole of chill and pain, and the best parts of it were while I was asleep under a pile of blankets and comforters. But 2016 has been doing better, even though we are now in the coldest part of the Southern California year. (Even here, we do get a cold part of the year. Frost, even.)

When I woke up this morning, I knew at once there had been a cosmic power failure. The sky was a cold, white stone arch – no features, no luminosity, no weather. Just the high pale ceiling that leeches heat out of your bones, where the sun is a featureless point source of cold light that just drifts along like a leaking balloon until it sets again. I got up, did my writing rituals, wrote a little; recorded the completely nondescript dreams of last night in a new, expectant-but-unsatisfied dream journal (where were you last night, Kage?), drank a lot of coffee.

It’s been one of those days when you ponder whether to drink your hot coffee, or pour it in your pants. I can feel a chill radiating out from the marrow of my bones – my shoulders are encased in strange, invisible ices, like a comet in the Oort Belt; I can feel the distinct crackle of eldritch hoarfrost on my bones as I type … you’d think, being as I have indeed achieved the status of fat old lady, I’d have adequate insulation to survive this season in comfort. But noooo … there’s a time and a place for everything, I guess. And that one is past.

I wish I could go out driving, and get Irish coffee, and have someone tell me ghost stories until I see things out of the corner of my eye. Lacking that – well, I’m gonna go pour some coffee, at least, and watch the X-Files for a while.

That ought do it.

About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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5 Responses to Getting Warm

  1. Dorlinda Chong says:

    Lovely description. I can’t commiserate, as I hate the heat –and have lived in the Mojave desert for the past 40 years! I can’t sleep when the temp hits 80. It’s 76-78 degrees F in the living room, and my mother is lumped under her blankets snoozing away –supposedly watching TV. (I used to make fun of my grandfather when he fell asleep in front of the TV, now I snooze in my recliner more often than not, too.) Mom hates my room, because, she claims, “It’s FREEZING.” [It’s 50 degrees.] At least we are far enough down the valley to be out of the Big Bear snowline. We’d both be uncomfortable, then 🙂


  2. Lynn says:

    It was cold up here in Northern California the weeks before and during Christmas week. Now that it’s been raining (finally!) it’s been warmer but grey. Kathleen, I swear by my silk knit underwear from REI, the best $45 I’ve ever spent. I wear them a week each year and expect that they’ll last that way until I die. Then i’ll bequeath them to my older daughter, who has the body temperature of a lizard.


    • Kate says:

      I’ve been eyeing those silk jobs in my Vermont Country Store Catalog from time to time. Your endorsement makes up my mind – you’ve done Faire, you know what inescapable cold is! I think they look like a wonderful last-resort solution to slowly congealing into sorbet … who cares if I only wear them a week or two a year? If they keep my warm while I sit up and work, then huzzah! Thanks for reminding me about them.


  3. johnbrownson says:

    I second the silk underwear recommendation. They are useless unless worn under something, but then they do a remarkable job of retaining body heat, without being bulky; you hardly know you’re wearing them. Another thing: they take up virtually no space when you’re packing for a trip, so you’re always ready for an environment that is just a little too chilly for comfort.


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