2 Jan 1988

Hey, there, Udo!–

I am able at last to respond to your previous letter. We have been hosting houseguests since mid-December, and the last is not scheduled to leave until 20 Jan. Most of them are members of the family, so we don’t have to hire liveried footmen to attend to their needs.

Once again we made it to and from Lake Tahoe without having to put chains on the car, but the weather cut it a little closer this year than any of the previous three. The day after we got up there, snow fell and the temperature dropped to 10 or 20 freezing. The windshield-squirt fluid frze. The skiing was good (for those who went; Mary and I don’t ski), but the air was so cold they developed headaches from the downhill runs. Even face masks didn’t help too much. But skiers are like golfers and bridge players: if the ski lift is operating, they’ll be on it, no matter how cold or snowy the weather might be. My son-in-law’s father is over 70, and he skied every day, even when some of the younger ones turned down the chance to go back and freeze to death. His wife refused to leave the house. A very sensible woman.

Since no vacation rental is without its “Ermabombeck syndrome,” we were entitled to ours. This place was not a mountain cabin, it was a huge new house, beautifully furnished. (It takes a lot of guts or inexperience to rent a new house with nice furniture to a crowd of demolition experts.) The rental was over $2000 a week. I’m glad my son-in-law is a rich neurosurgeon. (So is his father, by the way.) Anyhow, this place came fully furnished with all kinds of elegant touches like a Cuisinart in the kitchen, French provincial furniture in “family” room, etc. However, when the temperature fell, the furnace quit. It would run, but only cold air emerged from the registers. Fortunately the fireplace was efficient enough to warm most of the downstairs and upper rooms. (This was a great location for Agatha Christie.) So we called the real estate agent who manages the house, and she had a repairman come out. One of my stepsons followed him around and found out what the trouble was: in really cold weather, the vapor from the furnace intake in a few hours. After the furnace man left, the same thing happened several more times, but by then we knew how do deal with it. The furance was installed under the “deck” on the lake side, where the damp air would prevail summer and winter. Poor design or installation for an expensive home (over $1,000,000, according to the agent).

Such was our Ermabombeck trial-by-furnace. I would like to think that we emerged Stronger In Heart And Mind, but for $2000 a week, I have the feeling that such inconveniences should not take place. My only comfort is that I didn’t pay the rent. I tended the bar. And I can tell you from personal experience that cold skiers head for the bar before they even take their skis off. They kept me busy.

Another comfirting thought was that the owner of the house was due to occupy it for a week after we left. No sooner had we come down from Donner Pass than black clouds gathered over all of Northern California and snow and temperature fell once again. So the owner would have the same bracing experience with the clogged furnance that we had. The reported temperature at Tahoe have been even colder than when we were there. Great news for those who enjoy poetic justice.

Not only was the weather cold at Tahoe, it has been cold here in tThe Big Tomato, where uncomfortable cold is not common in the winter months. We are heading into the rainy season and the temperatures should be warmer, but the days damper. Such is the Good Life in retirement. Can Stamford make an equal claim?

Did you have a Dickensian Christmas with roast goose and mulled wine? Your Revolutionary War house demands it. Then again you may have stayed in Big Town and had dinner at Alice Foote MacDougal’s.

We are supposed to have mail service today, so I will rush this out to our Alta-California-style mailbox and hope for the best.

Regards to Ann and Thomas and all the yeomen who plant harvest your estate.

Fred C. (“Snowshoe”) Dobbs

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