Watching Bikeyface ride around the studio in circles as the sun shone weakly through frost-covered windows, I had a terrible realisation: If we weren't careful, we could fall prey to the Cozy Neighbourhood Winter Madness Syndrome. Ever since I moved to the Cambridge/Somerville area it's gotten me every year.
Not to be confused with the Winter Doldrums or Seasonal Depression, the Cozy Neighbourhood Winter Madness Syndrome is characterised by the claustrophobia of becoming trapped by winter in our immediate surroundings. Particularly vulnerable are residents of certain urban yet peripheral neighbourhoods like ours. On the one hand, our neighbourhood is self-sufficient and has everything we need: Cafes, grocery stores, shops and a multitude of other services are within walking distance or just a short bike ride away. On the other hand, it is village-like and does not feel altogether connected to the outside world. This makes it both convenient to stay close to home once the freezing temps and snow set in, and frustrating to feel yourself trapped in a pattern of doing just that. Soon, Boston proper begins to seem as distant and foreign as Hong Kong; the outer suburbs as desolate and forbidding as Siberia. Sure, we know that it's all in our heads, that we could and should venture out beyond our shrunken travel radius. But the 'ville keeps us firmly in its clutches with its cozy cafes, charming shops and poorly plowed roads leading out of town. "Stay put, baby," the neighbourhood whispers seductively, "it's cold outside." As the winter progresses, we slowly begin to go mad from lack of contact with the outside world. Before we know it, we are speaking a dialect that only the local coffee shop baristas understand. When we finally emerge in spring the folk across the river can sense we're different.
Well, not this year. I was worldly now. I was tough. I would not be deterred by the warm, inviting glow of the Wine and Cheese Cask whilst attempting to ride past it on my way out of town.
"Bikeyface," I said, my voice ringing with festive determination. "I am prepared to go anywhere for lunch! I have donned many layers of wool and my bike is geared for adventure." Bravely, we bundled up and stepped into the cold. Things were going well, until we happened past a new coffee house down the road. We tried not to look directly at it. But oh how tiny it was. How comfy the people inside looked. Through the fogged up window we could make out a small unoccupied table with two chairs, just waiting for us...
Next thing I recall, I was sitting across from Bikeyface, chewing on a delicious spinach pie and sipping a hot cappuccino. A David Bowie song played in the background. Humming along, the barista glanced in our direction meaningfully, as if to say "You see ladies? No need to go anywhere; we got everything you need right here." A customer approached the counter and ordered a hot beverage. It was only January, and already he spoke in the local dialect.