Cold and Loathing in Philadelphia: Welcome to January

Do you have a crafting corner? You may have a problem, too.

Deep down, I know that this is not Philadelphia’s fault.

From the very beginning, since its charter was granted, Philadelphia has occupied North America’s temperamental Northeastern Seaboard. As every fourth grade history student knows, its brutal winter nearly killed off an entire army of adrenaline-fueled soldiers who were pretty accustomed to roughing it over here in the New World. In 1996, 31 inches of snow convinced even the Archdiocese — an organization that occasionally grants sainthood for self-flagellation and considers wooden pews “seating” — to hunker down and close schools for an entire week.

This city has been honest and up-front, from the start, about its sadistic winter agenda. Like you can’t blame the boyfriend you met at Xfinity Live’s Wing Bowl party for forgetting your birthday, you really can’t blame Philadelphia for being a frozen wasteland in January.

And I don’t blame my great-grandparents for settling here. As refugees escaping a famine-stricken Eastern Europe, they can be forgiven for mistaking Philadelphia as a hospitable city capable of supporting life.

But I do blame myself for sticking around. Every winter I vow that this will be the last, that all I have to do is survive one more before packing up my dog and moving to Key West with the rest of the rumored Happy People.

And yet, here I am, once again, trying to figure out how to get through January.

I’m lucky to not suffer from full-blown seasonal depression, but I do have what I refer to as Seasonal Desperation Disorder. Its main symptom: frantically trying to feel a feeling, any feeling, during the deepest, darkest days of winter, to the extent that you acquire new hobbies, possessions and commitments that your saner self would never consider. Related symptoms: calling your linen closet a “crafting corner,” enjoying Jodi Picoult books, promptly returning your mother’s phone calls.

It was three years ago that I realized I might have a problem. Within one particularly cold week, I bought a pasta maker, took up cross-stitching, and got the cartilage in my ear pieced as if it was 1997.

I thought things were going OK this year. I resisted the book club, I didn’t buy the hula hoop, and I only took home one additional dog since the post-holiday blues set in. Although I did try a CrossFit-yoga “fusion” class, I was not so far lost to winter that I signed up for a membership. While I will be purchasing tickets for both of Dave Matthews’ Camden shows as soon as they go on sale, this is a well-established character flaw and not cause for alarm.

But last week, I discovered that Slide The City tickets will soon be on sale.

Essentially a gigantic Slip ‘N Side, Slide The City is a roaming pool party from the people who blew up your Instagram with the Color Me Rad 5K. In addition to unlimited rides on the slide, the “VIP package” includes a mouthguard, an “upgraded water gun” and “a trucker hat to keep your nose from getting burned.”

I understand that this sounds like the perfect afternoon to many. In fact, it’s probably a great idea if you’re a fun-loving, sociable person who spent the winter working on your beach body and requires the company of fellow humans in order to day-drink without pants on.

But I own a cross-stitching kit — this is not me.

On the contrary, a VIP waterslide that requires a mouthguard and trucker hat is my own unique and fully realized hell. That I considered buying a ticket, even briefly, worried me. My Seasonal Desperation was escalating to a point of no return — one does not Slide The City and return the same person.

I suppose I could have tried light therapy or vitamin D supplements, the most common treatments for winter-related mood disorders. But I’ve spent years dodging therapy and vitamins against the advice of professionals and loved ones, and I’m not prepared to give in for a waterslide.

My prescription? An extremely hastily booked trip to Tulum — which is in Mexico, although not even close to the part of Mexico I thought when frantically hitting “reserve now” on Expedia.

I haven’t learned my lesson after three decades of winters in Philadelphia, so I suspect I will be returning. But not until I can look Slide The City’s VIP package in the eye and renounce its souped-up water gun.

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