Cold, yes, though not quite 'Mongolia cold'

By Tom Lyons

Published: Thursday, January 7, 2010 at 1:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 6, 2010 at 7:28 p.m.
The sunlight had diamonds dancing on the water under blue sky. The sailboats in the anchorage looked charming. But something was amiss.

Under the palmetto-thatched roof of the bayside, open-air dining area at O'Leary's Restaurant, a piped-in Jimmy Buffett song ended and "Don't Worry, Be Happy" started playing, but nobody cared.

Mid-morning Wednesday, not one customer was out there to take the laid-back advice.

It was just too dang cold.

Sorry, all you paying Florida visitors. Even Caribbean music, palm trees, beach views and tiki-hut decor can't make coffee-and-breakfast seeking tourists dine outside on the same morning that airliners departing Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport are being delayed by ice on their wings.

No one warned Marc Hanson, an artist from Minnesota who is in Sarasota for a downtown gallery show of his paintings. And, oh yes, while here, he's teaching other artists some techniques of the landscape painting trade.

That, in case you didn't make the leap, means painting outdoors.

Hanson assumed Florida would be toasty. On Wednesday morning he had his adult students and their easels lined up beside Sarasota Bay. As his students' cold hands gripped paint brushes, Hanson gripped a hot drink and paced around.

"I have lots of warm clothes," Hanson said. "I didn't bring them."

But there's cold and there's cold. Back home, he said, he takes his bundled-up students out to a frozen lake this time of year, to paint fishermen hunched over holes in the ice.

Talk about suffering for your art.

Nearby, two college-age people who also had the look of out-of-state visitors -- no coats, lots of cameras -- were taking turns at aiming a video camera as the other knelt and posed by the crystal clear water lapping the sands of the John Ringling Causeway.

It looked great, and no one back home would know from the video that the bay is cold enough now to give manatees pneumonia.

But, as it turns out, there is no need to apologize for the weather to these two. Oka and Undraa are a brother and sister from Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia. Oka, a pre-med student visiting Florida to check out a medical school, said if they were back home on this day off, they wouldn't be out strolling on wet sand. They would hole up at home.

"It's minus 36 degrees Celsius," he said.

Since that's about 33 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, I checked a weather Web site later, to see if Oka was maybe gilding the icicle a bit. Nope. He was right.

So welcome to our semi-tropical paradise, where it is guaranteed to be sunny and warm, year round. Relatively.

Tom Lyons can be contacted at tom.lyons@heraldtribune

.com or (941) 361-4964.

Source:Herald Tribune newspaper of Sarasota, Florida



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