Winter Can Be a Pain

Only in Santa Barbara can you slip on snow and land on someone wearing cargo shorts and a “Surf Naked” tee shirt.

“Sorry. I was trying to duck so I wouldn’t get hit with another snowball…”


“Ha-ha,” said my granddaughter Leila, as she ran to the other side of the small fenced-in snowfield. I jumped up to return fire and fell again.

“Dude, you’ve got no traction,” the surfer guy said, pointing at my well-worn tennies. I looked at his feet. He was wearing flip flops.

We were at the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History for Winter FUNderland Day, billed as a snowy day with Santa, Frosty, a friendly reindeer (as opposed to those killer kind, I guess) and much, much more. Kids got 15 minutes in the 20-foot square snow pen, which was open from “10 am until the snow melts.” The only things to do in the snow pen were to throw snowballs and…Thump!… fall down.

“Seriously Dude, you should head for drier ground before you kill us both. Snow can be tricky stuff.”

“Oh I know, I grew up in New Hampshire...”


“Ha-ha,” said my grandson Charlie this time.

I stood and my feet went out from under me.

“It must have been a long painful childhood,” surfer guy said.

“OK clear the pen,” a museum employee shouted. Twenty-five kids shuffled out and 25 new ones moved in.

Whap! Whap! Whap!

A bunch of kids I didn’t even know pelted me while I was down. I crawled for the exit gate.

“Please stop fooling around,” my wife said. “The kids are hungry.” We headed for the lunch booth. I looked for a menu but didn’t see one.

“Whataya got?” I asked.

“Hot dogs.”


“No,” the guy responded with a sigh.

“What do they come with?”

“Buns! Hot dogs and buns is what we have!”

Sounded like he needed a hug.

The women behind me stepped forward. “Whataya got?” she asked.

“Hot dogs,” the guy responded with another huge sigh.


“Hey look there’s Frosty!” Leila pointed at the costumed snowman. Frosty didn’t look quite as robust as I remembered him. Probably Mrs. Frosty had him on a “snow” calorie diet.

I shoved Leila and Charlie toward Frosty then backed up so I could get a photo. I tripped over someone’s foot and fell, once again, on my already sore derriere.

“Dude,” the surfer guy said. “You like need a rubber room or something.”

More than anything, Leila and Charlie like to wander through the museum and look at the dioramas. I must admit I like that too. I’m hoping that someday, someone will want to recreate Ernie’s World for future generations and put a likeness of me in a diorama.

“What are you staring at?” my wife asked.

I turned away from the Chumash Indian diorama. “I’m trying to picture myself in a loin cloth.”

“Right. What say we go home and get you some of your medication?”

One of the cleverest things about the Santa Barbara Museum is that they exit you through the gift shop. So if you are in a hurry, leave 15 minutes before you actually have to go, because that’s how long it takes to look at all the cool stuff.

“I want this,” said Charlie.

“’Dino Egg.’ Wow! You have to dig through the egg with these little tools and excavate the dinosaur. What fun!”

Thirty minutes later, Charlie had totally lost interest and now Leila and I were scraping away the extremely hard clay, which was all over the table, the chair, the floor and us.

Leila was sitting. I was standing because I was still a bit tender from our snow experience. At least this wasn’t too painful.

“Ow,” I said.

“Ernie’s getting blood on the egg,” Leila said.

Sure enough, my thumb was bleeding. “I feel like a real archeologist,” I said.

“Do they always get hurt at everything they do, too?” asked Leila.

Fifteen more minutes and we had extracted the dinosaur from its egg, minus the head and one leg, which one of us – “You,” said Leila – had chopped off.

“Well, what should we do now?” I asked.

“Let’s go roller skating,” said Leila.

“I’ll bring the bandages,” my wife said.

Ah, yes, winter in Santa Barbara.