The Pleasures of February

Mark your calendars for one of the best months of the year.

photograph by Cron Angle

The month of February doesn’t get much respect in Memphis. April is the baseball opener at AutoZone Park, May is our month of music and food festivals on the river, August is the start of the college football season, and December is shopping.

But February has its own annual pleasures, not the least of which is that January is behind us. The days are getting longer, from 10 hours and 30 minutes of daylight on February 1st to 11 hours and 24 minutes on February 28th, when sunset is at 5:55 p.m., late enough to drive home in sunlight, start a fire on the backyard grill, and ride a bike or take a walk.

By the end of the month, if not sooner, we’ll see buttercups, forsythia, redbuds, and pear trees making colorful splashes all over town. The tulip magnolia in my front yard will bloom just in time for a big freeze or snow, as it does every year. Someone will crank up a lawnmower to knock down the monkey grass in their yard.

Meanwhile, there will be stories in the news about blizzards and horrible weather and snarled traffic and airport closings in the Midwest and Northeast. Not our problem. Thank you, global warming. Last February 23rd it was 79 degrees in Memphis, one of four days that month when the temperature reached 70. February is the new March.

Football is finally over, after a season that began in August. The endless bowl games are through in January. The NFL Pro Bowl, which has become a joke, is January 27th. The Super Bowl is February 3rd, three weeks later than the inaugural one in 1967. Otherwise February is football free. College basketball’s March Madness is yet to come. The NBA Playoffs begin in April. The

Tigers and Grizzlies are playing for position, gearing it up or down, eyes on the post-season. Tickets are easy.

In February, Memphis hosts the biggest indoor tennis tournament of the winter season at the Racquet Club. This year's field includes 11 of the Top 30 men in the world, plus the up-and-coming pros on the women's side.

Travel tickets are easy, too, and as cheap as they get in Memphis. You can fly to Florida round-trip for under $300. Or drive to New Orleans, 400 miles away, in seven hours for the Super Bowl or Mardi Gras, which is February 12th.

The biggest entertainment event of the month is the Oscars on February 24th, an easy-on-the-eyes occasion for parties and contests to pick the winners and debates about the most overrated and underrated movies of the year. Do you know Seth MacFarlane? He’s the creator of Family Guy, and this year’s host.  

In February, Memphis hosts the biggest indoor tennis tournament of the winter season at the Racquet Club. I have played and watched tennis for more than 50 years, and every year I marvel at how tournament directors Peter Lebedevs, Phil Chamberlain, and Tommy Buford keep bringing in such talent. This year’s field includes 11 of the Top 30 men in the world, plus the up-and-coming pros on the women’s side. Unless you have seen pro tournaments in other cities and venues, it’s hard to appreciate how good this one is for getting fans close to the court.

February is when New Year’s resolutions are tested. Anyone can make resolutions in January and keep them for a few weeks. After that the unrealistic ones are exposed, while the good ones have passed the 20-days-to-make-a-habit mark.

Full of resolve or false hope, there’s time to read a hard book or watch whole seasons of Downton Abbey or Homeland. The new movies at the theaters are usually losers.

Clothes cost less. What was marked down 25 percent at Dillard’s or Macy’s in December is marked down 50 percent in February for winter clearance.

Stress takes a holiday in February. Income taxes aren’t due for another two months. Valentine’s Day can be handled with dinner and flowers without shame or anxiety.

No local or national elections are held in February. No campaigning. No fiscal cliff. The truth is, there is often very little news at all.

February has one national holiday, President’s Day, on the 18th. Spring break doesn’t take place until March. We might actually get some work done. What a concept.  

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