Chicago Loves Winter
Today’s snowy preview remind me that it was going to get cold again in Chicago this year….
Ah, Chicago winter. Yes, it will come again this year. That notoriously bleak sludgefest, bone chilling and impenetrable. Ice scrapers and road salt stains, moldy boots and slippery driving, lumpy gray snowdrifts punctuated by flaxen splashes of dog pee. And Chicagoans loves it.
We’re supposed to, anyway.
“Chicago ain’t no sissy town,” said the infamous First Ward alderman Michael “Hinky Dink” Kenna. That was in 1907, and a century later most of Chicagoans still cannot imagine a crueler insult than being called a sissy. When I married Joe, some of our worst fights were over his firm assertion that I was not cold when I wanted to turn the heat up. Not cold? I pointed to the dog’s water bowl, which was covered with a layer of ice. He called me a crybaby. I called my mother.
Over the years, I have noticed a few things about how Chicagoans handle the winter…let me share.
Suffering: Just watch the news and you’ll see how we suffer in the winter. Hunched-over little old ladies bracing themselves against the wind and cold while waiting for the bus. Ask one if she wants a ride and she will spit at you. People still trade tales of woe about Snowpocalypse 2011, when Mother Nature turned the city into her own personal icicle and Lake Shore Drive into a car cemetery—but they ignore last year’s freakishly warm winter like it never happened. Chicago must uphold its image as a martyr, and comfort is the enemy of martyrdom. Chicagoans don’t valet park, either. But that is a post for another time.
Eggnog and fireplaces. Also known as the Let It Snow defense, this one trades on cozy, turtlenecked indoor images that rarely exist in reality. For a few snuggly days before Christmas, maybe. But by Groundhog Day, when Yuletide cheer turns to black ice, the only chestnuts anyone wants to roast on the open fire are Jack Frost’s.
It toughens you up. Runners rise and shine at 5:45 a.m., putting on ridiculous layers, and running through ice patches and tundra slush—just to show they can. School cancellations, or CPS’s stubborn lack thereof, seem to be the barometer for toughness. Chicagoans believe you can’t appreciate the warm unless you endure the cold. Right. Joe’s dad once told me that without winter, there would not be tulips. I looked at him like he’d lost his mind. He just nodded sagely. I interpreted this to mean that which does not kill you will make you stronger.
Winter separates real Chicagoans from the phonies. The lifers claim that February’s desolation is the price you pay to live in this fine city, a test of inner strength that proves whether you belong. In other words, if you can’t deal with a little frostbite on your eyeballs, move to Florida, you big baby. These are the same people who, during vacations in warmer climates , obsessively check the weather back home. Joe was one of these people; I’m pretty sure he never recovered from missing the Christmas blizzard of 1999, when instead of shoveling snow we were visiting my parents in Houston. Damn.
Today, I had the best seat in the house, sitting at my desk overlooking the yard and watching as the sleet finally gave way to big snowflakes that covered the last of fall. After watching for a bit, I grabbed my camera and went out to take a few pictures and then headed to the grocery store, where I stood in line and listened to two Chicagoans banter about the weather. How did I know they were born and raised Chicagoans? Because they immediately reached an agreement when one said to the other, “It’s going to be a real cold winter this year.”
And now for your viewing pleasure a few snow day pictures….
My lilacs are fading out….
My pine trees wear snow so well . . .
Seemore Winter Denial . . .
Odd Loves Company!