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62

Winter

The cold in winter. It’s the worst, huh? I mean, Canadians might think it’s nice, but what do they know? Their frontal lobes have been freeze-dried by the Arctic wind.

God, it’s cold in Chicago in February. March too. April can hurt your feelings as well. Seriously, it’s weather that can hurt your feelings! Like, my heart wants to believe in spring, but this wind is telling me, “Quit yer dreamin’, spring’s a phantasm, you fool!”

Winter in Chicago can just be a mean, mean honesty. Cruel, low-down—a brittle, impossible wall of metaphysical truth encircling you and pounding away. And at night it’s worse, if you’ve got to take the garbage out, or head home from your crap job at midnight (I wasn’t always in show biz) or after breaking up with someone and riding your bike to your lonely apartment at 2 a.m. over 15 inches of craggy, frozen snow that crunches with that dry, chalk-on-chalkboard squerk that makes your spine shake its fists at your brain (and yeah, I used to ride my bike around Chicago even in February, even at 2 a.m., ’cause I’m tough—I didn’t always live in Los Angeles) … Wait, where was I?

Illustration: Hawk KRall

It is a cold that makes you feel MORE ALONE IN THE UNIVERSE.

It’s a personal insult from life itself.

It’s a remnant of the big bang—you can almost hear its echo.

It is a cold that is unjustifiable and yet …

It may be the sand that makes the pearl, as they say in the tropics, where it’s always gentle and warm and they have time to muse on other people’s pain.

Perhaps so many funny people come from Chicago because it’s so cold and there’s nowhere to hide from it and it makes you hate your ancestors for STOPPING in this city and putting up their tents and then, when that first winter hit, NOT taking their tents down and skedaddling like they should’ve! So they stayed, and they got their asses whupped every winter, and they barely made it through—lost a few babies and a couple oldsters and stuck it out! Tough bastards. And then this toughness mutates inside you and makes you scrunch up your face, and it makes you harrumph at the naive idealism of the easygoing Southwesterners, or scowl at the braggadocio of New Yorkers, who claim to have winter but only have a fairly gentle snow-globe week or two as they wander around with big shopping bags and rotten old chestnuts full of worms. They don’t know what goes on! They know nothing of winter! You, meanwhile, now have a scrunchy face, a scowl, and a harrumph for the world. You’re a riot!

So that’s why I love the winter cold, because it seeds our skepticism and doubt and makes us shake our heads at the impossible joke of life on Earth, in Chicago, in winter.

Photo: Neal Kumar

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