Winter Wanderlust (December 2, 2010)

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Yesterday Chicago experienced its first “measurable snow fall” of the season. The words in quotes are presumably the local meteorologist buzz terminology, since I heard them from no fewer than three weather people during an afternoon of channel surfing. Anyway, the old familiar routine is back: tying a scarf around my head, and over my winter hat and the hood of my ski jacket, just so I can survive a walk of three blocks or so. The high yesterday was a balmy 30, but factoring in the wind chill, the air temperature felt like 12 to citizens of the Windy City.

I have returned to a dilemma I have wrestled with since my high school years. How can I love Chicago in all its multi-cultural, stimulating fabulousness yet endure six months of weather that appears to be some frozen demon’s diabolical plan?

As I am unemployed and typically have some extra time on my hands each day, I have taken to obsessively watching reruns of Notorious and City Confidential on the Bio channel, the sister station to A&E. Once I recovered from the awesomeness that is Bill Kurtis in a leather bomber jacket narrating the former show (put Bill K. and the deceased Robert Stack and his trench coat in a head to head walk off – I know who would win), I remembered how much I used to love the latter in my college days. Although the 2004 death of City Confidential’s host Paul Winfield basically ensures that no new installments of the program will ever be produced, this does not at all hamper my enjoyment of the greatest hits.

City Confidential’s format is a brilliant hybrid of geographic history and the true crime format. For the first 30 minutes, we get the location and backstory of an American city or town: its founding fathers, sustaining industries, local customs and quirks. Once that is out of the way, the attention turns to a heinous and sensational crime that, according to Winfield, “shook this sleepy, neighborly town to its core.” If you are not ready for this gear shift, it is easy to believe you may have accidentally leaned on the remote and changed channels.

This week, among many episodes I have ingested, my interest was particularly peaked by the “Brownsville, Texas” installment. Although I didn’t much care for the town’s penchant for superstitious hexes and the murders that tend to follow, I found myself suddenly willing to overlook this flaw, as well as the state of Texas’s love for the death penalty and concealed weapons, when Paul Winfield informed me that daytime highs in this Mexican border hamlet are typically in the mid to late 70s in December.

Now we’re talking.

In my quest to find the right second home for my snow bird fantasies, I also learned of a potential mentor right here in my home town. My friend and personal trainer Rob was recently bequeathed a downtown apartment and all the furniture and fixtures inside of it by a childhood acquaintance, a bartender by trade who simply decided to board a plane to Hawaii and be done with it. This gentleman, Chris, landed a position at a Hyatt resort in Maui, looked at the potential expense of moving all his belongings to paradise and said “Fuck it, who needs that stuff anyway?” So he asked Rob to take over the remainder of the two-year lease to his tony, trendy convertible unit, at a steal of a sublet price, packed his clothes and toiletries, and literally flew off into the night.

While I adore the free spirited nature of such a move, I am not sure I have the balls. Unlike me, Chris is unmarried, does not have a car payment or local family, but in the end, those are really just collateral excuses to hide the panic I would feel if I were to undertake such a shift. I’d be like an anxiety ridden third grader who was forced to change schools. “What will I do when I get there? What if nobody likes me?”

So it appears that, lacking Chris’s pioneering spirit, I am going to have to find a way to get through the next six months, until mid-May when Chicago starts to feel inhabitable once more. It would be cool if I could morph into a brown bear and hibernate the time away. It’s not like I have a job to miss me.

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