The Obligatory Polar Vortex Post

Yep, that “snowpile” will be there until June.

“Snowpile” in quotes, because by the spring, this mini-mountain will have morphed into some other substance – an unmelting, filthy, grey conglomeration of salt, gravel, bits of asphalt, cigarette butts, lost mittens and coffee cups that fell off car roofs when the freezing drivers forgot the cups were there and just wanted to get into the damn car and warm up.

I’ll go back and take another picture of this in the spring just to see it’s not gone.

This one too:


And I’ll check on this tree to see when, or if, it gets any buds on it.


As you have heard ad nauseam, predicted low air temperatures here, tomorrow through Thursday morning may go as low as -21 (Farenheit) and Chicago may be colder than both Antarctica and Siberia tomorrow. And the wind chill may dip to -55.

This ain’t my first polar vortex rodeo (but I don’t remember it being referred to as a “polar vortex” back then. We just said, “it’s f….ing COLD.”)

If you look up “coldest temperature in Chicago” you’ll get -27 on January 20, 1985 – but that was actually a tie: it also reached -27 on January 10, 1982.

On that day I was living in a tiny, roach-infested studio apartment in a thin-walled, crappily built 4 + 1 (one of those really, really ugly Chicago apartment buildings where the first floor is raised above a parking area underneath).

And on that day, I put on pretty much every article of clothing I owned, including a long wool coat over a winter parka on top of a turtleneck under a flannel shirt under two sweaters on top of each other, wrapped my head in a couple of wool scarves with a hat on over those, put on a doubled pair of mitts (mittens, inside ski mitts, yes – try gloves on a day like that and you’ll come back minus a few fingers – if you come back) and I went outside.


Stupid kid that I was, I waited for a bus.

Because the CTA buses were running.

The streets had that arctic fog that floats about a foot above the ground. I forget what causes it. I’m sure there’s a weather nerd out there who can explain it to us in the comments. Please do.

Anyway, I got on the bus and I went to an acting class scheduled for that day.

And the instructor and three other students ALSO SHOWED UP.

Welcome to Chicago.

The wind chill that day was, purportedly, -80.

That’s what they said, anyway. Didn’t feel a degree lower than -60, to me.

I survived, and as far as I know, so did the instructor and the other two students. We did have to cut it off early, though, because the class area was just too cold. Or we couldn’t move in all those layers. Or both.

Somewhere in Chicago today (but please God, not tomorrow, c’mon, guys, there’s a limit) you will see a guy (always a guy) outside, wearing shorts.

You will see many, many guys (again, guys) outside without hats. Some without gloves (or mittens, dammit). Imagining their cars will always start, they’ll only be out for a minute, etc.

Some of those guys will end up in the hospital with preventable frostbite.

You will also see fleets of vans and box trucks, creeping along Lower Wacker or beneath underpasses along the Edens Expressway tonight, passing out sleeping bags, blankets, hot soup and coffee, and trying to convince the people they are helping to come inside a shelter or a warming center. God bless those devoted helpers.

For those who refuse to come inside, may God protect and keep you. But please, don’t refuse. Doors will be open around the city for you. Go in. GO INSIDE NOW.

This year, fortunately, more and more businesses have come to their senses and announced they will be closed tomorrow.

I’ll make a big pot of “Dad’s magic chicken soup” – the kind Mike used to make, and taught me how to make, before he died – that will keep us nourished, along with a pot of chili and some canned cream of mushroom, until Friday.

I’m damned if I’m going out there before Friday.

Because I don’t have an acting class to attend.

And I’m not an idiot kid anymore.

Shorts guy? Put some damn pants on.

Hatless guy? How many times do we have to tell you that you lose most of your body heat out the top of your head?

Gloveless guy? Do you work with your hands, at all? Do you find you need your fingers to, I don’t know, type an a computer? Play an instrument? Hold a tool? Put you damn gloves on – no, wait, mitts.

Stay safe and warm out there. No I mean, DON’T GO OUT THERE. AND IF YOU ARE OUT THERE, COME INSIDE RIGHT NOW.

Putting on another sweater, I remain,

Your loyal, devoted, gutting-it-out-in-layers-on-layers and expecting arctic street-fog,


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