Tonight I realized the cold, hard, fact that winter is really here. No pun intended. For those of you not from Chicago, it's difficult to describe just how horrible winter can really be in this City. It's a wonder that 3 million people call Chicago home, as well as an additional 6 million in the surrounding region. First, the entire length of the City is stretched along, roughly, 25 miles of Lake Michigan. The densest parts of Chicago are oriented along the lake, with high rises running linearly along much of this frontage. Chicago's population density is highest here, 2nd only to Manhattan. See below (click if you want to see a clearer image):
Yet the cold brutality of the Lake in the wintertime has not stopped the city's population from concentrating here. These high rises, as well as the City's intimate orientation towards the Lake (which might as well be an ocean) create a wind tunnel effect which can literally make just a few minutes outside in January-March a living hell. I mean it will literally knock the wind out of you and leave you breathless on the sidewalk wondering what the hell hit you. The only other time I have felt cold/wind like in Chicago was on top of the Empire State Building in January, circa 2000.
Waiting for the train on an elevated platform 3 stories above street level? Hope you brought your long underwear and parka. Be careful, your skin might freeze off right before your eyes. Waiting for the bus that should have shown up 15 min. ago? Be careful, don't fall in the 12" of blackened liquid-slushy snow that has accumulated at the curb.
It's really horrible. But for some reason, we have learned to deal with the solid weeks of negative 10 temperatures in January and February. And that's without the windchill. In some ways, the temperature may actually be warmer than in areas much further inland because of water's ability to hold heat for longer than air. However, it's the relentless wind which really does one in.
One reason the winter is worth enduring here, for me, is that Chicago in the summertime can be a magical and wonderful place. There are 33 public beaches in Chicago, all of which can be found teeming with sun bathers and volleyball games, bikers, and joggers. Additionally, it seems there are dozens of music fesivals, neighborhood festivals, and art and architecture events that occur every single weekend throughout the summer.
Yes, friends, that, in and of itself, make living through the hell of winter all worth it! So bundle up, and grow your thick skin, for yet another season.
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