One October a gay square dancer from South Carolina, on her first visit here, vowed to move to Chicago for our good weather. Local square dancers responded, “You’ve never been here in January and February. Our winters are brutal.”
She answered, “I don’t care. You don’t have hurricanes. You don’t have floods. You don’t have tornadoes.” (We do have tornadoes, but rarely in the city. I drove alongside a funnel cloud in Arlington Heights, watched a tree sucked up into the sky and wondered whether my car, with me in it, was next.) “I can live with snow and cold. I’m moving to Chicago.”
She has a point. Climate change, that fake news that keeps being proved true, is changing the weather patterns so that places we moved to for good weather become places to move away from. Conrad took long walks every day in Peninsula Park til this summer when Seattle became the most polluted city in America, due to regional forest fires. He stayed in his house, windows closed, special filters installed on his furnace and air conditioner to protect his lungs. He can’t see the mountain because of the smoky haze. Tom and I had a similar, if not milder, experience in New Mexico. Judith in Honolulu prepared for an approaching hurricane. Inside her upper floor apartment, she would seek refuge in the bathroom with her cat, bottled water, a spoon, canned food, a can opener, battery powered radio, flashlight, and a good book. The storm veered before it hit. Linda will skip wintering on Anna Maria Island in Florida because of Red Tide, a floating illness-causing mass which has devastated the state’s western coast. Leslie lost his house to floods in Houston, floods caused by torrential rains amid the drought. Mike was living in Paradise til Paradise, California, burned down around him.
Parts of New Orleans and some coastline areas in Mississippi have not been rebuilt. One island nation in the Pacific Ocean will no doubt disappear beneath rising waters. Our Museum of Science & Industry displayed a model of what shrinking Manhattan will look like if waters continue to rise unchecked. Think Venice.
We have cold. We have snow. But you can plan for those. They don’t come as a surprise.
Each autumn, my mother would stockpile enough detergent, toilet paper, pasta, and canned food to supply a family for weeks. Her intent was to make fewer trips between the garage and the house when ice and snow meant that even a short walk risked a fall. The speaker from Swedish Covenant Hospital told us that to avoid falls, schedule your shopping trips for good weather days. If you must go out when it’s icy, ride past your bus stop to the next stop if you know that stepping onto the sidewalk at your usual spot means stepping onto a patch of ice. I’ve blessed our half-freezer because it enables me to put off shopping until the weather clears.
When I moved to Sheridan Rd., I made a mental list of supermarkets with a covered parking garage; movie theaters, too. Restaurants, coffee shops, convenience stores, and two stage theaters are within two blocks. In bad weather I especially value the advice to elders to live in walkable communities.
We picked a building with indoor recreation facilities. When friends are going stir crazy, holed up in their apartments, I invite them here to join me in a swim or to walk laps around the pool. We gaze through big windows into sunny-but-frozen Lincoln Park. Those days I still envy Marvin, when he reports it’s 88 degrees in Florida.
The gray skies of a Chicago winter challenge me more than the cold and snow. A joy of being retired is that if the one day of the week when the sun is out and the temperature warms is a Tuesday morning, you’re not at work so you can get outside and enjoy it.
Being confined in small rooms for many days can do me in. I take the Sunday papers to big rooms, the central court of the Field Museum or the lobby of the Palmer House Hotel, for respite. Other favorites are the flower conservatories in Lincoln and Garfield Parks in Chicago, the conservatory in Oak Park where a parrot greets you with a wolf whistle, or Milwaukee’s Mitchell Domes. Enjoy the colors, smell the flowers, visit the tropics or the desert!
You cajn still take long outdoor walks in a Chicago winter if you select a spot with indoor warming stations. Lincoln Park Zoo is ideal. I have a circuit of short walks on the Northwest side. Deer are easier to spot at the North Park Nature Center when the trees and bushes are bare; Peterson Park, Gompers Park, Heritage Cemetery (formerly Bohemian National) with its bounty of sculptures, are close by. The brief drive between them in a heated car is warming enough that I’m prepared to go outdoors again. These short walks combiner to equal a long walk around the lake.
So tell your friends in Hawaii, Washington, Florida, Texas, California, New Mexico, and NYC, “Move to Chicago for the weather.” Someday they’ll thank you with a warm hug.