Southern ways: Chicago-like weather chills urge to gloat

Originally published Dec. 27, 1989

Wait a minute. If I had wanted to continue to live like Nanook of the North, I'd never have packed my sled and moved back South from Chicago 12 years ago.

I spent three winters in Gulag Chicago. One year, Lake Michigan froze solid. Another year, it snowed in May.

The third year, the heat went off, and my apartment froze. My entire apartment. My clothes froze. My furniture froze. I froze.

I had to move downstairs with my landlord. His heat went off, too, but he had a wood-burning stove. We huddled around the stove for a week.

Finally, he said, "This is ridiculous. I'm moving to Orlando." "You're right, " I said. "I'm moving back to Atlanta."

So I did. Back to the sunny South. One of the best parts about getting out of Chicago was I knew I would never have to wear a pair of galoshes again.

You have to wear galoshes over your regular shoes during Chicago winters. If you don't, your shoes will fill up with snow and your toes will freeze and fall off.

Just fall right off. Imagine life without toes. There would be precious little left to wiggle.

The problem with galoshes is they look dumb. Seriously dumb.

The only southerners who wear galoshes are nerds whose mothers came from up North somewhere.

These mothers give their children names such as Manny, and Vito and Melvin and say, "Melvin, don't forget to wear your galoshes, " when their children leave for school.

It doesn't matter if the sun is shining and it's 70 degrees outside, a nerd whose mother is from up North and still hasn't got over it will insist he wear his galoshes, and the other students will throw rocks at him and hoot him off the playground.

Another great part about moving back South is, although we do have a winter, it doesn't last nearly as long and isn't nearly as severe as in Chicago.

I've played tennis outdoors while wearing shorts on Christmas Day in Atlanta.

Atlanta usually has an ice storm or two in January, but by the middle of February you often can go outside and catch a few rays.

But what's with this year? I looked in the paper the other day, and it was just as cold in Atlanta as it was in Chicago. That just isn't right.

I also noticed it was snowing in Florida. That just isn't right, either. It's not supposed to snow in Florida. Isn't that in the Bible someplace?

I don't know what meteorological aberration has caused the South to have to suffer through these Chicago-like temperatures lately, but I would just as soon it stop.

For one thing, I'm missing my annual gloating period. During winter, I look at a color weather map in the newspaper. I notice it's white in Chicago, which means your toes could fall off if you don't wear galoshes.

Then, I notice the South is a pleasant warm orange. I still have friends in Chicago. I call them and gloat.

"So, " I usually begin, "Got enough whale blubber in to last the winter?"

That, or, "Getting out of the igloo much?"

I usually close by saying, "Hey, it's been real, but I'm late for my neighbor's pool party."

But how can I gloat this year when I think I saw a penguin waddling down Peachtree Street the other day?

Not only am I missing my gloating period, but I'm also afraid if it doesn't warm up soon, I may have to search through the bowels of my closet to see if I still have my galoshes, a fate worse than death. I honestly never thought I'd have to wear a pair of galoshes again. But I also never thought the normally mild early winter of the South would be gone with the arctic wind.