Celebrating Chicago’s starring role in filmmaking history

StoogesFrom the Saturday, March 3, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


With the 90th Academy Awards taking place on Sunday night, all eyes are on Hollywood this weekend – especially Hollywood’s own, as it rarely has eyes for any place else when it comes to celebrating contributions to film.

But did you know that Chicago has its own rich history when it comes to movie-making? It dates back to 1907 when a pair of aspiring movie moguls named George K. Spoor and Gilbert M. Anderson founded Essanay Studio and produced a film called “The Hobo on Rollers” starring their janitor.

In 1908, Essanay moved north to Uptown, where it become a silver screen powerhouse, launching the careers of a number of stars and even attracting the talents of perhaps the nation’s biggest one: Charlie Chaplin, with whom it produced 14 comedic shorts.But Chicago’s connections to movies hardly stop there.

The man behind the Man Behind the Curtain

Featuring ornate statues of the Tin Man, Scarecrow, Cowardly Lion, Dorothy and Toto, Oz Park is tucked in the heart (and, I suppose, the brains and courage) of Chicago’s bustling Lincoln Park neighborhood.

More than a century ago, though, L. Frank Baum – the author of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” – lived just a few miles west of the area.

Baseball, Chicago, Cubs, Sports

Baseball is back to bury our Winter of Discontent

YuDarvishFrom the Saturday, Feb. 17, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


The Bulls are bad. The Blackhawks are bad. Illini basketball is bad. Northwestern’s is too. At 22-5, Loyola’s hoops are looking good – but, let’s be honest, the Ramblers are hardly going to get the average Illinois sports fan through this long, hard winter.

But, mercifully, there was a crack in our dark clouds this week.

Major League Baseball is back. Finally.

And with MLB teams breaking camp this week in Arizona and Florida, I thought I’d break open a few thoughts about baseball’s landscape in the Land of Lincoln – which hopefully won’t end up covered with much more snow this year.

A better Yu?

After a sluggish offseason during which the Hot Stove was more of an Ice Box, the Cubs thawed things out in a major way last weekend by signing coveted free agent pitcher Yu Darvish to a six-year deal.

Acquiring the 31-year-old Darvish is huge for the Cubs, but considering that he basically replaces 31-year-old Jake Arrieta in the rotation, just how big of a difference-maker might Darvish be? If you ask veteran backstop Chris Gimenez, who caught Darvish regularly for the Rangers, he could be quite big.

“I think we really haven’t seen the best Yu Darvish yet,” Gimenez told the media at Cubs camp in Mesa, Ariz., where’s he’s trying to make the roster. “He’s still evolving as a pitcher, as well. Coming back from second full season off Tommy John, physically he’s starting to really get in tune with his own body now and kind of knowing his limitations, what he can and can’t do. I think really, the sky is the limit for a guy like that.”

Gimenez also noted that Darvish’s average velocity was up in 2017. That’s significant considering there has been a noticeable dip in Arrieta’s velocity and control since his Cy Young season of 2015. And while I can’t say whether we’re yet to see the best Darvish, I am confident that the Cubs did get the best seasons of Jake Arrieta’s career – and, my how great they were.

Chicago, General

Last-Minute Valentine’s Day plans for you lazy lovebirds

Orchid-Show-at-Chicago-Botanic-Garden-CanopyFrom the Saturday, Feb. 10, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


It’s not quite Valentine’s Day, but let’s be honest. If you haven’t already made your plans for Feb. 14, well, then I’d say you’re liable to be left out in the cold.
Both by restaurants – and your special someone.

But to all you lazy lovebirds (and lovelorn) out there, fear not. If you’re still scrambling for creative ways to celebrate Hallmark’s second favorite holiday (behind only Mother’s Day), I’m here with some last-minute Valentine’s Day ideas happening this weekend and next week in Chicago.

Dances from the Heart
Today, 8 p.m.

If you’re looking to jazz things up, tonight at 8 p.m. a special Valentine’s Day dance performance will unfold at the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport Ave.) in West Lakeview.

The event features 13 dynamic acts involving an array of dance styles, including aerial, tap, urban fusion, jazz, contemporary, stepping, Irish, Mexican folkloric, hip-hop, urban/performance art and more.

For more information, visit

Naked at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt
Sunday, 1 p.m.

For those seeking something cheeky – quite literally – this weekend, the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave.) is offering adults an unblushing look at nudity in art with its Naked at the Art Museum Scavenger Hunt.

At 1 p.m. on Sunday, participants will scour the museum while scrutinizing works of bathing beauties, peeping Toms, sultry sirens and more. As the museum says, “No previous experience with art, or nudity, is required.”

For more information, visit

Chicago, General

Feel the love (of all kinds) in Chicago this February

AutoShowFrom the Saturday, Jan. 27, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


It’s almost February, and in Chicago, love is in the air.

Love of food. Love of science. Love of spirits, ales and ciders. Love of cars. Love of chocolate. Love of nature …

What, you thought I was just talking about Valentine’s Day?

If you’re looking to feel the love in the Windy City, here are some events that may set your heart aflutter both before and after Feb. 14.

Chicago Restaurant Week

Through Feb. 8

Now in its 11th year, the annual Chicago Restaurant Week is actually two, which means you have extra time to find to take advantage of great deals at more than 370 restaurants in the city and suburbs.

Here’s how it works: Restaurants offer a three-course lunch (or brunch) for $22, and/or three- or four-course dinner for $33 or $44. Some restaurants feature lunch only, or dinner only, while some offer. In nearly every case, the restaurants’ regular menus also are available.

To research your options, visit for a searchable list of participating restaurants and links to their respective Restaurant Week menus.

Free MSI Days

All Month

Every weekday in February, except for the 19th (President’s Day), the Museum of Science and Industry is free to Illinois residents. All you need is to show a state ID.

Whiskey, Beer & Cider Festivals

Feb. 3, 10 & 17

You can pick your poison this month in Chicago with a trio of festivals celebrating whiskey, beer and cider.

On Feb. 3, Old Crow Smokehouse (149 W. Kinzie St.) will host the Chicago Whiskey Festival (formerly the River North Whiskey Festival), offering more than 30 varieties of whiskey, bourbon and scotch from 1 to 4 p.m. For details, visit

A week later and a few blocks away on Feb. 10, Rock Bottom Brewery (1 W. Grand Ave.) will host the Polar Beer Festival – taking place outdoors on the brewery’s rooftop deck. From noon to 4 p.m., the event will feature strong winter – and also feature a warming area. For more information, visit

Lastly, on Feb. 17, more than 150 artisanal ciders from around the world will be on the menu, along with food samples, during Cider Summit Chicago in the Grand Ballroom at Navy Pier. The event offers two sessions, beginning at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. For more information, visit

Chicago Auto Show

Feb. 10-19

Chicago again is offering up its annual wintertime opportunity to witness everything that’s new in the world of cars during what’s billed as the largest and longest-running auto show in America.

Chicago, Cubs, Sports

Never mind the Cubs, Sosa owes better to baseball

SosaFrom the Saturday, Jan. 20, edition of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) … 


I used to love Sammy Sosa.

But these days? I don’t miss the guy. At all.

And while many Cubs fans appear to want Sosa back in the organizational fold based on the social media uproar following last weekend’s Cubs Convention, I have zero interest in seeing the pompous slugger back at Wrigley Field.

But last weekend during what was generally a sleepy fan fest at the Chicago Sheraton, the hottest topic – besides Kyle Schwarber’s waistline – was whether the Cubs would ever again embrace their all-time home run leader, who’s been persona non grata at the Friendly Confines since he was traded to Baltimore following the tumultuous 2004 season.

When asked about Sosa, Cubs owner Tom Ricketts said during a panel that Sammy needs to “put everything on the table” regarding his alleged use of performance-enhancing drugs, a stance that Ricketts has maintained since the issue first arose. He explained, “Players of that era owe us a little bit of honest, too. I feel like the only way to turn the page is just to put everything on the table. That’s the way I feel.”

That’s generally the way I feel too, Tom. Although, I don’t think it’s so much that Sosa (and his fellow PED ilk) owe the Cubs, Major League Baseball, or even the fans, honesty so much as they owe it to baseball. Because, while the Cubs, Major League Baseball, and even the fans to some extent, may have all been complicit in the Steroid Era to varying degrees, the sport itself wasn’t.

And it deserves better from those who abused it.


It’s the time of the year to just weather it

ChicagoColdFrom the Saturday, Jan. 13, editions of The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.) …


Four years ago, statistician Nate Silver attempted to rank the most “unpredictable” weather cities in America by comparing the daily conditions of 120 municipalities to their long-range averages.

What his research found was that Rapid City, S.D., is supposedly the most unpredictable weather city in the country, while Chicago rates a mere 58th – 42 spots behind Springfield, Ill., of all places.

Now, I don’t know that Chicago’s weather is so much unpredictable – it gets cold in the winter and hot in the summer – as it is volatile.  That, it most certainly has been the past few weeks when the Windy City (and the rest of Illinois) fell into a prolonged deep freeze, only to be followed by a near-record warm-up this week that spiked into the upper 50s.

With the chill now back, I thought I’d try to warm your cold, cold hearts with a lighthearted look at the weather that was (and, well, is again).

Cracking the history books

From Dec. 26 through Jan. 6, the mercury in Chicago never escaped the teens, with the high on many days registering only in single digits, and on some not even that. That frigid 12-day run tied the record for the city’s longest stretch below 20 degrees, which occurred only twice before – in 1936 and 1895.

New Year’s Day in Chicago did set a record with a high of only 1 degree and, according to WGN-Ch. 9 meteorologist Tom Skilling, the period of Jan. 1 through Jan. 5 was the city’s fourth coldest on record with an average temperature of just 3.6 degrees, a level more than 20 degrees below normal.

I think the only thing colder this winter is Major League Baseball’s so-called Hot Stove League.


Livin’ on The Ledge

Today’s Wisch List newspaper column from the Kankakee Daily Journal

Livin’ on The Ledge


July 11, 2009

At the Sears Tower, they don’t just measure height in feet.

They measure it in celebrities.

Purchase a ticket for a trip to the top of North America’s tallest building and you’ll soon learn that the 110-story Sears Tower not only stands 1,450 tall.

It stands 262 Michael Jordans high, as well.

Or 313 Oprahs, if you prefer to measure in talk show queens.

Last week, however, atop the Chicago’s trademark skyscraper, it was a celebrity of a different sort – one with glass skin, but plenty of beating hearts – that was creating a buzz even MJ or Oprah would envy.

Say hello to The Ledge.

I did.

Braving the crowds – and the heights – a week ago Friday, I visited the Sears Tower’s much-ballyhooed new addition: A quartet of enclosed glass boxes known collectively as The Ledge because they stick out about four feet from the 103rd floor Skydeck.
And leave you peering 1,353 feet straight down.

Thanks to the unique attraction, which opened to the public on July 2, visitors to the Sears Tower can now get a panoramic view of Chicago that previously was reserved only for their dreams.

Or, I suppose, their nightmares.

On a clear day atop the tower, you’ve always been able to see 50 miles away in any direction. But now you also can stare 50 miles past your toes to Wacker Drive below.

At least, it seems that way.

Management at the tower said the notion to hang glass boxes from the Skydeck was sparked by years of watching visitors – think Ferris Bueller – press their foreheads against the glass walls to get a look down. Now they have an unobstructed view – and Sears Tower custodians fewer smudges to clean.

The Ledge’s boxes, which are about the size of large elevators and suspended by 30-pound steel beams, reportedly can support at least 5 tons apiece.

That’s equivalent to the weight of an elephant, which should make the queasier more comfortable when they step onto The Ledge. Although, discovering that the boxes also retract into the building when the windows get washed, might send them leaping right back out.

Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, the architecture firm that originally designed the Sears Tower in the early 1970s, spent a year and a half designing and constructing The Ledge. And among the challenges faced was that at times the Windy City’s wicked winds wouldn’t allow workers to construct the boxes from inside the tower.

Last week, however, many visitors seemed as if they could use a little wind – in their sails – as they flirted with The Ledge.

“I sort of went out there,” Waterford, Mich., teenager Scott Christopher said. “I stuck my foot out. But that was about it.”

Now, heights don’t particularly frighten me. But I still felt my pulse quicken a bit when I took my first step onto The Ledge. And after spending a couple minutes snapping photos and admiring the view, I then spent several more watching others do the same – or fail to.

Because, as amusing as The Ledge is, the real show is watching other people experience it.  It’s high entertainment.

In my opinion, the view from the Sears Tower Skydeck has always been inferior to that of the John Hancock Building’s 95th-floor Signature Room. It’s shorter, but closer to Lake Michigan and looks down over the Mag Mile. Plus, you can get a Martini there.

The Ledge, though, is just the shot of adrenalin the broad shoulders of the Sears Tower sorely needs. After all, it’s been a rough year for the 35-year-old Chicago icon.

In February, its owners pitched the cockamamie idea of re-covering the tower in silver to improve its energy performance.  And now later this summer, Sears will frustratingly change its name to Willis after its new owner, London-based insurance broker Willis Group Holdings, Ltd.

That move, to me, is akin to renaming Mount Rushmore, because the Sears Tower is more than a mere building. It’s a national monument.

One that features national figures, such as poet Carl Sandburg who has a quote painted on the wall by the Skydeck elevators that take you back down to the ground.

It reads, “Show me another city so glad to be alive.”

Sandburg just as easily could have said the same about Chicago’s people after seeing the faces of those who had braved The Ledge.

And even lived to tell about it.

To purchase tickets to the Sears Tower SkyDeck, visit My tip: Purchase online rather than at the tower. You’ll move through lines much quicker once inside the building.

I ain't afraid of no heights
I ain't afraid of no heights

Baseball, Chicago, Cubs, Sports

How to make yourself at home at Wrigley

Before I head off to Wrigley Field — yep, again — for this afternoon’s Cubs-Indians ballgame, here’s today’s Wisch List newspaper column from the Kankakee Daily Journal

How to make yourself at home at Wrigley


June 20, 2009

I don’t just die with the Chicago Cubs.

I live with them.

Like, literally.

Up in Wrigleyville, my apartment sits just blocks away from the Friendly Confines. Last season, I attended 30 Cubs games. And this March, for the first time, I took a trip with my family out to Arizona to catch a few spring training games – and some sunshine – in Mesa and Tucson.

Then, I really put my game face on.

On April 6, I flew down to Houston for the Cubs’ season opener. Five days later, I was up in Milwaukee for a game at Miller Park. And, after taking in a Cubs-Cardinals tilt at Wrigley on April 18, I road-tripped south one week later to do the same at Busch Stadium.

Yes, if Cubs baseball is an addiction, then I’m Amy Winehouse.

But rather than try to make me go to rehab, many of my friends just joke that I actually keep an apartment at Wrigley Field.

I don’t.

But only because they aren’t renting.

(I kid, I kid.)

Two weeks ago, though, I did find myself getting more comfy on the corner of Clark & Addison than ever before. That’s because one of the better kept secrets in Chicago – and out of it – is that from May to September on most days that the Cubs aren’t playing or are out of town, fans can take behind-the-scenes tours of Wrigley Field.

Tickets, which cost $25 and could make for a great belated Father’s Day gift, are available at

I’d say the tour is worth every penny. Because, after all, it’s not every day you get a chance to roam all about the ballpark where White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen claims to see rats and this week, prior to the Crosstown Series, added that:

“I puke every time I go there. That’s just being honest. And if Cub fans don’t like the way I talk about Wrigley Field, it’s just Wrigley Field. I don’t say anything about the fans. But Wrigley Field, they got to respect my opinion.”

Not really, Ozzie.

But, anyways, much like the ballpark itself, the Wrigley Field tour is a gem.

Beginning with a video narrated by Chicago TV news legend Bill Kurtis, you’ll learn that – in addition to serving as longtime home to the Cubs, and formerly the Bears – Wrigley Field has also hosted a variety of events ranging from wrestling to soccer to a ski jump competition.

The 90-minute tour then takes you through 95 years of history (Wrigley Field opened April 23, 1914, as Weeghman Park) as you weave your way from the right field bleachers through the visitors clubhouse, up to the press box, back down through the home clubhouse and finally onto the hallowed field.

Along the way, I discovered (yes, Ozzie) just how tiny the visitors clubhouse in fact is. To imagine a Major League squad getting dressed in there is difficult. To think of an NFL team doing so is inconceivable.

In the clubhouse, you’re allowed free reign to explore everywhere, except for the bathrooms. Perhaps, it’s because they wouldn’t want anyone to walk off with traces of any Major Leaguer’s DNA.

Right, Sammy?

Next stop on the tour is the press box, where you can see the pipe organ, the WGN-TV and Radio booths and the big red “COUGH BUTTON” that Ron Santo pushes (or, sometimes, doesn’t) during broadcasts.

I was interested to learn that the Cubs actually were ready to equip Wrigley Field with lights way back in 1941. But then, that December, a little thing happened in Pearl Harbor and the organization donated the lights to the War Department, instead.

Also amusing to discover is that only men are allowed to work inside the Wrigley Field scoreboard. Why? Well, because the only bathroom facilities up there consist of a PVC pipe and a copper funnel.

The Ladies Room is downstairs.

You next trek down to the Cubs clubhouse, where the players’ jerseys hang in the lockers awaiting their return. Some things, however, never leave the clubhouse. Most notably, the many dents on doors surely delivered by a player’s spikes – or bat – following a particularly frustrating outing.

Finally, it’s up onto the ivy-laden field to take in the most beautiful vista in all of sports.

Although, of course, Ozzie may disagree.

Speaking of which, I did notice on their Web site that the White Sox offer similar tours of U.S. Cellular Field. It doesn’t appear, however, that Guillen ever moonlights as a tour guide.


And I really had my hopes up.


Two Tickets to Paradise

Last week, I had a friend tell me that my life is like an episode of “Seinfeld.”

To which I replied that, no, it’s not like one at all.

It IS one.

Funny things just happen to me. And anyone who knows me also knows I have a story for every occasion (probably two stories). My world isn’t quite as small as it used to be when I was a newspaper columnist, but can still probably about fit inside a thimble.

So many unexpected things have happened to me over the years that, well, I’ve come to expect them.

But, nevertheless, I still was caught off guard a few weeks ago when I decided to test out the new Google Street View option on my iPhone.

Street View — a feature of Google Maps and Google Earth that provides 360° horizontal and 290° vertical panoramic street level views of numerous cities and regions — has been around for a couple years, but before the iPhone addition, I’d never tinkered with it before.

I had, however, heard about Street View’s controversy, as privacy advocates have objected to the Google feature since it’s been found to show, among other things, men leaving strip clubs or picking up prostitutes, people sunbathing in skimpy outfits and parents smacking around their kids.

Now, Google Street View didn’t catch me doing any of those things.

I don’t even have kids.

(Kidding, I’m kidding …)

But, in Chicago, I do break the law a lot. Or, at least, that’s what city’s Department of Revenue tells me (don’t get me started).

Because, since I moved to town in July 2005, their officers have slapped a whopping 15 tickets on my poor car. So, of course, it was only natural that when I typed my address into Google Street View that it returned an image featuring my car parked directly outside my building.

With not one ticket plastered on the passenger’s side window.

But two.

Heck, even George Costanza couldn’t top that.

(To see my Street View, click on the image below. My 7 1/2-year-old car’s the black one — wearing the tickets. )



Cold Case: Chicago

Three years ago, during my first full-time winter in Chicago — and back when I was blogging for the Trib — I asked my readers to share with me their tales from the frozen tundra of Windy City winters past.

They responded with — naturally — an avalanche of amusing anecdotes.

This week, as I prepare fresh blog entries to bring the Wisch List out of hibernation — while Chicago, in all likelihood, descends into it (Thursday’s high temperature is what?) —  I figured it was the perfect time to revisit these “Winter War Stories” from November 2005.

So, sit back and crack open a few of Chicago’s cold ones. And, visit again soon. After all, while the temps are dropping, the Wisch List is just getting warmed up.

It’s a brand new year around here.

 And now, straight from the City of Cold Shoulders …

“I worked at the IBM Building (330 N. Wabash) in the 1970s. When the weather got bad, the building would put up ‘life ropes’ at each corner of the building. This was to help anyone who walked over the Chicago River Bridge, as they could grasp a line and ‘pull’ themselves in. Known as the windiest place in Chicago, it became even windier when the river froze and the wind, falling off buildings, would come down the river and accelerate.
“There was also a `life guard’ posted at the southern corner of the building whose job was to rescue anyone who could not pull themselves into the building. I saw an elderly lady blown down, and she was carrying along until the life guard got her and dragged her in.You calculate the wind chill of a negative-10 degree day with 65 mph winds, and that’s cold.
“This was the day I decided to pursue opportunities away from One IBM Plaza.”

—   S.C. Argento

“Here’s one for you: Last January or February — I cannot recall which month it was — I had just left my place of employment on Fullerton and missed the bus by a half block. (I am heading east to the Red Line south — I reverse commute) I know it’s cold and it’s starting to snow, but what is a six-block walk? I do it all the time!
“As I am walking east it starts to snow heavier and heavier. I cross Racine, and it worsens! I start walking backwards (barely tolerable). Then, I get to the DePaul Campus entrance and I can barely see in front of me, cars are pulling to the curb. I literally stop walking. I turn my back to the blowing snow — it feels like needles.
“Now, I am a grown male, 46 years of age, but I will tell you this, I literally almost started to cry – it was so unbearable. Well, it started to let up and I continued walking. I crossed Sheffield and thought I should stop in Dominick’s to warm up, but said, what the heck, I am almost at the station. I enter the station and people are looking at me oddly.
“I go up the stairs to the platform, and again the `looks.’ Well, I finally look down and see that I literally am covered in snow. I touch my head and the snow just starts falling off. I must have looked like a walking snowman.
“By the time I came to my stop, at Clark and Division, I had warmed up; however a little soggy. Next time I will wait for the bus!”

— Dominic Raso

“Hello, Wisch! I drove gasoline tankers from ’77 to ’83 and you gotta stay by the truck as it unloads. (Fire Marshal stuff, ya know!) One bitter night on Pulaski Road, wind chill was 48 below zero, and it takes 30 to 45 minutes for the tanker to empty. The tractor engine’s gotta be shut down (Fire Marshal stuff, ya know!), and it took five minutes to get the diesel to run afterwards. A big plume of white smoke came out of the exhaust stack and there was a lotta grinding and groaning (from me and the engine!)
“I wore heavy gloves and long underwear (it still didn’t help). To this day, I can’t hold frozen food packages, it hurts to pick up an ice cube, and I can’t walk barefoot on a really cold floor! Folks don’t realize what ‘outside-job’ guys put up with so they can drive their gas-guzzlers to the corner store! I work inside now (computer graphics), so no worries about wind chill — except when the refrigerator door is open!”

— Steve Johnson, Evanston

“I lived in Rogers Park in the mid ’80s to late ’90s and had to walk, every day, from Clark and Granville down to the Granville `L’ stop — about a 20-minute walk.
“Well, one snowy morning, I got on the `L’ and either the heat wasn’t working or it was so darn cold it didn’t matter, I could actually feel the cold coming up through the soles of my shoes!”

— Peter J. Gallanis

“Currently, I can’t complain about the fact that I am currently living in southern California (Riverside) and have been since November 2004. Having left Chicago in July 1998, the memories of 40 years of Chicago winters, have not faded. There is one winter that will never fade from memory, barring Alzheimer’s.
“It was in the late 70’s (1978 or 1979?). There was this one January morning in particular that started off with a low of minus-28 degrees, and a wind-chill of minus-82. After putting on multiple layers of clothing, I took those dreaded steps out the front door.
“When glancing down our street, there was a common sight from one neighbors house to the next. Every neighbor had the hood of their car up, in the hope of getting it to start. The snow on the ground was so frozen that I never broke the surface as I walked across the front lawn to get to my car. The door lock on my car had frozen. After heating up the door key with a lighter, and after what seemed like forever, I was able to get the lock to slowly turn. My body was already numb from the cold. I got into the car, closed the door and felt the warmth of minus-28 degrees without the wind-chill. I turned the ignition key to try to start the car. With little surprise, the engine wouldn’t crank over. I then proceeded to walk (like my legs were strapped to 2 x 4’s) back into the house, never to venture outside again that day.
“On the brighter side, the temperature did climb up to a high of minus-16 degrees.”

— Richard Mysiewicz

“My favorite memory of a nasty Chicago winter was in January of 2004, when I had managed to stumble to and from class decked out in most of the cold-weather gear that I owned. That evening, I remembered I had promised to go ice skating on the Midway Plaisance rink (nothing between you and the lake). And by that evening, the absolute temperature was about negative-7 and the wind chill was about negative-30.
“I had everything on — thermal undershirt, sweater, dual-layer ski coat, scarf, watch cap, thermal pants, jeans, wind pants, dual-layered cotton socks, heavy boots … but nevertheless, by the end of the 45 minutes of skating my extremities were throbbing..
“If I could pull that off (my first winter in Chicago, too!), then I think you can manage to survive this winter.”

— Brian Hinkle

“Dave, I know this sounds sick and twisted, but after what seemed like an eternity of 90-plus-degree days and constant sun with no rain for weeks on end, I am looking forward to this winter. What’s not to love? Rain, sleet, snow, slush, Battleship Grey skies for months on end …
“Mix in those blessed days in mid-January when the clouds finally break and the sky is so blue, so clear, so clean and it is so cold that the smoke stacks from New Buffalo (you know, on the other side of the lake) look like they are three blocks away. I love winter so much that three of the times I have moved, it was winter. We could have it much worse, like when I moved to Minneapolis and then back, both in the cold. Nothing like having to park on the street and lift heavy things over packed snow, ice and slush 2 feet high and 4 feet wide. But, the best was moving my family into our new house last January. Remember that really big snowstorm? You know, the only one last winter? Something like 12+ inches? Yeah, I moved in that, loved every minute of it.
“Yes, sick and twisted.”

— Martin Sikorski, Oak Forest

“This is my first Midwest winter. I moved here in September from Florida … FLORIDA! I’m going to freeze!
“But my mantra today and for the rest of the winter is this: At least it’s not a hurricane.”

— Michele Jones

“I was born and raised here in Chicago. I am here to tell you, you will never get use to the winters. Every year (for the last five years) I have ask myself the question, `And, why are you still here?’ This question will be asked a couple of times a week. Until about March, where the question seems to fade. Then comes November again.
“For a person who has never experienced a Chicago winter, I feel there are no words that can truly give it justice. I can only hope that I will get the answer to my question — or it will get so cold that I will forget what the question was.”

— Vivian Rayford

“One bitterly cold winter day about 10 years ago, I waited in vain for my bus. Since it was only about a half-mile to the train, I started walking. I stepped off a curb right through some ice into a very cold puddle of water, which soaked through my boot. I continued my squishy trek to the Blue Line. At our first stop, the sliding doors on the car became stuck open.
“The conductor had to stand by them, so none of us would fall out. And he assigned a passenger to look out the little window and let the engineer know when the platform was clear of passengers. The car was crowded and cold, but everybody seemed to take it with good humor. My foot was even more frozen than when I first got it wet due to the wind from the open door blowing on it.
“I finally arrived at my destination and caught my last bus. Upon debarking, I slipped on the wet steps and slid down them into a large snowbank! Thank goodness, I was well padded with all the winter garments I had on. Of course, I was late to work and I referred to this adventure as my Ride From Hell. (By the way, it is really cold on those train platforms, so dress in layers.)”

— Irma F. Gibbons

“Last winter both of my doors (on a two-door car) completely froze shut and couldn’t be opened. I was in the middle of a parking lot, so the old blow dryer trick wasn’t going to work because there was no electrical outlet anywhere near by. And it was also late at night and I couldn’t get anyone to help me. My solution?
“I took out one of those lighter things for like the barbeque and and started going up/down the door panel until I was able to start chipping off ice and get the door open. The whole circus took me over 30 minutes between digging out my car and getting the door unfrozen.”

— Yvonne Suarez

“I’m a Chicago native now in the South and trying to come home. I miss the cold. It’s miserable living somewhere that has 100,000 percent humidity and extreme heat for too many months to count. I often say I would rather take a Chicago winter over a North Carolina summer. But, I may be forgetting what’s it’s really like as I only get home for a few days at a time.
“Anyway, here is my cold weather story that doesn’t make me miss the cold. I was at school in Michigan and suffered through one of their coldest days on record negative-30, or something like that. Pretty much the whole `world’ shut down — except my school. It’s not like I never skipped class, but for some reason I had to go that day — I think it’s the warrior in me.
“By the time I got to class my eyelashes were frozen. I had a hat down to my eyes and a scarf up to my eyes. But the cold would make my eyes tear and the tears just froze when they hit my eyelashes. AND, I looked like the kid on `A Christmas Story’ — I was so layered underneath my down parka that I couldn’t even put my arms down. It was a sight.”

— Heather Kuh

“I once started a contract assignment at LaSalle Street and the Chicago River on Jan. 2. My train let me off at Union Station and — not yet knowing the buildings I could cut through — I set off into 35-below wind chill. By the time I reached the building, my face felt sharp as a razor and twin trails of ice left white stripes in my mustache. I spent the entire spring getting to know the correct routes to take, but there’s no mistaking the “all limbs tucked” block posture of a Loop commuter who knows how to walk in the winter wind.
“Towards the lake isn’t so bad, with your back to the west wind. But back to the station from the lakefront, into the wind — wanna talk `character builder?’ “

— Brian Turner, Schaumburg

“One of the big reasons I hate winter, and especially Chicago winter, is falling. Now, I am no gazelle. But, with my big feet, I can usually stay upright. But at least once every Chicago winter I would find myself flat on my back — betrayed by a sneaky patch of ice that was masquerading as pavement or snow.
“Every fall made me vow to move to Arizona, which is where I now live and read your column online.”

— John Koller, Surprise, Ariz.

And, finally, this one may be my favorite (the last line is classic):

“I remember the winter of 1981-82. It was bitterly cold, especially the month of January. The air temperature was below zero degrees and the howling winds made the wind chill factor near 80 below zero. Everyone was having problems starting their cars, and the CTA was really having problems keeping the bus lines in operation. In fact, Mayor (Jane) Byrne had ordered that the buses be kept fueled with engines running all weekend to avoid not having them start for the Monday morning rush.
“I was a freshman at St. Rita High School, and I lived in the Pilsen neighborhood. The announcement came over the radio that all Chicago Public Schools (grade and high schools) were closed due to the weather. It was announced that most area Catholic grade and high schools were recommended to be closed. Needless to say, I was shocked when it was stated on the radio, and confirmed by the school, that St. Rita High was open for a regular schedule.
“Mom insisted that, if the school was open, I must attend classes. After some arguing, I bundled up and walked out the door to the bus stop. Normally, I would have had to take two separate buses to get to school, but the first bus was more than 30 minutes behind its usual time, so I decided to walk to the next bus line which was Western Avenue, more than a mile away.
“I waited at the bus stop for another 45 minutes with the air temperature hovering around 18 below. I was miserable and angry that I had to be outside in that weather while my siblings were home because their grade school was closed. I finally made it to school around an hour and a half late. I was given a detention for arriving late to school. We didn’t learn anything new due to the fact that around 90 percent of the student body and 60 percent of the faculty staff were absent.
“I moved out of my parents’ home at age 18.”

— Gabriel Garcia