Snow dibs


The view of my car from my front porch.

I woke up early this morning to shovel my sidewalks and dig out my car so I could get to UIC on time. This was the third time I had shoveled in twenty-four hours and I actually enjoyed shoveling! Since I don’t like to run in the snow because I’m afraid to twist my weak ankles yet again, shoveling snow is my alternate form of exercise on snowy days. I like to brag that I’m cross-training. I love shoveling snow about as much as I hate mowing the lawn. But those are responsibilities of a homeowner. So, I enjoyed shoveling  out my car and then returning home after school and parking in the very same place.

In many Chicago neighborhoods, people shovel out their parking spots and then place old chairs or other unwanted furniture that is worthless (just in case it gets stolen or thrown away by the City of Chicago) to reserve their parking spots. This is a time-honored Chicago tradition that I remember from the 1960s. This causes more arguments than perhaps even the White Sox vs. Cubs debate that is so quintessential Chicago. In fact, people have been shot for freshly-shoveled parking spaces.

Chicago Sun-Times, February 20, 2010

I have always shoveled out my parking space, but I have never placed junk on the street to reserve my space. I usually shovel my car out and when I come back I park in the same space that I shoveled if I’m fortunate enough that it’s still available. If it’s not, I shovel out a new spot and park there. One year, I ended up shoveling my whole block one parking space at a time and everyone on the block seemed very happy with the arrangement. In fact, my neighbors showed their appreciation by not shooting me.

When I came home today, I parked right in front of my house in the very same parking spot that I had shoveled out. I was surprised by my good luck to be able to park in the same place, so I just had to take a picture. Behold! I took this picture from the comfort of my front porch!

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Snowstorm


The Big Snow of 1967

The Chicago snowstorm is more than just a meteorological event. For my brothers and me, this was the perfect time to go out to play in the snow and make snowmen and snow forts. We actually enjoyed staying out all day in the snow if possible. My mother would send me to the store so we could stock up on milk and bread. She was afraid the stores would run out of milk whenever she saw the first snowflake falling. I had to buy at least two gallons of milk and bread. We were tortilla eaters. We never really ate bread at home unless there was a snowstorm. So I had to buy as many loaves of bread as my mother could afford. We would eat sandwiches and toast for weeks after a snowstorm. My brother Jerry and I used to go door to door with shovels knocking to see who wanted us to shovel their sidewalk. We would earn some money that way. We watched Ray Rayner to see if our school would close for a snow day. But they never did. All the teachers at Holy Cross were nuns who lived in the convent next to the school and most of the students lived within a three-block radius anyway. Ray Rayner would announce school after school closing, but he never called out Holy Cross! Going to school cut into our snow playtime.

So it’s snowing now, and has been since early this morning. I’m hoping for an e-mail from UIC telling the their calling a snow day. But they can’t close down the campus because they also have a hospital. UIC has never shut down the campus for a mere snowstorm. Not even the Big Snow of 1967. So, I better get up early tomorrow morning so I can shovel my car out and drive to school. Actually, I don’t mind going to school in the snow. I’ve lived in Chicago my whole life, so I actually enjoy the snowfall. I enjoy shoveling the snow. As an adult, that’s how I now play in the snow. And I love it!

Many are cold, but few are frozen


Pilsen, Chicago, Illinois

I’ve heard a lot of complaints this winter about how much snow we’ve had in Chicago this winter and last. People are also complaining about how cold it’s been lately. Most of these complainers are either too young or haven’t lived in Chicago very long. These are the cold, bitter winters that I remember as a boy! No, I won’t exaggerate about how cold and snowy winters were in Chicago in days of yore. I don’t have to. Just recall the weather since December and you’ll see how much snow we used to have and how cold it used to be. Once you get used to the weather, you can actually still enjoy living in Chicago. There are, after all, much colder places than Chicago.

When I was a boy, I spent a lot of time outside during the winter. I delivered newspapers, shoveled sidewalks for money, played ice hockey, and occasionally, played baseball in the snow. We liked to do things that would make adults shake their heads at us. Like staying outside in the cold. The one thing I did learn–although somewhat accidentally–was to dress in layers. We didn’t have very much money for proper winter clothing such as down coats, wool socks or sweaters, or insulated gloves. One day, while ice skating at Davis Square Park across the street, I got cold, so I went home and put on some more pants and socks and shirts, eventually experimenting until I learned the correct amount of layers to wear. I would wear two or three t-shirts, three or four pairs of pants, and four or five pairs of socks, depending on the temperature. When everyone else went into the park fieldhouse to warm up, I continued skating outside. I never got cold again once I learn to dress for the weather.

And I also taught my brothers how to dress properly for winter. One extremely cold, snowy winter, our school, Holy Cross School, had a fundraiser for which we had to sell Christmas cards door to door. There had been snow on the ground since Thanksgiving Day. Even though the sidewalks were shoveled, there was snow pile up everywhere where no one walked or drove. My brother Tato and I started knocking on doors trying to sell our Christmas cards–unsuccessfully. We were at the third house and the woman who answered the door told us she was interested in buying Christmas cards. So, we turned around and started walking down her front porch stairs. When I reached the sidewalk at the bottom of the wooden stairs, I heard my brother Tato slip on the ice and fall down the stairs. I checked to see if my brother was okay and I helped him up. The woman who was watching us through the front window opened the door and called us back up to the porch. “I’ll buy a box of Christmas cards,” she said. Well, we sold her a box of Christmas cards and went on our merry way to the next house. This woman also refused to buy Christmas cards from us. As we were walking down her front porch, Tato again “fell” down the stairs. Of course, the woman called us back and bought a box of Christmas cards from us. We persisted with our sales pitch until we sold all of our Christmas cards. In fact, the next day, we asked Sister Cecilia for more Christmas cards for us to sell. She was suprised that we could sell that many Christmas cards!

Just a snowstorm?


UIC Parking Lot

Snow was falling as I drove to school today. In all of my Spanish classes today, some students asked me if the exam might be canceled tomorrow because of the snow. Of course, there would be class tomorrow! This is Chicago! This one particular student was sure that if it kept on snowing, I wouldn’t be able to get to campus and give the exam. However, in Chicago, a snowstorm not merely a meteorological event. Every snowstorm, and other major climate changes, are political events of major consequences in Chicago. You can trace this back to the snowstorm of 1979 that was improperly handled by Mayor Michael Bilandic. A few heads did roll after the snowstorm, including Bilandic’s. (I’m sure a few heads also rolled after the Chicago Fire in 1871.) Luckily, I was living in sunny, southern California at the time. I know that even we if get three feet of snow tonight, I will be able to drive from house in Beverly on the south side to UIC near downtown. Chicago will not be slowed down such insigficant snowstorm as that! Everytime meteorologists predict even the remotest possibility of snow, city workers are on standby all over the city and even salting the streets before the first snowflake has even formed. Sometimes, there is more salt on the streets and sidewalks than snow. Yes, my dear students, I will be at UIC on time tomorrow morning to give you your exam. I love Chicago, the city that works (especially at Chicago overtime rates).

Move over! Here comes the snowplow!