I’m in California now, writing from the guest bedroom in my aunt’s house. It rained today, so you needn’t feel envious if you’re still trapped in the icy tundra; it poured all day, which kept me from sipping pina coladas by the pool. There’s still time.
But I’m still thinking of the winter in Chicago and since my last observation on it was so spooky and dour, I thought I’d share two actual conversations that happened while I was there that, while not sane by any means, at least show a lighter side to the cold in Chicago. My theory is that people are losing their minds and therefore say strange and unusual things.
Example No. 1 is an exchange between me and my cabdriver en route to the train station before the Fremd gig on Wednesday. It was 5:40am and the temperature was -14. I opened up the door to crazy-loud Haitian music and love beads hanging all over the cab. The driver shouted:
DRIVER: Good morning, sweetheart!
ME: Hey. I’m going to Ogilvie Station, please.
DRIVER: Let’s do it. You up early today, my lady!
ME: I’m going to the suburbs to talk to high school students about writing.
DRIVER: You know what I say? I say, all I know is that I was born nekkid. And I’ma die nekkid. That’s it!
ME: (pause.) Yeah. I guess…that’s true.
Later, waiting for the bus (it was a long day) the man huddled with me at the bus stop began to talk to me like we had known each other since the fifth grade. He was not an insane person, far as I could tell. He was dressed nicely, he was articulate. But he was made weird by the cold, which had clearly paralyzed parts of his brain — the parts that keep one from talking to strangers about alligators.
MAN: Cold, cold, cold. That’s what I say. Move out if you don’t like it!
ME: Hm, yep.
MAN: I been thinkin’ about it.
ME: Yeah, Florida sounds good right about now, right?
MAN: No! No, no, no. Not Florida. The alligators’ll come up under you and eat you alive. Through the window. Come up under you car and hide and then “gulp!” they’ll eat’cha!
ME: (wide-eyed) Wow.
MAN: Oh, yes. They’ll come in the windows and they’ll eat anything. They’ll eat a baby.
ME: Look at the time. I’m gonna have to cab it. Nice talking to you.
They really will eat people, alligators. Definitely. And I confirmed with two people that they will come into the house through a window or door. But at the bus stop in subzero temperatures, hearing about these things eating babies in balmy Sarasota was too much.
All I know is that I was born alligator, I’ma die alligator.