Midnight in the garden of snowmobilers.
Two snowmobilers zoom west on Chicago Avenue past LaSalle Street, the drivers whooping it up as they easily navigate the snowy tundra that has the rest of the city in a state of near-paralysis.
That was at midnight, Feb. 2, 2011.
You can debate the advantages of city life vs. the pluses of the suburban world until the Cubs three-peat as World Champions — but when a snowpacalpyse hits the Midwest and you live within walking distance of work and your car’s parked inside and you don’t have to shovel or plow your way to freedom, then going out for a walk into the heart of the storm is an adventure and a social study.
(For everyone who had to wait seven hours to be rescued from their cars, for everyone whose drive home was longer than a flight from Chicago to Switzerland, for everyone who suffered major inconveniences or property damage, for everyone that doesn’t have power or heat — I’ve been there. I feel for you. Hang tough.)
The snowmobilers aren’t the only travelers in the neighborhood. Every few minutes, there’s a fire engine, a bus, a police vehicle. The lone cab I saw during my hike honked his horn at me hopefully, then continued fishtailing down LaSalle Street.
On Wells Street, about a half-dozen young guys are whooping it up and throwing snowballs at a window, calling for a buddy of theirs to wake up and come down. The apartment remains dark.
In a 24-hour currency exchange on LaSalle Street, a woman takes shelter. She seems to be asleep but then walks into the snow and starts yelling at the heavens, or perhaps at some unseen demon.
And then the bicyclist.
Yes, there is a man with a bicycle heading west on Chicago, following the earlier path of the snowmobilers. He tries to pedal, he gives up, he starts walking with his bike, he tries to ride it again, he gives up again.
He’s either a very determined thief or someone who pays absolutely no attention to the news.
The Chicago Way
Not every establishment in the neighborhood has surrended to the storm of the year/decade/century/millennium.
At Chicago and State, a couple walks their smallish dog, who looks like he could be swallowed by a drift at any minute.
Peer inside Clark Street Ale House — the sign outside says “STOP AND DRINK” — and you can see a handful of warm and cozy folks enjoying their drinks as if it’s just another Tuesday night.
Across the street, a quartet of pint-lifters spills out of Celtic Crossings. As one lights a cigarette, two others give each other hearty hugs and bid a good night before they head off in opposite directions.
It’s a little before 1 a.m. Though I’m bundled from head to toe like Roald Amundsen seeking the South Pole, I can feel the weather. It really isn’t fit for pedestrian or dog (or bicyclist). Or man with camera.
But if you’re one of the lucky ones who didn’t have to contend with losing your heat or leaving your car on Lake Shore Drive, if you’re not looking ahead at a day’s worth of work clearing your driveway, you can appreciate the ferocious beauty of Mother Nature at work.