Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Hawk

They say God was in a particularly foul mood one day. The stars weren’t twinkling right - electromagnetism wasn’t attracting properly, and the priests...well, we don’t even want to talk about what they were doing.

God had just had it. Back in biblical times an angry God used to just wipe out humanity. But over the last five thousand years the Lord has ahd a lot of therapy, counselling, hung with the Dalai Lama some - she’s not so violent anymore. This particular day God just counted to ten, took a deep breath and released all her rage, exasperation and divine anger in one icy breath.

They say this frozen, Godly breath became a cold wind and it circled the universe for a billion years. They say the cold wind blew through chunks of space dust and froze them into comets. They say the wind finally came to rest on earth and once here it came to the place that most reminded it of its home back in heaven, Chicago.

We call this cold, angry Chicago wind - the Hawk.
In the summer the Hawk just lazes around the surface of Lake Michigan keeping the sailboats going and blowing flies, mosquitoes and unwary suburbanites away from the city. But there is something about really cold winter days that brings out the worst in the Hawk. It gets riled up, and starts acting mean. On frigid February days the Hawk blows in off a wintry Lake Michigan looking for trouble. It sweeps down from the northern suburbs. Some folks say the chill starts even further north, closer to Wisconsin, but stuff that far from Chicago is hardly worth considering.

The Hawk turns 5 degrees into minus 17, it can turn zero into thirty below. Jumbo Jets fear the Hawk. There’ll be two or three times every year when O’Hare field will just shut down ‘cause the Hawk has taken over the runways and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

In the city proper the Hawk has that urban energy. It passes over the hard bodies of ten thousand frozen rats picking up icy anger from their dead, cold spirits. Fur coats, ski masks and fuzzy mittens just make the Hawk mad it takes that stuff as a sign of disrespect. You can wear five layers of Afghan issue nuclear powered thermal long johns, which might keep you warm for a little while but the Hawk doesn’t give up. It will keep pressing, swirling around you, probing for openings. First you might start to feel a little chilly around your wrists or ankles, wherever the layering is thinnest. That’s the tip of the Hawk’s beak. From there it’s just a matter of time till the cold works it’s way to your fingers and toes and then to your head and then - to your heart. It will drive you shivering to your knees crying frozen tears and swearing “enough!” You will vow to leave this vicious inhuman cold and go somewhere warm and sunny when you think about all the other places in the world you could be and how they compare with where you are.

You’ll take in a deep icy breath. You’ll stand back up straight and you’ll say to yourself what Chicagoans have been saying for a hundred and seventy years. The only thing we can say in the face of the Hawk is...”Bring it on!”

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