An open letter to my Chicago (and other northern) friends

So much for dinner on the patio.

Dear Chicago (and other northern) family and friends,

I write this letter through my love and concern for y’all, so please don’t take this the wrong way.

After spending a weekend in the city — enduring subfreezing temperatures — and leaving just before the wind chill was expected to hit -40 degrees, I wanted to let you in on a little secret: YOU DON’T HAVE TO LIVE THIS WAY. I have found land 800 miles south where “below zero” only refers to the chances of finding a snow plow at a hardware store. I live in a place called Georgia, but there are many other iterations, places called Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.

There are many cool things about the South — like they put sugar in their iced tea — but one of them isn’t the temperature. Sometimes it may dip into the 30s, but on the rare occasion it gets colder than that you don’t have to go outside because everything shuts down. And a snow flurry? If there’s even a speck of a flake, everything shuts down.

I tell you this because I’m worried for y’all. I know — and even understand — your affection for Chicago. I spent the first 23 years of my life there. Hands down, it’s the best city in the world! That’s why I visit it a few times a year, usually in the summer. But as I discovered on my most recent trip there, winter has gotten so bad there that as someone who cares for you, I’m declaring it unhealthy.

It’s just not right to walk outside and have a gust of wind slap your face so hard you start crying, only to have the tears freeze to your face and followed up with another slap of subzero Lake Michigan wind. It’s not normal for your skin to crack because you dared to venture outside. Every day, I hear tales of loved ones hurting backs, arms and legs — not to mention suffering frostbite and mini-icicles on facial hair– after plowing driveways and shoveling sidewalks. It’s wrong that you’re forced to start your car 15 minutes before even driving, that is if you can pry your door open from being frozen shut.

I’ve discovered this land where none of that happens! It’s not so far south where the only seasons are “unbearably hot summer” and “comfortably hot summer.” We have four seasons, only our winters consist of a few weeks of “somewhat cold” — heavy coat optional. And if somehow your cold air or even a flurry sneaks it way down South for a day — nothing will be expected of you! Your work will be cancelled, the police will declare the roads unsafe and you’ll be stuck at home watching 24/7 weather coverage.

I urge you to check out this land. Get on your snow boots, ski mask, leather gloves and heavy coat. Plow your driveway, wipe the icicles off your face, pry your car door open and heat it up for 30 minutes. After generously applying hand lotion and lip balm for the last time, begin making the 13-hour trek down south.

I’ll be waiting for you on my front porch, sweet tea in hand.



Author: Joe Dennis

Journalist. Teacher. Announcer. Coach.

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