Jewish World Review Nov. 11, 2005/ 9 Mar-Cheshvan, 5766

Greg Crosby

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Consumer Reports

Weather or Not | As the Doris Day song goes, "I just got back from the windy city." Well, I did, and the windy city is still mighty pretty but it sure as heck wasn't very autumn-y. Temps were in the 70's during the day, believe it or not. November in Chicago and spring-like weather — how repulsive! Chicagoans were thrilled, of course, at the unseasonably warm spell they were getting — something like 20 degrees above normal temperatures for that time of year.

I guess I need to do a bit of explaining at this point for new readers of this column who may not be familiar with my personal weather predilections. I always feel that I must explain this thing, since most people apparently do not agree with me and, in fact, think I'm nuts. So here goes.

I was born in Los Angeles, grew up in the San Fernando Valley and never really experienced anything in weather beyond a four or five day stretch of pounding rain in January. Once in a blue moon we'd have some strong winds, or even a bit of thunder and lightening, but those times were extremely rare. More often than not, weather to me year 'round meant clear skies with temperatures in the high 70's. Summer was hotter, winter was a little cooler, but that was about it, year in, year out.

As an incurable romantic, I read books and saw movies which spoke of the wonderful change of seasons. The colorful crisp, brisk days of autumn, the lush new green of spring, and of course the beautiful snowy wonderland of winter. Summer I knew about. Those other three seasons seemed to be exotic and exciting, a world I never lived in but wanted to be a part of.

As I grew up and started traveling I finally had an opportunity to taste the seasons for myself — they were terrific. I especially enjoyed the idea of wearing different clothes for each change of season. Winter was the best of all since I always liked the look of winter clothing; the sweaters, overcoats, gloves and scarves. These clothes, to me, always had a more elegant look to them, a kind of sophistication that one just didn't get in Southern California at any time of year.

There is just so much about winter and fall that excites me; the coziness of being indoors near a crackling fire, walking outside all bundled up in the brisk midday when the air is frigid and yet the sun is warm. All my senses are more attuned to my surroundings in winter, my head is clearer, my breathing is better, my taste buds are sharper. I love the look of the world in wintertime. Things appear quieter, more at peace. The pace of life slows to a more human level and people are easier to take.

We arrived in Chicago just in time to see the White Sox win the World Series in Houston on television in our hotel room. The city was giddy over it. The time we spent in Chicago was perfect, all except, as I said, for the lousy springtime weather. I wanted that crispness in the air; I wanted to walk down Michigan Avenue wearing my trench coat. I wanted it to feel like autumn in the Midwest, not Burbank. Just my luck, I had beautiful weather.

We explored a few famous Chicago landmarks and eateries before we left town on November 4th. Our stay at the Drake including dinner at the famous Cape Cod restaurant was wonderful. We got to the Chicago Art Institute to view the fabulous Thorne Room miniatures and even managed to squeeze in a lunch at Bergholff's before boarding our train back home.

We did get a good dose of autumn on our trip when I rented a car out of Chicago and drove through Indiana, Ohio, and into Pennsylvania. Fall colors like I've never seen before filled both sides of the road, it was spectacular.

But the temps stayed on the warm side for most of the 13 days we were gone, and that was really a shame since I wanted something a little different from Los Angeles. As a matter of fact, the coldest day we had in over two weeks was the day we came home. As I sit here now, it is dark and rainy outside. I'm not complaining — I'll take interesting weather anywhere I can get it — even at home in LA.

It just would have been so nice to have had some of it in Chicago. Oh well. Maybe I'll try San Francisco after Thanksgiving.

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JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. A freelance writer in Southern California, you may contact him by clicking here.

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© 2005 Greg Crosby