Chicago in Winter, Part II: Snow Games

The 7th hole, ready for action.

This day marks the 29th anniversary of the unsuccessful SNOW GAME that didn't occur so long ago. Some memorable things happened on that wintry jazz band trip to Chicago in January, 1982 (you might wanna read THIS first), not that Da-da can remember much of them. Here's one he does remember.

If you recall from said previous post... Young Master Da-da, a high school senior at the time, played trumpet in his high school jazz ensemble, which was awarded a no-expenses paid trip to Chicago -- in late January -- along with the opportunity of providing a free performance for a bunch of (drunken) jazz educators and mafia types at the '82 NAJE convention. Play they said and play we did.

After the hoopla, we had a few days to ourselves. Being from Southern California, none of us jazz geeks had ever been exposed to REAL winter, so we were eager to experience it first hand. Needless to say, it was a whole order of magnitude colder than anything any of us had experienced, and it was a miracle none of us didn't die.

So, there we were, the day after the big performance, sitting around our luxurious hotel lobby...

Low ceilings inspire confidence and thoughts of mayhem.

...at our sumptious former-Soviet-bloc-inspired hotel in lovely Des Plaines.

Can you FEEL the fun?

We were more than just a touch bored. And as all substitute teachers know, nothing is more dangerous than BORED BAND GEEKS. You've heard of Kim Jong Il? Stalin? Blofeld? Amateurs. 

We resolved to try some scientific experiments involving extreme weather. First up: could we run across the street without jackets -- in t-shirts and shorts -- in minus-30-degree weather to the McDonalds, get hot chocolates for everyone, and run back unscathed. Easy, right?

Getting across the street wasn't so bad, though Young Da-da's teeth were chattering once we hit the McDonald's double doors. The people inside looked at us like we were escaped mental patients, but we took that in stride. (Jazz musicians as a whole are an odd lot, and are used to people looking at them in strange ways.) There were six of us, and we each ordered four hot chocolates, triple bagged them, placed them under our shirts to keep them warm, and ran like hell across the street to deliver... ice cold hot chocolates to our compadres. Ok, Mother Nature 1, Jazz Geeks 0.

That  night, after a late dinner and some poker till midnight, we decided we needed to test the weather gods again with a game of football on the frozen tundra/golf course that lay immediately behind the hotel. This would be fun, we thought, we'll just bundle up...

Da-da's first step out into the night-time cold was a shock, despite all the layers and the gloves and hats and long underwear -- and the custom heavy coat my grandmother had made me (she made jackets for a living). Chicago wind cuts through you like nothing else, and it was HOWLING. Da-da could barely see through the scarf wrapped around his eyes. Undaunted, we trudged up to one of the sandtraps and then noticed that no one brought a football, so we decided to jump into a snow-filled sand trap for fun, for about an hour.

Toward the end of this silliness, an Illinois State Trooper's car pulled up about forty feet away. We immediately stopped our frolic to watch. The door to the police cruiser cracked open and billows of glowing STEAM poured from the car, and from that hellish miasma emerged a rotund constable in a leather jacket, head bare. At the time, Young Da-da thought that only an Act of God would get this cop out of his car at 1:00 am in the freezing cold of January, but there he was.

He looked at us for a moment, then shouted above the wind:


"PLAYING IN THE SNOW!" We yelled back.

The officer digested this. "ARE YOU FROM CALIFORNIA?" he shouted.

We smiled (not that he could see our faces) and yelled, "YES!" How did he know? we wondered.

He shook his head, got back in his car and drove away. Jeez, if we'd said we were from Joliet, would he have saved us? Let the California idiots freeze.

After he left, a few of the sillier members of our insane snow posse decided to run and slide on what was normally a docile golf course water hazard -- turned hazardous ice rink. One thing led to another and one of our members, a trombone player, got clumsy and went down, hard -- on his head. Just before this happened, Young Master Da-da had suggested we go back in as Da-da was starting to feel kinda woozy -- both symptoms of hypothermia (mental confusion, stumbling), but since we were confused and stumbling most of the time, anyway, this was a tough one to diagnose. Anyway, we got the guy up and went back inside.

Inside the hotel's back double doors, we inspected the bone player's head wound... needed stitches. And he's loopy as hell. This meant only one thing: we had to wake up a band parent fast, the one who was a nurse. (This is the same band parent who knocked on our door in a previous post, to inquire as to why we ordered a new key for our room and several trashcans full of ice.) Needless to say, we were deeply busted. She butterflyed the guy's wound and chastised us mildly, explained the symptoms and dangers of hypothermia, and Duh.

This hard-boiled RN fixed Young Da-da and Co. with her cold blue eyes and informed us that the National Weather Service had issued an alert for our area, as it was the coldest night on record for Illinois in January. No wonder my head had started hurting. Turned out it was 98 degrees below zero with the wind chill factor. Da-da was then informed AGAIN about the symptoms of hypothermia and being stupid and how we all should all be dead, we had so little sense.

She was right, o'course. (Never argue with a nurse.) What we did was quite dangerous. But at least the brain damage from that night readied Da-da for parenthood, which is basically non-stop brain damage. 

[Da-da's only regret is that he didn't get a picture of that cop surrounded by all that steam. He probably still tells the story of the idiots from CA.]

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