Chicago in Winter, Part I: THE STING

This week marks the anniversary of a controversial event that transpired almost 30 years ago, so Da-da feels that it's safe to tell the truth about what happened. You all know who you are.

It was 1982. Young master Da-da was a high school senior, and second/jazz trumpet in his high school jazz ensemble (yes, Da-da was a band geek), the "jazz" designation meaning Young Da-da got most of the trumpet solos, though he probably didn't deserve them. Da-da's high school jazz band had been named #1 high school jazz band in the nation by NAJE (The National Association of Jazz Educators) and Downbeat Magazine, based on a recording we submitted, and were invited to attend the 1982 NAJE Convention in Chicago in late January to perform with Buddy Childers before about 5000 jazz educators, press and the general public. It was a pretty big deal for us. (We almost got to play before then-unknown Wynton Marsalis, but he had a problem with the stage manager and refused to perform. We later got to open for Tower of Power, but Da-da digresses.)

[Quick side note: Young Da-da's parents were kind enough to scrape together enough moolah to supplement what young master Da-da had already earned during the excruciating band promotion of selling CHEESE door to door. Yes, CHEESE. ("Hi. Would you like to buy some CHEESE?").]

Being originally from Southern California, Young Master Da-da had never been exposed to REAL winter; the coldest it ever got where he lived was about 30 degrees. So when the band hit Chicago O'Hare on a late January afternoon -- it was 19 below, or minus 37 with the windchill -- it never occurred to Young Da-da that he might need a jacket or a scarf. While waiting for his luggage to appear, Young Da-da walked outside through the double doors and took a deep breath of wintry Chicago... and had to be dragged back inside, hacking and coughing as all his mucous had frozen solid. What a moron. Welcome to real winter, dummy.

The Set-up

After checking in to our hotel in Des Plaines, Da-da experienced a minor shock. He and his best friend, Ivan (lead alto), had paid extra so they wouldn't have to room with four guys (anyone who's roomed with four guys will understand why), but the hotel was full, so our band director gave our room to his parents (on us, as we were never re-imbursed; this kinda thing happened a lot in our band). Young Da-da and company were pissed, but our pissed-offedness expanded exponentially when we discovered that we were paired for the night with the Streudel brothers, Mike and John. The Streudels were actually really nice guys, but they were brothers, and consequently bickered like brothers. Ivan and Young Da-da secretly vowed vengeance for this hotel room travesty, but alas, the only people they could take it out on were the Streudel brothers.

The Wire

We checked out the room. It was basic, with two beds. Being a polar bear by nature, Young Master Da-da immediately opened the window... and closed it just as fast: the temperature had plunged to 20 below. For fun, Da-da suspended a can of Pepsi out the window by a wire, and left it out there for about 20 minutes, pulled it back into the room... it was frozen solid. Like the Grinch, this was to give the future Man Called Da-da an idea... an awful, terrible idea.

The Hook

The next day, the hotel opened up a little and Young Da-da and Ivan received the room they'd paid extra for. However, the two were still pissed about the room, not to mention the painful memory of the Streudel brothers in matching tighty whities. Standing in their new room, they realized that THEY STILL HAD KEYS TO THE STREUDEL BROTHERS' ROOM. [Insert diabolical laughter.]

So, while the Streudel brothers were out with the rest of the brass section at dinner, Young Master Da-da and his evil friend Ivan snuck into the Streudel brothers' room, turned off the heat and opened the windows. Why you were able to open windows in Chicago in the dead of winter is a thing Da-da will never understand. Anyway, they took all the pillows from their cases and defenestrated them (that is, threw them out the window), saving the pillow cases. While the room chilled, they ran downstairs, out the double doors, stuffed fresh powdery snow into all the pillow cases, poured water over them (which instantly froze) to ensure a nice pillow shape, then ran back upstairs to their newly created ice box. Inside, the temperature was about 1. The evil geniuses then placed the snow pillows on the two beds and left -- leaving the windows open and the heat off. Tired, the two had a quick bite and went to bed in their own room.

The Sting

Here's what transpired, confirmed by first-person accounts. When The Streudel brothers returned to their room and found it freezing, heat off, the windows open, they did what any normal person would do: they closed the windows and cranked the heat, then went for hot chocolate; they stayed out a little longer than they expected. Upon returning, they quickly readied themselves for bed in their now toasty room, as they were exhausted. Da-da's mental image has them both diving simultaneously into their respective hotel beds, clad in their matching tighty whities... and splashing into icy baths of slush and ice water.

The Shut Out

Blissfully unaware of all this, Young Master Da-da and Ivan were rudely awakened at 2:00 am by a band parent, a hair-curlered mom in pink housecoat looking none-too-happy. Ivan answered the door, which was bolted and chained from the inside so no one would've been able to open it even with the key.

"Did you boys order another room key for your room?" she asked. We denied this, having been asleep. "Well, these boys were caught trying to get a key to your room."

We peered sleepily into the hallway and saw an angry queue of the Streudel brothers and a few lacky trombone players bundled up and looking sheepish, toting large garbage cans full of ice. Young Master Da-da and Ivan looked at each other and donned our INNOCENT faces and asked what was going on? Was anyone hurt? We've done nothing but sleep, mom. The band parent then busted the bundled and left the innocents alone to sleep. To this day, no one's been able to figure out who committed such a heinous act.

The Aftermath

The later NAJE stage performance itself was a little horrifying. Young Master Da-da had a long feature solo (in a song entitled, "Nobody Cares But Da-da"; so true) and had to stand out front of the band before 5000+ people, which was even more terrifying since he was exhausted and bleary-eyed from screwing around. Needless to say, he used a bit too much vibrato (hands shaking like crazy), but the drunk band director's wife later said he sounded FINE. (Thanks, Margo.) Young Master Da-da also spaced out during one tune with Buddy Childers and DIDN'T TAKE THE CODA [gasp], dropping a loud note-bomb in a quiet section. [Image: Smoking rubble. Voice #1: "What happened?" Voice #2: "He didn't take the coda."]

In retrospect, Da-da regrets a lot of things. He regrets not getting enough sleep and preparing better for his performance. He regrets not dealing with the near-paralyzing fear of standing naked before 5000 people. And he regrets not being upfront about The Prank... but Da-da still giggles like a little girl about getting away with it. Mike and John Streudel, Da-da eagerly awaits that big trash can full of ice. Jeez, any feeling at all these days is entirely welcome. All told, this event at least gave Da-da his inevitable tombstone:

We had more chilling adventures, but Da-da will save them for... Chicago in Winter II. Read on.


Anonymous said...

Awesome story... And I cut my left eye wide open on the golf course lake that we were sliding on :)

Dave P

A Man Called Da-da said...

thanks for the clarification, dude. all i remember is being worried about you losing consciousness before we could get you medical attention -- and wondering if we were gonna be shipped home early! hopefully, your brain damage isn't worse than my own (two kids = 10 concussions).

Kent Smith said...

My stocking cap was used to stop the bleeding. :)

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...