When I last lived here - in the mid 90's - a lot of my days started by getting up at 5:30 in the morning so I could to hop a train from Bucktown to the loop in order to work a shift at Starbucks, before rushing to a rehearsal of whatever play I was acting in.
(Back then I'd have told you I did these things because I aspired to make great art and to tell great stories, but after years of reflection and therapy it appears that my motivation was mostly... about dating actresses).
Anyway, I'm hear to tell you that 5:30 AM... in February... in Chicago... is a particularly, brutally brutal shade of brutal.
No matter how much clothing I put used to put on there was no way to really avoid the wind biting through to the millimeter of skin that somehow... inexplicably... became exposed through all my layers.
I'd go for the thermal underwear, then a long sleeve shirt, then a sweater, then a coat, then a hat, then gloves, then a scarf, which - within moments - would become stiff with a paste made of equal parts sweat and breath and frozen snot.
My feet - stuffed into two pairs of socks (the holes in each pair positioned so they wouldn't coincide) - would go numb before I ever got to the El platform, so much so that I'd spend my time waiting for the train doing my best Lord of The Dance imitation just to keep from losing all sensation.
It was all useless, cold was cold was cold and only closing my eyes to imagining the potential supple embrace of actresses with self esteem issues born from constant audition-based rejection, made the trip from apartment to employment even vaguely manageable.
That's why, in 1995, when I took a trip to Los Angeles and had lunch... outside... in shorts... in January... I pretty much knew, I wasn't ever going back.
(Oh, and - BONUS - Los Angles... lousy with actresses!)
But, of course, my most overwhelming encounter with winter was always fleeting.
It was a transitional period between one warm place and another.
It was an obstacle I knew I'd overcome because actual, real, cold was never a unavoidable truth that I was forced to face.
And I am endlessly, endlessly grateful for that fact.
One last thought, only somewhat related...
By far the most terrifying encounter with the concept of cold came from listening to a recording of "The Little Matchgirl" by Hans Christian Andersen as a child.
I don't remember who the narrator was, but I do remember vividly thinking... every single time... that there was NO WAY the author would let the little girl freeze to death. And yet every time... she did.
If you've never read it, I put the text here, in hopes that it might inspire you to give.
Most terribly cold it was; it snowed, and was nearly quite dark, and evening-- the last evening of the year. In this cold and darkness there went along the street a poor little girl, bareheaded, and with naked feet. When she left home she had slippers on, it is true; but what was the good of that? They were very large slippers, which her mother had hitherto worn; so large were they; and the poor little thing lost them as she scuffled away across the street, because of two carriages that rolled by dreadfully fast.
One slipper was nowhere to be found; the other had been laid hold of by an urchin, and off he ran with it; he thought it would do capitally for a cradle when he some day or other should have children himself. So the little maiden walked on with her tiny naked feet, that were quite red and blue from cold. She carried a quantity of matches in an old apron, and she held a bundle of them in her hand. Nobody had bought anything of her the whole livelong day; no one had given her a single farthing.
She crept along trembling with cold and hunger--a very picture of sorrow, the poor little thing!
The flakes of snow covered her long fair hair, which fell in beautiful curls around her neck; but of that, of course, she never once now thought. From all the windows the candles were gleaming, and it smelt so deliciously of roast goose, for you know it was New Year's Eve; yes, of that she thought.
In a corner formed by two houses, of which one advanced more than the other, she seated herself down and cowered together. Her little feet she had drawn close up to her, but she grew colder and colder, and to go home she did not venture, for she had not sold any matches and could not bring a farthing of money: from her father she would certainly get blows, and at home it was cold too, for above her she had only the roof, through which the wind whistled, even though the largest cracks were stopped up with straw and rags.
Her little hands were almost numbed with cold. Oh! a match might afford her a world of comfort, if she only dared take a single one out of the bundle, draw it against the wall, and warm her fingers by it. She drew one out. "Rischt!" how it blazed, how it burnt! It was a warm, bright flame, like a candle, as she held her hands over it: it was a wonderful light. It seemed really to the little maiden as though she were sitting before a large iron stove, with burnished brass feet and a brass ornament at top. The fire burned with such blessed influence; it warmed so delightfully. The little girl had already stretched out her feet to warm them too; but--the small flame went out, the stove vanished: she had only the remains of the burnt-out match in her hand.
She rubbed another against the wall: it burned brightly, and where the light fell on the wall, there the wall became transparent like a veil, so that she could see into the room. On the table was spread a snow-white tablecloth; upon it was a splendid porcelain service, and the roast goose was steaming famously with its stuffing of apple and dried plums. And what was still more capital to behold was, the goose hopped down from the dish, reeled about on the floor with knife and fork in its breast, till it came up to the poor little girl; when--the match went out and nothing but the thick, cold, damp wall was left behind. She lighted another match. Now there she was sitting under the most magnificent Christmas tree: it was still larger, and more decorated than the one which she had seen through the glass door in the rich merchant's house.
Thousands of lights were burning on the green branches, and gaily-colored pictures, such as she had seen in the shop-windows, looked down upon her. The little maiden stretched out her hands towards them when--the match went out. The lights of the Christmas tree rose higher and higher, she saw them now as stars in heaven; one fell down and formed a long trail of fire.
"Someone is just dead!" said the little girl; for her old grandmother, the only person who had loved her, and who was now no more, had told her, that when a star falls, a soul ascends to God.
She drew another match against the wall: it was again light, and in the lustre there stood the old grandmother, so bright and radiant, so mild, and with such an expression of love.
"Grandmother!" cried the little one. "Oh, take me with you! You go away when the match burns out; you vanish like the warm stove, like the delicious roast goose, and like the magnificent Christmas tree!" And she rubbed the whole bundle of matches quickly against the wall, for she wanted to be quite sure of keeping her grandmother near her. And the matches gave such a brilliant light that it was brighter than at noon-day: never formerly had the grandmother been so beautiful and so tall. She took the little maiden, on her arm, and both flew in brightness and in joy so high, so very high, and then above was neither cold, nor hunger, nor anxiety--they were with God.
But in the corner, at the cold hour of dawn, sat the poor girl, with rosy cheeks and with a smiling mouth, leaning against the wall--frozen to death on the last evening of the old year. Stiff and stark sat the child there with her matches, of which one bundle had been burnt. "She wanted to warm herself," people said. No one had the slightest suspicion of what beautiful things she had seen; no one even dreamed of the splendor in which, with her grandmother she had entered on the joys of a new year.
Since winter 2009-2010, thanks to the efforts of navajo, Native American Netroots and other Kossacks, low-income Indians at the Rosebud Reservation and Pine Ridge Reservation have received propane and heaters to deal with the often-brutal winters of South Dakota. This is our fourth season of fund raising for this project, which literally saves lives because it catches people who fall through the cracks. Some have asked why we don't run this project through a regular charity. The reason is that our contacts on the reservations say they don't see the money when there is a middleman involved. That is why this is a unique project. You can learn more about the situation at the Rosebud Reservation, read some personal stories and see photos in Aji's post here.
Here is how you can help buy propane: The fastest way to help is to pick up the phone and call with your credit-card information. A family will get propane delivered either the same day or the next day.
FOR ROSEBUD RESERVATION:
Telephone St. Francis Energy Co. at:Of course, all the propane in the world won't do you any good without a heater. Many families don't even have working heaters—or ones that work safely. Every year, there are house fires as a result of malfunctioning heaters that people can't afford to repair. So if you're flush or you have a few friends who can put your dollars together, a heater would be really welcome this Thanksgiving season.
11 AM-6 PM MST EVERY DAY
Ask for Sherry or her mom Patsy, but others can help you also. Normally a minimum order is $150, but they have an account to accumulate small donations until they get enough for an full delivery. Credit cards welcome, and they are the only Indian-owned fuel company on the Rosebud, which is next to Pine Ridge and in the same economically depressed condition. If you'd like to mail a check, make it payable to:
St. Francis Energy Co.
Attn: Sherry or Patsy
St. Francis Energy Co./Valandra's II
P.O. Box 140
St. Francis, South Dakota 57572
PLEASE NOTE: NOT A 501c3, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR TAX PREPARER.
You can order a heater and the necessary accessories from Northern Tool HERE and have it shipped to:FOR PINE RIDGE RESERVATION:
St. Francis Energy Co.
102 N. Main Street
Saint Francis, SD 57572
Here's what you'll be sending:
• Mr. Heater Big Buddy™ Indoor/Outdoor Propane Heater—18,000 BTU, Model# MH18B
You also need to include these accessories:
• Mr. Heater AC Power Adapter for Big Buddy Heaters—6 Volt, Model# F276127
• Mr. Heater 12-Ft. Hose with Regulator for Item# 173635
• Mr. Heater Fuel Filter for Buddy™ Heaters, Model# F273699
Order Total of $235.85 (includes shipping)
Telephone the Lakota Plains Propane CompanyINTERNATIONAL DONORS:
Monday-Friday only; 8-4:30pm MST.
Ask for Crystal. $120 minimum delivery. This company serves Pine Ridge Reservation.
PLEASE NOTE: NOT A 501c3, PLEASE CONSULT YOUR TAX PREPARER.
WE DO NOT HAVE ARRANGEMENTS FOR HEATER DELIVERY WITH LAKOTA PLAINS.
If you live out of the country, please use our PayPal link at Native American Netroots. The donation button is in the middle right of the page. This process takes about two weeks for the funds to hit the reservations, so telephoning the propane companies directly is definitely the fastest way to help.