Amidst the general frenzy about this week’s deep freeze in the Midwest and Northeast, it is worth remembering that this is not the first time the region has been this cold. It happens from time to time. It’s called winter. And in 1994, it was far worse, with temperatures dropping into the minus 20s (Fahrenheit and Celsius) in Chicago.
I remember that winter well. It was my junior year of high school, and first semester finals were about to start. (Most suburban high schools had final exams in the third or fourth week of January.) On the Sunday before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the new one-hit-wonder alternative band, James, was opening for Duran Duran.
My friends and I were more interested in the headline act, which even then was being described as a “retro” band, a bunch of older rockers that the younger kids had never heard before, and that we knew only because our babysitters had blasted them on MTV in the 1980s. Both bands delivered spectacular performances that night.
There was an added sense of intimacy in the packed-to-the-rafters Welsh-Ryan Arena at Northwestern University that night. It was COLD outside, all caps. We were already knee-deep in snow, and the temperature kept dropping. Ice formed on the inside of my bedroom windows–not just the glass, but the wood as well.
I went to the concert with a girl I had been chasing for months, and whose affections I would gain and lose several more time in my teenage years. Everyone we knew was there. When school was canceled for the week due to the cold (they would almost never cancel it for snow alone), we re-lived the magic, at home, for days.
Most of the schools postponed final exams, and we all enjoyed the crazy weather. Many more of us are enjoying it from a safe distance this time. It’s beach weather here in Santa Monica, and I intend to take full advantage. But I will never forget that cold–which was deadly, and awful, but also quite fantastic in a retro kind of way.