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I hate winter.

No, that’s not quite strong enough. Usually, I merely hate winter. I fantasize about moving to Hawaii and that gets me through until spring. But this year winter has seemed worse than ever. It’s become a living, breathing, monstrous thing that torments us all: the Winter Beast, my mortal enemy. I’d slay him with my bare hands if I could, but he’d probably give me frostbite and bury me in mounds of that awful substance known as snow.

Don’t try to tell me that snow is “pretty.” It’s a treacherous death trap. Have you read Jack London’s To Build a Fire about the guy freezing to death in Alaska? That story shows how brutal cold and snow can be. In urban areas, we must also consider the “stupid human” element.

Last week my mom was driving the car we share on I-290 and despite the fact that there was a big blinking “slow down, it’s slippery” sign, a moron in an SUV decided was invincible. He zoomed past everyone else and guess what? He spun out, causing the rest of the cars to brake quickly. My mom hit the median. Fortunately, mom’s okay. The car, on the other hand …

As I pulled my poor, damaged Honda into the parking lot of Consolidated Auto, I thought, I’m in the wrong business. If I had a customer for every car in the Consolidated Auto parking lot, the Beacon Pub would be hopping. But, no, on the first sub-zero night, I made $11. This cannot go on for another two months!

Last week, my fiancé and I took a short trip to New Buffalo, Mich. There we found out firsthand what happens when a town succumbs to the Winter Beast. On New Buffalo’s equivalent to Madison Street only three stores were open, the rest “closed for the season.” Numerous restaurants were shuttered, too, and there was only one bar! We had to eat dinner at the same place twice. Thankfully, they had fabulous martinis. While we enjoyed our stay (our room had a Jacuzzi, so I can’t complain that much), it kind of felt like a Stephen King novel waiting to happen. I kept saying, “I’m glad Forest Park isn’t like this.” Of course, when we returned to another blizzard, Forest Park seemed almost as deserted.

My friends and neighbors, we can’t let the Winter Beast win! We don’t have the excuse of lake effect snow like New Buffalo nor do we have booming summer tourism to offset the losses our local businesses would suffer by closing in the winter. Not to mention, aren’t you sick of hibernating?

May I suggest stocking up on tea at Todd and Holland and grabbing a book from the library to cozy up with. A warm meal at one of our fine restaurants might be nice. Or, we have a new president to celebrate, how about toasting him at your neighborhood pub? Perhaps let his message of change inspire you to check into volunteer opportunities?

You don’t even have to brave the treacherous roads, just bundle up, the village has been kind enough to plow our sidewalks. Come on, Forest Park, we’re better than wussy Michigan. We don’t let the Winter Beast shut us down.

Stephanie is the author of “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone” and “Ballads of Suburbia.” She’s a proud Forest Parker who holds a master’s in fine arts degree from Columbia College Chicago. She also works locally at the Beacon Pub and loves to hear from people through her Web site www.stephaniekuehnert.com.