High of minus seventeen last week. MINUS SEVENTEEN. That’s not just castrato-brass-monkey territory, that’s a joke. Minus seventeen. You can’t joke about that. Case in point: No comment made about the cold even elicited smiles.  “So much for global warming!” was the “Hot enough for ya?” of last week – something said by nebbish accountants to bored tax preparers to pass the time in an elevator.  

Then there was snow, which brings out my least favorite tradition in all of Chicago. Worse than the Bears’ annual collapse against the Packers, worse than wailing about corruption while electing the same people over and over and over, worse even than hipster huffiness about hot dog toppings, is “dibs.”  

I learned about “dibs” back in my northside days, and that we do not practice it in Forest Park is right up there with family proximity and Fatduck’s craft bombers as a reason to live here.

“Dibs,” in Chicago is the four-letter word that describes the practice of marking “your” shoveled parking space with a broken-down chair. There are two views of this practice:

1)It is a heartwarmingly communal practice among the snowbound that temporarily extends private-property rights to street parking.

2)It is stupid.

I fall into the latter camp. I don’t see how ten minutes of shoveling entitles one to a three-week monopoly on a parking space. Either let me mark my personal space with a chair in the winter and spray-paint in the summer, or take your chances with the spot upon putting in a little effort. I want to cruise the north side of Chicago after every two-inch snowfall and move all those smug rickety furniture pieces to the nearest intersection.

Speaking of smug, a word about January at the gym: I understand the irritation of the regulars when the place is mobbed after New Year’s resolutions go into effect. I have even been guilty of it myself in the past, muttering darkly about the ten-minute wait for an elliptical during the three-week lifespan of most resolutions. 

But those people paid, too, and those who are gamely sweating all over the treadmill you have come to think of as your own are either going to subsidize your membership for the next year or become one of those people you give the Nod of Respect to when you and they are the only ones in the gym on a bad-weather Saturday night eleven months hence. (Plus, today’s January Freshmen are next year’s sophomore eye candy.)

 Just remember where you came from: The end goal of all struggling January Freshman is to become one of the people who rolls her eyes at next year’s January Freshmen – and you were one of them too, once. 

Kind of the way you were once one of those nineteen-year-olds hooting and puking and throwing firecrackers all over Madison Street on New Year’s Eve once, too, if you were lucky. New Year’s Eve is probably the holiday that suffers most dramatically from the law of diminishing returns over the course of a human life. The allure peaks the first year that you are permitted to stay up until that elusive but gloriously mysterious hour of midnight, takes a dip once you come to understand what a time zone is, surges for a decade or so once you are old enough to see it as a kind of secular Saturnalia, and steadily declines thereafter. You will still have great New Year’s Eves as a card-carrying mortgage-and-back-pain style grownup, of course, but they become less of an outlier. Your plans for NYE simply grow closer and closer to your plans for any other night when you don’t have to work the next day. If your normal Saturday night is pizza, a DVD of “The Lion King,” and a 10 p.m. bedtime, don’t expect Dec. 31 to be different. (You’ll be out of practice anyway.) If your normal Saturday night is margaritas, orgies, and an Advil brunch on Sunday, good for you – but escalating that for a special occasion seems pointless, as you have clearly perfected the formula and mastered adulthood.  If it ain’t broke, y’know, don’t fix it.

As for resolutions … I’m trying something new this year. I have resolutions, one or two, but I threw out all the ones I’ve made more than once before.  Surprisingly liberating, that. Don’t know why, but not starting 2014 with three of the same resolutions with which I’ve started four or five years of the last decade – they usually last until about June – opens up the field for some new ones, and somehow takes the stink of failure off the ones that didn’t take. That said, somehow they’re in play. Even without the formal renewal of last year’s blown goals, I’m sticking to them this year anyway. The subconscious mind is an odd place. 

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