How JFK, Linus Lee, and Peguins started my year

Polar bear

“And they may well ask why climb the highest mountain? Why, 35 years ago, fly the Atlantic?

We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win…”

At first, I was surprised it wasn’t cold. In fact it kind of burned, and the further I ran the more it burned. “No matter,” I thought “let’s just get it done.” So I ran until I found a wave approaching me and met it full force. It was then, as the water swallowed me, that I screamed.

This never would have happened without Linus Lee. Sure. I had read about these crazy people who jump in the lake when it is 17 degrees outside. I had also seen the photo of the burly man making a snow angel wearing only shorts and a swim cap.

I am not one one of these people: I have no health insurance. So when I caught my death of cold from stripping down and charging the water in a sort of perverse reverse Normandy, my death would be a slow one, free from the finest medical care the industrialized world had to offer.

Linus didn’t care. “2010!!!! GOONIES NEVER SAY DIE!” Linus yells at me and throws one of my favorite childhood movies in my face. Now it’s personal. I’ll just sleep in and say I forgot, or say I’m hungover, I reassure myself when I see him the night before. It’s new years eve, he’ll understand.

Only he doesn’t. When his text message fails to wake me, it is followed by an immediate phone call. Serving as both an alarm and a call to arms, my excuses get stuck in my windpipe. I can’t start 2010 backpedaling in to the safety of a lie.

“North Avenue Beach,” I say to the back of a head that turns almost all the way around. Cabbie short hand for either I didn’t hear you or I don’t believe you. I have a change of clothes, a blanket and a red headed towel holder. She thinks I’m crazy, but hell, I think I’m crazy. It’s way more crowed that I would have thought. Most are here to rubberneck, I am here to get baptized as a true Chicagoan.

Wearing Jaromír Jágr’s Penguins jersey, I feel connected to my spirt animal. Linus has his Green Lantern ring and Lisa has her Lifeguard bottoms. Almost no more time to back out now. Just in and out. But, as anyone who went swimming in a giant slurpee can tell you, the footing is few and far between. Halfway between falling and jumping I get in the water.

Running back towards the shore, I start to feel the wind whip around me. It does not feel good. Nor does the huge chunk of ice that makes me loose my footing. Now I can really feel the air. Trying to pull myself up on the snow cone that is the beach I realize what I can’t feel, my hands or feet. If getting to my blanket is an accomplishment then getting my shoes off is a miracle. This is when I start to think that I’ve made a mistake. My fingers aren’t numb, they feel like they never even existed. Running in place fully clothed, I start to regain feeling. Where the ice cut me on my leg, the hot tingling of my ears and the feeling that I was truly alive.

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