Monday, December 22, 2008

"Cold Enough for Ya?"

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

"Cold enough for ya?" asked Ralph, as I blustered into a holiday party on Sunday. Shivering in my boots, I said, "Just about!"

Of all the winter traditions, this brief exchange (Cold enough for ya? Just about!) might be my all-time favorite.

A couple of years ago, a friend from Arizona landed here in February. She turned to me with wide eyes. "Is it possible that my nose hairs are freezing?" she asked. "Oh, yes!" I said.

I used to describe the cold to my Illinois grandpa. "As long as I keep blinking, my eyelashes don't freeze together, and I'm OK."

Sometimes Ferne (age 99 1/2) will ask me for the weather report, so I give it to her in layers. Lately, we've had Ski-Mask-Plus-Hat-Plus-Scarf Days. So far, those are the coldest.

A student of Kris's just got frostbite on his face. Ooops! Playing in the snow, he couldn't discern the kill-you cold from the really-kill-you cold.

Facing the really-kill-you cold, I go for a walk with Jasmine. As Jasmine (part Siberian Husky) leaps into the snowbanks, I have an urge to ask her, "Cold enough for ya?"

She kicks up snow with her snout. And I can almost hear her -- "Just about!"

Friday, December 12, 2008

Oh, That Governor of Illinois!

© 2008 Karen Van Fossan

I don't go around thinking I'm an expert on Illinois politics. But being born, raised, and corn-fed in the Land of Lincoln -- I feel a certain privilege to speak on the subject.

That Governor Rod Blagojevich! What was he thinking? people ask themselves. Trying to sell Barack Obama's Senate seat?

Honestly, I'm surprised no one thought of it sooner.

1) Kids from Illinois -- like Governor Rod Blagojevich (D) -- grow up with a skewed sense of heroics. I was arguing over Kant in my dorm room before it occurred to me that Al Capone might have been a bad guy. My dad had friends who lived in one of Al Capone's old houses, strategically tucked along the Kankakee River. Going there was the coolest thing on earth when I was a kid, what with all the hiding places and tricky ways to escape. Groping for identity, halfway between Hollywood and New York, we took to Al Capone like flies on honey. He was our Midwestern claim to fame.

2) Like Al Capone, the first Mayor Daley of Chicago captured the public's attention for scandalous reasons. As far as I know, he never bootlegged. But when he was getting elected, even dead people managed to give him their vote.

My favorite joke ever:

The Pope, the President, and the first Mayor Daley are on a boat. The boat starts to sink, of course. There's room for just one person on the raft. The Pope says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of the most powerful religion in the world." The President says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of the most powerful nation in the world." The first Mayor Daley says, "I should get the raft. I'm the leader of a really important city. Well, anyway, let's just take a vote." All three cast their ballots. The results come in --
Pope, one vote.
President, one vote.
Mayor Daley, five.

3) It's pretty much a tradition for Illinois Governors to get themselves arrested. When news of Blagojevich's arrest was announced, a North Dakota friend, David, was eager to discuss it. But I just couldn't arouse myself. "Yeah," I said, "I heard. He's not the first." As it turns out, Blagojevich is the sixth Illinois Governor to face arrest. The most recent ex-Governor, George Ryan (R), went to prison for his own ingenious scheme -- selling phony truck drivers' licenses.

So you see, in Illinois, you can buy just about anything: A truck driver's license. A vote. Bootlegged liquor.

Even a U.S. Senate seat.

Or maybe not.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What Do I Like Best about the Night?

Some say winter begins at the end of December. The way my eyes see it (peeking over two scarves and under two hats), winter is upon us. In honor of these long nights, I'd like to share a short celebration of the darkness, "What Do I Like Best about the Night?"

It comes from my CD of children's poems, Toenails, Teeth, & Tarantulas. Kris Kitko's musical accompaniments will enchant you! Soon, you can hear more music and poems through CD Baby. But in the mean time --

Happy winter. Happy darkness. Happy long, long nights!

To listen:
1) Use the player on the left.
2) Turn up the volume on your speakers.
3) Imagine yourself as a kid again. (This is for the child in your heart.)