I write in Chicago. I’ve been living in this city almost all my adult life. I love this place. I have traveled quite a bit all over the world. I’ve lived in France, in a lot of different towns in France. I’ve lived in Italy. Oh, Italy! The beauty of everything, from the people to the shape of the streets, from the singing language to the arts! In Quebec too, I’ve spent quite a bit of time there. Lovely, lovely region of the world.
But Chicago is the only city I want to call home. It has everything I need. Especially the kindness of people, their warmth. And you need warmth here. Because Chicago is very, very cold.
For example, we are, and have been since mid December, living in freezing temperatures. Meaning, we are trying to function in the minus. And any minus in the Fahrenheit scale is a bad minus. We crank up the heat at home, fearing the furnace dying down, the water pipes freezing, the belongings destroyed. Yes, we all think about that. We bundle up before we go outside. Hat, gloves, scarf. And the long underwear, and the extra layers. We all look like onions going down the street. We all make the same statement wrapped up in our thick parkas: Fashion dies when the temperatures gets too low.
And I love that.
Because it forges some of the most important component of music: movement, determination, thinking through.
The cold obliges us to think about motion. Yes, it does! Try going to the supermarket when it is sub-zero outside, then come back home, unload the car, take all the winter gear off, and realize that you forgot to get the meat and the noodles for the meat and noodle dish you had planned for that evening. The cold forces you to think through your action. You don’t just, on a whim, decide to go for a walk and visit a friend. Suppose the friend is not around? Suppose the walk is more than a third of a mile? Suppose he doesn’t have any tea or hot beverage for you once you’re there? Then you don’t go. You stay home.
And cold obliges us to be determined. The principle is always the same. Give a monkey a banana, he will take it and eat it, and that’s it. His eyes will barely move. Now put that banana so the monkey can see it, but he has to swing through a few branches, cross a wiry bridge, fight a few dragons, etc, before he gets to it. Well, my friend, you are about to see a very excited monkey as he plows through the obstacles. He might be out of breath when he gets to the banana, but he will be alive! And in his eyes, you will see the iron light of determination shine through and if you don’t believe me, try to take that banana away from that monkey.
So, because I don’t consider myself much better than a monkey, let me tell you that the cold helps me forge my determination. I will practice those scales, perfect them, get them comfortable and fast. Because it’s an unforgiving world out there, a cold one that requires a few good skill and an effort to survive in. It is no joke! The cold in Chicago helps us realize that this life doesn’t mess around and we need to up our standards in order to survive.