Well, freeze my fanny.
Isn't this why you left Indiana? Or Illinois? Or New York? So you could brag in January to the suckers up North that you're basking in the balmy weather holding a fruity drink garnished with a miniature red umbrella?
I want a refund.
This cold snap brought back memories — and not good ones, either.
I started thinking about being chilly as I was standing in my backyard where my friend Barbara was playing Frisbee with her mischievous border collie Jake and my relentless herder, Lola.
My bright red nose was dripping, and my ear tips were screaming to go inside. I had thrown on an old blue parka, and that's what triggered the Chicago flashbacks.
This Antler brand parka came to live with me in the fall of 1975, just before I departed Pittsburgh for Northwestern University near Chicago. As any Pittsburgher knows, Chicago is much colder than the Steel City. Ha! It's all relative, isn't it? To me now, the North is just one big icy blur.
Anyway, I was determined never to be cold in Chicago, so I took myself to the Army-Navy store in Ambridge, Pa., and bought what was billed as an "Air Force Flight Jacket." The tag even said so. I don't recall the price, but I am sure it was well under $100.
The parka contains "genuine waterfowl" feathers, and it zips up to the nose, where the zipper turns and sticks straight out to form a tunnel about 8 inches long that keeps blowing snow out of the eyes of the wearer.
It's got a couple set of deep, cozy-lined pockets and a sturdy zipper from which the wearer could hang a small car without fear it would separate, leaving one's belly in the sub-zero zone. The hood is trimmed in wolf fur, which drove every dog I ever had to the brink of madness with desire.
My mother was a far classier woman than I. She thought the practical Navy blue coat was hideous and wanted me to get a nice lined cloth coat in which I'd look much snappier.
No, thanks, I said, and the old guys who ran the surplus store glanced at one another and nodded approval. Not many teenagers left Beaver Valley to go to college in those days. Actually, not many people left the valley at all. The boys worked in the steel mills along the Ohio River, and the girls got cashier jobs at the Zayre department store. Here was one escaping — she ought to flee in warmth.
My coat and I departed for four long, cold winters on the shores of Lake Michigan. We survived the Blizzard of 1979 in a city where annual snowfall averages 33 inches but topped 84 inches that year. With 10 inches already on the ground from a New Year's Eve storm, another 20-plus inches fell Jan. 12-14. The lows in Chicago never rose above zero between Jan. 4 and Jan. 13.
Once you get around zero, the actual temperature becomes irrelevant. It's time to hole up inside with plenty of provisions because even the liquor delivery people — the most hardy of them all — can't get through.
But no retreating for me. I looked like Nanook of the North with a weird snout as I scaled the drifts to score sizzling hot French fries from the local Burger King a few blocks away. I never was cold in that jacket even once. And in the 35 years since I bought it, I never got another winter coat.
Oh, it's a little snugger than it was in 1975, and some of the down has puffed out where an interior belt drew the layers of feathers up to the waist. But considering I was 18 when it came to live with me, the fact that I can wear it at all is little short of a miracle.
I was not in the least chilled while playing Frisbee with Lola and Jake a few days ago, but it was 40 degrees at the time. Hardly a stiff challenge for the Antler. But my friend Barb looked a little nippy in her new high-tech-fabric jacket. And the dogs? Hey, they had the best coats of all, but they don't share.
So, you say, you want one of these marvelous Antler parkas? Sadly, you can't get one.
The brand is owned by Blue Generation, the family company in Long Island that stopped making its Antler coats about a decade ago but still retains the name. The firm started in 1944 with outerwear for the military. It branched into U.S.-made coats and uniforms that were particularly popular with police and emergency-services workers in the North. Now, it makes a more profitable variety of polo shirts and other custom-embroidered garments.
However, the company still has name recognition and may get back into outerwear, said Steve Bogart, vice president of operations and finances. After all, he noted, Blue Generation this year inched that direction when it came out with a line of fleece.
So, dear reader, how have you been surviving the frigid (for Florida) temperatures? Perhaps you have a memory you'd like to share about the cold times up North that drove you south to thaw out. Let's hear them: Lritchie@orlandosentinel.com.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times