Jay & MeI come from Chicago – a place where we bond because EVERYONE GETS COLD! Black, white, red, (ultimately blue), gay, straight, drunk, sober, right wing, left wing, Cubs fan, Sox fan, (OK I’ve gone too far) … but we all – get – cold.  Not just cold, but violently cold.  The kind of cold that slaps you across the face and leaves you, gratefully, numb.

I’ve been there, bursting from my brownstone and leaping into a God sent, perfectly timed, available cab.  We’d get to the home of a friend of a friend, the first friend not even having arrived yet, but no one questioned whom we were with.  They opened the door, post haste, and quickly ushered us in, offering a warming libation understanding the sacrifice we must have made for the sake of just getting there in the first place.

We chat with perfect strangers.  We breathed a deep sigh of gratitude for the hard-core heat pumping out of the old school radiator sitting lovingly beside us.  We bonded with everyone, because they were, no matter who they were, just as equally, if not more, cold when they arrived there just a few minutes earlier.

We’d have a couple of old school cocktails, made by someone we didn’t even know because our common friend never showed up.  We warmed ourselves just long enough to brave the cold and hit a neighborhood bar – not our particular neighborhood – but a neighborhood.  Soon it would be home to us too.

And when you walk into a bar in Chicago everyone will look.  Don’t be alarmed – Don’t be offended.  The only judgment is coming from the judger thinking, “Do I simply not know them or am I just that drunk?”  They look because they are curious.  They are curious because they are kin.  We are all kin when the bitter enemy is the arctic cold whipping at our slightly buzzed but still vulnerably frost bitten faces.

You shake off the cold and everyone smiles.  Any stool that is open is an available perch.  The coals burn in the fireplace nestled close to the window and you watch as your next cohort rushes against the wind and bursts into the welcoming sanctuary that you had so recently found.  You welcome them in like the owner himself would.  A smile crosses your lips as if you’ve known them all along.  Eventually you all share a story or two about the winter of 78, 92 or 2013.  Even if you weren’t there you know enough to appreciate those that were.

And a few beers, hockey game, and tail end of a company Christmas party later, you’ve made true friends – the kind of friends that bonded before Facebook because, ultimately, misery truly does love company.  And in Chicago, company is kin, and strangers are simply just friends we haven’t toasted with yet.