The Polar Vortex: Grilling Weather in Chicago

"While I relish our warm months, winter forms our character and brings out our best." ~former U.S. House Rep.Tom Allen, Maine

"Winter is not a season,it's an occupation." ~Sinclair Lewis

With all due respect to former Rep. Allen (quoted above), while I agree that winter DOES form our character, whether it brings out our best is debatable, if driving etiquette is any indicator.

With all of February still ahead of us, The Chicago Tribune is already editorializing on this season being possibly 'The Worst Winter Ever'™. Not even halfway into into this winter of 2014 and it's already shaping up to be one of the coldest on record in a city known for its fierce winters. At Lincoln Park Zoo, even the polar bears huddled inside to avoid the sub-zero temperatures of the past few weeks.

The polar vortex has brought us a 1-2 punch of near record snow, arctic temperatures, and fodder for climate change deniers' bogus arguments. Funny how an obscure meteorological term around since at least 1950 can so quickly become part of our daily conversation.

Through all of this, Chicagoans have a tough reputation as winter spartans to uphold. So even though our home team may be absent from this year's Superbowl, let's fire up those grills for a weekend barbecue and show that Chicagoans won't let winter get us down. Just be sure to keep that shovel handy for the 6-8 more inches of predicted snowfall. (UGH!)

Bob Dylan's "Tempest"

Soon, Bob Dylan will release his 35th studio album, Tempest. Rolling Stone has called it a "dark masterpiece". The centerpiece of the album is its 14 minute title track dealing with the sinking of the Titanic. Dylan's typically offhand response to those who've found significance in the fact that "The Tempest" was the title of Shakespeare's final play was simple: "The name of my record is just plain 'Tempest.' It's two different titles." Though Dylan has never lacked for creative energy, stuff since 1997's "Time Out of Mind", he seems to have entered a new creatively fertile period that, from all accounts thus far, continues with "Tempest". The name of the album is a reminder that weather conditions (often violent)  have featured prominently in his lyrics and song titles, even from his earliest work.

Consider the following:

"Blowin' in the Wind"

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows." (Subterranean Homesick Blues)

"Buckets of Rain"

"A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall"

"A messenger sent me in a tropical storm" (Sara)

"You were born with a snake in both of your fists while a hurricane was blowing." (Jokerman)

"Shelter from the Storm"

"When the Night Comes Falling From the Sky"

"Thunder on the Mountain"

"I ran into the fortune-teller who said beware of lightning that might strike." (Idiot Wind)

"A change in the weather is known to be extreme." (You're a Big Girl Now)

"Crash on the Levee (Down in the Flood)"

And this is by no means a comprehensive list.

Of course with any songwriter who's released around 500 original songs and whose career spans over five decades, there are bound to be a number of references to a topic as ubiquitous as the weather, but just as the authors of ancient myths, Bob Dylan often seems to find inspiration in the heavens.

In keeping with the somber mood of the album, "Tempest" will be released on Sept. 11th.