Monday, March 28, 2022

Out like a lion

     “I’m starting to really hate the cold,” my wife said, and not for the first time. The sort of thing Midwesterners say after spring dangles a couple of delightful days in our field of vision — 60, 65, even 70 degrees — then rudely slaps us across the face with a wet sock of miserable, damp, penetratingly cold days. It was 21 degrees Monday morning.
     “Me too,” I mumbled.
     COVID-19 seems to have unmoored everyone, in more ways than one. Time expands and contracts like clocks in a Dali painting. Civility crumbles. Reason becomes a bruising dash through our neighbors’ gantlet of speculation, conspiracy theory and outright hallucination.
      We’re battered, tired, viewing the latest news through latticed fingers. We’ve also become unrooted, many of us. Americans are on the move, fleeing the frost, looking for some warm rock to hide under. A United States Census Bureau report released last week shows nine of the top 10 fastest-growing U.S. counties are in Arizona, Texas and Florida, where four of the top 10 fastest-growing metro areas are located.
     Yet, like everything else, it’s a blurred picture. Cities in all climates are losing people — Los Angeles County topped the list of dwindling metro areas in raw numbers, with a 184,465 resident drop from July 2020 to July 2021. (The population of New York County fell by an astounding 6.9% in one year.) The Chicago metro area is down 106,897 people; the Census Bureau describes the metro area as “Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI” (and readers give me grief for living in Northbrook; from a demographic perspective, I’m practically sharing a $10-a-month apartment on Wabansia with Nelson Algren).
     Though if you are looking for something positive, Cook County remains the second-largest U.S. county, with 5.1 million residents, behind only Los Angeles County. (Both benefit from a historical quirk — the five boroughs of New York City are five separate counties).
     Population is dwindling everywhere — nearly three-quarters of U.S. counties, 73%, are in decline. “Natural decrease occurs when there are more deaths than births in a population over a given time period,” the Census Bureau points out. “In 2021, fewer births, and aging population and increased mortality — intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic — contributed to a rise in natural decrease.”

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  1. Even if they added up all five of NYC's counties, it still wouldn't top the 10 million in LA County.
    Of course NYC is about 350 sq miles, while LA County is over 4,000 sq. miles.

  2. I've long considered fall my favorite season, and I still enjoy it a lot, but as I've gotten older the realization that it's inexorably seguing to winter puts a bit of a damper on my enthusiasm. Spring in Chicago is often largely a bust, but I'll take the 60-degree days as a bonus at this point and content myself with the knowledge that a week like the one past is just part of the "tumultuous transition from winter to spring" (which was part of the tagline for a beer I liked). At this time of year, the weather is inexorably getting better, however fitfully, and I can put up with 29° more readily now that I know the *months* of it being 29° or worse are behind us.

    I was always outraged by the idea of moving to Florida but, while we're not about to do it, the potential appeal of the idea (climatically-speaking only) has at least become more evident to me in the last decade. Though I'd hate the summer there as much as I hate the winter here, so... Some in-between place seems more tempting -- warmer than here, but not all the way down there, particularly under the DeSantis regime.

    Cool photo, BTW. "Chicago Sidewalk; Sleety Day" calling to mind "Paris Street; Rainy Day" at the Art Institute... The precise timing of the train going by really clinches it!

  3. don't forget the "Palmetto bugs". Anyone who lives in FL has to exterminate regularly because cockroaches are such pests down there. When I was a kid, my dad owned a motel in FL. He refused to move there, though, because the schools were so bad they lost their certification. My dad didn't want me to be a "beach-combers" (he said it like it was a really bad thing).

  4. Cook County's population has been second in the country for a long time. But it has also been declining for quite some time. It hit 5.5 million in the early 70s and has never topped that figure since. Although it came fairly close around 2000, it has fallen sharply in the last two decades.

    October was always my favorite month, but the older I got, the more it meant dwindling daylight, colder temperatures, and the chore that is leaf-raking...weeks and weeks of it. Now, June is my favorite. I've always hated winter, and spring in the Midwest is a chilly and bedraggled disappointment, especially if you grew up close to the lakeshore, as I did. In Chicago, that means no consistent warmth until June.

    I've spent the last three decades close to Lake Erie, and it's the same story. Same springtime temperatures ranges as Chicago, but maybe a lot higher on the misery index, because Cleveland gets twice as much snow in March...and April...and a lot of low clouds...along with those same chilly lake breezes that Chicago gets from Lake Michigan.

    My parents spent 33 years in Florida, so I had a lot of exposure to the place, and I also lived there year-round for a couple of years. It's a trade-off...brutal winters for brutal summers...and then there are the hurricanes...and the bugs. All kinds of bugs, big and small. I hate bugs even more than I hate snow and cold. Never got used to them, and I certainly don't miss them.

    But when I lived in Florida, there were only seven million Floridians. Now there are more than three times as many. The tropical paradise I knew and loved in the mid-Seventies is paved over and long gone, and it has become an expensive, gentrified, overcrowded, festering, fetid politcal cesspool. A swamp, if you will.

    Not only is there no good reason to go back, but there's no longer even any reason to visit. Not going to give those homophobic anti-vaxxer GOP maskholes a penny of my tourist money. I'll find another place in the sun. Hopefully, a far more liberal one. Any suggestions?


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