Thursday, January 25, 2007
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
You feel like you are going to die. I suddenly dawns on you why people die of exposure in this lake even in the summer. As your extremities get colder your heart beats faster, trying to pump blood into areas going numb. Of course your hands and feet go first. They start to feel heavy and painful and then you don’t really feel them at all. Your breath becomes more labored and your skin turns red. All in a matter of seconds your hangover is gone and replaced with new found energy to get out of the water, but you can’t move fast enough because your feet are frozen. Emerging from the icy water you scramble for a towel or blanket, but have a hard time holding on to it because your fingers have lost some dexterity. As your buddy hands you a beer you realize how much fun you just had faking your body into thinking you were dieing.
That’s right; it’s the Polar Bear, a northern tradition. Every year on New Year’s Day men, women, and sometimes children gather on the frigid shores of bodies of water to welcome in the New Year with a cold bath. This year I was in Milwaukee for my cold bath. At noon the appointed horn was blown and about a hundred people rushed into Lake Michigan. Meanwhile thousands of people looked on. My friends and I intended on making it by noon, but partly because of my laziness we were on a high bluff overlooking the lake by the time the horn blew. Soon enough we were on the beach, disrobing and getting ready to go in. I strapped on my sparkly silver crash helmet and starting weaving through the crowd to find my icy fate. We ran in and took a dive, as we came out people cheered and flashes went off. A few of our buddies had gone in before us and so came to pose with us for pictures. Of course our gear was a little bit weird, but there were other people there who were far more interesting.
On guy went into the water with a tuba while he played On Wisconsin, Wisconsin’s fight song. That was pretty good, but was bested about ten minutes later by a samurai. He was dressed in full regalia, swords and all. Most people run into the water, take a dive, shake a little and then slowly make their way back into shore. It’s expected to do that at the least, otherwise it doesn’t really count. The samurai took it to another level. He slowly walked into the water and just kept going, slowly. After he got about thirty feet out he turned around and raised his swords and then went under. After shaking off he slowly returned to shore. He must have been in the water for a few minutes. It was a great time and I can’t wait until next year!