David Fitzsimmons: Hearty Tucsonans dug out their long-sleeved shirts, corduroy flip-flops

2013-01-19T00:00:00Z 2014-07-02T10:56:18Z David Fitzsimmons: Hearty Tucsonans dug out their long-sleeved shirts, corduroy flip-flopsDavid Fitzsimmons Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

The Northeast survived superstorm Sandy, New Orleans made it through Katrina and for one harrowing week, Tucson met the challenge of the century: the Big Chill of 2013.

I called Aunt Edna in Minnesota to tell her what we were going through down here at Ice Station Tucson.

"There was frost!"

"Really?"

All over the outside of my drinking glass. I couldn't believe my eyes. Frost in Tucson, Arizona. I nearly dropped my iced tea. What's next? Penguins marching down the Santa Cruz? This cold weather was more than any of us had bargained for. Last night it was so cold I had to sleep under the covers.

Aunt Edna gasped. At least I think it was a gasp. By now I was hysterical.

"Our yard was covered in dew this week. Dew!" I called the city to see if they had dew removal trucks out and about clearing the dew off the streets. They said they had bigger fish to fry. Someone had spotted an icicle on the east side and TPD had cordoned off the scene for miles around.

The kids prayed that school would be canceled like the time the city shut down after a puddle from a dripping garden hose had turned to ice during the winter of '88. TV news said it looked like a skating rink for mice. The town came to a halt faster than Rosie O'Donnell's show on the Oprah network. Where was Anderson Cooper? Where was FEMA air-dropping parkas on us?

Aunt Edna said she was having a hard time hearing. Something about ice on the telephone lines and some blather about a blizzard. Blah, blah, blah. Whatever.

"Aunt Edna, listen to this. Yesterday my teenager ran into the house shouting and carrying on. He said when he went outside he could see his breath when he exhaled. We all went outside to see if it was true. We all could see our breath! It looked strange, like cigarette smoke. None of us had ever seen anything like it. Thank God for Google or we would have panicked like headless chickens."

Was it worth the half hour it took for all of us to put on our socks, long underwear, pants, sweaters, scarves, gloves and corduroy flip-flops just to step outside to see it? It sure was. The wind chill that day must have been in the low 30s. I'm talking above zero.

One day this week, I had to put on long pants. I looked like one of those out-of-town freaks. You know the kind. The kind who wear long pants - to their ankles. I'm glad I did. It was so cold that day someone actually said, "B-r-r-r." I hadn't heard the word "Brrrr" since the death of the actor who portrayed Perry Mason in 1993.

It was so cold I had to put antifreeze in my sunscreen. My snow cone refused to melt! It was so cold I heard Chuck George use the word "brisk" on the air and - hold on to your earmuffs - I had to put the top up on my convertible. I was so desperate for warmth that afternoon I actually turned down the A/C.

I asked my editors if they wanted to assign a photographer to cover the moment. They said they weren't interested in my "blockbuster." Said they were following a big grocery shopping story. An area woman was claiming it was so cold, her milk remained chilled in the back seat of her car all the way home.

I have to admit the front-page picture of her holding up an Eskimo Pie that hadn't melted was pretty powerful testimony to the power of the Big Chill of 2013.

By midweek I was digging into my closet, hunting for my one long-sleeved shirt like Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel, searching for his prized acorn. When I bought the shirt in '88, the whole family laughed at me like I was some kind of a end-times survivalist. Who's laughing now?

Aunt Edna couldn't believe what she was hearing. She hung up. I guess it's just too horrible for someone who is not living through the suffering we endured to comprehend it all.

We are a resilient people who have proved we can endure any hardship Mother Nature throws at us, whether it's rainstorms or haboobs. When the going gets tough, the tough wrap their pipes and put on socks.

One day you'll be able to brag to the grandkids that you covered your succulents and survived the Big Chill of 2013. And when they ask you, "Was it cold back then, grandpa?" You can look them in the eye and say, "Yeah, it was cold. But, it was a dry cold."

Email Star cartoonist David Fitzsimmons at tooner@azstarnet.com

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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