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Around the third week of January, the Chicago winter frequently takes a coffee break. The January thaw or false spring feels and smells like the real thing, and we need it so bad we will smile and nod. We will pretend to believe whatever the January Thaw tells us. We need the eggs.

In November, this kind of weather would have been nasty and foreboding...but now it is the occasion for spontaneous street singing. The ranks of visibly homeless beggars swell. People return to the lakefront, marveling at vistas of ice that extend to the horizon, and built up in thick sheets by wave action (if it has been a cold winter) or ice floes heaving on the liquid waves (if a mild one). People wash cars of their quarter-inch coatings of road salt.

The thaw also brings out the sidewalk signage: "DANGER: Falling Ice". The January thaw injures dozens of Chicagoans every year; the ice buildup atop our high-rise buildings, emboldened by the sun's caresses, rashly elects to pursue other opportunities in the ballistic trajectory field. Every ten years or so, someone is killed this way in Chicago.

And the icicles are not alone in their bravado! Dizzy with heady lungsful of mild moist air, even wily Chicagoans who've outlived many a thaw may don spring clothes. Many more will stare appreciatively after the brave souls who do. Sometimes even a robin or a catkin or an early crocus can be seen. It's all crazy, and doomed of course, but we'll take what we can get.

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