Just take up a hobby and winter will fly by


Mike Royko is on vacation. In his absence, some of his favorite columns are being reprinted. This column was originally published on Jan. 11, 1981.

We've entered the dullest, most depressing time of the year in Chicago. People suffer from the post-holiday blahs. The miserable weather keeps us indoors. Election excitement is over. Football is winding down and baseball hasn't started. Wallets have been tapped out by Christmas spending and the Social Security bite.

So the question we face is how to glide through January, February and March as painlessly as possible; how to find a way to brighten our spirits and keep busy and make the time fly by until spring arrives.

I've talked to several experts in the fields of psychology, social work and recreational therapy, and they've helped me put together a list of things to do that will help you through these long, gray months until the sun and the muggers come out again. Here are some of their ideas:

Drinking: Getting roaring drunk has always been a remedy for the doldrums, especially in parts of the world that have long, cold winters. In Finland, for example, so many people use this means of fighting off the blahs that the government provides free hangover stations to administer oxygen and massive vitamin doses. So you might consider throwing a log on the fire and becoming absolutely stinko. Every so often, throw on another log, bite the top off another jug and before you know it, April will be here, all the loudmouthed birds will be chirping and you can take a bath, stagger outside for a breath of fresh air, and walk down to the neighborhood saloon for a drink.

Brooding: Brooding is so often overlooked as an absolutely great way to pass dull time. And it's something you can do anytime by yourself. Just pick out all the things that you hate about yourself; or think back to all the terrible mistakes you've made with your life, things that make you feel guilt and shame. Or think about all the cruel and thoughtless ways your friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors have ever hurt your feelings. Then sit in front of the fire or in a dimly lit room and dwell on them at length. Go over them time after time, reliving each awful and shameful detail. The hours will just fly by. (You can combine your brooding with drinking and have one heck of a time.)

Change lifestyles: By that I mean, you say to your wife or husband and kids: "I have cabin fever -- I've got to get out of the house for awhile." Then clean out your bank accounts, move into a high-rise apartment, join a racquetball club, hang out in urban cowboy bars, take a Love Boat cruise, run amok with your credit cards, and carry on with some attractive but shallow and empty-headed young thing. And in the spring, return home looking dazed and tell your loved ones, "Quick, give me the encyclopedia. I've got to look up amnesia!"

Winter sports: Cross-country skiing has become very popular and downhill skiing is still growing. There are also winter camping clubs and ice fishing. But I don't recommend any of these. They can give you a heart attack, frostbite or broken legs. The best winter sport is shooting pool. You meet really fascinating people in pool halls or bars that have pool tables. You can gamble and swear and get in fights. And even if you're not a good pool player, don't worry. You can play the pinball machines or just hang around. Something is bound to happen.

Binoculars: Powerful binoculars are great fun for high-rise dwellers whose windows look out at other high-rise dwellers. If they are strong enough, you're bound to find someone whose drapes are open. You can watch other people eating, sleeping, talking to each other, having sex, exercising, murdering each other and all kinds of things. Or you and a friend can open your drapes and pretend to murder each other, and if the police show up, you'll know that somebody was watching.

Those are just a few of the things the experts recommend. And if you have any pet ways of fighting off the winter blahs, just send them in.

But, please, don't suggest the old reliable "send out for a cheese and sausage pizza." It's loaded with cholesterol, and I don't like to recommend anything dangerous.

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