Thursday, January 18, 2018

an ode to the tribune & tom skilling’s weather page

One reason I love the Chicago Tribune, digital edition, is for Tom’s Weather Page*, officially known as “Chicago Weather Center,” a name I would not have known if I had not just checked.

Today’s “Chicago Weather Center,” also known as “Tom’s Weather Page.”

Tom Skilling is a legendary Chicago weather man. My memories of him go so far back I cannot even remember who was doing the weather on Channel 9, WGN-TV, before Tom Skilling. That’s where it started, Tom Skilling on TV, and then one day the Tribune printed this full back page of Tom’s weather and I can’t imagine the paper without it. Even though I went for years without the paper. Thank goodness I have finally dragged myself into the world of digital subscriptions. Brought to you by some of the world’s finest newspapers.

My Trib subscription costs $7.96 every four weeks and I’d say it is one of the best deals going. Every day I get an email with a link to that day’s digital paper. I open it up and it looks just like a paper newspaper. I flip through the pages, sample stories. Oh! Click on a story and it opens up, is easier to read, in full, without page jumps.

After a few months I realized I could make clippings. Tom’s December 30 weather map was so beautiful and so chock full of weather that I wanted to clip it and send it to my sisters. I thought the map would make a great jigsaw puzzle and I wanted to tell them that. So I started playing around with the different buttons at the top of the page and realized I could not only download the whole page—any page!—I could make a clipping of any part of the page. What a wonderful thing. I clipped the weather map and sent it to my sisters. I also chose it as the background screen for my laptop.

A thing of beauty. Tom’s weather map, December 30, 2017.

Soon I was clipping the weather map every day to use as my laptop’s background image. National weather patterns and what I would call weather oddities became a part of my day, every day, lingering throughout the day as I looked at the map again and again. Today, if I were doing the weather, I would say:
It’s a beautiful day. The cold has lifted, moved on, drifted south, and even though it is colder here than in Mississippi, my guess is right now it feels colder in Mississippi.
Then I would show you Tom’s weather map.

Tom’s weather map, January 18, 2018.

Which I think you would appreciate more if you were looking, really looking, at this map every day. For instance, yesterday’s lowest temperature. If you were looking at the map every day, you would know that the daily low temperature has mostly been way up in Minnesota near Ely or over near the top of Maine. But today, or yesterday, I should say, the nation’s lowest temperature was in Cassville, Missouri. The southwest corner of Missouri. Fourteen below zero and colder than anywhere else in the nation. How’s that for odd? And the hottest temperature was a mere 83 degrees in San Bernadino, Caifornia. Lately, the hottest temps mostly are in California. One of the things that struck me about the December 30 map was the location of the nation’s hottest and coldest temps. The distance between the two spots and the disparity in temperature. And yes, I know: Hawaii and Alaska are not on the map.

I met Tom Skilling once. I was at the WGN-TV studios during the noon news, waiting to do my spot for the Evanston Animal Shelter. This was something I did one summer, once a week taking a dog or cat or both from the shelter down to the studio for the Adopt-A-Pet spot. One of my favorite episodes was “With Extra Toes, Who Cares if the Eyesight Goes Bad?”

One day I was waiting in the wings holding a cat and even though I remember there always being a health segment before Adopt-A-Pet, here came Tom Skilling walking off the set toward me. Or, to be sure, toward the cat. He petted the cat and commented on how pretty, how cute she was, saying all the usual cat-lovin’ stuff, and he told me about his two cats, Vortex and another with a weather-related name I can’t remember (blast my holey memory!), and I just stood there in awe but also thinking wow, he’s just like he is on TV, and then it was over.

Of course there’s more to the digital Trib than the weather. There’s news, sports, editorials, opinion, letters, columnists, comics, business, puzzles, cars, travel, technology, the arts, the theater, books, obituaries, this-day-in-history bits, something I guess we call “lifestyle,” “home,” “health,” real estate, jobs, the nation, the world, politics, each in its own section, well-delineated but connected, and I guess to me it seems kind of nostalgic. I sense a long-standing continuity to it all. And the ads don’t move, don’t speak, don’t take over your computer.

I’ve started reading the paper backwards, starting with Tom’s weather page and flipping back through articles, sections, comics, puzzles, one by one, and this is the way my mother read the paper—she started with the back page and moved forward. And being able to make clippings—well! My parents were always clipping interesting items from the paper, saving them, sending them on, mostly sending them on, I think, always something that might interest the receiver. I have a faulty memory of my dad sending me many articles about honeybees, but of course that was my mom, as my dad died three years before I had any interest in honeybees. But on the corner of his desk there were always articles piling up to be sent en masse to one of his daughters. I still have an envelope full of articles from 1987. Most of them are about Andre Dawson.

There are other ways to get your news and weather, to share your news and weather, some reliable, some not so much, and on that note we’ll turn to Josie for a final look at the conditions out there.

* As noted on the page, those who contribute to Tom’s Weather Page are WGN-TV meteorologists Steve Kahn, Richard Koeneman, Paul Merzlock and Paul Dailey, plus Bill Snyder.