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Winter of discontent

| Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2007

The months between October and March are interspersed with important calendar dates, all crucial to our survival as a species.

There are the holidays, of course, like Thanksgiving, Christmas and The First Day of Buck.

And there are the other notable occasions that seem to pop up unexpectedly each year, like that Wilco show a few months back at St. Vincent College.

Really -- who saw that one coming back in August?

Hopefully, the cumulative effect of these mileposts is sufficient to keep you from harming yourself. Otherwise, the extended periods of cold and darkness can really start to get you down.

Not sure whether you've noticed, but winter is a lot of work. Even the simple act of running out to the grocery store is like an Arctic expedition, what with the attendant layering, bundling and zipping. Kind of makes you wish you'd thought to stock the pantry with nuts back in the fall.

Likewise, entertaining oneself when the temperature dips below, say, 45 requires considerable effort and imagination.

Often, it's easier just to grab an afghan, curl up in the fetal position and preserve body heat.

Summer, on the other hand• Well, let's just put it this way:

A porch swing and some beer will do the trick most nights. The worst day in June will always beat the best day in January, because no matter what the weather might be like in June, you'll never hear the sound of rock salt crunching beneath your flip-flops.

Ah, yes, flip-flops.

So maybe the opening of "Cabaret" at the O'Reilly has been your beacon of hope. Or maybe the long-awaited return of Jack Bauer has given your life meaning. Or perhaps you've been counting down the days until pitchers and catchers report to spring training (16).

Me, I've been eyeballing Jan. 31 -- that's tomorrow -- the night New Orleans jazz-funk instrumentalists Galactic come to Mr. Small's. Seriously, I've been looking forward to this since the moment the Steelers were eliminated from the playoffs -- thusly wiping out several weeks' worth of life-sustaining winter entertainment.

Horns, harmonicas, drums, guitars, bodies, sweat, beer, smoke and a spacy, enchanting light show befitting a band called Galactic. All within the darkened confines of a former Catholic church.

Looks like it's gonna be a hot one tomorrow night in Millvale.

Not a minute too soon.

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