Polar Bear Plunge, Pittsburgh

When Bill invited me to jump in the Monongahela River, it was New Year's Eve, and I had knocked back half a bottle of champagne. "It's tomorrow morning," Bill said. "Just bring a swimsuit and a towel."

"I'll think about it," I said.

By 8 a.m., I'd decided not to jump with the local Polar Bear Club. But still I took the bus to downtown Pittsburgh to support my friends – and to take some pictures. After all, it's not every day you watch several hundred 'Burghers jump into a frigid waterway.

The crowd was enormous – older folks draped in bathrobes, college guys wearing only Speedos and tattooed punk-rockers swigging malt liquor as they kicked off their sandals.

The crowd jumped in waves; one row of Polar Bears, then another, then a third. When my friends finally sprang, I had to push through the crowd to photograph them. After only seconds, they splashed toward the concrete wall, heaving for breath, convulsing with cold and bleeding icy water through their towels.

"OH MY GOD!" they screamed. "YOU NEED TO TRY THIS!"

"Come on," I guffawed. "Somebody has to watch your stuff."

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And you should have tried it. Most invigorating thing I've ever done.

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