A whiter shade of New York

16 02 2004

There was a girl called Noodle Finnegan
She had icicles on her chinnegan
They fell off and then hung onagain
Zero temps are sure to beginagain*

TIME: 6.25am, cialis usa for sale work day.
I take a deep and cavernous breath of frigid air. A sneeze creeps through my sinuses, clinic but when it reaches my nostrils I can tell this particular atchoo is wearing clod hoppers. I hear the distinct sound of nostril hairs crackling like the surface of a frozen pond. I grab the sneeze by the scruff and kick it out into the New York air.

Another gust saunters in to knock on the back of my eyes. By this stage I’ve pulled down my woolen hat so far that it’s resting on my eyelashes, shop and the scarf is now perched just below my eyes. I think, ’so balaclavas can’t just be for robberies…they must actually be for this kind of weather?’ Onward I crunch along 2nd avenue on my way to the subway.

So this is how it’s gonna be. Along with dry-skin days, bad-hair days, fat days, dumb days and Mondays, now I have to contend with chin days and no-chin days. Previously, in my gain-all-knowledge-from-TV days, I thought New Yorkers must be the biggest snobs on the planet. Whenever you’d see wintry footage of them on the streets they’d be blustering along, always looking down, and never making eye contact with their fellow man. Not sharing in the glorious bond that is living check-by-jowl in the big, bad city.

Now I know.

It’s not snobbery. They just don’t want to take their chins out of their scarves. You know why? Because that cold air whipping along the street will turn an unprotected chin into a solid block of blue ice. And you never see an ice chin turn up on the catwalks when fashion weeks swings by, so it can’t be in style. Ever.

But I’m with them now. I’m speaking their language. And I was wrong. New Yorkers are sharing a bond. The bond of their asses freezing off.

That afternoon…
There is ice everywhere. Anything remotely watery turns to it. It hangs from eaves in threatening spears, lies in wait on roads and footpaths. Awful black ice. Ugly and mean with its nose in the air, sniffing out frail pensioner’s hips and lusting for just one assault and battery opportunity. It finds it in me.

Walking toward the train station, shoulders slumped and chin hidden from view after a hard day’s word-smithery at the coal face, I take in the vista. The snow, shoveled high on the edges of the car park has a muddy brown crust. You never see that in postcards. It never even occurred to me that snow got dirty like that.

I casually mention to someone that it reminds me of the mucky scum in our sheep dip on dipping day back on the farm. They laughed for a while at the concept of a sheep dip and didn’t get me at all. Damn my alien heritage! I guess this sheep dip reference will be lost on everyone except my family and sheep farmers. So that’ll be our little secret.

I step carefully over the black slicks on the asphalt knowing danger lies beneath, yet my mind wanders off to ‘When-I’m-Famous-This-Is-What-I’m-Gonna-Do Land’, leaving my body to fend for itself. I walk down a steep incline where the path meets the road. A group of people wait to cross and just as I get near the bottom my foot slides out and all at once I’m a mess of flailing arms, ungainly motion and ‘whoa’ sounds.

For one giddy moment I think, ‘I’m gonna take this whole group of people out like bowling pins’, but instead land with a satisfying thump just behind them all. As I come to a full stop, my traitorous boots gently nudge the heels of two gentlemen, and they turn to see what the kerfuffle is all about.

Gloved hands are offered by both gents and I gladly accept. As I get to my feet, one of them cheerfully says “Watch out for that first step. It’s a doozy”, and I guffaw. For some reason, someone quoting a line from Groundhog Day takes the pain out of my hip and hand and pride. But all the same I scuffle off, thankful that only my eyes are visible under my hat and scarf. There will be no identification of this unscheduled ice skater today.

TIME: 11am, a few days later

The Almighty looks on his bedside table, picks up the earth snow globe and gives it a vigorous shake. The white stuff pounds down overnight. There doesn’t appear to be more than 4 or 5 inches in New York, so I’m unsure if it’s an official Snow Day or not. When I call the work number to check, the message is old and informs me that it’s business as usual. So I decide to go in but on a later train—the 8.07am.

Metro North trains are having a shite day as always. Things are freezing and breaking down all over, but they’re still running. Walking. Crawling. The heating doesn’t seem to be working in my car, so I sit there fully rugged up with a postbox slit for eyes. I read for a bit, but it gets too cold for my hands to be out, so I just hunker down and look out as Connecticut zips by.

Things do not go well. Due to a train mishap, I end up in Bridgeport. That’s about 20 minutes past my stop, so I have sit on the train while it takes on extra passengers to head back in the other direction. Back to where I’m actually supposed to be. When I finally arrive at the East Norwalk station, it’s 11am. The ride normally takes an hour, so I’m not particularly impressed.

When I step out into the Connecticut sunshine, my goose bumps stick out their blobby little heads to taste the air. Then they disappear. I find a note later that informs me—in goose bumpese—that they’ve packed their Birkenstocks into a haversack and lit out for Barbados. Fair enough.

There’s another problem with being let off at this station. I am also—much like in life—on the wrong side of the tracks. Literally. So I walk down to the underpass and although my eyes note the fresh snow on the path, they fail to pass the message on to the brain. It doesn’t look particularly deep, so I step into it unafraid. My knee says hello to snow as I sink.

Hmm. slight miscalculation. Still, could be fun. I lope along for a bit and my mind’s eye projects a cunning image of me as a Springbok, leaping through the snow as gracefully as I would if I were on the dry savannahs of Africa. I know in my heart of hearts that to an observer of this scene I look more like a human snow plough. But leave a mortal to her dreams, for without them she’d never get any inspiration.

At the front door of the office, I take some time to kick off the snow and empty out of the legs of my jeans. Hardly anyone is here and I find out that the office opened at 11am, but only to those who could make it in. I should’ve stayed home. Oh well. I don’t mind so much. The snow is beautiful out here and if I’d stayed home, I would’ve only watched TV all day.

A few weeks later
The weather finally ventures above the zero mark. Hooley Dooley, that’s mild. It’s in the late 30s and the sun is shining. I’m so tempted to brave the streets in a t-shirt, but I know the sharp blue sky is just deceiving me. Maybe I’ll go out minus one of my many layers? And I’m talking clothes here kids, not personality. As I walk along 78th Street, my chin kisses air for the first time in a while and informs me that it feels young and free again. Spring is hovering in the wings, can’t you feel it? Yes. Yes, I can.

The next day
It’s 21F (-6 Celsius). Spring has obviously gone to Barbados with my goose bumps, and I did see on the news the other day that Punxsutawney Phil (the world’s most famous ground hog prognosticator), saw his shadow, so I guess I can look forward to another six weeks of winter. Oh rapturous joy! Stuck again with chin days and no-chin days.

And these, my salad days and all.

* Humble apologies to the kiddie’s rhyme Michael Finnegan.

©Janeen McCrae 2004




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