Monday, December 8, 2008

Nippy in New York: A letter of apology to Winter

For all of us who have been poking fun at winter - calling it names, threatening it with mid-sized "autumn" jackets and stealing its lunch money on long lunch breaks in the park – we stand corrected. Because it. Is. Here.

And it is frigid. Eye-watering, knuckle-crunching, knee-bucklingly frigid. Walking to the liquor store is like breast stroking your way away from the sinking Titanic toward some distant horizon. Work has never felt so far away. The avenues have turned to arctic tundras. Cafes and bars have turned into oases of finger numbing relief. Tourists are holed up in covered buses and battery park public restrooms like refugees with street-bought hats and gloves and geeky “I heart Ny” fleece headbands. Any food or drink below room temperature becomes obsolete and from coffee cup to change receptacle, the entire city subsists on those red starbucks coffee cups that monopolize public trash cans like red wrapping paper the day after xmas. Christmas lights outside of shops along 8th avenue make you sleepy and nostalgiac, half from memories of December in your hometown and half from the eyeball-piercing cold. You’re sleeping in your socks and sitting on your bathroom floor after a shower until you are 100% dry before facing a cold living room. Morning showers and leaving the house without a hat are completely out of the question. All your outfits go into perpetual hiding and your sense of style on a multi-month sebatacle as you’re cycling through your cosby sweater collection, donning your heinous navy-and-orange NFL knit hats and shoving your canvas sneakers to the back of your closet. After a windy winter run along the east river, you’ll find that your sweat has frozen to your hair at the bottom of your neck. Most of all, the heaps of living quilts that gather in church doorways at night when you pass by create this big, awful crawling in your chest – made up of mostly sympathy, some gratitude and some just plain guilt. Being without a home or that sordid smell of central heating on days like this, let alone nights, is absolutely and stomach-turning-ly unimaginable to most New Yorkers. The thought of bearing that unhappy wind for more than your daily commute makes you outright nauseous as you pass – and the corresponding guilt of not having to makes you turn your eyes away and walk on.

We’re a grouchy bunch on these sub-arctic days inbetween the bearable ones. Even I have stepped on more than one toe pushing my way into a Starbucks door. But in general, its just about layers, layers, more layers and many different kinds of wool. Each of which you’ll know by name after you live here for one winter – lambswool, smartwool, llamawool… I can just hear all of my Midwestern friends and relatives yucking it up while reading this – and I have no excuses. This is one sally-ass southwesterner just looking for a little sympathy. And all I want for Christmas is my two big toes- I haven’t felt them for days!

I’d write more but I…can’t…feel…my…lips….