Tag Archives: winter

Lame Adventure 399: Snow Pricks

Norman Rockwell was not here.

It’s beginning to look a lot like porn Christmas.

When I woke Tuesday morning I looked out the window and witnessed the first softly falling snow of the season. Ultimately, less than two inches fell in the city and most of it had melted by day’s end, but apparently it still set a record for a December 10th snowfall. Over the course of the months ahead I imagine that there will be plenty more of it to come. Unlike rain, snow does not make a racket, aside from the familiar sound of shovels scraping it off the sidewalk and maybe the occasional thud of some unlucky sap keeling over from a heart attack. Snow falls gracefully even in New York City. Then, it hardens and gets covered in soot and dog pee. The process of Big Apple snow losing its virginity generally happens at warp speed.

This particular Tuesday morning I realized that this month is the 31st anniversary between snow and me. Back in December 1982, I experienced my first snowfall in New York City. Coming from San Francisco, where the weather is usually moderate, I was thrilled to savor my first taste of East Coast-style winter. Maybe it was even a little magical. 31 years later I can honestly say the magic of snow for me is dead, buried and thoroughly decomposed. In fact, my relationship with snow instantly shed its luster on February 11, 1983 when New York got smacked with the Megalopolitan Snowstorm and was buried under 17.6” of it. Even though snow can be very pretty to look at it, it can be a hassle getting around in it.

My first winter out here I was such a cold weather novice. I did not have an adequate coat or boots. So I froze my ass off. The next winter I wised up, and invested in appropriate footwear. I also purchased an enormous down coat that could have served double duty as a sleeping bag or a shelter in the Arctic.

About twenty years ago, on a frigid winter’s day, I was trudging up the slushy Upper Broadway sidewalk in the midst of a crowd. Shoveled mounds of frozen snow were piled three feet high at the curb. An Irritating Hotdog riding a low rider bike, that type of bike with the big handlebars and banana seat, was behind the pedestrians impatiently barking:

Irritating Hotdog: Beep, beep! C’mon, people, get outta the way! Comin’ through!

The throng was thick and the going was slow. It was pure idiocy trying to ride a bike on the sidewalk, especially in those conditions. Fed up with being trapped behind the wall of foot traffic, Irritating Hotdog had a light bulb. He accessed his inner Evel Knievel and decided to jump his bike over the hills of ice looming large at the curb. Unfortunately for him he failed to clear the hurdle. He went flying off his bike. Its once round front wheel was unnaturally twisted at about a 45-degree angle rendering it impossible to ride. The frame might have been banged up, too. Possibly, he totaled his bike. Back to the star attraction, I can still see him airborne. I had stopped, as did others, allowing him space to smack down hard on the pavement in front of us. A fountain of compassion, I gushed:

Me: Good one, asshole.

Even though his clock was cleaned, he got back up on his feet looking looking a tad sheepish. It seemed that his biggest bruise was to his ego and if his bike was indeed a goner, his wallet. An elderly woman walking next to me chuckled.

Elderly Woman: You’ve made my day, Buttercup.

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Lame Adventure 358: Grumpy Young Man

I work in Tribeca, a picturesque neighborhood in Lower Manhattan lined with ancient cobblestone streets and ornate pre-war buildings radiating character and charm.

Franklin Street

Franklin Street

It is a trendy area housing some of the most expensive real estate on Manhattan Island. This is also a location that’s heavily populated with swells, many of them the name-brand variety.

Authentic cobblestone street.

Authentic cobblestone street.

In mid-afternoon, when I run errands, I encounter pampered youngsters clad in their colorful cold weather togs as they’re being met after school by their trophy wife mothers or their fulltime nannies. Everyone looks fashionably chic until I wend my way through the crowd, upsetting the style balance in my drab uniform, the type of duds that scant wages can afford. Compared to the beautiful mothers in their cutting edge fashions, my modest attire, best suited for office work or captivity, bears a distinct resemblance to offal.

The view out my office window.

The view out my office window.

One area where everyone is equal, at least when outside, is the great outdoors where we all suffer the consequences of the elements. Now that the season is the dead of winter, there have been days when the temperature has been frigid cold. Often, noses and eyes run like faucets.  Even when bundled up, any exposed skin can instantly suffer searing pain.  Therefore, it is best to walk at a quick clip, if only to sooner regain sensation in one’s face.

Bright blue frigid cold sky.

Clear blue frigid cold sky.

On an afternoon when the air was feeling particularly arctic I was walking up Hudson Street toward the pretty Powell building behind a handsome lad that looked to be about six.

Powell Building

Powell Building

He was walking hand-in-hand with his mother, who was in her thirties.  He was wearing a blue parka and bright orange corduroy slacks. Mom was nestled in a floor length shapeless black down coat that looked familiar to me. It brought to mind a sleeping bag with sleeves. She must have missed the winter fashions newsletter. Appropriately, they were walking briskly, but not as brisk as motoring me. Just as I was overtaking them I overheard a snippet of their conversation:

Mom: When we get home I’ll make you a sandwich.

[pause]

Boy: Shit!  It’s cold!

Although I was thinking the exact same thought myself, overhearing the little man drop the s-bomb was a most unexpected surprise. What really made me feel a bat squeak* of unease was that his mother seemed a-okay with it. I did not hear her admonishing her son in the least.

Had I the nerve to casually bleat that curse in the earshot of my mother when I was six, she surely would have detonated. As a child growing up in the sixties and seventies, an era when you served time rather than take a time out, my mother would have beaten every future utterance of both that word and the substance out of me. A beating that might not have ended until I reached age thirty.

That evening, I dined with my friend, Milton, and recounted what I had heard.

Milton: Are you sure he said “shit”? You know your hearing’s not the greatest.  You could have misheard. Maybe he said another word that sounded like shit?

Me: What word sounds like shit other than shit?

Milton looked perplexed. He suggested:

Milton: Sheeeeeeee ahhhhhhhhhhh taaaaaaa, it’s cold!

Me: That kid didn’t say, “Sheeeeeeee ahhhhhhhhhhh taaaaaaa, it’s cold!” That kid said “shit”. Even my deaf ears know the difference between shit and shinola.

I know shit from Shinola.

Shinola on display in Tribeca.

*Thank you Kate Shrewsday for adding “bat squeak” to my vocabulary.

Lame Adventure 272: The White Stuff’s Back

It last snowed in The Big Apple in 2011 on October 29th when a freak Nor’easter shattered October snow records dumping close to three inches of snow in Central Park.  I have resided in New York for almost 30 years and have never once experienced snow in October.  I was a bit miffed at the timing of that autumn snowfall because my old snow boots had sprung leaks from the previous hard winter.  Loathing boots that produce wet socks, I ordered replacement snow boots from the Lands’ End Ugly Style Great Price Collection on October 21st.

New snow boots. Ugly style. Great price.

I figured that was easily a month before I could possibly need them.  My new boots had shipped October 24th but I did not receive them until two days after that storm on October 31st.  Happy Halloween to me.

Fast forward to the present when I can finally wear my new Ugly Style Great Price Collection snow boots.  I break them in when I drop a lit match on my kitchen floor and I stomp it out with my left boot.  The match is swallowed whole into the deep grooves of the boot.  Fearing that very soon my left foot will ignite, I risk an expensive neck injury and contort myself Cirque du Soleil-style to examine the boot’s grooves for signs of flame, or at least signs of the expired match.  There’s no sign of fire or any match detritus whatsoever.  I think:

Me:  Well, that’s odd.

Apparently my new Ugly Style Great Price Collection snow boots have some appetite, or else my foot could spontaneously burst fully into flames and then cough up the remains of that missing match.  I’ll keep you posted.

Foot in Ugly Style Great Price Collection snow boot with power to devour lit matches whole.

Since there’s nothing unusual about snow in January in New York City I venture outdoors to check out the action in Riverside Park.

Currier and Ives-y looking southern entrance to Riverside Park.

Eleanor Roosevelt statue wearing a shawl of snow as well as an insulting splat in the eye.

I imagine that kids that had been aching for an opportunity to go sledding down the park’s hills all winter are now in their bliss, but I notice this sign.

Shirley, you jest!

Upper West Side kids and their parents are clearly undaunted.

"We will not be denied!"

As I trek through my neighborhood I see more familiar sights of the season.

Unhappy Vespa, "Someone please tell my owner it's winter!"

Unhappier bike, "Why the hell can't you take the rest of me inside?"

Uncollected trash, "If bags had middle fingers we'd flash them at that annoying blogger-photographer in those Ugly Style Great Price Collection snow boots."

Lame Adventure 157: The Wrath of Ice

Wednesday, I segued from my usual grousing about the snow and slush to new grousing about freezing rain and ice.  Although my normal pace is overdrive, the slippery sidewalk has forced me to heed caution and downshift to first gear.  I admit that I fear falling and breaking one of the more obscure bones in my 206 bone being.

My boss’s daughter who’s half my age and twice my level of fitness fell in the street this week and tore all the ligaments in her ankle.  Elsbeth, my superior, drew me a vivid illustration of her spawn’s injury complete with ligament tears.  Just looking at that image was enough to make me silently retch.  Had I not found that sketch so disturbing I surely would have thought to photograph it for this post.

I have been noticing more and more people with an arm in a sling or a foot encased in a ski-boot-type cast.  I highly doubt that these injuries were caused by ordinary drunkenness or basic clumsiness such as tripping over the cat or a small child.  I am certain that the wicked weather is the culprit.  In addition, there’s the possibility of getting beaned by a chunk of ice hurling itself kamikaze-style off a building roof or ledge.  I narrowly avoided suffering that indignity both last year and last week.

Returning to the subject of falling, about 85 percent into the old millennium, I was introduced to black ice the hard way.  I was wearing stupid shoes while crossing West End Avenue one winter’s evening.  Stupid shoes are harsh weather averse footwear such as spike heels, sandals or swim fins, although mine were crummy sneakers.

Suddenly, my feet lifted out from under me and I was airborne for what seemed to be a ten count, but in reality, I was probably upended for little more than a tenth of a second.  I was fully conscious of my approaching fate.  Borrowing a page from Wile E. Coyote’s book of tragic mishap where he finds himself standing next to the cliff rather than on it, I was completely perpendicular to the street below and feeling doomed.

Me (thinking):  This is gonna hurt.

The law of gravity combined with g-force kicked in.  My back slammed so hard on the asphalt I initially wondered if I left my impression embedded in the avenue.  I didn’t, but the shooting pain that followed resonated throughout my entire upper body.  The avenue left its impression in me.

It was a most unusual sensation.

Unlike Mr. Coyote, I fortunately suffered this fall when cars were not barreling down the avenue so I was spared the added indignity of finding myself reduced to road kill identifiable only by my stupid shoes.  Shaky and dazed, I was resilient enough to spring to my feet and continued my trek home warbling the British spiritual courtesy of Monty Python, I’m a Lumberjack.

Although the memory of that fall remains burned in my brain forever, I healed quickly.  If I were subject to a similar injury today, I am certain that my entire body would be in a splint for weeks.