Wednesday, February 21, 2007
There came both ice and snow ....
A snowy morning in NY lacks the luminosity of the same weather in Scotland. Perhaps being on the 24th floor makes a difference – halfway into the clouds, really. I peer down at St Bartholomew’s dome and the yellow taxis crawling along the white street and realise that there is still stuff falling – the dreaded “frozen rain” of the forecast. It lands in little hard lumps on the window ledge and stays there. Obviously no rise in the temperature, then.
Fearful of venturing too far in streets turned suddenly lethal, we plan a circuit of interesting places within sliding distance. St Patrick’s Cathedral is huge, warm and atmospheric. There are huddled bundles on some of the pews; they may be praying but are almost certainly there for a heat. No-one disturbs them. St Bartholomew’s, the Episcopal church below our window, is dark and strangely unappealing, though we find the restaurant in their “Great Hall” at just the right time. They serve fries in flowerpots, but I manage to avoid temptation. The red tiled path outside by now is suicidally slippy and we clamber instead over the lateral moraines of cleared snow. We visit the Museum of Modern Art – a huge Anglepoise lamp appeals – and hear a wonderful choral Evensong in St Thomas’, Fifth Avenue. This last is a bonus: I have mistaken our direction and we end up outside the church five minutes before the service.
By this time the pavements (sorry – sidewalks) have been cleared perhaps half a dozen times. The precipitation has ceased (in other words the frozen rain, hail and snow are no longer timesharing) and the sky is clearing as darkness falls. Where the clearing has been most efficient, it is impossible to cross the road without braving either a deep pool of brown slush or a mountain of frozen stuff. The less favoured roads are covered in a soupy mixture of slush and salt, through which the traffic slithers and honks. Pedestrians – rather like Glaswegians – jaywalk at every crossroads, cursing in a variety of languages as the soup closes over their shoes. They are shod in every manner of footwear from wellies to stilettos. Businessmen and fur-clad women vie with Rohan-wearing tourists (us) for the shallows. I have never seen so many fur coats – don’t know if this is because I live in the sticks or if it’s an American thing.
We dine out again. It is Valentine’s Day and the hotel is very busy. We brace ourselves for the after-dark cold and make our way along Lexington to find a family-run Italian recommended by the concierge. It is excellent and very atmospheric, with an air of triumph as if we had all braved something just to be there. By the time we leave, it is colder than ever – 17 degrees Fahrenheit, someone says. The slush is freezing again, and there are gangs of men on small tractor-like machines pushing it into piles. Some are shovelling. They don’t seem to be wearing hats – I seem to have had mine glued to my head all day. I haven’t been so cold since I was a child – that hot-eared, dry-skinned, frozen feet feeling.
I no longer want to crack the windows in the hotel.