Have you heard? It is COLD in NYC!
When I’m in California, immersed in drought tactics, sunscreen and poultry antics, I engage in wishful thinking, imagining that when I get to NYC I will be transformed into a sophisticated urban creature who does not have pine shavings hanging from her sleeves. I will blend right in with the other New Yorkers, chatting about the latest theatre reviews over a glass of say, white burgundy, or, perhaps, a simple Cote du Rhone, in a cozy booth at Balthazar.
Well, scratch that.
For one thing, the sky is falling at Balthazar, or at least a ten foot mirror. Last week, as I was feeling ever so slightly sorry for my uptown self that we were headed to Cafe Luxembourg for dinner instead, I clicked my news app to discover it was the best possible day not to be dining at my favorite downtown NYC bistro. One of the restaurant’s giant mirrors toppled on patrons there, resulting in no serious injuries but possibly making it temporarily ever-so-slightly easier to get a hard-won reservation there.
For another thing, no one I have encountered here in the past two weeks is discussing anything but THE WEATHER. I’m sure people have many witty and wise observations on other topics, but their jaws are too clenched and their teeth too chattery to chat about anything but the unyielding cold. This month will go down as the coldest February in New York City since 1934.
Instead of reading up on theatre reviews, I have recently been researching frostbite and cruising sale racks on a mission to find warmer scarves and gloves. The good news: depending on temperature and wind chill, you have a good 30 minutes of exposure before you have to worry about frostbite. The bad news: forget about texting in sub-zero wind chill conditions.
On the positive side, I am actually blending in well with the other New Yorkers. We are all of us in our puffer coats, faces covered like bank robbers in scarves and hoods, bracing against the wind with a steely resolve. And talking, all of us, incessantly, relentlessly about the weather. On past visits, including last year’s Polar Vortex, I eyed a thermometer reading of anything below 25 degrees as a reason to stay inside. This trip, we have celebrated any day that registers above 4 degrees as a big win and an excuse to head outside.
The day we left California, it was 80 degrees. When we awoke here the next morning, it was 8 degrees. It took me a few days to develop perspective and a sense of humor, but by this week I saw nothing daunting about walking across the Park in 12-degree weather.
There are moments of frustration: trying to navigate the moats that appeared at every Upper West Side crosswalk last weekend was a challenge. But there is a peculiar, frozen magic about the city this month. A pair of ducks gliding comfortably in the heated Milstein Pool at Lincoln Center. A soft, flaky snowfall in Soho. Some of my favorite city memories will have been spun from this trip. But for the sake of the ducks and the squirrels and all those beleaguered New Yorkers, I’m hoping for an early spring!