7th Ave. and Lincoln Place, Brooklyn NYC, Dec. 2nd 2003.
Caleb John Clark.
Foreboding gray clouds rolled over the sun outside the Brooklyn NY cafe I was sitting in. It was too cold to rain, even at 11am. A chill ran through me as I remembered last night’s walks on Manhattan streets, my windbreaker failing to break much wind. These clouds were not to be relished, my San Diego baked mind told me. More of a bracing attitude might be in order, a hunkering down as it were. Then, if snow flurries were to appear, I’d think about shovel and snow tire condition.
Someone behind me in the cafe suddenly screamed, “Snow!” at the next table. I watched as a gaggle of happy college women ran out from the cafe into the street to see fresh flurries coming down. “Lets sing Christmas carols!” one shouted. I was shocked and amazed. Had I forgotten the joy of the changing seasons? Of the first snows? It seems I had.
I thought back to how I felt when I recently prairie dog emerged from a deep train tunnel into Grand Central Station that weekend. Walking into the building my eyes were dragged up to the famous round ceiling where a Christmas laser light show was being projected. Holiday icons and cute ditties sprang around the old star constellations as happy music played. A feeling of sappy holiday joy overcame me. It was really impossible to stop. New York City for the holidays! I thought. Bundled families walking down streets with lit wreaths on old light polls. Hoards of people with shopping bags on the subway. Warm coffee in cops hands as they help tourists find stores with gleaming windows full of the treasures of the entire world. What a gas!
Someone bumped into me and I realized that I was standing still in a seething mass of humanity. I found a wall to lean against to gather my wits and watch the show. Every sort of person one could imagine walked by me all at once. Some with travel bags, begging bags, dark bags under pale eyes, shopping bags from stores with famous names, bags of food, visible personal baggage, bums with layers and layers of baggy clothes, bags of food, kids with happy bags of toys. And people looked differently then in warming weather. Perhaps it’s that here your fashion and grooming has to survive coats, good shoes, and winter hats. This makes it hard to have complex hair things going on, or precise outfits. People tend to have short hair that can fall into place after a wool hat, or long hair pulled back. There are a lot of thick black and gray wool Navy coats, scarves, and thin black leather gloves to help with the 30-50 degree drop in temperature between inside and outside.
Someone walked into the cafe behind me singing “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow,” bringing me back to the here and now. Turning, I could see snow melted into water droplets on the shoulders of their wool coat. Looking out the cafe window at the college women reveling in the light snow, I remembered why I have no bad memories of the weather while growing up in Maine. I was young and it was fun. Older now, I still felt their excitement about the little snow flakes wafting down. The flakes were signs that the next act in North East weather variety show was coming. These flurries were a slow transitional dissolve from the cold-frosty-rainy-gray-with-some-really-spectacular-days, changing to all-water-is-frozen-with-some-really-bright-sunny-days. “Oh, it’s snowing a lot!” someone else said. “I feel like taking off my coat and running outside.” Another voice chimed in with a laugh, “I feel like going to Hawaii.” Suddenly the snow picked up, followed by the wind.
Looking outside, the flurries had stopped and sun could be seen cresting over a thick low cloud for a few minutes. Then the flurries returned and the sunlight was blotted out as winter literally bored down on fall. It got darker. The women left for class. A snow squall ripped snowflakes one-way on the street, and the opposite way three stories up. Red brick backgrounds showed off the bigger and bigger snowflakes. Flurries no more, parked cars started developing white roofs and white racing stripes along their door tops. The flakes disappeared slower when they hit the cooling sidewalks. It looked mean now, dangerous to anyone unprepared.
“How are you?” someone said as a person entered the cafe behind me.
“Snowy and you?”
“I’m thrilled that it’s snowing.”
“Really, go outside for minute,” they answered stoically.
Then the wind mellowed and the snow fell in a nicer, calmer manner. It was brighter. A kid ran by smiling in only a long sleeve shirt. Two old people hobbled by in black wool over coats with snow on their shoulders. Snow highlighted the top edge of leafless trees on the street and covered the top of awnings. People sitting at the cafe’s window bar sipped hot drinks and stared at the show. A person next to me made a cell call, “Hi, I just wanted to tell you that it’s snowing,” they said and hung up. Sheets of snow appeared up high and across the street, just like your read about. They look like sheets being shaken out really, because they move like a flock of birds all turning at the same time, sometimes actually going up and sideways. Closer to the cafe window, flakes fall slower for a minute, when whip by. Vines on buildings become white lines. A round window on a van went by with a crescent moon of snow in it.
In sunny San Diego it’s easy to forget that weather can be excellent entertainment and that not all weather besides sunny and 70 is depressing. Frozen water falling through cold gray skies can in fact be uplifting and dramatic. If these fine folks can survive through February I thought, and then navigate the mud and wet of the winter thaw, they’ll live to frolic in the spring and summer sun.
Looking up I saw that they snow storm had let up a little and things had brightened. Then flurries were all that was left, back were we started. Then sunlight started pushing through the thin part of clouds, and pushed all the clouds away. I walked to the subway amid wet sidewalks and snow on piles of leaves thinking that I’d just seen a movie trailer of the coming show.