Tuesday, December 20, 2016


273.  SNOW
Do you know how you 
look for experiences 
that are transformative, 
things that you'll 
remember forever? 
That happened a 
lot to me. One of 
the major ones was 
snowfall. That first 
Winter in NYCity 
turned out to be an 
especially good one 
for me. The first time 
I experienced real 
snowfall in New 
York, it was 
stunning. It was 
night, and in the 
darkness, amidst 
the lights and leftover 
activities of the loft 
areas and small-craft 
workshops in the west 
teens, up into the 20's, 
those streets were 
slowly blanketed in 
snow. It was dark, 
and the snow had a 
lot of the qualities 
of the darkness but, 
at the same time, in 
all the streetlights 
and lamp-glows, 
as it tumbled, its 
brightness and 
presence carried 
its way though 
everything. It 
landed  -  not quite 
silent, but with a 
silence. Snow 
actually makes 
its own snow 
noise, a sort of 
higher register 
sizzle or something, 
as it falls and lands 
and falls. Drifts 
maybe, if there's 
wind too. It takes 
perhaps three good 
hours of steady snow 
before things begin 
to become 
as shapes slowly 
round out, bulge, 
and transform - after
six or seven hours of 
solid, steady snow, 
even in Manhattan 
where often the streets 
and the air are warmer, 
a little bit, by Winter 
standards. But on 
certain magical 
nights, or in 
certain quite 
magical storms, 
the snow takes 
over, conquers like 
a 'William the,' wins
the battle. By the 
time of surrender, 
of the the next 
morning's first light, 
the scene is awesome, 
totally different and 
completely transformational. 
Being what I was, an 
often-denizen of those
 night streets, I experienced 
that first real snowfall
 as if I were a man 
from another land, 
one walking strangely 
into a world I did not 
know at all. It was 
as if everything 
was slowly shifting 
 -  shapes and forms 
seemed to cover over 
everything I'd been 
used to  -  and what 
was left were bulbous 
forms, billowy, swirly 
shapes. Cars looked 
liked hunchbacked 
shoes. The differences 
between streets and 
curbs no longer existed. 
All was covered over 
with something other,
some new, weird 
manna which, I 
thought, perhaps 
itself WAS the root 
of that old 'Manahattan' 
of old-style usage. 
Once it becomes 
difficult to walk on 
the city streets and 
sidewalks, and, 
especially, once 
real traffic begins 
dwindling to 
absolutely nothing 
and the few car 
tracks seen are 
awesome and rare,
 you know something 
has occurred. The 
Mayors, whoever 
they may be at any 
time, quake, fearing 
for the lives of their 
administrations and 
futures if they flub
this one up. Snow
removal here is like

blood-letting. New 
Yorkers, usually the 

most over-ambitious 
nature-pretenders in 
the world, all of a
sudden demand 
clean-up, removal 
of the snow, immediately, 
no problems and nothing
left around. They swiftly
become 'anti-Naturists.'
It's a very weird turnover, 
and it has killed more 
than one Mayoral 
administration. One 
of the qualifications 
for running for Mayor 
of New York would 
have to be the answer 
to the question  -  
'Hey, Buddy, you 
good with a snow 
shovel?' So much 
depends on how 
that's answered.
Anyway, walking 
along in such a form 
of snowfall was, and 
is, for me, one the 
finest scenes and 
things I can do, 
especially in a 
city nightfall. 
There's nothing 
like it, and to see 
endless panes of 
glass shining a 
snow-light back 
to the world is 
amazing; to listen 
to the swirl and 
hush of falling snow 
as it lightly touches 
down on railings and 
steps and porchfronts
is amazing. There 
are enough parks 
all along the way 
in New York City 
that every five or 
six blocks somewhere 
there's something 
amazing to see  -  
bent-over forms of 
snow-covered trees 
and bushes, fenceposts 
piled with new snow, 
the ordinary sights
 and views now 
punctuated differently 
and hazed with snow. 
The Flatiron Building 
seemingly bending 
over, withstanding 
the white-out. And 
then...it all ends. 
In a grand, momentous 
edge of silence. 
Staggering. Used to 
be that was the time 
for horses, for their 
clip-clop and their 
plod on the empty, 
barren streets. It's no 
longer like that, of 
course, and now 
there are taxis 
dodging and 
lurking, The 
modern-day has 
somehow developed
its own plague of 
'cross-country' ski 
people, outdoorsy 
city-types everywhere, 
proving their mettle, 
kids and boards and 
sleds and all that. 
But, underneath all 
of it, one can still 
find the old, Victorian 
almost, era of the 
past and all its ways.
That's what I stepped 
into. By the light of 
morning, the world 
was different, had 
been transformed. 
I'd look out from 
my street-fronting 
basement window 
at the Studio School 
and manage to see 
the padding of little 
feet, the boots and 
galoshes and the 
snow-covers of the 
people managing to 
barely get along. 
Those who ventured 
out. Those who
somehow perhaps, 
had to work, even 
though the remainder 
of the city was dead, 
shut-down. Moribund. 
Without use. I used to 
think 'just let it be, take 
it in, absorb, remember, 
and enjoy.' My friend 
Frank would always 
start up with his tales 
of Scandinavia, how 
in those countries, 
when the big snows 
come, they just shut 
everything down, 
they simply stay 
with it for three or 
four days of nothing; 
not fighting the storm,
 not trying to best it, 
just shutting down, 
quietly and intently, 
and getting through 
it, worrying over it, 
maybe, later. Time 
fixes everything, 
even storms. Then 
we'd begin laughing 
about that weird 
level of nervousness 
that keeps everybody 
here running from 
pillar to post in a 
frantic over-energy 
to best and beat 
the storm, destroy 
the snow, keep things, 
under all situations,
running. Nervously, 
capitalist energy, busy 
measuring snow in 
pockets of change 
and payment.
There were, I guess 
in retrospect, pockets 
for me too  - of happiness 
for myself and others, 
everywhere. Somehow, 
nothing was ever lost.

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