Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

New York City, January 21, 2014

★★★★★ It came on during breakfast, with no picturesque introduction or transition: a dull gray mist of fine flakes, falling straight down and immediately coating the ground. A scraping sound came along 66th Street—not a snowplow, but someone driving a minivan or sensible SUV on a flat tire, with the blinkers going, not stopping as the hubcap crumpled and cracked. The humans were as unsteady as the storm was steady. A black SUV swung violently toward one crosswalk to make a U-turn, then bore down on pedestrians in another one, indifferent to any possible limits on its stopping power. The toddler came back from a morning of preschool stupefied by the cold. Parked cars were covered; the southbound lanes of Broadway were white. A slippery layer of powder lay underfoot. Downtown, the cars were moving so slowly it almost seemed worth jaywalking in front of them. Icicles hung from grilles and fenders. The flakes grew bigger and went sideways. Blue clouds of snow flew past the office windows in the late afternoon. There were plowdrifts at the curbs, but they were lumps under the fresh blanket. In the early dark, flakes caught and scattered the snaking glow of unseen oncoming traffic, around a curve. The wind had flecks of ice in it. The elderly panhandler had abandoned the subway stair landing to set up inside the turnstiles. Uptown, at the foot of the stairs, a woman was hawking "UM-brellas FIVE dollars EACH, UM-brellas FIVE dollars EACH," in dactyls. Light shone from every direction, and the snow swirled and flashed like mica. Passing cars churned up the snow, and fat new flakes landed and visibly stuck to the clots in the roadway. There was a little snowdrift in the side of the vestibule, and snow blew deep into the lobby. Later, just before bedtime, the outside looked calm. Out in it, one last time, it was hard to tell if the intermittently visible snow was falling or just blowing. Smoke-like bursts of it were being kicked up by the wind in all directions. Around behind the building, a walk through the shin-deep fluff left only dents. It was too fresh to hold footprints.