★★ A studiously unchallenging placeholder. The previous day's snow maintained its pretty positions on the tree limbs and the corners of the balcony railings, while largely yielding its claim on the streets and sidewalks. Not entirely, though. The schoolyard had yet to be shoveled. A jaywalker, arriving at the far side of Lafayette, cut through the Citibike rack, hit a thick ice patch, and lost control of his sagging pants as he went into a slide. The trains home were halting or tight-packed with puffy coats.
★★ Sun and salt had melted the middle of the sidewalk to wet pavement. A dogwalker was headed south behind Trumpville with a small client cradled in his arms, explaining into his hands-free phone that there was too much salt for the dog to walk through. The toddler's feet left salt on the chest of the parka after he had demanded a shoulder ride home from preschool. The inmost ridge of remaining slush by the curb was uninterrupted dog-piss yellow for yards. Broken ice crawled downriver in one distinct band, like a third lane of traffic along the elevated highway. In the afternoon, the light was bouncy.
★★ Everything superficial and fleeting. A few lost-looking clouds hung in the clear blue morning sky. Then came scraps and sheets, till by afternoon the sky was dull gray. The first shad and their roe, from some warming Southern river, had made it to the fish counter. The sidewalk was patterned with irregular salt rings. Suddenly snow was blowing up Broadway, medium-small flakes sticking readily to the coat and jeans. The snow held on long enough for the clouds to rip and divide, so the flakes and the sunlight were streaming uptown together. After dark, down in the 14th Street station, an erhu player wore a People's Liberation Army-style quilted coat [...]
★★★★★ 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 [...]
★★★ The usually alert preschooler overslept in the sunless morning, and without his crowing, so did the more ostensibly responsible parties. Despite the haste and panic indoors, the outside remained tranquil gray—routine winter gray, if there had been any such routine in these recent weeks. More than a dozen concrete trucks were lined up, down the avenue and along the cross street, spinning their drums.The gray persisted, rainless and constant, gray, gray, gray, till the gray turned slightly purple with sunset, then dirty orange at night. Now the light bouncing off the clouds after bedtime made it hard to get to sleep.
★★★ Short, bright contrails dagger-footnoted the clear sky in the morning, and would again at sundown. Ice still moved down the Hudson, about half as fast as the slow-rolling traffic on the elevated highway. The middle of the river was glossy, with smooth long ripples running parallel to the channel. Past midday, the water smoothed out entirely and the floating ice stood still. The air outside was agreeable, if not entirely pleasant. It was hot under the parka now, but cold on the extremities. Dazzling sun came up the street where unbearable wind had blown before. A Christmas tree lay by the curb, still strung with lights. Elsewhere in the temporary [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ Something slapped against the building, with a noise like a loose tarp, just before the toddler was ready to leave for preschool. Solid white rain was smashing into the glass, rain-blasts exploding in all directions. The preparations paused for five or 10 minutes, and then it was calm again. Rain returned, left, and returned again, without fury. The whole blanket of snow was gone. Outside was damp and mild, for the moment, with a smell of tree bark on the air—a quick change to clear the stage, before the buildup to the next one. Was there a chill in the breeze blowing up Broadway? Maybe not, not yet. By [...]
★★★★ Wrapped in a thick blue-white veil, the winter solemnly renewed its commitment. The snow had quickly stuck to everything, reclaiming its lost ground, tracing the tree branches all the way out to the buds. Someone pushed a snow shovel along a walkway, clearing a dark open strip, and in a few minutes it had been whited over again. Lumps of slush slid down the north windows, along with running droplets. Snow bounced on the canopy of the stroller as it bumped through the slush, the flakes finding each other and gathering into bigger and bigger wads. The chains on bus wheels left slashes across their tire tracks. Cold wetness was [...]
★★ Ice was floating down the Hudson again; cirrus clouds were moving north quickly. On the subway platform, a woman wearing a small dog in a baby sling dabbed at her nose. Rumpled synthetic fleece blankets marked the presence of babies. Or dogs? A grainy translucent slush puddle at the gutter was as unyielding as steel plate. A cafe had left drinking glasses on its sidewalk tables, in case a flaneur in triple longjohns might want a place setting, and one glass had been knocked down and smashed. The early clarity gave way to gloom again. At night, in the dark outside the train, lights gleamed on the frozen marshes or [...]
★★★★ From shore to shore, no part of the Hudson was free of floating ice. The slush by the curbs was the consistency of sugar creamed with butter, the fluffy beginnings of some horrid cookie recipe. The stroller wheels threw off flecks of it yards and yards after the gutter crossing. When the toddler finally conceded to the cold and asked for the stroller cover, the clear sheet plastic was creaky and stiff. The ice floes down by the river's edge were locked into place like sutured skull bones. Liquid water peeped through in a few places, but where the ice sheets had broken on the rocks, the water liberated beneath [...]
★★★★ A pale gray ceiling of cloud blew away into blue sky. In the apartment lobby, a baby squawked while its plastic baby-cover was being zipped over its quilted baby-bag. Two women in full winter gear on the downtown 1 train were accompanied by a third in a knit dress and tights, sleeves just past her elbows, with no sign of a hat or coat in her possession. How had she gotten to the train in the first place? Shadows pointed up Seventh Avenue, and light deflected back and forth across the cross street, two bounces before it hit the ground. In the time it took to buy warm socks and [...]
★★ Chilly but sticky. A light, steady-seeming rain got less and less light on the walk to preschool, then abated on the way back. The intensity would continue to rise and fall, fluctuating on an overall trajectory to greater and greater sogginess. Nothing to do about it but put the hood up. A business-improvement-district worker pushed soot-colored water away from a crosswalk on Broadway with a broom. All day the crosswalks would be flooded: gray water, clearish water, opaque beige water. Rainbows of lost motor oil spread in the roadway. Brick dust bled into puddles where workers were redoing a storefront. Brown water dripped from the ceiling onto the N/R platform [...]
★★★★ Brutal still, but relenting. The Hudson in the distance gleamed in irregular spots. Double layers of socks caused a squeezing pain somewhere among the metatarsals on the walk west. Up close, the river was frozen over by the shore; the ice had fractured around the old crumbling pilings, so that each one poked up of its own jagged little pyramid. The bike bath and the park were completely empty, emptier than they'd been for the hurricane. One man and a dog were out at the end of the pier. A raised rim of snowy ice traced the undulating line where the solid freeze and the plates of floating ice were [...]
★ Furnace plumes pointed up and eastward from the building tops, against the gray morning sky. Trees and sidewalks down below were wet black-brown against the snow; the river was mirror-calm, reflecting details of the buildings on the New Jersey side. Then the plumes and the river were both lost in fog, and rain or drizzle streaked the windows. Some of whatever was falling was frozen. The cold snap had broken something in the building's plumbing, and flooding had closed the playroom. Outdoors was soggy, too, the deep freeze having subsided into slushy bleakness. Icicles hung from the angled concrete column-molds stacked by the construction site, and ice sheathed a new [...]
★★★ An eggplant-colored haze tinted New Jersey. "Daddy, where is snow?" the toddler asked, walking up Amsterdam. "Ooh, little bit!" he added, spying a surviving lump in a north-facing planting bed. Dark corners and grimy shrunken banks were all that the snow had left. A table of Super Bowl merchandise, not obviously authorized, stood on the clear, level sidewalk. People wore coats open, or ventured out coatless with sweater and scarf. Unused salt bags were being used to weight the posts of a canopy displaying chips and dip outside the Fairway. Full sun poured up Broadway, and for a long moment it was genuinely warm. Then clouds scattered the light, and [...]
★★★ It was time, or it was a moment, for switching back from the parka to the wool coat, in the humid and relatively mild morning. Meltwater dripped from an old, grimy awning; pigeons pecked at some waterlogged and filthy lumps of breadstuff that may have been pizza crusts. Everywhere soggy garbage was emerging from the gray and dwindling snow piles: cups, wadded plastic, slimy paper trampled utterly flat. The ground was filmed with sooty mud. Brightness increased, and a rip of blue appeared in the sky. A bus billboard passed, words complete obscured by dirty salt, only the faint traces of a famous face or two dimly showing through. The [...]
★★★★ The changeover from storm to frigid clarity was complete, overnight. Workers on the half-built top of the apartment building were shoveling show onto the next slab below, where it landed in sifted piles, the tallest heap rising higher than a person's head. Ice floated in the Hudson along the shore, while midstream was clear and blue-black. The whole inventory of long underwear and thick socks was laundered from the last freeze and ready. Sixty-Seventh Street was still solid white, and then a garbage truck with a plow rounded the corner. On Broadway, sun was blinding on the slushy sidewalk. Downtown, though, even after a full day of foot traffic, the [...]
★★ Cold but not burning cold. The sidewalks were busy; children off school were bundled up but not necessarily fastened. An approximation of brightness almost came through the thinnest part of the southern clouds. A napkin blew straight up over a subway grate. Surprising numbers of people were going hatless. The afternoon sun came out emphatically and unexpectedly, then went away just as emphatically.
★★★★ Once the soporific effect of the feeble morning light had been shaken off enough to allow a look outside, there was one window of blue in the thick gray overhead. Then sun poured forth from the east, for a moment. Over time, the clouds declined from near-totality to a mere majority, and one declining in influence. By afternoon, it was sunny enough to make a stroll to the river seem like a good idea. Sparrows twittered in the trees beside West End Avenue, by which point the sun had forgotten about the walk idea and vanished behind a cold gray cloud. Wind blowing crosstown forced the jacket and the coat [...]
★ ★ ★ ★ ★ Shrieking and wailing echoed past the elevator banks as the wind seized the building. The door in the basement passage to the package room fought back against the effort to open it. The glove liners had not arrived. On the next level down, the bulky parka was in the storage cage, where it had spent the entirety of the winter before. The silk tights and a cotton longjohn shirt were in the back of a the socks-and-underwear drawer. T-shirt, longjohn shirt. A pause for reflection on the options. Long-sleeved t-shirt, wool sweater. The thickest long scarf. There was a brittle old grocery list folded up in the pocket of [...]