« TrentonVignette »
01.27.2005

Postmodern Pancakes

It's positively subarctic here, but no one in New York seems to own a decent winter coat. Everywhere the streets are full of skinny, huddling people racing around in thin leather jackets, windbreakers and the occasional light wool overcoat. I'm beginning to think it's a point of pride to not own ugly, bulky winter outerwear here. Apartments are small, after all.

Meanwhile, I move like a slow beige mountain of natural and artificial fibers, safely embedded in the gigantic flowing winter coat I acquired in Vermont, securely warm in the entire region between my neck and knees, freezing everywhere else, radiating waves of unhipness.

Winter has finally shown up, slipping the Great Blizzard of Ought Five in between two brutal arctic air masses. It got so cold at the end of last week that the idea of two feet of snow sounded like a blessing just because it would mean a brief warmer spell. But right after the snow fell- considerably less than two feet - it was right back into the deep freeze.

On Saturday morning, just as the snow forecast was turning truly apocalyptic, I took the train over to Greenwich Village to eat breakfast at the famous Shopsin's with Jason Kottke, and watch the snow start falling.

Many bookish people mention a sad moment in childhood when they first realized that they would never be able to read all the books in the world. Sitting in Shopsin's, I had the same moment of clarity with regard to eating in New York. Specifically, I had it with regard to eating at Shopsin's - the menu is replete with dishes you will never have time enough to try, even if you live in New York for a thousand Sundays. In this philosophical mood, I ordered the postmodern pancakes, and drank lemonade from a boot-shaped glass. It was good in a very non-ironic way. Pancake as text.

The snow took its own sweet time falling, despite the dire threats on all the weather sites, and just dribbled down in thin sheets for most of the afternoon. Descending into the subway towards evening, I saw an amazing sight - the snow falling above ground at street level, and then falling just as serenely underground, onto the subway platform, as if it were passing right through the concrete and asphalt of the street overhead. Which, of course, it was. Stepping closer, I realized that there was a grate in the sidewalk running the whole length of the platform, letting the snow through, a lovely and unexpected sight.

Through the night, I kept waiting for the true blizzard to set in, the part where the air grows fat with flakes, and the wind whips the snow around so that you can't even see across the street. But instead, the thin trickle kept on, piling up slowly on the street and on the cars parked along it. Sometime towards one in the morning, the accumulated weight of the snow started setting off car alarms, which wailed softly through the thick white blanket, shielded by the snow from any terminating signals from a faraway remote control, until at length the car batteries died, and all was peaceful and quiet.

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