As a Miami native who lives up north, I’ve developed a bad habit. When outdoor life becomes unbearable — when the wind-chill factor knocks the temperature into the negatives, or when a full week of slush awaits — I just can’t help it: I check the weather in Miami.
It’s an irresistible kind of self-torture, like clicking through Facebook pictures of your ex and his new flame. At this distance and reduced to these terms, Miami seems like the best thing you ever had, and you curse yourself and the mistake you made in moving on.
This was the weather in Miami last week:
The sun and the moon, alternating in perfect harmony. Zero snow. Zero rain. Warm, breezy days into cool, comfortable nights.
Simultaneously, the weather in New York:
No sun. No moon. Just an endless procession of darkened clouds, spewing forth misery in its various meteorological incarnations.
I realize that to the average Miami native, this simple weather forecast may be written in code. Allow me to give you a brief crash course.
Freezing rain. Says Wikipedia:
“Freezing rain is the name given to rain that falls when surface temperatures are below freezing. The raindrops become supercooled [I say super un-cool, yuk-yuk] while passing through a sub-freezing layer of air, many hundred feet above the surface, and then freeze upon impact with any object they encounter.”
Next up: wintry mix, which Wikipedia warns is not to be confused with freezing rain, though it refers to a mixture that includes freezing rain, as well as ice pellets, and snow (ice pellets for another lesson, my fair-weather friends). “This precipitation can occur where the temperature in the lower part of the atmosphere is slightly above the freezing point.”
So what does this mean for those of us on the ground?
It means you fall. It means you sometimes pull a stranger down with you in the panicky moments just before you hit the ground.
It means the overpriced down coat that the man at the store said was going to protect you no-matter-what soaks through so you feel kind of like this:
It means you step in deep black puddles that look just like icy asphalt. It means all your shoes are soaked. It means on a walk from one place to another you stop off at a Laundromat and pay a few dollars in quarters to put your shoes and socks in the dryer, and sit there, bare feet freezing, listening to the shoes thud-thudding one after the other in the machine, wishing you had your iPod or something, but you didn’t bring it because it was too wet.
It means when you leave the Laundromat in toasty shoes and socks, you step directly into a frozen puddle.
It means you’re left shipwrecked on street corners that look like this:
It means the simple act of walking — that daily fact of life in New York — becomes a test of character and ingenuity. Are you a trailblazer or do you take the path most trodden? Do you dare wade through or hop over? Or do you cautiously walk to the other end of the block to find a more suitable crossing?
It means that the mountains of snow that line the streets are melting, that old, frozen trash is wriggling free and merging with the trash of the day.
At least the snow mountains are melting — your neighborhood was beginning to feel like an excellent locale for trench warfare.
It’s times like these, deep in the dark, frozen heart of February — or as friends of mine like to call it, “Existential Crisis Month” — that I wonder why I came to New York in the first place. I remind myself that I wanted it to be hard, because in Miami, where it was easy, nothing got done. When there was nothing pushing back on me, I simply stopped pushing.
In E.B. White’s essay, “Here is New York”, he talks about the two kinds of people who are attracted to The City, one with “an excess of spirit (which caused them to break away from their small town)” and the others with “a deficiency of spirit, who find in New York … an easy substitution.”
I admit, without any self-judgment, to being the latter kind of New Yorker, which means that left to my own devices in Miami, I shut down. The seasons, among other facts of city life, give me a time marker — I may not enjoy it, but it keeps me paying attention. In Miami it was too easy to lose track. Too many days would pass without my exercising any intention on them.
But I maintain that if I were the other kind of New Yorker, then perhaps I wouldn’t be a New Yorker at all. Miami isn’t perfect, but for someone with an “excess of spirit” there is plenty, now, in Miami on which to exercise it. If I had an excess of spirit, I would be at home, enjoying the weather, and also kicking ass, “gittin ‘er done”, as they say. If you can do both at once, you’re living the life, and I envy you.
So Miamians, love the warmth, and kick ass. I leave you with this picture, taken on a walk to school a week and a half ago. It is a car.
Arielle Angel is a Miami native, visual artist, and writer who now lives in Brooklyn. She is currently pursuing an MFA in fiction writing at Columbia University. Read more of her Beached Miami contributions HERE.