Dispatch from NY: Longing for the warmth of winter

By | February 15th, 2011 | 11 Comments

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:

Wet Bird
from funnyanimalsite.com

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.

11 Comments on “Dispatch from NY: Longing for the warmth of winter”

  1. 1 foster said at 12:07 pm on February 15th, 2011:

    that’s my car!

    or could be.

  2. 2 Robby Campbell said at 3:01 pm on February 15th, 2011:

    Being a Miami native, and having lived up north for a 3 year stint, I can say that I truly love Miami’s tropical clime. Ever since I moved back I find myself, on a daily basis, appreciating our beautiful weather. Now I notice little things – like how freezing rain feels not unlike an incessant bitch slapping, while Miami rain feels like the gentle caress of a lover. It’s something that born and raised Miamians tend to take for granted. Basically what I’m getting at is I hope Jacky boy Frost agitates you, Arielle, til you have no choice but to move back on home.

    P.S Quit your boo hooing.

  3. 3 Jacki W said at 4:34 pm on February 15th, 2011:

    Robby – you are correct on so many levels… but if Miami rain feels like the gentle caress of a lover, how should we thus categorize the unique Miami thunder??

    And as for your deficiency of spirit, whilst in Miami you managed to fulfill multiple commissions, create and market your new business, and get accepted to an Ivy League graduate program. So, here’s to you, over-achiever. You have more spirit than anyone I know.

    P.S. – Thank you for the qualification that, now, Miami is becoming a great place to live – I couldn’t agree more.

  4. 4 Naomi R said at 4:50 pm on February 15th, 2011:

    Guilty as charged. My name is Naomi and I am a serial Miami weather checker. Unlike many who leave Miami for a small stint and come back, and then find their love for the city, I have always loved it. Will always love it. I’d take an angry mid afternoon rain storm over sleet, slush, and snow. Chances are in Miami, you’re wearing sandals so no big deal. Up north, there’s no retreat!

  5. 5 Roberto Byrd Helada said at 5:07 pm on February 15th, 2011:

    Ha! I really enjoyed the visual narrative and you describe it with flair. Tis a fun read. “It means when you leave the Laundromat in toasty shoes and socks, you step directly into a frozen puddle.”

    I live in the vacation called Miami, and am also guilty of often taking things too easy. Tonight I shall brave the “cold” in a t-shirt. Maybe i’ll go for a run and invigorate my soul. But it might drop below 60 tonight so maybe i’ll bring a sweater. Or I could drink an excess of spirits, that always works.

  6. 6 arielle said at 12:21 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    I know I just complained about the weather for an entire post, but tomorrow, middle of February, they’re predicting a high of 55 degrees. I’d be happy if I wasn’t so utterly terrified.

  7. 7 cracka named chris said at 3:45 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    Being born and partly raised in New Jersey, I can honestly recall with clarity the grey, somber days of winter as well as the slurpee like conditions that ensue once the wintry beauty begins to melt. However, as vexing as those conditions can be, I find Miami’s sub-tropical climes to be just as annoying. There’s nothing like stepping out of your house, maybe 10 minutes removed from an invigorating shower, and immediately feeling the sweat soak your brow, back, and underarms. About 5 minutes later, as the humidity is slowly asphyxiating you, the heat and humidity team up to transform the region of your groin and hindquarters into the everglades (minus the flora and fauna). Getting caught and thoroughly soaked in monsoon-like rains is a nice reprieve from the stifling heat. So are the plentiful air-conditioned buildings which induce symptoms of a cold as soon as you walk into one. A little walk down the road will have you looking as if you just exited a pool. Of course one can escape all of this if your existence, like most people in Miami, involves traveling from the air-conditioned car to the air-conditioned office/home. I’m mainly a biker/walker, so Miami is not the ideal place for me and the motor-less. Both climates have their drawbacks; I just find the cold to be a little more tolerable than satan’s asshole.

  8. 8 arielle said at 5:56 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    “hindquarters into the everglades”

    c’mon chris, call it what it is: swampass

  9. 9 chris said at 7:45 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    swampass, swampballs, and for the ladies, swamplabia. a touch of class.

  10. 10 gabe said at 9:40 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    Cracka outta context: “A…slurpee…can…transform the region of your groin…into…satan’s asshole.”

    Chris needs his own editorial spot.

  11. 11 Jordan Melnick said at 11:06 pm on February 16th, 2011:

    As do you. Offer’s on the table.

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