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2004-11-05 - 5:22 p.m.

The winter weather has fallen over the city with the grace and subtlety of a bulging hunk of mashed potatoes slung from the scooper of a disaffected lunch lady who, you just know, sleeps in that hair net. I’m a fan of autumn, when a nice breeze can drop the temperature just enough to require outerwear, but not discomfort. Since my jackets warm my heart along with my chest, I’m ready and willing to enter fifty-degree weather. The simple addition of one easily toss-able layer with an excess of pockets to prance about in is nothing I have a problem with.

But when the scarves come out, and the hats, and gloves, and long johns…yes, long johns. Considering the fact that I don’t look particularly good in knee socks, this remains the only feasible means of keeping my little chicken legs warm when Jack Frost goes looking for white meat. Form fitting, thick, and pale white, they fit perfectly beneath socks and pants, never to be detected. The only problem with this particular accessory is that it isn’t easily removed, and when seen by a member of the opposite sex, they tend to illicit flashbacks to their father’s camping trips. Always something of a mood breaker, usually followed by the actual removal of the long johns, an act on par for arousal with sticking your face in a bucket of maggots.

Still it’s not just the padded thighs, it’s the entire complicated puzzle of attire one has to assemble and disassemble on a near fifteen-minute basis. Sweater, scarf, coat, hat, gloves…wait…gloves, hat, coat, scarf, sweater. And Repeat. Considering I hold the record for most lost calculators in one semester at my old high school, one can imagine the frequency my winter wear goes to the bad place. And once one piece of your armor goes missing Mother Nature zeroes in like a Patriot missile and throws the full weight of her frost at that minute little hole, sending you screaming to any local vendor for just about anything to cover the chink.

This is why I own a hat that makes me look like a Pencil eraser. (It was designed that way.) And why my nephew was so jazzed upon seeing me last Christmas, since I had Yu-Gi-Oh on my gloves.

With each wisp of snow, and each patch of black ice, for four months the world screams at New Yorkers to stay inside and give up the chase. Daily reminders point out the time span it will take to get frost bite if exposed to the outside air, but we just run to the subway instead of walking; immediately doubling out “Fall-down-crack-your-ass-and-be-mocked-from-four-different-corners” quotient.

The subways crawl under the weight of infinitely more passengers, while water drips in through the cracks covering the platforms and freezing there, making even the underground dangerous. Cars inch above, trying to make their way through snowdrifts, and invitations to hydroplane. The streetlights above them carry the weight of an entire family of stalactites in ice, seemingly intent on conquering the lamp.

Still the few walkers still weave their way through unshoveled paths, waiting in shivers at the corner for the light to turn, and the masses on either side fold over one another shuffling through the thin paths between puddles and drifts, only to get slushed by a speeding car intent on destruction.

All of this is made worth it by one moment. The view from the Vanderbilt entrance to Grand Central Station will always be my favorite in all the boroughs. From any spot in this city you can see the masses slam and bounce off each other in record numbers, but on most blocks you have simply up and down, east and west, two simple opposing forces. The beauty of Grand Central is the circling crowds. People walking in each and every direction, every angle, emerging from every side, forming this strange knot work of commuters and travelers and subway riders.

The busiest days of the year precede Christmas. People going to see their families, spouses, mistresses. On these days if you stand above, you will see almost every pair of arms immersed in presents and wrapping paper. Red and green shines and shimmers from each corner as the living spider web spins on itself.

If you’re a romantic you pretend they’re all elves and you’re looking down on Santa’s workshop.

If you’re me, you remind yourself that no two people in here look even remotely alike, they’re all headed in different directions, from different places, at different velocities, and they all have the same singular thought echoing through each one of their minds.

“How the fuck am I going to pay my credit card bill?”

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