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Posts Tagged ‘Observations’

View of snowstorm through my window View from the window in the eye of the storm.

New York survived the blizzard. Schools closed, businesses closed, New Jersey closed – it was a big deal!  From my perspective, the worst thing was all the ice this morning, and the expectation of days of slush to come (a few years ago, when I was here for a big snowstorm, huge snowbanks blocked off streets in Manhattan and weary New Yorkers had to climb up down jump across the slush, then climb up and down again, repeating the cycle at the corner of each street).

As a Canadian, I am of course used to snowstorms. What amazes me, however, is how New Yorkers respond. In Toronto, people clear their sidewalks grudgingly. In Montreal, where block long convoys of snowploughs and dumptrucks have most streets clear by dawn in even the heaviest of blizzards, the ice can remain on the sidewalks for weeks, even months. On my Brooklyn street, my mostly black American and West Indian neighbors are out almost as soon as the snow starts falling, and will come out repeatedly through the night and into the morning. You can hear them at three am, shovels scraping steps and sidewalks, like there is some sort of competition over who can get their steps and patch of sidewalk clean first. By morning, everyone is out on the street, shouting over the street, commiserating, even going over to help people stuck in deeper than the others.

It’s really one of the few times people on this street openly greet each other, a reminder that New Yorkers like to connect through calamities, big and small . . .

Brooklyn in the eye of the storm

Nice slideshow of reader photos in New York Times

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Unreal City,   60
Under the brown fog of a winter dawn,  
A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,  
I had not thought death had undone so many.  
Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled,  
And each man fixed his eyes before his feet.

TS Eliot, The Wasteland.

Boy, does that describe London. As it was then, so it is now . ..

I don’t understand people here. I don’t understand their coldness, the way they can be crammed so unbearably close together, yet remain so comopletely isolated – like they hardly even see each other. When I think back to the long period when I was away from London in the 90’s, it was this isolation that most scared me about this city – the fear of being swallowed by the grey, by the extreme anonymity, until I felt I hardly existed. The grey creeping into my nerves, senses, soul . . . a weight where my heart should be, congealed into grey mornings and grey afternoons . . . that monotonal emotional pitch that comes so easily to the Anglo-Sexon spirit.

This fear is a little further away now, but I still feel it. Isolation hangs about this city like the damp. When I first got back to New York this spring, one of the most intense pleasures (and pains) was being able to feel again. it was like discovering a faculty that had gone missing, like the ability to see colour after seeing only in black and white . . . I don’t remember London always being this way, but perhaps my circumstances were different before. Maybe that’s part of why people drink so much here, so they can feel again – so they can feel like they EXIST . . .

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