Weather


umbrella-man

One of my favorite things about New York is the guy in the above photo. OK, not so much that particular guy, but the fact that you can buy a crappy umbrella for $3 outside any popular subway stop.

Another great thing about Manhattan in the rain is the construction. The ubiquitous scaffolding around the city is usually ugly and in the way, but when it’s raining it can be a God-send. In some areas there’s so much of it that you can make it from office to train station without an umbrella.

But in general, getting around New York in the rain is no fun. It appears to bring out the inner moron in all of us. Which means I get poked in the eye, smacked in the head, and late. So here’s a few pointers for your commute home:

  1. Giant golf umbrellas are great on the golf course. But they are not OK in Midtown Manhattan during rush hour. Yes, I know the bigger size helps keep you drier, but there’s just not enough room on the sidewalk for you and that retractable stadium roof you call an umbrella. When you’re commuting, use a human-size umbrella, please.
  2. Your hands work independently of your feet. So why do you think you have to stop walking in order to open or close your umbrella? There are people behind you. Keep moving.
  3. Two umbrellas cannot occupy the same space at the same time. If you’re walking toward me, at least one of us needs to either lift or lower so we can pass each other without collision. Most people know this, but it’s hard to avoid having two well-meaning pedestrians raise umbrellas at the same time and crash anyway (kind of a vertical version of that awkward dance when two people step aside for each other in the same direction). Here’s a simple rule: the taller person should raise; the shorter person should lower. Or, even better, if there’s nobody next to you, just move your umbrella to the side a bit so we can pass by at the same height without bumping.
  4. Along the same lines, it’s important to remember that you take up more room when you’re holding an umbrella than you do without the umbrella. Just because your body hasn’t bumped into me doesn’t mean your umbrella isn’t smacking me in the face. Just be aware, is all I’m saying.
  5. I’m walking right behind you. Stopping short is dangerous for us both.
  6. After you hit me with your umbrella, apologize. Don’t just turn, look at me, and then keep walking.
  7. Don’t close your umbrella every time you go under scaffolding. For one, it makes you stop walking (see #2 above). Then you stop walking again a block later, when the scaffolding ends and you have to open the umbrella again. But also, most scaffolding leaks, so you probably won’t look too stupid keeping the umbrella open.
  8. If you don’t have an umbrella, holding a newspaper above your head will not keep you dry. Newspapers are made of paper. You look stupid. Plus, you can buy an umbrella for $3 at any subway stop.


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It really sucks to wake up in the dark. I know that’s a bit of a cop-out of a blog post, but it needs to be said. It’s 6:30 a.m. and as I look out into the blackness I wonder when I get to see some of that daylight we’re now saving.

empire-state-building

The photo above is the view out of one of the windows in my office today.

I never appreciated the Empire State Building when I was a kid. I think I must have been about 16 before I even went inside for the first time. And even as a young adult I took it for granted. In my defense, though, the countless movies, the millions of postcards, and the urban legends about killing people with pennies have unfortunately had the collective effect of turning the building into something of a cliche.

But after September 11, 2001, well, without getting too weepy, the Empire State Building took on a new significance. Not just by retaking its crown as the city’s tallest building and as the true anchor of the New York skyline, but by truly embodying the best of New York. It’s big, it’s bold, it’s brash. Looking at the skyline in a certain way (literally or figuratively), you could even see the Empire State Building as a giant middle finger extended to the rest of the world. But it has the game to back up the trash talk. And it’s so much more than just brute strength and attitude; it’s a beautiful and elegant example of New York architecture at its best.

The building has had its share of tragedy, including a deadly accidental plane crash in 1945 and the almost-as-unforgivable 1976 King Kong remake starring Jeff Bridges.

But for the past two years I’ve been lucky enough to see it up close every day as part of my commute, and I’ve come to truly appreciate both its gargantuan scale and its quiet grace.

(Side note: You know that old joke about something being so big it has its own zip code? It probably originated with the Empire State Building, which does in fact have its own zip code: 10118.)

(Side note, take 2: Several years ago I was in St. Louis for the day and saw a restaurant called the Empire Steak Building. Needless to say I had no choice but to eat there. Sadly, I hear the place is no longer in business.)

Every morning, when I walk into my 28th-floor office, the first thing I see is the view we have of the ESB. It’s not a bad way to start the day. This winter has been an especially overcast one with very few sunny days. (I’m speaking literally here, about the local weather, but if you want to take it as a metaphor for the country’s woes, I won’t stop you.) Needless to say I’ve been enjoying the sunnier skies this week, and the great view of New York’s middle finger.


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I’m not saying it was windy Thursday, but this is the picture I took looking out the window of my train on the way home:

elmira-gulch


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The weather report I saw said it was going to snow tonight. That report was off by only about 12 hours, as it’s almost 2pm now and it’s been snowing pretty hard since roughly 9 this morning. But oddly, it’s not sticking yet–not even a little bit.

Manhattan can be majestic in the snow. But majestic, snow-covered Manhattan is one of the most fleeting sights in the world, because it takes only about a half hour or so for the pretty, white snow to start turning all brown and disgusting. Another hour later, the sidewalks and streets are all clear and the remaining snow piled near the curb is almost completely black. It’s like the whole city mutually agrees to stop what we’re doing, take a moment to appreciate the serenity, and then shove it the heck out of the way so we can finish what we were doing.


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