The concept of a “New York winter” has fascinated me for as long as my consciousness has run wild. As a child, I remember being captivated by the snowy Manhattan depicted in “Home Alone 2,” and imagining myself drinking warm apple cider alongside Kevin McCallister in Times Square. The winter I always wanted to experience in the Big Apple involved making snow angels in Central Park, feeding pigeons bread crumbs and frozen peanuts, and laughing jubilantly underneath the glowing Times Square billboards telling me to do this, buy that.
I was fortunate enough to experience such a phenomenon in the flesh during my first winter in NYC. Snow trickled lightly from the clouds, it was chilly, but not too cold, and the streets were covered in string lights on every tree, lamppost, and unsuspecting traffic sign imaginable. Inspired by my Pinterest boards, I over-indulged in Christmas shopping at Columbus Circle, marveled at the beauty of the (mediocre) Rockettes Show, and excitedly took pictures for tourists in front of Rockefeller center.
However, my experience, as magical as it was, is nothing more than a commercialized utopia the city is thrust into as soon as November 1 hits (thank you, Starbucks, for signifying the beginning of winter a month and a half early). If you remove the jingle bell soundtracks, peppermint and cocoa spice, and obnoxious sales at department stores, the ‘real’ New York winter is far less glamorous.
This is because New York rarely gets ‘movie snow.’ The weather’s a fifty-fifty coin toss between steaming, torrential rain and sludge so thick you have to bust out the Timbs to get to work on time. Don’t forget to mention trudging through three layers of frozen ice-sludge on the sidewalks and keeping your feet off of the puddles of melted goo on the subway floor. But hey, if this isn’t enough to piss you off, maybe the continuous delays on the subway will.
Imagine this: you’re thirty minutes late to a job interview because the train tracks were frozen over. Your coffee is knocked out of your hand by someone clambering into the A train, and when you finally get to the office nearly two hours later, you’re fighting people with broken umbrellas and crooked attitudes to get in the door. Those who prefer to avoid public transit are also out of luck, making the mistake of hailing a yellow cab in movie-style appearance before realizing it costs sixty dollars to get back home.
Despite its ugliness (and minus the people on the train huddling together, bonding over their hatred of the MTA and being harassed for money by creeps in Elmo costumes), the Big Apple wintertime has a particularly tantalizing charm. Whether you’re a Brooklyn native or grew up in a place where New York winters only existed in Hallmark movies, be sure to appreciate the beauty of our city in the colder seasons before it’s long gone.
Art by Iza Fernandes