I missed the 1983 Megalopolitan Snowstorm by about a month. I was visiting New York City for the first time, and was young enough that being trapped by snow in my soon-to-be-ex-boyfriend's NYU dorm wasn't annoying, or frightening, or frustrating. It was fun.
This third-generation Californian had never seen more than a quarter-inch of snow on the ground in her life, and had never been east of Albuquerque. My then-boyfriend had spent a long weekend dragging me around behind a bird-boned Italian movie critic he was trying to impress. She darted through thick city traffic like a wraith. Alas, I was a more earth-bound person, a lover of crosswalks and signs that told you when it was safe.
It had been hard work pretending my guy didn't have a crush on the movie critic. Finally it was the night before I could return to California and escape the drama and the dangerous traffic. But that night, a precursor of Megalopolitan dropped over Manhattan, a twelve-inch blanket of white. It's the only time I've ever heard utter silence in the city.
The view from Boyfriend's dorm room, overlooking the kerwhelter streets of Greenwich Village, in the cold light of 8:00 AM astonished me. Nothing moved. There were no tracks in the snow. All the hard corners of the city were rounded. Magical, transformative, those first few minutes of wakefulness in the silent aftermath of a sound snowing are frozen forever in my memory.
Then, moving slowly as Sisyphus up his hill, a slender white man on a bicycle drove down what I think was the road. It was hard to tell with all that snow. He slowly drifted to the right, closer and closer to a light pole which was the only thing poking above the snow. I suppose his tire must have been caught in some groove down there below the barely-crusted surface of white, but from 18 floors up it looked like his bicycle had a magnetic pull toward that old-fashioned light pole. He slowly ran right into it and fell over.
He picked himself up in a big hurry--cold, I guessed--and drove on, a slow but determined man.
Adding astonishment to my amazement, I watched as a NYPD squad car drove into view, on that same snow street, slow as old age. Then the squad car veered toward the light pole too, and hit it, and the squad car stopped.
I can't remember what happened after that, but I'll never forget the pull of that light pole, first the bicycle which was probably being stolen, and then the squad car, no doubt containing one of NYPDs finest, fit to be tied. The tableau was like one of the foreign films that the slender, traffic-dodging critic would have reviewed. The snow glittered, perfectly white, unmolested except for one bicycle track, and one squad car.
Since that day I've loved New York City with irrational enthusiasm. Garbage strikes, Disney-fication, and all the rest can't tarnish the city in my eyes. A week there leaves me so tired I have to scurry home to San Francisco and recover with artisanal coffee at a cafe while the fog rolls by. Nonetheless, I'll always love Manhattan, and by extension the weird and wonderful citizens from Nova Scotia to Key Largo. I salute you, each and every East Coast soul, and I hope when you visit the West Coast, your adventures will be many and beautiful.