I guess I’ve hit my fill of something, whether it’s the manic pixie paradigm or the malingering winter I’m not sure, but this broad has had it. Coming up from the subway platform at 14th street and 8th Avenue, we were all held up by a 20something waif decked out in gold slippers, a puff of fake white fur, and a tiny blond haircut who was leafing through a children’s library book as she glacially tiptoed up the stairs. She was so caught in a reverie of herself that she didn’t hear everyone’s “excuse me, excuse me” as they attempted to pass her. Finally, I tapped her on the shoulder: “You ain’t that cute, honey,” I said. “Get cracking.” Her face contorted. “F–k you,” she spat out. “That ain’t cute either,” said another lady my age, climbing by her.
What a day! After my Blue Detective debacle of a morning, I waltzed into the city and saw a curious German film—The Strange Little Cat—in a New Directors/New Films press screening at the Museum of Modern Art. Afterward, still halfway in that poker-faced comedy about the life and times of a family kitchen and its pets, I wandered through the museum’s galleries of late 19th-century art, peering over people’s shoulders at Gauguins and Van Goghs and Matisses. What a way to look at such impertinent paintings, now heralded as sacrosanct. I walked down 6th Avenue to Union Square, ogling window displays of buttons and flowers and velvet trimmings, and munching from a little wax paper bag of cashews sold by a kind-faced, doleful-voiced street vendor. As I walked, I thought about how New York is like the kitchen I’d just watched: always changing, always staying the same. I thought about about how, as much as I like Brooklyn, Manhattan’s street smells—hamburgers and onions, hot dogs, pretzels, smoky and sweet nuts, quick gusts of trash and fancy flowers—trump all. And I thought about how alley cats like me—ladies of a certain age, ladies of a certain indestructibility, ladies of a certain scandalous independence—have been clicking in high heels down the city’s avenues for hundreds of years. I hope we always will.
While it is true that, if I did not love New York so much I would remain a conscientious objector to all things winter for the rest of my life, tromping through the snow yesterday to drink tea by a friend’s fireplace certainly conferred a Little Women-style joy. And on the subway later that day, looking around at everyone squeezed into mittens and scarves and hats and big squishy parkas filled me with an unspeakable tenderness. No matter how influential or world-weary or just plain wicked those humans might’ve been in other contexts, in that moment they looked like the innocent kindergarteners we all once were. Behold winter’s timeless, sweet-hearted melancholy.