Saturday, January 17, 2009

Dance of the Seven Layers

OK - must admit - I don't know what this post is about. But as I was walking to buy some groceries this morning in -12 C weather, I realized that my body didn't feel cold (unlike my feet, which were so cold that I couldn't feel them at all). It's true that I live only 3 minutes on foot from the grocery store, but when it's this cold, distances are measured by the meter.

An aside on my use of the metric system. In school I studied metric, or System International, as most of the world does. But it was still in the transitional days so though I learned both there are some inconsistencies. I think of temperatures in Celsius, short distances in Imperial (because our paper is still measured in inches and so one gets used to this for thinking of anything that size), and longer distances in SI. 

An aside within the aside. A friend of mine noted that if you ask someone who lives in the US how far is it from City A to City B they tend to respond in time, not distance. It's 4 hours from Boston to New York. By car. Even I, who fly (it's 35-40 minutes), might say so. It turns out that it's about 300 km, which explains how I once drove door to door in 3'15".

An aside within the aside within the aside. It really should take about 4 hours by the time you factor in the traffic getting out of and into the cities. But I wasn't shy about using my autobahn skills to the fullest.

But getting back to metric, I must confess that here in the US referring to temperatures in Celsius is a deliberate albeit mild act of international provocationalism (I don't think this is a word, but you get the idea).

And finally getting back to my layers, I realized that I was in fact wearing seven layers to protect myself from the outside world. Perhaps this isn't quite the place to count off the details, but use your imagination.

* * *

While I was walking, I was also thinking of the plane sitting in the Hudson River a few miles down from me (inconsistency - I think of distances in Manhattan in miles because 20 blocks= 1 mile), with its wing pointing to the sky like a whale that had gone belly up. I'm sure all of you have read about the dramatic emergency landing in the Hudson earlier this week. The New York Times reporter interviewed some people who had gone to  see the plane where it had been moored. They said, "No one died, it was a great rescue, so that's why I came down here to take a look -- if people had been hurt, I wouldn't have come". But I fly often, indeed weekly, from La Guardia airport, usually on US Air. And though I'm relieved that there were no serious injuries, it's a bit worrisome to realize that it can happen just like that. 

And then I thought back to 2001, the last time a plane touched down in New York with such death and destruction. That time instead I, and many other New Yorkers, felt a need to go down to the World Trade Center. Absolutely not to take a look or snap pictures or pick up dust as a souvenir (all of which I saw people doing), but to express solidarity, to share pain, to honor those who suffered, to mourn the loss, all of which could only be done collectively, by being there, by looking into the eyes of your fellow New Yorkers and seeing the defenses come down and a flicker of understanding pass between you. 

On this occasion thankfully no one died, but it was too close a call for me to go down and want to make a spectacle of it. Say prayer; thank fate or God or luck as you see fit, instead.

* * *

And then I snapped out of it! My feet were numb, but otherwise I was boilingly hot.  I had reached the grocery store and it was time to do battle! 



Anonymous said...

Oh do continue making up words...some of my favourite people made up words...Barthes, Gainsbourg....
ps...I'm ignoring the discussion re: the cold...(as I am presently wearing a scarf indoors!!@!!!)

Anonymous said...

love the "mild act of international provocationalism " bit. :D

Bombay Beauty said...

Nancy & Mia -- Thanks! Indeed, it's these mild acts of defiance that are the most satisfying (and the easiest to get away with!) BB

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