New York — Winter has truly arrived, and I’m a year older. I still feel an imperative to act as if snow, ice, slush, freezing cold won’t constrain my life. Though I know the time is near where I won’t be moving so freely or at all in this kind of difficult weather on the city streets. But this year I continue to go to my gym to work out every morning, and walk to shops for a newspaper, bread, fruit and vegetables — mundane, everyday activities that provide me with superficial signs of well-being. I even choose to attend a play in the neighborhood as the wet snow pelts down making it hard to see, and walking turns treacherous.
I also tend to drive myself to give most of the waking day’s moments some meaning — an impossible task, since I waste a great deal of time looking at sports and news. But each walk I take still opens the possibility of seeing the city afresh or indulging in self-reflection. Apropos, I find this quote from Thoreau, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” It’s that passion for living that I still hold on to.
On a Monday, two days after the snow has stopped, I’m off to see a friend on the Upper West Side to have lunch near Zabar’s. It’s a cold day, but the streets are much less desolate than on the weekend. Still, there are a few patches of ice on the sidewalk, and dirt-stained, refuse-laden snow banks line the curb. On 79th Street I see two new buildings going up — more gentrification — but there are too many vacant stores and banks that undermine upper Broadway’s vital street life. However, quality food stores abound, ranging from Fairway and Citarella to the Westside Market and Trader Joe’s. And there are upscale cafes like Maison Kayser, Café Luxembourg, and Mille-Feuille Bakery. But my friend and I end up eating in a clean Greek diner (there aren’t many left on the Upper West Side) with attentive service and solid, decent food — chicken soup, omelets, tuna sandwiches. Most of the customers are people in their seventies, who have been coming there for a long time. We talk about politics, films, and health, and we never run out of steam. The talk is lively, intelligent, and sometimes illuminating.
After an hour and half I go off to do some shopping at Fairway, and take the subway home. I feel good that I’m still active in all weathers, and that the day was a satisfying one.