Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Brooklyn Bridge Park under snow


At Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park I met a tall black man in a bright blue winter work suit beginning to build a very white snowman. 

I always wanted to build a snowman, he said.  

I had seen him from a couple of hundred yards off, and I knew he was building a snowman. I could see him forming the base, not by packing snow but by rolling snowploughed chunks on top of one another. I also knew he worked for the park; the blue suits are for employees of The Doe Fund, "Ready, Willing, and Able." He straightened up as I approached, smiling, and looking a bit sheepish, perhaps because I was smiling ( a 6'3 man all alone, building a snowman), and perhaps because he was on duty. I been in New York four weeks, he said. He said he was from Alabama. 

I haven't seen snow since 1986. I am 43 and I reckoned it was time to build me a snowman. 

I could have gone home, right then. Day made. But there was more snow to see. Welcome to New York,  I said, and went on with my walk.


I walked up the East River, to the loudest park in the word, the little one between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, where I pick service berries in June. From the bridges themselves icicles hung, hundreds of feet high and thick and sharp. I did not like walking under them.


On the way back I checked on the red witch hazels at Pier 1- they are in bud but not yet in bloom - and right there bumped into my friend the snowman builder again, who greeted me with a wave, as a flock of brants flew by above us. You get some good pictures? he asked. I hope so, I said. He was sweating under his wool cap. Working hard, he said, shoveling the paths. Till what time do you work? I asked. 8.30. Long day, I remarked, to be friendly. Work's good, he said, Good to be working.


The friendliest man in New York. I hope he makes it.

15 comments:

  1. My son went to school in Boston. The first time I visited him there, he warned me that people would not smile and chat as they do here in Georgia. But, I couldn't stop myself from acting the way I usually do -- talking to the checkout clerk in the store, speaking to people on the street -- and they responded just like here! He kept shaking his head. Of course, that was some years ago. We're not so courteous here as we once were.

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    1. Greetings from Colorado where we thrive on
      making eye contact and giving a smile & friendly
      nod. Ive been visiting family in Boston & suburbs for 30 years now and it and its folks friendlier & nicer
      than ever.

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    2. We Africans do the same thing :-)

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    3. correction; and "find" its folks, etc. i brought some Southern ways with me when we moved here from the South years ago and they have stood me in good stead. A little friendliness and a welcome to a newcomer go a very long way. Marie, your evocative writing really makes me miss " The City."

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  2. What a special story. I love those quiet moments when you connect with some stranger in a gentle way. The photo of the brants is stunning. Beauty can really be had anywhere.

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  3. I live in a small (40k) post industrial town in MA (Holyoke)- it's in transition. The papers will tell you that there is a lot of poverty and crime here (true) but the people do smile and greet each other on the street, and speak to strangers often. It's very refreshing. There are tons of great studio spaces here, and a handful of places to get coffee. Small is beautiful sometimes.It's also surrounded by five colleges, and the benefit is great from the connection with them. And being in New England, well, nature is a good friend, as it is to you in Brooklyn. You and your friend would feel at home here.

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  4. Thanks for this, Marie...

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  5. So lovely, in this tragic world. I wish him well.

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  6. Question: you didn't stop and help him?

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    Replies
    1. I really wanted to. Um...I have never built a snowman, either...smallboice.

      I was a bit shy, though.

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  7. Next time you should stop, or better yet, build your own snowman :) I too have never built a snowman. I'm 30 this year. Seems a good year to do it...

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  8. I'm so glad the parks guy took some time off from work to make a snowman. Way overdue. I live just north of Boston but was raised in the South. I can confirm (generalize) that NYCers are friendly (yes, I said it) and surprisingly easy to connect to and that Bostonians take quite a bit more effort but can be cracked.

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  9. Absolutely fantastic story. Lovely. Why I come here time after time. Nice job.

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  10. How wonderful that finally he was able to build a snowman. I, too, am from Alabama, deep South, state capitol. We rarely have snow. 1986 sounds about right so I could understand his happiness. We go a little crazy with only 2 to 3 inches! Wishing him all the best in his new home.

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  11. I would like a picture of his snowman. Maybe you can go back later and add a scarf or carrot nose.

    I lived in Boston for 8 years, after growing up near Philadelphia. When I moved to St. Louis, it blew my mind how friendly these Midwesterners are. I wasn't used to a simple hello that didn't also come with a request for money or cigarettes.

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