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.
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.