New York Blizzard! & Abdullah’s story

The snow began falling on New York at 11 p.m. last night.018
017I had a car booked for today (Saturday) – oops, which has now been postponed til Wednesday when, positive thinking, the Interstate 95 will be clear for me and Alfie to make our way to Charleston, South Carolina.

013 014 015 019 016I had arranged with Debbie to watch the De Rosa band play at Desmond’s Tavern at 433 Park Avenue South – Tom’s band with Debbie and 3 others. Her ‘mobile’ keyboard weights a ton – thank heavens for the plethora of taxis going down Broadway. I really enjoyed the ride down from 116th Street to 29th. The grid system in New York (listened to a fascinating story about its creation on New York radio) makes it so easy to understand where you are. New York is so alive!

021 023 024The gig was really enjoyable, with a lot of Tom’s friends out in force for support.  At one point I went outside to talk to the elegant doorman to witness the snow that had started to fall. In no time, the snow was settling (we say ‘pitching’ in Bristol, but no-one else seems to!) The gig over, we hung around the bar chatting and laughing.

The singer, Frank Senior, had also turned up and was on good form.

By the time we left, well gone midnight, the snow was falling in earnest and the cab we hailed was driven by an extremely careful driver – thank goodness! I collected Alfie and Ellie and went straight to Riverside Park, at 1.30 a.m. There, I bumped into two students, Mike and Angad, who took delight in playing with the dogs.

025 027 030 031It has been an amazing winter storm: possibly the most snow in a winter storm since records began (in the 1880s).  25.1” in Central Park so far. The record is 26.9”. We have had (get me, the new New Yorker) a season’s worth of snow in one day. The record was in February 2006: 26.9”

There has been a travel ban in force since lunchtime today   – Bill de Blasio, New York Mayor, has really been on it. Drivers are told that they risk enforcement by the police if they drive any time until 7.30 a.m. tomorrow. The snow ploughs have been out in force, as have many many people with shovels, snow blowers etc. It made so much sense to do this so that only the emergency vehicles were allowed on the roads. 028 033 034 039Took a great picture of this stationary fire engine. I asked the driver if they were waiting for something to happen – turns out their colleague had popped into Westside Market to buy them some food.

040 042 044At 10 a.m. I took the subway down to 66th and Broadway to the Apple Store for the training I was promised on my new phone. It was closed and the staff didn’t want to talk to anyone. Minus 1 for effort, Apple. Lots of shops, and most cafes were open at that time, so why weren’t you?

It was so rare to see streets with no cars. People were walking in the streets and there was an unsual quiet.

I decided to walk the 50 blocks (2 ½ miles) back to Debbie’s. Taking my time, I was able to take some great photographs. I had a lovely time making my way up-town in my warm clothes. Yes, the snow was blowing in my face but this was an experience many people, myself included, found really enjoyable.041 I took time to talk to people and to crack a few jokes, including taking various pictures – the best for me being the very elegant dog (sporting a snow beard) with her pink boots!035







Then my mood changed. 037 038Seeing the Lutheran Church on Broadway at 93rd Street I decided to pop in. I was warmly greeted by the very sweet vicar – Pastor Ann who explained “Once a month, we invite people to eat a free lunch with us. These people (she gesticulates towards a number of homeless people patiently waiting) have come in from the cold to wait”.

I walked through the church and took some pictures and made my way back to the entrance. There my eyes fell on an advertisement for monthly films entitled ‘Israel Palestine’. I stopped to read and was aware of a man at my right shoulder. His finger traced the word ‘Israel’, slowly saying the word. I repeated ‘Israel’. He then pointed to the word ‘Palestine’. I looked at him and said ‘Palestine’. He replied: ‘I am from Palestine’. I put out my hand to shake his, and said ‘What is your name?’ ‘My name is Abdullah.’ ‘Do you have family in Palestine, Abdullah?’ ‘No. My wife died a long time ago. My son went out one day (he makes a gesture of someone holding a gun) and they killed him. I am alone. I lived in a basement flat but they bought it and made everybody leave. I have been homeless for 3 weeks’. Perhaps it sounded crass but I said: ‘I am so sorry….. (pause…..) Can I take your picture, please, Abdullah?’ ‘Yes.’ I show the picture to him and he says ‘I am 68. I look old.’ My heart felt so very heavy. This dignified man wasn’t begging but I reached into my coat, and gave him some money saying ‘It was good to meet you, Abdullah.’ I left the church in a very different mood.

043 048I couldn’t return home – I needed time to digest this man’s story. The world is full of stories like this – refugees poorly treated and in pain, but when it becomes up close and personal we, I, don’t necessarily know how to respond.

047 046I made my way to the usual coffee shop – The Hungarian Pastry Shop, and bought a chocolate croissant (best I have had, very chocolatey!) and coffee with half and half. Sitting down by a local resident, Anne, from France, we started to chat. I showed her the picture of Abdullah, told her the story and that I felt so useless and started to cry. This led to a wonderful discussion about the human condition and when lovely Ruth turned up (both women being locals) we ended up having a fascinating discussion about Ruth’s family history that included Alabama, the occasional white ancestor, slave trading and notable people in North Carolina. I talked about Bristol and our big role in the slave trade. At 2.30 Philip told us he was closing the cafe early – as many places had already closed this was completely understandable. It was wonderful to spend time with these two very interesting women.

Just before we left, Jeffrey walked in sporting his ‘Vote Bernie’ badges, 2 of which he gave me. Debbie supports Bernie Sanders, too.

050 051I walked back up Amsterdam to the Columbia campus with a sad but lighter heart. In the campus, the students were sledging down the steps.. .

054 055 057Returning to Debbie’s I collected Alfie and Ellie and out we went to the local park. I, and other dog owners, ignored the restrictions and let our dogs off the lead. They love the snow!