[In honor of our not very crippling snow storm over which there was entirely too much hype (sorry Oklahoma, you bore the full brunt of this thing) we bring you an essay by one of our favs. We heart him. You might too.]
By DEMETRI MARTIN
Published: January 1, 2006
Not too long ago it snowed in New York City. Here's what I remember.
Morning. I wake up early, throw on some layers. I head out to get supplies for sledding. First stop: Union Square. I go into a store and manage to grab the last sled in stock - strong start. It's a round tube. This is good. (Tube = ideal for jumping, because of padding.) Next stop: Toys "R" Us. I cross the square, leaving tracks. The snow in the city is white, for now. My face is cold. The city is quiet. I feel great.
Cellphone to ear, I make two calls. I get two voice mailboxes. I leave two messages: "Hey. It's Demetri. We're going sledding. Central Park. Call me, and I'll give you the details." Toys "R" Us is already out of sleds. (Probably swiped by some kids. Typical. They don't have jobs, which gives them the advantage here.) The store still has pool floats, though. Perfect. I buy the last two Millennium Falcon pool floats and throw them into my backpack.
Back to the subway, heading north to snow country, a k a Central Park. First order of business: configure hat and headphones to provide the optimum combination of warmth and acoustics. This takes some time, because I have those headphones that go directly into the ears. And often, putting them on with a hat means stabbing myself in the ears. A little finessing. . .done.
On the train, I get down to business and start to inflate the tube. This is the same as starting to almost faint. I stop and give a nod to some nearby passengers (in order to take my vibe down from "crazy" to "just excited about sledding"). Inflation resumes.
Out of the train and into Central Park. More fresh snow. More phone calls. I make about a dozen, actually. And I get a dozen voice-mail greetings. Losers.
I walk deeper into the park and find a hill near 79th Street. It's already crowded with families. Families and me. At first, my inner child sledder takes over. I scurry up the hill, wait in line and then cut in front of a couple of kids who seem to lack the passion I have for going next. But then, after a few runs and failed attempts at small talk, I realize something: I am a creep. (Note: Most parents don't take kindly to lone, bearded sledsmen who try to talk shop with their kids - especially on the Upper West Side.) I decide it's time to move on. Losers.
At 72nd Street, on the East Side, I find a pretty good hill. It's wide. I do a few runs. Still no calls back. My friends are lame. I never realized how much better sledding is with human interaction. In that sense it's like the opposite of using a bathroom. After learning my lesson at hill No. 1, I steer away from conversations. No chatter, just pure hill riding. (Note: This is even creepier than before - now I'm the antisocial grown-up solo-sledder guy.) Whatever. Time to move again.
Heading back west, I get two calls back. On the phone I emphasize that I have Millennium Falcon pool floats. Two friends are on their way up. Excellent.
Five minutes later, I come to the Bethesda Fountain, where I find a crowd of people watching one man ride his large tube down the stairs. He is the star of this makeshift slope - at least until now. When I arrive, he looks up at me and my tube and says simply, "This is awesome." I agree. We both run to the top of the stairs.
A flat landing in the middle of stairs provides a jump of sorts. The possibilities excite me. He goes first and almost gets air. Now I go. And I most definitely get air. When I get to the bottom: applause. These people are clapping. They get me. My new best friend and I grab our tubes for another run. At the top of the hill a kid says to me, "You got air." I say, "I know." (Subtext: "No, you can't try my pool float.") This time I decide that I need a running start. I make the people behind me move to create a clearing. I also decide to go headfirst.
The crowd parts. Music: check. Goggles: check. Attitude: check, check. I dive onto the stairs. Immediately, I realize that I've made a grave miscalculation. In an instant I am airborne. But this kind of air doesn't feel good. My legs rotate upward. My face downward. The tube deserts me. Uh, oh.
In the various experiences of my life up to then, I had never actually landed on my face. It wasn't even on my radar of things to watch out for. I remember hearing a cracking noise and the music in my ears suddenly stopping. It was as if I knocked over a D.J. booth with my face - if the booth were made of ice. A moment later I was prostrate on the stairs. My hat was somewhere near the Great Lawn. My goggles were cracked. A lady retrieved my headphones. Also broken. Two people helped me to my feet. One thing life has taught me is that when strangers help you, something is definitely wrong. One man said, "You should be careful." I wasn't sure if I had broken my face or what. I walked away, still reeling, numb and kind of scared.
When my friends finally arrived, I told them about my near-seriously-hurt experience. The red marks on the right side of my face corroborated my story. I gave them the spaceships and just sat for a while, happy that my neck managed not to break and psyched that I got air. Man, I love snow days.
Demetri Martin is a writer and a comedian.