Wednesday, December 16, 2009


The first time I saw snow was in January 10, 1980, walking from JFK airport terminal out to the parking lot where uncle Ping parked his car. My first impression of the snow was how shining it was under the lights. The city just had a big snow storm the day before and our bodies were numbed from the freezing temperature, especially just coming from a tropical part of the world. We stayed at Uncle Ping's house in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, for a few days. The refugees agency provided us a nice apartment in the Bronx. I don't remember how we managed to walk the distance (more than a few blocks) from the subway (#6 train) to the apartment building while trying to adjust to the cold weather. We learned to survive wearing hats, gloves, scarves and layers of clothes! I don't remember if I or anyone in my family fell on the slippery sidewalks. Eight months later, we moved to Queens, again living in an apartment building, this time just one block from #7 train Elmhurst-90th Street station. When I finally saved a few dollars, enough to purchase a cheesy camera (a Kodak Pocket Instamatic camera with 110 film), we took photos of us standing outside while it was snowing. My Mom sent the photos to relatives in Viet Nam since most of them never saw snow or experience such natural wonder.
In September 1986, I moved out and rented a room in the basement in a house in Forest Hills, Queens. From the F train, I had to walk about 7 blocks to the house. I thanked my guardian angels everyday that I was never harmed or attacked walking home from the subway at 10:00 p.m. after classes at Hunter College. The neighborhood was all residential homes so the streets were emptied and dark and I could easily be dragged into a vehicle and kidnapped without any witnesses. I remembered one night after a visit that included delicious food, laughters and warm embraces, I cried while standing on the train platform, looking at the apartment where just a few months ago I could not wait to get away because of the cramped space. Tears rolled down my face from the time I left Elmhurst, still crying while walking from the F train station, to the lonely room in the basement. It was then I understood a Vietnamese expression of how much it hurt when a heart was cut into a thousand pieces. After almost a year of living in Forest Hills, having a place of my own but lonely and hungry , I was so happy when my parents mentioned about a place for rent near where they lived in Woodhaven, Queens. We had to walk a few blocks to get to the J train but it was convenient for me as I would ride the train all the way to Wall Street, got off and walked a block from Broad Street station to my office.
After moving to Grand Haven, Michigan, I had to learn to drive in all kind of wintery weather such as whiteout condition, icy roads, and learned to stay calm when an 18-wheeler passed my little Ford Escort and then covered the windshield with snow falling off from the top of its tractor-trailer.
Compared to Grand Haven where we had a lot of snow because of lake affects, St. Louis has mild temperature and probably 1/3 of the snow. As a driver, I pay more attention to the weather and the road conditions compared to living in NYC and taking public transportation. I don't remember if the subway was ever shut down due to heavy snow while I was living there from 1980 to 1988. I don't know which is better, getting stucked in a packed subway, breathing in all the terrible smells, sweating in your winter coat, waiting to get out at the next stop or getting stucked in traffic in your own vehicle, your feet are freezing but your body is getting so warm while your car is iddle, polluting the air, while praying that the idiot next to you would stop changing lanes yet getting nowhere or the vehicle behind you has good brakes.
Snowflakes are beautiful when they are decorations on the department buildings or when looking out the window from the comfort of a nice warm blanket and drinking hot chocolate!

1 comment:

QaptainQwerty said...

When we lived in the Bronx, it was - and still is - the #4 train that we get off from, at Fordham Road, not #6.


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