Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Winter Fashion and Doggy Jackets

So you may have guessed that it is getting colder here ... as almost all of my posts recently have included some discussion of the weather. And thats because its fricking cold!#%$@! I mean, I have lived in the Czech Republic and it was nowhere near this cold ... admittedly we had a mild winter that year ... because of the wind. The damn, omni-directional Bronx wind that follows me everywhere, even into Manhattan and out of the city. Its like the tempurature does not even matter, its the second part of the statement " X degrees, but feels like X-20 degrees because of wind chill."

Understandably this inescapable wind, and a number of recent discussions I have had with Aviva and the girls at work, has led me to pay a lot more attention to my wardrobe. Not that either thing has really changed my wardrobe, but as you may well know, having me even pay attention to what I wear is kind of an amazing thing. Now I have a lot of kind expensive, high-techy outdoor clothing, you know, the windproof/waterproof/ultralight/fleecelined/moisture wicking stuff designed for ice climbing and battling super villains. This stuff is extraordinarily practical ... in fact I can wear nothing but a T-shirt under my heavy jacket (shout out to my Aunt Debbie who bought it for me before I went to Prague) ... and the thing is, practicality is not sexy. Nor is it attactive. Or fashionable. Yup, it turns out that looking like you are going to run the iditarod as you walk down 5th avenue does draw a reasonable amount of attention, but not the good kind.

Having said that there are so many wierd and crazy people here walking around dripping paint or literally on fire or walking on their frozen hands, that I don't really stand out much. This craziness was on display in a particularly obvious form last weekend, when i found myself up at an ungodly hour, taking the subway to central park on Sunday morning to run the New York Road Runners Grid Iron Classic, a 4 mile race through the park before the superbowl. Now it could have just been earlier than the superbowl and been at 2 in the afternoon, but no, it needed to be waaaaay before the superbowl, and be at 9 am. So I get out of the subway, wearing my iditarod jacket and ultrathin running pants with socks that were way too short, thanking god that I bought running gloves the previous afternoon, and I see a number of other runners shuffling their way toward the park.

I look to my left and see a 40ish asian guy next to me. A glance down confirms that he is running the race by the time chip on his shoe. I look over at him, shaking, and say "We're all nuts, right?" He looks back, grins and says, "Lotta crazy people in New York. Lets go run the race." And we head off into the park with the other 4,474 lunatics who decided that 13 degrees with 15mph wind is good running weather. By the time the race starts I still haven't found my friend Koffman and my hands are not longer connected to my nervous system, yet I am proud to say I pulled out a pretty good time, 31:15 for the 4 mile course, and that was running in and out of lots of people. I would like to think I could have run faster without the human impediments, but I don't know, I think the weaving really motivated me.

I finish, still not able to feel three of the fingers in my right hand, and hustle out of the park, finally meeting up with Koffman and getting a ride up to the 125th street subway station in Matilda, who Koffman is borrowing for the week to move to Brooklyn. I subway back into the Bronx and for reasons I don't think merit discussion end up walking 3.5 miles over to my work in 20 degree weather, still wearing my running pants and freezing. Now I am wearing my high-tech jacket and good, warm clothing and am still cold, yet I am passing people wearing much shoddier clothes, and less of them and then seem fine .. maybe I am just to thin-skinned? Or maybe I am exhausted because I stayed up too late and ran a race in freezing weather ...

Still, I have consistently noticed that despite the abundance of high-quality, high tech clothing, most people prefer ot bundle up in more fashionable, less effective garments (Or, up here in the Bronx, the garments aren't more fashionable, they just wear more of them so that everyone looks like a black or grey marshmallow). Now, its not that there are not very fashionable high-tech garments, there certainly are ... but those are the really expensive ones that never go on sale. The cheaper ones I can afford are always the ones like the purple, pink and white fleece socks I got at an REI sale in Seattle last year.

So I futz and putter with my clothing, walk down the streets either freezing and barely fashionable (thats the really the best I get ... apparently my jeans are sadly out of style, possibly never having been in style) or warm but artic explorer chic. I am good with being comfortable, but I would love to develop that New York sense where I am no longer completely sacrificing fashion for function.

And while I am walking, I often look down, a little to protect my face by burying it in my warm jacket but mostly to avoid the increasing amounts of dog shit that dot the streets in the winter as Manhattanites become unable or unwilling to walk there dogs very far away from the buildings in the cold and the wind. Back to the looking down at the street, I notice the dogs are dressed in a variety of wool/lambskin/gortex doggy jackets of varying styles and thicknesses, from the light silk wraps covering the horse-sized dogs that seem to be walking their owners to the full-on eskimo jackets that make chihuahuas seem like small, furry 50's era vacuum cleaners. Despite their looks, or probably just completely irrespective of them, these dogs are probably extremely pleased with their threads, as I imagine that dogs get as cold or colder than we do, because the current fur styles in the city do not provide a particularly good windbreak. So I look down at these well-dressed canines and realize that they are better dressed than I am .. I guess I really need some new pants ... honestly, only in New York could trying to avoid piles of dog shit in winter lead me to fashion paranoia through canine clothing envy ...

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