Monday, January 4, 2010

Winter in Wave Hill

"You know, you've got this place pretty much to yourselves."
"Odd that."
The man comes out of the side door of the booth. He's kitted out in heavy-duty gloves and scarf. His phone rings and he takes the call. We wait, the snowing whipping round us. The cold burns my nose when I breathe in, and I dream of long johns and global warming and hot chocolate that doesn't come in a packet from Burger King.

"Either of you students?"
I look hopefully at Chris, but he cuts me off my scam with a firm "No". This, after all, is the man who told the woman in the exchange booth that he'd given her too much currency - despite the fact she'd been rude, despite the fact that he'd run through his travelling budget and was living off brown bananas.

We hand over a twenty and wait for change. There is, apparently, no off-season discount, no danger money.

I know people who swear they never venture above 20th, but here we were all the way up on 254th where there's nothing to stop the snow settling and the feral cats filling the holly bushes with tough, mewling kittens. Wave Hill is a nineteenth century estate on the banks of the Hudson. This time of year there are clear views to the Palisades opposite, although thanks to the blizzard everything was shades of white and grey. Well, most things.

We are the only two on the tour. Our well-prepared guide has double layers of gloves. The wind chill factor means it feels ten degrees colder than it is. Which is plenty cold enough.
"You must come back. The wonderful thing about Wave Hill is that there's always something in bloom."
Chris mutters something.
"Sorry, I didn't catch that..."
"I said, except this time of year."
Our guide looks alarmed. "Well, there's plenty in bloom. Did you not see the..."
She lists, and we nod apologetically. We did see the beautiful red berries. And the purple blossoms. Yes, they were worth a visit in themselves.
The cold pulls my skin tight across my face.

Later, in a coffeeshop in the Upper West Side Chris pulls a seedpod out of his pocket.
"When did you pick those up? When you pointed them out to the guide?"
"No, I waited til everyone's back was turned..."
He shrugged, and we both went back to our hot chocolates.

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