Yesterday morning gets my vote as nastiest day of the season so far (it'll soon be superseded, I have no doubt). Sheets of icy rain are worse than snow, in my humble opinion. The wetness was such that it made the parts of you that weren't wet feel wet, like there was really no earthly possibility of drying out--ever.
But by far the worst thing was when the train came and the windows were all fogged up. Not only can you not see which car is most crowded (a minor thing, since at rush hour they're all pretty much disgustingly packed)--no, the worst part is you can't pretend, as you can when the windows aren't fogged up, that people aren't breathing on you. You're walking into a hothouse of disease, and you can't deny it. All that condensation? It comes from human exhalations! Makes me shiver just thinking about it.
It's like when you can see people's breath--you know, when it's cold enough out. I like it in movies when you can tell the actors are actually out in the real world and not on a sound stage. Nothing undermines the verisimilitude of an outdoor winter scene like the absence of ruddy red cheeks and seeing the actors' breath. But then I am a sort of naturalist when it comes to movies, if not so much in real life.
I hate it, for example, when the story's supposed to take place in, like, the early 18th century, and everybody's got great teeth. Like this new version of Pride & Prejudice. Check out Richard Sutherland's choppers!
A good movie for grubby naturalism is Patrice Chereau's La Reine Margot. All the actors and actresses are drop-dead gorgeous, but through the course of the film become so irredeemably filthy you have to hold your nose while watching. Vincent Perez conveys the stink of stale sweat like no other actor in the history of cinema.
Anyway. Amoebas. That's what I think of when I step onto a train with fogged up windows this time of year. And I'm not particularly germaphobic, either. I took the test and the result was I'm a swine. It's just, what else are you gonna think of when you see that slimy coating of condensation on the windows? Seriously.
On my way home in the evening (it was around seven) the rain had stopped, and the trains weren't very crowded, but I seem to have stepped onto the LSD Express, or something. Everyone looked like they were being refracted in a fun house mirror. You know, if you look at enough of 'em, you realize that on the whole people are really freaky-looking (except for you and me, of course). And I have a feeling that the later in the day it gets the freakier-looking they become.
During my evening commute there were five people sitting opposite me, two young men and then one young woman and then two middle-aged women. The two blokes on the left looked like they were tripping their balls off and were both talking to themselves, though they were obviously together and could have been talking to each other. One had a very big head, but a small face, and looked very calm. The other had a look of abject terror on his face reminiscent of Laocoon in the famous sculpture. But it was funny how quickly he could turn it off. One second he looks like he's incurred the wrath of the gods and is being strangled by giant sea serpents and the next he's smiling politely and reminding another commuter not to forget her umbrella when she gets off the train.
Then there was a very strange little woman in her early twenties I'd put her, with a somewhat jowly, lozenge-shaped face, who decided she would start mouthing something to herself, too, since it was obviously the in thing to do. And none of them were wearing headphones, either. She was weird-looking but knew it, and had taken steps to be even more weird-looking so you'd know beyond a shadow of a doubt that she knew.
I have seen it before. I had this female friend some years ago in a little village in Eastern Hungary where I was teaching who was well over six feet tall, big-boned, and frankly very manly. Her name was Rita. I have always liked that name, maybe because of the Rod Stewart song "Stay with me," where he sings "well, I know your name is Rita/cuz your perfume's smelling sweeter/Since when I saw you down on the floor." That song was on the soundtrack to my earliest childhood.
Anyway, Rita was so conspicuously freaky, she would have garnered reactions regardles of how she dressed. The fact that she chose to dress in the freakiest manner she could think of seemed somehow empowering. Like saying, "look, I know I'm a freak--I certainly don't need you to tell me that." It sort of pre-empts and neutralizes the taunts.
The middle-aged ladies were weird-looking, too, but had obviously reconciled themselves to it and learned to live with it as we must by middle age. One looked very much like a basset hound and was barking a great deal, to boot.
Anyway, we all got off at JFK, so there must've been a party in the 'hood I wasn't invited to.