This morning I went out for a walk around the neighborhood in the pretty winter light. It is still very cold outside, and there is still snow all over a lot of what’s out there. And if you take notice, there are some very big icicles on some of the old houses. Some of them come to points as sharp as the top of the Chrysler Building, but with the points aimed straight down at the street like terrible glass spears. Looking at one of them today I thought of a story that my friend Liza Stelle once told me about a giant icicle.

One of the icicles in the nabe
She was at an old-fashioned boarding school for girls, somewhere cold in the winter—Massachusetts or New Jersey or upstate New York someplace—and just outside the window of her top-floor room, attached to the eaves above, was an enormous icicle. At its base it was big around as a dinner plate, and it ended in a sharp point many feet below. It fascinated her. She pushed at it with both hands, and the thing was solid as a lamppost. So she decided that she had to have it. Her dilemma was how to somehow dislodge it and get it into her room, where she could then figure out what to do with it. 

After thinking on it awhile, she came up with an idea for how this might happen. She found a length of rope, and opening the window, tied one end of the rope around the giant icicle and the other end she tied to one of her bedposts. Then she pulled a chair over to the window, sat on it, and used both feet to push against the icicle. She felt it give, and heard the cracking sound as it separated from the eaves, and in one sudden whoosh it came loose and swung downwards, dragging her bed by the post up against the window, along with a great crashing sound from down below. The rope went slack and she quickly untied it from the bedpost and pulled it in. She pushed the bed back to its place, ran out of the room and down the back stairs leading to the kitchen, and made herself busy washing dishes. 


What had happened was that the giant icicle had swung down on its rope and crashed through a big window of the dining room, where people were sitting at a table having dinner. Fortunately for everyone, a great, thick curtain had been pulled across the window to keep out the cold, or things might not have ended well. Somehow, someone figured out that she was the one responsible very soon after, and I don’t know how much trouble she got in, but no doubt some. 

Liza was wonderful, and kind of a bad girl in her school days. I thought of her while looking at a spectacularly scary icicle on 22ndStreet today, and I felt the pang of missing her that really can feel like an icicle sticking me somewhere. She died in January, 1999, and I remember that day so clearly, her pretty room in the Village, the pristine snow all over her fire escape, how quiet everything was. 

Sammykitty, glum 

I saw a lot of dogs outside today, and on my way westward, at the start of my walk, I saw Sammykitty in the florist shop on 8thAvenue before it opened. He was sitting among his flowers, glum. Sammy likes to be outside, to lounge on the sidewalk, and it’s much too cold for that. 

I passed a window with a very pretty little baby in it, looking out. We looked at each other for a few long moments. Then she waved and I waved back, and I took her picture. She was curious curious curious. Most people on the streets, including me, were wearing masks because of the bug so she couldn’t see what I look like, but it didn’t seem to matter to her. At her brand-new age, things just are what they are, funny masks included. I wonder if one day she’ll have a memory of that moment, or one like it, a memory of the kind like an impressionist painting. I have lots of such memories from when I was very small.

I remember being in a campground once, in a deep forest, probably in British Columbia or Alberta, where my dad liked to go and camp. There were little clearings where people put their tents up. I remember my dad carrying me along a little dirt road that made a loop around the campsites. A lady exclaimed and he stopped to chat with her. I remember her face, all smiles at me, and she handed me a little metal cup. I took it, but when I went to drink from it, it was empty. I still remember an unpleasant feeling of shock and embarrassment, and I cried. And I remember her running to a red cooler and coming back with a bottle of soda so I could have something. She apologized all over herself and she and my dad laughed a lot, which felt irksome to me. What the hell is wrong with these people, I think I might have wondered. That lady was probably in her forties or fifties, at least from the impression in my head, and probably not here anymore. But I still remember you, Lady, whoever you were. 

On the way back home again I stopped into a store across from the florist and bought two avocados. Then I went over to look in at Sammy, now that his shop was open. He had moved to the table where they wrap bouquets, and his face was even more glum-looking than it had been when I passed by the first time. I have a feeling he thinks he’s missing a lot, being stuck inside. But at least he is at no risk from any of the sharp icicles, which are now melting all up and down that block.

Sammykitty after the shop opened, still glum


  1. Again, you make wonderful mobius strips of the experiences other people do not notice.