They say you’ve never experienced ‘weather’ until you’ve lived in New York where transplanted British comedian and Gorilla columnist, Matt Roper, is facing his third winter. Hopefully he has some woolly socks spinning around the dryer as he huddles in the local launderette to stay warm..
Today I'm down to the worst combination of clothes a man could ever wear in public view. Purple trousers (dreadful), a mustard yellow shirt (unforgivable) and a bright blue hoodie (with the sleeves slightly too short for my arms). I look like a man who’s been drawn and then coloured in by a very small child.
This can only mean one thing: it’s laundry day.
The old cliché about New York City is that it’s the city that never sleeps, which is actually quite untrue. If you want to experience a city that’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, then try New Orleans. But amazingly, my local launderette on Metropolitan Avenue fights against the grain – it stays open around the clock.
So here I am, just before midnight, tapping out this column while what’s left of my wardrobe spins in the machine opposite on a heavy duty cycle. I’m the guy who likes to mix his whites and his colours, if you were wondering – which you’re probably not. But I have at least until the final spin cycle to write this column for you.
I’m happy to be here right now as we’re having a bout of very cold weather and the building I live in has no heat tonight. I repeat: no heat. One thing you have to understand about living in an old building in New York – one that has been split to house several apartments floor-by-floor – is that the heating is controlled by a timer in the basement and none of the residents have any control over it whatsoever. So if you’ve ever wondered how it feels to live in a place where the radiators blast out heat on a perfectly warm day and then decide to stay stone cold during a blizzard, then you should come and move in with us.
The temperature plunged below zero last week and all you can do is lay in bed fully clothed under a duvet. You daren’t move. You’d climb out of bed to go to the loo but you’d probably suffer the same fate as Scott in the Antarctic. Would you try to survive the expedition? I doubt it. And there's no more hostile a greeting than the one you get when you lower your bum onto a freezing cold toilet seat.
It’s like Bangkok in the summer and Siberia in the winter. What a strange place New York City is when it comes to the weather. Nothing like windburn for a decent night's sleep.
Still, I’d rather be living on Hope Street than in the room I rented in Harlem, back when I first moved to this city two years ago. It was in a shared third-floor walk-up apartment which eventually became totally overrun with mice. The Harlem mouse is a fearless creature and it’s difficult not to be filled with admiration for their absolute indifference to human beings. They just sort of totter about as if they own the place, totally unconcerned about whether we might have been living there or not. At the end of the day it was myself who had to surrender – and I don’t regret it one little bit.
I was living in that flat in Harlem when Storm Jonas drifted up the East Coast, burying Baltimore, Washington D.C. and finally New York under four feet of snow. I was out that night meeting friends sharing a few beers. Not a bright move in the midst of a weather warning but needs must. I woke up the next morning to a hangover from hell, with my top lip sticking to my gum and wearing socks that weren't mine. And if any of you can offer an explanation to that I'd be very happy to hear it.
Yes, winter is certainly coming and who knows what it might bring with it this time? Probably soup. A hot bowl of borscht soup with a dollop of sour cream on a cold winter’s night – you just can't beat it. I mean, a four-figure fee for something would be useful, timely and also very nice. But until then, the soup will be fine for now.
Another 10 minutes and that wash will be done. Which means tomorrow I shall walk in public with decent clothes on this body of mine once more. Good.
Matt Roper is a British comedian based in New York City. His relationship with Lush goes back to 2011 when he performed for the muddy festival-goers of Lushfest, returning the following year to curate the line-up of the comedy stage. As he travels around the world, he shares his musings with us here in a series of writings – a sifting of thought from a restless but always seeking imagination.
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