The joke that's already gotten old around here is: "It's balmy outside!"  This morning it was 25 degrees Fahrenheit.  The ice is melting, it's been snowing and then melting.  It's kind of weird for a Northwesterner like myself to think "Oh it's snowing, it must be getting warmer!"  But it's true, this city has been literally and figuratively "thawing out" for the last few weeks.

Of course we all have mixed feelings about this.  There are ten million people in this city, we're stacked in here pretty high.  Ten million people means a lot of traffic, garbage, and sewer.  And it's all thawing out.  The melting snow is black, wet, stinky, and ankle deep in some places.

But I've learned to appreciate how such things are dealt with here.  I've come to respect the thousands of people with shovels, brooms, ice chippers, and giant tractors.  Just the other night a tractor, the size of a house, pushed some of that black slushy-like sludge into the path of twenty of us pedestrians who were frantically trying to cross the street.  It was like a trail was being washed out by a black flash flood right in front of us.  But I'm being dramatic: we just walked to the right and avoided it.

The paragraph above describes a lot of what we do here, "frantically trying to cross the street."  Today I came home exhausted from walking around on the ice.  Walking on the ice is just as slippery as you're imagining, but there's miles of it, it's not just a few mud puddles that froze over.  The sidewalks are all covered in a fresh inch-thick layer of ice, ice that used to be snow that was subsequently packed down by ten million feet and then frozen again.

This morning I slipped and fell on the ice, again, I think it's the fourth time I've fallen since I've been here.  I wasn't hurt, I just fell on my butt.  But I got a good laugh out of my two friends behind me.  "You fall slowly!" they said.  Yes, it happened in slow motion.  That's what happened last time.  I fall in slow motion.  Maybe someday you'll be lucky enough to see it yourself.

During this "Great Thaw" as I like to think of it, this little town is starting to come alive and act more like I'd expect a city in Asia to behave.  There are street vendors popping up all over the place on the sidewalks.  And my favorite part is the little "bucket tables."

Street vendors usually have a little portable kitchen about six feet wide and four feet deep.  (It occurs to me that I have no idea how then get them there every day, they have wheels I guess)  The street vendors usually line up on either side of the sidewalk in rows so you can walk between them and smell their delicious food.  I told Dave the other day that it reminded me of a state fair back home.  We both wished they had funnel cakes and elephant ears.  Oh! and those fried "blooming" onions!

Now these street vendors did not entirely disappear during the cold months, but there wasn't nearly as many of them as there are now.  And none of them had "bucket tables" like they do now.  Some of the street vendors have set up a little square table with four, usually red, buckets around each side.  I think it'll be kind of nice, if you're impatient like me, and you want to eat it immediately, while it's hot, there's a little kid-sized table right there for your convenience.

But it amazes me because it's still only 25 degrees outside and people are eating on the sidewalk like it's a hot day.  Well I guess it is hot outside, relatively speaking.