It’s hard to think of a good nor’easter, but the first of 2014 was definitely on the harsh end of the scale. It was insultingly cold; the wind blew snow sideways; and it hit on arguably the most depressing day of the year, the first day back to work after the holidays.
For a good long while, the best thing about it was that it reminded humans that they can, if need be, walk backward.
On Friday morning, the snow softened enough so that people could go outside and remember what single-digit temperatures feel like.
“I was shoveling, and then I ran inside to get something in the cooler and it actually felt hot in there,” said Jeff Marc-Aurele, who was cleaning the sidewalks in front of his family’s liquor store in Ipswich, which won the snowfall derby for the state with just over 2 feet.
Marcorelle’s Package Store was one of the few businesses in town that bothered to open, but when it snows, Marc-Aurele said, people need their booze.
As the morning’s bitter cold turned to afternoon, the winds calmed and the snow finally ceased to reveal, for a few hours anyway, a period of calm. Relative calm. It was still obnoxiously cold, but at least the sun was out.
And so, as the late-day sun hit Boston’s skyscrapers, doors opened and a few brave souls ventured forth, like Hanna Bartlett, 75, who was walking down Newbury Street in an absolutely grand mood.
Bartlett was coming from lunch with a friend and was quite pleased that they had hatched a scheme to go to Joe’s American Bar and Grill, a place she has never dared to go near.
“It’s normally so loud and filled with young people, so we would never go there. But we knew there would be nobody out and we could try the menu and the restaurant staff would love us,” she said, her face making it clear that she took great pride in outsmarting the young and loud. “I love the city like this. It’s just gorgeous.”
Brynn Freeman, 31, was standing nearby, taking pictures of her new apartment on Newbury Street. She had just spent 10 days in Texas for the holidays, and after enjoying the relative warmth, she said she just had to get some fresh air, if even for a little bit. “I’ve got a case of cabin fever, so just to get out and run some errands for an hour makes me feel better about myself.”
Elsewhere on Newbury Street, the trendy could not be stopped in their trendiness. In front of one boutique, a woman in heels attempted to sweep away the snow, while down at Scotch & Soda, which sells “Amsterdam couture,” a woman who works nearby commented on how adorable it has been to watch their male employees come out to shovel in skinny jeans with metal dirt shovels.
All around Boston, the midday sunshine brought people out to play, to sled on Boston Common, to take photos on the frozen lagoon in the Public Garden, and to generally slosh around in the snow before city life turns it that rat shade of gray.
At Titus Sparrow Park in the South End, about a dozen children rode sleds down a gentle hill, while parents stood above, calling out how many more minutes until they had to go back inside.
Andrea Cinnamond was one of those parents, but she was not watching the sledding. They had already done that. “I’m Canadian,” she said, “so this is nothing.”
Instead, she was giving her daughter a lesson in something that’s not usually practiced in the South End: downhill skiing.
“She’s never done it before, so this seemed like a good way to give her a first lesson,” Cinnamond said as her 8-year-old daughter, Kaitlin Clauser, fell at the end of a path.
“My legs are very heavy and it’s hard to walk,” Kaitlin mumbled from frozen lips. But she was having fun, her mother said.
“On Facebook, so many people are like: ‘It’s a hot chocolate day. We’re staying inside,’ ” she said. “But they’re missing it. The city is beautiful right now.”Billy Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @billy_baker.