I had a Pickwickian moment tonight. New York has been beseiged by quite a storm for most of today, and while it had tapered off a little by the time I left church, the wind was still doing its thing, roaring up the avenues. I have an enormous shapeless orange rubber poncho that was given to me when I was working at the New York Marathon last November, and as hideous as it is, it is just too serviceable for me to justify spending money on something prettier as long as it lasts. Tonight, in the dark, with the Manhattan streets about as empty as Manhattan streets are ever likely to be, I decided that it was time to brave the humiliation, and wear the poncho. I was glad I had when I saw how wet the part of my trousers that stuck out the bottom was when I got home, but I did feel rather self-conscious. Anyway, for all its practicality, the one thing the poncho is lacking is a decent hood. It has a little tent-like flap that zips into the collar, but try as I may I can't get that to stay on my head when the wind blows, and the amount of rain that ran down my sleeve when I tried to hold it in place convinced me that my usual courdroy rain hat and my umbrella were in order. Of course, if you have ever tried to hold onto a hat and umbrella when the tall buildings turn the avenues into howling wind tunnels, you will have an idea of how successful that endeavor was. I was just about to cross Madison avenue at the top end of Union Square tonight, when one of those screeching gusts whipped down the street, turned my umbrella inside out, and tossed my hat into the air, and onto the street behind me. I can only speculate at what I must have looked like waddling down the street like an overstuffed orange teddybear, fighting my umbrella, and grabbing futilely at the hat that would stay just out of my reach. It was a rather large puddle that finally came to my rescue, swallowing my hat and regurgitating it, limp and too sodden to fly any further, on a sidewalk grating at my feet. I gave up trying to keep my already dripping hair from getting any wetter after that, and was just grateful for the bits of me that stayed dry under the much maligned poncho. In certain circumstances, dignity is something only other people have, and you just have to learn to laugh at yourself.