Principles of Physics in Williamsburg

There is a place in Williamsburg, light-years away from Manhattan. The organizer of the writers group had warned me about the wind conditions, and advised me to wrap myself up. I have just arrived on this side of the East River by the L train, night is setting in. I’m walking three blocks, past chic coffee bars nested in early 20th Century industrial warehouses, with neon track lighting twenty feet above. Just as I’m about to overtake a man and his dachshund — the dog in front, pulling the leash — the wind coming from the river turns into a fierce gust, which takes my breath away. I’m thrown back and can barely keep my balance walking into this stiff wall of air. In my peripheral vision, right next to me, I see the man walking backwards, and so does the dog on his or her waddly little feet – the visibility does not permit the identification of gender, which in a dachshund is quite close to the ground – but the most remarkable thing is the disposition of the leash. With both the man and the dog walking backwards, it is natural to ask, What happens to the leash in these circumstances? The remarkable thing about the leash is that it is still taut while I expected it to be all over the place. Then I find the answer in the Laws of Physics: the dachshund with its (I assign neuter, for expediency) spindly shape offers much less resistance to the wind than the broad-shouldered man, so its body readily penetrates the air and is always a step ahead. In passing, the struggling man acknowledges my quick glance of appreciation for this extraordinary moment, which I will remember as this: the moment when time reversed in Williamsburg.

Joachim Frank