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NEW YORK CITY -- My holiday ordeal here in the Big Apple explains why retired people are wise to live in southern climates if not the Bay Area.

Trapped by the sixth-worst blizzard in the city's history, we had a real-life experience of a typical disaster movie.

Day one of the return home had us leaving my son's house in Pennsylvania for a three-hour drive to New York's JFK Airport.

As it began to snow, we passed accidents on the freeway. With a lifetime of snow-driving experience, I suggested that the driver move to the slow lane and leave plenty of room between us and the car ahead.

Thanks to this advice, we avoided what would otherwise have been two inevitable rear-enders.

We got to JFK and got on a plane. After everyone had boarded, Jet Blue canceled the flight. It was now 7 p.m. and the snow was falling at three inches per hour.

There were no taxis. A guy in a livery car (these are the black Lincoln Town Cars you see everywhere in New York) was soliciting business -- $85 for a trip to Manhattan. He turned out to be a nice guy originally from a town about 250 miles north of Mumbai, which gave him little snow-driving experience.

Our only other option for getting back into Manhattan was to take a bus to the subway. In the New York Times the next day, we read that that train made it about 200 yards out of the station and stopped dead for the night.

The entire system went down on Long Island. No bathrooms. No heat. No nothing. Passengers slept in their subway cars all night, and that came very close to being our fate.

But I digress. Our driver picked up two more passengers, and off we went. It was surreal -- like a disaster movie.

There were cars stuck everywhere along the freeway, and we inched along in white-out conditions.

The weight of passengers and bags gave us the traction we needed. There was very little traffic actually moving. The roads were littered with cars that were wrecked or stuck.

At one point, however, we came to a stricken bus in the middle of a freeway off-ramp. A few people from the bus, plus me, all pushed our car through a deep snow bank. Onward. I started thinking about what our back-up plan would be if we got really stuck and had to wait all night for some help. No problem. We had plenty of clothes in our suitcases for extra warmth and we could just bed down in "Hotel Lincoln Town Car."

We made it to the tunnel into Manhattan but had to wait as they cleared snow from the city end where cars were getting stuck. At this point, the windshield wipers failed. We cleared the ice that had jammed the mechanism and got them working again.

Finally through the tunnel, we found ourselves in snowbound Manhattan.

Now 10 p.m., we had taken three hours to cover a 30-minute trip. There were garbage trucks fitted with plows trying to keep the streets clear, and even with chains on, some of these huge trucks were getting stuck.

We finally made it back to the Harvard Club, where we had been staying early in the week, and settled in for what would turn out to be the next four nights before we would be able to leave.

We then went and had a drink at the Algonquin Hotel next door. Under these vastly improved circumstances, we found New York City in a blizzard to be a trip. It's a quiet, beautiful and majestic place.

That being said, there's no place like a home in a temperate climate.

Happy New Year.

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