IN THE SNOW, New York City becomes a fantasy version of itself. A blanket of winter weather slows this frantic city down, hushes the hurly-burly, covers it in a quiet beauty that turns a mundane walk into a romantic stroll. Snowy New York is the New York you dreamed of: old-fashioned, elegant, irresistible. Until a city bus plows by at 40 mph and sprays you with muddy, brown slush.
I am going to meet Scarlett Johansson for lunch, and the midday snowfall somehow feels appropriate. By now it's a thoroughly accepted premise that Johansson is herself a romantic throwback, a bit of an old-fashioned fantasy—a smoky-voiced reminder of a lush, more glamorous show-business era. I believe this makes me the 100,000th person to describe Johansson as "smoky-voiced," for which I should have my computer keyboard stripped and tossed into the Hudson. But the cliché is true. So is the throwback part. Johansson's choice of a meeting location today is not a sleek, modern aerie with angular furniture and Euro-disco, but the Carlyle Hotel, off Madison Avenue, a low-lit classic merrily frozen in time.