I walked 100 blocks today, 103 to be exact. From 175th street in Washington Heights to 72nd street on the Upper West Side. Now as I am sitting at my desk having enjoyed a California Roll from Fairway’s Sushi selection and a glass of White Zinfandel my bones are telling me that might have been too much. They threaten to be on strike tomorrow. We’ll see.
I took the A train up to 175th Street, where my camera had said goodbye last Friday. The same little market was set up on the square next to the United Palace, a former movie theater, now a music venue. The building is striking because of its size and Asian appearance.
It is the top of the Heights and I was walking downhill now. The neighborhood is strictly Hispanic as far as the intersection with St. Nicholas Avenue, where Columbia University has its Medical branch with two hospitals. It is getting pretty international there. Students and doctors from all over the world walk on the sideways, there are newsstands selling international papers and magazines and a lot of restaurants not only care for the culinary needs of Washington Heights’ Hispanic population. Beyond the intersection Broadway becomes wider and friendlier due to a middle divider with trees on it. I walked into a food market to see what it is like up here. Lots of fruit and vegetables, lots of meat and poultry, icky stuff like tripes, rice and beans in enormous varieties and cheeses. Dominican cheese for frying, Salvadoran white cheese, Mexican cheese. What a shame I was just at the beginning of my walk.
I started looking for a lunch place. There are a lot of restaurants, but most of them just takeout. I want a place to sit down for my lunch.
Downhill an impressive stone church and a big cemetery form the divider to Hamilton Heights. The neighborhood’s impressive structures are east of Broadway. Along Broadway the scenery resembles the one in Washington Heights’ south. Hispanic shops, fruit stands, Delis, takeout restaurants.
It changes dramatically at 135th Street, when the 1 train starts to run elevated. The area is part of Manhattanville and it is definitely one of Broadway’s most ugly parts. The elevated train, faceless highrises, parking lots and people grubbing in stacks of discount clothes on the street.
West of Broadway Columbia University has a huge construction site going on.
Beyond 125th Street when Broadway starts going uphill to Morningside Heights and Columbia I finally found a place to eat. A kind of barbecue bar called Toast. I had a tasty and filling Sandwich with pulled pork on a mesclun salad.
At 122nd Street the train disappears underground again and the time-honored buildings of Columbia come into sight, radiating education and knowledge.
In a stationary I found an almost irresistible nylon tote bag. Just the right size to fit in not only a laptop but everything for the day, wide straps that do not hurt on the shoulders, a zipper to keep pickpockets away, “Columbia University” decently embroidered tone in tone on the front. Useful for work, shopping and city walking alike. But I am neither a student nor a professor at Columbia. So would it be ok to walk around with such a bag? Could I be accused of pretending? I didn’t buy it. Not today.
But across the street in the Columbia Bookstore I bought the book about memoirs and Sherwood Anderson’s “Winesburg, Ohio”, which all writing teachers recommend to their students (except mine) and a cute simple and cheap tote bag (just to carry the books) showing the cover of “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn”. All pretty weightless, so it doesn’t count.
The sidewalks become cafés and restaurants now. Not many people are sitting there though. It is too late for lunch and too early for Happy Hour and it is semester break as well.
Morningside Heights seamlessly merges into the Upper West Side. The two neighborhoods seem to have melted into each other. Just the buildings become higher and more shops come up. At 96th Street a futuristic subway station stands out.
At 80th Street, right in front of Zabar’s I found the woman who made the aluminum ring for me in 2010. Her stand has been further south then, in front of Loemann’s at 72nd Street, but I recognized the material and the style. I told her about my ring and that my fingers are thinner at home in Europe, what makes the ring slightly too loose. She was amazed I found her again and asked me if I have the ring here. She gave me a card and offered to adjust it for me if I bring it. I will.
H & H Bagels is gone. Once the largest bagel manufacturer in NYC they went bankrupt because of tax fraud.
I started shopping groceries, buying fruit and lettuce, my favorite yogurt – another item I will miss at home – a bottle of wine and a pack of sushi. Good that I had bought the tote bag…
What I learned today:
The Upper West Side is still one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan.
But Morningside Heights comes very close.