The Upper West Side has always been and still is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan. That’s Nora Ephron’s fault, who paired Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks here in her movie “You’ve got Mail”. But it’s not just a movie site. A lot of literates lived here as well.
I woke up with the same blues I fell asleep with last night. Unorganized me hadn’t looked for a place to stay during my sixth and last month in time. And now nothing suitable and affordable seems to be available in Manhattan. I wanted my last month to be special and now there is this obstacle and no solution is in sight. So this morning I felt like doing something nice, something I would definitely like. And I felt like moving after waking up with a pain in the back, maybe because yesterday I spent more or less the whole day at my computer looking for accommodations.
I thought of Kathleen (Meg Ryan) and Joe (Tom Hanks) and the fall scenes in the movie and decided to go to the Upper West Side and follow the literary walk in my book.
I took the R train to 57th Street and walked to Columbus Circle from there, where the walk starts. It was pretty chilly outside. I will need to buy a pair of gloves soon. The walk follows Central Park West for a couple of blocks. I realized that I never walked this part before. Some impressive buildings are standing there, like the Prasada. When I took out my camera and tried to take a photo I realized that I had forgotten to put in the battery after charging it. So no current photos today. Sorry!
Isaac Asimov lived around the corner on 66th Street. The Tavern on the Green across the street in Central Park is currently closed for renovation and is completely hidden under a white tent. Café des Artists in the hotel with the same name on 67th Street does not exist anymore.
On Broadway I got distracted by Pottery Barn, a very nice interior design shop and Century 21, because of my need of gloves. Salinger’s Franny and Zooey stories are set in an apartment building of 71st Street. The Upper West Side has huge apartment buildings. Most of them are prewar and show architectural details. Some are newer, plain and high. The most exclusive ones are lined along Central Park West: The Dakota and the San Remo. One thing I like about these walks is that they take me through streets I probably would not come to otherwise. 75th Street is one of those. The walk shows a house where Anais Nin lived, but the whole street is an architectural highlight featuring a lot of brownstones. I realized that I am perceiving other things depending on the purpose of my walking through a neighborhood. My previous visits to the Upper West Side had been about dining or shopping. So I saw restaurants and shops. Today I saw buildings and imagined the people who had lived there.
My next distraction from the literary path was Zabar’s. I stepped in and realized that I could not go home without taking some food. It was just too tempting. So I would need to come back on my way home.
84th Street between Broadway and West End Avenue is called Edgar Allen Poe Street. He lived here when he wrote “The Raven”. Edgar’s Café is now a shoe shop. 86th Street between Broadway and Amsterdam is called Isaac Bashevis Singer Street. He lived there for a great deal of his life in one of the huge apartment blocks. I was wondering what an apartment in those buildings would be like. Do all rooms go to one side or are there rooms with no windows? The book recommended to have a look into the yard. I tried to do so, but I was stopped by a doorman. In a rather unfriendly way for American standards. I had just asked him if I could have a look into the Yard but he made me feel as if I had done something unseemly. A harsh and simple “No”, nothing like “I’m sorry ma’m”.
The first part of my walk ended there and I felt like a treat. So I walked up 83rd Street to Amsterdam. There is Café Lalo where Kathleen was waiting for Joe. Little white ghosts are hanging in the trees in front of it now. I had a café au lait and a pumpkin pie and recovered from the cold.
Revitalized I then took a bus to 99th Street to continue my walk there. But I just made it to the second stop, the apartment block on Riverside Drive where Uwe Johnson lived as well as his character Gesine Cresspahl. I didn’t feel like walking further north. Zabar’s was calling me and it would get dark soon.
Back at Zabar’s I bought Italian meatballs in tomato sauce for dinner, a pack of Italian salami, a container of salmon pate and a bagel for breakfast. At Verdi Square I got a bottle of Zinfandel. From there I took the train home, cooked spaghetti and heated the meatballs. Another treat for my scattered soul.
What I learned today:
I still love the Upper West Side. So sad I won’t be able to spend a month there.