The Upper West Side, Fairway, and Me
The following piece was written before I moved. I am self-publishing it after moving. I did make several change to the piece. However, I do not believe it changes the piece’s integrity. The goal is to share my Upper West Side. If you are wondering about the move, it went well.
For five years, Fairway has fed me, Columbus Avenue has clothed me, and Lincoln Center and Central Park were right in my backyard. I have been surrounded by culture, beauty, and great groceries. The neighborhood has spoiled me. Who would ever want to leave it? Well, I am leaving the Upper West Side.
The Upper West Side and I had great times together. The neighborhood was an important part of my 20s. In a way, it helped shaped me. The last five years were certainly full of change, but here was the Upper West Side, my constant, always happy to greet me.
The way I feel about the Upper West Side similar to how I feel about Morningside Heights, where I attended Barnard College and lived for four years. If you see a pattern in these two neighborhoods, I have lived on or near Broadway for almost ten years, and spent a lot of time on the 1, 2, and 3 subways.
I wanted to share what I have discovered over the last five years. The best place to start is at the beginning.
Right before I moved to the Upper West Side, I remember being on Columbus. Unlike Broadway, an avenue I knew very well, Columbus was foreign. It took time, but we got to know each other and started spending a lot of time together.
What I quickly discovered is that the blocks on Columbus are shorter, or seem shorter, from the mid 60s until 77th street. By 77th, you are at the Museum of Natural History and you can walk by the back of the building and marvel at it. The first tower on the corner of 77th and Columbus feels a little Harry Potter like.
Now, Columbus had nice stores when I moved in, but it has been become a bit of a trendy avenue. Between the 60s and 70s, there is a Rag and Bone, Theory, Reiss, Intermix, Kate Spade, Olive and Bettes, Vince, and Burberry Brit to name a few. Why go east when you can go to Columbus.
Beyond stores, the Upper West Side has a large post office on the corner of Columbus and 68th street. It is a privilege to say I actually mailed my letters at a post office. It feels good to connect with the postal service on a regular basis. I actually love going to post offices. Maybe it is because I majored in History, but I think it has more to do with the fact that I find the movement of items fascinating. Anyway, my love of the post office is for another day.
Since I just focused on Columbus, I want to quickly mention that I spent plenty of time on Broadway, Amsterdam, and Central Park West. I made the Upper West Side rounds. There were plenty of days I moved numerically across a street going east to west or west to east. 86th street was a popular one for me. I will admit I slacked when it came to West End and Riverside. I can’t do it all.
Over the last five years, the Upper West Side has taken care of a majority of my cultural needs. I went to the New York Philharmonic the way others go to Yankees and Knicks games. The best part is walking home after a wonderful concert with the program still in hand.
When it came to the movies, I did not have to travel far. The Upper West Side has four theaters, three of which are in five-block radius in the west 60s. On occasion, I did go east for a movie. I think that happened twice.
For museums, the New York Historical Society always brought out the History major in me. I always left with a fact I did not know about New York. The Museum of Natural History is well, the Museum of Natural History. It speaks for itself.
Speaking of the Museum of Natural History, I love Central Park West and 81st street. With the Museum on one side and apartment buildings on the other, the light always hits the street just right. The best light is right on the corner at the Beresford.
Since Central Park is across the street, I will say that Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux were geniuses to plan a park as they did. It is exactly what one needs to forget they are in the city: fresh air, grass, water, and turtles. The turtles are the best.
Then there is Fairway on 74th and Broadway. I lived in Fairway. In fact, there were days when I went multiple times. I know where everything is in the store, and which aisles are best to cut through. I understand the nuances of the Fairway elevator. By the time everyone is exiting, it is already closing so the first one in has to hold the bottom. It’s Fairway common courtesy.
The store is not meant for wandering. You can discover a product while there, but anyone looking to browse and take his or her time has come to the wrong place. There is a reason Fairway’s catch phrase is “Like No Other Market.” No other market has that many people looking for the same exact foods as you.
When I walk home with a load of Fairway groceries, I get a specific feeling. It just feels right. Although sometimes, it just feels heavy. I always underestimate how much I can carry, but that’s part of the Fairway experience.
I will never be a native New Yorker. I grew up on Long Island. However, I hope in this time I have became an Upper West Sider. Although, I may have needed to spend more time at Zabar’s for that title. Like all things Upper West Side, I will leave that up for debate.