"Know York" – Week Six: Upper West Side

Week Six?! Time flies when you’re having fun. After a long night of improv and post-show debauchery, I set out Saturday afternoon to explore one of the most “stereotypically New York” New York neighborhoods. Think… Seinfeld.

Week Six: Upper West Side

Where is that exactly?
Though one might gather the indication of location from the neighborhood’s name, I thought I would take the liberty of explaining the exact borders of the Upper West Side. The area stretches from the Hudson River to Central Park and from 59th Street up to _________. Okay, New Yorkers cannot agree of the exact ending point of the UWS. If you asked a Realtor, he would tell you the area encompasses Washington Heights. If you asked Woody Allen, he’d claim the border is strictly 110th Street. I’ll let you decide. Whatever the case, I actually stayed South of 83rd Street. I only had about four hours. To truly explore the Upper West Side you would need an apartment conveniently located around 75th and Amsterdam. Hey Dad, I know you have been thinking of investing in real estate….

History:
Just like most New York City neighborhoods, the Upper West Side is overflowing with historical significance. Originally named the “Bloomingdale District” (from the Dutch “Bloemendaal”), the West Side was a sprawling countryside landscape containing summer homes of the city’s elite. Throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, more and more suburban villas were built and the neighborhood eventually declined as lower class residents began to fill squatters’ housing and seedy taverns. Haha, “seedy taverns.” That just made me laugh out loud. After 1904, with the arrival of subway stations, the Upper West Side quickly boomed and became an ethnic melting pot. During WWII, a large population of German and European Jews came to New York and settled in the Upper West Side, creating a rich and vibrant Jewish culture. Today, the neighborhood is still bustling with diversity and tradition, lending itself as the backdrop to many “New York” movies and television shows.

Ashley and Sydney’s DAY OF FUN:
I met up with another improv buddy, Sydney, for our adventure to the Upper West Side. We traversed Central Park on foot as we discussed the happenings of Friday night, complete with his admitting to eating the equivalent of an entire pizza pie. Nice. All this talk of food got us off to a good start on our quest for some lunchtime fare. We went with a traditional New York fast food: Gray’s Papaya. This place sells two honkin’ franks with a soda for $3.50. Pretty good deal, in my opinion. Dogs eaten, caffeine consumed, we headed out for some exploration. $3.50 spent. One of the best parts of this day was certainly just walking through the streets and admiring the beautiful architecture. I’ve never seen a neighborhood so uniformly unique. (Is that an oxymoron?) We found the smallest park in Manahttan, “Septuagesimo Uno,” which you might know of if you’ve seen the mediocre movie “Little Manhattan.” But don’t put it on your Netflix folks, it’s not good. The park is about the size of a New York townhouse, nestled in between two residences like the center of an Oreo. Nice analogy, Ash. After our little discovery, we wandered up Broadway and made our way to the best store ever, Zabar’s. This store is so New York. It was a busy Saturday afternoon, so we faced our fair share of gourmet yuppies (I’m a self-proclaimed gourmet yuppy) and Jewish grandmas. We were lucky enough to wind our way through the store on a gastronomical enterprise, tasting cheeses, prosciutto, hummus, and sausage. Sydney added that I should note: $0.00 spent. Or “free ninety-nine,” to quote Kanye. After leaving the store, we knew we should start mentally preparing for the real Everest of the day, the Natural History Museum, by grabbing a cup of coffee. We found a cute little shop (after passing about ten Starbucks) and ordered a small coffee for the road. $1.50 spent. Did I mention Saturday was a beautiful day? It was a little chilly, but the sun was out and everyone seemed in a cheery mood. Until…. we got to the museum. It was quite amusing to observe many museum-goers on the verge of a mental breakdown. This is what happens when you go to a world-famous museum on a beautiful, albeit chilly, Saturday. Stroller heaven. The Museum of Natural History has a “suggested admission” of $20, but Sydney flashed his corporate card and we got in for free, guilt free. $0.00 spent. This was my first time to the museum, but I had been aching to go since watching “Night at the Museum” with Ben Stiller. The place is gargantuan. I think that every New Yorker should go, just to experience the shear awesomeness of the mammal exhibits. Check out the “Squid and the Whale” at left. I wish I would have had a little extra dinero, because the planetarium is high on my list of things to do in New York City, especially after my recent viewing of Woody Allen’s “Manhattan.” After a couple hours of indulging in natural history, our legs and feet were barking, so we headed out and hopped on a crosstown bus. Not a bad adventure, to say the least… and I only spent $5.00!

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5 thoughts on “"Know York" – Week Six: Upper West Side

  1. Linda February 18, 2008 / 1:44 pm

    and i kind of liked little manhattan . . . great post- sounds like a spectacular day.

  2. Randy February 18, 2008 / 9:59 pm

    Sounds like you had a great day. Thanks for sharing New York with us. I love you, Dad

  3. Melissa February 19, 2008 / 8:46 am

    hey ash! i love your blog & your photos! it’s great that you tour different parts of the city with such detail. next time you’re in my ‘hood, let me know — there’s still much to see!

  4. Maureen Hoff February 19, 2008 / 11:21 am

    you should have grabbed a magnolia cupcake now that it is on the west side!!

  5. Anonymous February 19, 2008 / 12:13 pm

    Another great adventure and a fantastic report. I am printing them all out and have them in a folder. My friend Amy want to read them as she loves New York. She lived in Syracuse for a while in her earlier years. Your loving Oma

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