Musings + Essays

The Underbelly.

By: Jen Shoop

Remember when I waxed poetic about New York, and then we all clung to each other on the sad memorial of 9/11 and talked about this resilient and magnificent city?


For every day like that, there is a day like today, where I saw a fist fight (second one on the street I’d seen in under a week — and I’d not witnessed physical violence like that ever prior), a cockroach the size of a chipmunk nearly walked across my shoe at the corner of Broadway and 86th, a man commented leeringly on my diamond ring on the subway in a way that left me immediately scanning the car for other kindly looking people who might intervene if something weird were to happen, and someone was clearly and scarily overdosing on something down at 23rd and 7th. (Thankfully, I overheard a guardian angel calling for emergency medical help on his cell phone, or else I’d be beleaguered with uncertainty as to what to do myself.)

New York has a dark underbelly, and what I saw this morning is barely a blip on the radar. A friend of mine asked me recently over text, in the course of exchanging notes about our children and recent pleasant dining experiences: “How does it feel to live in NY right now given the spike in crime?”

Um, gulp.

Just here today to keep it real: it’s not all glimmer and glamor in these parts. On optimistic days, I tell myself this…ahem, texture will make me tough, gritty, able to hold myself with composure in moments of strangeness and fear. On exhausted days, I come home, close the door, and ask Mr. Magpie, non-sarcastically: “Why do we live here?”

A girlfriend of mine showed me a clipping from The New Yorker just after I’d moved here, a kind of initiation into the order of urban-dwelling New Yorkers:

Safe to say New York won today. But I’ll be exacting a rematch tomorrow. It’s how we roll.


+I’m in love with this fluffy fleece, which comes in a rainbow of fantastic colors and looks like just what I want to wear after a jog. I’m torn between the lavender color (to kind of go monochromatic with my new leggings in the “lavender smoke” color) or the fawn, which would look fantastic with denim or black. Decisions, decisions.

+This shearling backpack is so adorable for little ones.

+Cutest little kitchen rug ($20!) as an update for fall/winter — just added this to my cart. This is the kind of thing I like to keep under the sink.

+My favorite running shoes are available in such good colors right now — love these in both lavender/plum colorways and these in the seafoam green color.

+These shades are SO chic. Love the color for fall, when I wear a lot of olive green.

+It got below 70 degrees this past weekend, so I immediately ordered my favorite fall candle and a cableknit throw blanket.

+Love this lettuce-edged layering tee (on sale for $30).

+I always get questions about where to find chic masks — here is a roundup of my favorites.

+In LOVE with this plaid top. The shape is very SEA, and the plaid takes me back to my preppy roots.

+For $11, this peter pan collar top (with ric rac trim!) for little ladies is worth a shot.

+Love the fit/proportions of this simple tank, especially the slightly-high neckline. Feels fresh.

+These striped velvet loafers are amazing. I imagine pairing with my favorite jeans and a cashmere tee.


+A couple things I’m drooling over at the moment.

+Things I need to unlearn and things that mattered to me at 18.

+What are your daily reads?

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *.

10 thoughts on “The Underbelly.

  1. I love Carmen’s comment — both about how NYC is so much better now than a few decades ago, even with any recent bump in crime, and the “nose up, eyes down” advice!

    I remember some super tough scenes from just driving through certain areas of the city as a child — and I didn’t really explore much beyond Museum Mile/certain areas of Midtown/the Financial District until I was 14. But, then again, I also grew up in a nearby suburb, so my experience was entirely different from that of a native New Yorker!

    Having lived there for 8 years in my 20s, I recall the feel of the grittiness alongside the glam very distinctly. I remember the night in 2008 when I exited my (too-expensive) gym in the West Village, after having completed my first workout there, and having a giant rat run ACROSS THE FRONT OF MY SNEAKERS while waiting for a light to change. I mean!! I’m still kind of traumatized by that. (Also, I recall taking many Blackberry selfies while lounging at the rooftop pool at said gym … cringe beyond cringe!)


    1. Ick!!! That’s not yet happened to me, though I’ve seen tons of rats. My brother in law was one time walking to work down by the Financial District and he looked over the side of a street partition that construction workers had put up and there was literally a parade of rats scurrying down the street alongside him, like dozens and dozens. He was shook. I am shook just thinking about it. AHHH

      Ah NY.


  2. Ah, New York…always a charmer. I just try to remind myself that you can’t have the good without the bad here- they are a package deal!

    1. 100%. I think the unsavoriness makes the magic that much more surprising and enchanting. It’s all about contrast!


  3. BTW Bluemercury on Broadway towards 84th sells the Feu de Bois; you can support your brick and mortar merchants and get your favorites all at the same time!

  4. The Feu de Bois candle is my favorite; I call it a consolation prize for cold weather. Can’t wait for some Cinderella pumpkins to put next to it. And regarding NYC, it’s still so much better than it was when I grew up here. Nose up and eyes down, and people will think you were born here and not mess with you.

    1. So much wisdom here, Carmen! Love this — “nose up and eyes down” (yes!) and the candle as “consolation prize for cold weather” (100%). xx

Previous Article

Next Article

Discover more from Magpie by Jen Shoop

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading