Musings + Essays

The Upper West Side: An Apostrophe.

By: Jen Shoop

I love your auspiciousness in the morning, the way the rumble of a garbage truck or the blare of a horn at 5:42 a.m. will remind me that you have been awake all night long, at work.

I love the way you are flanked by Central and Riverside Parks, a strip of frenzy fringed on either side by flora and fauna.

I love the the still-not-old-to-me glamour of your taxis whizzing downtown in the dark, bearing fashionable people to fashionable dinners or opera at the Met or parties in chic loft-style apartments in TriBeCa with elevators that open right into them, chandeliers emerging from the 14 foot ceilings and gin martinis circulating the room.

I love that you are a haven from that downtown-ness, too — that you are the squat and broad-faced and approachable cousin of your cooler neighbors in Flatiron and beyond.

I love the windows of the cafes on your avenues, where inside, at 11:15 in the morning or 2:45 in the afternoon or 11:02 in the evening, you will find diners ensconced in cozy conversation, glasses of wine swirling — in short, that there is no such thing, really, as “peak times” in these parts: you are always on, at pinnacle, heightened.

I love the broad expanse of your sidewalks, so much friendlier to my children and I than your narrow and shattered counterparts downtown.

I love the relative cleanliness of your streets — relative being the operative word, as we are in Manhattan, after all. No offense.

I love the pattern of awnings on your streets, the observant nosiness of the doormen that dot their doorways — and the ceaseless movement of those doormen into and out of your dwellings to fetch packages or greet residents in taxi cabs or keep unsavory types moving down the block, reminding me, always, of the hundreds of thousands of stories in this city, and of my simultaneous insignificance to and participation in the enormous enterprise that is New York.

I love your foliage.

I love the startling romance of the brownstones on your streets coming off the volume and chaos and breadth of your avenues.

I love the children that sprint down your sidewalks and through your parks and into and out of your storefronts and up and down your stairs. The first weekend I moved here, I ran into a friend of a friend at a playground just off Central Park West and mentioned, swooningly, how happy I was to be up here, in this new, further-north neighborhood, especially after the dramatics of the move, and she returned, with no small measure of archness: “Oh, really? You can’t walk a city block without dodging an oxygen tank.” Very New York of her to take the wind out of my sails; pessimism, as a mentor once told me, is always cooler, and this city is full of the coolest cats. But I found her observation funny, as I notice mainly children in your embrace–and the young-ish, exhausted-looking parents that trail them. I am one such.

In short, on an occasional brisk and bright Tuesday morning in January, I will wake and look outside my bedroom window at the neoclassical brick building built exactly one century and one year ago (1919) and at the bristly, leafless tree limbs that extend from its left-hand side, harbingers from a secret garden behind it, and I will watch the thread of traffic beneath me, and I will think —

I love you, Upper West Side.

And on the Wednesday following, I might think, I hate you, New York.

But that is the way of this city, whose indifference and beauty can leave me emotionally wedged between frustrated angst and prideful affection.

Go gentle on me tomorrow.


+More musing on New York.

+I will admit that it is hard to own a dog here.

+This chic top is now marked down to $124! (More “going-out” tops here.)

+Today is the final day of the Saks sale. Ordering this Lilly dress for $34 for mini, but how good is this sweater and this faux fur jacket? (Also, can’t beat the price on these rarely-discounted Sorel boots.)


+Though I am loving these Re-Play plates, a reader recommended these similar and super inexpensive divided ones from Target. Going to snag a set next time I place an order.

+What are you reading?

+Fun gift for a friend.

+This $15 swimsuit is a dead-ringer for Minnow Swim!

+This little knit bunny situation!!!

+A beautiful tray.

+Going to test-drive this foundation. (More new beauty finds here, many of them very affordable.)

+Ulla has my number these days. Obsessing over the color, shape, pattern of this dress!

+More literary terms in action: a metonymy, an ode, and an aubade.

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8 thoughts on “The Upper West Side: An Apostrophe.

  1. Love this ode to the UWS! While I never lived in that neighborhood during my almost-decade in NYC, I did spend a considerable amount of time there, both by virtue of living across Central Park for a good chunk of time, and also because two of my doctors practiced on the UWS (and because of Loehmann’s [RIP] on Broadway & 73rd, let’s be honest. Ha!) It is everything you say it is! Such a charming, neighborhood-y locale. I still think Cobble Hill was my favorite neighborhood of the three where I lived in New York, but if I ever returned, I’d consider the UWS for sure.

    That stripey Ulla dress — so fun! xx

    1. Cobble Hill is so cute! I feel like I’m on the set of a movie about to tumble into a meet cute when I’m over there — ha!

  2. I so love this ode to the UWS. I love the sense of place your words evoke… your writing is a breath of fresh air! I used to visit NYC more often when I lived in the Midwest, but it’s been a while and I’m now itching to go!

    I have a few of those divided plates from Target. I love them for the most part — so inexpensive and I love the pastel mint/aqua and lavender colors! However, I find that the shallow compartments make it a bit difficult for my toddler when using a spoon. A lot of food ends up on the high chair tray when she tries to push the spoon against the sides/”walls” of the plate (particularly the not so sticky things like rice, or more liquid consistencies like applesauce). Your mini is I think 6 months or so older than mine though, so she’s probably more proficient…but just a WTTW. But at least they’re inexpensive enough that you wouldn’t feel bad buying a couple of pieces to try out. They sell them as singles too (in-store at least) in case you don’t want to commit to a 6-pack — I know kitchen real estate is precious!

    1. Thank you so much!!! You have to make a visit soon — or maybe after the thaw, when Central Park starts showing off in spring…

      Thanks for the heads up on those plates! That’s a good point about the depth of the wells. I like the RePlay plates for that reason!


  3. Oh I love this. After a decade of joining my husband on several New York business trips per year, I finally found myself on the UWS and saw the city with entirely different eyes for all the reasons you mentioned here. We promptly booked a two week stay with our children that summer and it’s a trip that is still our favorite. We left our hearts in NYC that summer. It made me kick myself for not taking that chance to move to the city early in our marriage because I couldn’t see past the hustle and bustle of downtown.

    1. I hear you — I saw New York in much the same way before moving here. I used to visit my sister (who used to live on the UES) and my mind would explode. How could anyone live amidst all that noise and bustle?! And that was the UES, not even downtown!! But we are all more adaptable than we think…


  4. I love this! My husband and I visited NYC last March (his first, my second) and we both left with a feeling of longing – missing what we experienced in our short time. We both agreed that it would be an easy decision for us to move there, were it not for the fact that we have two large dogs!

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