Tag Archives: UES

Neighborhood love.

photoThe winter has made us a little stuck in a rut where it is hard to motivate ourselves to go anywhere and do much besides watch rented movies and read at home. I think it’s nice to have a month or so of “hibernation” time. We’ve been lamely staying in the UES for much of the weekend. Which is fine by me, because I love our neighborhood. I love all the dogs in sweaters and little kids in snow boots.

IMG_3850On Saturday, while venturing out to our favorite corner diner a few blocks away, we noticed that Ottomanelli’s Cafe 86 had reopened after five months of mysterious deadness. It was a great discovery. Ottamenlli’s Cafe is a true neighborhood gem: a too-narrow restaurant that serves up extremely reasonably priced Italian dishes that taste like your mama made them. If your mama is Italian, that is. Mine isn’t, but I imagine the hearty, simple meals there could be served in some Italian mom’s home kitchen. I love their spaghetti bolognese. And their lasagna. All of the meat in their dishes is delivered fresh daily from their meat shop down the street.

The Ottomanellis have a sort of meat empire across the city. They’ve been a big name in the butcher business since 1900, but the sons (grandsons?) have since split up and staked out territory in different neighborhoods. One of their butcher shops is across the street from us (at 82nd and York Ave). It’s more pricey than what you can get at the supermarket, but it’s definitely quality. We bought some freshly ground beef here for Sunday’s dinner, and it was much better than chuck. Also, all their beef is from grass-fed cattle, which is good to know. And people who work there know their regulars by name, and call new faces “sir” or “ma’am.” The floor is checker linoleum. Need I say more?

We ended up dining at Ottomanelli’s Cafe on Saturday night, and it did not disappoint. It’s a bit out of the way for everyone else, but it’s a Yorkville favorite. The place was hopping, and people kept having to wait in the cramped entry way for a table to open up. Throughout dinner, we kept hearing people telling the two servers how glad they were the place was back open for business.

lOn Sunday, we went to Beanocchio’s Cafe, our go-to hangout spot these days for when we get need to get out of the apartment. This place is SUCH a breath of fresh air in a city full to the brim with Starbucks and Coffee Bean. There are little figurines of Snap, Crackle and Pop (you know, the Rice Krispies icons) and Archie Comics characters on the back shelf next to the assortment of tea bags. There’s a stuffed Pinocchio doll, naturally. The menu, which includes breakfast items and sandwiches, is painstakingly written by hand on a giant chalkboard. You almost feel like the gang from Friends could come walking in at any moment to catch up.

We just get two black coffees and a muffin (all of their muffins are awesome, none of that dried-out Starbucks nonsense) to split, and then linger there for an hour or so. This Sunday, we couldn’t get a two-person table, so we had to sit at the large kitchen-type table at the back with — gasp! — strangers.

It turned out to be a really pleasant time. We ended up swapping sections of the Sunday Times with a gray-haired couple and randomly chatting with two women about Downton Abbey — our unanimous entertainment choice for that evening over the Super Bowl.

And they say you never meet your neighbors in New York.

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SPOTTED: Me, at my laptop, freaking out over Gossip Girl

GossipGirl-6I’m sorry to put everyone through this, but it’s the last time I will ever write about this trainwreck of a show. Because, guys, Gossip Girl FINALLY ended last month after six drawn-out seasons of drama and ridiculousness. I ended up just skipping most of the episodes from the last season and watching the finale over the New Year’s weekend. (And then, uh, maybe the special “looking back through the years” episode they also had on CW.com.)

Because I just knew that if I could see the big reveal of who “Gossip Girl” actually is, my obsession would end, and I could move on with my life. So don’t read any more if you, too, want to waste hours of your life wading through nonsensical plot lines to eventually reach the big finale in chronological order. (a.k.a. SPOILER ALERT)

gg-610First, I need a new fashion-conscious television show in my life to fill the void. Honestly, GG hadn’t been doing so hot on the fashion front the last couple of seasons, but they won me back over with Blair’s stunning ice blue wedding dress and shimmery tiara. It was just so gorgeous and different and so Blair. (See, you watch six episodes of this show, and you lose your ability to summon proper adjectives. That’s how much it boils down your brain. You’ve been warned.)

As for Gossip Girl, if you watched the last episode, then you know “she” was none other than “Lonely Boy,” a.k.a. Dan Humphrey, a.k.a. The Only Character I Ever Really Liked and Who Now Betrayed My Trust. WHAT THE WHAT.

tumblr_mf8nne7IVy1qe6s2yo1_500I guess it does make logical sense by Mean Girls rationale, as Dan’s hair got bigger and bigger each season. You know, as he kept more and more gossip stored up inside of his writerly self. And seriously, what other character would have the intelligence to pull that kind of a thing off? He is the published author, who you could believe would adopt the tongue-in-cheek, saucy voice of a Park Avenue Princess. He is the only one who had a really motive for such shenanigans, as he explains in the final episode:

“The Upper East Side was like something from Fitzgerald or Thackeray. Teenagers acting like adults. Adults acting like teenagers, guarding secrets, writing gossip all with the trappings of truly opulent wealth. And membership in this community was so elite, you couldn’t even buy your way in. It was a birth right. A birth right I didn’t have, and my greatest achievements would never earn me.

All I had to compare to this world was what I read in books, but that gave me the idea. I wasn’t born into this world – maybe I could write myself into it. […] Within weeks, I was getting dozens of emails with stories about Upper East Siders, so I posted them anonymously, and then I got more. Before long, it was a monster — everyone was sending tips. And when Serena came back from boarding school, I wrote my first post about me: Lonely Boy, the outsider, the underdog. I might have been a joke, but at least people were talking about me.”

I like this explanation; it’s neat and simple. Apparently, if you go back to the pilot episode, as the Gossip Girl narration says something along the lines of “Who am I? You’ll never guess,” Dan is seen typing hurriedly on his laptop, closing it and rushing to the bus. When the show creators tested out the pilot on a small audience, they had to edit the timing of this opening sequence because everyone thought the overlapping of the narration and Dan typing meant that he was, obviously, Gossip Girl.

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Learning about this makes me feel really, really dumb. Like, was it really that obvious? I, like Mayor Bloomberg in his finale episode cameo, really wanted it to be Dorota, Blair’s childhood nanny/housemaid.

I just didn’t want it to be Dan from Brooklyn, OK? Dan with the dad always making waffles for breakfast, Dan of the protective older brotherliness, Dan whose bookshelf was overflowing, Dan of the flannel shirts and corduroy pants.

And TV!Dan was always sooo much more likeable than mopey Book!Dan, who made dark coffee from instant mixes under hot tap water, whose favorite word was “death,” who wrote emo poetry, and who dated shaved-head Book!Vanessa. Anyway. I’m getting away from the point.

So you know what happens next, right?

Naturally, I’ve already started back at Season 1, Episode 1, because I have to sort out for myself whether it is really plausible that Dan is Gossip Girl. I mean, the show’s creators claim that they’ve always known who GG would be (GG is never unveiled in the books — trust me, I read them), it was just a matter of if it was right to actually unveil her true identity. Riiiight. This coming from the people who brought a character BACK FROM THE DEAD.

So I guess my little two-year stint with the fantasy world of the rich Upper East Side has come to an end. The fantasy has diminished a little, now that I live in the Upper East Side, and I haven’t spotted any real-life Serenas or Blairs (although I do see private school lacrosse players and teenage girls in plaid skirts here and there, hanging outside the UES Shake Shack and stuff).

I am grateful for the show as an easy form of escapism, into a world where anything can be bought without a second thought, where your enemies’ lives can be ruined with a simple email, and anybody can fall in love with anybody else (and do). I guess it indulges our deepest whims. And it definitely makes you fall in love with New York City, the infinite possibilities and the whole idea of it.

Also, it gives me an excuse to begin sentences with “SPOTTED” or end them with “XOXO, GOSSIP GIRL” when talking to my husband, who has a good humor about my more embarrassing traits, like my obsession with this teenage soap opera.

And can you blame me, really, if as I walk to Central Park for my usual Saturday stroll, I just ever-so-casually glance over the Met steps, just in case Serena and Blair are there, catching up, while sipping lattes or finishing off their yogurt lunches?

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Balancing out life post-Sandy

This is the worst we saw of Sandy in our neighborhood. That is FDR Drive (a highway) and a bike/runners’ lane. Usually. All this water was gone the next morning. Photo credit goes to Sean, who took this shot from the stairs that go down to the bike lane, since I am a wimp.

I don’t have a lot to write today because post-Sandy life has made me tired.

On the bright side, transit to the office today was not nearly as bad as I had been expecting, considering the way the news was showing things (I think those were people who don’t live in Manhattan forming mobs to get on buses). In fact, there were twice as many open seats on my usual bus route! Although I did leave 30 minutes earlier, just in case.

On the down side, the co-worker with whom I share all my work responsibilities is basically stranded in Brooklyn without access to our shared server or Adobe Creative Suite. I already had to do triple work to make up for lost time that I also couldn’t use either of those things when “working” for three days from home (“working from home” = copy editing web stories and e-newsletters, re-writing the occasional press release, reading a novel during lulls, and annoying my cat).

Kitty don’t care about no hurricanes. Kitty cares about NAPS. She doesn’t like it when her two pet humans are home all day, and keep bothering her about snuggles.

And then I have to multiple my triple work by two to compensate for the fact that my coworker’s not there, but deadlines do not care about hurricanes/Frankenstorms/superstorms. OK, so maybe I didn’t work for sixly — new word, just invented it — times my normal amount, but it was a lot!

I worked from 8:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. with no break, and I only left then because my head was going to explode from doing so much page design and chart-making for one day.

That is the thing about B2B publications. They have A LOT of charts. Charts with a bazillion numbers.

OK, so maybe not a bazillion, exactly. But I’m not so great with numbers.

On the bright side, my supervisor restocked our communal candy drawer with discounted Halloween candy, and I’m pretty sure I ate twice as much as I normally would. You know, to compensate for my co-worker’s absence.

On the down side, the sanity-saving conversations in my little area of the office were diminished to zero.

On the bright side, Spotify has stand-up comedy you can stream when you get tired of listening to music. Unfortunately, it is hard not to laugh out loud when listening to certain comedians, which is weird when you are sitting by yourself, with just some fun-sized chocolate bars and a gazillion charts for company. +1 for the humor, -1 for the whole trying-not-to-laugh ordeal

On the down side, when I finally went home, the streets are lined with MOUNTAINS of trash. Because trash cleanup rightfully isn’t at the top of the city’s priorities right now. And a bunch of rats escaped the subways when they flooded, so there are rats running around. REALLY. You’ll see something out of the corner of your eye moving in the trash and then this big black, furry thing darts across the sidewalk into the bushes. It’s a RAT. Ewwwww x 2809538539. Or rather, ewwwwww x 28 million, because that’s how many rats are estimated to live in New York City. That’s more than three rats per person who lives here!

On the bright side, when I make my way past the Alps of Garbage and the gangs of rodents I’m pretty sure are ready to reclaim the city, I get to go home. A home with a roof, four enclosing walls, and a floor. And the only water in it comes out of faucets.

And although I haven’t had to do too much math lately beyond calculating waiter’s tips and remembering that a pica equals 1/16 in. (and that’s just when I’m too lazy to reset the measurement unit settings in InDesign…shhhh), I feel like I can figure out this jumbled equation.

All those positives balance out those negatives, and when you put that to the exponent of “Hurricane Sandy practically affected me in no way whatsoever, while it devastated others’ lives” I think what you end up is one infinitely grateful me. Or something like that.

It’s been a long day with too many words to organize and herd onto pages … maybe I needed to think in terms of math for a little bit.

As long as there isn’t a chart involved.

This large-ish tree in the middle of the  road was the most “devastating” hurricane damage I could find in our neighborhood. What? You can’t see it? Like I said, the UES was lucky.

P.S. I wrote a guest column more about my experiences before and during Sandy for my university’s daily newspaper, where I used to be an editor. This wasn’t my idea … apparently one of my former lifestyles reporters who is now managing editor brought the idea up at a budget meeting and they all liked it as a means of “localizing” their Sandy coverage, having the firsthand experience of an Aggie in NYC. I don’t know when/if it will be published (if not, writing it kept me entertained during my cabin fever days, and I’ll just post it here). It’s more serious than this blog post, and it was a lot trickier to write because I was trying to be honest about my personal experiences — my assignment — and putting that in perspective with the bigger picture, of millions of people being without power, transit, or even their homes. I tried to focus on more of what I could see after: and that was those of us who were lucky in the storm’s outcome welcoming those who weren’t so lucky, if only to stay in an apartment or enjoy a dinner in a restaurant with electricity.

And now I just told you my whole column, basically. Oh, well.

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Walking adventures in upper Manhattan

So as I curl up with a steaming hot mug of Organic Apple Red tea (caffeine-free, guys, don’t worry!), it truly is beginning to feel like fall here. I still haven’t unpacked my sweaters, but it is definitely jeans-and-a-cardigan weather, which don’t you know, is the best kind of weather! To embrace the crisp fresh air before it turns frigid, Sean and I embarked on a fun meandering throughout upper Manhattan this past Saturday. We did have a final destination, but you know what they say about the journey being the best part.

We began by fueling up with brunch at The Mansion Restaurant, one of those classic little diners with a novel-like menu. I ordered “The York Ave,” because I had to wonder what one of my cross-streets tastes like, which is apparently two eggs and ham with cheddar on toast with a side of home-fries. After eating our way through a feast of breakfast-foods, we walked over to The Met, where we scored free admission thanks to Sean’s place of employment. Fun fact: The admission prices listed at the museum are only SUGGESTED donations, so you can technically give $1 and get in. You might receive a dirty look from one of the volunteers, but you can’t deny people their art, OK?

You aren’t allowed to take pictures in this exhibit, like I said, so this is borrowed from the Internet. (source)

At the museum, we mainly checked out a newer modern photography exhibit (a.k.a. How to Do Awesome Things with Photoshop) and the newest “Regarding Warhol” exhibit, which featured pieces by both Warhol and a number of artists directly influenced by him. This particular gallery was super-packed of people who can’t read “no photography” signs, but it was also a super-cool exhibit. I mean, the last room featured Warhol’s psychedelic cow-covered wallpaper design and helium-filled “silver clouds” (shiny rectangular balloons) floating around to The Velvet Underground. Um, hello? Can we talk about how awesome that is?

After we grew weary from all those political statements and bright colors, we meandered out to the Rooftop Garden, which I’d yet to visit. It was more of a Rooftop where you could buy overpriced drinks, but you could see over the treetops of Central Park and a bit of the sweeping city skyline and a gloriously cloudy sky. Also, I inhaled some of the freshest air I’ve inhaled in a while. You don’t know fresh air until you’ve learned what fresh air is NOT by walking by some rotting garbage on the streets here.

A cloudy Saturday that made way for a beautifully sunny Sunday. (Haha…”sunny Sunday.”)

After a quick pit stop at a pretzel stand to become properly caffeinated with Diet Coke, we walked aaaaalll the way across Central Park, by way of one of the cross-streets because the actual park was closed for a concert. Boo. And kept going aaaalll the way to Riverside Park, alongside the Hudson River. Along the way, as we went through the Upper West Side, I saw some lovely brownstones that reminded me of You’ve Got Mail, and also a lot of dogs. Always dogs, everywhere.

A sailboat on the Hudson, don’t you know.

I’d never been to Riverside Park before, but it is nice. A little noisy because there is a highway next to it, but you can smell the clean, salty river water and see New Jersey on the opposite coast. Not that New Jersey is especially beautiful in that area, but it’s nice to be reminded of life beyond this compact island.

The more elevated portion of the park had a few trees with leaves that were beginning to turn colors, and some leaves had already fallen and it smelled like AUTUMN! There were dogs running around being happy, bikers biking around and being happy, little kids on scooters scooting around and being happy, and walkers (like us) walking around and being happy.

This is Sean. He walks a lot faster than me (I have short legs/short everything), so this is frequently what I see as I walk around the city, haha.

Once we made it pretty far into the “upper” portion of the Upper West Side, we decided to go on the world’s shortest tour of Columbia University, a.k.a. “walk across Columbia’s campus to get to our real destination.” I’ve never visited an Ivy League campus before, so that was exciting. Nothing quite says “fall” like school, right?

P.S. Their campus is full of old, gorgeous buildings.

Here is a reenactment of our reactions to Columbia’s campus:

“It’s…it’s so…so beautiful.”

“Yeah, but these undergrads have to be the most spoiled kids on earth.”

“Hello, my name is Columbia, and I am gorgeous.”

“Yeah? Yeah! Columbia sucks.”

“It sucks!”

*both secretly wishing we’d gone to Columbia instead of a public university on scholarship*

More pretty Ivy League buildings.

Theeeen we cut through Morningside Park (we had to go to ALL of the parks, OK?), where we heard what sounded like a Gospel Revival. “Can I hear all my Harlem people say ‘AMEN!’?” “AMEN!!!” Oh, and we also enjoyed the park’s wildlife, like this pretty little tuxedo kitty.

“Meow! Didn’t you know city parks are my natural habitat?”

And then, FINALLY we emerged in west Harlem, a mere couple of blocks from our final destination: Zoma. Cue my first encounter with Ethiopian food (and Ethiopian “honey wine”). Ugh. So good! And what a wonderful excuse to eat with your hands! (After washing them, of course, after all that city-nature-exploring.) You basically take this mysteriously spongy flat bread and rip it apart into bite-size pieces and shovel all sorts of curried and spiced meats and veggies onto the bread and shove it in your mouth. WITH YOUR HANDS.

Feast of Kings. Or Ethiopians. Whatever.

This seems like as an appropriate a time as any to promote my friend Bernard’s blog, as he is currently serving with the Peace Corps in — where else? — Ethiopia! I hope he gets to eat like this often. I doubt it, but one can only hope.

So there you have it: one Saturday’s random explorations! I believe the best way to discover New York is to wander around its streets aimlessly. You never know what you’ll discover.

Disclaimer: We totally took the subway and then an MTA bus home. One can have only so many Manhattan walking adventures in one day.

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The Great Hot Dog Rivalry: East Side vs. West Side

Having survived closing out my first issue of one of the magazines I copy edit at my new job last week — and the longest issue of the year, mind you — I am happy to return to blogging more regularly. No, I did not work until the obscene hours my accountant husband has these past few months, but even just working an extra hour or so killed my spirit for wanting to look at words at home too much. Not even leisurely reading (gasp!). One night I came home, ordered Chinese food online (how lazy can you get?!?) and watched what felt like a half million YouTube videos of late ’90s and early ’00s music videos. I mean, you can’t watch just ONE Britney video. Trust me.

Sometimes, I really cannot explain or excuse my behavior.

Ahem. To the point of this post. On Sunday afternoon post-Mass, Sean suggested we grab a light lunch. “Where?” I asked. “I was thinking…hot dogs.” And then, because our hearts and minds are just so in sync, I just knew where we were going.

Papaya King.

Behold! The glowing yellow delights of Papaya King. (Photo not mine because I feel awkward taking pictures of food in public. I should get over this.)

Actually, I think that whole mind-/stomach-reading thing was less due to love and more due to common sense. I mean…where else are you going to get a hot dog in New York?

Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) and Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) know what’s up. They dig a NYC hot dog here and there.

Yes, you can buy one for dirt-cheap from one of those carts in Central Park or Time Square or wherever tourists are (this is what Tina Fey does on 30 Rock, so it’s OK, I promise!), but here’s a little tip: check out a neighborhood favorite! I first learned this when I came to visit the city during spring break my senior year of college while my then-boyfriend/now-husband was interning up here, and we went to check out Gray’s Papaya in the Upper West Side.

We’d heard about it on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations NYC episode, when he raved about “the recession special,” which boasted two hot dogs and a tropical drink for $4 or something equally ridiculous. I was also pumped because this is the brightly colored joint where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks meet when their characters become friends (and are unknowingly in love with one another) in You’ve Got Mail. Oh, and Ted takes Robin there on How I Met Your Mother when she gets really hungry on New Year’s Eve. It’s a hopping place on TV.

Previously, I considered hot dogs a “specific occasion food,” as in, they were acceptable to eat at a professional baseball game or a backyard barbecue, but other than that, forget about it. Then I tried Gray’s hot dogs and they had this wonderful bite/crunch to them, plus I really dig the combination of the saltiness of the hot dog with the bitter/vinegary-ness of the traditional NYC toppings (sauerkraut, onions, and spicy brown mustard). However, once we moved up here and settled in the UES, getting over to Gray’s Papaya isn’t so easy. But good news! We have Papaya King:

There it is, right on 86th and 3rd, in all its colorful glory!

I’ve determined that I like this place more than Gray’s Papaya, so it’s all good. And I’m not just saying that to show my Upper East Side pride. The papaya drinks here actually taste like papaya, and not just thick sugar-water, so that’s a definite plus. Also, you can get a variety of hot dog toppings, like an onion-crunch dog or a chili-cheese dog. I still go with the classic toppings, but my favorite combo is “the 1932” (not so coincidentally, the year this fine dining establishment was founded), a balanced and nutritious meal consisting of one hot dog, a tropical drink, and an overflowing cup of curly fries for around $6. Like, I said you’ve got all the food groups covered.

It’s a teeny-tiny place with little counters by the windows where you have to stand to eat your food, just like we see Meg & Tom demonstrating in the You’ve Got Mail screencap above, or you can take it on the go and enjoy a meal in all of a New York minute. If you do choose to stay inside, I like to read the various news clippings on the wall. According to this collage of media, Julia Child proclaimed Papaya King to be her favorite NYC hot dog, and Chef Anthony Bourdain — a current UES resident, if I haven’t mentioned that half a dozen times already — said the Papaya King special (two hot dogs and a tropical drink, our pick this past Sunday) is the best meal you can get in the city for under $5. Uh, apparently, Bourdain is not very loyal with this hot dog stands. Which one do you really prefer, Tony?

Apparently, chef/author/TV host Anthony Bourdain has no discrimination when it comes to his NYC hot dogs. Here he is pictured in front of Papaya King (you can see where it says “King’s Special” on the sign behind him). I would love to run into Bourdain at Papaya King. Can the gods of the universe arrange this for me, please?

The restaurant itself boasts all kinds of ridiculousness, from “our frankfurters are tastier than filet mignon” and “papaya promotes heart health.” The last one might be true, except for when consumed with curly fries and hot dogs, of course. You can’t blame them for trying.

So how exactly did these two seemingly random foods, papaya juice and hot dogs, end up irrevocably paired together? As the story goes, the founder, Gus Poulos, fell in love with papaya while on a tropical vacation in Miami. So then he opened several successful tropical juice stands in the city. One day Gus fell on his roller blades and a young German-American woman (hopefully she wasn’t a Nazi spy…you know how Yorkville was back in the day) named “Birdie” helped him up and nurtured him by bringing him traditional German food, including…frankfurters! (This also explains the sauerkraut.)

Needless to say, “Birdie” and Gus were married, and he soon introduced the frankfurter to his juice stand. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how a food legend was born.

Sorry to post a gazillion pictures of this guy, but “OH HEY! I totally stood in that same exact spot this past weekend and ate my hot dog.” Sadly, Bourdain was not there to stand and eat with me.

So maybe you’re a UWS resident with a fierce and undying loyalty to Gray’s Papaya.* Whatever your preference, I hope you relish (hardy har har) your classic New York meal! According to some statistic I saw while enjoying my hot dog, it takes about 5 bites for the average American to down a frank. So be careful: your meal could be over before you know it. Good thing the menu is cheap and the calorie counts aren’t displayed, right?

*…but we all know Papaya King is where it’s at.

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Holly Golightly’s New York

If a movie begins with a scene like this, with a woman in formal evening wear enjoying a Danish in front of a famous fine jewelry shop, you know it will be good. At least if you, the viewer, have a second X chromosome.

I love Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I’ve watched it more times than I can count, know all the lines by heart, and the fact that this film is now available on Netflix Instantview is not helping. One time freshman year, I was out of my dorm for an evening, and later learned that my roommate and another friend had decided to watch one of my DVDs while I was gone. I didn’t mind at all, until I learned that they stopped about 30 minutes in because they determined they didn’t like it. Naturally, I had to ask which movie that had selected. The answer? Breakfast at Tiffany’s. (As you can tell, this disagreement in opinions about this film has stuck with me for a LONG time. I wasn’t offended, I promise. Just surprised.)

I know “old” films aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I had a hard time understanding why two such fine young women — I love them, I really do, and they were both bridesmaids in my wedding — could not appreciate this iconic film. From Audrey Hepburn’s classic Givenchy wardrobe to Henry Mancini’s “Moon River,” I found it impossible to believe that there was not something that would have held their attention. Was Audrey not the epitome of sophistication as she brandished about her long cigarette holder and drank milk for breakfast out of a crystal wine glass? Couldn’t her innocent, doe-like eyes make you almost forget she was playing a call-girl (or as Capote categorized his famous protagonist, an “American geisha”) in this film? Isn’t Paul Varjak such a dreamboat, hacking away at his typewriter?

Makes me cry. Every. Single. Time.

Don’t you cry every time at the end of the film, not because Holly and Paul inevitably profess their love for one another, but because she finally finds Cat again?

Aren’t we all a little bit like Holly sometimes — trying so desperately to find our place in the world and at times, suffering from the “mean reds”?

…or is it just me who feels this way?

This seemingly random post is somewhat motivated by the fact that I learned the copy of Fifth Avenue, 5 a.m.: Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and the Dawn of the Modern Woman is finally IN TRANSIT to my local library branch. I’m so excited to learn more about this movie that I’ve already determined I’m a wee bit obsessed with (and, admittedly, a little defensive about).

The other part of my motivation has to do with the fact that while walking back to the office from my new favorite lunch hour spot (Greenacre Park, remember?), I noticed this:

This is a fountain.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: “Um, Rebecca, that is just a really ordinary fountain in front of a boring corporate building on Park Avenue.”

Wrong, so very wrong.

Ladies and gentleman, because I am a freak, I knew in my bones that it was THIS:

Look at Holly and Paul, classing up Corporate America by sitting on one of its fountains.

In another shot right before this one, you can see more of the bench pictured in the first photograph of the building. OK, so I thought I might be a *little* crazy, but I did a lot of Google Mapping and normal Googling to determine that this is the Seagram Building Plaza at Park and East 52nd, and because buildings in NYC are sooo important, they have their own websites to tell their whole history, which confirmed my suspicions that this was a filming site in Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Now I know this film is supposed to take place on the Upper East Side, so I’m determined to see more of Holly Golightly’s New York. I’ve already been to the Tiffany & Co. on Fifth Avenue (“I’m just CRAZY about Tiffany’s!”), but I did a little online research today and learned that the facade of Holly’s brownstone, a.k.a. Chez Golightly, is located at 169 E. 71st St, between Lexington & Third. That’s not very far away from me at all! I must go and potentially creep out the current residents by taking pictures.

Here Holly and Paul are classing up the Upper East Side. Which, if you must know, is already pretty classy.

While we are on the subject of classy, old school NYC locations, allow me to subtly change topics and mention the bar where my co-workers invited me to join them at the end of my first week this past Friday for happy hour. This dark-hued bar at Third & 55th, P.J. Clarke’s, was once a favorite of Jackie O, Frank Sinatra, and Nat King Cole. No, this is not your college-type bar. This is a grown-up bar that screams class. Also, Dave Matthews of the Dave Matthews Band penned a song called “Stolen Away on 55th and 3rd,” inspired by a girl he met at P.J.’s, and Johnny Depp gifted Keith Richards a guitar here. So that’s pretty darn cool, too.

P.J. Clarke’s at night.

I honestly didn’t realize the rich history of the place until nearly a week later, when finishing up Valley of the Dolls. One of the main character’s husbands claims to have a business meeting at “P.J.’s” when he is actually having an affair. I read those two initials and thought, “P.J.’s? That can’t be the P.J’s I went to, can it?” A bit of Googling — oh, Google, what would I ever do without you? — and I learned that little bar on the corner, just two blocks from my office, has many famous patrons.

Moral of the story: Midtown New York is a lot cooler than I previously thought.

And sorry to do this, but one more screenshot from Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I am convinced that this is the most utterly perfect ending to any movie ever. Do not even mention to me that in Capote’s original novella, Paul (the anonymous narrator) is openly gay. I know, I read the book, and I’m trying to forget that little detail. That’s unimportant. Feast your eyes on some timeless Hollywood romance:

So totally and completely perfect. Modern-day rom-coms ain’t got nothing on the classic cheesiness of older films.

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Yorkville: Home of Yorkies and New Yorkers alike

I literally just finished reading Last Exit to Brooklyn this evening (so I’ll have to do a book review really soon), and it made me so glad I don’t live in that part of Brooklyn…at least in that time period. Now Brooklyn seems to be a pretty happy place of plaid-wearing, bike-pedaling, vinyl-loving, thrifting vegans and their friends. More on Brooklyn and the horribly depressing book about it later because I want to be selfish and talk about my own NYC neighborhood!

If you look at a map or just good ol’ Google, you’ll know that East 82nd Street is in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. So you might think that it’s straight out of Gossip Girl:

Obviously, everyone on the UES is beautiful and immaculately groomed and prone to strike odd group photos in Central Park at a moment’s notice.

OK, maybe that’s just me because that’s my guilty pleasure TV show (don’t judge). And yes, there has to be lots of wealthy people living along 5th near Central Park. In fact, Madonna owns a $40 million mansion on East 81st. $40 million! I don’t even know where the number came from when I researched this (you know, Googled), but that is a really big number.

But where I live is, well, we’ll just say that it is much closer to the East River than Central Park. Technically, if you walk aaaaall the way down our street toward the park, you’ll eventually encounter this:

You might recognize this as the steps where Blair and the other queen bees eat lunch in Gossip Girl. OK, OK, I’ll stop bringing it up…

Voila! The front steps of the Met. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, everybody. Which I have yet to visit since moving to New York. I’m saving it for a rainy/blustery winter day, when indoor activities are best. Lately, it’s been too gorgeous to not spent time outdoors in one of the parks on the weekend. Plus, one of my favorite areas of Central Park, the Conservatory Boat Pond, is very close to an edge of the park bordering the UES.

You might recognize this from Stuart Little, when Stuart helps his brother win the boat race by actually going on one of the model boats and steering it.

However, like I said, it’s a bit of a hike. Although it’s a fun hike, because as you walk in a westward direction along East 82nd, you can actually feel the rent prices steadily hiking up and sidewalks becoming sparkling clean. This is because such buildings have doormen that must hose off the ground literally every time a pedestrian, especially a canine-toting pedestrian, walks past. Or so it seems.

Also, it’s fun to walk past Park Ave. and look downtown toward the MetLife building and remind yourself that you actually live in New York City.

Cheery German-Americans celebrating October Fest (Oktoberfest?) in Yorkville, back in the day. What day? Don’t ask me.

We live in a more down-to-earth neighborhood within the UES: Yorkville. Even the name is down-to-earth! Yorkville was once heavily populated by Eastern European immigrants from the likes of Poland, Ukraine, and Hungary, as well as a decent number of Irish and German families. East 86th, which remains the main commercial street of our area–it’s where the metro stop and movie theater is located and a bunch of large chain stores/restaurants like H&M, Banana Republic, and Best Buy–has always been the hub of Yorkville and was once known as the “German Broadway” as well as “Sauerkraut Boulevard.”

Today there are very few remnants of the neighborhood’s cultural roots. Two long-lasting German establishments, The Heidelberg Restaurant and Schaller & Weber, continue to preserve their heritage through the well-respected tradition of German sausages. 😉 I’ve also noticed a number of local parishes that reflect some of the original residents, like St. Stephen of Hungary Catholic Church, which is just down our street (one Mass each weekend is celebrated in Hungarian), and St. Joseph’s, which is a few blocks away (once a month, they have a German Mass).

Young Nazis in the making right here in Yorkville, apparently.

I also found something else hilarious in my research of the history of Yorkville. Apparently there was a children’s book set in the area called Incident in Yorkville. From my understanding, the story is the tale of a young German-American who is pro-Nazi and part of the Hitler Youth and the conflict that inevitably caused with the all-American, anti-Nazi family upstairs (this is a very, very brief and probably mostly inaccurate summary). The book takes place at the fictitious address of 260 E. 84th St., just two blocks away from real marches held on E. 86th St. (Sauerkraut Ave., remember?) by the German American Bund. Yorkville was closely watched by the FBI during WWII because of the large German population, and several raids were conducted in the area to arrest alien enemies who were supporters of the Third Reich.

Here is the German American Bund marching on E. 86th in Yorkville. This was an American organization founded in the 1930s that promoted a favorable view of Nazi Germany.

HISTORY, IT IS ALL AROUND US.

Especially if you live in a pre-war walk-up. There are a number of high-rise condos in the neighborhood, and while I’m sure they have spiffy modern conveniences like central A/C and elevators and doormen, I couldn’t be happier with my four-flight climb each day. There’s nothing that quite says living in New York like hauling your shopping cart full of groceries up the front stoop and then remembering you still have to get them ALL THE WAY UPSTAIRS. Seriously though, living in an old building is charming, and ours has been recently renovated, so it’s kind of the best of both worlds, you know? Old-school, super-fast-cookin’ gas stove top with gorgeous granite counter tops.

The avenue we live closest to is York Ave., which I’m sure some New Yorkers don’t even know exists because it disappears when you head further downtown (let’s not even talk about East End Ave.). I love this avenue because it is. completely. devoid. of. tourists. Having lived for some time in an area of Florida quite frequented by tourists, I am familiar with the breed. Of course, I’ve been a tourist myself many times, so I can’t dislike the people. My main issue with some of these individuals is their need to videotape everything, and I mean everything, on their NYC trip. Pictures I totally get. Tweets and FB statuses are cool, too. But the videos? Does anyone ever actually watch the 40-minute footage of their trek around the Financial District again?

I’m losing my focus here. The point is that York Ave. is a quiet place full of nannies pushing strollers and elderly folks who have probably lived here since the Incident in Yorkville took place, college students enjoying the fairly reasonable rent (for Manhattan), and young professionals like myself and my husband. There are a lot of little restaurants, convenience stores, grocers, hair and nail salons, laundromats/cleaners, and the occasional bank, school, or post office lining the street. Most are locally owned places, too, which is a welcome change from East 86th & Lex, where with such nationally known chains, you might as well be in any other major city in America and throw in a few iconic yellow NYC cabs for fun.

Here’s a typical street in Yorkville, lined with trees and walk-ups. I think it needs more dogs in the photo though, to be most accurate.

Schurz Park is also home to my absolute favorite reading spot in the world, near the Peter Pan statue hidden among the rosebushes.

We also live really close to Carl Schurz Park, which is also great because it is completely devoid of tourists. This place is Nanny Central during the weekdays–once I even saw a goofy man playing child-friendly songs on his guitar to a whole crowd of nannies and their tots–and also dog central (if all of the UES isn’t Dog Central, I don’t know what is) because they have two off-leash dog run areas. The park has everything you could want: grassy, shady areas; a children’s playground; a basketball court; public restrooms; a covered picnic area; and a lovely paved walk overlooking the East River.

Gracie Mansion is also tucked away in the park. Built in 1799, this lovely abode is the official residence of the mayor of New York. Bloomberg doesn’t live there though; he does use the house for official meetings and events. You can walk all around its well-secured borders, but you cannot enter, sadly, unless you are visiting for official city business.

From what I can tell, a lot of cafes, diners, and even one of the local USPS branches are named “Gracie,” in reference to either the mansion itself or Archibald Gracie, the Scottish-born shipping magnate who made it big as a merchant in NYC and built, of course, the Gracie Mansion. Maybe I’m completely wrong, but it’s what I’d like to think.

One of the dog runs in Schurz Park. Sometimes I feel like the whole neighborhood looks like this, plus leashes.

Let’s talk about the wildlife of Yorkville! By wildlife, I mean completely spoiled city dogs of all sizes, shapes, colors, and breeds. New Yorkers are well-known for having dogs and taking them with them everywhere (hey, it could get lonely living here by yourself!), but I swear the UES is extra-obsessed. People take their dogs with them into the bank, to outdoor dining areas (a way to guarantee business as a restaurant), and even to bars. Occasionally, these dogs are retrievers, labs, or St. Bernards, but usually they are dogs our cat could eat for breakfast. Hence, the title of this post.

Disclaimer: I am 125 percent a cat-person, but now that I get to watch the dog parade around my neighborhood on a daily basis, I think it would be really awesome to get a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel one day because they are super-adorable.

That’s all I have to say about Yorkville for now. Maybe my fond opinion of the area will change when I have to walk to the subway in the icy cold winter, but for now I think it’s a good transition to city life. Some people might think it’s too quiet/safe/clean/boring (uhhh, boring?!? clearly they didn’t know about the Nazis), but I like it. If I want to enjoy nightlife, I’ll go to the East Village or some place where that’s a big thing. But when I want some place where I can feel safe walking to the drugstore by myself at night or can read quietly in a park, I know Yorkville is my go-to place.

I forget how large and crowded and generally awe-inspiring NYC is when I am stuck at a normal person’s floor-level view. This was a good reminder. Hello, UES!

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