the dogs of the Upper West Side
Tuesday, August 6 2013
Gretchen and I drove down to Manhattan today to meet up with her aunt Jane, Jane's husband Tandy, and their daughter Holly (who is only 26 years old). They all live in the San Francisco Bay area but were in New York on vacation, doing touristy things like visiting the Tenement Museum and seeing The Book of Mormon on Broadway.
We arrived on the Upper West Side a little early, and so went walking around the neighborhood. All the dogs on the street looked to be purebreds, and we eventually found where they were going: a dog park tucked away near the front of the Hayden Planetarium. As with all things in this neighborhood, the dog park was a fancy one, comprised of two separate sections. The smaller of the two seemed to be reserved for dogs that did not play well with others, while the other afforded dogs a place to socialize. At the time we happened by, all of the dogs taking advantage of it were purebreds.
We walked around the block, first south down Columbus Avenue, then over on 79th or 78th Street to Amsterdam. The brownstones in this neighborhood are all top-dollar, but Amsterdam itself is a bit seedy. I even saw a check cashing place. The bars and restaurants, though, seemed much friendlier.
We met Gretchen's aunt and family at Blossom, the vegan restaurant where we'd had lunch the last time we'd come to the City. The meal was the usual series of delicousness (indeed, I ordered pretty much exactly what I'd ordered the last time I came), though I also drank a beer (a Belgian "double" dark ale; I thought it was better than BeerAdvocate seems to think). After years of making snarky remarks about Gretchen's dietary choices, Gretchen's aunt Jane claims to be vegan these days, and the others seemed to be perfectly happy with the food selection.
After dinner, we walked around the nearby streets, eventually coming across a guy walking a beautiful mongrel that Gretchen fussed over for a couple minutes. It turned out that this particular dog had been a canine actor in a musical, one of many saved from the shelter and given new lives as actors by William Berloni.
Eventually we broke away from Aunt Jane & family and returned to near Blossom, where we'd parked our car. Just around the corner from Blossom is the place where Marissa and her husband David just moved after selling their $2 million apartment in Chelsea. The new place is the lowest three floors of a brownstone and had cost them a cool $4 million. When you spend that much money on a place, getting it to look precisely how you want it is a trivial additional expense. So when Marissa showed us around, she pointed to a number of non-trivial alterations, including the replacement of the marble countertops in the kitchen and the resloping of two different flights of stairs (David has bad knees). It's a nice big place and had the look of timeless solidity about it. It even has a back yard. But $4 million seems like a lot of money; clearly the main thing being bought is the perfect location, only a block from Central Park and within easy commuter distance of all of the nation's best employment opportunities. Clearly, though, the only people who can afford to live in that neighborhood have important, stressful jobs. The upstairs neighbor, for example, is President of ABC in New York City and has a television in every room (including a tiny LCD built into a bathroom mirror). Another neighbor is a compulsive cigar smoker. (I suggested that part of the cost of their new place might have to include a contract taken out on his life.)
Our friend Susan the artist had given us the key to her apartment 20 blocks further to the north on the Upper West Side, but in the end we decided to drive back home tonight. I was a little worried about what trouble the dogs (completely unsupervised as they were) might be getting themselves into. Somehow we managed to drive from where we were parked in front of Blossom all the way back home in only an hour and forty minutes. (It took us only 12 minutes to get from Blossom to the Palisades Parkway).
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