The New Yorker movie theater (and bookstore), The Regency and the Metro, M.H. Lamston’s, Morris Brothers, Big Apple Comics, Funny Business, Applause, Shelter, Broadway Bay, The Saloon, Paulson’s, O’Neal’s Ballon. Hell, Tower Records. That’s a quick jog down memory lane of places I used to go to on the Upper West Side when I was growing up. Long gone. And now that H&H Bagels is closed for good, some Upper West Siders feel that the old neighborhood is done, reports Alexandra Schwartz in the Times:
You can find dog accessories and artisanal soaps and Coach handbags, or trawl for oxidized silver pendants and kilt pins at Barney’s Co-op. You can withdraw cash on every corner from the bank branch of your choice. You can load up on chewing gum and razor blades at a host of Duane Reades. You can treat yourself to a perfectly mediocre manicure.
But some of us want more. We want to revel in a neighborhood brunch tradition that has nothing to do with endless waits and haughty hostesses and glasses of orange juice whose prices defy the logic of supply and demand — a tradition that means fresh bagels and whitefish with onions over the newspaper in the living room. When we’re wandering with a hangover down the silent stretch of Broadway at 3 in the morning and the need for an “everything bagel” is stronger even than the need for water and sleep, what are we supposed to do without H & H’s round-the-clock bakery at 80th Street?
Big Nick’s Burger and Pizza Joint, I think of you and your root-beer-stained tables with trepidation. The smell of grease from your nonstop griddles billows out toward 77th Street 24 hours a day, seven days a week — a siren scent taunting gymgoers and health food nuts. You’re an unrepentant West Side institution, and that means that you, bubele, must be in the cross hairs, too.
Of course, it’s only natural for neighborhoods to evolve. My generation of Upper West Siders grew up during the Clinton years in a scrubbed-up iteration of the place our parents knew. Unthreatened by the muggings that were routine a decade earlier, we claimed the identity handed down to us: a certain shabbiness, along with a good dose of brains and a scrappy sense of local pride. Few of us noticed that the neighborhood’s personality had come under assault long before we started to take the subway by ourselves, when Shakespeare & Company and Eeyore’s Books shut their doors after Barnes & Noble took over the old Schrafft’s building at 82nd Street.
I remember when Amsterdam Avenue was a scary place. And parts of Columbus and Broadway too. I knew which sides of the street to walk down and which ones to avoid back in the 1980s. I still have some family on the Upper West Side, but the neighborhood I knew as a kid is a memory. It’s safer now, well-heeled, less shabby. A different place. The old neighborhood has been gone for more than a minute.
[Photo Credit: Monika Graff, Marilyn K Yee, William Sauro, Bob Glass and James Estrin for the New York Times]