My ‘hood, the Upper East Side, is a very Jewish neighborhood in a city with the second largest Jewish population in the world. It is home to two major landmarks of Jewish culture, the historic Central Synogogue on E. 55th Street and the Prada flagship store on E. 70th. Or as it is known to my mailman and the other 6224* people who live on E.70th Street, United Jerusalem Place. (*As per the 2000 census.)
Of course, I don’t live on the Prada end of United Jerusalem Place, I live on the hospital end, the part of the Upper East Side that probably has more hospitals beds that most states. If I ever stroke out, at least within staggering distance I’ve got New York Presbyterian, Cornell Medical, Sloan-Kettering, the ominously named Hospital For Special Surgery, and others. Do Jewish neighborhoods create more hospitals? Or is it the other way around?
And speaking of doctors, boy if you wanna really feel middle-class poor, come live on the Upper East Side. My zip code, 10021, contributed the most dollars to both the Gore AND Bush campaigns in 2000. The people in my zip code also report among the highest personal incomes in the United States, although I imagine that it would be even higher, if not for all their live-in help and people like me dragging down the average. Way down.
And speaking of live-in help, it’s sort of fascinating every morning to watch my neighborhood change complexion. Literally. On my way to the subway, I pass a lot of very posh luxury buildings, like Trump Palace. I watch the Leaders Of American Commerce rush into their waiting Town Cars as their servants walk their dogs and their nannies herd their children towards the exclusive private schools that dot the streets around Park Avenue. At 68th Street, all us (mostly-white) middle-class folk stream down into the subway as the station disgorges thousands of black, Latino and Asian workers who head for their jobs in the hospitals, restaurants and tony shops of the UES. At the end of the day, the colors reverse direction.
When I first got to the Upper East Side, back in 5765, I bemoaned the decision. Here I was in the most exciting, most gay city in the country, and I had moved to the least gay, least exciting, blandest of Manhattan neighborhoods. Trust me, nobody says, “Hey, let’s go clubbing on the UES!” At least, nobody I know. There are a few gay bars on the Upper East Side and I take a taxi right past them every weekend on my way downtown.
Last month, my houseguest ran into a guy moving out of the apartment above mine. My friend immediately offered his help in moving a loveseat down the stairs, because he is a Southern Gentleman, and not because my upstairs neighbor is smoking hot. Right. He came back and reported that my neighbor had told him that in New York City, the greatest mitzvah was to help somebody who lives in a walk-up building move, and my friend wanted to know what a mitzvah was. Of course, I was able to tell him, seeing as how I once scored 29 out of a possible 30 in the Miami Herald’s Yom Kippur Test Your Yiddish Quiz, missing only shtetl. (I know, such a shandeh!) I also told him he was just lucky we live inside the Manhattan eruv, or he might not have met my hot neighbor at all, since it was Shabbat. He gave me the funniest look.
So the point of this post is this: Yesterday I got my lease renewal for my apartment. But this time, I’m not even gonna cruise Craigslist for the shouda, coulda apartments downtown. I’m kinda comfortable here. I no longer hear klezmer music and think “Oh, that’s klezmer.” And this year I wasn’t surprised by the Purim costumes on the kids, I kinda dug it. It’s nice living in a neighborhood where the doormen are out hosing down the sidewalks every morning. OK, not my doorman, cuz I don’t have one. But after living in the Village and Chelsea and Hell’s Kitchen, where the garbage on the main streets can be ankle-deep in the gutter, this is…nice. I just hope I’m not becoming boring in my middle-age.
Of course, if anybody knows of a nice apartment opening up downtown, it’d be meshuge not to go look. Otherwise, I’ll be here until 5768.