Friday, December 23, 2016


An Upper West side Must Have in the Sixties

(Apologies to whole Portlandia crowd because a racist, anti-Semite, islamophobic, sexist, homophobic, misogynist, scary, scary, fiendish monster, horrible, terrible, mean, vicious, hating everyone by merely being a Trump voter watched your show and sullied your pure self with my eyes. Okay, feel better now you jack booted snowflakes?)  

As you already know, if you read this blog, I had my son so late in life that we called him the grandchild. In an effort to breach the huge generational cultural divide, we watch stuff together over brunch and compare perceptions.

The other day, he particularly wanted to share an episode of PORTLANDIA with me. At his suggestion, I had watched many PORTLANDIA shows previously and had enjoyed them immensely. What a funny, inventive pair of comedians the two people who do this show are. But what always strikes me is that even though I've never been there, I feel right at home in Portlandia, because it reminds me so much of where I spent twenty of the best years of my life: the upper west side of Manhattan in the Seventies and Eighties.

The cultural ethos is exactly the way I remember the Upper West Side. I moved to the Upper West Side of Manhattan as a college student at Barnard College, then the women's college of Columbia University. BTW Barnard was much harder to get into than Columbia in those days. Far more applicants, far smaller college. So there, you sexists, in case anybody doubted that women are as smart as men because they're too smart to let men know it. But I digress.

What a wonderful place the Upper West Side was in those days. There was a tiny candy store run by an elderly European couple who made their own incredible candies. There was a crazy man who stood on the street corner singing imaginary opera all day long then yelling, "Hey, Yumke Yumke!" with his hat on the curb for donations. Sometimes, you could find him outside Carnegie Hall.

There were grocery stores with their fresh fruit and vegetables spread across the sidewalk, a fresh fish store, several art house movie theaters, dance studios for classes, small theaters doing all kinds of experimental theater, as well as classical productions on the cheap, and many small, funky restaurants that served highly inventive and unique cuisine. A particular favorite of mine was a Cuban Chinese place. There was Murray's for the best fresh bagels, lox and cream cheese.

There were lots of funky shops with hand made jewelry of intricate leather and beads and strange exotic clothes from far off places. I lived in an Afghan goat skin jacket in the winter. It smelled a bit gamey when it was by a radiator, but it was the only coat that cut the brutal chill wind that seared off the Hudson River in the winter. You know, other than a mink coat, which no one on the upper west side would have ever been caught dead wearing, even if they could afford to own ten of them. Showing off was declassee. 

The entire moral universe on the Upper West Side in those days was the same as I see in Portlandia and I loved it there, never wanted to live anywhere else. It seemed like paradise to me. It was delightful to walk on upper Broadway and visit all the small and interesting shops. The restaurants were filled with professionals of every type who were always genial, polite, family people who believed in patronizing the arts, self improvement, good food, good fun and good company.

So what the heck happened to these liberals? These were people I liked so much and who taught me so much about the value of the good life well lived. They really were tolerant, gentle people who respected culture and were accepting of everyone.

I think the same thing happened to them that happened to the Barry Goldwater Republicans. No one but me seems to remember that Goldwater was against the Vietnam war. He was the guy who said it was wrong to fight these small wars. If you're going to ask men to die for their country, then the whole country goes to war and sacrifices, otherwise fogettaboutit. Yes, he really said that. I remember it well because all the young men in my high school were terrified of being drafted and sent to Vietnam. But no one voted for Goldwater. No one. I don't think anyone even remembers that he ever ran for president. He was a great guy. What a crush I had on him! He was such a tall, elegant, western cowboy kind of guy and a very successful business man.

I just sometimes wonder what the heck happened to everybody in this country. How did we reach the point where the PORTLANDIA crowd has turned into rabid haters and Republicans are welfare state bureaucrats and war mongers. I mean, am I just getting too old to get it?

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