My friend from California called last week. As usual he waited until the last minute to tell me he was heading to New York. Sunday was his dad’s 86th birthday. Maybe we could get together. Absolutely.
My friend’s dad lives on Manhattan’s East Side. The street is Sutton Place. This is one of New York’s premiere addresses. He has two co-op apartments, bought around 35 years ago. God only knows what they’re worth today. One is a two bedroom, which he occupies. The other is a tiny but sweet studio apartment.
I’ve been coming to this building a few times a year for over three decades. A New York City rarity, there’s a protected plaza out front where cars and taxis can pick-up or discharge. At one time it was a “full service building.” That means beside a 24/7 doorman there was an elevator operator–though it was a standard push button elevator. The common areas are spotless and tastefully decorated. This is old money elegance, not nouveau riche flash.
The dad’s apartment is on the building’s wing. He has a view of the East River, but not from everywhere and not looking straight ahead. From the small balcony, the river is off to one side. You can also see much of Brooklyn and Queens and the eastern half of the 59th Street Bridge.
Driving the Connecticut Turnpike on Sunday afternoon can be very slow. No exception to that rule on this trip! The day was perfect however and I went the distance with the convertible top down taking the Turnpike to the New England Thruway, Bruckner Expressway, Triboro Bridge and then down the FDR Drive. I drove under the 59th Street Bridge then off at 53rd Street.
My friend, who’s recently lost a substantial amount of weight, wanted to go to Bloomingdales for a belt. Why not? It’s open until 7:00 PM Sundays and there is an 11% rebate to out-of-state shoppers. Bloomie’s is about a ten minute walk crosstown and, like I said, the weather was perfect.
Walking into Bloomingdales is to relive the 50s! At each door from the street stood a “floorwalker,” wearing a suit with pocket square. It’s the antithesis of the greeter at Wal*Mart. The sales counters all had two or three sales people, each well dressed, waiting to help.
We headed back toward the apartment for dinner with his dad and his dad’s girlfriend. She ordered sushi from a nearby restaurant. Manhattan is the only place in the world where every apartment has 24 hour room service!
Joe, he’s the birthday boy, is a compact man. At 86 he is trim–a common trait of Manhattan residents who spend a lot of time walking. He owned a business just across the river in an industrial section of Queens. Now he’s living a very good life; going to the opera, symphony and theater and eating in fine restaurants. His hearing isn’t what it once as, but other than that he’s as sharp as can be.
His girlfriend is younger than he. A retired high school principal (the local school I should have gone to), she is charming and attractive. She lives two floors directly above Joe–geographically desirable!
When I was a kid, this was my dream life, living in Manhattan in an apartment. That’s where the hip and successful people lived. I never thought about the lack of space or privacy or noise or even the smells that can permeate apartment hallways when others are cooking. I never thought about the difficulty of going shopping. I was an apartment dweller and knew nothing about a private home. Manhattan wasn’t a step up, it was all the way up.
I took a few minutes to walk Sutton Place before heading to the basement garage to fetch my car. I stopped at a vest pocket park on a narrow sliver of land across the street. There’s an interesting piece of public sculpture sitting there with a compass rose at the base and zodiac on top . It’s unprotected and unmolested in this very special neighborhood.