Last Saturday, I was minding my own business, sitting on a bench in anticipation of a friend’s arrival, whittling a corncob effigy of a Presidential candidate while nibbling on the edge of an anisette biscuit, a pastime that holds for me the same soothing powers that knitting does for many others, when I was distracted by the sight of this:
This is Molly, a 6-year-old, 4-pound Maltese charmer, whom I had met at least once before during one of her walks with her mom, one of the wonderful much older women who makes her home on the Upper West Side. “Yes, she’s a girl,” her mom said. “The pajamas only came in blue! But they keep her warm. Doesn’t she look warm?” She looked warmer than I did, that’s for sure, and I expressed my wish to be able to wear my own pajamas in public without looking like I wandered away from my caretaker. (I left that last part off, because I was seated outside a retirement home.)
I don’t know who enchanted me more, Molly or her mom. But either way, it reaffirmed what I’ve known since moving to this part of the city after a 4-year stint much further downtown, and that is simply this: I’d rather live nowhere else. You can keep your fedora-flaunting slouching tattooed hipsters in your lofty downtown haunts, your meat-packing martini-sipping Manolo’d misanthropes, your too cool for school cadre of compadres who sneer at anything above 14th Street. I dig living where the dogs and invariably unhip non-hepcats hobnob and smile at each other, while a preteen Yid-kid zooms by on one of those new-fangled skateboards that sort of bends in the middle, his tzitzit flapping against his sides, and you half expect to see Meg Ryan holding hands with Tom Hanks in Cafe Lalo.
I’ve joked, when coming home from a night way downtown, that I’d better hurry up and get there “before they close the Upper West Side,” but I find no greater comfort than living here, in a part of the city that not only sleeps but does so soundly. Sometimes in blue pajamas.