UWS Encounters: Paul Simon, Ronnie Eldridge, ‘Fake Annoyance,’ and Kindness

Paul Simon. Photograph by Mathew Straubmuller.

“…you look a lot like him.”

Around 2000, as a number of us waited on a long, slow-moving line at the Planetarium Post Office on West 83rd, an older woman broke the silence. “You look just like Paul Simon,” she said to the man next to me. “Does anyone ever tell you that?” The man, casually dressed and wearing a somewhat worn baseball cap, smiled and politely said, “I am Paul Simon.” The woman didn’t hear or comprehend, because she said, rather earnestly, “No, really. I think you look a lot like him. Does anyone ever tell you that?” The man patiently replied, “People think I look like Paul Simon because I am Paul Simon.” The woman was still confused. “What did he say?” she asked the person next to her. Several of us chimed in. “He is Paul Simon!” we said. It still took a few more moments for the woman to comprehend. “That’s Paul Simon?” she asked us. And then, when clarity finally prevailed, she said with a shrug, “I thought it looked like him.”

— Gerald Grossman

“…reaching out to your constituents!”

Pre-Thanksgiving years ago I commented to the stranger next to me on line at Fairway-Broadway that it looked like she was preparing quite a Thanksgiving gathering. She confirmed that she was and invited me to bring my family to her home for a parade-watching party with her family and friends. And that’s how our family was fortunate to watch the parade from the CPW apartment of our then City Councilmember Ronnie Eldridge and her husband, Jimmy Breslin. Talk about reaching out to your constituents! Thank you again, Ms. Eldridge. It was special.

— Loraine Gardner

“…you’re famous, right?”

When Trader Joe’s opened a second location on the Upper West Side it was a game changer for our family. I would pop in on a daily basis, often twice a day and more than a few times even thrice. One day an employee stocking fruit sidles up to me and asks, “Are you an actor?” “No,” I responded. “But you’re famous right?,” he asked wishfully. “Nope,” I replied, shaking my head. “But you look sooo familiar,” he said exasperatedly. “THAT’S BECAUSE I AM HERE EVERY DAY!” I responded, with fake annoyance, but secretly flattered.

 — Gustavo Bruckner

“…acts of kindness in our neighborhood.”

I used to walk through the Upper West Side in my own head, often not noticing the cabs honking, fire sirens roaring, or subway grates rumbling. Besides for a mere nod here and there strangers stayed strangers. But eventually, I became conscious of the pulse of the neighborhood. And if I think back on it, I can pinpoint it to one event.

It was a Sunday afternoon. Errand day. Two grocery bags hung over my shoulders and two 12-packs of pamplemousse-flavored seltzer sat in my arms. “10 blocks, 9 blocks…4 blocks…almost there,” I counted in my head. With 2 blocks left, crossing traffic on 86th Street and Amsterdam, a box slipped from my arms. 12 cans rolled north, south, east, west. Faster than I could blink, like a choreographed dance, 4 strangers stepped into action. A kind older gentleman offered me a spare bag and helped me walk my groceries home.

Since then, I’ve increasingly noticed acts of kindness in our neighborhood. Strangers who appear engaged in conversations with friends, engrossed on their phones, or head down destination in mind, will all notice and stop to help when neighbors are in need.

— Yen Le

The submissions we’re getting for UWS Encounters are wonderful, please keep them coming! If you haven’t written yet, try your hand — send a story set on the UWS to westsiderag@gmail.com — subject line: UWS Encounters. We’re raising the word limit to 175 or less. Please include your real name and address, so we can give you a byline and deliver a first-edition West Side Rag mug to you if we post your story. (Address won’t be published.) Happy writing (an oxymoron)!

To read more of our Encounters columns, click here.

COLUMNS | 4 comments | permalink
    1. UWS_lifer says:

      I must say I really enjoyed the Paul Simon story.:)

      Well done, Mr. Grossman. You can certainly spin a yarn. I almost spit out my coffee from laughing. I know that Post Office, and that line, very well so I could picture the whole scene clearly.

      If I had to pick one celebrity that truly represents the UWS it would have to be Paul Simon (Yes, I know he and Artie grew up in Queens).Iconic New Yorker all around and a true Mench.

    2. Robert Sheridan says:

      Re ‘acts of kindness’ in our neighborhood . . .

      When I was young, I was a Boy Scout.

      “Do a Good Turn Daily” was/is their motto.

      I did so regularly.

      Now, I am 74, still very capable physically and have a vigorous life.

      When I am out and about, I still try to do a Good Turn when I see that I can be of assistance.

      It is often the best part of an already satisfying day; a joy to lend a hand where it can be helpful and meaningful.

      New York!


    3. I’ve enjoyed having a peek at your stories. Since I’m a Paul Simon fan, I got a laugh in regard to this particular story. Thank you 👌

    4. dc says:

      Love the kindness story!