UWS Encounters: Universal Basic Goodness, Quarantines Gone By, A Revelation

Columbus Avenue uptown from West 72nd Street. Photograph by Michael McDowell.

“Everyone everywhere seemed like Family”

Two neighbors I knew offered to shop for me and a third I didn’t know. I was reassured of the universal basic goodness of human nature that a stranger was willing to help. He would deposit the food with my doorman. I’m 79 and high-risk. My heart burst open as I walked into the fresh mid-morning air and sunshine! I said “hello” and “stay safe” to everyone. I knocked on the Chinese laundry window and waved to Penny who works there. Then Gold Leaf Stationery soon to close. The owner, Fasil was taking it in his stride. I gave the grocery payment envelope to Max the doorman and headed for home. For now, I’m alive and well! Everyone everywhere seemed like Family. I ran into Chris Whipple, his new book The Spy Masters is soon to be released…his wife Cary good naturedly laughed at my get-up…The Corona fashion statement! I did look weird, but for some reason it was liberating…releasing norms. There was freedom being in touch with the “now.” Because that’s all that was certain. And I relished it.

— Marian Hailey-Moss

“My mother was stuck in our NYC apartment with us”

My sister and I caught many childhood diseases in the mid to late 1940s: mumps, measles, chicken pox, whooping cough, German measles, and scarlet fever. First one of us would catch something and then the other one. My mother was stuck in our NYC apartment with us and would read to us, play board games and try to keep us quiet. My father told us stories about getting those diseases as a young boy in South Omaha, Nebraska, where he was born in 1909. His parents were poor and had six boys. If my father or any of his brothers came home and there was a “Quarantine” sign on the door, they went to a favorite aunt’s house. Auntie Riva had four sons and two daughters and my father loved them all, so it was a big treat. It didn’t hurt that Auntie Riva was a great cook. The cousins went to my father’s home if their house was quarantined. My dad would tell us these stories while we were recovering, and my sister and I would wish we had aunts and cousins in NYC, so we could get away from each other. Now I wish I had asked more questions.

How did Grandma get food?

— Roberta Schlaifer Semer

“When the going gets tough”

It came to me as I was trudging the half-mile home from Trader Joe’s in the pouring rain, beard dripping, half-watching the water run in rivulets off the brim of my hat and feeling the heavy can-loaded paper bags I was carrying getting desperately soggy, I was sure, in preparation for their sudden & complete disintegration, & then, as I heard and felt my toes start to squish while I continued to slowly eat up the endless inches on the way to my five flights of stairs, still some ways off in the future, I suddenly thought: When the going gets tough,  the tough should stay home!

— Lawrence Braverman

Thank you to those who contributed. Even in these uncertain times, Saturday morning means UWS Encounters — although they have taken a decidedly unexpected turn. Oh, for the days of innocent celebrity sightings.

For a look at yesteryear, read more of our Encounters columns here.

To share an encounter or reflection, send it to westsiderag@gmail.com — 175 words or less, real names please. It will be interesting to see how interactions have changed in these days of social distancing. There are all kinds of ways of connecting in this odd new world, where often all you see are eyes above a mask and who you see is severely restricted. If anyone can rise to the task it’s Upper West Siders. Take a chance. Write something and send it in. See you next Saturday.

COLUMNS | 11 comments | permalink
    1. Lenore says:

      Gold Leaf Stationers is closing for good?? Aiee!

    2. Lubomir says:

      If we can call German measles and Spanish flu we should insist on calling this virus Wuhan Chinese viruse and not covid19 nonsense

      • UWS_lifer says:

        Yeah, and don’t forget back in the 50’s when we barely survived the Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie flu.

        That was a tough time for our country. Never forget.:)

      • Vajra Kilgour says:

        “Spanish flu” did not start in Spain, & “German measles” has been known as rubella for a very long time now. Except for anyone who is proud to be racist, I think we can grasp the wisdom of not risking the safety & well-being of large numbers of our friends & neighbors by associating this or any other illness with them.

      • Marilyn says:

        I thought I heard Spanish flu actually from Kansas.

        Also we have misnamed many things in the past, should we continue to speak in ignorance, esoteric when it results in discrimination across the globe and to our next door neighbors.

    3. FreshDirector says:

      That is a photo standing at 72nd, looking up Amsterdam.

    4. Carol Tannenhauser says:

      Thank you. Fixed.

    5. Danielle Remp says:

      It’s a view up Columbus Avenue and 72nd Street.

    6. Carol Tannenhauser says:

      Thanks. Fixed.

    7. Susan says:

      This was great! It warmed an upper westsider’s

    8. Bill says:

      Gold Leaf isn’t closing permanently; they just aren’t considered an “essential” business. I discussed the irony of this with the owner as I was buying new folders, paper, and printer ink in preparation for the first week of home/online schooling for my kids.