By Carol Tannenhauser
I miss the city.
I’m 71 years old and my husband is 75, so we, our dog, and our pre-existing conditions rushed out of Manhattan more than two months ago, urged on by surprisingly insistent younger people. I took a backpack and a shopping bag full of clothes, never dreaming how long we’d be away.
I haven’t spent an entire springtime out of the city in 50 years. More than anything, this crisis has revealed to me the privilege I have in even having this option. My guilt about that could and will fill another story. What this pandemic has hit home for me about economic, social and racial inequity, heroes and leaders, has been transformative. For now, though, lulled by the gentleness and isolation of the country, I’m trying hard just to keep the city alive in my mind, as I’ve done in the past with people I have lost. I think about it constantly: how it is, what will happen to it next, and down the road. My grown children are there. That’s where they were born and raised, and that’s where they chose to stay. For better or worse, New York City is their home — and ours.
I didn’t move to the city in 1970 to further my education, for a job opportunity, or chasing a dream that could only be fulfilled there — unless you count the dream of true love. New York City was supposed to be a few years’ stop after college on the way to the life I was raised to live in the suburbs. We just never left. If pressed for a reason, I’d say it was either that we’re indecisive, or New York City was — and is — the most interesting place we’ve ever been. You can see the whole world on its streets. It suited our sensibilities the way love does: somehow you just know.
We settled and raised our children on the Upper East Side. But it was on the Upper West Side that we found our place. I am an unabashed chauvinist. It doesn’t surprise me, scientifically or metaphorically, that New York City was the epicenter of the pandemic. New York City is the epicenter of the universe, spinning on the axis of Bethesda Fountain, I like to say. And the Upper West Side is its conscience and heart.
I feel it most intensely on Thanksgiving, when the eyes of the world are upon the city and the neighborhood, as they have been lately. Small comfort, I’m sure, to those who stayed and endured the horrors and hardships of the entire coronavirus curve. I’ve read some consider those who fled to be traitors or, worse, not “real” New Yorkers. Damn! I wonder if I’ll be home by Thanksgiving and if there will be a Macy’s parade — or a Macy’s.
It’s crazy! I’m in the middle of an explosion of green and I’m sitting inside trying to conjure up Central Park. The best parts of my pre-pandemic days were spent in the park. Every morning, my dog and I would head there for an off-leash hour.
“Enjoy your walk,” my doorman, Alex, would unfailingly say, smiling. It felt like a blessing.
I miss Alex! And I miss my dog friends, now scattered in many different states. I miss arguing with them about politics, exchanging books, sharing morning moods, enjoying the antics of the dogs.
I even miss the tourists. I love how they stand in front of the Museum of Natural History, their maps unfurled, and ask me where the Museum of Natural History is. I miss Teddy Roosevelt Park, surrounding the museum, the site of so much controversy when they decided to build an addition to the museum. When construction started, the noise of the jackhammers rattled my teeth.
I miss my dentist! What if I lose a crown?
I miss Andy’s Deli, on 80th and Columbus Avenue. I used to show up there every day for my regular order — tuna on rye, well toasted, not too much tuna. Alberto would call it out in Spanish as soon as I stepped over the threshold. I miss Alberto! He never judged me for always ordering the same thing.
A friend in the city informed me that he passed Andy’s and it’s closed.
“So, you’re missing the New York City that existed before and doesn’t exist anymore,” he texted.
Update: Andy’s Deli has reopened!
Update #2: Macy’s has announced it will be reopening its flagship store by the summer!
There’s no question in my mind, New York City will be back — and so will I.