This week I've been doing some work for my friend Peter and his mother who are old time New Yorkers. Peter grew up at 82nd and Westend (around the corner from where I live now) in a gracious old prewar building with full time doormen and elevator men in a 14 room apartment with two maids rooms at a time when no one in New York had ever even heard of a co-op. His mother is probably 70+, sharp as a tack, still works and has run her own successful business for years which, incidentally, is specifically for women in construction. Get it? She's a pretty strong lady, the type one might have called a "dame" in another era. She has a great sense of humor and has been known to posess some of the unique eccentricities Manhattan woman are sometimes known for including a failed marriage to a crazy opera singer and more recently the companionship of a distinguished gay pianist in his 60s who's all too happy to accompany her to the theatre or a dinner dance should she need an escort.
As we were finishing up yesterday Peter and his mother, along with her pianist friend (also a native New Yorker), were discussing their old neighborhood on the Upper West Side. Now, anyone who lives in New York knows there is a distinct difference between Eastsiders and Westsiders and at one time it had everything to do with social class. Peter's mother remembers that time all too well and recounted a story for us of an Upper East Side dowager from those days remarking to her upon learning her address "The West Side? The only time I go there is when I go to Europe!" to which the three of them roared with laughter. I didn't get it. Peter's mother, who doesn't miss a thing, noticed this and said, "Oh, he's too young, he doesn't get it!" She then went on to explain that the West Side piers were where all the trans Atlantic luxury liners used to dock. And here I was thinking "Why? 'Cause they flew out of Newark?"
I was slightly embarrassed for a moment but took comfort knowing there are still things I'm too young to get.
Photo: The Queen Mary II docked on Manhattan's West Side.