LEONARD QUART: Being 77 on a chill winter day

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By Monday, Jan 16 Viewpoints  4 Comments

New York — Winter has truly arrived, and I’m a year older. I still feel an imperative to act as if snow, ice, slush, freezing cold won’t constrain my life. Though I know the time is near where I won’t be moving so freely or at all in this kind of difficult weather on the city streets. But this year I continue to go to my gym to work out every morning, and walk to shops for a newspaper, bread, fruit and vegetables — mundane, everyday activities that provide me with superficial signs of well-being. I even choose to attend a play in the neighborhood as the wet snow pelts down making it hard to see, and walking turns treacherous.

I also tend to drive myself to give most of the waking day’s moments some meaning — an impossible task, since I waste a great deal of time looking at sports and news. But each walk I take still opens the possibility of seeing the city afresh or indulging in self-reflection. Apropos, I find this quote from Thoreau, “None are so old as those who have outlived enthusiasm.” It’s that passion for living that I still hold on to.

Zabar'sOn a Monday, two days after the snow has stopped, I’m off to see a friend on the Upper West Side to have lunch near Zabar’s. It’s a cold day, but the streets are much less desolate than on the weekend. Still, there are a few patches of ice on the sidewalk, and dirt-stained, refuse-laden snow banks line the curb. On 79th Street I see two new buildings going up — more gentrification — but there are too many vacant stores and banks that undermine upper Broadway’s vital street life. However, quality food stores abound, ranging from Fairway and Citarella to the Westside Market and Trader Joe’s. And there are upscale cafes like Maison Kayser, Café Luxembourg, and Mille-Feuille Bakery. But my friend and I end up eating in a clean Greek diner (there aren’t many left on the Upper West Side) with attentive service and solid, decent food — chicken soup, omelets, tuna sandwiches. Most of the customers are people in their seventies, who have been coming there for a long time. We talk about politics, films, and health, and we never run out of steam. The talk is lively, intelligent, and sometimes illuminating.

After an hour and half I go off to do some shopping at Fairway, and take the subway home. I feel good that I’m still active in all weathers, and that the day was a satisfying one.


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4 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Sandy Frank says:

    I truly enjoyed the Leonard Quart’s article. Although, I live in Greenwich Village and he on the Upper West Side, I fully related to his words
    of life for the retired person living in New York City during the snow and chill of winter here. Fortunately, for we city dwellers, these storm did not leave us with slippery, sidewalks and muddy intersections to manage. This morning as I left my apartment I did notice there was still snow on the roof of the cars parked on the street.

    Leonard, we were both born on the same year and the same month so Happy Birthday to You. I hope we all continue to walk and enjoy this beautiful city ,no matter how much it or we have changed. Today, after lunching on a slice of pizza and a diet coke at Joe’s Pizzeria, I took the train to 47th Street, after which I walked down 6th Avenue (which I still refer to as the Avenue of the Americas) to 34th Street. Then I took the train back home again, with a lot of walking in-between.

    Be happy that we can still enjoy walking and seeing the wonderful array of people and all of the exciting changes this city brings before our eyes. Keep enjoying, walking, seeing and writing about it all.

    1. Leonard Quart says:

      Glad you enjoyed it. I actually live in the Village and went up to the Upper West Side the next day. Walking is clearly a central activity for both of us.

  2. Rick Richardson says:

    Happy Birthday Lenny! We both enjoyed your article ….. from warm & sunny O’ahu where we’re visiting Nancy’s brother! Back to the chilly Berkshires today!

  3. Carolyn Fabricant says:

    Would love to know the location of the beautiful photo. Looks like something off Sheridan Square to me, but…

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