When I think about my first loves, Uptown always comes to mind; the music, the food, and the swagger that emanates from everyone. Growing up in Uptown has made me the proud New Yorker I am today – confident and classic. Living on the cusp of Washington Heights and Inwood was definitely a major advantage, so many choices, Ecuadorian on 207th or Caridad’s on Dyckman. Uptown was my gorgeous muse whose beauty came from its rich culture and hidden stories. My parents immigrated from Ecuador in ’75 to have a better life, personally, I think it was worthwhile to make that big of a sacrifice; first stop was Queens then the lovely Uptown. I adore hearing their stories about our neighborhood, the history behind the corner bodega, and how different Uptown was in the 70’s compared to now.
My friends would always classify me as a “gringa” because I listened to The Strokes and went through a punk phase but anytime a car would pass by with the lastest reggaeton or bachata I was bopping my head to the beat. Summer was always my favorite season because of the frio frios (piraguas to me), kids on scooters, and the adults playing dominos wherever they could. Walking past the teenagers trying to get the attention of the attractive girls. The best part of summer was getting everyone’s pocket money together and having enough money to go crazy at the bodega; quarter waters, nickel candy, you name it we had it. The water pump (la pompa) was my favorite I didn’t care how curly my hair became after but I reveled in the coldness of the water. There’s a indescribable aesthetic to Uptown, it can be harsh and truthful or it can be gentle and inspiring.
There has always been a sense of unity in Uptown. No matter how much milk you have in your fridge or how much sugar you have left, your neighbor always has plenty to share and our community is always beautifully united. The real test of knowing Washington heights and Inwood like the back of your hand is if you can map out almost every detail from the beginning until you get to the bridge crossing into 225th. The pizza shops, the salons, the shops along Dyckman, empanada stands; I hold each of these places so dear to my heart because they taught me how to appreciate the diversity my neighborhood had to offer.
My heart will always belong to Uptown.
You can check out more of Karen’s work at http://classickaren.wordpress.com/.