How an Old Soul Feels ― A Love Letter to the Upper West Side Bag Lady I Can't Wait to Be

One afternoon, shortly after moving to New York City, I was telling a friend how badly I wanted to live on the Upper West Side.

I told her all about how I dreamed of glasses of wine on the front stoop of my brownstone, and long walks in the park with my beagle. 

I was gazing off in the distance, quite enjoying envisioning my hypothetical life, when my friend suddenly pulled me back to reality.

"Uh, Catherine, the Upper West Side is where old people want to live." 

She then went on to explain to me how all the New Yorkers my age desire to live in the Village or LES, trendier areas where, as the kids might say, it's "happenin'."

But what she failed to understand was that while perhaps I'm expected to want to hang out in the ultra-hip neighborhoods of New York, I find myself the most comfortable among a demographic of 50+. 

We just have so much in common: chronic back pain, an aversion to any yelling that is not intended to warn others of danger, the inability to stay awake past 10 p.m. 

They're my people. They get me. And if the Upper West Side is their stomping grounds, it shall be mine as well. And I will wear that badge with pride.


And in my opinion, there's nothing―I mean nothing―better than the Upper West Side bag lady. And when I say "bag lady," I don't necessarily mean a homeless woman schlepping her belongings from train car to train car. I mean a woman who carries a lot of bags. 

You know her. You've seen her. She's lived in her apartment at 86th & Riverside for 300 years, and undoubtedly has a grandkid who's just waiting for her to die so they can score that sweet rent controlled life. 

But she won't. She won't ever die. Because her blood runs UWS. 

She's got Zabar's coursing through her veins and the upper body strength of The Hulk from carrying 20 pound Trader Joe's bags the 14 blocks to her apartment every week.  

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Her mind is sharp from doing The New York Times crossword puzzle every morning, and she can spot an empty park bench from a literal mile away. 

She once shared a cab with Woody Allen and will make you a cup of strong black coffee for the sole purpose of telling you all about it. 

She looks calm and cozy AF as she settles into her seat on the subway, and that's because she is. She's been riding this same line since before you were in diapers, and she barely has to look up to know when the train is at her stop. 

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The woman is a damn ninja. Honestly, in the event of a terrorist attack, I want her on my train. I would feel nothing but safety nestled in her wiry arms and Lesportsac purse. 

She has a few friends still living, but she would honestly rather visit museums and restaurants by herself. She loves nothing more than enjoying a Mister Softee ice cream cone on a Central Park bench, dog-eared Phillip Roth novel by her side. 

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She'll drink a glass of red with no shame while lunching solo at Carmine's before dropping off her returns at the library and picking up her DVDs of The Power of Myth

Her apartment is covered in weird art and a thick layer of dust and smells vaguely of cigarettes at all times, even though she swears she hasn't had one since Reagan was president. 


She knows the city like the back of her hand, but she'll never be stuck up about it like the 25 year old assholes who have been here for a year and fancy themselves "real" New Yorkers. She'll help you out if you're lost and she'll do it with a smile.

But that won't stop her from cursing out the delivery guy who nearly took her out on his bicycle because "IT'S ILLEGAL TO RIDE ON THE SIDEWALK!"

She is a total badass, and she is who I feel I truly am in the deepest part of my soul. 

And I can't wait to be her. 

[Feature Image Courtesy Jess Stewart/spoiledNYC] 

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