Being that I’m from uptown I took a liking to the upper West side. As a kid it was a safe haven full of museums and restaurants, hell it was even sandwiched between two parks. To the east laid central park and to the west, right along the Hudson River, was Riverside. As a kid, I spent many weekends in these parks, just bouncing between them to find the perfect playground. So it’s no wonder that as an adult I’d still be drawn to the neighborhood, but now for different reasons.
I now live on the upper westside, so what once was my weekend playground, has now become my backyard. And as many smokers know, one of the best places to smoke is in your own backyard. I’ve been able to walk around the neighborhood and find the beautiful nooks and crannies that I didn’t see or appreciate as a kid. But now as a daily smoker with the tendency to be on the move, I’ve been able to come across some nice views and great munchies along my walks.
So let’s start with a word of caution, smoking in public isn’t legal in New York so you run the risk of $50 fine and a summons from the NYPD. Though not as bad of a consequence as a couple of years ago, be vigilant of your surroundings and also be respectful to the people around you. On another note, my medium of choice is the Blunt Wraps, preferably just the inner leaf of the illustrious vanilla Dutch Master, I’ve learned It last longer for the walks outside and doesn’t require as much relighting. Now that that’s settled and everyone’s arms and legs are safely in the vehicle, lets take a ride through the Upper Westside and I’ll share some of my favorite local haunts when I’m out for a smoke.
I start my blunt walk around 89th street & Riverside Dr. going further downtown. On the park side, there is a monument dedicated to the soldiers and sailer of the union army in the civil war. And If you check it out on the weekend, sometimes you’ll see some skaters regularly kickflipping or grinding up and down the stairs (they’re usually pretty good). As you walk along the park going south, you see a couple of civil war cannons and a garden or two with some benches with a nice views of New Jersey. Now I usually enter the park on 84th street because there is a large rock, made of manhattan schist, that provides the perfect solitary moment to smoke, and just so happens to be a famous thinking spot for Edgar Allen Poe while he wrote his story “The Raven.”
After that I make my way down past the schist, on 82nd there are some stairs that lead closer to the river. To the left of the stairs is a locked off entrance to the freedom tunnels but it provides a pretty good glimpse of the graffiti filled walls that line the tunnel, sometimes with a quick interlude of an Amtrak train passing by. Once you’re actually on riverside, you can walk freely on the bike path, as people pass you by unbothered (so long as it isn’t a busy day or you aren’t making it obvious you’re smoking). At this point you should have an unfettered view of the river, both uptown to the George Washington bridge and down to south jersey, so take a second to take in the view.
On 79th street there is the boat basin, which is a year round dock for house boats and yachts, but because of the winter most of the dock are vacant. During the spring and summer the boat basin is home to a restaurant and bar with some great quesadilla. Talking about food, around this time the munchies might be kicking in so I might stop off at Zabar’s (78th & Broadway) and pick up a knish and some spanakopita or I’ll keep pushing along the river.
As you walk past the boat basin you’ll notice a playground with some oversized slides and sea saws that date back to the 1970s. Now i don’t know if it was because I was high, but of course I had to try them. Just imagine a grown man going down these giant slides in the middle of the afternoon. Suffice to say I should have clipped my blunt, but I couldn’t pass up smoking on a slide. Turns out this playground is also one of the main supply shed for the parks department.
So after a possible light scolding, I make my way down around 74th-76th street, there are a couple of tracks and baseball fields were some geese tend to congregate during the winter (they must be Canadian geese looking for some New York warmth). Past them is a modern cafe that faces Riverside Park Pier 1 that serves some great fresh sandwich or coffee in morning in the spring and summer. On the pier itself, it offers an amazing view of upper and lower Manhattan and you might see fishermen lining the railings trying to get their daily catch.
By this time I’ve finished my blunt and now my hunger starts brewing. Once I leave the park around 72 street, I make my way to Greys Papaya on Broadway if I’m looking for a cheap and quick bite to eat. Afterwards I’ll head to Levain Bakery (74th & Amsterdam), for some of the best cookies in the city. they are crunchy and chewy at the same time, it’s like a combo of the crunchy Chips Ahoy! On the outside and a warm chewy Chips Ahoy! On the inside.
Once I satisfied my sweet tooth, I usually look for an activity near by, such as the Natural History Museum or the Haden Planetarium on 77th and Central Park West. Both offer hours of activities and an amazing time being high around such large dinosaur bones and planetary displays. If that’s not your speed, around the corner (77th & Columbus) is the Grand Bazaar NYC flea market, that’s open every Sunday year round. The Grand Bazaar NYC has a bunch of venders selling vinyl record, vintage furniture, and other Knick-knacks that are usually offered at a flea market. Also at the market they offer fair foods if you’re trying to get your shish kabob fix.
At this point I’m tuckered out so I might head back home, but on the way I almost always stop by 129 west 81st street. Now that address might not mean anything to you, but for those sitcom fans of the late 80s into the 90s, they might recognize this place as the exterior of Seinfeld’s apartment in the show. It’s not much to see if you aren’t a fan but it’s a nice secret tucked in between the blocks for those in the know.
The upper west side has so much more to explore, like Central Park and everything above 89th street, but I’ve got to leave some adventures to write about for the next time.
So on that note, Thanks for taking the walk with me, and stay high and stay safe in these here New York streets.