Remember the 1998 Rom-Com “You’ve Got Mail”, starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan? It’s about the owner of a children’s book shop who unwhittingly falls in love with the owner of a big box bookstore over AOL instant messenger? (Remember AOL???). Well, here’s some trivia…the movie was filmed exclusively on location on the UWS.
Several months ago, I decided to rewatch the movie through my new-found lens of having lived in the neighbourhood for a year. I found that while technology has changed dramatically in almost 20 years, the neighbourhood has largely stayed the same.
In terms of technology, let’s take a walk down memory lane. To use the internet, you would turn on your tower computer with thick monitor, you’d click a button to connect the modem to your phone line (called “dial up” internet) and you’d hear it connecting: bdee, bdee, bdee, bdee. Then if you had AOL as your email service, you’d click a mailbox icon and a voice would tell you “You’ve Got Mail”. Instant messenger existed on the computer as the first chat option. No one really had cell phones (maybe your parents had a car phone if you were lucky), and texting, video calling, instagram and snapchat were as real as science fiction. The movie even mentions the VCR (so you can tape what you want on TV)!
After watching the movie, I decided to take a “You’ve Got Mail” tour of the UWS to get the full experience:
1) Zabar’s: a grocery store on 80th and Broadway which has been in business for over 80 years at the same location. In the movie Meg Ryan is in the Cash Only line at Thanksgiving. We love Zabar’s for their olive bar, cheese selection and black and white cookies made famous by Seinfeld.
2) Café Lalo: the café on 83rd near Amsterdam where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are supposed to meet for a blind date. It has Art Deco style and good cakes. I don’t recommend checking your stroller with them.
3) Barney Greengrass: proper New York City deli with seating. Located on 87th and Amsterdam, smoked fish on a bagel is their specialty. Meg Ryan was having a chat with an older lady).
4) Gray’s Papaya: famous hot dog place at the corner of 72nd and Broadway.
5) The Eyeman: local optical shop, which has been in business at 81st and Broadway for over 40 years. M bought his glasses there.
6) Gary Null’s: vegetarian grocery store. Since the movie, it has changed location to the corner of 89th and Broadway.
7) 91st Street Garden: a nearby garden in Riverside Park. (Spoiler alert!) It is here where Meg Ryan realizes that it’s Tom Hanks she has been online chatting with the whole time. V. romantic (Sigh).
This takes us to the end of our tour. If you can think of any other neighbourhood places I’ve missed, let me know!