A mild warm day for us, it’s a little overcast but not raining yet. We have three days of rain coming tomorrow but you know what they say about April showers…I’m going to see the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett; starring Nathan Lane! This is my birthday gift to myself and as such I also will be going to the Village for an early dinner. I board the train and we set off noisily, it’s full of sports fans and families with kids. A young mom with a cute little boy turns down an offer from two young fellas to sit down. A classy move on their part but she declines citing the boy would not keep his seat andshe stands by the door with him in her arms so he can get the best view as we speed along to Penn Station on an express. I think moms are the real heros of our world, I mean to take a kid to New York by yourself especially one that’s not trained yet is a heck of a job even with a husband along to help. The trees are budding as I look out the opposite door from mom, the Cherry trees are flowering now, you can smell them for miles when your outside, soon they will be replaced by the Dogwoods in a few weeks. A panhandler smelling of booze asks me for some change, he spends all day skimming from people to get his next drink or hit and moves down the car looking for sympathetic faces. It’s a shame people live like this in our world. A week ago I was entertaining relatives from England staying in the city, we had a ball, I miss them and can’t wait to see them again.
Soon we arrive at Penn Station and I’ve got plenty of time so I go to my favorite watering hole in the city, Tracks. There I grab a Harp and visit the loo before getting on the subway, the bar is not crowded at this time so I really enjoy my cold draught without the dinn of the usual crowds that will fill the place later. I finish my beer and head down to the subway station, weaving through the mass of people as I do so and get on the subway to W. 3rd St, when I get off I begin to wander passing some of the places I took my relatives to a week ago. I find a trendy looking Indian place called Cafe Spice near University Place, but it’s not open yet so I read the menu in the window and take note for next time. (just a footnote, I looked on Menupages.com and people said it was pretentious and the staff were lacking as was the food so I guess I won’t be trying it.) Moving back towards Washington Square Park I approach the open side where people can still gather during the rennovation to sit and read, eat, a bunch are listening to a Chinese drum team. They sit on the ground and twirl these sticks in time to a captain, it’s very impressive I think as I pass a man holding a book and decide to take a closer look, his name is Robert Fogelnest and he is selling his book “The Streets of Greenwich Village, A Self Guided Walking Tour” it’s only twelve dollars and has a street by street listing of all the prominent residents, it’s not so much a tour as a book you can carry with you as you walk scanning for building numbers to see where people lived years ago. It’s a real hardcore Villageaphile kind of read but for me it’s right up my alley, so I buy it and tell him the most fun I had was taking relatives through the Village, guiding them around and how I wish I could get paid for it. He looks at me and says “You can, it’s easy” He pulls out his wallet and shows me his official tour guide card, and tells me how you go about studying for and passing the test for tour guide licensing and where to get a job making a decent salary doing what I now know I love.
Like the time I chronicled in my story Duffy Concert Part 1 & 2 that I met a man who led me to start writing, here now I feel the next part of the puzzle has come. This man has shown me the way out of the job I hate without the loss of too much of my current income, of course you make that up on tips and taking private tours in your off hours from the regular bus tours and such as are offering employment. He says to me you spend your day with happy people on vacation from all over the world. He says Greenwich Village is the beating heart of the city, and by God he is right…it’s all right here. It’s a revelation to me, I thank him and shake his hand and begin digesting this new information, suddenly I see the city now differently, I have to slow down take more notes and find out about everything in New York, I can’t just cater to my own interests, I have to find the city all over again as a whole entity and it’s history and it’s future. But before I do this for a living I have to lose weight and get some foot problems taken care of too.
Having said that I still can’t help feeling like a door has been opened for me, I wander around the village taking notes, I stop to aid a woman who needs help carrying groceries at the Marketplace, she was in the process of calling her old friend to get out of the car across the street to come over and help her but I volunteered. I follow her into the store and carry three of the packages into the car for her. She thanks me and I continue my walk passing beautiful beds of flowers, early spring is a great time for me and the birds who are starting courtship rituals andI couldn’t agree more, it’s time to find a nice girl- not easy but nothing is!
I eventually find myself sitting down outside of Gus’s Place,192 Bleeker at MacDougal. My choice of eatery for today and one that I have been looking forward to for a while. This is a Village fixture that closed and re-opened in a new location to the delight of many, a little tricky to find since there are so many places right on top of each other here. It has a 5 star rating for food with only a 3 star rating for price and considered by some to be the most authentic old Greek village food experience in New York City, which is good cause that’s what I’m looking for today. I have to watch my spending so I order 2 small tapas, grilled octopus with EVOO, onion and capers, and Fava beans with tomato and onion, and a glass of Greek red to wash it down.
While I sit and wait I watch as tourists and residents move about, there are so many people out today because of the nice weather. I notice a man standing in the street to get a good picture of his friends at the table nearby, he almost gets run over by the occasional car that passes these Village streets. My food arrives and boy it is good, the Octopus is seared tender and the Fava beans are meaty and savory, but the olive oil is outstanding. I wanted the small fried fish but they are not in season yet so I’ll have to wait till next time, and that’s OK anyway-I gotta cut down on calories. I finish my food and head up to the Union Square market to see what’s good today, I stop first and take a photo of a young couple in New York for the first time who were posing individually so I offer to help, and they pose together so the MacDougal St sign is in the pic.
Funny but I am striving now to make myself available to people like this, I’ve always been kinda shy but now I have to break free of that if I’m to tour with folks one on one. The market is always interesting, a young Rasta looking dude quietly says to me “Hey man I got green all fresh all natural” as I pass, sorry it just gives me a headache I think as I walk along the crowded market, there are artists and photographers selling prints, produce of all kinds from upstate New York are there, cheese vendors, meats, jams, breads, pastries, flowers and plants for apartment dwellers. There are so many things to see it would take all day to sample everything so I go below to get away and wait for the subway, the 6 train is jammed there is a problem as many workers in vests are in the track area and on the platforms. So I take the 5 express to 42nd St. I go up top and walk back to Sofitel to pick up the umbrella that my mom left behind last week. The concierge provides me with it and goes back to his job a picture of class with a little snobbery just under the radar I think as I leave but he was nice enough.
I continue but I actually have to hit an ATM because right now I don’t have the money for a cab, but decide to just keep walking anyway to save money I can do it. The hustle of 8th Ave is impressive as buses, taxis, black cars, all vie for position like ponys at the starting gates. Suddenly they burst forth as soon as the light turns green with much honking of horns and gunning of motors. It’s a long walk and when I get to 54th St I have to walk a little further to find an ATM inside of one of the many Ray’s Pizza locations. They all claim to be the original but God only knows the truth! I’ve got bags of time so now I need a drink and to rest before the show, I walk down 54th St and try a bar but it’s noisy so I leave before they even approach me. Instead I see a sign that looks promising…Dillons on the other side of the street, I walk across to have a few drinks and relax before the show.