Tag Archives: Washington Square Park

The Tour That Wasn’t – May 30TH 2010

 It’s a beautiful day as I rise early and find myself sitting on the train heading for New York City for a re-do of the Greenwich Village/Soho self-guided tour I did last year, tomorrow is Memorial Day and a barbeque will keep me busy half the day so today is just for me. I saw this morning before I left that my French “Haricot Vert” string beans have poked their heads up out of the ground, as well as some “Babette” carrots, in a week I will be planting Heirloom tomatoes as well as Thai basil and some Mervielle lettuces, a diverse group of plantings this year. This is a quiet car filled with perhaps sleepy people like myself ( I had one too many glasses of wine last night) who probably needed a few more hours of shut-eye, just the rhythmic pattern of the wheels on the track to hear. But soon the relative quiet is broken by a guy who gets a call on his cell phone. He loudly tells the person on the other end that he’s “out pretty far” (we just passed Mineola next we’ll be out of Nassau County and into Queens County) and he won’t get there till about 10:00 o’clock. I’m guessing that he would consider my little town close to the “bush” and the East End of Long Island; with its farms and vineyards a step back in time. We pass a big brick building with faded lettering you can just make out Rull Coal & Ice, it’s funny to think that before modern refrigerators, people used ice boxes and that company delivered blocks of ice that slowly melted into a drip pan under the fridge that had to be emptied periodically, and heating with coal too was a sooty mess until the modern oil burner was available to everyone, we take for granted our modern conveniences like refrigeration and electric stoves.

 Lately, I have been voraciously reading a series of books written by Peter Mayle documenting the transition with his wife from bustling Londoners to country bumpkins in Provence, France. The first book “A Year in Provence” is a funny look into the purchase of a 200-year-old farm-house and the trials and joys of restoring it and the property to the glory of a working farm while they learn about how things are done in a place very different from London or New York. I highly recommend these books. The fame it brought him in France with several more books like Toujours Provence, French Lessons, Encore Provence, etc is immeasurable and he has also written a few fictional novels set in places like Provence, Paris, Spain, etc which I haven’t read yet. The latest one involves the heist of a cache of wine and is a chase /action read, a good “caper” book. So I have a new hero to worship, a man who lives the life I would love and has made a fortune doing what he loves to do.

 Speaking of hero’s my old pal Anthony Bourdain got himself in a little hot water with his Republican fans on a talk show called Anderson Cooper where he refered to the Tea Party members as a “bunch of angry white men” and compared them to the prejudiced men of the sixties who opposed Martin Luther King and his followers. The reaction from  fans was that about seven people said they wouldn’t watch the show anymore or participate in the discussions. Well that’s funny because at least one of them called himself “usedtowatch” and had only posted once! Which means he never participated in the first place and that was his first and final post! This particular group seems to want to go back to the way things were when good ol Georgie W was in the White House and the Republicans had control for eight more years of war for profit, a tanking economy, and people losing their homes and jobs while the fat cats just grew more wealthy. So I wouldn’t worry Tony (not that you are) you don’t need them anyway.

 I get out at Penn Station and go down to the subway station, it’s amazing how few people are around compared to other days. I take a quick glance at the subway map and that’s where the best laid plans of mice and men start to go astray. It was supposed to be easy just take the subway up to 42nd st and then take the 7 over to the 456 line and take it down to West 4th street. But I got my signals crossed and was leading myself to the Lower East Side again instead of the West Side. I get out at Spring St and realize my mistake, in my overconfidence and slightly hungover tiredness I have given myself a chore to walk over to my starting point on the other side of Manhattan! So I begin my walk and while I do I stop to read menus posted for today in restaurant window’s. It being Sunday many places are offering brunch, and as I read one to the other I begin to notice that no matter what the cusine, brunch consists of the same food no matter where you go! The humble omelette, French toast, bacon and eggs (any style), Granola with fruit, hot oatmeal and coffee or tea is the food du jour of today with no variation or anything to make it interesting or different. I could easily make any of this at home with my eyes closed standing on one foot! Well… maybe with one eye open.  I really get mad at myself when I find that I’m all the way down on Canal St going in the wrong direction! Now I have to pull out the map and get my bearings again, I turn the map so I can see exactly where I am and decide to try for Thompson St as that will be the most direct route.

 I walk along in the warm sun cursing myself for screwing up and quickly realize that it will be hot, I’m starting to think I should just go back home, I mean I’m just not on my game today.  I remember Peter Mayle’s references to the unbearable heat of August in Provence, a time when many leave the region for cooler points north and those that stay do little or nothing! I zig zag keeping to the shaded sides of the streets like Tony Bourdain did in Provence Episode of “No Reservations” until I come to Thompson St and take it north to Washington Square Park. I see the fountain is in full operation shooting water high in the sky turning off I walk to Macdougal Street to find food. I have had nothing all day except for decaf coffee and I need to eat, maybe a good breakfast at home was the way to go, but dad was up and I can’t abide morning news at max volume. I like my mornings quiet and thoughtful.

 I feel at home on this street, it has been the subject of many a story of mine as walk down looking over at the Cafe Reggio, all tables taken out front so I continue on walking past Meskerem, the Eithiopian place where I had a lunch years ago. I walk a little further and see an unexpected sight, the old Minetta Tavern that closed down over a year ago is all clean and polished and the door is open! I quickly cross the street to find it offering a brunch and open for business! I walk in and am immediately greeted by two people at once and as I look around I feel as if I stepped back in time. Black and white alternating floor tiles harken back to my parents days and then some, good wood all around on the bar and wainscot , walls covered in hand drawn portraits of the stars who ate here in a bygone era. My waiter a nice middle-aged man takes my order of decaf coffee and suggests the special, a omelette with goat cheese, chanterelle mushrooms and asparagus served with frites and leaves me to make a decision, so when he comes back I decide to order the special and add an appetizer of duck hash. Then I go to the loo for a wash up and put myself right for my meal. When I emerge from the bathroom a man in a smart suit says brightly “Just in time sir your food has just been laid out for you.” So I thank him and sit down to tuck in, the duck hash is beautiful big pieces of meat and redskin potatoes fried till golden in a little duck fat with a confit of onion. My omelette is small but delicious with bright green asparagus cut in small pieces easy to chew with chewy chanterelles and goat cheese my new favorite thing and a huge mass of frites, honestly I would have rather had a field green salad instead of fries but that would be extra. My waiter comes over and asks if I’m enjoying my meal and I look up and say ” The only thing that would do this justice is a glass of house red.” He nods and gets me a glass and a small pour to try, now this has never happened to me before. I swirl and sniff and taste, it is good enough for me so he pours me a glass and I happily sip away washing down mouthfuls of food while listening to the man in the nice suit tell two staff about his humble beginnings, I can’t hear everything he says above the music which is an awesome mix of Parisian Cafe, old American standards and more modern rock. But he talks about going to chef school, spending time in France and coming to New York. 

 Indeed he speaks French with a cute blonde bartender in her late twenties as he moves about the room checking on me as well. When I’m about half done he comes over and picking up my wine glass gently he apologizes but says he has to take it away, when I ask why he tells me that due to a stupid law they can’t serve alcohol before noon, but he promises to bring it back full and free as soon as the clock strikes 12:00. He tells me that the waiter didn’t know that which I find hard to believe, but I won’t argue with a man who is promising free wine. I pick at my food and wait the ten minutes nessesary to get my wine back which he laughingly brings with a smile, somehow I think they were just treating me special because I came in so stressed, sweaty and having a bad day that they wanted to do something nice without making it obvious. I ask the waiter about the history of the place and he tells me a little the rest I found myself. 

 Minetta Tavern was opened in the 1937 and was named after the Minetta Brook that ran southwest from 23rd St to the Hudson River. The original owner retired in 2008 so the restaurant entrepreneur Keith McNally along with Executive Chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr who have worked together on three of New York city’s best, Pastis, Balthazar, and Schiller”s then decided to partner on this new venture and after closing for complete overhaul of the guts of the place re-opened in 2009 to rave reviews. They kept the original pictures on the walls and the old boxing murals in the back dinning area and restored it to its original look from long ago, now you can feel the spirits of Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, and the famous Bohemian Joe Gould, with a little Frank Sinatra thrown in from the days when it was Italian all the way. Now it is considered a French Bistro, Italian influenced Steakhouse featuring the famous Black Label Burger a sinfully delicious burger made with prime cuts and dry aged beef coming in at $26, and a Cotes du Boeuf for two at $104 served with marrow bones and salad to mention a few. The staff is great and treat me well, right now I’m the only one here but now that it’s after noon people start to come in and sit down while others make reservations for tonight. I love it here, it just goes to show me again that good things come from bad starts. I’ve had a good time in a small space and can go home happy with my discovery.

 I stop the guy in the suit and say to him “Your one of those famous people from the food industry aren’t you?” He laughs and says not really. “What’s your name?” I ask extending my hand. “Arnold Grossman” he says shaking my hand and asks me for my name. I tell him about myself and my work on WordPress and he is suitably impressed so I give him my web address for WP and he thanks me saying he will check it out. My waiter comes over and asks me if I want dessert but I decline and ask for more wine instead, wishing only to write and keep the moment alive as more and more people come. They are so busy at night, they are turning people away and reservations are hard to come by, but my waiter assures me if I arrive at 5:30 sharp when they start dinner service he can get me a table. This is a trendy place where it’s possible to meet celebs almost any night, a place to see and be seen. I have to come back cleaned up and better dressed for dinner I think as I sit and write and finish my wine. I am sooo happy I came here, this is the life for me! I pay my tab and leave refreshed and relaxed.

 I walk down to Washington Square Park and take some video of the fountain and the musicians, people are everywhere enjoying the sun. Some are laying out in bathing suits and others just sit and read or talk, people jog  or pedal past you as your eyes take in the swirl of colors around you and you see a pretty face, an old black man, a toddler with daddy, a serious hipster looking for someone while on their cell phone. The stories they all must have to tell about themselves boggle the mind and bring out the journalist in me. Who are they?, Why are they here?, What do they want from life?  I begin to wander in the general direction of my starting point, the wine is working on me just a little, just enough to feel light and fluffy like a piece of Angel Food cake that has been dusted with crack. I’m kidding of course,  by roundabout ways I come to find Warehouse Wine and Spirits  featuring the most extensive selection of French wine I have ever seen. It’s mind boggling really as I wander around reading labels and checking prices.  I soon find myself talking to the owner who came from Nimes in the south of France at 19 and although he goes back for visits he has made his life here.  I tell him of my love for Paris and France in general and my desire to travel to Provence, he too knows Peter Mayle’s books very well. I say “I wish I had $1000 to spend and a team of mules to take it home!” and he says to me that “People come from as far away as Florida with a U-Haul to stock up because my prices are so good.” He bids me a “Merci” and goes about his work in the busy store, I get a business card to take with me. I will be back…soon. Now all I need is a wine cellar and I’ll be all set. I walk a few more streets and find a kitchen store called the Broadway Panhandler filled with an amazing array of pots and pans and every tool a chef could want, I look at copper pots that delight me with their shine and depress me with their prices, I can see why they chain them to the wall. I enjoy wandering  around in the cool space and look at everything. I almost buy some nice cheese plates but decide that I don’t want to carry them home so I buy a cheese knife with a phony wine cork handle to take home. I always liked souveniers, it’s the kid in me I guess.

 Leaving the store I need a loo so I walk down to the Au Bon Pain, a chain of coffee, pastry, soup and sandwich shops that we have all over and after a wash I get a decaf and a little lemon tartlette and sink into a comfy chair by the window and read the latest Village Voice and watch the world go by. I read an article about the life and death of Coney Island, such a tragic and sordid history for a parcel of land so dear to so many. There’s a movie or a play there somewhere I just know it…I wish I had more time and money and was also a better writer, there is something deep and artsy and powerful to be made. I just don’t know how to go about it…yet. 

 I’m a little tired now, it’s 2:45 and I think I should head back home. The sun is hot as I walk up to 14th st and I stop to buy a small coconut ice, a rare treat as these vendors usually are found only in Brooklyn or so I’m told by a friend. Then moving through the crowds in Union Square market I make my way down to the subway and wait for a local train, it’s stuffy and hot so I wait for a second train when the first one comes in loaded like a sardine can. The next one comes a few minutes later and I get on, at least I can sit down on this one! I get off on 33rd St and move topside. Soon I am walking past vendors of every description, selling everything from Cd’s to fresh mangos on a stick to cold water and sugared nuts hot out of the pan, and let me tell you they are doing a heck of a business today I can hardly get past the squeeze of people and get to my destination. I squint in the glare of a late afternoon sun as a young guy gets an airbrushed tatoo on his bicep-something to show off at school next week I guess, but it will rub off with time. The entrance to Penn Station is a welcome sight and I descend into it’s cool air and see my old watering hole Tracks in the distance, it’s familiar blue logo pulsating as I walk toward it. I decide to skip a beer as I have only sixteen minutes to get to my train, so instead I walk down to a new Papaya King I spotted earlier this morning. It’s where I can get a simple good thing. A 20 oz papaya juice drink, cold, fresh and frothy… it’s just what I need right now. So I walk down through growing mobs heading home to track 17 and find an express train, only two stops till mine. I sit and write on the train as we move along, stopping at Jamaica Station I see the airtrain leaving for Kennedy Airport and wonder when I’ll be boarding a plane for England or France again. It all seems like a dream now, being so far away and so free.

 In these quiet moments always think great thoughts about rising above my bad habits, and turning over a new leaf. But in my day to day life it’s not so easy,  to be so many things to so many people wears on me and I turn to food and wine for comfort and enjoyment and escape. Unfortunately I have been a bit of an ogre lately at home, work has been like a funeral procession where the mourners are all angry and just had it with everything too, and sometimes I bring that home with me. Except of course the owner who is happy to be alive and doing so well in a bad economy.  But if you ask for a rise there’s no surprise their giving none away. My Mom is always saying be happy you have a job and there is no doubt that being unemployed would be hell right now. So I have to keep looking and working on my angles for getting out and doing something else, in the meantime I have much to do and little time. Today might have been screwed up and hot but I made some more contacts, people who will know my name and what I do, I’ll make sure of that.

 I might complain often and some might say too much. But in my busy world the time lapse between these trips of mine feel like a year apart, I know that sounds strage to some folks but it’s the way time moves for me.  On balance I had a good time today.  Despite all the foulups I made the most of things.  A trip back in time, a coconut ice and cool fruit juice… 

At the end of the day that’s all you can hope for.

Au Revoir

Glen

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Filed under Anthony Bourdain, Eugene O'Neil, Food, France, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Life, MacDougal St, Memories, Minetta Tavern, New York City, Peter Mayle, Provence, Travel

Lower East Side (Slight Return)-April 24th 2010

 Today is bright and will be warm and I sit and munch half a bran muffin washed down with a decaf coffee on the train to New York City while I listen to a young couple dote over their three-year old boy, he’s a cute kid in a baseball cap who stands on the seat and marvels at everything, looking around in wonder and asks questions, lots of questions. There is three young girls sitting diagonally across from me speaking French, I am shy to go and talk to them I don’t want to make a fool of myself, but I push shyness aside and walk over asking if they were from France, which they confirm.  I excitedly talk about my love for France and everything French, my ambition to cook French food and to be a tour guide in NYC and to someday ex-pat to France after Mom and Dad are gone and Chris is moved to Vegas or Canada whichever he chooses. They are here for five months and are doing work/study programs although they don’t seem to want to share the details or even talk that much too me. The dark-haired girl is friendly and the redhead too I guess, but the mousey girl sitting closest to me looks petrified or at least uncomfortable. They assure me that they are meeting friends who live in the city and will not need my services but I explain that I am not licensed yet so cannot guide them anyway, although I could do it for free… that is not illegal in New York but give them time. So I decide to wish them well and head back to my seat and they talk amongst themselves, laughing occasionally at the  older guy who just wanted to meet some people from France, but now I feel like a fool who should have kept his mouth shut. When will I ever learn. 

 I know I have a tendency to be too excited when I talk about my passions, but I’m not the only one and I remember Drew Barrymore, the actress talking on Late Night about how she scares people with her enthusiasm for a new project, so I can really identify with her, I guess I do too but at least I’m in good company. So I get out at Penn Station and make my way to the blue A,C,E subway line and check my old tickets for credit left on rides, I swipe my old cards and see that I have plenty. While doing so the three girls come up behind me and are busily engaged in trying to use the ticket machine, I say a quick hello again but don’t even try to help them, I would have helped them in any way I could just to be nice.  But their snobbery being what was I move off quickly to get the next train to West 4th St station and make sure I’m in a forward car so I don’t run into them again. It’s a quick ride on the subway, whoosh! and your there almost before you know it, I get out and almost immediately I am asked for help by a woman and her daughters from Queens who are looking for the Washington Arch and NYU University, I whip out my flip map and tell them to follow me and we walk up to the 8 Th Ave exit. 

 It’s a beautiful day turning warm as I lead them to the Arch, they walk fast and it’s hard for me too keep up, I’m guessing they are looking at the school for the girls to attend after they graduate high school and after we walk past the fountain, still dry. Not in operation yet as I see excited kids running around inside its shallow bowl that will soon be cooling off visitors who brave the (clean?) water to cool off in the heat. I part company with the family on the other side of the park pointing out the NYU buildings to my left and with a few Thank You’s they are off to see the wizard and I go to towards the Lower East Side starting point for my tour. I am stopped on my way by a young Asian girl who is lost, looking for an address. She is staring right at a map mounted inside a frame for the students looking for certain buildings in the area but this girl cannot find it and she cannot be late, she’s going for an audition! I tell her to follow me and I tell her also that I’m a tour guide in training and it can be very confusing especially with all the construction going on with closed streets and all. We walk a few blocks and a few turns later and I’m beginning to think I screwed this girl up but she turns to her left and says “Here it is!” with glee and with a shake of my hand we wish each other good luck and I continue on my merry way, the triumph of making a difference for two people putting a swagger in my step as I continue on my way. I give a homeless man the other half on my Bran muffin and says God Bless You as I pass him by and a little further on I see a youngish couple looking around in confusion so I stop to help. They are also from France and I tell them how much I love their country and using my flip map show them exactly how to get to the West 4th St Station, and also what train to take to get to 42nd St which is where they want to go next, they also thank me profusely and with smiling “Au Revoir’s!” they move off and I holster my map like a smoking gun in its holster ready for the next time. My starting point is a few blocks away but I am in need of nourishment now and I spot an old-looking place just ahead. 

 I stop in the Cafe Colonial, a Brazilian eatery with a brunch menu and a simple atmosphere with white metal bistro tables and chairs, and a pay phone in the back corner. I order a simple meal of warm steak over field greens and a decaf coffee and after a wash up in the loo begin to make notes on the trip so far, I feel a real optimism about today as my food arrives and that is made more apparent by the delicious food I get. This is the way I should eat at home, no starches just meat and greens with a little whole grain thrown in too. So I pay the bill and start walking down the street when I see a familiar face standing in chefs gear smoking a cigarette, I don’t know his name but I recognize his face from the food network Iron Chef show, he was one of the contestants to be the next Iron Chef! I stop and say “Hey I know you from the food network!” “That’s right, that was me.” he says casually but visibly happy to be recognized. I look at the building , “Is this where your working now?” I ask not being able to see the sign up ahead. “Yeah. you should come in and eat, it’s the best!” But I explain I just ate at Cafe Colonial and he suggests I get a paper menu, so I move off to do so and them after I get it I can’t resist going back and saying “Dude can I be a real tourist and have you sign this?” as I offer a permanent marker and the menu. He signs it without hesitation and I explain that I’m studying to be a tour guide and will be back to eat here the next time I come to the Bowery to study and eat. I shake hands agin and start walking towards the starting point again. This is shaping up to be a great day! I might just have made my first contact in New York! 

 (Footnote: I would find out later that he’s only been there since February when it opened and on April 4th he was arrested for carrying a two-inch knife on a chain he uses to cut boxes at work as he was walking home between shifts at his restaurant Pulino’s Bar and Pizzeria, he was surrounded by three police cars! Nice going New York’s finest, way to keep us safe from 2 inch knife wielding chefs, I know I feel a lot safer now!) 

Best place for a bagel and a smear in New York City!

 

So I begin my tour stopping first at the Famous Russ & Daughters Deli appetizers since 1914, it is said to have the best bagels, Nova & Caviar cream cheese in New York, it is packed so I walk down and back getting glimpses of fantastic food in flashes as the space between bodies is small and closes quickly, people are ordering bagels by the bagfull! I leave promising myself that I will have a bagel next time around, next I take a few minutes to photograph the famous Katz’s Deli, I wish I was hungry because this place serves up beef brisket or pastrami sandwiches that need their own Zip Code! I peeked in once at this place at night right before the Anya Marina show in 2008, (see Anya Marina Concert Parts 1&2) but didn’t want to eat so much as this place gives you between two slices of bread. I move off turning on Norfolk and take it down to Rivington & Orchard, but needing a loo I stop in Nooy’s Bar for a cold beer but first a wash up, this is actually the bar for the Kampuchea restaurant, a mix of Cambodian and French Cusine I find out from the young friendly bartender who is cutting and squeezing dozens of limes to fill a Magnum for drink-making. I sip my cold Hennepin Ale and we talk the interesting menu, travels abroad and N.Y.C. He is a Californian studying graphic design who works 50 hours a week and pays $1200 a month for a studio apartment! I find him a great source of info for food and wine, he has re-done the drink menu for the restaurant himself and added his own spin to them. He is smart, friendly, hipster, cool and I admire his ability to multitask and still be a great conversationalist. I can’t resist ordering the Chicken Rillettes and another beer, they come with small greens and pickled Rhubarb with toasted slices of Baguette. It is superb, I needed this so bad! I haven’t been this relaxed and happy in a long while. I could sit here all afternoon, but I can’t eat or drink anymore. I pay the tab and shake my bartenders hand and thank him for his kindness and move on. I walk down the street taking it all in, the sun, the breeze,  the easy feeling of being able to do whatever I want with no one telling me what to do or where to stand while I do it. 

 I move through Chinatown and enter another world where I am the minority and don’t speak the language. I sit on a low wall on the corner of Bowery & Canal St and write, cool from the breeze yet warm from the sun. I watch the kids play on a clay soccer field while parents sit on benches and talk on the sidelines. The little park is surrounded on two sides by a grass field about ten feet wide where a young woman sleeps peacefully with a cell phone on her chest while a young hipster lies on his back with his knees up talking on his phone a few yards away. I realize how lucky I am to have a piece of land I can call my own, this is all the nature they get in this urban sprawl of concrete, stone, and the ever-present sound of traffic and machinery. It makes me appreciate the ease with which I walk out my back door and step into nature. I move on into the heart of Chinatown where stalls of fresh fish (some still flipping around) crowd the sidewalks that flow with the runoff of melting ice in a constant stream to the street. The foods here are endless, dried mushrooms, dried fish, and strange vegetables are displayed and in butchers windows whole roasted Peking Ducks and chickens. The crowd is a mix of tourists but mostly natives that live in this enclave and shop here all their lives, vendors hawk their wares and shoppers argue loudly over prices and freshness, at least that’s what I think they’re saying  but who knows. The bucket of still moving blue crabs from some far off place the subject of this particular debate. I pass into Little Italy and the mix of Chinese and Italian turns all Italian as I make my way up Elizabeth St where I see a familiar figure sitting outside his butcher shop, Moe is still going strong at 83, he sits with his son enjoying a Perrier water and enjoys the day. I promise to come back and get a “Got Cha Steak” his trademark aged beef steaks as soon as i fix or replace my grill. 

 Well, the tour was done a while back on Grand Street and now I am back on the corner of East Houston Street and Elizabeth Street, the Cafe Colonial is a few steps away, across the street is a big mural on the wall of a building painted with the cities permission by Shepard Fairey of Obey giant fame ( see What is Obey Giant Parts 1,2,3,&4 for more) the last time he was in New York, right next to that is Billy’s Antiques and Props. My brother and I have plans to cook over the open fire tonight so I better head back to Penn Station, I walk towards 6Th Ave as the strong late afternoon sun burns a little as I pass familiar sights, the basketball park and street vendors on West Houston and easily find my way back to the West 4Th Street subway station. It’s an easy ride to Penn and easily grab an express train to Hicksville, three stops to home! 

 I sit on the train and think about what might have happened if I had a camera crew with me shooting my fun day. Somehow I think it’s just possible that I too could have a hit show on the Travel Channel, so what if I’m not tall dark and handsome. I don’t have to be a hipster twenty-something with a face full of scruff and a half tucked shirt with vest. I can just be who I am in all my aging hipster, latter-day bohemian, over enthusiastic glory! Those French girls missed out, they could have spent the day with me being shown the ropes, while listening to a good storyteller who knows a few good places to eat and drink. It was a great day nonetheless, and I managed to make a difference for a few people who let me into their life for a few minutes, all in a days work for The Guide Boheme. 

Bonsoir 

Glen

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Filed under East Village, Food, French, French Food, Greenwich Village, Life, Memories, New York City, Shepard Fairey, Travel

Greenwich Village-May 2007 Part 1

 The Village was changing again…and not for the better. I had walked all the way from Penn Station, it was bright and just starting to get warm now, gone was the cold winter wind that keeps me indoors much of the winter. This is always a special day for me-my first Village walk of 2008, so you can imagine the look of disbelief on my face when I find myself standing holding on to a cyclone fence that surrounds Washington Square Park and finding it a war zone. The Arch for me is ground zero for all things that I’ve come to associate with the Village and it’s Bohemian occupants, the place where it’s beating heart starts and stops. Where on a cold night in December in 1917, the artist Marcel Duchamp along with John Sloan and a couple of female art student friends, made their way to the top of the arch.  After sharing wine and cheese while sitting under blankets, with their girlfriends help, they decorate the Arch with balloons (and after waiting for the beat cop to pass) were said to have shot off cap pistols and loudly declared that Greenwich Village was a free and independent state-and then stumbled off drunkenly into the night!

 So with a heavy heart after seeing the plans for the reconstruction that wouldn’t be finished until 2009 (which is only phase 1) I walked off to find the one place where I could find peace, Cafe Reggio. Since it opened it’s doors in 1927 the Cafe Reggio has become a Village landmark and is the oldest Cafe still in operation in New York City, scenes from Godfather II were shot here, JFK gave a speech outside its doors once and it has been the scene of numerous gatherings of artists, writers, musicians and poets. Located on MacDougal Street it is where I sit now and enjoy a croissant with confiture (that’s jam-really good jam) and a Latte with orange juice on the side, strangely this is the only thing I ever eat here because I arrive early enough to still want a typical French breakfast and usually I’m on the other side of Manhattan by dinnertime.

  I sit and ponder other bad news I picked up along the way, the Union Square Market is going to be made smaller to allow for an eatery to be built and a proposal to demolish the Provincetown Playhouse so that NYU can use the landmark space for some unknown purpose. It’s unbelievable, are they serious? This is where Eugene O’Neil put American theater on the world map as a force to be respected and admired, and now they want to tear it down!

  It seemed to me like all the good things were under attack in one way or another. Progress I’d guess you’d call it, but to me it meant I wouldn’t be listening to any street musicians play on a summer evening with the Arch in the background. I wondered where those who found value in that sort of free entertainment would find it now…. A man is painting the decorative iron railings that go up the front of 130/132 MacDougal St, he’s using a long stick roller to get the highest spots even on a ladder, a pretty girl with long dark brown hair in a red shirt-dress and sunglasses walks past- her hair matches the color the painter is using exactly. There is some harmonic balance to the universe, I guess as a painter I feel colors more than others.

  But as I sit and enjoy my coffee I also feel a little like an outsider, a permanent tourist here. Someone from the bucolic suburbs who doesn’t fit in. The young men nearby with their rolled up pant legs, calf tatoo’s and Croc wearing sock-less feet make me feel like an aging hipster wannabee. They sit sipping their iced coffee, with unshaven faces and finger styled hair, deep set eyes staring intently from behind dark glasses at cell phones text messaging God only knows… A tour guide leads a bunch of tourists down the sunny tree lined street, they cross W. 3rd St and disappear from view. The painter stretches to reach spots he missed while buses roar by and he goes on-oblivious to the noise, while delivery trucks disturb the peace making drops of fresh vegetables to the busy restaurant lined street, the crates practically thrown to waiting hands which take them below to be processed to feed the hungry mobs who stop and purchase pita pockets, tourists, families, foreigners speaking various languages, college kids who walk by carefully peeling back the foil wrap to eat their hand held lunch, a continual procession of sound and color, snips of conversation heard briefly as people walk by only to be replaced moments later by another and another.

 It is all so rich and savory to me to be here despite my momentary discomfort from before, the beautiful girls, cool hipster dudes, an occasional friendly dog sniffs at your feet, I sip the last of my coffee and ask for my check. The painters ladder falls… but he doesn’t. He struggles to get it right again pulling out his shirt tails in the process and  I decide to move on, I need to make the most of this day here. I might not be back for a while….I pay my check and gather myself up and start walking down the tree lined street.
Peace
Glen
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Filed under Cafe Reggio, Food, Greenwich Village, MacDougal St