The Greenwich Village Experience

greenwich_village1-620x245Nestled in the lower West side of Manhattan Greenwich Village has long been a staple for artists, curiosity seekers and tourists. On one corner you may see street musicians performing improvised jazz for spare change, the next a soap box politician or disheveled fanatic preaching with a firebrand intensity, a poetry reading or a clown twisting balloons into animal shapes at a dollar apiece for delighted children. To me the beauty and charm came from the diversity and unexpectedness not found in many other U.S. cities save Seattle, San Diego or San Francisco.
There is a cornucopia of ethnicity to be found walking from Thomas To Bleeker Streets, down West Fourth and all points in between. Street vendors hawking anything from goat meat to shoe laces or life insurance. A virtual wonderland of small eateries and specialty shops, fine museums such as the Whitney specializing in fine art and art instruction on West Eighth street.
Greenwich is also a veritable who's who of artists authors and musicians from Faulkner, Whitman, Poe, Andy Warhol, Bob Dylan Nee Zimmerman, Simon And Garfunkel, The Velvet Underground (House band of Andy Worhol's The Factory), Ella Fitzgerald, Allen Ginsberg, James Baldwin, Jimi Hendrix, Billie Holiday and hundreds more all having left their mark in one way or another. The stamp is still felt in small clubs such as The Bitter End, Blue Note and seemingly countless others dotting the neighborhood. Many unreleased or little seen photos of the artists that have gone before cluster the walls of these small homey often dark cavernous places. A vast memorabilia treasure trove almost over whelming to the first time visitor.
It was refreshing for me to enter the more laid back "Boho" district after the hustle and bustle of Times Square, Broadway, and Manhattan Proper where you see five lanes of one way traffic in a solid yellow blur of taxis each fighting for every square inch of asphalt twenty four hours a day. The sidewalks are forever equally crowded as the streets and avenues. If being jostled from block to block in a sea of bodies reminiscent of a hard rock concert is your thing then this is the place for you. I made the mistake of driving myself and spent an hour dodging taxis, horses, pedestrians and poodles to get what seemed to me only a few dozen blocks. Not that New York does not have a plethora of interesting places. It's just the getting to them.
You will meet several interesting local personalities in the village dispelling the myth of the New York coldness and pomposity toward strangers, of course the second you speak or use a non New York gesture they immediately know you are not from there and try to guess where you are from. Often surprisingly coming pretty close. I ran into total strangers in line at a bistros, waiting to cross a street, Washington Square all very friendly and more than happy to spend several minutes talking about the usual Bohemian staples such as poetry, art, music, fashion, subversive literature and revolution in hushed tones. Although as technology encroaches on our everyday lives and everyone is walking around staring at "smart" phones the conversation comes fewer and farther between. You also have to remain constantly aware and dodge the phone zombies as you walk down the sidewalk or cross a street.
As a whole the neighborhood still retains many of it's old characteristics, the brown stones, artsy murals everywhere, underground bookstores and seedy jazz clubs. If this is the aspect that you are most interested in I feel it should be around for some time but the twenty first century is making itself felt in force, and quickly. Starving for the sake your art is quickly becoming a thing of the past with the advent of such web sites as GoFundMe.Com and several other similar such sites popping up. The conversation is switching rapidly from Rimbaud to megabytes, Sartre to Windows 10. There is still a flourishing underground which has become just that in recent years. Instead of taking their revolution to the streets it takes place on blogs and chat-rooms. You can still walk into an ancient basement bar and drink with sailors, hipsters and Greenwich veterans that are more than happy to tell you the second hand stories of their fathers or mothers who drank with Dylan Thomas or Charlie Parker.
As I've said the Village is a welcome respite from the breakneck pace and endless jumble of New York city. The history and aura also adding much to Greenwich. If you have ideas of a thirties swinging jazz nightlife or fifties Kerouacesqe beatnik bohemian free
for all my advice is to get here as soon as you can. It is rapidly disappearing, giving way to Starbucks, Wi-Fi cafes and innumerable such chains that now make up the scenery of much of our American landscape.

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