Week 20 in our parade of unbelievables. As I hear several times a week, if not more than once a day, you can’t make this stuff up.
Quick, let’s get to the diversions!
First I’m going to share with you two pictures I took in New York’s Greenwich Village. Then I’m going to explain why the Village has been so near and dear to me.
View of my therapy office through a ceramic mirror
Statue of Mahatma Gandhi in Union Square Park, New York, sculpted by Kantilal B. Patel
Today, I was sorry to read in the New York Times that Bleecker Street of New York’s Greenwich Village has experienced a bust after years of being bustling and trendy. Once drawing crowds to the hangouts of the “Sex and the City” cast of HBO, the high-end shops and eateries have moved on. I first heard of Bleecker Street as a teenager listening to Peter, Paul and Mary. Mary Travers, a famous Village denizen, changed the lyrics of the traditional folk song “Freight Train” to sing,
“When I die please bury me deep, down at the end of Bleecker Street, so I can hear old Number Nine as she goes rolling by.”
Photo by Chuck Kearns
As it happens, Mary Travers, who died of leukemia in 2009, is actually buried in Umpawaug Cemetery in Redding, Connecticut. I loved her clear voice, and I loved Peter, Paul and Mary and all their music. I owned every record and knew every word. I learned to play many of their iconic songs on the guitar. I saw them in concert several times and have Peter Yarrow’s autograph in the attic. When I moved to New York 25 years later, and then opened a private psychology practice in the Village, I was thrilled. I would walk down to Washington Square on my lunch hour and soak in the vibes. The beat poets, Burroughs, Ginsberg and Kerouac and others, used to hang out at a bar right down the street from my office, many years earlier, of course. The block where I practiced, University Place between 12th and 13th Streets, changed greatly in the 20-plus years I was there. Shops opened and closed. Two corner delis closed. Two parking garages closed. The iconic Bowlmor Lanes, a nightspot as well as a bowling alley, closed. New establishments opened. The hardware store on the next corner expanded to feature much fancy merchandise in addition to hammers and nails. Japonica, an excellent Japanese restaurant, closed, and several long months later reopened a block further down in a much smaller space. Eventually the entire block upon which my 10th floor west-facing office looked was razed with months of great noise and clouds of dust and dirt. A high-end condo building was going in as I closed the office to relocate it to the country last summer.
So the Village has changed. All of New York continues to change. Our Brooklyn neighborhood became so trendy and crowded with cars and grocery delivery vans that we sold out and moved to the country. A friend who lives in Soho told me today that her neighborhood is changing, too. “So many empty stores – more at the end of every month – and the ones that open tend to be totally uninteresting and useless to those of us living here.” But for me, New York, and especially the Village, will always hold magic, no matter how things change.
Here is your toe tapper for the week. Having been out of my usual bounce and vigor, it’s all I’ve got this time, but turn up the sound and enjoy: